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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Judge Dredd was the Punisher re-imagined in a world where he WAS the law, as well as judge, jury and executioner.  In the Marvel color funnybook world (as opposed to the b&w magazines), in the meantime, the Punisher had to wait for the advent of comics shops becoming the main source of comics sales and the CCA becoming essentially meaningless before he could be sold in standard comicbooks as even a hero not playing with a full deck as while the CCA might have let Conan do some bloodletting in a world set in the distant past against other barbarians, monsters and evil wizards, it would have been another thing entirely for a costumed "hero" in the modern world to be going out of his way to execute bad guys, particularly when it couldn't be excused as a matter of either immediate self-defense or preventing the murder of an innocent person.  In the 1960s, the Question could get away with not going out of his way to rescue bad guys who had put themselves in danger through their own misdeeds but to my knowledge in Ditko's stories for Charlton, the Question was never shown purposely or directly killing any bad guys.  And in the wake of Miller's run on Daredevil, in the O'Neil/Byrne story for the 200th issue they felt compelled to distinguish DD from characters like the Punisher and the Question by showing that even when he clearly had good reasons of self-defense to let Bullseye, who was very much a murderer, apparently fall to his death, DD still felt wracked with guilt about it.  

Of course, the point has been brought up with such a stance by characters like Daredevil or Batman of how they can take the guilt when a baddie like Bullseye or the Joker goes on the loose again and goes on yet another killing spree.  There have certainly been real life parallels to that dilemma, but it's more a conceit of popular comics featuring characters that have been around for decades and their most popular rogues who from the '70s onward become ever more vicious, becoming locked in a never-ending cycle of going on murder sprees, captured or apparently dying, then getting loose or magically coming back to life to start the next cycle, like Ralph the Coyote and Sam the Sheepdog in ye olde WB cartoons, clocking in to work to fight all day until the whistle blows, going home to rest then coming back the next day to do it all over again.

Fred W. Hill said:

In the 1960s, the Question could get away with not going out of his way to rescue bad guys who had put themselves in danger through their own misdeeds but to my knowledge in Ditko's stories for Charlton, the Question was never shown purposely or directly killing any bad guys.

When Azrael took over as Batman following Bruce Wayne's back surgery courtesy of Bane, he was portrayed as a merciless type. Like The Question, the worst thing he ever did was let a bad guy fall instead of saving him.

....becoming locked in a never-ending cycle of going on murder sprees, captured or apparently dying, then getting loose or magically coming back to life to start the next cycle, like Ralph the Coyote and Sam the Sheepdog in ye olde WB cartoons, clocking in to work to fight all day until the whistle blows, going home to rest then coming back the next day to do it all over again.

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After Gerry used him in the first few issues of Spectacular Spider-Man, Tarantula appeared in an issue of Captain America not long after and then wasn't used again until Roger Stern brought him back in 1982 in ASM 233.  Stern made it clear he thought the Tarantula was not in Spidey's league at all and has our hero easily manhandle a villain he calls a "second-rater".  A few issues later, Stern mutates him into a spider-like monster (the Brand Corporation tried to give him spider-powers like you know who) and then kills him off.

Gerry Conway returned to Marvel in the late 1980's (after leaving Marvel with SSM #2 in 1977) and one of the first things he does is create a new Tarantula with a similar origin and the same costume - but this guy is given the super-soldier formula too.

And he returned again awhile back to work on Spider-Man again.

.AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #136 (09/74)
Writer – Gerry Conway                Penciller - Ross Andru
Inker - Frank Giacoia                   background inks - David Hunt
Cover art – John Romita
   “The Green Goblin Lives Again!"


A well balanced Romita cover showcasing both the Goblin Vs Spidey and Harry Vs Peter - although the colouring muddies it up a bit and the end result is duller than it deserves.


The splash page shouts - "To put it mildly... This Is The One You've Been Waiting For!" - and for once - that's accurate!


We open on a light note, with MJ and Peter enjoying an ice-cream on a date-day as the conversation soon turns to their fear that her ex-boyfriend, Harry, is a tad jealous of their romance..."He's still pretty touchy about the two of us dating isn't he?" - and as they enter ... Peter's apartment explodes!! "KARA-BOOM!"
"My Apartment -- it's completely Demolished!"


It is a powerful scene and the devastation is widespread.

