Once again Secret Origin Saturday turns into Secret Origin Sunday but it couldn’t be helped! We’ve got a very special Secret Origin that I just didn’t dare rush lest I invite the wrath of one of Marvel Comics’ most evil evil do-ers. This week …for the first time ever on Secret Origin Saturday… we bring on the bad guys as we take a look at SOS’s very first super villain! This week we learn all about one of the amazing Spider-Man’s most sinister arch-foes, Flint Marko, the Sandman!
I love the bad guys! I love great villains and Spider-Man has some of the best! You see, of course I love the big heavy duty would-be world dominators like Doctor Doom, Magneto, Lex Luthor and many many more, but I’ve always loved those grunt level, bank robber goons. These are the guys who got super powers or a super gimmick and they aren’t out to take over the world or to avenge some perceived wrong. These guys are in it for the money! They want the cash. I’m talking about those mid-range guys with a respectable power level that are enough to pose a threat to the hero and launch their own crime wave. I’m looking at the Electros, the Vultures, the Parasites, the Beetles… and the Sandman!
My introduction to the Sandman, as it was with most of Spidey’s most famous and most recurring bad guys… and as it was with Spidey himself… came through the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon. I know that cartoon has its critics, but if you are of a certain age as I am, you’ll understand that once upon a time, we were far less demanding and more forgiving when it came to our cartoons. We knew when it came to a Saturday morning weekly series or something you’d watch everyday after school, you weren’t going to get Disney’s Fantasia. The ’67 Spidey cartoon is what it is… and surprisingly despite the limited animation and simplistic writing… it was very often amazingly faithful to the comic books. The Sandman emerged from this series as one of Spidey’s most recurring villains and an already familiar face for me when I’d encounter him in the comic books.
The first time I ever read about the Sandman in a comic book was an issue of Marvel Comics’ long-lived reprint series Marvel Tales. At the time, Marvel Tales had started reprinting all of The Amazing Spider-Man in chronological order right from Spidey’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15. A Spider-Man fan and a fledgling amateur comic book historian, I was all on board for that! I loved the opportunity to see how it all began for Spidey and how it began for all of these key bad guys I’d already met on the ’67 series and had seen on Marvel merchandise like Seven-Eleven’s famous slurpee cups! Best of all, these books were good and to this day, I consider The Amazing Spider-Man’s first fifty issues to be one of the best comic book runs in the medium’s entire history.
My first comic book encounter with the Sandman therefore was a reprinting of his 1963 first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #4. This was a great issue with a great story that should be the model for any Spider-Man movie. I’ve long said that the perfect Spider-Man movie takes the story from Amazing Fantasy #15 and mashes it together with either The Amazing Spider-Man #3, Doc Ock’s first appearance, or The Amazing Spider-Man #4. This might be one of my all-time favorite Spidey stories.
In this issue, we meet Flint Marko, the Sandman and we also learn the origin of his powers. It is this depiction of Flint’s origin story that was the basis for my page today. It’s an elegantly simple story typical of the Marvel fare of the early 60’s and it translates beautifully onto a single page.
There isn’t much on this one to say about this one for a full Director’s Cut Commentary, but I will add a few personal notes about the Sandman… First, while Electro remains my favorite of Spidey’s bank robber level bad guys, the Sandman is closely behind him. Sandy has a beautifully flexible power level that makes him a match for either a solo super hero like Spidey or a whole team like the Fantastic Four. Speaking of the FF, while my favorite look for the Sandman is the look I drew here with his green striped shirt and basic brown pants, I have to confess a secret admiration for Jack Kirby’s most fantastic… and outlandish design for Sandy during his Frightful Four days.
Despite my disdain for many post-90’s designs, I do have a fondness for classically crazy super-villain costumes like Sandy’s green Kirby design shown here. I also love DC’s Chronos the Time Thief and Electro’s lightning star mask is a must! And yes! Electro is on my list of villains to add to Secret Origin Saturday… if for no other reason than just because I want to draw him!
A little more regarding Sandman… I never liked him as a “reformed bad guy.” There seemed to be a trend started in the mid-80’s where bad guys seemed to want to give up their life of super villainy. Famously we saw this with Magneto over in The Uncanny X-Men… and don’t get me started on that one! Sandman hopped onto this fad too. I don’t know where it started but I think it may have been with Marvel Two-In-One #86.
Now please understand this was a very good issue. MTIO was Marvel Team-Up but with the Fantastic Four’s Thing. In this issue, the Thing and Sandman have a beer in a bar while Sandy recounts his life story and his desire to go straight. It was a nice story and unusual in that there’s no big battle or brawl. There’s no big super villain fight. It’s just a conversation between the Thing and Sandman, two guys who’ve known each other for a long time. As cleaver and as boldly different as it was, I wish it was a one-off in terms of Sandman’s conversion. After this issue, Sandman would spend a long time trying to go straight. There was his time as “Sylvester Mann,” his secret identity and even a very short stint with the Avengers. Some of these stories weren’t bad, but the cost unfortunately was Sandy as THEE Sandman, one of Spider-Man’s fiercest and most regular sparring buddies! Although there were some good stuff with the saga of Sandy’s attempt to go straight, I much prefer him as the brutal bad guy we meet in The Amazing Spider-Man #4… and that’s how I tried drawing him here! By the way, speaking of Sandman’s alternate identities, I don’t know where the “William Baker” name came from… Was it from this issue of MTIO?… but I much prefer the distinct and colorful Flint Marko moniker.
I hope you guys dig it, Everybody!
Coming up this week… We have a very special Fan Fiction Friday as we wrap up the very first complete issue in this little experiment! It’s Page 20 of my Afterlife With Archie #1! Then in next week’s Secret Origin Saturday… we tackle one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite teams… and this secret origin will include more than ONE origin! THAT should give it away!
See you next time, Everybody!