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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Monsters Galore at Monsterpalooza

Karen: I've been to a number of comic book and science fiction conventions over the course of my life, starting at age ten with the San Diego Comic Con and going through numerous Star Trek conventions, Comic Cons, Wonder Cons, etc. But never had I been to a convention dedicated to monsters -that is, until a few weeks ago, when I journeyed to Burbank, California. Monsterpalooza: the Art of Monsters was a brand new experience for me, and one I thoroughly enjoyed!

Karen: It was like a typical comic con in the way it worked; there were panels, signings, and a dealer's room. However, everything was focused on monster movies, from the silents to modern day. I enjoyed many panels, but two stand out. One was the Jack Pierce panel. Pierce is the man responsible for the make-ups of all the classic Universal monsters, including the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolfman. The panel gave an overview of Pierce's
life, including the fact that he managed the Universal Studios basketball team, and many of the team members went on in 1936 to play in the Olympics. The second panel was one on the 25th anniversary of Predator. Six of the original effects crew were reunited and shared stories and pictures. It's amazing to discover that the men who made that outstanding creature were all between about 19-24 years old at the time!

Karen: The dealers' room, besides offering the usual T-shirts, books, posters, and other paraphernalia, also had a great deal of art work on display: primarily sculptures, and in some cases life size statues. Artist Mike Hill had tributes to both Jack Pierce and modern monster maker Rick Baker, with full size sculptures of Pierce making Boris Karloff up as the Mummy, and Baker making David Naughton up as the werewolf from American Werewolf in London. These were incredibly life-like. See for yourself.

Karen: In one section of the dealers' room was the Monsterpalooza museum. This was an unbelievable display of paintings, sculpture, movie props, etc., from all sorts of movies and TV shows. Daniel Horne's paintings of classic monsters were phenomenal. Some of the full-size creatures were also sensational, including a Predator vs. Alien stan
d-off, and a towering Sasquatch with an incredibly expressive face.

Karen: I have to give a shout out to my pals at the Universal Monster Army who won the best display award with their depiction of a 60's monster kid's dream hobby shop. This looked wonderfully authentic,right down to the window that looked out on a small town street. Great work guys.

Karen: Monster kid supreme Bob Bur
ns and his wife Kathy were in attendance and they are always a pleasure to see. A documentary about the Burns' enormous collection of movie memorabilia (and their lives too) called Beast Wishes will be out next month. I saw a few minutes of the documentary and immediately got on the pre-order list. It looks fabulous.

Karen: As with most conventions, something unexpected happened. We were informed that the Fry's Electronics store just a block away had a sci-fi
theme. We went over and discovered there was a flying saucer crashed into the front of the building! Inside, hordes of little green men glared from the beams above, a giant octopus burst through a wall, giant ants attacked, and Gort's cousin held a woman in his arms in front of his colossal spaceship. I can't say enough about this store. If you are in the Burbank area, it's right by the Bob Hope Airport. Definitely worth a look-see!

Karen: I really enjoyed this weekend and highly
recommend Monsterpalooza to anyone who enjoys a good monster! A second show this year, Son of Monsterpalooza, will take place at the same venue (Marriott Burbank Hotel and Convention Center) on October 26-28.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Got a Fever, and the Only Prescription is... More Avengers!

Doug:  Just a quick post today friends.  I'm actually re-blogging this incredible (that word isn't strong enough... magnificent?) original art to one of our very favorite John Buscema pin-ups.  This was originally published in Avengers King-Size Special #2 from 1968.  The fine folks at John Buscema: The Lost Drawings posted this last Monday.  If you're just crazy-stupid over Big John like I am, you've probably already made this image your desktop background!

A good friend of mine texted me last night to say that he'd gotten his grimy hands on a (gasp!) bootleg copy of The Avengers, and although the quality of the reproduction was not good, he said the film is everything he hoped it would be.  Below is a copy of a post on the Avengers Assemble message boards from a user who has seen the film in Europe.  No spoilers:

I watched Avengers Assemble last night. And I thought it was stunning.

Any preconceptions that I had were surpassed and then some.

I thought the film had a great cast; had some genuine surprises; some great action sequences; moments of humour that had the whole cinema laughing - two key moments with Hulk were hilarious (and intentionally so!); and most of all - it felt 'right' and it 'worked'.

