Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Ross Andru
Inker: Mike Esposito
It’s Christmas Eve, and Peter Parker is on an assignment for The Daily Bugle. J Jonah Jameson has requested pictures of some hardy winter swimmers at the beach, so Peter is on hand when Sandman makes an unscheduled appearance. After the obligatory tussle, Sandman makes his escape when Spider-Man mentions what day of the year it is.
Reasoning that Sandman isn’t his problem, as he only fought him once a long time ago and he’s got a date with Gwen that night (whither great power comes great responsibility, Spidey?), Spider-Man heads for the Baxter Building.
As Spidey attempts to enter the building, he narrowly misses some fire-rings that Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) is idly shooting out of the window. Johnny is alone (the other members of the Fantastic Four are at Whisper Hill for Christmas), and in a mope about girl-problems. Spider-Man mentions that he fought Sandman in New Jersey, and Johnny remembers that he first encountered Sandman on George Washington Bridge (in Strange Tales #115). Putting two and two together, and perhaps coming up with four, Spidey agrees to accompany Johnny in the Fantasti-Car to George Washington Bridge, and then over to the Jersey side. While on the look-out for Sandman, Spidey spies a mugging in progress and goes to the victim’s aid. In the spirit of Christmas, the woman* involved decides to let the thwarted muggers go - after Spidey has detained them with webbing for a bit.
Continuing on, The Human Torch gets to show his stuff by stopping an out of control truck, before they spot Sandman. Challenging him, both are out-witted (it ain’t hard), and Sandman dumps them, tied up together, into a water tower. Knowing these two will need all the help they can get, Sandman drops Spidey a handy hint as to how they can escape.
After escaping the death-trap, the two spot Sandman climbing through a window. Following him into the house, they’re met by Sandman in civvies (he’s called William Baker here; isn’t his civilian name Flint Marko?) He tells them to keep it down as he is there to see his old sickly mum, and agrees to give himself up if they give him a few minutes with her. This gives the two an excuse to remember their nearest and dearest; so Peter thinks about Aunt May for a bit, and Johnny mopes some more about Crystal.
As you might guess, after his five minutes are up he escapes down the plug-hole leaving just a few grains of sand behind.
Roy Thomas pulls out all the stops to give us a warm Christmas glow, yet it all seems a tad perfunctory with some lapses in logic. Would a villain on the FBI’s Most Wanted list really tell Spider-Man how to escape a death-trap?
The two co-stars work well together, trading quips back and forth, but both appear a bit callow and I generally like my heroes a little less self-absorbed. All in all, not a great example of a grand tradition - the comic book Christmas tale.
*The unnamed woman is later ret-conned into being Misty Knight’s first appearance by Chris Claremont; presumably because she’s black and has an afro.