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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I got this when it was new but had missed the previous issue -- a gap I didn't manage to fill until about a decade later.  Anyhow, this was a fun read, the whole drama of the "return" of Gwen, the comedic take-down of the Scorpio and the on-going mystery of the Jackal.  You bring up a lot of clues Conway scattered in the story that I don't recall noting when my 12 year old self read it back in '75.  As a comics scribe, Conway was a bit hit & miss with me, usually fairly good but not one whose work I really loved reading, at least not in the way I loved the writing of Gerber, Englehart or Starlin back in the day.

Amazing Spider-Man #147 (08/75)
Writer - Gerry Conway Editor - Len Wein
Penciller - Ross Andru Inker - Mike Esposito & Dave Hunt
Cover Art – John Romita
 “The Tarantula Is A Very Deadly Beast!"
I cannot tell who the inker is on this John Romita Snr cover if it is not his own work but it looks a bit more scratchy than his norm. (Almost Gil Kane) Perfectly fine cover though.


The issue opens after Spider-Man's adventure in Giant-Size Spider-Man #5 where he again met the Man-Thing and the Lizard. Not featured in the Masterwork I'm reading along with a little research suggests that there was a small scene with Peter and the Gwen clone where Peter apologised (again) for his reaction to her 'return' and a scene where MJ got excited that Peter called her but disappointed that it was just to say he would be away a while.


So, as we open... he's back. Not that JJ is impressed, "No Pictures? None?"
After being shouted at he chats with friend/colleague Ned Leeds who has been doing more investigating ... "about this Gwen Stacy thing." than Peter has and shows him a doctor's report on her...


We cut to a prison where 'a certain ferry hijacker' has recreated the pointed weapon-shoes of his choice in the prison facilities (no one noticed!) meaning ... "Tonight at last -- The Tarantula Lives Again!" - he even uses the shoes to scale the prison walls and escape. we quickly learn that he has managed to get away due to a fellow villain...the Jackal!!


Not that the Tarantula was ever likely to be ranked among Spider-Man's worst enemies was he? Easily controlled I suppose, he likes orders and causes but is he the best the Jackal could think of?


Another scene change takes us to Aunt May leaving hospital (again!- lets face it, she'll be back soon.) and she takes the opportunity to have a heart to heart with MJ about Peter and Gwen, basically telling MJ to stop waiting for Peter to make his mind up and step up to what she really wants. It's a nice scene.

"y'know lady-- you're pretty together!"

"Well, my goodness-- at my age, I certainly hope so!"


We switch back to Spider-Man, webswinging through town flashbacking to the contents of that report ned showed him... "The girl who turned up in my apartment is Gwen Stacy -- -- sort of. And -- well -- sort of, she's also a clone." - and there it is! The seeds of many many (and too many) plotlines for Spidey since!.
I guess, if we can accept radioactive spiders, Gamma rays and mutants we can sure accept clones, with accelerated growth (somehow) to provide us with copies of people but the next panel adds a layer I still can't get my head around...

"-- Identical to Gwen in every way, even down to her memory. Except -- her memory ENDs a short time before Gwen's Death. Wow. Oh Wow."
I just don't see how that can happen, or be done, never have, never will and although I promise to accept and suspend my belief accordingly - it's annoying.


Peter then worries what if there are many many more Gwens, which is quite apt as we seem to have seen an awful lot over the years since!
Peter gets so worked up he hallucinates Gwen running at him from a mirror store and vents his frustration by smashing things up and shouting a lot... as you do.


It take the arrival of the NYPD blues to jolt him back to his senses but before he can explain or apologise, Tarantula foot-stabs the cops to sleep.
With the Police out of his way the Tarantula attacks Spider-Man, wanting revenge for his imprisonment.
We get a truly beautiful 'in-action' full page spread of Spidey avoiding and hitting Tarantula,

"Don't-- hold--your--breath--'Amigo'!"
Even those who don't rate Ross Andru too highly must like this page - don't they?


As they battle we get a little comedy cameo by a taxi driver who gets his taxi-radiator smashed and kids on a bus happy to be diverted as they get to watch the battle.
Spider-Man begins to wonder if more is going on than first appeared,

"Funny... the Tarantula seems to be running in circles! Now we're back where we started-- but why?"


