Back in 1971, the people who wrote and illustrated Amazing Spider-Man #103 were just the guys who were doing "Amazing". Today, Roy Thomas and Gil Kane are the greats. Legends. And re-reading 103 fills me with excitement.
From the first few panels this one really catches my eye.
I've been watching Spidey duke it out with costumed bad guys for so long I needed a reminder that, in essence, Spider-Man is a street hero. Even more than that, he's a New York street hero. The panel above brings it home as he takes out some wiseguys.
After shaking up the shakedown men Spider-Man swings home, This panel is just exquisite.
What's so exquisite about this you ask? OK, the layout is good but what is magic about this panel is that the lighted window is a late-night meeting in J. Jonah Jameson's office. This panel actually provides a very elegant segue between Spider-Man's street fight to J. Jonah's meeting.
About that meeting, it's about Jonah being extremely concerned that television is killing print. No, that's not quite right. Jonah is concerned that television is killing the Daily Bugle. Yup, that's it. It's ironic that the tv is about to give Jonah an idea.
Monsters in the Antarctic. In Marvel that's spelled S-A-V-A-G-E L-A-N-D. Jonah also has some comments about what could make print superior to television
It's one of those endlessly debatable topics.
Roy Thomas' witty script is in full display. Check out this "mother's hanging" comment.
So Jonah decides to organize an expedition to the Savage Land to create a feature for the Daily Bugle. Parker is immediately chosen to take photos. Joe Robertson voices opposition on the grounds of it being too dangerous for a kid like Peter. Jonah threatens Joe with the pink slip. a "do this or else" warning. Joe backs down; but it bothers him as can be seen in this panel
I think its very hard for an employee to have an ego - even the executives. We, who work nine-to-five, well, lets just be thankful if we don't get too disrespected in our jobs. The nine-to-five might be necessary but it's a humbling deal. You see Joe above? He's making believe that he's hanging on because of his principles. He should simply admit that he's hanging on the same way the rest of us are hanging on - to put food on the table. Nothing wrong with that. And the admission will avoid anguished moments like the one Joe is going through.
Jameson has another brainstorm.
Thank you, Roy Thomas, for not making this expedition into a weiner festival.
And just like that, the expedition is on.
The environment is brutal and the danger is very real, but little do these adventurers know, they have Spider-Man with them, and so, all is well.
Because Jameson needs to sell papers, Gwen gets into this outfit.
Was this an eye-opener in 1971? Because its not doing anything for me right now. What I like is the reaction to the outfit
In the midst of the jungle the Bugle team happens upon an imposing statue.
More gems from Roy Thoas.
"Anybody here recall the second guy to fly the Atlantic?". Brilliant. And true.
Finally . . . Gog!
Peter would later note that this supposed monster is wearing clothes.
Not only that, Gog reports to Kraven the Hunter!
Heaven forbid Marvel features the Savage Land without Ka-Zar and Zabu.
Beautiful Gil Kane panel of Spider-Man fighting off a giant snake:
Now for the cliffhanger ending: Spider-Man is swinging through the jungle and lands on . . .
. . . quicksand!
Hahaha! That's nothing! With his strength and his webs, what's quicksand to the Spider? Ok, it's NOT a cliffhanger ending after all.
Amazing Spider-Man 116 Suddenly the Smasher
Suddenly the Smasher! Who is the Smasher. Here he is:
That's right we've got one of those two-bit villains this issue, although he is ten feet tall. He strikes me as a powered-down version of Mr. Hyde.
That said, this is a wonderful panel by John Romita of Smasher grabbing Spider-Man.
I also like how tough Smasher is. He falls maybe five stories? But he's still up.
Smasher is in the wrong comic. I would like this guy in the Fantastic Four duking it out with the Thing.
There's something about John Romita's art that's - something. Look at this Spider-Man panel.
And this one
At this time, it was Peter and Gwen. MJ is just a friend. Witness . . .
The story centers on the popularity of a politician Richard Raleigh.
This is major beef with this issue. We are shown that everybody, including J. Jonah Jameson, loves Raleigh. The girls, in particular, are crazy for him. But. But. Romita doesn't draw him as having any charisma and Lee keeps telling us this guy is popular but never shows us. The whole Raleigh angle is just a fail.
The funniest panel has got to be this one with J. Jonah. Note the "concluding" comment.
That with Jonah's face. Classic
So at some point the ceiling is collapsing on everybody and Peter has to rip out the electrical panel so he can get up there sans costume and save everyone. John Romita gives us this panel.
The mood of this panel is just amazing. It really conveys the sheer spookiness of a human spider clambering up their in the dark. Very nice.
Boom! This issue goes down like it was three pages. Yup, one of those.
Amazing Spider-Man 134 Danger Is A Man Named Tarantula
Ever since I saw him in the first issue of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-ManTarantula has been the villain I love to hate.
Codname: Tarantula. Super-power: Pointy shoes. I mean, really. Pointy shoes!?
In this issue Tarantula manages to hit Spidey once.
Then a second time.
This is bullshit! Spider-Man has spider reflexes! Spider-Man can dodge bullets. Two hits! No way. Absolutely no way.
I like it when Spider-Man runs into believable problems like running out of web fluid.
Peter acts so nonchalant about the Bugle's constant barrage of negative coverage. Here's how he really feels about it.
It's only a couple of panels but something big happens this issue.
Ross Andru is the artist and he comes up with a Spidey panel I haven't encountered before - the angle is directly atop the Webslinger.
