Spider-Man faces a host of entertaining villains, but he didn’t necessarily meet all of them face to face. In “The Reprehensible Riddle of the Sorcerer,” originally published in Marvel Super Heroes #14, he fights the Sorcerer. However, he doesn’t realize it because the Sorcerer is controlling him from afar. The story written by Stan Lee and drawn by Ross Andru is a romping tale that is by turns ridiculous and cool – kind of what you’d expect for a comic published in 1968.
Like Kraven the Hunter, the Sorcerer is after Spider-Man simply because he wants to prove himself. He doesn’t know Spider-Man, but the superhero is powerful and he’s not okay with it. He’s sort of like the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. If he had the equivalent of the Queen’s mirror, it must have told him Spider-Man was more powerful because the Sorcerer feels compelled to kill him to prove that his power is “totally and eternally supreme.”
We never learn precisely what he wants to do with his supreme power. He just needs to be in control and the best. By using his magical skills as well as using a juju doll of Spidey, he’s able to reach across the city and affect Spider-Man’s mind. His powers lead to this striking layout by Andru:
As you can see, Spider-Man’s in the middle of chasing bad guys when his mind is compromised. He manages to stop the thugs, but throughout the three page fight, the criminals talk like Spidey isn’t there. Of course, Peter is feeling loopy because of the mind control, but they’re still scared of him – maybe they shouldn’t be giving an advance play-by-play?
The entertainment continues as we learn how the Sorcerer trained and became so talented, and we see him box up the Spidey juju doll with a pin in its head. He puts the doll in the mail with a vague address and thinks the police will eventually open the package after Spider-Man has been killed. Does this man have any idea how the U.S. postal system works?
The Sorcerer continues to exert his influence, and in a weird twist, he coerces Peter into traveling to New Orleans. Peter has no idea why he’s buying a plane ticket or feeling so weird, but hey, at least he arrives in time for Mardi Gras! He’s able to walk into a hotel and get a room instantly – now that takes magical powers. I’m pretty sure Mardi Gras hotels get booked far in advance just like Comic-Con hotels.
Eventually, the Sorcerer leads Spider-Man to a crate that holds the Synthetic Man. He wants Spidey to fight the giant because he assumes the beast will defeat the hero. Now, where does Synthetic Man come from? Why is he in a crate in a specific warehouse, and why can the Sorcerer control him? And if the Sorcerer can control the Synthetic Man, why doesn’t he direct him towards New York? As far as I can tell, we have no idea.
Spider-Man fights back because he doesn’t have a choice, and he realizes his foe can change to be pliable or as hard as a brick. The best part is Spider-Man calls him by the correct name despite the fact that he’s never encountered him before.
The outcome isn’t looking favorable for our hero, but thankfully a postman saves the day.
The Sorcerer talks a big game, but his connection and powers are stopped by a postman. First of all, he was goofy enough to put a legit return address on the envelope. I realize he wanted the world to know he was responsible for Spider-Man’s demise, but it would have been smarter to put a note inside the package. But no, he used his actual address and I can only assume his name was listed as “The Sorcerer” on the envelope. The action led to a postman swinging by, package in hand, and ringing the doorbell. That caused “deadly mental feedback” and left the Sorcerer powerless and unable to continue controlling the Synthetic Man.
Call me crazy, but I’m not impressed. I am, however, amused.