Strange Tales #115
While the rest of the FF are occupied (Sue and Ben by writing a report, and Reed by studying blindness), Mr. Fantastic sends Human Torch to deal with the Sandman. I'm curious what was going on with them when the Vulture was at large. Perhaps busy battling Molecule Man.
When Reed refers to Spidey as Johnny's friend, Human Torch corrects him, calling him no friend of his. I think this is posturing as they seemed to be growing closer in their last couple encounters. I bet Johnny's just trying to act macho here. You can tell he likes Spider-Man.
I was gonna focus my review of this issue on the stuff relevant to Spider-Man. But this must be noted. Sandman escaped by turning to sand to slip through the bars of his jail cell. I don't even know where to begin what is wrong with this. They know his powers; why stick him in an ordinary cell? Why didn't he just escape the second they put him in or released him from the vaccuum? They couldn't have stopped him. Why did they release him from the vaccuum. Perhaps it's inhumane to keep him there forever, but surely Mr. Fantastic or somebody could have come up with a better solution than stick him in ordinary prison. Geez louise.
Mr. Fantastic orders Human Torch to seek out Spider-Man so Spidey can beat Sandman again. Torch is of course insulted by this. While they've gained something of a friendship, it is one based largely on competition. But Johnny does fly around for several hours, and, not finding out webbed wonder, he confronts Sandman himself. We learn Sandman's main interest is revenge on Spider-Man. Vulture had sworn revenge on him too. It's a good thing Pete thought to keep his identity secret when he began his wrestling career.
Insulted that Sandman ignored him, Torch disguises himself as Spider-Man to lure Sandman into a fight with him. Torch beats Sandman, but it was unconvincingly easy. I don't think Stan is recognising the potential of Sandman's powers here.
In the end we see the real Spider-Man a little upset Human Torch butt in on what he considered his fight. We see how much competitiveness and ego dominates both their thinking, evidencing that glory is still part of Spider-Man's motivation. Also of note, the theme of the issue is that everyone thought only Spider-Man could beat Sandman, and Human Torch was feeling like he was in Spidey's shadow. This contrasts Spider-Man's feelings. Each envies the other. Each is fiercly competitive. Each is young and hotheaded. An interesting friendship is at works.