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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Richard Mantle said:

It's a well constructed if familiar cover by Romita but are we really supposed to believe his allies are REAL and not the Mysterio illusions we know they will be?
I feel like I'm being insulted as an intelligent reader. Shame.

Well, if you were a new reader at the time who didn’t know anything about Mysterio you might pick up the book because of the variety of bad guys depicted. I don’t think a Spidey fan would be insulted enough to pass it up.

…. the tone darkens as Spidey drives through understated but ominous mist which confuses him enough to force him to accidentally drive into the sea - building a menacing plot whilst convieniently disposing of the Spider-Mobile which was forced on the writer and (universally?) hated!

Just before he steals the guy’s lunch Spidey comments that he has to “salvage” the Spider-Mobile because of the deal with Stan and Roy Corona Motors. If it’s anything like other vehicles, being submerged in the water for any length of time would make it unrepairable.

Mysterio um... mysteriously (sorry) leaves Spider-Man beaten and we pick up later, with Peter Parker, bearing the scars of battle, at the Bugle declaring Mysterio is back...only to be told...

"Mysterio Died in prison almost a Year ago!" - which leads, rather unecessarilly to an overly dramatic conclusion of Peter's "Then-- it's finally Happened! I'm Cracking Up-- Peter Parker is -- INSANE!"
It's pushing a cliff-hanger a bit too far - the fact that Mysterio should be dead would have been enough of an ending for me.

As many strange things as Peter has seen, why would he think his mind is going instead of that someone is impersonating Mysterio? Heck, Mysterio started out by impersonating Spider-Man in his first appearance.

Richard Mantle said:

I closed off the discussion of the last issue ( I know it was a while ago - sorry - Real Life interrupted for a while!)

I'm sure we all enjoy this thread and are glad you are continuing it.

Thankyou Richard.
I appreciate that.


Richard Willis said:

Richard Mantle said:

I closed off the discussion of the last issue ( I know it was a while ago - sorry - Real Life interrupted for a while!)

I'm sure we all enjoy this thread and are glad you are continuing it.

To me this was a pretty average issue of ASM; some good here, some bad.  I first read this story when it was reprinted in Marvel Tales in 1980.  Eleven year old me would have loved the cover and hated that the villains were illusions despite the cover blurb promise.  I'm sure I was confused by my first exposure to the Spider-Mobile, as it was long forgotten by 1980, and amused by Spidey stealing the fast food.

Today, I appreciate Conway's work more after re-reading these issues.  It's definitely better than I remembered and he definitely did his best work developing Mary Jane as a character.  I also think he had his clever moments - the way he wrote the Spider-Mobile which was clearly forced on him was shrewd, for instance, and the scenes with Miles Warren like the one in this issue are quite well done.  My big problem in 2017 with his writing is making Peter Parker too neurotic at times, and sometimes, a bit dumb.  "It's finally happened!  I'm cracking up -- Peter Parker is -- insane!"  is just too over the top to swallow.  It's Mysterio for crying out loud!  His whole schtick is deception, misrepresentation, mind games, etc. and Spidey has fought him several times at this point.  Mysterio is also one of Spidey's foes that (a) is most likely to fake his own death, and (b) easily replaced if he truly was dead.  Conway is also being too clever by half - ASM #141's title and much of the dialogue during the Spidey / Mysterio battle practically spell out in neon lights that someone new is under the fishbowl.  After giving readers the second Green Goblin and third (!) Vulture, does Conway think any readers were fooled?

As for being dumb, I'll go back to the illusions of his other foes.  I'll accept a truck on the side of a building spooking Spidey for a moment - but he couldn't figure out his rogues' gallery weren't really there?  After the Goblin threw a pumpkin bomb that went through his midsection - obvious illusion - he still treats what he sees as real?  No way - he should have laughed that off.  Punching a brick wall repeatedly was dumber than Spidey seeing Mysterio come towards him and he just stands there as if he's rooted to the spot, letting Mysterio punch him.

