Monday, April 23, 2012
Return of the Goblin -- Amazing Spider-Man 134
Amazing Spider-Man #134 (July 1974)
"Danger is a Man Named... Tarantula!"
Gerry Conway-Ross Andru/Frank Giacoia/Dave Hunt
Doug: As we wind down our third year of bloggin' atcha, consider this series a bookend. You may remember that we followed our last anniversary with one of the cornerstones of the Bronze Age -- the deaths of Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #'s 121-122. Almost a year later we'll spend four weeks observing the legacy of that story -- the rise (and fall) of the Son of the Goblin, Harry Osborn. We begin with two issues that contain foreshadowing/teasers, and then we'll hit the good stuff in Amazing Spider-Man #s 136-137.
Doug: We open today's fare with our hero web-swinging toward a dock on the Hudson River. Late as Pete happens to be from time-to-time, there's a rush to get earthside to meet MJ, Flash, and Liz Allen -- an all-day cruise is the plan for the day. Pete remarks to himself that he only has one web cartridge left -- would we have it any other way? How many issues of ASM do you suppose there have been where Spidey didn't have a webbing malfunction, was sick, or had previously wrenched some body part out of socket? Feet of clay, indeed! Once at the boat there's some smalltalk and pleasantries, and our four friends board.
Karen: When I was a kid (and even now I suppose) my impression of Manhattan is one of a typical filthy big city, and it's all because of Marvel Comics! This issue is a good example: Peter switches clothes in an alley full of garbage cans and debris. Your point regarding Webhead's woes is well taken; Conway was still carrying on Stan Lee's tradition of constantly plaguing poor Peter with every type of problem, so he always seemed to have some sort of handicap when facing his enemies.
Doug: As the cruiser hits open water (well -- open for a river that is), Pete reminisces about his most recent exploits against Doc Ock and the Molten Man. His spider-sense tingles as he looks at a couple of toughs standing at the rail a deck above, but Pete's not going to let anything spoil his day. Right. You know the drill: suddenly a commotion breaks out where the rough boys were and Flash Thompson is going to find out what's going on! But when he gets to the top of the stairs, he's greeted by three banditos -- the Tarantula announces himself, along with the two dudes Pete was suspicious of, and tells everyone that if they don't want trouble they had better cooperate.
Karen: The flashback/exposition is woven in pretty easily, and doesn't really detract from the story. I thought it was a bit hilarious though when Tarantula proclaims himself, but then introduces his assistants, Juan and Hidalgo! What, no cheezy names for the henchmen? Also note how Mary Jane is depicting: she's excited about the hijacking! She really was quite different from Gwen, wasn't she?
Doug: Cue Pete to duck out of sight and change over to Spider-Man. As he comes back to the fray, the engine room boys have come up to avenge their fallen comrades on the crew. We get to see why Tarantula thinks he's a dangerous bloke -- steel-tipped shoes, coated in some chemical, make short work of the would-be heroes. As one of the sailors gets tossed overboard, Spidey reacts quickly. Webbing a bridge, he swings out over the water and snatches the man. Looping his way up onto the bridge, Spidey leaves the man in safety. As he sets himself to web back down to the boat, guess what happens -- yep. No web fluid! I don't know about you, but I guess since the breadth of real danger to the passengers (including Pete's three friends) was not yet known I would have placed Spider-Man back on that boat asap. Nope -- instead, Pete decides he needs web fluid!
Karen: Spidey has a real thing with bridges, doesn't he? I think the reason he didn't go after the boat immediately was that it had gotten too far away for him to jump after it. And maybe Pete just feels insecure without his webbing? Mostly I suppose it was a way for Conway to set-up the later stories with Harry. I thought the fact that no one would give Spider-Man a lift was pretty funny. Scenes like this in the comics also affected the way I thought of New Yorkers too.
Doug: Of course nothing's easy when you're Peter Parker, so getting back to his apartment is rife with strife. Along the way, he thinks about how misunderstood he is, about the public and the police thinking he killed Norman Osborn. But, once there Pete ammos-up and hits it back out the window. But wait -- who should enter the room but Pete's roomie, Harry Osborn. Harry mutters to himself that he always suspected Pete was Spider-Man, and Spider-Man killed his father... certainly more to come!
Karen: Pete was awfully nonchalant about entering his and Harry's apartment. And why remove his mask, only to put it back on seconds later? In any case, Harry is clearly whacko and it sets things up for later.
Doug: We've long remarked that one of the best things about reading Amazing Spider-Man is the supporting cast. And what episode would be complete without a look-in on J. Jonah Jameson? Jonah's very excited to receive a call from the mayor of NYC, Abe Beame. That all heads south in a hurry as it's apparent that Beame is telling Jonah about the cruiser hijacking and that the Tarantula has demanded a hefty ransom -- a ransom that the Daily Bugle will be expected to kick into! Jonah's face is priceless. Back on that same boat, Flash has had enough. Trouble is, the Tarantula's henchmen are pretty skilled in martial arts. They are also handy with Latin American weaponry, namely a bullwhip and a bola. As Flash fall, Spidey arrives!
Karen: I gotta admit, this made no sense to me. Why would the mayor approach a newspaper about paying the ransom? I know New York was in financial straits in the 70s but still...does the Bugle haul in that much money? But I guess they had to insert Jameson into this story somehow.
Doug: A pretty good fight scene finishes up this issue. Ross Andru, for my money, draws a pretty Ditko-esque Spider-Man, much more lithe than Romita's (and don't anyone read that I'm denigrating the Jazzy One -- far be it! Romita's Spidey seems more powerful). The fight is well-choreographed, with ol' Webhead tangling with the Tarantula and his goons. Spidey gets the business end of the Tarantula's spikes, though, and pays a visit to la-la land. But before he blacks out, he spies a newcomer to the festivities -- the Punisher! This closing splash was the character's second appearance -- funny to think of that, as big as he got in the 1990's.
Karen: Although I've never been a real fan of Andru's, the fight scene is really dynamic, especially with Spidey trying to keep Flash from harm and taking the brunt of Tarantula's attack. Still, despite those poisoned booties, I never really bought Tarantula as a real threat to Spidey, in this issue or others. But Spidey has had a number of villains that just never seemed like real physical challenges to him (Vulture? Man Mountain Marko? Kingpin?) over the years. The arrival of the Punisher was pretty cool.
Doug: I kept wondering throughout the story exactly how the Tarantula walks in those boots of his?
Doug: Come back next week to see all the ruckus!