Every character had their moments to shine, and in allocating Joss Whedon to writing and directing duties I think he proved himself a very capable director within this genre, but much more importantly, all of the dialogue felt unique to the characters in question: lines by Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Thor et al all felt true to the previously established Marvel Cinematic Universe interpretations and continuity.

It is a big movie. yes at two and half hours is the longest of the Marvel movies. It is not the longest super-hero movie (Watchmen probably), nor the most narratively dense (again Watchmen I believe, or possibly The Dark Knight), but it was a packed film. There is a little sagging in the middle which was more to do with positioning characters and characterisations, but in all I would rank this as one of my favourite super-hero movies of all time.

Thinking about the list that would probably include The Dark Knight (Avengers does not over-run as I feel TDK did), X-Men 2 (which starts amazingly and never quite lives up to that opening scene again in terms of action - Avengers builds better), Spider-man 2 (Avengers wins in scale, Spider-man 2 in evenness of tone), The Incredibles (I think The Incredibles has the similar problem of sagging a little, but also mixes too much spy-fi into the mix at the expense of spectacle - Avengers has an amazing array of spectacle). On balance Avengers is so strong in so many areas that it may be the contender. That said, I will be very curious to listen to Mark Kermode's review today on BBC 5 Live.

And to anyone going to see it - do, do, stay for the couple of minutes necessary after the initial post-film credits - it is worth it for anyone with some Marvel knowledge.

Possibly my favourite super-hero film ever. I want to see this again - NOW! 

Have a great Saturday, and come back tomorrow for a report from Miss Karen on a recent trip she took.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Your Personal Mount Rushmore For Comics

Doug:  What if you could create your own version of Mount Rushmore for whatever comic book foursome you chose?  I'm thinking this could be your opinion on the four ultimate characters from one company -- for example, if I were going to create a monument like this to Marvel Comics in the Bronze Age (how about that wrinkle?  Time specific!), I would probably have Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Conan the Barbarian, and Captain America.  I would choose them as representatives because a) Spidey was by this time the "face of the franchise", and known to many kids for his spotlight on The Electric Company -- a great cross-marketing idea from the House of Ideas, b) the Hulk on television became a dominant advertising element for the company, c) Conan was being heavily promoted in many of the in-house ads, right alongside the heroes, and was quite prevalent in Marvel's B&W magazines, and d) Captain America just epitomizes the bicentennial of the U.S.A. in 1976.

Doug:  For those of you not in the know, Mount Rushmore is a monument to four U.S. presidents, and is located in the state of South Dakota.  Those presidents are (L to R): George Washington, the 1st president (served 1789-97) and so-called "father of our country", Thomas Jefferson (served 1801-09), whose administration purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803 from Napoleon's administration,  doubling the size of our nation, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (served 1901-09), who was instrumental in the creation of our national parks, and Abraham Lincoln (served 1861-65), under whose administration the nation was preserved after a bloody civil war.

Doug:  So what's your angle?  Are you going with overall characters for a given company?  Era?  What about creators?  And even then, from a particular company or time period?  How about comic books -- the most influential or in your opinion best-selling of all time?  Remember, whatever you choose to discuss, you can only choose four.  Have fun!   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

That Zany Bob Haney: The Brave and the Bold 102

The Brave and the Bold #102 (July 1972)
"The Commune of Defiance!"
Bob Haney-Jim Aparo/Neal Adams/Dick Giordano (cover by Nick Cardy)

Doug: I was super-excited (hey, this is a comic blog; I can say that) last week to finally receive my copy of Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo, volume 1 from Amazon. I'd pre-ordered it around six months ago, and I'm glad I did. This volume is huge! It has over 500 pages and retails for $50 -- pre-ordering guaranteed me an introductory price of only $19 and some change! Talk about getting it for a song! It's a really nice-looking book, reproduced in standard four-color and the pages are not too glossy. This volume reprints Aparo's B&B work in chronological order. About my only complaint is that the covers that Aparo did not draw are not included. It makes thumbing through the book a little difficult, but overall I am really glad I bought this. Having done a Teen Titans review just last month, I thought we'd revisit our teen sidekicks and see how Haney and Aparo handled them. You might notice the presence of Neal Adams and Dick Giordano in the credits; according to the Comic Book Database, Aparo drew (and inked) the first half of the book and Adams and Giordano brought it home. The Grand Comics Database supports that as well, although for my eyes the change is pretty seamless. Let's check it out!

