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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So the Tinkerer is an Alien!?

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at the way that the early Spider-Man villain, the Tinkerer, turned out to be an alien working with other aliens…or was he? Or were they even aliens to begin with?

The second story in Amazing Spider-Man #2 was an strange little tale. Almost like Steve Ditko and Stan Lee were still in their monster/alien comic days of the late 1950s/early 1960s. Spider-Man picks up a radio for his teacher but the man who has fixed it, the Tinkerer, seems suspicious…


So Spider-Man investigates and catches wind of the whole alien plan…

In the end, the aliens got away…

And Spider-Man discovers a mask…the Tinkerer was an alien, too?!!?

Pretty goofy stuff. Not exactly Ditko at his finest.

Anyhow, over one hundred and fifty issues later (Amazing Spider-Man #160), the Tinkerer shows up again (he’s using the Spider-Mobile to torment Spider-Man on orders from the Kingpin). Only guess what, Len Wein has decided that he was NOT an alien. It was all a gag…

Years later, in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #50-51, Roger Stern completes the puzzle by having the aliens from Amazing Spider-Man #2 show up at a dinner Peter is at with Aunt May, her fiancee at the time and Peter’s then girlfriend, Deb Whitman….

Oddly enough, the aliens are after the gold that Mysterio and the Burglar were after in Amazing Spider-Man #200…

This is because they are working WITH Mysterio…

So they help Mysterio with the gold and he helps them with their plans to conquer the world. Fair enough, right?

Well, that’s what Spider-Man thought, too, when he was being held captive. That’s not the case, though…

Spidey then defeats the bad guys and that’s that.

Crazy, man, crazy!

I love how Stern worked in Mysterio into the story. Classic.


What’s the issue #s for the Stern stuff?

It was pretty good how they reused the dialogue right up until Mysterio told the other “alien” to shut up since they were out of earshot.

Not the neatest retcon, but works better than the alternative.

Have a good day.
G Morrow

Maybe I’m imagining things, but was there not a story where it was revealed the Tinkerer was actually the Chameleon in disguise?

“Spider-Man picks up a radio for his teacher but the man who has fixed it, the Tinkerer, seems suspicious…”

Not least for the fact that he introduces himself to Peter as “The Tinkerer.”

Philip Ayres:”What’s the issue #s for the Stern stuff?”


Ah, so that Stern story is the inspiration for the alien bit in Chapter One. Cool.

Fun stuff, Brian. Some comments:

1.Brian;”.Pretty goofy stuff. Not exactly Ditko at his finest.” Yeah, the plot was quite goofy, but the art was vintage Ditko.

2. Len Wein: You have to give the man credit. He was the guy who basically re-invented The Tinkerer, turning him from a one-off TWILIGHT ZONE meets OUTER LIMITS style character to one with a workable schtick (designing hardware for super villains) that every subsequent writer has used.

3. Roger Stern: Of course, that still left those pesky aliens out there. Stern obviously had the brilliant idea to extend the deception to the aliens themselves. Bringing in Mysterio and Wolfman’s plot about Dutch Malone’s loot was just the icing on the cake.

4. The aliens: I could be wrong on this point, but I seem to recall the aliens turning up in Starlin’s CAPTAIN MARVEL run as some of Thanos’ flunkies. If this is correct, I will go for the no-prize and argue that there is an alien race that looks like the the Tinkerer’s bogus aliens. Thanks to his spying operation, the Tinkerer learned of the alien race from the US government and decided that having his goons mimic real aliens would simply further advance the deception if the Feds discovered his activities.

Yeah, before the reveal, aliens who looked exactly like the ASM #2 aliens popped up in a few “aliens of different races” crowd scenes,notably among Thanos’s minions in the Starlin stories. I guess Tinkerer’s minions were reaaaaally getting into the role.

Oh, gee, now I don’t feel so bad that John Byrne declared them not to be aliens in SPIDER-MAN: CHAPTER ONE. And here I thought that was just another example of him trying to “fix” continuity.

Seeing as it’s from issue 2, it seems like a case of not quite having established the typical tone of a Spider-man story yet. There wouldn’t be another Spider-man story with an alien in it until issue 103.

James Moar:”Seeing as it’s from issue 2, it seems like a case of not quite having established the typical tone of a Spider-man story yet. There wouldn’t be another Spider-man story with an alien in it until issue 103.”

