Monday, May 14, 2012

Return of the Goblin: Amazing Spider-Man 137


Amazing Spider-Man #137 (October 1974)
"The Green Goblin Strikes!"
Gerry Conway-Ross Andru/Frank Giacoia/Dave Hunt


Karen: It's time to wrap up the return of the Goblin. The final part of our story begins with the Goblin -Harry - causing a big rig to crash, and then stealing a metallic cylinder from it. Considering the word "atomic" is written on the side of the truck, I think we can be assured that whatever he's stolen, it's pretty dangerous stuff. He grabs the cylinder and flies off into the night cackling madly.

Doug: Ummm... First off, why in the world would a semi carrying that sort of payload broadcast it to the world? Secondly, and again given the cargo, don't you think the drivers would be armed, or escorted by law enforcement? Thirdly (geez, I'm curmudgeonly today -- must be because I'm actually typing this on Saturday, when we ran the "Suspension of Disbelief" query), if the truck is full of atomic weapons, why the heck wouldn't a megalomaniac take it all?

Karen: Meanwhile, Spidey has been searching for Harry for two nights, with no success. He muses that maybe, given some more time, Harry will calm down and get over the whole thing, but Peter doesn't really seem to buy this. He goes on auto-pilot and swings back home, only to see the burnt-out shell of his apartment. Yes, he'd actually forgotten that his old buddy rigged a bomb and blew up their apartment! I think that explosion must have given him a concussion. How do you forget something like that? He decides that after two nights without sleep, he has to find somewhere to crash. Again on auto-pilot, he winds up at the hospital where Mary Jane is being treated for her injuries from the explosion.

Doug: I suppose, given how spacey Peter often is, I'll give him the "forgot the bomb" angle of this plot. It was an interesting way to get readers who may have missed last issue caught up -- a simple thought balloon while web-swinging would have done it, but this is maybe more effective visually.

Karen: Once inside the hospital, Peter discovers that the gang's all there -really, they all are! Robbie Robertson, Flash Thompson, Liz Allen and even J. Jonah Jameson have all co
me out of concern for Mary Jane and Peter. To top it all off, Aunt May comes tottering in too! As Pete and Aunt May enter Mary Jane's room, Flash notes that only one friend is missing -Harry. On a side note, these 70s fashions are killing me. Liz Allen is bizarre, with her stacked heels, midriff-baring shirt, and white pants with green leaves pattern!

Doug: Strange that Aunt Anna Watson wasn't there, too.

Karen: MJ is doing well, and she turns on the radio just in time for Peter to hear about a man in a green costume on a flying bat attacking a truck. He makes an excuse about having to get pictures for the Bugle and rushes out, with Aunt May saying even she doesn't understand him. In the hall, Peter and Jonah run into one another. JJJ tries to make amends with Peter -remember the weird coda to last issue, with Pete storming out of JJJ's office? -but Peter brushes him off. I still don't know what that's all about.

Doug: I'm thinking tha
t in most business circles, flicking your boss's hand off of your jacket while telling him you just got it cleaned would constitute burning a bridge. Pretty bold on Pete's part.

Karen: Back in his web-slinging persona of Spider-Man,
Peter locates the truck Harry attacked. Two policemen are questioning the truckers. Hey Doug, did you notice the VW van that passes by the scene? Did you think of Scooby Doo too? Spidey listens in on the conversation and finds shards of a broken pumpkin bomb in the front seat. Did he really need that to convince him this was the Goblin's work? As he's checking it out one of the cops sees him and Spidey takes off. He has an idea where to find his former best friend turned psycho.

Doug: With a different paint job, that definitely could have been the Mystery Machine! Question -- when Spidey swung from the roadside up onto the semi-trailer, how was he not seen or heard by those below? And what did he attach his webline to?

Karen: That's a good question. I also wondered how no one saw or heard him. Spider stealth? Harry, still dressed as the Goblin, is back at Osborn's empty townhous
e. Spidey comes crashing through the window, and tries to talk to Harry, telling him he's not well. He dodges Harry's attempts to attack him and glues Harry's foot to the floor with his webbing. But it's obvious that Harry is too far gone to listen. Harry's positive that Peter killed his Dad and wants revenge. However, Harry has none of the true Goblin's skills. He flies right into a web that Spidey puts up and is easily captured. But he has an ace up his sleeve. Conveniently located in the room is some sort of control panel and three big monitors. Each one shows one of Peter's loved ones -Aunt May, MJ, and Flash- in a chair with something strapped over their heads. Harry tells Spidey that one of them has a "small shaped-charge clean fusion nuclear bomb" over their heads! Talk about overkill. Spidey has six minutes to find the right one, but the three are spread all over Manhattan. He busts Harry in the chops, knocking him unconscious, and swings off. Although this idea has been used many times before and since, the similar scene from "The Dark Knight" film popped up in my head.