In reply the Tarantula knocks Spidey into a public bus which seems 'normal' enough except for the unmoved driver who just keeps saying, "Please move to the rear of the bus."
The driver continues without emotion to the next stop where all the terified passengers race off (including the kids we met earlier) and with just Spider-Man, Tarantula and the driver left the bus travels around to another stop where a mystery woman silently gets on... "I Don't Believe It!"
"Gwen! What're you doing here, honey? You can't--"

 --to this appeal from Spidey, Gwen does not react at all. Am I the only one wondering about why Peter isn't worried about his secret identity here? Calling Gwen by name and adding 'honey' in front of the Tarantula seems a little lacksidaysical.


The driver continues his abnormal-normal behaviour requesting the fare from Gwen and Spider-Man realises "You can't be Real! Nobody behaves like you do-- Nobody!"
Finally we get an explanation as the driver whips off a mask to reveal (another mask?) the Jackal beneath! "Nobody 'real' does act the way I do -- -- because no one 'real' is the Jackal!"
This feels like it should have / could have been a cliff-hanger ending... but Conway has more...


As Spider-Man begins to try and figure the Jackal's long-game out, the bus knocks a VW beetle upside-down in a semi-comedy scene which feels like annoying filler as we're becoming breathless for revelations here..."I told you to move the car. George."

The bus stops at the appropriate place -- "--It's the Brooklyn Bridge!" (Of course it is!)


As the Jackal escorts Gwen off the bus the Tarantula spikes Spidey... with a drugged shoe.

"Drugged tip-- --poison speeding through my body -- -- Gwen forgive me -- I-- -- can't-- --uhhhhhh"
I love this panel -  it reminds me of Gil Kane's Harry Osborn under the influence of drugs back in the day.


Even that bubbling fade-to-black is not enough of a cliff-hanger for Conway this issue - Spider-Man wakes up, in chains, on top of the bridge.
Spider-Man still protests that he doesn't understand and asks for explanation from Gwen but she continues to stare blankly, while the Jackal rants away some revelations...

"Don't look to her for help, Spider-Man. She's mine now-- and you can't hurt her anymore! I gave her life-- just as I'm going to give you death-- by Killing you the same way You killed Gwen Stacy Two Years Ago!"
With that, Tarantula kicks our chained off the bridge... an actual cliff-hanger...

"Okay, hero-man... Lets see you get out of this!"
It's a really powerful ending especially having had the tension built up and up throughout the whole issue!


Sifting through his ravings, we've learned a lot about the Jackal in this scene - he cares (in a squewed way) for Gwen personally - 'She's mine now'
He was somehow responsible for the creation of the Gwen-clone "I gave her life" - how does a mad dress-up criminal-type have the scientific knowhow..?
And he knows all about Gwen's actual death as a result of the Spidey/Green Goblin battle rather than any official story the rest of the public would have known.
Who IS this guy?? (Yes, I know we know now...)


I've said it many times I'm sure, the clone-saga gets a (justifiable) bad press but re-reading this initial story -- it's got me gripped!! How about you??


Next Issue (No clues!) "To Be Continued!"


Come Back...

We cut to a prison where 'a certain ferry hijacker' has recreated the pointed weapon-shoes of his choice in the prison facilities (no one noticed!) meaning ... "Tonight at last -- The Tarantula Lives Again!" - he even uses the shoes to scale the prison walls and escape. we quickly learn that he has managed to get away due to a fellow villain...the Jackal!!

 I suppose, if they had more space, they might have shown Tarantula hiding the pointy boots while pretending to work on something else. That doesn’t explain where he got the tranquilizing drug for the guard. (Maybe the artist intended for the guard to be stabbed to death?)

Another scene change takes us to Aunt May leaving hospital (again!- lets face it, she'll be back soon.) and she takes the opportunity to have a heart to heart with MJ about Peter and Gwen, basically telling MJ to stop waiting for Peter to make his mind up and step up to what she really wants. It's a nice scene.

I really enjoyed this discussion between May and MJ. May’s maturity really shines here, instead of showing her doddering and/or sick.

