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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AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #138 (11/74)
Writer – Gerry Conway                Penciller - Ross Andru
Inker - Frank Giacoia                   background inks - David Hunt
Cover art – Gil Kane & John Romita
   “Madness Means...the Mindworm!"


A quite disturbing cover, clearly a Romita influence but Gil Kane stands his creative ground - note the up the nostrils over Spidey's right knee!


Anybody find those eyes following them around?


The splash has Spider-Man in the rubble that is Peter Parker's apartment - a neat continuity reminder - I like that the reset button is not pressed when things like Harry's bombs go off.


A fast change to Peter is needed as his landlord arrives, "Never mind painting -- never mind plastering-- You Should See The NEXT FLOOR!"
It's a serious moment but it's hilarious!.
"Mr. Parker -- You Are THROUGH! I expect you out by tomorrow morning. Good day sir."
"Good day."


What follows is just as important and almost as hilarious as Peter exhausts his friends trying to find a temporary home..."You heard? You what? You will? I CAN? Thanks Flash. Thanks a lot."


On the way the taxi passes a deserted old house a-la-Psycho.
Peter arrives at Flash's and in that odd house we meet... "I who some men dared call -- The Mindworm!" (He doesn't get a real name here.)


He is an ugly guy, which we shouldn't hold against him (but we do) and he wears the most ridiculous shorts vest and sandals that eliminates any sympathy we may have for him (!).


We realise that this weirdo actually feeds on emotions of those around him.
 Amazing everyone - Peter and Flash actually get along!

"Well -- there's one shattered illusion of my Youth."


Rather than sleep, Peter dons the costume and checks the area only to find everyone in the vicinity sleepwalking towards that mysterious house.


Spidey does feel the same pull, but resists. (Not sure how)


We get a flashback origin for the Mindworm - a spooky mutant who actually killed both parents without feelings and even lobotomised bullies in the orphanage before becoming the hermit he is nowadays.


We do not find out why he waited until Spidey arrives before inviting all his zombie-neighbours round.
He sets the crowd against Spider-Man -

"Kill Him Kill Him Kill Him KILL HIM"


Eventually Spider-Man faces the Mindworm's...um...mind...inside his house and by sheer force of heroic will he resists the mental suggestions and bashes the bad-guy's ears making the ringing he hears interfere with his control of the crowd long enough that the military can surround him.
He gives up after crying he just wanted friends and did not want to be alone...

"It -- It frightens me!"


It's a push to get the story to work but it's kind of more original than bad-guy robs bank and you have to give credit to any done-in-one story especially one that really affects you...this issue reeks of scary weirdness!


One of the most distasteful comic books ever?


Ant-Man fans get an origin story next (kind-of?!)


Come Back...

He looks more like a rat than a worm!

The Mindworm seems very similar to Brain-Child from Avengers #86 (1971). Or even a twisted version of Professor X!

It definitely succeeded in making you dislike the villain. Haven't read this since it came out and I still hate this creature, especially the way he clearly enjoyed killing his parents. This looked a lot like a horror movie, and there were some pretty distasteful ones being made back then, some with creepy demented kids. Anybody remember Jody Foster serving people poisoned tea?

The name might be taken from a Cyril Kornbluth story. One of the commentators at Supermegamonkey notes conceptual resemblances but I've not read the tale.

He was a mutant that absorbed people's emotions as he traveled through Europe. He's finally killed by an angry mob yelling wampyr (vampire) as they attack him.

Richard Mantle said:

We do not find out why he waited until Spidey arrives before inviting all his zombie-neighbours round.

It does seem that he’s gathering the people for the first time. I think this is a writing mistake. It just happens that Spidey was there to witness it. OTOH, if he’d done it before the police would have seen it before.

Out of all the people he was controlling, Mindworm makes a big deal out of how rich and deep Spidey’s emotions are. So now he has spider-powered emotions? I find it hard to believe he’s that much deeper than the scores of people in that crowd. I suppose you could say Mindworm had dulled their emotions since he had been affecting them for a while.

The Mindworm wasn't much of a villain, although certainly creepy enough.  The highlight of this issue, though, was showing Flash, of all people, helping Peter out, something that would have seemed preposterous 100 issues earlier.  But the seeds of the gradual change in their relationship started back when Stan was still writing, showing Flash displaying greater psychological maturity, even when faced with Peter going off like a jealous madman whenever he saw Flash & Gwen together, assuming the worst.

I agree that the evolution of Flash is consistent with the previous groundwork. He has grown up, as has Peter.