Richard Willis said:

Richard Mantle said:

I closed off the discussion of the last issue ( I know it was a while ago - sorry - Real Life interrupted for a while!)

I'm sure we all enjoy this thread and are glad you are continuing it.

I'll second that!

Seems the main purpose of this Mysterio yarn was to heighten the suspense of the "return" of Gwen Stacy.  Of course, it might have been more clever if the Jackal and Mysterio were working together to try to make Peter doubt his own sanity, with the Jackal using his knowledge that Peter is Spider-Man to greater effect, especially if he was able to piece together Peter's feelings of guilt over the deaths of his Uncle Ben and of Captain Stacy.  Well, that might have been too complex a tale for the time.  I actually missed this issue when it was new although I got the 2nd part.  

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #142 (03/75)
Writer – Gerry Conway                Penciller - Ross Andru
Inker - Frank Giacoia                   background inks - David Hunt
Cover art – John Romita
 

  “Dead Man's Bluff!"


It's not a complicated cover, 'dead man' Mysterio taking his head off frightening Spider-Man smacks of Scooby-Doo to me, I do love those gauntlets and the brick perspective is skewed slightly to set the viewer off balance a tad but not that classic a cover this time.


We begin with Spider-Man underwater trying to salvage his Spider-Mobile from it's watery grave and reviewing the events of last issue. Peter seems more level-headed here, recognising that whoever was trying to make him question his sanity a-la-Mysterio shouldn't be his old enemy as he is supposed to be dead but anything is possible...although maybe not dead men walking.


We are also reminded how injured his hands are due to his errors last issue before Mysterio appears again!


Spider-Man falls through the wraith-like apparition before Mysterio gloats and does indeed, as the cover illustration -- remove his head!
"Nothing can stop me-- -- Not Even Death!"
Thankfully Spidey rejects the ghost-story as an illusion and webs up his enemy only for the webbing to be left empty...


Later, we catch up with Peter Parker in his new, still unfurnished apartment on the phone to his Aunt May (pre-mobile/cell-phones - how quaint!) as Mary Jane drops by for a visit.
The visit and the call is interrupted violently by more illusion mist, this time making Peter think he's being attacked by the Kingpin - and scaring May beyond what her fragile health should be able to take!.

The panic is glossed over (why would Mysterio have attacked Peter? Was this supposed to be a left-over effect from the gas earlier? Why would MJ not run away from loony Peter?)


The drama segues into MJ meeting Gloria which has an edge to it again suggesting they were possibly set up to be love rivals initially but that never occurs IIRC.


At the Bugle, JJ gets an update from his contracted agent Mysterio and for once allows himself a good mood - even giving Joe Robertson a raise!


There is an important shift in MJ's views on her relationship with Peter that she details to Betty Brant, circling back to circa  ASM #131, "I guess you could say, maybe things have changed.." .
That shift is disguised slightly as Betty trumps MJ's news by announcing her and Ned Leeds are to be married! "Far out. I can't tell you how -- wow."


Within all these illusions and revelations we get one of the most significant moments in Spider-Man history - argueably - EVER! 

Peter spots...."IT's HER!"
The reveal is beautfiully understated, one small figure in one small panel but it sets Peter off in a panic like no other - eventually writing the vision off as another Mysterio-illusion but, significantly, needing to be alone rather than with MJ to consider his feelings.
After the MJ/Betty heart-to-heart this is a bitter-sweet moment even if it actually WAS the illusion everyone must have thought it was when first published.


Spider-Man goes looking for Mysterio - having finally worked out that he had a gizmo planted on him that was generating the illusions. (which explained, at last, how Peter suffered his vision in his apartment too.)


Spidey locates his enemy and this time sees through Mysterio's tricks, headless ghost chief among them.