Doug: If super-villains actually did what they ultimately intend to do, stories would be short, huh? Really -- sometimes the plots and ploys of super-baddies just smack of the 1966 Batman TV show. But to be honest, when I was 8 I didn't notice stuff like that. Which is funny -- DC was the company that never seemed to care if their stories were rife with plotholes. Marvel, however, was considered the more mature storytellers.

Karen: Spidey has to quickly decide where to go. He thinks about what Harry said and plays a hunch about who Harry would have chosen to kill. He heads for Aunt May -but first, maddeningly, his web shooters run out of fluid -AGAIN - and he races off to find a spare costume he'd hidden near-by to restock his web
supply. I kid you not. When it happened before with the boat in our first issue, I could just write it off, but here, it seems ridiculous that we're encountering this situation again. It's needlessly trying to inject more suspense and it fails miserably.

Doug: Given that Pete's wrists are encircled with spots for the web fluid cartridges, I'm thinking he'd have to use a lot of webbing to have run out in just the couple of days since he replaced them when in the middle of the scuffle with the Tarantula.

Karen: After getting fresh web cartridges, Spidey heads to Grant's Tomb, where Aunt May is stashed. He snags the bomb on a webline
and slings it into the water, where it explodes -apparently harmlessly. Then we have a bit of a gap in the story, as the next scene is Spidey standing over Harry, who wakes up and goes bonkers again. Spidey smacks him back into unconsciousness, and removes his costume as sirens sound the approach of the police. So what happened with Aunt May? Anyway, Spidey changes to his civvies and Harry is hauled out on a stretcher. Shockingly, he yells out that Peter is Spider-Man. It's a tense moment for Peter, but it's quickly deflated when Harry next states he is the Goblin. One of the cops says he's way too young to be the Goblin, chalks it all up to Harry's obvious insanity, and Peter breathes a sigh of relief. The police say Harry will need a lot of help, and Peter says he'll get it, because Harry's his friend. Kind of a downer ending, don't you think?

Doug: I read this twice before sitting down here to add my two cents. Harry told Spider-Man that there were three people hidden, in three parts of town. Only time to save one. But he never said who was hidden where, only that the one Peter loved the most had the real bomb threatening him/her. So how in the world did Pete know who was going to be inside Grant's Tomb? From the speech balloons as he approached, he didn't know, but thought that when he saw that it was Aunt May he'd gotten lucky. I just thought this was way too contrived. Did you feel that this story was rushed?

Karen: That might explain some things. Overall, I'd say this was a dece
nt little story, although this ending was somewhat anti-climactic, and riddled with some odd doings. There's never a feeling that Harry is a real threat to Peter as a combatant, so the fight scenes are dull. We know that it's mostly about Peter trying not to hurt Harry. Harry's only real threat -and it's a very disturbing one -is due to the fact that he knows Peter's ID and can threaten his loved ones. I think there might have been a way to play with this and increase the tension over four issues but Harry only becomes the Goblin in the previous issue, and so there's not much time to up the psychological ante.

Doug: Again, and I think we've discussed this before -- didn't Norman Osborn have some sort of "super soldier" serum that gave him enhanced strength? Or was it merely his mania that made him an able combatant against Spider-Man's super strength? Because if it's the former, I'm surprised that Harry couldn't have gotten his hands on some of that goon juice and amped himself up. And to think we could have used another issue to really flesh this out and make it more suspenseful, but instead we got the Mind
worm in Amazing Spider-Man #138 -- yeah, good call there!

6 comments:

david_b said...

Missing this issue back in 1974 was hard, since I was long awaiting the suspenseful climax of Harry's Goblin, having just picked up ish 136. I finally picked it up last year, and, suffice to say was a big letdown..

