Monday, April 30, 2012

Return of the Goblin: Amazing Spider-Man 135

Amazing Spider-Man #135 (August 1974)
"Shoot-out in Central Park!"
Gerry Conway-Ross Andru/Frank Giacoia

Karen: I absolutely love this awesome Romita cover. Spidey right in the middle and the rest broken into sections with his various friends and foes. It's very striking. Inside the book, Spidey's in pretty dire straits. For some reason, The Punisher thinks Spidey was actually in cahoots with Tarantula! Tarantula is no fool, so he tells Punisher that Spider-Man turned on him during the course of the hijack. All this talk gives Spidey a chance to recover from the poison he was hit with by Tarantula's boots, and he knocks Punisher's gun out of his hands, and tries to reason with him. While the two of them are engaged, Tarantula manages to escape on the helicopter he had waiting to pick him up. Punisher realizes his mistake and tells Spidey to meet him later. Oddly enough, Punisher then jumps into the river and swims off! Really? No raft over the side? Hmm.

Doug: That cover is great, isn't it? How many of our rea
ders had the school folder with the same image? I have a couple of comments about the Punisher to start off: First, that's a pretty high-tech gun he's toting, isn't it? And secondly, as this was only his second full appearance, this pre-dates his using rubber bullets, doesn't it? Does anyone know when he went to that? I recall that Spider-Man insisted on it, and the Punisher was quite reluctant to do so, but I cannot remember what story it was in. I like that Pete got super-mad and just leveled ol' Skull-shirt. We all know Pete held back often, but it's always a little bit of a pleasure to see him cut loose. The swimming away thing was odd -- did I miss it last issue that the Punisher had been aboard the cruise incognito before the Tarantula and his goons made their play?

Karen: I don't think so. Once Punisher is gone, the passengers all confront Spidey; some of them think he was part of the hijack. He too jumps in the river and swims off. Flash begins to think about everything that's happened (providing a flashback to last issue), and wonders why Peter disappeared and Spidey showed up. After all these years, Mr. Thompson seems to be starting to use his noggin. Suddenly, there's a cry of 'man overboard' and who should need fishing out of the drink than Peter Parker. But Flash isn't buying it.

Doug: I think these scenes about Flash and his doubts about Peter make Pete's moving in with him in ASM #138 all the richer. There's some nice camaraderie betwee
n the two old rivals in the beginning of that story. And Pete would have been in the water a very long time, don't you think? I'm guessing at some point there must have been police helicopters circling, huh? But I guess not, since Tarantula was able to get away using his own bird.

Karen: Peter calls J. Jonah Jameson and tells him how the Punisher and Spidey drove off the hijackers. All JJJ cares about is the fact that he's off the hook for the ransom money! Next we see Peter's apartment. As he takes a shower to wash off all the yucky stuff from the river, a deranged looking Harry rifles through his dresser drawer and finds his costume. Pete thinks he catches a glimpse of his room-mate as he towels off, but pays it no mind. He should.

Doug: Harry is drawn as really, really creepy. So, let's take an art time-out. While John Romita will always be the consummate Spidey artist, Ross Andru was "the guy" when I started reading ASM regularly. While I guess I wouldn't claim to "own him", I do find his work familiar and comfortable. But... only on Spider-Man. His work on the FF, Superman, the Defenders, etc. you can have. His style works well for Spider-Man and his cast of friends and foes, and it is a style -- just as Gil Kane has a style, Ditko has a style -- it's all quite distinct.

Karen: Later that night, Spidey meets up with the Punisher at the Cloisters, which is a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the northern edge of Manhattan (thank you Wikipedia). Somehow the Punisher has be
en hiding out in a room here while he plans to stop Tarantula. We get a 2+ page recap of Tarantula's origin (with an unusual black panel background) as Punisher shows Spidey a slide show. Tarantula started out as a revolutionary in a South American country, fighting against a dictatorship. But his cruel nature won out and eventually the revolutionaries dumped him. He then signed up with the government, who turned him into Tarantula, "the twisted, perverted Captain America of his country," as Punisher puts it. He was turned loose on his old buddies and soon his ultra-violence got him booted out by his government masters as well. He then decided to go solo as a criminal, and what better place than NYC? I can't help but feel this entire origin was inspired by a mix of the crime films of the time (the scene on the steps of a building instantly reminded me of the climax of The Godfather) and the political events in Latin America. Here, and more obviously later in the story, the revolutionaries seem to be depicted as heroes.

Doug: Just an aside here -- I cut the Mar
vel Value Stamp out of this comic. Yep, big hole right there on the letters page. The black background on the Tarantula backstory did seem out of place. Which is funny, since that's how most comics today are printed! But I thought the origin story was a good one, and it showed to me the Punisher's dedication in knowing what was going on in "his city" and in bringing down those unsavory elements. Funny -- even in the Punisher's second appearance, you can see what another dark avenger, the Batman, would become in the hands of Frank Miller.