My thoughts on:

ASM 137 - If you go back a few pages on this thread, you will see that I said mostly positive things about ASM 136.  I still stand by that.  But part two of this story was just not very good and was a fine example of an issue where Gerry Conway (in my opinion) badly needed an editor to point out the flaws in the story.  I think the last page was well done but the journey to that moment was excruciating.  All of the stuff that happened off panel - Harry kidnapping Aunt May, Mary Jane, and Flash (!) - should have been shown because the obvious question to me is just how did Harry pull that off without attracting attention.  The story could have left out the return to the truck in New Jersey (added nothing to the story), and Spidey going all the way back to his apartment for web cartridges (when he only had 15 minutes to find one of Harry's hostages and save their life).  We are also not shown any of the aftermath - as pointed out, MJ and Flash should have thought it was an odd coincidence that Harry (or the Goblin) kidnapped them and Spidey freed them and the common thread was Peter Parker.  But as far as I know except for a brief and vague reference to Harry next issue in a convo between Peter and Flash, what happened here is never brought up again.  Also weird, why were Jonah and Robbie at the hospital and not Betty and Ned (in addition to Aunt Anna being absent)?  Why did Peter go out of his way to insult Jonah (something else that was never followed up on, btw, which makes zero sense when you think about it)?
Someone asked why Harry never made much of an impression as the Goblin.  I think the answer is the weakness of part 2 of this story, and Harry disappearing from the series for just over a year as Gerry Conway does not use him again.  He also won't be a villainous Green Goblin again until the early 90s, despite several fakeouts along the way.

My thoughts on - 

ASM 138 - I started reading comics in 1979, so I read Mindworm's 2nd appearance, in Spectacular Spider-Man #35, before I read this story (it was reprinted in Marvel Tales 114 in 1980).  The gist of the 1979 story was Mindworm learning to better control his powers and stop being a villain.  He and Spidey parted as friends.  The story was a bit creepy but it had nothing on the original - but reading them out of order meant I wasn't nearly as horrified by #138 as I might have been, as I knew the Mindworm eventually got a happy ending.  It all went over my head in 1980 but I agree this was horror movie territory and the Mindworm was pure evil.  I view him murdering his parents without remorse and lobotomizing his tormentor in the orphanage as chlling.

And of course, Flash and Peter ending their rivalry once and for all and truly becoming friends was the highlight of this story.


Thankyou for joining back in John, - always interesting to see how everyone else feels about each point/issue and especially how we each come to read these issues in the first place.

Thanks


John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

My thoughts on - 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #139 (12/74)
Writer – Gerry Conway                Penciller - Ross Andru
Inker - Frank Giacoia                   background inks - David Hunt
Cover art – Gil Kane & John Romita & Tony Mortellaro
   “Day of the Grizzly!"


It's not a bad attempt at a traditional fight cover but the Grizzly really is a poor example of a Spider-Rogue, all this type of guy have been done to death haven't they? - and surpassed by 'real' beasts like the Wendigo etc.

(I wonder how many readers have sought out this first-appearance having first met Grizzly via the recent Ant-Man series...?)


Oh and ... "Warning: Don't Sneak A Peek At Our Last-Page Appearance of a SURPRISE SUPER-VILLAIN!" -- who did just that then?


Storywise and we open with Spider-Man swinging through the city reminding readers of how he currently has no apartment of his own and is generally miserable, "That's me -- Mr. Masochism 1974!", in fact we get this for three plus pages with even a reference to Marvel Team-Up #28 (- the Infamous Hercules one -which probably should have been best forgotten.)


After that padding we get Peter meeting Liz Allen and checking out an apartment - in a grotty but affordable area.
Interesting that this is Peter and Liz and not MJ and I think it works really well - as a scene it stayed with me forever - "You haveta sort of lean out -- and there she is." - Priceless!

Mrs Muggins being called 'Mammie' never takes does it?-  and do we ever actually get to see her named husband?

Later at the Bugle, Peter's dramatic quitting from #136 is quickly glossed over in time for cover-star villain-of-the-month the Grizzly to burst into the building.
(He mentions a mysterious return...to be explained some other time.)


There is actually quite a ferocity to the force the Grizzly is using and the drama is ramped up strongly so that when Jonah opens his office door to shout at his noisy staff, the reaction - slamming his office door shut again and being uncharacteristically quiet is another comedic delight, even more unexpected as we'd had the Mrs Muggins scene already.


Peter changes to Spidey and approaches from outside as JJ is thrown out the window. Naturally Spidey saves him and he moans about it - this is all by the numbers so far.


Inside and the Spider-Man battles overwealming strength of the Grizzly is very familiar too but (perhaps surprisingly?) the Grizzly seems to win, knocking our hero out.
"My job here is done." says the bad guy and he stomps off...with a Spider-tracer on him from our 'only faking unconciousness' hero who was concerned Jonah may fall outside.
What was the Grizzly's 'job' then? Trash the Bugle? Is that it?


As Peter, Spidey follows the tracer to a posh house and with his Spider-sense rattling loudly he.....sneaks in as Spider-Man/...rings the doorbell!
"Oh! Ah -- Pardon me, could I use your telephone? I'm from out of town, and..."
"Certainly, won't you come in?"
"This has got to be a tra-- Urrrkkk!"


The last page then, the surprise foretold on the cover and the powerful cliff-hanger for this issue is  the return of the Jackal!
Maybe this cliffhanger/shock works so well because the plotting is pretty basic throughout the rest of the issue and we just don't expect anything fresh but I do think it is a genuinely quality surprise and enticing ending.


Longterm officianados will note that the Jackal announces, "wherever Peter Parker is -- Spider-Man Can't Be Far BEHIND!" - again suggesting that at this point Professor Warren has not worked out that they are one and the same - which is a plot point that just doesn't feel right to me if Warren works as the Jackal.


All in all then a wolf-in-sheep's clothing of an issue, seemingly pedestrian but with some clever pacing and some long-lasting memorable scenes.


Come Back...
 

 

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