I had to review again who were the writers of 121-122 and this tale and it was Conway, both times. Just seems very odd that someone a year or so earlier spun up such a heart-wrenching tale, yet as Doug served up, ended as more on a Batman-episode note.

This seemed to be a major reason why I lost interest in Pete's world around this time at Conway's hand. The plots didn't seem to resonate emotionally as they once did. The sad downer ending was a nice reminder, but unfortunately it was tagged on a trite story.

Granted the cliff-hanging 'done-in-two' stories was a Conway staple, and it was satisfying to finally bring the Harry subplot around to the foreground after a year of suspense, but THIS was how it ends..??

Obviously the idea was to continue Harry appearances as the Goblin similiar to what his dad had done, but somehow I was given the impression the emotional angle had really played itself out.

humanbelly said...

@ Doug-- Man, it's been a long time since I've read it, but I do think the power-enhancing "treatment" the Goblin subjects himself to (as Norman) may date clear back to his very first appearance-- before we even knew his true identity. Pretty sure it's long-established canon-- and right, Harry hadn't gone through it at this point (although he did later on, didn't he?).

@Karen-- Ooooh, we talked about brain-dead young people before in regards to chronic web-cartridge-forgetting. I can only submit there were THREE DAYS IN A ROW this spring where I had to make an emergency away-mission run for my son because he 1) Forgot his trombone for a performance, 2)Forgot the ENTIRE GROUP'S MUSIC for a different performance, and 3) Forgot his sousaphone mouthpiece. . . for yet another performance (while somehow remembering the sousaphone). Given Pete's utter exhaustion and stress level at that point in this story, and I find his brain-deadness to be almost ironically believable.

As an aside, I'm reading Gerry Conway's run at the beginning of Marvel Team-Up right now, which is roughly the same time period leading up to Gwen & the Goblin's death, and it's shocking how- honestly- poorly-written they generally are. Compared to other contemporaneous Marvel output, it's just so, so weak.

HB

david_b said...

HB..

Thanks much for the contrast with MTU.. I didn't realise that Mr. Conway wrote those as well, and yep, mostly uninteresting stinkers, enjoying the Wein issues far better.

And I agree about Pete's memory. Yeah, I would say it got to be 'spidey-shtick' by then, but it still made for a beloved, Marvel-styled sense of realism, some humor, and keeping the tension going.

(How often did the 60s Batman forget to check the tire pressure? Oh, wait, that was Alfred's job, wasn't it..?)

Fred W. Hill said...

My 12 year old self thought this was a lackluster issue too, disappointing because I expected much better. The deathtraps bit was more ridiculous than dramatic. And I didn't really buy that the police would simply discount Harry's claim to be the Green Goblin simply due to his "tender" age, particularly as the original Gobby 1st shows up in Amazing Spider-Man #14 and it is clearly indicated that this was the first time the then still unidentified Norman Osborne dressed up as the Goblin at a time when Spidey himself was 16 or 17 and Harry would have been about the same age. Not quite an adult yet but certainly old enough to put on a costume and wreak havoc. At the very least I would have expected the police to question Harry much more closely (after reading him his Miranda rights, of course!) and checking up on his rants.
By this point, it occurs to me, Conway, at 21 or 22, was about the same age as Peter (perhaps in his junior year at University), and this story came out nearly 10 years after the first Goblin story, and Conway himself would have been only about 12 or 13 back then, certainly too young to be stormin' Norman in green. Maybe he just forgot his characters had long since slipped out of real time. Ah, well, his slip up was a big relief for our webheaded hero!

Karen said...

I want to thank the three of you for taking the time to comment. I do feel this issue was a let down in many ways. I think the whole Harry as Goblin angle was just a been there, done that thing. Norman had already been a great Goblin, far superior to Harry, and we'd played this scenario out many times before.

In Conway's defense, as Fred points out, he was pretty young himself and this may also have been one of those times when he was over-extended on titles. We've all seen much better work from him.

Karen

Fred W. Hill said...

Hi, Karen, I think Harry as the successor Green Goblin had great story potential, but alas Conway didn't quite deliver. I wonder how much of a difference it made that Ross Andru was the artist rather than Kane or Romita who both helped make the previous two Goblin stories (issues 96-98 & 121 & 122) such classics. Not that Andru was a bad artist, but at their best Kane & Romita were on another level as artists & storytellers and given the "Marvel method" they may have added or changed elements in Conway's plot to make for a much better story.

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