Karen: Punisher knows where Tarantula hangs
out, so he and Spider-Man head over there. There's a really cool shot of Punisher kicking the door down, and then it's mayhem. When Tarantula sees Punisher shooting a sub-machine gun, he decides it's time to leave and runs, but Spidey is waiting outside for him and jumps him. The two tangle but Spidey is on his own turf now and easily evades Tarantula's kicks. The thief runs off into Central Park with Spidey right behind. As Spider-Man puts him down, he gives a little speech about the revolutionaries, calling them heroes. This is an interesting little look into 1974 politics that I have never thought about or been aware of. Just as Spidey is finishing up, Punisher comes along, henchmen in tow, and asks if Spidey is really that idealistic. Spider-Man answers affirmatively and asks if the Punisher doesn't have any ideals. "I did, once," the mysterious soldier says, and leaves us wanting more. Wasn't it fun back in the days when the Punisher and Wolverine were actually mysterious, interesting characters?

Doug: Spider-Man's soliloquy is interesting, given that Vietnam should have been fresh in everyone's mind -- armed conflict of any sort must have seemed unsavory. But at this point, I don't believe we were as involved in some of these Latin American hot spots as would come to light later during the Reagan administration. The fight between Spidey and the Tarantula was again a good one, and shows Andru's ability to convey action. Solid storytelling.

Karen: I agree, and I'm not a big fan of Andru. We close out the issue with Harry Osborn, looking crazier than ever, entering his dad's secret warehouse, the one he kept all his Green Goblin paraphernalia in. This can't be good...


Ken Osmond as Eddie Haskell on Leave It to Beaver, c. 1950's -- we've made reference to Osmond's hair in the comments section of this post.


Anonymous said...

I assumed the black background was to give the impression of sitting in a dark room watching slides . Like Spidey was doing.

--Matt alias Anonymous

P.S. Thank you, Frank Miller, for turning Batman into a poor man's Punisher.

david_b said...

I didn't have this issue in my collection (being about the time all the distribution was being reduced..), nor do I do still, but have read it a bit in passing.

From a breezing-through viewpoint, the boat sequence in the beginning seemed like a big cop-out from the startling cliff-hanger. Everyone exits quickly, without a longer fight, leaving Spidey holding the bag, definitely underwhelming.

While missing ish 135, going from 134 to 136 didn't really need much seque for Harry. You obviously saw it coming, the hints were there that he had reasoned his roomie was responsible for his dad's death, so these scenes, as scary as they are, didn't add too much.

All in all, will love to track this ish down, for the magnificent cover alone.

Garett said...

Yes, great cover.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you all seem to like what I think is a very poorly composed cover. Not what I expect from a talent like John Romita.

Lemnoc said...

Spidey blames rolling decks for his poor performance last issue. I don't buy it. Wouldn't someone with his particular set of powers do better than the average mook in that situation?

Face it, fella. You got punk'd.

Doug said...

"Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you all seem to like what I think is a very poorly composed cover. Not what I expect from a talent like John Romita.

A) After blogging on the Bronze Age Babies for almost three years, and blessed with a wonderful community of commenters, I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when someone posts anonymously without even signing a screen name. Not that one cannot do so, but it just seems like some sort of drive-by. Join the crowd and be friendly.

B) OK, so what are your problems with the cover? -- sort of an incomplete answer given in the original comment. Enlighten those of us who obviously don't know John Romita.


Anonymous said...

This was MY Spiderman.

I was about a year along into being really into the Marvel Universe. The Conway/Andru Spidey was my Spidey while at the same time I was catching up on my history in the Marvel Tales Lee/Romita reprints.

An aside: I think this was also around the time that Marvel started putting the line at the bottom of the reprints - "Originally presented in Spiderman#XX" It was rather confusing to 10-11 year old how Gwen Stacy was alive in one series and dead in another until they started telling us those were reprints. And then about a year later, they cloned her. :-(


humanbelly said...

Y'know, I have to say that it's not really my favorite cover either, but it's w/out a doubt striking and memorable. Hmm. Why?

It's an unusual layout & style, isn't it? It's partly floating-head; partly cut-scene. It has multiple layers of background elements. The "panels" are divided by the mid-ground spider's legs, rather than traditional borders-- that's a particularly cool, artsy touch. And the central Spidey figure is quite dynamic and eye-catching-- coming right at us off the page. Also like the heavy use of black in the background.

Generally, I really DON'T like multiple-scene covers-- feel like they're an artistic & editorial cop-out. Which is probably why I don't exactly like this one. But I daresay it's an almost perfect execution of the convention. Not that I'm trying to put words in Anonymous' mouth-- just submitting what might be a concurring opinion.


What kind of hair, exactly, is it that Norman & Harry Osborn have?? I have wondered about this for about 40 years or so. Has it ever been determined? Is it just really, really, short and curly? Is there some sort of vague ethnic suggestion there? (Sheesh, not that I could determine what it would be. Maltese? Tasmanian? Nova Scotian?) And heck, even little Normie inherited that pronounced widow's peak. What the heck-?


Anonymous said...

