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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Surely the 'blame' if there is any here in getting Wolverine wrong is more down to the writing here ? As that is Len Wein who wrote that first 'All-New' appearance I think it shows the difference in approaches to Wolverine before he settled down into more of the guy we've known since.

Wein seems to write this exchange as almost a pastiche of Lee and Kirby's Thing and Torch with Wolverine being boreish and glib.

Of course of this encounter has have been written much later than it was / more recently -- Spider-Man would be much smaller and skinnier, wisecracking continually regardless of the deaths around him , the Punisher would be drawn more buffed and square-jawed with a gun ten-times as big while speaking in gruff single words only and Nightcrawler would not be here - naturally Wolverine would be the guest star , all hairy arms and bad-attitude.

This version is a breath of fresh air.

Amazing Spider-Man #162 (11/76)
Writer - Len Wein - Editor Penciller - Ross Andru
Inker - Mike Esposito Background inks - David Hunt
Cover Art – Ross Andru & John Romita
   "Let The Punisher Fit The Crime!"
Andru gets a cover - although this feels much more a Romita influence IMHO.
It is a wonderfully constructed cover with the characters, the threat, the context and the art perfectly blended - especially if you ignore/forgive the cable-bending-under-the-weight-of-Nightcrawler faux-par.


So, we open wonderfully where we left off, this time from the Punisher's P.O.V and via his War Journal narration.
Spidey and the Punisher fight inside the cable car as they are shot upon by unknown snipers and Nightcrawler strains himself 'Bamfing' to the bridge in search of their enemy. Our heroes realise they are not the murderers being sought last issue and a tentative team-up is forged.

The bad guys are lost and everyone splits up for a sub-plot.
At their University Mary Jane gives Peter Parker the cold shoulder (again!) for ditching her before - it's all familiar stuff.
Less familiar is Jonah Jameson on campus...where he meets (1st appearance alert!) Dr Marla Madison and intrigues her with an offer ... "...to help me Destroy the wall-crawling menace called Spider-Man?"
This will become a very important scene and Marla an important character in many an issue to come...


Next day then and we get back to the hero action. I think the break in the action was a mistake, there was no need for everyone to go home rather than track the murderers just so Peter could see JJ - in fact the JJ scene could have just played out while the searching was going on. I have no idea why it didn't play out that way - the pacing gets shot to pieces.


Spider-Man gets himself jumped by bad-guys in an alley and during a street-party he gets presented on chained-up display by gunmen working for their boss we are introduced to... Jigsaw!
He's called Jigsaw because of his badly patched up face after being pushed through a plate-glass window as a nobody-thug by the Punisher...! So, it's personal see?
It's all very Dick Tracey but it's comics it kind of works!


Jigsaw threatens to kill Spidey if the Punisher doesn't surrender and Nightcrawler returns having hidden himself among the bad guys for a while (and since page 15 as we are informed by a fun editorial panel.)
"The Time has come for Nightcrawler to join the Fray!"


The Punisher breaks cover (using 'rubber bullets' at this point note!), Spidey breaks his chains and Jigsaw...runs away onto a fire-truck, eventually getting caught up in the hose and crashing. No, honestly.
"Then I guess that just about Does it."


It's a satisfactory second part to a rattling good two-parter with nice characters, incredible art and solid storytelling (except for the forced sub-plot narrative break!)
The Punisher works as hard-nosed but careful-not-to-kill - he does not HAVE to be grim, gritty and violent and this proves it.
Nightcrawler never blossomed from the early New-X-Men into a successful solo-act like Wolverine eventually did but he is well served here and an interesting guest-character.


I remembered this story with fondness and on re-reading I think it deserves praise.


Next Issue..." All The Kingpin's Men!"


Come Back...

I finally reread ASM #162. I pretty much agree with your observations and this time didn't find anything else to quibble about. It was well executed. 

Same here.

Hey Richard and everyone, I've been meaning to jump back into this thread for a while.  Some of my thoughts on this two-parter:

- Len Wein was a good writer, although I have to say I prefer his DC work to his Marvel output.  In these two issues and during the course of his ASM run, his sub-plots are his main strength.  He does a good job with Peter Parker and the supporting cast.  I found the main story a bit weak; felt like a typical Marvel Team-Up issue of the era - misunderstanding fight between heroes, check; lame villain, check.  Jigsaw was pretty forgettable.  And after seeing Spidey take down gangs of run of the mill thugs numbering a dozen or more at a time, I just can't buy two of them getting the drop on him.

