Monday, May 7, 2012

Return of the Goblin: Amazing Spider-Man 136

Amazing Spider-Man #136 (September 1974)
"The Green Goblin Lives Again!"
Gerry Conway-Ross Andru/Frank Giacoia/Dave Hunt

Doug: After two weeks of hinting at it, today the Green Goblin is revealed! Buckle in, friends, because this one hits the ground running! But before we begin, I wanted to show off (assuming there are some out there who haven't seen it) the Alex Ross/John Romita lithograph that takes another angle on today's cover:

Karen: That really is a gorgeous piece, and I wish I'd picked it up years ago.

Doug:  One of the times I had the privilege of meeting the Jazzy One, he was hawking this beauty.  What a gentleman he is.  As I've said around here before, if John Romita is ever at a con near you, GO.

 Doug: We begin with Pete and MJ on a date, trying to decide what to do after a whirlwind day. There's some great dialogue here, really sweet as the two discover each other all over again in the months after Gwen Stacy's passing. It's finally determined that since Pete's place is closer, they'll go hang out there. But as they approach the door and MJ takes Pete's key, the Spider-Sense begins to ring off the hook. Pete grabs Mary Jane and throws her to the floor, landing on top of her just in time to shield her from a massive explosion.

Karen: Conway does a nice job with the dialog between these two. MJ's playful side really comes off well here, and Peter's oddball nature (listening to Ella Fitzgerald?) is brought back.

Doug:  No doubt the musical choice was odd.  Nothing wrong with that genre, per se, but for a young 20-something in the early '70's -- it's a bit odd.  I wonder if Conway just pulled that out of the sky or if he was teasing someone he knew or who worked in the Bullpen.

Doug: Pete's pretty banged up, and as the smoke clears he checks on MJ. Now I have to admit to a dirty mind here, and over the next few panels. I've included the images to show you how it goes for me. Just sick, I know... what, Pete couldn't find her wrist to check her heart rate? And whenever I learned CPR we held our ears close to the victim's mouth to check breathing. But hey, it makes for a better visual I suppose. Once Pete determines that his lady is not seriously injured, his next motive becomes ridding the apartment of anything Spider-related. Enter the next panel that made me giggle. As Pete empties his dresser of extra web cartridges and his spare costume, he makes quite a humorous statement. Forgive me...

Karen: Regarding Peter's 'exam' of MJ, that's all you pal! Maybe our readers will back you up, but I never gave it a second thought as I read this issue. But yeah, the comment about the web cartridges made me think bad thoughts. It's interesting that Peter is still on his feet and functioning, even though he took the brunt of the blast. Sometimes I forget how tough Spidey really is.

Doug: After Pete tosses his extra gear onto an adjacent rooftop, he hustles back to MJ just in time for the fuzz to arrive. While MJ gets a ride to the hospital, Pete gets the third degree, almost to the point that he wonders if the police suspect him in blowing up his own digs! But after waiting at the hospital, Pete's finally allowed into MJ's room. But when entering and laying eyes on her, it's Gwen's face he sees -- as she looked in his arms the day she died! We then get a concise re-telling of the events of ASM #'s 121-122. I thought it was definitive, and something we discussed at length about a year ago when we reviewed those issues, that Conway has Pete muse that the fall killed Gwendy. Interesting...

Karen: I'm wondering if the doctors even examined Pete? You'd think they would, but it doesn't appear to be so. Kind of an oversight. This was an effective retelling of Gwen and the Goblin's deaths for those readers who might be unfamiliar with those issues. Peter may actually believe it was the shock of the fall that killed Gwen -or maybe he can't handle the guilt of knowing that his webline snapped her neck? I suppose we could debate that endlessly.

Doug: Pete has an uneasy feeling about all of this. He'd found a detonator in the debris in the apartment, and Harry was nowhere to be found. As they'd had some stress between them lately, Pete decides to web it over to one of Norman Osborn's old warehouses. Once inside, he does an inspection of the place and decides that it looks as he thought it should, with no evidence that anyone had been there. But then for some reason Spidey wonders to himself if maybe the dust is fake? Say what? I half-expected Mysterio to pop out at this point -- I just didn't know what Conway was going for, or why he got the idea to insert that line. Anyway, Spidey decides to stake-out the joint as only he can -- in a web-hammock. And it doesn't take long to find his clue.

