Monday, March 21, 2011

Spidey's Zoo: The Kangaroo!

This is the 200th comic book reviewed on the Bronze Age Babies

Amazing Spider-Man #126 (November 1973)
"The Kangaroo Bounces Back!"

Gerry Conway-Ross Andru/Jim Mooney

Doug: Hey, kids -- back for our third installment in our Spidey's Zoo series. The past two weeks we saw poor Martin Blank as the Gibbon, a seemingly good guy gone bad. Today we'll see the second appearance of that Australian super-baddie, the Kangaroo! I have to confess that as I read this I heard Paul Hogan every time the Kangaroo spoke!

Karen: Well, the words "mate" and "bloody" appear frequently, so I guess we should realize he's Australian....

Doug: The first thing you'll probably notice is the change in art from our first two weeks to now. Johnny Romita had held it together before, but now we're into the Ross Andru era. I'll always stand by Ross, as he was my guy when I started reading ASM and Marvel Team-Up. The inks, as you saw above in the credits, are by Jim Mooney -- he of the distinctive eyes. You can spot Mooney from a mile away by looking at the eyes. Andru's storytelling is really solid -- call him quirky, but the man can convey emotion. OK, maybe it's a strained sort of emotion at times, but the point gets across. No one can argue that.

Karen: Since I started my comic obsession about a year or two before you, to me, going from Romita to Andru was difficult. It's not that Andru was terrible or anything like that. But Romita was such a perfect fit for Spidey. However, I do think that a lot of the time our favorite artist on a character is determined by whose art we saw first.

Doug: I wholeheartedly agree, and I should state that I do believe John Romita is the consummate Spider-Man artist. His Silver- and early Bronze Age work is the pinnacle in my opinion.

Doug: We pick it up right after the Man-Wolf fight that was in
ASM 124-125. Spidey is doing a little web-swinging when he's approached by a couple of slick salesmen.
They want Spidey to endorse a new environmentally-safe auto engine by starring in a series of ads with the Spider-Mobile. Our Webhead says thanks, but no, and swings off. We, however, are privy to the sight of a figure hiding in the shadows. Upon closer inspection, he's revealed to be the Kangaroo (who last appeared back in ASM #81). But soon thereafter, another figure enters the picture -- Jonas Harrow. Say, anyone else think this chap looks an awful lot like DC's Hugo Strange?

Karen: You know, I didn't pick up on that, but I did wonder if the two businessmen were supposed to be caricatures of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas!

Doug: I certainly saw the resemblance to Roy...

Doug: The next two pages are classic Spider-Man soap opera: Pete skipping class, being admonished by Professor Warren, being asked out by Mary Jane and Flash and giving them the cold shoulder, finding out he and Harry are about to be evicted, and talking on the phone to Aunt May -- who offers to comfort him after the death of Gwen. Conway nails all of this. Karen, you remarked in our last review (
ASM #111), which was Conway's first script on the book, that Gerry would very soon put his stamp on the magazine. Certainly by now that's quite evident, as the characterization is all pretty seamless going back to Stan's days.

Karen: I really think one of Gerry's strengths was handling a large cast. He was able to move people in and out effortlessly. I'm reading his Thor run right now and one of the first things I noticed was how he expanded and emphasized the supporting cast.

Doug: It's just good storytelling. Adding layers gives us a reason to care on a personal level. It's not just one longjohn slugfest after another -- that gets boring. I agree that we need that background stuff.

Doug: The Kangaroo is one weird dude. Guy's never met this Jonas Harrow before, yet concedes to massive surgery.
Harrow cuts this guy left/right, up/down and implants all sorts of power-enhancing electronics, wiring junk to his nerves and ultimately his brain. Crazy stuff! But, upon coming out of the ether (no puking allowed in this recovery room!), the Kangaroo is immediately able to jump all over the place, flex his muscles, and put a one-shot whuppin' on the bad doctor.

Karen: I'm not really sure why surgery was necessary; he mainly outfits him with some sort of fancy hydraulics. It does say they are hooked up to Kangaroo's brain, but still -ah, whatever. Let's roll with it. He certainly is an ungrateful sort.