- I know Ross Andru has his fans, but I am just not one of them.  He drew ugly faces, and heads vastly out of proportion to bodies.  He also drew Spidey in various weird stances, not a good weird like Steve Ditko, just odd and unexciting weird poses.

- As Richard pointed out, this is very early in the run of the All-New X-Men.  It's interesting to see only a cameo of Wolverine, at first acting nothing like we think of him today or even remember him from the late 70s/early 80s and beyond.  Also interesting though is him going from being a jerk, almost a buffoon, to deadly serious a few panels later, ready to carve up his teammate.  That was accurate.  In the early issues, Wolverine seemed constantly to be on the verge of snapping or turning on his fellow X-Men.  If I remember correctly, it wouldn't be until John Byrne became the artist that Wolverine actually would kill - and also became less hostile to his teammates.

- I always wondered if featuring Nightcrawler in ASM was a test to see how popular he was.  He had a few similarities to Spidey and you could do a lot of few things with him.  But he rarely appeared outside of the X-Men books on his own.  I believe he was Dave Cockrum's creation and favorite character.

- In case I didn't mention it before, Jigsaw was terrible.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“Peter ditches MJ much to her annoyance…”

Continuity implants (in this case, that MJ always knew Peter Parker’s secret) never work.

I'll second this.  That was always a dumb retcon in my opinion.  There are numerous Mary Jane sequences like this - and thought balloons of hers - that totally contradict the idea that she knew all along that Peter was Spider-Man.

Nightcrawler was one of Cockrum's suggestions for new Legionnaires when he was at DC. I think the article here has images of his original design pages. They show he devised his powers as well as his name and appearance.

I believe his upbeat, swashbuckling personality was Chris Claremont's contribution, but it seems evident it was part of what Cockrum liked about him. He did a 1981 solo Nightcrawler story with Mary Jo Duffy for Bizarre Adventures #27, and wrote and drew the 1985 Nightcrawler mini. They both have a lot of humour.

I think the article here has images of his original design pages. They show he devised his powers as well as his name and appearance.

I tried the CBR site on my laptop and my phone. The only way to see the images (for me) was to tell it to open the images one-by-one in a new tab. I had to right-click on the blank spaces where the images were supposed to appear.

Thanks, Richard. You can also get a look at them via Google by doing a site search for the page url and clicking on "Images". You do a site search by prefacing the url with < site: >. So e.g. a site search of the IMDB for pages with "Clint Eastwood" would read < "Clint Eastwood" site:imdb.com >.

Amazing Spider-Man #163 (12/76)
Writer - Len Wein - Editor Penciller - Ross Andru
Inker - Mike Esposito Background inks - David Hunt
Cover Art – Dave Cockrum & John Romita
   "All The Kingpin's Men!"
Dave Cockrum on a Spidey cover!

Actually it's all very Romita-esque if you ask me. I guess the Spidey pose is not typical of Romita but this doesn't scream Dave Cockrum at me - early in his career I guess.


The cover also kind of sums up the issue... it's all a bit familiar isn't it? This one looks like it could have been a panel out of almost any previous Kingpin Vs Spider-Man issue.


Ross Andru inside opens with his Spider-Man catching a ride on a truck roof rather than his usual web-swinging splash page and it helps to explain why our hero was looking skyward to notice a passing helicopter of a strange design that piques his interest. He begins to connect the dots as he watches the copter steal a truck and recognises the inhabitants uniforms.


Having stolen a 'gizmo' they were after the bad guys let the truck... and Spidey, fall to the ground. Unable to swing away as there are no buildings Spider-Man does not have time to web up a parachute (?) so webs himself into a ball and absorbs some impact with a bounce.
It's a bit forced but at least they're trying to do something original.
"Ouch. Ouch.Ouch! OUCH!"
As they fly away the Kingpin mysterious bad-guy boss swears he'll have his day.


Spider-Man changes to Peter and takes flowers round to Mary Jane only to find her out. He returns home plucking petals from the flowers as he goes.
"She loves me......not?" is really funny.
"Aw, what does a bunch of stupid flowers know anyway?"


Peter finally reaches his apartment to find... all his friends "Surprise!!" having collected/donated an eclectic mix of unwanted items to help finally furnish his place!
It's a great scene and hilarious mix of items!
"And nobody had any use for Big-Chief Down-In-The-Mouth here? You're Kidding."