Refreshingly fairly quickly Mysterio is defeated and his technology revealed as behind all these tricks - invisible facemask and dissolving costume etc.
Oh, for the curious, this is one Danny Berkhart, an old collegue of the dead Mysterio  and he calls Jonah Jameson demanding he get his off his Police charges which sends JJJ into (I presume it was supposed to be..?)'hillarious' panic.
It's a fake/canned laughter end scene almost reminicent of Police Squad in it's ridicule!


The fraught over reactions of last issue give way in this issue to a better balanced and realistic storyline but I repeat we did not need Jonah to orchestrate the bad guy's motivations.
Not a great showcase for Mysterio who, when used imaginativly, can be quite interesting an adversary - the most significant markers here are the relationship events between Betty and Ned, Peter and MJ and of course.....that sighting of......
"Never mind, I must've been crazy."


Before we see any ramifications of that scene we'll take a detour over to Giant-Size Spider-Man #4 and an early Punisher appearance.


Come Back... 

Richard Mantle said:

We begin with Spider-Man underwater trying to salvage his Spider-Mobile from it's watery grave and reviewing the events of last issue.

The odd phrase “deep blue hello” on the splash page is probably a shout-out by Gerry Conway to the first Travis McGee novel, The Deep Blue Goodbye by the great John D. MacDonald. McGee is a very interesting character. Anyone who hasn’t read the Travis McGee series should do so.  The “color” titles often have grisly connotations.

The panic is glossed over (why would Mysterio have attacked Peter? Was this supposed to be a left-over effect from the gas earlier? Why would MJ not run away from loony Peter?)

Later in the story it’s clarified that Peter wasn’t the target. MJ has stuck with Peter through a lot of troubles, so I guess this is no big deal to her. The later revelation of her changing feelings matches this reaction.

The drama segues into MJ meeting Gloria which has an edge to it again suggesting they were possibly set up to be love rivals initially but that never occurs IIRC.

The writing convention at the time (not just in comics) was for women meeting each other for the first time to size each other up as rivals. It may have just been that tired cliché.

Oh, for the curious, this is one Danny Berkhart, an old collegue of the dead Mysterio and he calls Jonah Jameson demanding he get his off his Police charges which sends JJJ into (I presume it was supposed to be..?)'hillarious' panic.

I can’t quite figure out what he was arrested for. He was just a webbed-up guy in a crook’s costume. It’s not like Spidey swore out a complaint against him and he didn't commit any crimes other than attacking Spider-Man, apparently without witnesses. So Jonah is off to Paris for “months.” How soon will we see him again?

…. the most significant markers here are the relationship events between Betty and Ned, Peter and MJ and of course.....that sighting of......
"Never mind, I must've been crazy."

These are the most important things in the story, and all in a single issue, not three issues. Too bad they are buried in the middle.

Richard Mantle said:

There is an important shift in MJ's views on her relationship with Peter that she details to Betty Brant, circling back to circa  ASM #131, "I guess you could say, maybe things have changed.." .
That shift is disguised slightly as Betty trumps MJ's news by announcing her and Ned Leeds are to be married! "Far out. I can't tell you how -- wow."

Good work here by Gerry Conway.  He doesn't get enough credit for this.


Within all these illusions and revelations we get one of the most significant moments in Spider-Man history - argueably - EVER! 

Peter spots...."IT's HER!"
The reveal is beautfiully understated, one small figure in one small panel but it sets Peter off in a panic like no other - eventually writing the vision off as another Mysterio-illusion but, significantly, needing to be alone rather than with MJ to consider his feelings.

More good work, I agree with your assessment of it, beautifully understated describes this perfectly.


After the MJ/Betty heart-to-heart this is a bitter-sweet moment even if it actually WAS the illusion everyone must have thought it was when first published.


Spider-Man goes looking for Mysterio - having finally worked out that he had a gizmo planted on him that was generating the illusions. (which explained, at last, how Peter suffered his vision in his apartment too.)

Conway had been guilty of explaining things poorly more than once in past stories.  The gizmo was smart writing.  The only thing that was off to me was Peter talking about the Kingpin and Mysterio just after he imagined seeing the former in his apartment.  He says this out loud right in front of Mary Jane; they probably should have been thought bubbles, as she was nonchalant about what he said.


