‘Amazing Spider-Man’: Who is the Big Man?
A look back at one of the classic Spidey villains who just won’t stay dead!
Readers of Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN may have been surprised when the Big Man returned... bigger than ever! Trust us, he wasn’t always a giant. And frankly, he’s spent most of his career dead. Yet somehow, Big Man is back and he’s kidnapped both Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson, before placing them in an Arcade-style Murderworld based on Jameson’s life.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #13 – available now – solves the mystery of Big Man’s return. But to truly understand the significance of his place in Spidey history, we have to go back to the beginning. More specifically, we’re looking at 1964’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10. Big Man was one of the first villains Spider-Man faced early in his career, and he was the power behind the Enforcers. In the days before the Kingpin’s emergence, Big Man was a name to be feared in the criminal underworld. His size and his mask made him an imposing figure. But behind the mask, he was simply Frederick Foswell.
Foswell was a reporter for The Daily Bugle who was close with Jameson. He was also one of Jameson’s top writers and he was on top of the crime beat. Foswell’s talent for disguise served him well. Perhaps too well, since he eventually decided to become a crimelord himself. The Big Man costume hid Foswell’s face and his diminutive size. But it wasn’t enough to hide his identity after his initial battle with Spider-Man.
Even after his exposure, Foswell didn’t disappear from Spider-Man’s world. Instead, Jameson gave his former employee a second chance and rehired him at the Bugle in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #23. Foswell once again proved to be so good at his job that he nearly stumbled upon Peter Parker’s secret identity as Spider-Man. Instead, Parker tricked Foswell and even teamed up with him for a few stories. During that time, Foswell assumed a new persona as Patch, which gave him valuable intel on criminals.
Unfortunately, Foswell’s reform didn’t last forever. Wilson Fisk forced Foswell to become his lieutenant, even though Foswell longed to once again be the ultimate criminal mastermind. Yet Foswell had his redemptive moment in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #52, when he protected Jameson’s life and ultimately took a fatal bullet that was meant for his boss. Foswell’s death only fueled Jameson’s vendetta against Spider-Man. But it proved to have deadly consequences years later.
The Big Man returned in MARVEL TEAM-UP #39 with a score to settle against Spider-Man. Naturally, Foswell was still dead at the time, and the new Big Man was forced to contend with the new Crime-Master as well. By the following issue, Big Man and Crime Master were at each other's’ throats. Crime-Master fatally shot Big Man, only to learn that it was Foswell’s daughter, Janice, behind the mask. To compound the tragedy, the new Crime-Master turned out to be Janice’s fiancé, Nick Lewis Jr., the son of the original Crime-Master.
That could have been the end of the Big Man’s legacy. Neither Foswell had special powers, and they certainly couldn’t come back from the dead. At least, not without help. However, that help arrived in THE CLONE CONSPIRACY #2, when it was revealed that Foswell was among several former Spider-Man villains who had been returned to life in new clone bodies. Even though most of those clones quickly suffered from cellular degeneration, a few survived. It’s not out of the question that Foswell’s clone is among the survivors.
Could Foswell’s clone be behind the mask of the new Big Man? Or is there a new layer of tragedy for the Big Man? You’ll have to read AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #13 for the full story.
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