Karen: Yes, fake dust. Doesn't everyone have a bag lying around? This was an example of the typical Bronze Age (and even Silver Age) ridiculousness that we seemed to completely ignore as kids. Of course, if we're going to accept a guy getting powers from being bitten by a radioactive spider, then shouldn't we just roll with the fake dust?

Doug: In one of the definitive Green Goblin poses of all time, Ross Andru draws a phenomenal depiction of Harry Osborn atop the glider. A classic Spider-Man/Green Goblin battle ensues, with new readers brought up to speed by some nifty visuals of all of the Goblin's weapons and tricks. Spidey calls him "Harry", but the Goblin does not initially let on who he really is. As we said in the two Tarantula stories, Andru crafts a nice series of panels that show the frenetic energy that is this battle. Spider-Man's downfall, however, is the exhaust from the Goblin-glider. Apparently Harry had worked a chemical into the engine that would give off some sort of knockout gas -- Spider-Man succumbs, only to have the Goblin's sparkle-fingers (jeez, sounds like a cheerleading term) malfunction. Rather than finish the job on the weakened Spider-Man, the Goblin flies away to seek a more fitting revenge.

Karen: This was just the appetizer. Although Harry's Goblin would have to be pretty under-powered compared to his Dad's version. Of course, this is another fight where we know Spidey is holding back. He's such a nice guy -he holds back on the first Goblin because he's his friend's dad, he holds back on the Lizard because he cares about Doc Connors, and now he's holding back on Harry. Sparkle fingers? Is that from Twilight??

Doug: There's an odd coda to this story, set in the offices of the Daily Bugle. Pete has just been denied a leave of absence by JJJ, and storms out of his office. Betty Brant tried to cheer him up, but Pete snaps on her. Certainly Pete's under some severe stress, but then we get the "Spider-Man no more!" line that from now on, Peter Parker goes it alone! Just seemed out of place for an ending to what should have been a major storyline.

Karen: I did not get why that half-page ending was there. It seemed very out of place, almost as if there was some disconnect between Andru and Conway and it was too late to fix it. Who knows, but it left me scratching my head.

Doug: As always, we appreciate your comments on our comic book reviews. But in addition to your thoughts on the art and plot, I'd like to pose a question for everyone with an opinion: Many of you, my partner included, have intimated a bit of an eyeroll at the very mention of the first Clone Saga. Personally, I like it -- it was a very early entry point to Amazing Spider-Man for me. What I want to know is this -- are there some of you out there who dislike the Gwen-revival, but don't mind at all this legacy of Norman Osborn? And if so, I'd just be curious to know what the difference is. Thank you in advance.


david_b said...

After months of anticipation back in 1974, I found this issue extremely satisfying.

I had just started with collecting Spidey with ish 125 (then managing to grab a few of the previous issues from the '3-for-49cents' bags at a local department store, including 122), so most of what I knew of Gwen and Norman's death were from the multitude of letters sent listed in all the consecutive issues following.

This issue was striking on many levels, kids gloves finally being off, the end of arguably one of the most suspenseful on-going subplots ever hatched in Marvel. It also worked in subtly redefining Peter's relationship with Mary Jane, capping off months of awkward hit-or-miss romantic scenes, and his own spin in retelling of how Gwen died, ignoring the web-snap, and blaming the fall itself as defense mechanisms.

I really liked how Andru drew Harry-as-Goblin.. Subtle differences like arms being a tad more gangly, more of a sharpened chin. I know the 'defined chin' was Andru's drawing style, but body-wise, I don't know whether Andru was simply drawing a straight rendition of the Goblin, or consiously making the Goblin younger-looking to reflect Harry's tenure. Nevertheless, QUITE striking.

Also loved the Goblin's climatic flying entrance as shown here. Gorgeously rendered. This ish marks of my Spidey collecting high points, unfortunately spoiled with the onset of the return of Gwen in just a few short months.

J.A. Morris said...

Good write-up on ASM 136. Andru's stories aren't the first I ever read, but his issues were being reprinted in Marvel Tales when I became a comic book fanatic. He's no Romita, but he's pretty damn good.
To answer Doug's question, I've always been a fan of the original Clone Saga. I reviewed the Clone Saga reprint book last year:

I guess some fans don't like the Clone Saga because it's too "sci-fi" and took ASM to a place it shouldn't be. To each their own.