Spidey locates his enemy and this time sees through Mysterio's tricks, headless ghost chief among them.


Refreshingly fairly quickly Mysterio is defeated and his technology revealed as behind all these tricks - invisible facemask and dissolving costume etc.
Oh, for the curious, this is one Danny Berkhart, an old collegue of the dead Mysterio  and he calls Jonah Jameson demanding he get his off his Police charges which sends JJJ into (I presume it was supposed to be..?)'hillarious' panic.
It's a fake/canned laughter end scene almost reminicent of Police Squad in it's ridicule!

Maybe Berkhart was an escapee during the story.  Maybe I missed it being mentioned but if not that would make sense.  JJJ would be in trouble for aiding a fugitive.


The fraught over reactions of last issue give way in this issue to a better balanced and realistic storyline

Totally agree.  I always enjoy seeing Peter use his brain.

but I repeat we did not need Jonah to orchestrate the bad guy's motivations.

Jonah was out for Spidey's blood after Gwen and Norman's deaths, which Conway seems to have completely forgotten about (his own sub-plot, btw), but this was strictly for laffs.


Not a great showcase for Mysterio who, when used imaginativly, can be quite interesting an adversary - the most significant markers here are the relationship events between Betty and Ned, Peter and MJ and of course.....that sighting of......
"Never mind, I must've been crazy."


Before we see any ramifications of that scene we'll take a detour over to Giant-Size Spider-Man #4 and an early Punisher appearance.


Come Back... 

GIANT-SIZE SPIDER-MAN #4 (04/75)
Writer – Gerry Conway                                          Penciller - Ross Andru
Inker - Mike Esposito                 
Cover art – Gil Kane 
 

  “To Sow The Seeds Of Death's Day!"


It's a bit of an odd cover, the angle is off-putting but the 'stuck on barbed wire' is a difficult concept and it would work - if it wasn't for the right leg which really looks wrong.
The Spotlight hero vignettes work very well (love Punisher's lifted from #129) and I like the very Gil Kane Punisher bottom left.
Why is the cover blurb title "If This Be --" Death's Day' rather than the inside title? 


As with the other Giant-Size issues, this is a Team-Up and again the already popular Punisher gets the joint billing.
We open in a very typical Spider-Man foils a mugging by Andru, as we have seen often before but the last member of the mugger-group gets brutally taken out by a sniper shot to his head.


We catch up with the Punisher recounting his crusade via his 'War Journal' but getting surprised when he finds Spider-Man waiting in his van having worked out who was the earlier sniper.
It felt cliche'd until the reveal which was a fresh spin - classic Conway and good to see.


The main plot is set out via a video show from a South African country testing biological gas dropped on innocents from helicopters - literally melting their flesh off!
Ignoring the question of how such an event could be filmed it is a horrific scene (I'm quite surprised how this very graphic murder scene was allowed past the Comics Code). Spidey gets angry and Punisher tranquilises him - no real need for that - Spidey would have helped anyway wouldn't he?


"Part 2 Attack of the War Machine!"
Our duo break into the Deterrence Research Corporation offices separately and Andru's Punisher is a determined athletic but older man than sometimes later shown but is the definative look for me. (What other hero has such a widow's peak -- other than Dracula?)


Spider-Man breaks into the building from the outside in a more subtle manner but he works his way through henchmen and reaches a bigwig meeting featuring the mastermind behind the gas/plot - Moses Magnum.
There is a continuity dump/link provided by Spidey when outside, he remarks on it snowing re a white Christmas and mentions his recent problems with fake-Mysterio and drowned-Spider-Mobile which sets the time of year and fits continuity into the main series. Without this info-dump because there are no actual scenes of supporting cast - this book could have stood apart completely.