Yeah, there was another off-key moment in ASM #1, Spidey’s rescue of John Jameson. Spider-Man saving an astronaut in a runaway Mercury capsule just seems wrong. Plus, the story shows Peter Parker in attendance as Jameson’s rocket takes off (no, Peter was not on a trip to Florida!).

RE: Peter Parker watching Jameson’s rocket takeoff in ASM # 1,

Two possibilities present themselves:

1. New York City (or its adjacent suburbs) has a Cape Canaveral-style launch facilities (hey, it’s the MU).

2. ASM # 1 was not set in NYC. Does anyone know when they actually named the city where Peter Parker lives? I don’t think that it was identified in either Spidey’s debut or in ASM # 1.

About the aliens appearing in other stories- it’s possible that the aliens had been to Earth before, and their pictures appeared on a supermarket tabloid or something, and that’s where the actors got the idea to impersonate them.

The Ditko story isn’t spectacular or anything, but I don’t find it especially goofy in the context of its era. It was entertaining and itdidn’t make me groan or roll my eyes like most of the contemporary books from that period did. Like the first Skrull story in the FF where Reed uses comic books to fool them, THAT was goofy!

What’s going on in the image of Deb and Mysterio on the monitor? Looks like a scene from DC’s Identity Crisis.

RE: Spider-Man and New York City

Well, I feel just stupid; I just remembered that Spidey encountered the FF in ASM # 1, so that would have been the first issue with a clear New York reference. Guess that the MARVEL NYC just has its own version of Cape Canaveral.

interesting that stern tied up the whole alien and tinker thing by having them be actors and also working for mysterio all over wanting some hidden loot and ditko did have a rep for putting some of his crazy views like aliens in his work

T:”The Ditko story isn’t spectacular or anything, but I don’t find it especially goofy in the context of its era. It was entertaining and itdidn’t make me groan or roll my eyes like most of the contemporary books from that period did. Like the first Skrull story in the FF where Reed uses comic books to fool them, THAT was goofy!”

I agree. By Silver Age standards, it’s actually pretty solid. It only becomes goofy in the context of the Lee-Ditko run on ASM.

In Jim Starlin’s Warlock, the hero is attacked by a group of aliens, one of whom appears to belong to the race which turned out to be “fictitious”. Somebody must have just made a good guess about what aliens might look like, I suppose.

Apologies, missed the earlier comment. Coulda sworn it was Warlock………….

sandwich eater

June 16, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Is it wrong that I prefer to the version where Spider-Man foiled an alien invasion early in his career? I was ok with the Tinkerer being a human, but I wish those were real aliens.

It must have been mandatory to have aliens in Marvel’s second issues. The Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spiderman, and the Avengers all featured them, but the Skrulls were the only race that really lasted.

The Tinker has a guy helping him named Toy. Huh.

I think Toy turned out to be a robot later.
Revamping the Tinkerer worked out well–“service villains” who provide backup services (Tinkerer, Paul Gambi) are a lot of fun. But i can’t figure out how I missed that Stern follow-up story (which was also quite entertaining).

Hey Brian, for a future Abandoned and Forsaken, how about discussing the retconning of the story where Storm saved Black Panther’s life when she was a child (to saying that HE saved HER!) That sounds like one particularly pointless, maybe even chauvinistic retcon. (I’m assuming you haven’t covered it yet of course.)

Just wanted to mention an early Astro City tale where an old man, who looks an awful lot like the Tinkerer, turns out to be an alien sent here to decide whether the planet should be invaded or not. He doesn’t look much like the aliens here, but his alien form does seem to be a throwback to the sixties.

It just has the same vibe, is all….and Astro City is full of all sorts of homages to vintage Marvel. I was just looking at a spread of Jack-In-The-Box recently that pays tribute to a similar spread in the 80’s Spidey ‘Gang War’ saga! Cool!!

Travis Pelkie

June 17, 2012 at 9:29 pm

A Toy robot?

(For all you KFM fans)

Like PCabezuelo, I kinda thought Tinkerer and Chameleon had a relationship.

And like a couple of people, I thought the Tinkerer story in Chapter One was Byrne doing his own thing.

I would have guessed that Busiek would have covered this in Untold Tales, but now I see he didn’t have to. (I am going to email Brian about a bit in Untold that may have been answered elsewhere.)

When I’d first read ASM 2, I was aware that Tinkerer was still around, but I wasn’t sure how the story of him as an alien was resolved.