MJ is knocked unconscious and as he waits for the emergency services, Peter hurriedly packs his more obvious Spider-Man costumes and equipment in webbing and throws it on a nearby roof to keep his secret safe.
(Continuity buffs take note - this is the kit the Jackal eventually uses to costume up the clone.)


Later, as Peter checks on MJ at the hospital he hallucinates/remembers previous girlfriend Gwen Stacey and how their relationship led to her death and a wonderful (Gil Kane -like?) flashback full page fills in new readers on them and on the death of the Green Goblin.


Convinced that while Norman Osborn is dead the Goblin may yet live - Spider-Man searches old hide-outs until he finds one, staged with fake dust - "Blech! It's like dry soap - - As fake as the proverbial three dollar bill!" (Always liked that scene - detective-Spidey we don't see enough) and so he waits... and waits... until...
"Holy Cow! It's Really HIM -- The GREEN GOBLIN Lives Again!"
It is a wonderfull and powerful two-page entrance after the slow burn introduction.

Glorious!


Harry as the Goblin is much more adept than we or Spidey expect and the fight is well matched but it soon seems Spidey has the Goblin on the ropes ...only to fall - drugged by tainted Glider-exhaust.
Harry-Goblin rants how Peter deserves to die and aims his finger blasters at our helpless hero...only... for them to not work!
It's a cliched pause in the action leading to the Goblin retreating and threatening much on his return, "You have a reprieve, Wall-crawler... but only a temporary one."
..."...Leaving behind a very worried costumed hero."


The issue actually closes though, with a raving angry Peter Parker storming out of the Bugle... "From now on, Peter Parker goes it alone... ...and believe me, lady... I wouldn't want it any other way."
It is a dark close and promises more darkness to come.


So, he's back! Finally, after all the suggestions since his father's death - Harry has hit the ground running as the Green Goblin! I quite like this as a return of the character and mad-Harry fits the role nicely. I would like more of an explanation (the Goblin serum?) for Harry being such an adept fighter than 'he's been training' but otherwise this is a good legacy handover.


We all know it doesn't exactly last  - and I'm in the - 'that's a shame' camp.


Loads of credit should be given to Ross Andru here, his sense of storytelling and pace is perfect through the bomb blast and the reveal and there is something about his depiction of the Goblin that suggests a slighter frame than Norman, more evocative of Harry under the mask.

Perfect attention to detail.


So, MJ is in hospital, Peter's pad is blown up, he's shouting at the few friends he's got left... and Harry is out as the Goblin - in full possession of all Peter's secrets!

Come Back...
 
 

So what exactly went wrong? Why does Harry ultimately prove to be such a disappointing Green Goblin?

Richard Mantle said:

We open on a light note, with MJ and Peter enjoying an ice-cream on a date-day …..

I don’t think we’ve seen Peter and MJ on an actual date before and they seem to imply it’s not their first. Peter saying they “caught a kung fu flick” jumped out at me. I thought the word “flick” wasn’t allowed by the CCA due to printing quality and block letters. Were they continuing to liberalize or did they just miss it?

Mary Jane’s licking of her ice cream cone (with visible tongue) on page 2 is something they probably wouldn’t have approved previously.

…. as the conversation soon turns to their fear that her ex-boyfriend, Harry, is a tad jealous of their romance..."He's still pretty touchy about the two of us dating isn't he?" - and as they enter ... Peter's apartment explodes!! "KARA-BOOM!"
"My Apartment -- it's completely Demolished!"

A nice use of Peter’s spider-sense here. The way it’s supposed to work.

Convinced that while Norman Osborn is dead the Goblin may yet live - Spider-Man searches old hide-outs until he finds one….

Peter says “if there’s any sign of a disturbance, I’ll know that someone’s been fooling around with the Goblin’s old equipment.”

It occurs to me that if Peter knew about Goblin hideouts with his equipment therein, he should have been proactive and removed and destroyed the equipment.

"Holy Cow! It's Really HIM -- The GREEN GOBLIN Lives Again!"
It is a wonderfull and powerful two-page entrance after the slow burn introduction.
Glorious!

I’m reading from the photographed original issues on CD-ROM. The two-page spread has a distracting white gap in the middle. The staples ideally would have been between these two pages, allowing the printing of a single picture, but instead they were between the previous two pages. There were three text/advert double page interruptions earlier in the book. If one of these had been repositioned after the two-page spread it would have looked a lot better.