We begin this tale with quite possibly the worst Batman characterization I have ever seen -- and that includes the goofy 1950's stuff. Check out this panel at left. Really? Bats walking right down the street in a "posh" neighborhood, and in costume in broad daylight?? I'll admit right off the bat (no pun intended) -- I am not a Bob Haney fan. I know many of our readers are. I'll express my reasons why as we go through the story, but this opening panel just self-affirms why I was about an 80% Marvel Zombie in the Bronze Age of comics.

Batman spies a mugging in the distance and takes off after the perp. Apprehending him, he hears voices behind telling him to get lost -- they'll take over. It's a group of young adults who call themselves the "Young Aquarians". They claim that they are the law in Barclayville, an apparently run-down "ghetto" in Gotham City. Living near Chicago, I know that the difference of a block or two can make a big difference in the status of a neighborhood, but this seems strange, as Haney had just told us that Batman was on one of the "poshest avenues" in all of the city. Batman tried to reason with the crowd, but is told by "Lawyer", one of them, that there is a statute on the books that allows citizens to enforce the law in the absence of police or other officials. When Batman informs them that he's taken the man into custody, they call him a hypocrite -- one vigilante speaking to another. Batman assures them that Fast Frankie will do time. The kids want to change Barclayville -- their way. Batman says he will do what he can.

Unfortunately, Fast Frankie could not be ID'd by his victims, and didn't have the wallet on him he'd allegedly stolen. Batman returns to Barclayville and is confronted by the Young Aquarians, who have the wallet and ridicule Batman's detective skills. They then point across the street to "Sonny's Travel Agency", where Frankie is accosting Angel Lee. Angel is the girl of Sonny Trask, a hood doing time in the state pen. Sonny and his gang "run" Barclayville. Inside the office, Frankie backhands Angel. As the Aquarians move in to help, Frankie gets away. Rather than be grateful, Angel admonishes the kids for butting in. Back outside, the police arrive and attempt to arrest the Aquarians. Batman intervenes and accuses Gotham's finest of being part of the problem in Barclayville, then assures them that Commissioner Gordon will get a lecture from him on police behavior and methods in Barclayville. As the scene ends, Batman tells the youngsters that he will help them to reform their neighborhood.

An editorial comment on Haney's script: he is trying way too hard to be Stan Lee. With terms like effendi, tiger, right on, true believers, rapping, etc. there is an effort to be "hip" that is way over the top. And given that it's 1972, not 1968, I'm not so certain that he's a little past due with much of the lingo and speech patterns. I'd comment, too, that I am having a difficult time believing that Barclayville is some sort of neglected ghetto given the racial make-up of the characters. At this point in America's history, urban issues tended to focus on African-American communities; that most of the characters in this story are white makes Haney's premise a tough sell to me. Anyway...

We scene-shift to a city council meeting, where the mayor announces that an urban renewal project is about to commence, knocking down much of Barclayville. The Young Aquarians are there to protest, and as it gets loud, Commissioner Gordon steps forward and threatens to arrest them. But Batman suddenly emerges (in the days of post-9/11 security, it's difficult to believe that even the Dark Knight could get into City Hall) from the wings and attempts to intercede. But the mayor tells that contracts have been signed and the project will go forward. As the Aquarians walk away, Batman muses to himself that he needs help in bridging the generation gap in communication.

Cue the entrance of the Teen Titans: Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Mal. They find the Young Aquarians and tell them they're in their corner. But the Aquarians are desperate -- two of them are armed and tell that they are ready to fight. Robin talks them down, and offers that the Titans spend the night in "the commune". The Aquarians agree, but it's a bad sound that awakens them -- the sound of heavy equipment rolling in! As the Aquarians brace for a fight, the Titans do the unexpected: they move into the street and lay down in front of the bulldozers! Even Angel Lee joins the demonstration, telling one of the Aquarians that Barclayville is her neighborhood, too -- and she wants it the same so that whenever Sonny gets out of jail he can come back and run the place!