A couple things about these “aliens”, though, and the relation to Mysterio: While it’s a pretty cool retcon, was Mysterio unaware of Spidey in his first appearance? That is, in the first issue of ASM where we see Mysterio, does he act at all like he’s aware of Spider-Man and his powers? Cuz he’s faced him here, then.

That’s the only thing about a retcon like this, it’s cool until you start thinking about it, then you start seeing the places where things don’t quite fit, and then you start trying to “solve” things that just didn’t really need to be solved. (Or you think about things that weren’t issues before.) And that’s what gets you Roy Thomas stories ;)

And if these “aliens” could get their hands on a VTOL aircraft, why did they need some weird ass alien invasion scheme to make money? Just sell the damn aircraft!

In Mysterio’s first appearance, he shows up and announces his intention to take down Spider-Man. And IIRC, has designed his equipment specifically to cope with Spidey’s power. So yeah, that fits.

And if these “aliens” could get their hands on a VTOL aircraft, why did they need some weird ass alien invasion scheme to make money? Just sell the damn aircraft!

Yeah, that occurred to me also. Maybe whatever foreign government they were selling secrets to supplied them with their “spaceship.”

It’s also possible it was a defective model–good enough for a scam like this but too flawed to actually serve for real VTOL use.

Another possibility was that the alien costumes were actually based on a real alien that had crashed, and along the way contacted the Tinkerer and the man who became Mysterio in an attempt to get them to help him repair the ship.

Either they discovered he was an alien scout and turned on him, or just simply did so out of desire for the ship, if the aliens weren’t planning to invade. From there, it was simply a matter of “okay, what can we use this stuff for?” and their deciding that messing with the space dangers that created the FF was not an option (if the ship was even capable of orbital flight anymore). The ship was probably too small and too lightly armed for anything other than scouting, so direct world domination was out as well. That’s when the acquisition of information with the alien comm tech idea hit them. Granted, their methodology was a bit naive (compared to, say, the wall plaque that the Soviets had the creator of that one odd musical instrument make that they got into the US Embassy). But, that’s 50-year-old comics writing for you.

As far as the writing goes, it does strike me like a lot of the early Marvel super-hero stories: It’s the kind of alien invasion story they could have done in Tales to Astonish or Amazing Fantasy, but with a super-hero thrown in. The Toadmen, the Skrulls, the Stone Men of Saturn, the Infant Terrible and so on.

Sorry to revive this older discussion, but I have a dopey question: Brian, where did you get the scans for the Tinkerer’s first appearance? I found this page looking for information about the Marvel Masterworks TPB of the original Amazing Spider-Man stories because they look a little…over remastered to me. The inks don’t seem quite right and the colors are, naturally, weird. Comparing them to the scans you have here, they’re clearly different: The colors are very different and the inks slightly different.

I know the TPBs of the early comics are all redrawn to some degree and completely recolored. The original art is either in private hands or lost, for the most part, and the original colors are for letterpress printers which don’t even exist anymore, assuming they still have the plates. So the TPBs are reconstructed from the printed comic books, and as anyone who remembers comics from those days (or any time earlier than the late 1980s, really) can tell you, the print quality is abysmal. So I appreciate that the reprints aren’t going to be perfect.

But this particular title seems a little overdone to me. Just my feeling, since I obviously don’t have an original Amazing Fantasy #15 to compare. (If I did, you think I’d be talking to you? I’d have my very own model dressed as Mary Jane feeding me grapes out of Mysterio’s helmet!)

Anyway, it just makes me wonder where you found your scans.

[…] So we get answers to questions that nobody asked. How come Norman Osborn and Flint Marko have the same hairstyle? Is it because Steve Ditko had a particular style of drawing? Nonsense! It’s because they “happen to share a great-grandmother.” Does the end of the Cold War mean we’ll need an entirely new origin for former Soviet spy the Chameleon? Nah! He’s just working for Doctor Doom now! Byrne even explains the strange aliens allied with the Tinkerer, drawing in a bit of retroactive continuity other writers had used to explain the early weirdness of Lee and Dit…. […]

Way over late to comment on this but just wanted to point out something funny…That wholeflashback with the guy saying the ‘er can never comeback to earth etc etc etc’ the followup line sounds like something from the earlier better simpsons. ‘Knock it off bill no ones around’ in a weeker normal non dramatic voice after that first line being said in an overly dramatic line…Castlietta and Shearer could have did that hilarouosly.

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