Script: Stan Lee
Art: Steve Ditko
The latest tourist attraction in New York is the costumed crime-fighter known as Spider-Man. From the looks of things, J. Jonah Jameson is going after the web-headed wonder in the pages of his newspaper. After perusing the Bugle billboard, Spidey spots three thugs casing a jewelry store, and watches as they move in after the proprietor has locked up for the night. The three hoods are in for a surprise when pieces of webbing falls around them. One of the thugs starts to panic when the wall-crawler closes in, but another manages to keep his head. Instead of fighting back, he threatens to sue Spider-Man for assault and battery, and his crooked cronies will serve as witnesses. Since there is no law against three citizens walking the streets at night, and since the web-slinger swooped down to put a scare into them, it's obvious who the menace is around here. Inwardly, the young hero realizes the mistake he just made of not waiting until they had broken into the store. The three hoods decide to yell for a police officer, with one appearing just moments later.
When they tell the officer how Spider-Man attacked them for no reason, the young hero decides to leave the scene. The police officer will not be getting his report filled out, nor will he be privy to Spidey's real name and address. The web-slinger has just learned that it's never a good idea to charge into a situation without knowing what's happening. On the other hand, he did stop the three hoods from breaking into the store. The three citizens continue to jeer at the retreating figure, until the beat cop tells them to move on their way, and admits that if he were Spider-Man, he would have taken them on himself. On a nearby rooftop, the young hero is looking up at the Bugle billboard, and knows that it's Jameson who's been turning the public against him. He decides to pay a visit on the Daily Bugle publisher, but Jolly Jonah is not in. Just the same, Spidey decides to leave a small souvenir for Jameson to remember him by. Once the deed is done, Spider-Man is about to swing from a water tower, when he spots three police cars below. He watches as a figure makes a frantic climb to the roof. Since he must be the one the police are looking for, it should be a simple matter for Spidey to catch him.
The Spider-Man beacon shines in front of the culprit, to let him know what he's in for. On closer inspection, Spidey doesn't know what to make of this particular rooftop dweller. He calls himself the Sandman. The wall-crawler has heard of the Sandman, but thought that the reports were exaggerated. If what they say is true, he's a wanted man from Maine to Mexico. The Sandman pushes him to one side, intent on keeping his date with a couple of bank robberies. When Spider-Man grabs him from behind, the criminal begins to sneer, and slips through his fingers like soft sand. While the young hero wonders how his quarry managed to do such a feat, the Sandman reforms his human shape, and stands there when Spidey punches his fist right through him. The blow does not harm the bizarre criminal, and when he hardens his jaw, it is Spider-Man who hurts his fist from the next punch.
Like Reed Richards, the Sandman is able to change his form, and sends the web-slinger staggering backwards. In the fall, Spidey's mask is torn, and Peter knows that his secret identity is in danger. Even if he did capture the Sandman, the criminal would tell the authorities everything, and once the secret was out, J. Jonah Jameson would have a field day. With her nephew in jail, Aunt May would have to support herself by selling shoelaces for ten cents each. Peter is forced to flee the scene, with the Sandman calling him a coward. With Spider-Man gone, he gets down to business, and leaps off the roof. He turns into tiny, weightless sand particles, and reforms on the sidewalk below. Now, it's time to make a withdrawal from the bank.
At the bank, the Sandman reforms the particles of his index finger into the shape of a key. Inserting the finger into the lock, the tumblers are moved, and the door is opened. Now inside the bank, the bizarre criminal slithers along the floor, beneath the electric eye beam, and fails to set off an alarm. All that remains is to tackle the bank vault itself. Back home, Peter Parker is hard at work on sewing his Spider-Man mask, and realizes that he can't take it to a tailor shop. His task is interrupted by a special television bulletin about the Sandman. Months ago, Flint Marko was a prisoner at Island Prison. The inmate made his escape through an unguarded drainage tunnel, and vowed never to be taken alive. He remained on the F.B.I.'s most wanted list and managed to stay one step ahead of the law. With the dragnet tightening around him, Marko hid at an atomics devices testing center.