But I figure, once you suspend disbelief enough to "believe" in the whole "radioactive spider" business, a Spider-Clone isn't that hard to take.

And since I'm trying to be the Bronze Age Reprint guru, I should mention that ASM 136 & 137 has been reprinted in a tpb called 'Spider-Man:Son Of The Goblin':

And it's also being reprinted this Summer (July 12) in a volume of Marvel Masterworks:

Edo Bosnar said...

First of all, I have to say I'm with Karen on the whole 'checking for a heartbeat' matter; I didn't find anything inappropriate about it when I first saw it, nor does it seem that way now (even though I know it makes more sense to check a person's wrist or throat). On the other hand, I think I recall snickering to myself when I first saw the 'bulge' remark...
As for the first Clone Saga, I did not mind it at all and I really liked the sort of follow-up Carrion story in Spectacular SM, but it should have ended with those two story arcs.
Otherwise, I have to agree with the general consensus on the great art in these stories - it's stuff like this that makes Ross Andru one of my top Spidey artists.

Anonymous said...

David, you and I have very similar Spidey collecting histories. I think my first was 123, I "found" 121 but never got 122. I didn't actually read the death of Norman Osborn story until the Marvel Tales reprint. But I have from 123 on. So by the time these Harry as Goblin issues came out, I was all in.

I can so relate to all of the sentiments expressed here - the subplots, the romance, the art. I even liked the first clone stories. From about '73-'76 I was "in a zone" where comics could do no wrong. It was all great!


Fred W. Hill said...

Very good art & story over all, the exciting culmination of a subplot that lasted over a year. About Pete's interrogation by the police, btw, made me wonder how thorough was the investigation into Gwen's murder and was it known that she was kidnapped from that very same apartment that was boobie-traped and nearly killed Pete and his new girlfriend? The fact that Harry's father had also been recently killed should certainly have caused an astute investigator to figure something very strange was going on.
Regarding the original Clone saga, even as a kid parts of it just didn't seem well thought out to me and I rather hated poor ol' Professor Warren being transformed into a villain, particularly with negligible foreshadowing to make it believeable to me. It didn't surprise me to find out that Conway was apparently ordered to bring back Gwen, one way or another, and Conway found a good way to sort of do that while not straying into supernatural elements which aren't really suitable for the Spidey we know and love (and who would never have made a deal with any devil, not even to bring back Aunt May!).
As for the later Clone saga, IMO with that Spider-Man was taken so far off the rails that the Marvel Universe shifted into an entirely new and unfamiliar realm with only a tenuous link to the one we knew before and where Gwen had an affair with Norman who just so happened to still be alive despite what we saw in issue #122.

Anonymous said...

In one of the first panels shown here, MJ says to Peter "when we were in high school. " Peter was in college when he met MJ.

I guess 38 years later is too long to ask for a No-prize.

William said...

Very nice review, as always. I have a few comments.

I actually liked this story concept. It seemed almost like a natural progression that "crazy Harry" would take up where his father left off and become the new Green Goblin. They could have gone farther with it at the time though and really made it into an epic.

As for the recap of ASM #121-122, about Peter reflecting on the fact that Gwen was killed by the "shock" of her fall. It doesn't seem that strange that Conway would put that in there because that was his original intention. The letterer, Artie Simek, actually put that "SNAP" sound effect in there on his own, and no one caught it before it went to print. In some later reprints the "SNAP" was actually even removed. However, I believe that it has since be ret-conned into continuity that Gwen died of a broken neck from the whiplash effect of Spidey catching her.

Now, you asked what we thought about the first "Clone Saga". Well, I for one didn't like it any more than I did the second one. First of all, I really hate "evil clone" story-lines. I also thought it went a little too far for Miles Warren (a college professor) to not only be capable of cloning a human being, but even more unbelievable, he was able to somehow imprint the memories of Peter Parker onto the clone and then "sync up" their brains so that both of them believed they were the "real" Spider-Man. WHA??? I mean, at least cloning is something that is scientifically possible, but I don't think anyone has ever been able to implant one persons memories into the brain of another, outside of a comic book. Which leads me to the number one reason I didn't like the original clone saga… It was the way it ended.