The Punisher defeats a huge henchman while Spidey gets beaten by a roomful of others...and taken as a captive.
This chapter ends though on the Punisher, despite Spidey's loss claiming..."Everything is proceeding according to plan...!"


"Part 3 'Death-Camp at the edge of the World!"
The helicopter/ship throwing him out is a tad sci-fi but the full-page Spider-Man being dropped into the Camp from up high is a dramatic scene-setter for this new chapter.


He/we learn that the camp is in a jungle somewhere and manned by prisoners being forced to work for Magnum kind-of 'Tenko-style'.
Magnum has Spidey hauled before him and unmasks him to reveal his secret identity but we see a different face than we expect - soon learning Peter has disguised himself with assistance from the Punisher. It's an interesting scene but I cannot explain why Magnum would care who Spidey is/was or why Peter felt the need to remove his disguise immediatly after the scene -- the use of a comb to tidy his hair while in a death camp in the jungle is hillarious!.


As planned and kind of like a scene from the Great Escape, the Punisher breaks into camp hut from underground -- armed with gas masks.
The gun and gas fight that follows is dramatic culminating in Spider-Man fighting a surprisingly skilled fighter in Magnum (anyone else think the panel of him nearly breaking Spidey's back may have influenced the famous Bane breaks Batman plot?).


The Punisher coolly striding in and shooting the gas above Magnum's head before our heroes locking the bad guy in to melt-to-death is a lovely well-paced scene - again very gruesome in actually showing the dissolving Magnum in panel - "Moses Magnum is Dead -- that's a Certainty."
(Only, he does, of course return - most memorably in X-Men but actually next in Power Man Annual #1).


Our heroes bid farewell to each other and the Punisher shows himself to be just as hard-nosed and fatalistic as he appears to be.
It's a soft ending for a violent Giant-Size special that lingers in the memory.


Next we return to more soap-opera antics with supporting cast and  more on the building mystery of .......


Come Back...
 

This isn’t one I’m able to read along with you so I only have a couple of comments.

Richard Mantle said:

We open in a very typical Spider-Man foils a mugging by Andru, as we have seen often before but the last member of the mugger-group gets brutally taken out by a sniper shot to his head.

Does Spidey express disapproval of Punisher’s tactics, which would be consistent with their past interactions?

The main plot is set out via a video show from a South African country testing biological gas dropped on innocents from helicopters - literally melting their flesh off!
Ignoring the question of how such an event could be filmed it is a horrific scene (I'm quite surprised how this very graphic murder scene was allowed past the Comics Code).

Things got looser after they, well, loosened the Code restrictions following Spidey 96-98. Enforcement was often spotty, though. I wonder if some writers and artists put worse things in as censor-bait so that other things would be overlooked. I know that some movie-makers do that.

There is a continuity dump/link provided by Spidey when outside, he remarks on it snowing re a white Christmas and mentions his recent problems with fake-Mysterio and drowned-Spider-Mobile which sets the time of year and fits continuity into the main series. Without this info-dump because there are no actual scenes of supporting cast - this book could have stood apart completely.

This is the advantage to having the same writer doing the Giant-Sizes instead of having a different writer doing an unrelated team-up book as a Giant-Size. Of course, they still try not to have plotlines interweave significantly in case all of the readers aren’t getting the Giant-Size. Nothing can really change in the Giant-Size.

As planned and kind of like a scene from the Great Escape, the Punisher breaks into camp hut from underground -- armed with gas masks.

If the gas is really dissolving flesh then the gas masks would be dissolved too. Did they get lucky and a less-deadly gas was used?

I never got any of the Giant-Size issues when they were new on the spinner racks, or anywhere else.  Either they were out of my price range (after I'd selected all the regular size comics I wanted) or they simply weren't stocked at all in the place where I normally purchased my comics, mainly meaning the Navy Exchange when I lived in Navy housing as a kid.  As an adult, I added quite a few to my collection, mainly G-S Avengers and Defenders.  Wasn't inclined to get any of the G-S Spider-Mans.

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