Monday, April 4, 2011

Spidey's Zoo: The Grizzly, part 2!

Amazing Spider-Man #140 (January 1975)
"...and One Will Fall!"
Gerry Conway-Ross Andru/Frank Giacoia/Dave Hunt

Doug: We're back for the wind-up of not only our 5-week series of Spider-Man reviews, but for this nifty 2-parter. Tune in next Monday for a two-week look at the departure of Dave Cockrum and the arrival of John Byrne -- yep, it's X-Men #'s 107 and 108, kids! But on to today's business at hand...

Doug: When last we saw our hero, he'd been kayoed by the Jackal, who apparently has been bossing the Grizzly around. Pete's still groggy as the furry behemoth carries him through the townhouse in Washington Square. The Jackal has the Grizzly bearhug (yep) Pete into submission and put him on a lab table. Pete drifts in and out of consciousness, which author Gerry Conway uses to recap the last issue. But when Pete awakens, it's Ned Leeds and Betty Brant he sees. Pete was dumped in the lobby of the Daily Bugle and is really out of it. Taking him across the street to a coffee shop, Ned and Betty try to figure out what the heck's been going on.

Karen: Don't you just love how unconcerned Ned is? "Betty wanted to call a doctor but you only looked like you'd been stunned"! Geez, if I get knocked out, I think I want to see a doctor, not just grab a cup of coffee.

Doug: Pete's suddenly aware of a strange sensation on his right arm and excuses himself to the restroom. Pulling up his sleeve, there's a large device affixed to his forearm. As he tries to force it, the Jackal's voice suddenly speaks from the brace -- he warns Peter that if it comes off, so will his arm! It's a homing device, with the purpose of bringing the Jackal to Spider-Man. We cut back to Pete's new apartment, where Flash is helping him move in. Conway introduces us to Glory Grant, a model who lives down the hall. She would be somewhat of a major character in the Spider-verse of titles in this era. After the work is done, Pete heads over to the ESU campus labs and begins work on the removal of the Jackal's mechanism. Wouldn't you know it -- he's successful on the first try. Did you think this added much drama to the story?

Karen: Yeah, this was a fairly pointless plot device. It gave us what? -5 pages or so of drama? And what happened to the microphone that was in that har
ness earlier -you know, the one where the Jackal could hear what Pete was saying?! We've seen this frequently now in our bronze age reviews (silver age too) where the writer starts off with something and it winds up being a big fat zero. I often wonder if some of that was due to guys writing three or more books a month. It had to be difficult to keep coming up with stuff.

Karen: I thought the more interesting development was the introduction of Glory Grant, who was not only a new cast member for Spidey but an African-American as well. And considering it was just 1975, I thought it was pretty cool to have Flash going a little ga-ga over Glory.

Doug: Once free, Pete's free to get back into costume. A few things he picked up "in conversation" with the Grizzly in the previous issue lead Spidey to believe that ol' Grizz was once a boxer. So, needing
information Spidey heads to the Bugle to see what JJJ knows about it. In another funny scene, Spider-Man sneaks into his office and, finding Jonah asleep on a couch in his office, tickles his foot to wake him up! Then, in a scene that really reminded me of the vignette at the end of Planet of the Apes, where Taylor is grilling Zaius and the good doctor keeps saying all of these derogatory things to him in the course of the conversation, Jameson tells Spidey what he knows of the man who calls himself the Grizzly. Seems ol' Grizz was once a professional wrestler named Maxwell Markham who played a little too rough. Jameson, moral crusader that he is, got an investigation started that put Markham out of business and led to the vendetta against JJJ.

Doug: Armed with this information, Spidey heads back to the Jackal's townhouse. Nope - empty. So he heads to the nearest open gym -- nope again. But, he does find out the name of the training gym Markham used to work out of. So, web-slinging it over there, our hero
finds our villain busting up the place (wrestlers included). Spidey rightly assumes that Markham's strength has to be augmented somehow, so begins to web-and-pull his bear suit apart. Yep -- exoskeleton underneath! The costume gets shredded, the exoskeleton gets broken, and then Markham gets punched out. End of story.

Karen: I wasn't real clear on how he could use his webbing to tear the suit apart. It seemed a little too easy. Then again, I never really felt like ol' Grizz should have been a threat to Spidey.

Doug: I thought this one was a little anticlimactic. It certainly seems to serve as a bridge for what's coming -- the clone saga. The Jackal has a role in this story, but he's in no way the player that he'll become. I felt that Conway's script was solid -- all of the good stuff that we commented on last issue was prevalent here, but perhaps in smaller doses. And Andru's art was solid, although I always think he is best served when inked by his longtime partner
Mike Esposito.

Karen: It was OK, but as you said, more of a bridge to the future. All in all a fairly forgettable issue.


Anonymous said...

I remember buying and reading this issue very well. What I liked about this was the way that it was a bridge to the future - the clone saga had some nice foreshadowing to it, and the Jackal had a nice buildup as a big baddie before it finally broke.

One of the things I hated about the second clone saga, along with the laughable plotting, writing, scripting and "art", was how the Jackal was relegated to being one of Osborn's stooges. (Along with most of the western world.)

Fred W. Hill said...

Looking back at this issue, I wonder how much of the upcoming clone story Conway had already plotted, including the identity of the Jackal. Seems about the only foreshadowing before the big reveal was only about an issue or two beforehand, although Conway must have had it mind at least from the point when he introduced Gwen's clone.
Anyhow, regarding those plot lapses, anyone think the "Marvel method", wherein the writer gives the artist a loose outline of the plot, then its left to the artist to flesh it out, might've been to blame? Not to blame Andru, but assuming he didn't have a detailed plot, perhaps that explains why some plot elements don't go anywhere. Those sort of lapses seemed to occur less often when either the artist is a co-plotter if not the actual plotter, or the writer prepares detailed plot descriptions. Of course, for much of comics history, most artists and writers were working at such a breakneck pace it's a wonder they kept track of anything.