We switch back to Spider-Man, webswinging through town flashbacking to the contents of that report ned showed him... "The girl who turned up in my apartment is Gwen Stacy -- -- sort of. And -- well -- sort of, she's also a clone."

Somehow the doctor can tell she’s a clone. How? A true clone would be like an identical twin sister, but with different fingerprints. Of course, the Jackal’s clones have identical fingerprints and turn to puddles of goo, so maybe they are different. Also, the doctor discovered a human clone and didn’t tell anyone but the reporter who asked him to examine her. When/how did he examine her??

Am I the only one wondering about why Peter isn't worried about his secret identity here? Calling Gwen by name and adding 'honey' in front of the Tarantula seems a little lacksidaysical.

I think Peter is having a very hard time with it all. Tarantula may think Gwen was Spider-Man’s girlfriend. I don’t think he ever heard of Peter Parker. Plus he thinks Spider-Man is going to be dead shortly, so his secret identity is of no interest to him.

The bus stops at the appropriate place -- "--It's the Brooklyn Bridge!" (Of course it is!)

It’s been pointed out that Gwen’s death scene in ASM #121 was drawn as the Brooklyn Bridge but that Spidey's monologue said it was the George Washington Bridge. They look quite different.

I've said it many times I'm sure, the clone-saga gets a (justifiable) bad press but re-reading this initial story -- it's got me gripped!! How about you??

It is a good story at this point, disregarding all of  the oddities in the “clones.” I think they just didn’t know when to stop. The later excesses were also during the speculator madness, with owner Ronald Perelman, die-cut covers and hologram covers, self-distribution, etc. The poor decisions in that period almost destroyed Marvel. They also resulted in the scattered film rights that are still an issue.

Yeah, this story had me gripped all right.  High drama and goofy comedic moments and bad science and all.  In hindsight, Conway was putting in a lot of clues but as of reading this issue when it was brand new off the racks, I still had no idea who the Jackal might be.  As for the Tarantula, how does he walk up steps with those shoes?  I can't help thinking that would be a problem.  Anyhow, back in those days my three favorite comics were Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and the Avengers, and as Conway was writing two of those, I must have found his stories entertaining enough.

Newspaper people have an incredible story, "Exact Double of Dead Girl Says She's Her!" and do nothing with it! 

And Spidey doesn't call in some favors with Reed Richards or Doctor Strange to get some answers!

I think I opined awhile back that the Tarantula walked on his toes like a ballet dancer. I don't think the artists ever showed him standing still or walking.

Amazing Spider-Man #148 (09/75)
Writer - Gerry Conway Editor - Len Wein
Penciller - Ross Andru Inker - Mike Esposito & Dave Hunt
Cover Art – Gil Kane & John Romita
  “Jackal, Jackal... Who's got the Jackal?"


Ignoring the fact that basically this is a big close-up of Spidey's rear-end getting closer and closer, it is a very well composed cover. The action of the piece is obvious and the perspective wonderful to accentuate the falling while still showing the main players and their part in the story. Such a clever use of the moon-as-spotlight and the sky behins the logo.
Also, it's Gil Kane inked by John Romita. 'Nuff Said.
We are promised on the cover -

"Revealed At Last! The shattering Secret of The JACKAL!"


The splash page is a flip of this cover, looking down on the falling Spidey from our villain's viewpoint, Tarantula claims, "This is the End of Spider-Man!" while the Jackal cackles in victory and Gwen continues to stare blankly.
Actually, the Jackal's cackle is a bit too much, he's beginning to veer into Joker territory if Conway doesn't reign it in a tad.


How does our hero escape? He naturally tries his web-shooters first but due to the chains, he misses. I love that - no easy way out for Spidey!.- Also he quips to himself that with the mystery of Gwen Stacy unsolved, if he died now, "I'd never be able to live with myself!" - Now that's my Spidey right there.


Finally he manages to snag a pipe under the bridge and switches his momentum into swinging like a pendulum which is sheer genius and again we see that even the best plans don't always work out for our hero - 'everyman' as he is, when he cannot control the swing, smashes into the bridge pillar and is knocked out.
As he is left limply hanging, NYPD cops close in on the three amigos on the bridge and the Jackal again shows off his scientific know-how by piecing together various gismos he had hidden inside Gwen's jacket (!) to make a portable jet pack fuelled by packs packed in her purse! They fly away to safety, leaving Spidey behind.
It is clever, it highlights what makes the Jackal different to other masked villains and reinforces that he tends to always have a back-up plan. (A back-up back-pack you might say! Sorry.)