Flint Marko remained on the beach until the day of the nuclear test explosion. The radiation caused his body's molecules to merge with the sand beneath his feet. The escaped inmate was now virtually indestructible. Hearing a knock at his bedroom door, Peter turns off the TV, and hides his costume by throwing on a robe. Aunt May has brought him some cookies and milk. Seeing her nephew clutching at his robe so tightly, she figures that the poor dear must have a fever. When he admits to feeling ill, Aunt May offers to bring up a thermometer and some aspirins. While she's away, Peter tunes in to the news again. The bank has been surrounded by police. The Sandman makes his exit from the bank, with the bullets fired by the police failing to have an effect upon him. While Aunt May pats his head, Peter hopes that he'll be able to sew his mask, and catch the Sandman.
The bizarre criminal is making his way through the city, with the authorities on his heels. After turning a corner, Marko drops his loot, and wills himself to change. When the pursuing officers run past, they pay little heed to the pile of sand in a vacant lot. The following morning finds the Sandman still at large and Aunt May declaring her nephew fit enough for school. Once she has left the room, Peter puts the finishing touches on his mask, and puts on his costume beneath his clothes. Breakfast is left for him by his aunt, and he tells her that he'll be seeing Mr. Jameson later. Aunt May is familiar with the nice man who publishes both the Daily Bugle and Now Magazine. She only hopes that Peter doesn't exert himself or else he'll get another cold. After promising his aunt that he won't exert himself, he agrees to take an umbrella to school. At the offices of J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher asks his secretary for the latest information on the Sandman and for the file on Spider-Man. First the wall-crawler threatens the city, now the Sandman. There must be a connection between the two of them, and what a scoop that would be.
Now seated at his desk, J. Jonah Jameson notices the little gift left by Spider-Man on the previous day. The Daily Bugle publisher is stuck to his chair and can't get out. The webbing has given him a ringside seat. He immediately tells Miss Brant to get him another pair of pants. Outside the office, she spots Peter Parker, and asks the young photographer to bring Mr. Jameson his pants. Inside the office, Jameson is caught with his pants down, and asks if the freelancer has brought him any more photos. Peter is asked to bring more pictures of Spider-Man, as well as why he decided to stop by the office. When he asks for an advance on his next check, he is reminded by the publisher that he is only paid when he brings in exclusive photos, and not before. To J. Jonah Jameson, teenagers are all alike, and don't know the value of a dollar. Lacking the funds for new experiments for his webbing, Peter must postpone his plans. Once he does get the photos of Spider-Man, Jameson will run them with pictures of Sandman, and have a caption asking the reader if they are the same man. After taking the bus, Peter arrives at school, and overhears Liz Allen telling Flash Thompson how the poor guy has got a date with her for tonight. Young Mr. Parker is thinking about coming up with a way to pick up the Sandman's trail.
When Liz asks him when he'll be picking her up, Peter has to make an excuse, and Flash decides to take advantage of the situation. Liz fumes when Peter tells her how he has to study for tomorrow's exam, and being the top student in class, he of all people should be able to afford one night to be with a girl. Flash smiles and wonders where Petey left his galoshes. While wondering why he should continue to be Spider-Man if everything turns out wrong, Peter is admonished by the teacher for daydreaming. Elsewhere, the Sandman is turning his legs into sand to evade capture. The authorities may not be able to hold him, but they are starting to wear him down. Marko must find a place to hide out until the heat's off. The high school looks like a likely spot and no one should think of finding him there. In the hallway, Peter Parker has been assigned to bring some old bottles from the lab to the boiler room, and he fails to notice Flint Marko lurking nearby. The janitor tells the teenager to leave the box there, then works on adjusting the new king-size vacuum cleaner. Peter envies the custodian, whose only worry is to keep the high school clean. One floor above, Flint Marko hears someone approaching, and ducks into a nearby room.
Unfortunately for the Sandman, the room is full, and the school principal is about to say a few words. When Principal Davis asks what he's doing here, Marko decides that since he never graduated, he wants a high school diploma. A guy like him oughta have the best of everything, including a diploma -- or else. Nothing would make the principal do a thing a like that. A diploma is something that must be earned, and Marko's threats are going to make him violate his trust or his duties. The students are impressed by their principal standing up to the Sandman, and admire his guts. Indeed, Davis tells the students in his care to run home, and call the police. He will hold Marko off until they're safely away. The Sandman is determined to teach Principal Davis a lesson, but Peter Parker had overheard everything, and makes a quick change of clothes to enter the classroom as Spider-Man. Marko is caught off-guard by the opening punch, while the students all agree that this is much better than learning Calculus.