Doug: After deciding he needs to pay the rent to save Harry the stress, Spidey goes to the advertising agency to take the gig endorsing the car. Trouble is, the slimedogs want him to not only promote the car but build it as well! But on the way to pitch the idea to his prospective partner, Spidey's attacked by the new-and-improved Kangaroo. It doesn't last long. Even a juiced-up marsupial is still... well, whatever. Actually, ol' boy gets a splitting headache and high-tails it out of there.

Karen: Oh yes, we're seeing the beginning of the Amazing Spider-Mobile! Poor Gerry. This was also forced upon him,
so he did the best thing he could with it: he made fun of the whole idea!
Doug: Spidey continues to his original destination -- the Baxter Building, and Johnny Storm. The Torch says he'll help, and then we get a weird 3-panel interlude of JJJ in the emergency room while John Jameson awaits a total blood transfusion. Then we find out it's at a free clinic! What the?!? But that's Jonah, isn't it?

Karen: I know -his son's near death and he goes to the free clinic to "save a little money"! There were times when JJJ was shown perhaps a little too extreme.

Doug: The Kangaroo has been charged with stealing some radioactive isotopes. While Spidey and Johnny discuss the car, they hear a police bulletin about the break-in. Hearing the description of the perp, Spidey takes his leave and intercepts the Kangaroo. A major tussle ensues, and ends with the Kangaroo being exposed to the full force of some gamma radiation.
Spidey manages to contain it behind a lead door, survive a tear gas attack from New York's Finest, and get out safely.

Karen: Boy, the Kangaroo was just born to lose! Lame name, dumb as a rock, and then -incinerated by radiation. The panels showing him burning up were pretty effective, I have to say.

Doug: The last scene is pretty powerful, and certainly foreshadows events to come. MJ stops by Harry and Peter's apartment, looking for Harry. He's inside, but makes no noise. Exasperated, she leaves, letting him know that she's not happy, and probably won't be back. Andru takes us inside the darkened dwelling, where a crazed, sweaty Harry Osborn cradles the costume of the Green Goblin and announces to himself that he is the new Green Goblin!


HannibalCat said...

Ross Andru was really my Spider-Man artist, too - his depictions of New York are what I carried with me whenever I thought of the place. And this is the man who first drew The Punisher! I think he's a little underrated in Spidey's history; his contribution was immense.

david_b said...

Great issue, one of the reasons was because it was one of first Spideys when I started collecting.

Despite the readers comments on him being a 2nd-rate silly villain, the Kangaroo was pretty 'Bronze Age-ish' for me. I totally got the Stan Lee and Roy Thomas spoofing for the Spidermobile and Conway nailed the handling of entire Spidermobile concept. It was a wonderful in-joke towards all the hyping of Spidey in the market at that time, yet winking at the audience about the absurdity of Madison Avenue, yet creating a potential campy merchandising product to kids buying the Mego items.

Stan had the great idea and Gerry ran with it without compromising the story-telling or subtle humor.
I actually loved the Spidermobile when it came out, hence having to by that ish of BackIssue with the cutaway vehicle layout cover.

As for the ish, I saw the Kangaroo story as more-or-less 'icing' over the more interesting, brewing subplots (Harry as Goblin, MaryJane, the fore-mentioned mobile, etc).

Fred W. Hill said...

Poor ol' Kangaroo, a grade D bozo of a villain, although this continues a trend Conway had going of "killing" off Spidey villains or using stand-ins, as in the Vulture story that followed, not to mention the substitute Mysterio later on, and of course, Harry as the new Green Goblin! Anyhow, Conway did a great job of keeping up with the supporting cast, which I believe was one of the key elements to Spidey's continuing success, although many subsequent Spider-scribes over the last 35 years seem oblivious to that.
Back in the day, I also associated Johnny Romita, Sr., as The Spidey Artist, not only from some of his last work on the regular title but also from the Marvel Tales reprints. Andru did some good work, although I thought some of the facial expressions he drew looked odd. Still, he & Mooney did a great job of depicting Harry's ongoing slide into lunacy.

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