AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. “Once More With…”
There are some interesting threads on this forum, already, covering issues of Marvel’s early series – ‘re-reading’’ of the Avengers and Journey into Mystery/Thor and so on and there was quite a good issue by issue thread on the Invaders around too, until it caught up with the present.
What is more rarely discussed are the later periods when these series were in full flow and while perhaps less iconic still number among them some classics… The examination of the Avengers from #101 onwards gets a credit here.
I therefore present to you an issue by issue critique/discussion forum for one of these mainstay Marvel titles.
Not beginning at the very debut – as others have that covered well – but (and I hope I don’t step on anyone’s creative toes here!) – I would like to pick up the Amazing Spider-Man title after a watershed/bookend issue provided an opportune point at which to begin …
Issue #50 featured that classic moment in Peter Parker’s life when he first thought he couldn’t go on and yet eventually realised he just couldn’t possibly give up being Spidey.
“Spider-Man No More!” draws breath for the title before it races on into it’s next phase – less discussed than the Ditko issues and the early Romita ‘End of the Green Goblin’ stuff the next issue builds on those early foundations and catapults our hero and the title to the second half of it’s first century of publishing and its next phase of greatness…
So, after “Spider-Man No-More!”
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With feeling…!”
Or…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility…!”
Or…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With in-depth discussion and critique…..
Or…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With #51 (08/67)…..

Come back soon……

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So for a while every few months half the FF would star in team-up mags.

Well, Marvel always hoped that the Human Torch would become as big as a star as his Golden Age counterpart so he got chance after chance to headline a comic.

Things never worked out well for Johnny Storm in either his romantic life or as a lead of mag for much more than the roughly 3 years he starred in Strange Tales.  At least he'll always have a home in the Fantastic Four.  Uh, have the FF been brought back in their own mag yet?

Doubt it. Fox hasn't given up the movie rights yet.

The Thing seemed to be going great in Marvel-Two-In-One but his own series didn't seem to know what it wanted to do. We got 50s TV space show, WWF wrestling, and some other weird stuff. I think he's still the one to push if they ever decide to give them another chance. With Jim Hammond back (sort of) do we really need Johnny? As Philip points out Jim was a much bigger star than Johnny ever was. Maybe they've been pushing the wrong Torch all these years?

Some comics writing genius might be able to make Johnny Storm a star of his own solo series -- it's certainly happened before for other unlikely characters, such as Animal Man and Starman.  The old Strange Tales Human Torch series ultimately failed because the stories were mostly aimed at a pre-juvenile audience, with no discernible attempt at depth or character development.  Other than introducing several B or C grade villains, the stories were inconsequential and the art usually dreadful, maybe fun enough for 5 or 6 year olds but not so much for most most comics readers much older, and really odd that for a little over 2 years he was paired with Dr. Strange, which was clearly aimed at an older audience and amusing that clean-cut, teen-aged Johnny was replaced by grizzled, 50ish WWII veteran Nick Fury.  A bit like Archie being replaced by the Punisher.  Admittedly, Ben Grimm, another WWII vet, co-starred in those last several Torch tales, but poor Ben was written in the series as if he was only a few years rather than at least two decades older than Johnny.

It's possible but I still think Ben is the horse to bet on in that race. I liked the Eel's costume but nothing was ever really done with him and powering him up would have just given us another Electro and he was already doing double duty in both Spider-Man and Daredevil. Really surprised Daredevil made it as far as he did. He started out as bad as Johnny with the Matador, the Owl, and two different guys dressed like frogs. Johnny just didn't have somebody like Gene Colan come in to save him. Ben was pretty much just Johnny's sidekick in Strange Tales. It was like Stan was giving them stories he'd rejected for the FF. Hard to imagine acorns putting out the Torch's flame on Skrullworld.

I think it's very interesting that fans at the time chose a grizzled old chain smoker with one eye over somebody presumably much closer to most fans' ages. Seems older heroes were actually preferred at the time by the readers, and weren't pushing 50 just because Stan wanted heroes close to his age, unlike today where, thanks to manga and anime, Spider-Man is now younger in the movies than he was in Amazing Fantasy#15. How long was the Atom turned into a teenager?