As they cheer him on, Spidey wonders how loudly they'd cheer if they knew they were cheering "Puny" Parker. Impressed by the web-slinger's entrance, the Sandman says that he's ready for him now, and he's not going to get away this time. Realizing that a fight in the classroom might injure one of the students, Spidey decides to take the fight outside. His spider-sense tingles when Marko makes his body rock-hard once more. The wall-crawler grabs his opponent in a wrestling hold before Sandman can completely change his structure, and flips him over his head. Marko has left the classroom headfirst, with Spidey determined to hold him at bay until the authorities arrive. In the confusion, Liz wonders what happened to Peter, and Flash figures that the guy must have his head under a desk somewhere.
The Sandman has recovered and begins his assault. Spider-Man acts swiftly to maintain Marko's attention upon him ,while the others clear the building. With Spider-Man out of the way, Marko figures that no one will be able to beat him. The web-headed hero needs more fighting room and leads the Sandman to the gym. Standing atop the backboard, he sprays Marko with webbing, and watches as he pours right through it. The Sandman reforms on the gym floor, with the battle back on.
He'll be darned if he knows how he'll beat Marko. He needs to catch his breath for a moment, but the Sandman's got him trapped in a corner. He can't run and his punches aren't affecting him. Marko makes himself all sandy again and catches Spidey's fist when it goes through him. With the wall-crawler stuck, the Sandman makes his own head rock-hard, and delivers some love taps. Only his spider-strength keeps him from blacking out, and he must come up with something. Using every last bit of his strength, the Amazing Spider-Man manages to flip Marko over his head, and against an iron stairway post.
Now, countless grains of sand are on the floor, and Spider-Man is free. He has already begun to reform into a solid mass. If there was anyone who wanted to trade places with him, Peter would be hard up to refuse them. Marko oozes his grains of sand over towards Spidey... like quicksand. He then leaps forward, and starts to cover him in a sand trap. While Sandman tries to render him helpless, the web-slinger bends down, and tries to make him into the shape of a ball. Down the basement steps they go.
In the boiler room, the impact enables Spider-Man to break free. Flint Marko is done fooling around, but Spidey's just getting started. He has an electric drill that will bore through anything. All Sandman has to do is to make his body like sand again. He is unaware that this is just what the wall-crawler wants him to do. The drill passes right through him, then with incredible speed, the web-slinger drops the drill for the large industrial vacuum cleaner. Flint Marko had wanted a diploma and is about to get an education --- courtesy of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
The heavy canvas bag will hold Sandy for sure. Since he couldn't get any pictures of the fight for Jolly Jonah, the web-head decides to take his camera from his belt, and sets the time to automatic. A bucket of sand will help for effect. A handful of sand is tossed into the air, with Spider-Man diving through it, and giving the impression that he's attacking the Sandman in his sand-grain form. Since this occurred a few minutes ago, it couldn't be unethical, and is more like a reenactment. Outside the high school, the authorities have surrounded the building, and J. Jonah Jameson has arrived on the scene. He asks the captain why they don't charge in, and arrest the Sandman. The Police Captain reminds the publisher that they must make certain that the students are clear before the shooting starts.
Once the school has been cleared, Jameson calls for the officers to go after the Sandman and Spider-Man. As far as the police are concerned, they are not after Spider-Man, and as far as they know, he's helping them against the bizarre criminal. Jameson continues to believe that they are in cahoots, and are about to divide their loot. Even so, the Police Captain will handle things his way. The Spider-Beacon shines on the ground before them, with its owner on the roof of the high school, and offering the canister containing the Sandman as a gift. The Daily Bugle publisher insists that it's a trick and they must capture Spider-Man before he escapes. The Police Captain calls for him to come down and give them a full report, while J. Jonah Jameson wants to know who he thinks he is by taking the law into his own hands. The young hero knows that nothing he does will ever satisfy Jameson, and he'd better watch his step or else the crowd will turn against him. Not only that, the police may lock him up, too.