Tarantula has brought a couple of henchmen, one of which gets entangled in his own bola in this beautiful set of panels from Ross Andru
In the end, Tarantula is overcome by the Spider.
Tarantula's barbs are drugged so Spidey collapses and who should arrive at the very last panel of this issue? Frank Castle.
Look at Tarantula's men behind the Punisher. Is Tarantula and his group in cahoots with the Punisher? Frank Castle throw in with the criminal element? It can't be. We're left guessing until next issue.
You know what? I'm being unfair about Tarantula. Batroc doesn't have any power but I like him. Daredevil has no power but I don't complain when he manages to hit Spider-Man. It's not Tarantula per se, it's those damned pointy shoes!
Amazing Spider-Man 155 Whodunit
I'm not a fan of fragmented cover art - they're too confusing. For this issue they should've just gone for the image at the right - the one were the thugs are ganging up on the Spider.
In spite of the cover, this is an OK issue. The "Whodunit" title angles it as some kind of murder-mystery. It is that, but very basic. What I really like about this issue is what it has to say about computers in the year 1976.
I'm sure you've heard about the Interpol criminal database in France. It's a global masterlist of criminals and every member country of Interpol has the right to build their own system and link to the Paris database in real time. Not every Interpol member country has done this but they can if they want to. So now, 2014, we have a global criminal database available but the access to it is not yet one hundred percent. With that in mind, check out the description of the computer in Amazing Spider-Man #155:
I don't know if the Interpol computer, or the idea for the Interpol computer, was already around in 1976, but the concept is the same. Here's the actual computer - please excuse the corpse.
Actually, don't excuse the corpse. The corpse is the crux of this storyline. Spider-Man is going to use the criminal database computer in this issue to find out who killed the dead guy.
The machine comes up with three names and Spider-Man tracks them down one by one.
I find it amusing that from a high-tech information source the issue takes us to a low-tech information source - or maybe we should call it a "classic" information source. Or maybe we should just call him a stooge.
I love beautifully done location shots. This one is by Sal Buscema and it show's Joe's Bar located in the seedier part of town.
" . . . even the cockroaches can't wait to move out . . .". I love the Peter Parker wit.
Look at these panels.
Two thugs calling Peter "shorty". But Peter is no longer "shorty" or "wallflower" or "sap" or anything of the sort. He's the Spider and the bullying is over. This is part of the magic of being Spider-Man and reading Spider-Man comics. The bullying is over. But the detective impresonations aren't. Check out the Spider detective:
Beautiful Buscema panel of a spider-sense fail.
That's a packing create falling on the Spider.
I don't know the physics of how a soft and sticky web can become seemingly hard enough to cause a concussion but I appreciate the versatility of web shooters being able to do this.
Spidey should use this "hard web" characteristic more often.
Spider-Man going against thugs and other underworld types. It's a glorious "street level" issue but . . uh-oh. Writer Len Wein can't take it anymore, he has to insert some kind of super-power in the mix, so here is Tallon of the bionic hands.
The man's name is Tallon so he has metal "talons". Get it? Corny as hell. Thank you Mr. Wein. No really, thank you, if I can't get cheese from comics where will I get it?
Another great Buscema panel to balance the one where Spider-Man got hit by a crate. This time it's the Spider who does the dishing out.
The end result here is all three leads are a bust. The big lesson: Computers can fail. From 1976. It's 2014, and we know just how true this is. In this issue, Spider-Man/Peter had this childlike faith in the logical prowess of the machine, a faith that didn't work out for him. The computer is fallible is the big truth to take from this story. It's an important lesson rounding out the issue. And that's it.
And that's it? What is this some kind of white paper? This is still a Spider-Man comic. So the computer develops AI and is able to fire lasers from the it's screen!
Who-hoo! Total cheese, love it!
The constantly joking Spider-Man only makes it better.
In the end Spider-Man manages to take out what he refers to as the "IBM-becile".
Amazing Spider-Man #182 The Rocket Racer's Back In Town
When I first saw Tarantula and his spiked shoes I called them "pointy shoes" and from then on Tarantula would only receive grief from me. Now here comes Rocket Racer and his motorized skateboard that can skate up the sides of buildings and I'm like "That is so cool". I can very well imagine somebody else who is the exact opposite, considering the skateboard the height of cheese and the spiked boots to be proper super-villain gear. It's all just a matter of taste. That said, Rocket Racer has hardly any panels worth showing in this issue. Aside from one I'll show later, there's this one.
It's part of the splash page and I like it because it shows RR skating on the side of a building.
Ross Andru is the artist and I like how smoothly he illustrates this sequence of Spider-Man dodging a subway train.
I like this one even better. The subway crowd reacting to their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man riding inside the train for a change.
So what's the Racer like? For one thing, greed takes the better of him in this issue.
To be fair, Rocket Racer is shown nervously pacing a hospital floor in a later scene, so all these greed might be caused by a medical emergency. It might. Aside from that brief hospital peek, the issue has nothing more to say on the matter.
Around this time too, J. Jonah Jameson has just met Marla Madison, the future Mrs. Jameson. Jonah is quite smitten.
Here's the other Rocket Racer panel I like, this one showing a bit more of what that skateboard - said to be modified by the Tinkerer - can do.
The web's getting "progressively weaker"? Seems like new writer Marv Wolfman is planting seeds for a future storyline.
Artistically, I'm not too crazy about this panel but it does show off Rocket Racer's "rocket punch".
Issue 182 ends with a surprising marriage proposal