Now I'm imagining a Skrull turning himself into an oak tree and pitching acorns at the Torch like apple trees in Oz.

It would have made more sense if Plantman had been one of those Skrulls from FF#2. The acorns could have been made by advanced technology to counteract his powers. Johnny's series (especially after Ben joined him) would have been the perfect place to bring back those 1960-61 monsters like Fin Fang Foom.

Richard Mantle said:

,…..leaving Dracula free to feed from innocent female (ridiculously called Elvira)...who Peter find soon after the feasting.

Actually, actress Cassandra Peterson began her role as Elvira in 1981, which was several years after this comic was published, so the name is only ridiculous in hindsight.

So if this was Giant-Size Spider-Man #1 - was there a #2 and if so who or what was it about? -- we WILL be seeing!

Apparently, there were six issues:

https://www.comics.org/series/2172/covers/

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #134 (07/74)
Writer – Gerry Conway                Penciller - Ross Andru
Inker - Frank Giacoia                   background inks - David Hunt
Cover art – John Romita
   “Danger is a Man Named...Tarantula"


Interesting cover by Romita showasing this new bad guy who has a good spider-like costume but are those Rosa-Klebb spiked boots his only power? If so, so Batroc.
I like the fact that the cover cleartly places the action on a ship as per the contents.


The splash page has Spider-Man swooping down onto that ship and it is a great splash with another Andru trademarked angle emphasising our swinging hero.


Spidey changes to Peter  and just gets onboard in time and remarks on the need for a cruise/break after recent ASM issues (no mention of having just been on a ship in the Dracula story!)


Once out of port, a fight breaks out and the ship is hijacked by two masked, purple henchmen and their leader "My name is... Tarantula!"  - who by the accoutrements and accent/language  (and names Hildago and Juan are supposed to be ...Mexican? (Is this the earliest Marvel mention of the need or otherwise of the Trump-wall - or should I keep out of that mire?)


Some crew fight back but the nasty Tarantula kicks them with his spiked boots and even throws one overboard....as Peter takes advantage of the confusion and changes to Spider-Man - who saves the overboard guy utilising a handy bridge they sail under.
"I- I don't -- believe that just -- Happened--!"


I applaud the fact that Peter's friend do actually acknowledge the coincidence - again - of Peter disappearing and Spidey turning up...with Flash possibly working out the thinly disguised secret -- "Nah, Not a chance.". (sigh)


Spider-Man has to hitch a ride home to refill his web-shooters before getting back on the boat and Jonah Jameson's Daily Bugle is tapped for the ransom of the passengers on board.


Strangely, in a short scene we spy Harry Osborn finally spot Spider-Man leaving Peter's apartment and realise the 'truth' -- "So, its as I've always suspected... Peter Parker is Spider-Man..." - which I must admit I kind of thought he already knew or had worked that out. This smacked that someone must have informed Conway that this was not quite obvious - but this feels like sledgehammering the point home - doesn't it?


Back on the ship and decades before he becomes 'Agent Venom', Flash Thompson shows his heroic side and attacks the hijackers.


Jumping from a passing helicopter Spider-Man arrives at that point and takes over the fight.
There is a dramatic full-page frame showing Spidey throwing a henchman against the Tarantula but also getting stabbed in the leg!
"My Leg!"


Flash tries to help out as Spider-Man falls to the effects of the drug of the boot-stabbing ...      "--Looks like I won the Battle -- but he's won the War!"


To round off the issue with a most unexpected cliff-hanger, Spider-Man finds, standing over him...announced on the cover as -- "The shocking return of a Surprise Super-Villain -- in this issue's Startling Last Panel!"....
"Well, Spider-Man... It seems we meet Again...and this time I'm in control. This time, you have to face ... The Punisher!"
This does actually surprise and probably more than his last/initial appearance this is more reponsible for the Punisher growing into his own fan-base as he gets a return so quickly and he's obviously acting independantly from the Jackal now.


