Monday, March 14, 2011

Spidey's Zoo: The Gibbon, part 2!

Amazing Spider-Man #111 (August 1972)
"To Stalk a Spider!"
Gerry Conway-John Romita/Tony Mortellaro/Romita

Doug: Today's post concludes our first of three stories taking a look at Spider-Man against some furry nemeses. First up is the Gibbon,
a troubled youth who would certainly like to be a hero, but just can't seem to get past his inferiority complex. And Spider-Man certainly didn't help things last issue when he laughed at our new pal. So what's a fella to do? How about fall in with the wrong crowd?

Doug: As you see on the cover above, that "wrong crowd" came in the person of Kraven the Hunter. The Hunter watched from afar near the end of the previous issue, as Spidey had humiliated Martin Blank. Sensing an opportunity to harness the skills of the Gibbon and destroy his enemy at the same time, Kraven now made an offer. But first, the Hunter recounted his previous adventure opposed to Spider-Man, a tussle that had taken them to the Savage Land and had involved Ka-Zar.
Kraven came out on the short end (as usual), and was actually believed to be dead.

Karen: Interesting how Kraven still has his arm in a sling from a fight that took place seven issues before!
But I guess this is Marvel-time, so it might be only a few weeks. I have to say, I just love this John Romita art. I know some people consider it cartoony, but it's so sleek and powerful.
Doug: In the meantime, Spidey rushes away from his encounter with the Gibbon to light at Aunt May's apartment. Not any too cautious about being seen, Spidey enters through an unlocked window to find a note addressed to Peter.
Aunt May had written it to inform Peter that she had left, to an undisclosed location. Spidey, with no idea where Aunt May could have gone, fears the worst. And then the cops pounded on the door... Spidey of course gets away, and after some self-beating heads to the Daily Bugle to see his friend Joe Robertson. If anyone might be able to sniff gold from a tip, it's Robertson. That's not what Spider-Man is after, though -- no, instead he's buying time. As the police arrived, a bulletin went out and finding no May Parker at home, the boys in blue jumped to the conclusion that she'd been kidnapped. By our hero. But of course, in the middle of the conversation with Robbie, JJJ butts in. Robbie shows him the note from May to Peter Parker, which clearly demonstrates that Spidey didn't kidnap her, and Jonah faces another heavy helping of egg on his face.

Karen: Peter's not trying too hard to protect his identity, what with climbing into Aunt May's apartment in full daylight.
I do love the way Romita draws him just exploding out the window as he escapes the police. I've always liked Robbie, the cool voice of reason (is he even in the current book?). I always suspected that he, much like Capt. Stacy, had figured out who was behind the web-head's mask.
Doug: I wholeheartedly agree with you -- this is a supposition I've also had for many, many years. See, it's an unexplored area we were never treated to. How much mileage could be gotten out of subplots and storylines involving Robbie with privileged information, but trying his best to protect Peter?

Doug: Back to our evil villains du jour (well, maybe one of them is evil; I prefer to see Kraven as more of a deranged sportsman). Kraven has been giving Martin a bunch of his home remedies. Martin's strength and quickness have increased, and Kraven wants him to take one last potion to "finish the process".
Martin tried to deny him, sensing that Kraven was merely viewing him as an animal as have all the others. But as he gave in and drank the final concoction his head began to feel like exploding. Rage overcame Martin Blank, and he attacked the Hunter. After a spirited scrap where master won with guile over creation, the new-and-improved Gibbon was given his orders: go, with Kraven directing his mind, and triumph over Spider-Man.

Karen: This was an exciting sequence, that built in tension panel after panel. I do love how Kraven has decked out his hideaway with a groovy jungle motif!

Doug: Maybe Elvis was his interior decorator! Check out the pic of the "Jungle Room" at Graceland...

Doug: While Pete mopes in his apartment, Gwen calls to check on him. She's alarmed that May has left, and of course blames herself. Peter really blows her off -- I thought this was strange, given how paranoid he was last issue that Gwen would somehow wind up with Flash Thompson.
Pete gets rid of Gwen, and then heads outside for some web-swinging, and who do you suppose he meets? One guess and you got it right! The Gibbon attacks with ferocity, totally catching Spidey unaware. But even as he reels, Spidey feels that all is not right, that there is somehow another presence controlling Martin Blank. And as the Gibbon jumps on Spider-Man and encloses his strong fingers about the Web-slinger's neck. While Kraven urges him to choke, Spider-Man screams for Martin to break the control. Martin's innate goodness wins, he hesitates, and Spider-Man is able to kick him off and over the rooftop's edge. A simple webline down and Spidey catches the now unconscious Gibbon. And somewhere far away, Kraven the Hunter exploded in anger.

Karen: It was a little odd of Peter to brush Gwen off like that, but he was also completely pre-occupied with Aunt May's disappearance, and exhausted on top of that. Maybe he was also still stinging from his perception that Gwen was falling into Flash Thompson's arms too? In any case, I don't see his behavior as completely out of character. The fight sequence here was not as exciting as the fight between Martin and Kraven, but then again, Spidey could sense that Martin was being controlled, and so he was not fighting back that hard.
I thought that was a novel use of spider-senses: Pete could actually tell that someone was directing Martin's actions. I can't recall that being used any other time, can you?
Doug: This was Gerry Conway's first issue as scripter of Amazing Spider-Man, and despite a few holes here and there, I thought it was a good debut. For a guy thrown right into the middle of the story I thought he got out of it OK. Perhaps the ending was anti-climatic, but the character development that went on throughout the rest of the story was welcome. As we've said, that's what a Spidey mag is really all about!

Karen: I thought Gerry wrote this very much in Stan's voice. But Gerry would put his imprint on the title soon enough.


Redartz said...

I too love Romita Sr.'s work on Spider-Man. The strip seemed more mature, somehow; at least visually. Many of the most memorable covers in the series were his.

And yes, Robbie is still in the book and recently has a more prominent role. You are also correct, I believe, in crediting him with deciphering Peter's alter ego...

david_b said...

Romita was the best for Spiderman. Just the most memorable, and his rendering of Peter and the entire supporting cast really brought them alive.

Andru was superb as well, but second only to Romita in my book.

Dougie said...

I know we frown on "cartoony" art in modern comic books but Romita says Marvel to me. When I hear the name Peter Parker, it's Romita's version I think of, rather than Ditko. Speaking of art,the "framed" covers of Marvel books in this period really appealed to me.
Since I had this issue as an eight or nine year old, I never thought of the Gibbon as a comedy villain; Kraven unleashes such savagery in the needy nebbish Blank. It would have been interesting to contrast him with Hank McCoy, who might have experienced similar feelings of alienation if not for Xavier's school.

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