Monday, August 10, 2009

The Comics Code Authority: Revised to Relax, Part 4

Amazing Spider-Man #100-101 (September-October 1971)
“The Spider or the
Man?”
Stan Lee/G
il Kane-Frank Giacoia

“A Monster Called… Morbius!”
Roy Thomas/Gil Kane
-Frank Giacoia

Doug: Man-Wolf, zuvembie… must be time for vampires in our survey of the revised Comics Code Authority! This time ‘round we take a look at Morbius, the Living Vampire, debuting back in 1971 in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. We begin our story in the anniversary issue, #100, as a bridge to Morbius’ debut in #101.

Karen: Before we jump into the story, I want to say that I love the cover of issue 100! It’s just a very cool design.

Doug: To start things off, I have a complaint to register. I had never read ASM #100 prior to sitting down for this post. However, I had read #150 (November 1975) way back when it first arrived on the stands, and I will retroactively state my unhappiness that those two anniversary issues have basically the same plot! That is, a delirious Peter Parker seeking to establish his true or desired identity, runs into a series of faux villains (the Vulture and the Kingpin are duplicated in the two stories). Each story also involves Dr. Curt Connors, albeit not until #101 in the case of the former story. Couldn’t Archie Goodwin, the author of #150, come up with something different? Of course, if it was done in the Marvel Method, then we have to blame Gil Kane, the penciller of both tales!

Doug: The basic plot of #100 is that Peter has decided that he wants Gwen Stacy – for marriage, we assume. A lifetime commitment… But, in order for that to happen, there can’t be a Spider-Man involved. So, Pete puts the finishing touches on a serum he’s been working on since he became Spidey – fears that his radioactive blood would later pose a problem, etc. concerned him. He drinks the potion and then enters a dream-state where he is forced to fight several phantom versions of his rogues gallery – the Vulture, Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and the Kingpin. While he’s battling those characters, Spider-Man begins to complain about a tremendous pain in his side. In the last panel, the source of that pain is revealed: Peter has grown four additional arms to become a human spider!

Karen: I know I keep going back to that interview with Stan Lee and Roy Thomas in Comic Book Artist #2, but there’s a quote from Stan there where they are discussing Gwen Stacy’s death, and he says that “I always wanted her to marry Peter Parker”. I think you can clearly see that this was true when you read ASM 100.

Doug: Yeah, that would really fly in the face of Jazzy Johnny Romita’s report that Milton Caniff always said that a female character should be killed off every two years! Hence, the decision (which Romita was in on) to kill Gwen less than two years from this story!

Karen: You can also clearly see many Gil Kane up-the-nose shots! Those just drive me nuts!

Doug: I thought Kane’s art really suffered from Giacoias inks; he is so much stronger on Spider-Man when inked by Romita. One of the things I noticed is so simple – take a look at the shape of Spidey’s head. It’s often not even a nice oval. And, much as Curt Swan did for the Superman universe over at the Distinguished Competition, Romita helped to unify the Spider-verse look even when not the penciller.

Doug: ASM #101 opens with a more-neurotic-than-usual Peter Parker lamenting his new condition. To compound his problems, he gets two phone calls – one from Gwen and the other from the Daily Bugle. He is basically rude to both Gwen and Robbie to get them off the phone. He next places a call to Dr. Curt Connors in Florida and asks to stay at his Long Island mansion; Connors complies with the request and tells Spidey that there is a fully-functional laboratory in the basement.

Karen: Poor Roy Thomas! His first issue of Spidey, and he’s stuck with a Peter Parker with six arms! Thanks Stan!

Doug: I thought the scripting transition from Stan in #100 to Roy in #101 was pretty noticeable. It’s probably a good thing that the storyline was of a pretty serious nature, as Roy is not as adept at the witty banter as Stan was.

Karen: I remember this issue really well, because it was the second issue of Spider-Man I read (98 was the first). All of these ‘monsters’ were quite appealing to a six year old.

Doug: In the next scene we meet a mysterious stranger, on the high seas with a very tense crew. Apparently crew members have turned up missing or dead, and the new guy seems to be the common thread. It’s not long until we learn that he is a vampire. He wreaks havoc one more time on the crew, and then leaps into the ocean – he is obviously conflicted about his lot in life. As fate would have it, the vampire surfaces just off Long Island and moves into the bell tower of Dr. Connor’s mansion.

Karen: It’s no coincidence that Morbius’ first appearance evokes the events of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as Roy said he and Gil Kane originally wanted to use Dracula himself in the story. But Stan insisted on having a super-villain vampire, so we got Morbius.

Doug: As Spidey works away at a possible antidote to rid himself of his four extra arms, Morbius wakes and begins to move about the house. Spying Spider-Man from the top of a stairwell, Morbius swoops down upon him. Of course a battle ensues, and it is during the fisticuffs that the vampire shouts his name to Spider-Man. Then, in a plot twist, who but Dr. Connors shows up to help Spider-Man. And as you might have guessed, the Lizard isn’t far behind!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just discovered BAB- my GOD it's great! I'll be pouring over every page in the coming weeks, thanks for all your wonderful work!
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