The cops collect and free Spider-Man , preparing for the media praise they feel will result in promotion and fame, "...I always wondered how I'd look on TV..." and removing the chains before the Commissioner etc arrive to show how in control they were only for Spider-Man to reveal he was playing possum until they freed him of the shackles and he could escape - which he duly does leaving the glory-hunting cop dressed down in a flip of the scene he was hoping for. It's light-hearted but believable and grounded. That's what I love about this period all over.


The pace and the scene changes as we pick up Peter Parker, later, arriving home to find MJ waiting for him, "Hey! The man remembers my Name!"
Peter is kind of out of it in exhaustion and despite a wonderfully empassioned rant from MJ ending in a, "What I'm saying to you, Parker, is this: It's HER -- or it's ME. Either YOU get yourself TOGETHER-- or I'll get you together MYSELF! ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?"
(By the way, the ':' is in the lettering - who uses a colon in comics speech bubbles? Incredible!)
Unfortunately, Peter slams the door on MJ but then - and in another clever use of the published page as the reader has to turn the page like opening that slammed door - Peter finally realises what's going on, "Good lord... what have I done?" and of course, as soon as he turns back to look for her, she's gone. It's a great scene.


He runs himself a bath, gets a ring from his door bell and hopes it's his lady, - the disappointment panel is a peach, "Mary Ja-- Oh. Hello, Ned."
Ned explains his thoughts on the Gwen mystery, which neatly sums thing up for the readers. Ned asks the plot questions, interrupted by Peter asking the humdrum questions about making him coffee.

Nice exchange.

It does lead to Peter making that final connection between living cells needed for cloning and Gwen - samples were taken from the entire class (entire class, hmmm, that might be important...) by Professor Warren's 'assistant' for biology class... "Including GWEN!" It's a lightbulb moment (and actually works well, it is a 'believable' event) and they race off to talk to that nice Professor Warren who'll no doubt want to help...
"Uh-- but before we do-- maybe I'd better put some pants on--!"


They meet with the Professor but Peter fumbles in his explaining and eventually they get to the samples which the Professor shows them... "That's odd. The specimens are gone."
Immediately Professor Warren suggests the culprit - his before-mentioned (but never before that if you're with me) assistant "-- Anthony Serba", who we are told disappeared some months ago (coincidentally just about when the Jackal started to appear!)
Serba is drawn as a sad, mouselike, weaselish type of guy - easily accepted as the slimey-villainish zealot we must think the Jackal is. (Misdirection Genius)


Later and Peter has switched to Spider-Man to search Serba's place and finds it to be an abandoned factory. In the dark he uses his (not seen often enough!) Spider-signal belt torch to search and eventually finds... the Tarantula!
This confirms the link between Serba and the Jackal as they fight, "Dance, Amigo! Dance -- Or Die!"
They dance.
They jump/fall out a window, "IEeee! Gringo-- Are you trying to kill us both?"


On the rooftops the fight continues until Tarantula launches himself pointy-feet-first but misses and impales his feet into a water tank behind a billboard which leads to a comedy scene of the water flooding out the billboard - a beer can- and pouring onto the defeated Tarantula, "Game... Set... and Match."
We're expecting the issue ending now and the laughter track...


Suddenly the Jackal attacks, slashing the back of Spider-Man's head again - amazingly without triggering his Spider-sense in time.
While Spidey wonders out loud how this could be, we get the set-up for the scene, the Jackal has brought hypnotised-Gwen and tied-up Ned Leeds along as Spider-Man falls victim to the drugged claws.
At last... the secret is revealed...!
"I think it's only fair you know why I could surprise you. after all, your famed Spider-Sense only protects you against enemies, not 'friends' -- " - he begins to remove his mask..." -- and dear boy, haven't I always been your Friend?"
"Professor Warren! The JACKAL Is -- PROFESSOR WARREN!"


Ok. No hype. It is one hellova reveal and cliff-hanger!