Andru draws him really well and it is a powerful cliff-hanger.


What is the Punisher doing? Is he in league with the Tarantula or does he have an agenda of his own?  Will Flash work out Peter's secret as Harry just has and will everyone (are Mary Jane and Liz Allen on board for a reason?) survive?


Can you wait?


Come Back...

I wasn’t home for the non-ASM discussions so the timing of this issue is perfect for me, as I can read along again.

Richard Mantle said:

I applaud the fact that Peter's friend do actually acknowledge the coincidence - again - of Peter disappearing and Spidey turning up...with Flash possibly working out the thinly disguised secret -- "Nah, Not a chance.". (sigh)

Flash has never wanted to believe that Peter, who he has never respected, could be his hero. If MJ or Liz wondered where he went, it would be more fitting since they both like him to one degree or another. But then we would have a Lois Lane setup, which we don’t need.

Spider-Man has to hitch a ride home to refill his web-shooters before getting back on the boat and Jonah Jameson's Daily Bugle is tapped for the ransom of the passengers on board.

I expected to see him get a ride across the bridge so he could jump back on the boat. After all, his friends and the other innocent people are at the mercy of the bad guys while he goes some distance to his apartment. Maybe he knows that the Comics Code will protect them.

They make a big deal about Spidey trying to get a ride. He finally winds up jumping on a truck without asking, which is something we’ve seen him do many times before.

At this point, Jameson gets a call from the mayor. He is apparently being extorted to provide the million dollar ransom for the cruise ship. He is threatened that the city will “review the Bugle’s charter,” whatever that means, and that the Bugle might have to shut down. I guess freedom of the press isn’t in the Marvel-USA's Constitution.

To round off the issue with a most unexpected cliff-hanger, Spider-Man finds, standing over him...announced on the cover as -- "The shocking return of a Surprise Super-Villain -- in this issue's Startling Last Panel!"....
"Well, Spider-Man... It seems we meet Again...and this time I'm in control. This time, you have to face ... The Punisher!"

It’s interesting that at this point they are clearly calling Punisher a villain.

I think from the beginning the Punisher was portrayed as a an anti-hero, much in the mold of the Sub-Mariner in first few years of the Marvel era, from his appearance in FF #4 until he got his own series again in '65, although he was often depicted as an outright villain, just not out and out evil in the manner of the Red Skull or Dr. Doom.  Subby was ticked off at the human race for perceived crimes against the Atlantean people.  The Punisher was waging a war against crime, and written as a "take-no-prisoners" sort but not shown as such, clearly due to CCA restraints, otherwise he would not have been using whatever supposed bullets might hurt and knock you out but aren't likely to kill you (which I'm going to take a wild guess and suppose such things only exist in comics).  The Punisher, at this point, is still thinking of Spidey as a villain to be taken down, although that's a clear indicator Mr. Castle had not done any serious studying on Spider-Man to separate Daily Bugle anti-Spidey balderdash from evidential facts, which is something he should have been doing from the start if he truly wanted to avoid executing people who were actually innocent of any serious crimes and become, from any point of view, as bad or worse than the murderers he wanted to take down.  

As to Flash's momentary suspicions, I actually enjoyed that bit in this and the next issue but to my recall Conway dropped that little subplot and I'm not aware of any other writer picking up on that any time up through about 1985.  By this point, I think maybe Flash had come to respect Peter a bit -- he'd already had several encounters with Peter in which he learned first hand that he wasn't nearly as puny as he once thought, including all the way back in issue #8, when Peter knocked him out.  Even if Flash didn't want to admit it in front of his friends, even a supposed "lucky" punch by someone who was genuinely puny should not have put out his lights! Nor could a puny person lift him well off his feet, as Peter did at least once.  Might have made for an interesting story if Flash had figured out Peter's secret and how that would have affected their relationship and if Conway or other writers could have dealt with it in an original way, that didn't result in Flash being killed or losing his memory.

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