The canister containing Flint Marko is lowered via a web-line, but Spider-Man does not join them on the ground below. Inside the school, he has got other plans, and changes back to Peter Parker before they find him. Seconds later, he hopes that no one connects his absence with the disappearance of Spider-Man. When confronted by the publisher for exclusive photos, the teenager hands over the undeveloped film. The smiling Peter is told that the cost of developing them will come out of his pay. There's no sign of Spider-Man, but there's nothing against him, and they do have Sandman in custody. Jameson is planning on running a story on how the web-headed menace caused untold damage to the high school and public property. He insists that if the police had handled things, Flint Marko would have been caught with little muss and fuss. He is convinced that Spider-Man is in it for the glory. The police officers present are all aware that the publisher is only interested in airing his own personal grudge.
Peter Parker is a happy teenager. He beat the Sandman, got the money he needed, and there's nothing to stop him from dating Liz Allen tonight. Flash Thompson sees that the student has come out now that the fighting is over. When he asks Liz for a date, he learns that she's made other plans. When Flash tells him to run along with his umbrella, Peter grabs him by the sweater, and promises to wipe the smirk from his face right now. This is what Thompson has been waiting for, but Peter remembers that with his spider-strength, he'd pulverize him. Liz Allen watches in disbelief as her classmate begs off, and Flash remains convinced that Parker is chicken.
When one of the students grasps him by the arm, he notices that Parker's got muscles like a weight lifter. Liz notes that it's a shame that he doesn't have the courage to match. Flash smiles and tells her to go since he's starting to get bored. Now even Liz Allen thinks that he's a coward. When Flash taunts him from the car, Liz tells him there's no need to be that cruel to Peter. When it comes to women, Flash Thompson will never understand them. While walking home from school, Peter overhears the comments from the neighborhood. The Daily Bugle editorial makes some think that Spider-Man is bad as Sandman. One kid wishes to be Spider-Man, while the other wants to be the Human Torch. One shopper agrees with Jameson that Spider-Man has no business catching crooks by himself. A reader wonders what would happen if Spider-Man turned against society, while the other wonders what kind of person would wear a costume, and run around after hoods. He's got to be some kind of neurotic with delusions of grandeur. Now in his bedroom, Peter Parker is bewildered, confused, and bitter. Could they be right? Is he some sort of a nut, wasting his time in search of fame and fortune? Is he more interested in being Spider-Man than he is in helping others? Why does he do it? Why doesn't he give the whole thing up? And yet, he can't! He must have this great power for some reason. No matter how hard it is, he must be Spider-Man and hopes that some day, the world at large will understand.
This story was reprinted in The Essential Spider-Man Vol. 1.
On the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #4, the web-headed hero catches the Sandman, and is surprised when the bizarre criminal slips through his very fingers.
On the splash page, the police are opening fire against an invulnerable Flint Marko, while Spider-Man wages a desperate battle in the heart of a captive classroom.
By his fourth issue, we see that Peter Parker has still got a lot to learn about being a costumed crime-fighter.
Spidey made certain that J. Jonah Jameson would remain glued to his seat at the offices of the Daily Bugle.
The Spider-Beacon would be later known as the Spider-Signal.
As we see in this story, it's not unheard of for Spidey' mask to be torn during the blaze of battle.
Thanks to his powers, Flint Marko has found the key to successful banking and robbery.
Peter can spin a web, but not thread a needle.
His high school classmates are above needling "Puny" Parker.
One wonders if Flint Marko is any relation to Cain Marko, AKA The Juggernaut.
Peter is determined to let a smile be his umbrella.
By the end of this story, Flint Marko learns what it's like to live in a vacuum.
Principal Davis is a man of principles.
I like how Stan and Steve had him stand up to the Sandman, as well as illustrating how important a high school diploma really is.
When battling the Sandman, Spidey was truly caught between a rock and a hard place.
Flint Marko thought he knew the drill, but Spider-Man had things in the bag.
Peter might have had a lot of sand if he used the bucket for snapping pictures was slightly unethical.
For a moment, Liz Allen sees the "Tiger" in Peter that Mary Jane Watson would come to know in the years to come.
"Nothing Can Stop... the Review!"