Harry as the Goblin is much more adept than we or Spidey expect and the fight is well matched but it soon seems Spidey has the Goblin on the ropes ...only to fall - drugged by tainted Glider-exhaust.
Harry-Goblin rants how Peter deserves to die and aims his finger blasters at our helpless hero...only... for them to not work!
It's a cliched pause in the action leading to the Goblin retreating and threatening much on his return, "You have a reprieve, Wall-crawler... but only a temporary one."

So I’m the Green Goblin. I can’t kill Spider-Man because my finger blasters have run out of power. He’s drugged and at my mercy but I can’t think of another way to kill him? I guess I really am crazy!

I would like more of an explanation (the Goblin serum?) for Harry being such an adept fighter than 'he's been training' but otherwise this is a good legacy handover.

Was the Goblin serum even mentioned this early in the canon? I think it was introduced to help explain Norman’s madness and to justify his increased strength, but I think it came along later.

At this point, Harry had no contact with the Goblin serum.

He put up a good fight because Spidey was 1) still recuperating from the explosion, 2) in shock at seeing the Green Goblin again and 3) not fighting Harry with his full strength.

And Harry doesn't want to kill Peter....yet. Now he wants him to suffer!

Since by this time they could tell us Hawkeye's first name was Clint, the Code probably permitted flick as well.

I remember wondering why Peter was leaving the Goblin's stuff lying around. How did he know where the hide outs were? Did Norman tell him about all of them? Seems he would have shown him one and claimed it was his only hide out. What's to stop other supervillains or even just random generic punks from finding that equipment and walking off with it? Peter has said he never did figure out how the finger blasters worked so it's not surprising Harry can't figure them out either.

I recall a hilarious spoof in The Comics Journal about a Marvel comic, created after one Christmas party in 1966 at which much alcohol was consumed, featuring the fabulous FLICKER-MAN and his amazing FLICKER-GUN and FLICKING abilities which lasted all of one issue and is soooo rare that if anyone could find an intact copy it would be worth a small fortune.

Anyhow, yep, this was a classic although a bit goofy -- I thought Harry's gloves running out of their deadly sparkle zappers was a bit too convenient too when I first read this back in '74.  And compared to old Norman, Harry's Goblin did look rather scrawny.  I do think it made sense that Harry didn't really become Spidey's new arch-nemesis in his father's place.  With him knowing that Peter is Spider-Man, the choices were to (1) repeat ad naseum the amnesia/recovered memory gambit that had been used with the elder Osborn since issue #40; (2) kill Harry off permanently; (3) have Harry reveal Spidey's identity to the world, have everyone believe it and drastically change the nature of the comic and Peter's life; or (d) well, we'll see that next issue.  In a manner of speaking, in later decades they would resort to both (1) and (2) and Peter himself revealing his secret identity to the world resulted in one of what I'd rate as the 2nd worst Spidey story in which he makes a deal with Mephisto (the story in which it's revealed that Gwen had twins by Norman is my candidate for the worst).

Oh,and to me that dialogue by Peter on the cover is highly dramatic and ridiculous as by this point it had long been made clear that although Peter and Harry were still sharing that apartment, they were no longer on friendly terms and having Pete shout, "It can't be you who has turned against me!  It can't be!!" just doesn't ring true for anyone who had been reading the mag regularly since #122.  But, it does point to the gist of the drama of the conflict within and that this isn't just a regular Spidey vs another costumed cut-up of the month to anyone who was new to the series in 1974.  The fact that Peter had not yet moved out despite the growing tension between him and Harry and increasing signs that Harry was going over the edge, indicates that Peter was avoiding the reality of a bad situation.  Doesn't seem Peter was even considering the possibility that Harry would be in the apartment and that him showing up with M.J. might result in an angry confrontation.

Nope. Why should Harry have a problem with "my best friend and my girl! Together!" Gee, I can't see why that would make him angry.

The last thing we need is a return of (1).

This is a pretty good one, a decent effort all around.  I've mentioned it before, re-reading this thread has given me a new perspective on Gerry Conway's writing and Ross Andru's art - they have both grown on me.

Pete and MJ dating seems to come out of the blue until you remember she's been working on getting him out of his shell since Gwen's death.  Not everything has to happen on panel after all.  But there is one flub in the dialogue - Mary Jane did not know Peter in high school, darnit!  He was already in college when she met him.  Peter enrolled in college in Ditko's final year on the book (#31 I think); MJ debuts in John Romita's fourth issue (#42 as we all know).

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