I’m with the crowd on this one. I like the duality of this cover. On the one hand, a spider normally sits in its web as a predator waiting for its prey, but when you look at the ‘prey’ entangled in this particular web, it suddenly becomes apparent that Spidey is being closed in on. Who says Americans don’t do irony ????

Doug – also agree about Ross Andru. I prefer Romita and Kane, and, in his season even Ditko, but in the same way that Jon Pertwee IS Dr. Who and (less fortunately) Roger Moore IS James Bond, I’m bonded to Andru as the artist of Spider Man in the same way you are.

Who is the blonde girl, top left? Anyone? Anyone?


Karen said...

The blond is Liz Allen. After interviewing Conway a few times, I know one of his methods was the "toss it on a wall and see what sticks" idea. I suspect he was considering her as a love interest for Peter and that's why she was around at this time.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Karen. As I even now only dimly remember her, I feel less embarrassed. OK, so for another 10 points......what happened to Betty Brant? And am I alone in thinking that that was a pretty low profile role for Elizabeth Banks? Her presence in the films made me think Betty was going to do a lot more. I think she was originally supposed to be MJ. Maybe they just confused her real name with her character name?

david_b said...

On the subject of Harry and Norm's hair.. (didn't think that would creep in on today's discussion, but what-the-hey..), I've seen men with that type of hair..

Not too attractive, but it's like a close-cropped curl, extremely wavey, so at the time it was better to keep it cropped short to the scalp. Guys could pay to have it greased/straighten, but I've seen it that way. Wish we had a picture to actually display how the hair would look in real-life.

Sort of like an 'Eddie Haskell' hairdo..?

Doug said...

David, and all --

The ever-annoying Ken Osmond now indeed occupies a space at the bottom of today's post, for those users who may not know of or recall Eddie Haskell.

Your full-service emcee,


david_b said...

LOL... Doug, you're plain awesome.

Again, I cannot think of a way to explain Osborn hair.., I can picture it, but Eddie was the only guy I could think of on a Monday morning. Perhaps with some brylcreem combed in..

("Aaaah, shoot, now we old guys have to explain what THAT is..")

Doug said...

"A little dab'll do you."


Anonymous said...

Ha! I will never look at Harry the same way again.

"Gee that's a lovely dress you're wearing Aunt May."


Inkstained Wretch said...

Funny, I looked at the cover and thought it was Gil Kane. I think I still see Kane in most of the faces. Did he maybe do some touch-up work, perhaps?

'Course it could just mean I need to get my eyes checked ...

humanbelly said...

Hmm. Osmond. . . Osborn. . . sharp features. . . curly hair. . . pronounced widow's peak. Surely- SURELY- Ken Osmond wasn't the model for Norman or Harry, was he?? Oh, that would indeed be hard to assimilate.

Wow-- great reference Doug. Mucho appreciado.

Brylcream's still out there, too. I had to gunk my hair up with it for a show a couple of years ago. After you shampoo it out, it leaves your hair surprisingly soft. . .


Redartz said...

Count me among those who love this cover! As humanbelly pointed out, the creative use of black really sets off the figure of our hero. This issue, and the one to follow, both feature classic Romita at his dramatic best. And yes, I had that school folder; seems I used it for Spanish class in Middle School.

Andru's art grew on me over the years; at the time I was a Romita fanatic above all others. Soon I gained a great appreciation of Ditko, and an enjoyment of Andru and Kane followed.

Karen and Doug- thanks for this series of reviews; the Osborn storyline was one of my favorites!

Fred W. Hill said...

As far as Spidey goes, I became a regular reader just at the tail end of Romita's run, but also about at the beginning of his 2nd year in the reprints in Marvel Tales so as far as I was concerned Romita was THE Spidey artist (and the only sample I'd seen of Ditko's run was the Amazing Fantasy reprint in Origins of Marvel Comics). Andru's art looked weird to me, particularly his faces, but I still enjoyed it -- certainly it didn't turn me off the way Frank Robbin's art did in Captain America. I think Andru's art worked in Spidey better than in most other superhero mags due to the nature of the greater mix of superheroics and soap opera elements in Spider-Man. He did both well, but his action scenes lack the great dynamics of Kirby or Buscema.
As to the issue at hand, as David B pointed out, Harry's finding Peter's costume wasn't a big surprise, but still a nice touch -- the final proof Harry needed to justify going homicidal. Regarding the Punisher, considering the reputation he would later develop, he seems fairly tame here -- otherwise he would have shot off the Tarantula's head before taking aim at Spidey. But, of course, this was long before ultra-violence became the norm in comics.

Edo Bosnar said...

Love the cover as well, and I see no major compositional problems. As for the interior art, I have nothing but respect for Romita, but since I came into Spider-man in the mid-1970s, while Andru was still drawing the regular series, and avidly reading the reprints in Marvel Tales, for me Andru ranks about the same as Romita as a defining Spidey artist.
By the way, Karen, I think you quite concisely hit the nail on the head regarding Punisher and Wolverine - the major part of what made both characters interesting was that they were mysterious. Take that away, and both of them rapidly become annoying.

diorentein said...
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