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How Did Spider-Man Defeat Sandman With a Vacuum Cleaner?

This is "Provide Some Answers," which is a feature where long unresolved plot points are eventually resolved.

Today, we look at how Sandman's reputation was "redeemed" decades after he has a particularly embarrassing loss.

It is remarkable to look back at the earliest issues of Amazing Spider-Man and see how Steve Ditko and Stan Lee were almost literally introducing a brand-new amazing villain in every single new issue of Amazing Spider-Man! From the Chameleon to the Vulture to Doctor Octopus to Sandman to the Lizard to Electro to Fancy Dan to Mysterio to Green Goblin to Kraven, the first year and change of Amazing Spider-Man comics was practically overflowing with great new villains.

In Amazing Spider-Man #4, the new villain was the Sandman, a villain who gained the ability to turn his entire body into, well, you know, sand.

In the previous issue, Ditko and Lee had introduced Doctor Octopus, a villain who smacked Spider-Man around when they first met before Spider-Man ultimately prevailed at the end of the issue. They must have liked that concept, so they repeated it in this issue by showing just how outclassed Spider-Man was in a battle against the Sandman...

While Spider-Man was fixing his mask, the Sandman was using his powers to rob a bank...

It is pretty safe to say that Sandman's powers made him almost impossible for Spider-Man to actually capture. And yet...

The two have a rematch at Spider-Man's school, of all places, as the Sandman just happened to break into the school to hide out (why he needs to hide out since the cops can't hurt him with their bullets is beyond me, but hey, it happened). So Spider-Man gets his rematch and it's interesting, because the fight itself is a thing of beauty from a sequential storytelling perspective. Remember, Ditko has only been drawing superheroes for Marvel for, like, six months at this point in time (although he had done some Charlton superhero work before that) and yet he has already seemingly mastered the superhero fight sequence...

The bit with Spider-Man sending Sandman's head into the staircase? That's just a brilliant piece of fluidity there by Ditko.

But then the fight has to end and Ditko and Lee come up with, of all things, a giant vacuum cleaner (that they at least DID make a point to establish earlier in the issue where Peter runs into the janitor and Peter gives one of his patented mopey, "Woe is me" speeches to himself and this time, it's like, "The janitor is so lucky to only have to worry about giant vacuum cleaners." Ugh, Peter, you're the worst) to take him down....

You might be asking, "How could Sandman not just easily escape this vacuum cleaner? We saw him harden his skin and make himself able to injure someone as strong as Spider-Man, how could a vacuum stop him?" And the answer to that was probably, at the time, "Eh, whatever, we just needed the story to be finished."

Decades later, though, Peter David would explain what REALLY happened!

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