As the party goes on Peter tries to talk to MJ but ends up retreating to the kitchen and then to his roof to contemplate his life and loves.
Liz Allen and Harry Osborn use the same roof for their own relationship moment and are much happier than Peter. Good for them we all agree.


We then get a scene change and an overt continuity mention of Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man issue #1 which occurs mid issue here. FYI I'm going to just carry on with Amazing issues in this thread.


Spider-Man eventually picks up clues to enter a warehouse where he confronts/is confronted by...

"The Kingpin!"
It's not much of a shock reveal in the story context let alone after the cover..!


They have a fight (yawn) during which Kingy does hit Spidey with a desk as per the cover which I always applaud but it's all very by-the-numbers ending in Spider-Man being gassed by the tie-pin.
Okay, so the set-up was not so great but here we finally are at the cliff-hanger/plot point.


Spider-Man wakes up securely strapped down to a table and machine next to another male similarly connected.
The Kingpin explains that "We are going to steal that which is most dear to you-- so that he might live again! In just one moment, Spider-Man -- we are going to steal your Life!"
There's the cliff-hanger!


So who is the mystery man that Spidey's life is to be taken and given to?
How will our hero get out of this?
Maybe next issue'll be a bit more (other than the Peter Parker stuff) original.?


Next Issue Deadline!"


Come Back...

It's stories like this that made the Kingpin a much better villain for Daredevil than he was for Spider-Man.  For the fight scene depicted here to work, either the Kingpin has super strength, or Spidey does not have super strength or his Spidey sense.  I can buy Fisk being a strong guy, and a good fighter, heck I can even buy him picking up a desk and trying to use it as a weapon.  But thanks to his Spidey sense and speed, our hero is long out of harm's way before said desk makes contact.  I could never buy Kingpin and Spidey being evenly matched in a fight for more than ten seconds before Spidey cuts loose and easily wins.  Daredevil as a superbly trained fighter but lacking super strength was actually an underdog in a physical confrontation with Kingpin; plus Fisk was more intelligent in Miller's DD, so those tales were much more enjoyable for me.
It also leaves me a bit sour on a story when the villain is revealed on the cover, and in this case, also in the title of the issue, but is still treated as a mystery foe for several pages before the "shocking" reveal.  Speaking of non-mysteries, I'm thinking unless #163 was one's first ever Spidey comic, guessing who was in the next table was pretty easy.
Methinks writer Len Wein didn't get a lot of oversight from editor (checks notes), er, Len Wein here.
I did enjoy the scenes with Peter and the supporting characters.  Glory Grant was a good addition to the cast, too bad she wasn't used more.

Richard Mantle said:

Actually it's all very Romita-esque if you ask me. I guess the Spidey pose is not typical of Romita but this doesn't scream Dave Cockrum at me - early in his career I guess.

Was this the time that Romita was laying-out all of Marvel’s covers?

Ross Andru inside opens with his Spider-Man catching a ride on a truck roof rather than his usual web-swinging splash page and it helps to explain why our hero was looking skyward to notice a passing helicopter of a strange design that piques his interest.

Spidey riding on the truck was a neat idea.

Unable to swing away as there are no buildings Spider-Man does not have time to web up a parachute (?) so webs himself into a ball and absorbs some impact with a bounce.
It’s a bit forced but at least they’re trying to do something original.

They didn’t say it, but he may have been too close to the ground for a parachute to work. I suppose if the webbing was thick enough it might work as a ball. More suspension of disbelief.

Peter finally reaches his apartment to find… all his friends “Surprise!!” having collected/donated an eclectic mix of unwanted items to help finally furnish his place!
It’s a great scene and hilarious mix of items!

This is a delightful surprise, but Gloria Grant continues to be an apparently perfect person, and thus still uninteresting. Did she ever get thought balloons?

As the party goes on Peter tries to talk to MJ but ends up retreating to the kitchen and then to his roof to contemplate his life and loves.

I note that when Peter gets up to storm out Mary Jane seems to be regretting her treatment of him.

So who is the mystery man that Spidey's life is to be taken and given to?
How will our hero get out of this?
Maybe next issue'll be a bit more (other than the Peter Parker stuff) original.?

As time went along, the Peter Parker subplots tended to be more interesting. The next part should be better.

As John implied, the writers "editing" themselves was seldom a good idea. Similarly, the later concept that artists don't need writers was also seldom a good idea.

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