Anonymous said...

Phew, what luck that Peter wasn't wearing his Spider-Man outfit under his civvies as per usual.

B Smith

david_b said...

I've been picking these up now (just got 144 in the mail yesterday, GREAT Gwen cover..), and I like the build towards uncovering the Jackal's identity, but it seems a bit too forced, almost to the point of 'overexposure'. I personally wished they would have dragged it out a bit more, seeding each story much like Harry's slow descent into replacing his father as the Goblin over a dozen issues.

Fred, totally agreed on the plot elements not going anywhere. They could have had the arm device on Peter go for another issue or so, just to complicate fighting another villain or something, without clueing in the Jackel, etc..

All-in-all, nice storylines, but I'm now recalling why I was losing interest. I was getting a bit tired of Ross Andru as an artist, primarily because all his panels and drawings were becoming too familiar (even lazy..?), month after month, almost like he was on auto-pilot.

Perhaps other than Peter's trip to Paris (and the MJ airport kiss), these storylines didn't have the spark, like the Luke Cage ish and the dozen or so issues following Gwen's death.

Karen said...

Hi guys, regarding the identity of the Jackal, I interviewed Gerry Conway last year for an article on his Spider-Man run, and this is what he told me regarding his plans for the Jackal:

"Actually I don’t think I intended it to be Professor Warren initially, I was sort of doing my version of the original Spider-Man comics, the first fifteen or twenty Spider-Man comics, that Stan and Steve Ditko had done together, and I had always loved the idea of creating a mystery around who was the secret identity of the bad guy. The way I worked at that time was, I did a lot things from the seat of my pants, where I didn’t necessarily plan things out completely but I would sort of throw things into the mix, and see what percolated, which items seemed to have some staying power. And that particular idea fell in neatly with the demand that Stan Lee made later, that we bring back Gwen Stacy. And that started me thinking, “Well, you know, how can I do that? What would be a logical way of making that happen?” And I remembered that Professor Warren, this character that I think had appeared in like one story! (laughter)"

So he might not have decided at this point that it would be Prof. Warren.


david_b said...


Yes, I picked up that issue just to get your full story/interview. Excellent work!

I've said this before, but for all the Marvel-styled whiz-bang ideas that have graced their Universe all the decades, introducing the cloning (by Prof. Warren a science teacher on teacher salary, no less..? In 1974..??) in the pages of ASM just seemed a stretch too far, especially after the stark, sad, gut-wrenching death of both Gwen and yes, even Norman Osborne. Now I don't fault Gerry or anyone, 'cept Mr. Lee himself.

Stan could have/should have stood by this death as to what would be described as the definitive turn from Silver to Bronze.., but instead caved to the readership demands at the time, although from what I recall on the letters pages, was still fairly split both ways (although the Bullpen would decide which letters to print obviously..).

I do recall instead of sayin', "How Awesome..!", it was more.., "Ah, SHEESH".

As for Prof. Warren being the Jackal.., it just didn't fit..: I was almost waiting for poor Aunt May to become the next villain, much like poor Jarvis in the Avengers.

Thanks much for the response!

Fred W. Hill said...

Ah, thanks for sharing that bit on Conway's methods, Karen! Pretty what I expected, and after reading reprints of those early issues with the Green Goblin, I could see clear parallels between the Jackal and the Goblin. And given Conway's circumstances (being ordered to find some way to bring Gwen back)it was a rational solution. Then again, I agree with David, "it just didn't fit". That's the problem with "fly by the seat of the pants" plotting -- a careful plotter could plant various seeds early on and throughout the run so when the big reveal comes, the reader goes, "of course"; in this case, it felt more like they had to hammer poor ol' Professor Warren to fit into the Jackal-shaped hole.

cease ill said...

I thought, "don't forget JJJ's $100 pair of shoes!" I rather liked the Grizzly's back story, but twelve year old me found this anti-climatic too. Still---for a dime? Call it a win.

Thanks Karen for the Conway musings. Good point, Fred, about the Marvel Method's anathema to long-term careful plotting. But who knew we'd still be talking about it all forty years later at the time, no? And yes, Eric, sad use of the returned Professor Warren, and I believe it was on this blog someone pointed out there's just no precedent for Norman being...well, Lex Luthor-like in his machinations.

I would've liked more energy put into making a real mystery out of the Jackyl's identity, more reasons WHY it was crucial to uncover...but, outside of his clone plan, Jackyl's a bit of a mess, eh? No reason he'd want to be a crime lord, like he mentions in his earliest two appearances...oh my, I'm spelling his name like the rock band, aren't I?

Anyway, their affordability made this and other Bronze Age issues an early part of my actual collecting days. The 70's was often slammed in those days as second rate comics, but I had a lot of fun with them all! Also, I can think of a dozen runs off the top of my head that were fun indeed...and there's a post for that! I think most of my faves are already listed though. I hope one day I get more cool blog comments such as the discussions I find lingering here; sometimes they uncover another layer.

Since my comics are 3,000 miles away for the most part, it's a hoot reading others' enjoyment and celebration and razzing of issues that just couldn't come on the Greyhound to California. That is, however, where I read some of my Howard the Duck Essentials!

eddy said...

Hey guys! I am a newcomer to your blog, absolutely love it ! In the issue of Glory Grant, there was a character in the live action show in the late seventies, early eighties called the same, and I read somewhere that she was introduced in the comic realm to have a link. I know the show was very chessy but I liked it anyway, so you people being BAB and all have any comments about it?

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