Batman joins the scene, swinging onto one of the bulldozers and encouraging the driver to mow down the teens! He tells him to follow his orders, that he'll get a fair trial! Of course the driver stops, and Batman uses the opportunity to congratulate the kids. Suddenly the mayor pulls up, with Commissioner Gordon in tow. He tells everyone assembled that he has decided to grant Barclayville a "stay of execution" -- they have 30 days to convince him that the neighborhood should not be changed as planned. Loud cheers dominate, and the teens move almost-immediately into action. The Titans lend a hand, with Wonder Girl decorating (ha! sexism lived at DC, too!), Kid Flash sweeping the streets, Speedy collecting rats in a gunnysack, and Robin and Mal meting out some fist-based justice against the pushers and other baddies of the neighborhood.

But Angel Lee isn't so happy. Sonny's due out of jail at the end of the week, and she tells the Aquarians that the one thing that won't change is Sonny running the 'hood. But Batman tries to work some mental magic on her, telling her that she's taking the fall for all of Sonny's rackets by signing her name to his activities. She's not buying it, though. Cut back to the youngsters, who are cheering their own urban renewal. They decide that they'll celebrate with a block party. But as the festivities get under way, who should show up early but Sonny and his toughs? And they ain't happy. As threats are made the Titans decide to stay out of it -- if Barclayville is going to move forward, then it has to police itself against idiots like Sonny. A street brawl breaks out (where were the Gotham police at this time?), and believe it or not, the denizens of Barclayville hold their own. That is until Sonny really starts kicking tail. But it's the Batman who intercedes, and exposes a roll of coins in Sonny's hand -- he wasn't fighting fairly!

Sonny isn't going to take that lying down, so pulls out a piece. But who should counter him but Angel Lee? She tells Sonny that she's not going to take a fall for him anymore. Both guns fire at the same time, and Sonny's winged and down; Angel apparently avoided Sonny's bullet. Batman takes Sonny into custody, and Barclayville's future is secured. And just to show the kids what a "legal vigilante" is, Batman produces a badge showing that he is a deputized Gotham City sheriff! Say what? Where I live sheriffs operate in the counties, not the cities... The next morning a bulldozer again rolls down the street, but this time driven by the Batman with the Titans astride -- bringing a street marker declaring Barclayville an historic site.

DC was doing a lot of this sort of storytelling in this era, particularly with the work of Denny O'Neil and Adams on Green Lantern/Green Arrow. While my partner and I have expressed concern with O'Neil's over-the-top scripts and moralizing, Haney's certainly not innocent here. I get what he's trying to do, and I suppose raising awareness of urban issues is admirable. But his methods are questionable. As I said above, the story is off racially to truly be believable. The Titans are in the story, but are quite indiscernible. They are merely ciphers for "cooler heads prevailing" and bear no resemblance to the same characters appearing in another mag. And Batman -- I'm just not sure what to say. As we've also lamented around here, perhaps one could have shoe-horned Aquaman into this story and gotten the same result; I don't know. So the verdict? As an early Bronze Age DC, I'd give it a B. But in comparison to what the House of Ideas was doing at the same time? Now that B starts to slide...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"That's All We Had Back Then!"

Karen: During our recent discussion of the Spider-Man TV show and how we watched it even though most of us knew it wasn't that good, our pal David B. remarked, "That's all we had back then!" I know I've made the same comment many a time, particularly when trying to explain to someone younger why I would watch all those crummy Marvel TV movies, or why we never complained about any of the special effects on Star Trek, or Dr. Who. Those shows were all we had. Not like today, when there are a ton of well-made super-hero and sci fi films around. Pre-Star Wars especially, sci fi was a limited commodity, and super heroes even more so. I know I personally watched anything with any super-heroes in it, even those terrible DC specials, Legend of the Superheroes. That's all we had back then!

Karen: I'm very grateful and ecstatic to see so many movies featuring my comic book heroes now, especially when they are done so well, like the recent Marvel films. I never take them for granted, because I went through the rough years -like most of you! Share your thoughts on what it was like as a kid, dying for some super-heroes on TV or film, and what you feel now that they have become common place.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Discuss: The Incredible Hulk TV show

Karen: You wouldn't like him when he's angry...Care to share your feelings about the Incredible Hulk TV show?

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!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Discuss: Japanese Import Television

Doug: Any fans out there rooting for Space Giants, Johnny Sokko and His Giant Robot, or Ultraman?

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