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!


Anonymous said...

Can't agree more about this being a great example of Bronze Age Spidey!

david_b said...

Yeah.., I stopped during this period around the mid-130s, once again due to the hap-hazard distribution a few of us have commented about over the last few weeks, which, along with these silly villains, led me to stop caring about Peter's world..

But thanks to everyone's analysis and discussion, I'm currently hunting down these ishs on eBay.

"'Save money by buying the MasterWork series'.., you say?"

Naah, that would makes too much sense ~ Have to find the originals (with the Value Stamps..).

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks Doug & Karen, another great piece!
This story will always be memorable for me, I received the 'Marvel Tales' reprint of this issue as an Easter gift in 1980. Here's the reprint cover, interesting how they reversed the image:

And you've got to love that cover, a quintessential Gil Kane "perspective" cover.

Speaking of Parker's supporting cast,#139 also features the debut of landlord Mrs. Muggins. She would be a recurring character until Peter moved out of her building in 1988.

david_b said...


Just took another look at "Mamie"..., on that one panel you posted, with the huge oblong face.

Yep, that's atypical of Ross Andru's weird facial drawings at times.

Doug said...

David --

Atypical, or typical?


William said...

I gotta tell ya, I love this website. I never realized there were actually other people out there who loved old-school comics as much as I do. Especially Spider-Man. This was truly a great issue, IMO and a great time for the character. The only down-side was that it was the prelude to the first clone story, which I wasn't too wild about.

It wasn't the actual clone angle that bothered so much, it was the way they ended it, and what it eventually led to many years later - the dreaded "Clone Saga".

david_b said...

Yeah, now that I think of it, it's more 'typical' of Mr. Andru than not..., excuse the mis-statement. Sometimes I look at my posts a 2nd time and don't catch my re-typing mistakes until it's posted.

I believe it's simply how Ross draws broad smiles that makes characters look somewhat.. neurotic.

Doug said...

David --

Atypical or typical, your comment got me to thinking about the challenges of drawing a strip like Amazing Spider-Man. The Spider-Man part is easy -- pretty simple costume to draw, particularly the face. But what of the huge supporting cast of characters?

For me the best part of John Romita's art is his consistency on the supporting cast. You can pick up an issue from early in his run (after #39) all the way up to the Bronze Age stuff we looked at a couple of weeks ago. Pete, Gwen, Flash, JJJ, Robbie, Aunt May, MJ... they always look the same, no matter what camera angle Jazzy Johnny took in given panel. I say this in regard to the panel of Mrs. Muggins you referenced. If you look on the page we posted, she doesn't look quite the same in any two panels. Andru was more consistent on Pete overall, but there are times when Ross gave us a bit more of a nod to Romita than to his own stuff (of course, we could argue that Romita may have done touch-ups here and there).

But then, this might be another post topic altogether!

Thanks for making me think,


Fred W. Hill said...

The Grizzly seemed an awful lot like the Rhino, and, personality-wise, not all that different from the Kangaroo. Nevertheless, this was a fun issue, mainly for all those personal life aspects Doug and Karen mentioned. That was one of the key things that kept me interested in Spidey, and I actually dug it that Peter and Flash became close friends -- that they didn't maintain their adolescent, immature rivalry (and that Flash didn't wind up becoming a supervillain!), but over the course of roughly 12 years at this point had each grown and were not the same sort of characters they were when introduced to the world in 1962. Shame, from what I've read, that more recent Spider-scribes have regressed Flash back into a boorish simpleton. If Spidey and the gang are going to be cast in amber and never change, they might as well be the Archies, except with more spandex-garbed fight scenes.

Hoosier X said...

I love this issue, too. I got it at a used bookstore when it was just a few years old, probably marked at 2 for 25 cents!

Of course, this post reminds me that, 35 years later, I still have never read the next issue ...

cease ill said...

Got this, the next issue, and #142 for a DIME each!!! The supporting cast stuff was the highlight for sure...and yes, the "arm bomb" threat in #140 poofs out a little quickly, even with the tense moment Pete snips it. But surely there was more cross-threaded plotting---easy for us to say, we're not writing so many books a month, no?

I love Ross Andru's New York setting. This, too, is good Conway, as opposed to brilliant Conway with Gwen and Norman's deaths and aftermath, or what-were-you-thinking Conway, such as #131's "wedding of Doc Ock and Aunt May" (which was still pretty neat, just way-stretching it with the "nuclear reactor island inheritance" he'd set up a year before. I like his scripting better than his plotting, but holy cow, how neurotic was Peter? Anyway, great job, you two, your blog's my new favorite. My wife helps me out with character observations, too, like during the Swordsman/Mantis/Vision/Scarlet Witch quadrangle, over on (shameless plug!).

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