Monday, March 28, 2011
Spidey's Zoo: The Grizzly!
Amazing Spider-Man #139 (December 1974)
"Day of the Grizzly!"
Gerry Conway-Ross Andru/Frank Giacoia/Dave Hunt
Doug: This, kids -- this is a Bronze Age Spider-Man issue. You know, when we picked out this 5-week theme of Spidey's Zoo, I'll admit that I knew the super-baddies were going to rate pretty high on the lame-o-meter. But this was one heckuva story. Seriously, if I had to give someone a Spidey book that would get them up to speed on all-things-Spidey, this would be it. Let's check out why I have accolades coming out of my ears for this book.
Doug: We see Spider-Man on the first page or two of this book, and then it's nine full pages until we get some Spidey butt-kicking going on. So you may ask -- "Why does Doug like this stinkin' book so much??" Well let me tell you -- it's because of Gerry Conway's script. Every time we do a Spider-Man review, it doesn't seem to matter if the author is Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, or Conway --Karen and I always remark on the soap opera aspects of the story at hand. To do Spidey right, an author has to mix action, suspense, and (to me) more importantly -- the human element. In those first nine pages, we read Spidey's thoughts on his relationship to Flash Thompson, his attitude over the loss of his true love Gwen Stacy, his feelings toward his job and his boss, his trepidation at moving out on his own and how little he can afford, his relationship to old classmate Liz Allen, his relationship to Mary Jane Watson, and his friendships with Betty Brant and Joe Robertson. That's a lot of characterization to squeeze into less than half of a 20-page comic! So you see what I mean about handing this over to a complete novice?
Karen: Yup, Conway tells you all the things you need to know about Peter, and we get to meet about half his supporting cast! Of course, back then they had these wonderful things called thought balloons and captions, so that you could find out what people were thinking or what was happening. Apparently they're considered no-nos now.
Doug: But after all of that, it is, after all, a super-hero book and that means we have to have the obligatory longjohn slugfest. Difference here is, the super-baddie du jour ain't wearin' longjohns. Oh no -- instead he looks like an escapee from the Build-a-Bear Workshop! I wish I still had my Spectacular Spider-Mans, because we could cue up Razorback, another member of Spidey's Zoo who looks about as silly in his duds.
Karen: Oh my. I thought the Kangaroo looked goofy. This guy is just plain weird. Sort of like a Teddy bear on steroids.
Doug: As Pete was at the Daily Bugle schmoozing with Betty and Robbie, the Grizzly suddenly burst out of the elevator and began to ransack the place -- hard. He was on a total binge of destruction. Robbie ordered Pete to run for help so that he could protect Betty; Pete ran fast to change, as the Grizzly worked his way toward Jameson's office. Just as Spidey swung around the building, Jonah was jettisoned from his office. Acting quickly, Spidey caught JJJ with his webs, and left him in a web hammock. As usual, this was the comic relief in the mag -- there are so many priceless moments through the years!
Karen: I love Jonah's reaction when he realizes where the 'net' came from -"Oh no! Not you!" And then Spidey: "Neither of us will ever forgive me for this." Classic.
You know, I've long thought that Robbie knew Pete's secret; could he have told Peter to "go get help" in order that he could change into Spider-Man? One of these days I will have to ask Mr. Conway.
Doug: Time-out for a comment on the art. Many of our regulars have commented lately on the detail with which Ross Andru drew the New York cityscapes, and this issue is certainly no exception. There are just some beautiful renditions of Manhattan landmarks. I can see why those who have and even those who have not been to NYC would love this aspect of Andru's art. I'd also remark at how massive the Grizzly looks. Andru really did a nice job of showing us what a humanoid bear would look like.
Doug: So, Spidey engages the Grizzly, who was at the Bugle specifically to get at Jonah, who "ruined" him. Spider-Man cannot believe the Grizzly's strength as he hammers away -- the big ol' bear seems impervious to pain. That is, until he gets a Spider-kick to the gut. That seemed to hurt him. But in the end, the Grizzly proves too strong and knocks Spidey into la-la land. But instead of doing more damage, the big guy just stalks off. But not without a Spidey tracer. And then we get another moment of Spidey/Jonah fun.
Karen: Gotta love those spider-tracers! I never had any idea how Pete could build something that his spider-sense could detect, but whatever, they were fun.
Doug: Later, Pete decides he might be able to get some information if he confronts the Grizzly not as Spider-Man, but as photographer Peter Parker. Heading to the place where Grizz is holed up, Pete's surprised that it's in a posh neighborhood. As he rings the doorbell, he's immediately invited in. The Spidey Sense goes off the radar, Pete's karate chopped on the neck and knocked down, and then hauled into a parlor. As he clears his mind, he's confronted by the Grizzly and... the Jackal! To be continued!