So, dynamic storytelling and pacing by Conway and Andru with pitch-perfect characterisation AND a compelling story.
What else can I say? Was ANYONE expecting this when first read?
I keep saying it - regardless of all the fallout stories that this produced - this is truely EPIC.


Next Issue "And on that somewhat bizarre not, Ladies and gentlemen, we take our leave -- promising to conclude this six-part story (six-parts? A clone story in only six-parts? Those really were the days!) in our next startling issue, with a tale entitled: Even If I Live-- I Die!" Believe Us Tiger -- It's A WOW!"


Come Back...

Richard Mantle said:

….the Jackal again shows off his scientific know-how by piecing together various gismos he had hidden inside Gwen's jacket (!) to make a portable jet pack fuelled by packs packed in her purse! They fly away to safety, leaving Spidey behind.

This reminds me of a standard weakness in most comics. A medical doctor is always every kind of medical specialist. A scientist (like Warren) is every kind of scientist. A chemist wouldn’t automatically know how to make miniaturized jetpacks, when jetpacks themselves are still experimental, even all these years later.

The cops collect and free Spider-Man , preparing for the media praise they feel will result in promotion and fame, "...I always wondered how I'd look on TV..." and removing the chains before the Commissioner etc arrive to show how in control they were only for Spider-Man to reveal he was playing possum until they freed him of the shackles and he could escape - which he duly does leaving the glory-hunting cop dressed down in a flip of the scene he was hoping for. It's light-hearted but believable and grounded. That's what I love about this period all over.

Spidey has a lot of dumb luck. If the cops hadn’t talked themselves out of unmasking him or talked themselves into unchaining him, Spidey would have been up that well-known creek.

Unfortunately, Peter slams the door on MJ but then - and in another clever use of the published page as the reader has to turn the page like opening that slammed door - Peter finally realises what's going on, "Good lord... what have I done?" and of course, as soon as he turns back to look for her, she's gone. It's a great scene.

I agree. A very clever scene. Heaven knows Peter has every right to be completely out of it.

Ned explains his thoughts on the Gwen mystery, which neatly sums thing up for the readers. Ned asks the plot questions, interrupted by Peter asking the humdrum questions about making him coffee.
Nice exchange.

His interaction with Ned was very natural and also advanced the story.

Serba is drawn as a sad, mouselike, weaselish type of guy - easily accepted as the slimey-villainish zealot we must think the Jackal is. (Misdirection Genius)

Agreed. Misdirection like this is seldom seen and seldom done as well.

Later and Peter has switched to Spider-Man to search Serba's place and finds it to be an abandoned factory. In the dark he uses his (not seen often enough!) Spider-signal belt torch to search and eventually finds... the Tarantula!

Last time I said we never see Tarantula standing still. We do here. Now I say we never see him walking normally. I still say he has to walk like a ballet dancer.

"I think it's only fair you know why I could surprise you. after all, your famed Spider-Sense only protects you against enemies, not 'friends' -- "

They used this reasoning in another issue to explain how Aunt May could brain him with a vase. Leaving aside how Warren could have inside knowledge of his spider-sense, it is supposed to alert him to danger. Danger is danger, regardless of the source.

Was ANYONE expecting this when first read?

I read this in 1975, so I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think I suspected Warren. I don’t think they telegraphed his lust for Gwen this early.

“A scientist (like Warren) is every kind of scientist. A chemist wouldn’t automatically know how to make miniaturized jetpacks…”

With the exception of the Professor from Gilligan’s Island.

That guy could have made a jetpack from a pair of coconuts. :)

But not a boat! :-)

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“A scientist (like Warren) is every kind of scientist. A chemist wouldn’t automatically know how to make miniaturized jetpacks…”

With the exception of the Professor from Gilligan’s Island.

That guy could have made a jetpack from a pair of coconuts. :)

It always bothered me when villains are revealed to be normal guys with no powers who can beat up those with powers!

At this point, I don't think Warren (or Tarantula) is shown beating Spidey physically. They both stick him with tranquilizers, followed by the time-honored decision to kill him later.

Philip Portelli said:

It always bothered me when villains are revealed to be normal guys with no powers who can beat up those with powers!

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