O.K., Spider-Man and the clone get caught in an explosion and one is killed… but which one??? You see, since they both had the exact same memories, the survivor doesn't know if he's the real Spider-Man or a the "gulp" clone. (Stupid). So, the next issue is spent with Spider-Man fretting, whining and lamenting the fact that he has a 50/50 chance of being a clone. So what does he do? He goes to Doctor Conners and has him run some blood tests to conclusively determine whether or not he's a clone. Later (before the tests are completed) Spidey get's attacked by a Spider-Slayer and after a long battle is about to give up and just lay down and die, but after some soul searching, he decides he loves Mary Jane more than Gwen (or something like that), and that must prove he's not the clone. Huh? Because the clone was exposed to Prof. Warren and his obsession with Gwen. Double HUH?? So, what does that prove? Finally, in some the dumbest bit of writing I've ever seen, Spidey goes back to Doc Conners (who is conveniently sleeping) and takes the report (that supposedly and conclusively has the answer of whether he's a clone or not). And what does Peter do with this report? He throws it off a building WITHOUT READING IT. WHY??? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? I think I originally read this story when I was like 9 or 10 years old, and even then I was like "Why, man why?" Even if you kind of came to the conclusion on your own, in some round about way, that you weren't a clone, wouldn't you want to know for sure? If nothing else, just to confirm your own belief.

Every Spider-Man story I read after that was a little bit tainted for me by the fact that, in my mind, I felt there was still a 50/50 chance of Peter being a clone. (Hey, I was 9 or 10). So, imagine my surprise, many years later, when the "clone" returned and (for a while at least) was thought to be the "real" Peter Parker and confirmed all the doubts I had from my childhood. Weird. Seems like I wasn't the only one bothered by Peter not reading that report.

david_b said...


Wonderfully expressed about the first Clone silliness, far better than I could.

Amen, and Amen.

Anonymous said...


Agree with David_b's agreement with you on the Clone Saga. Especially "the way it ended" - hilarious recount.

But, as I said before, I was 11 or 12 and loved it anyway.


William said...

Thanks David B and Tom.

Fred W. Hill said...

I was perturbed also by that bit of Peter tossing the report away without reading it, William. Didn't Archie Goodwin write that as a fill in before Len Wein took over with 151? Guess whoever wrote it thought it was more dramatic than having Spidery read the thing and, "yep, just like I thought -- I'm the original me all right!"
And of course, the entire clone thing, as depicted in the Spider-Man mags, is "comic book science" but then so was Peter getting his powers from a bite by a radioactive spider. And the bit about imprinting the real Peter's memories onto the clones isn't that much odder than Roy Thomas having Wonderman's "brain patterns" saved and then imprinted on the Vision's synthetic brain. Seems the only reason for that was to create a link, however tenuous, between Vizh and the Grim Reaper, Wondy's brother, which Roy & his successors could put to dramatic use.

William said...

Fred, I guess my main problem with the memory implants was that it was pulled off by a college professor. If Hank Pym or Reed Richards had done it, it wouldn't have been an issue, because they are "comic book" geniuses and their intelligence is basically a super power. :)

Karen said...

Luckily I wasn't reading comics when the second Clone saga came out. I still haven't checked it out; it just sounds terrible.

However, when I read the first clone story as a kid, I never questioned the 'science' behind it, but now it makes me cringe a bit.

Anonymous said...

I loved the whole Green Goblin through the Jackal story arc and never had a problem with the first Clone Saga since it was, after all, Comic Book Science. "Of Jackals and Juxtapositions" settled any real nits I had picked.

Plus the prof's cloning of Gwen played perfectly into his motivation and was a poignant stab at the heart of his foe Peter Parker. If Gwen's clone had stayed I would have been annoyed but the reason behind her goodbye was handled perfectly and if you didn't know better you might think it was foreshadowing to set up Spidey's realization that he was "the real Spider-Man" for similar reasons.

As for the later Clone Saga, I agree. To me that Marvel Universe is like DC's original way of handling Earth One for their new stories and Earth Two where their Golden Age characters lived on, some with happy marriages and such.

In eyes of the little 9-12 year old me who lives on inside me Pete and MJ are still married on Marvel Earth 2 and all the ugly stupidity of One More Day, the revived Norman Osborn and especially Superior Spider-Man all take place in a different world full of ugly caricatures of the Silver Age Marvel characters.

Dave said...

The original clone saga is classic Spidey. One of the best reads of the Bronze Age.

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