Friday, 20 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #58. The Spider-Slayer's back

Amazing Spider-Man #58, J Jonah Jameson and the Spider-Slayer
(Grargh! Jameson smash! Cover from March 1968.)

"To Kill A Spider-Man!"

Written by Stan Lee
Layouts by John Romita
Pencils by Don Heck
Inks by Mickey Demeo
Lettering by Sam Rosen

Argh! We've been lied to. At the end of last issue, we were told in no uncertain terms that Spider-Man was dead. Now, in the first panel of this tale, we're told he's alive, and that only someone with Ka-Zar's jungle-honed senses would be able to detect the spark of life that still resides within him - which would be fine if it hadn't been Ka-Zar and his "jungle-honed" senses that had told us our hero was dead in the first place. Here's a lesson for us all. If you're not feeling well, consult a doctor, not a dinosaur-fighting English lord in a furry loin cloth. Not, of course, that we wanted Spider-Man dead. Let's face it, such news would hardly be good for the comic's future circulation figures. It'd just be nice to know where we stand.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, spider-man regains consciousness and tries to punch ka-zar but now spidey has his memory back

And the fact that Spidey still lives isn't the only good news awaiting us in these pages because, at last, Spider-Man has his memory back. Time for him to return home and start to sort everything out with those who've been wondering where he's been for these last few days.

So, what happens in this one? What happens is that Professor Smythe reappears. For those who arn't familiar with him - or whose memories are as bad as Spider-Man's has been lately - he's the mad scientist who turned up in issue #25 with an infallible robot guaranteed to destroy Spider-Man. It failed of course - as infallible plots to kill super-heroes tend to - but now he's back with a bigger and better robot. And this one can't fail because it can somehow home in on spideryness. Needless to say J Jonah Jameson shows the levels of common sense we all associate with him and happily teams up with Smythe for another round of Spider-bashing.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, j jonah jameson loses his cigar as professor smythe shows him the new improved spider-slayer

There's a problem. Smythe's gone completely mad and is out to not just capture Spidey but kill him. Once the Slayer's found our hero, Smythe rests control of the robot from Jameson and sets about trying to zap Spider-Man into a bloody mess.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, Spider-Man leapfrogs over the spider-slayer as it climbs up a wall

Spidey has to think fast. He has to find Smythe's lab.

Thanks to the phone book, he finds it and heads there. Smythe, watching the whole thing through the robot's viewer, is delighted because Spidey's heading in completely the wrong direction. He and Jameson are at the Daily Bugle, nowhere near Spider-Man's intended destination. Spidey's doomed.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, as spider-man leaps clear, the spider-slayer crushes a phone booth with its bare hands

Or is he?

No he's not because, when he gets there, we soon learn the method to Spidey's madness. He knows the Spider-Slayer's drawn towards Spideryness (how he knows this is anyone's guess as nobody's ever told him it is) and has reasoned that Smythe must therefore have a lab full of spiders for research purposes. Hey presto, the moment the robot gets there, the presence of so many spiders overload its sensors and it blows up. Take that, Spider-Slayer!

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, surrounded by spiders in professor smythe's lab, the spider-slayer explodes

There's just time for a quick reunion with Ka-Zar at the end and yet another tale of drama and intrigue ends happily.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, peter parker walks away after a final encounter with ka-zar and zabu in the street

This is the second consecutive tale that's basically a retelling of an earlier story. Were Lee and Romita starting to run out of ideas? It also doesn't feature Mary Jane, which, in my book is rarely a good thing. Fortunately, the next issue redresses both concerns with what is one of my favourite tales of the era and also sees the return of one of Spidey's greatest foes...

Monday, 16 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #57. Ka-Zar and Zabu

Amazing Spider-man #57, vs Ka-Zar and Zabu
(Let's face it, jackpot; you just hit the tiger. Cover from February 1968.)

"The Coming Of Ka-Zar!"

Written by Stan Lee.
Layouts by John Romita.
Pencilled by Don Heck.
Inked by Mickey Demeo.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.

So, after over a year of John Romita, the strip gets a new penciller. It's not a complete break because Romita's still doing the layouts but the actual pencilling's being done by Don Heck. Heck was an odd artist. Some of his work - such as his art on the early Iron Man tales - could be surprisingly pleasing to the eye but other work by him could be actively painful to behold. A lot depended on his inkers and whether they had the sense to ignore his tendency to randomly place dead black areas on his drawings. His work on Spider-Man is somewhere between the two. Not his best but a long way from his worst and is certainly helped by Romita's simple but elegant layouts, especially Romita's tendency to concentrate on the characters' faces wherever possible.

Amazing Spider-Man #57, john romita and don heck, spider-man uses his webbing to steal a sandwich

At the tale's launch, we find Spider-Man still without a clue who he really is and feeling hungry. He snatches a sandwich from a rooftop party and heads off to find a place to sleep. He finds it, on a ledge at the nearest railway station.

Meanwhile, as our hero settles down for a good night's sleep, Aunt May finds that sleep eludes her. Concerned for her missing nephew, she drags herself from her bed - you've guessed it - just long enough to have one of her attacks.

Amazing Spider-Man #57, don heck and john romita, worried about peter parker's disappearance, aunt may collapses and is found by anna watson

In a heated meeting, questions are being asked, Various VIPs are demanding to know why John Jameson let Spider-Man go when he had a chance to capture him. Jameson points out that his orders were to retrieve the nullifier, not to arrest Spider-Man. Captain Stacy defends him but someone not in the mood to defend him is Jameson's own father who's still hell-bent on getting Spidey. Suddenly, things start to become a repeat of issue #15 where JJ recruited Kraven the Hunter to catch Spider-Man.

This time, he has the sense to recruit a hero, Ka-Zar who's just arrived in town with his sabre-toothed tiger Zabu. Apparently, the jungle lord has business in the city. Jameson doesn't care about that. He just wants Ka-Zar to bash up Spidey. Ka-Zar, being a man of judgement, doesn't like the cut of Jameson's jib but agrees to listen to him regardless.

Amazing Spider-Man #57, don heck, john romita, zabu on a leash, ka-zar arrives in new york city, to be greeted by the press

Meanwhile, Harry's still fretting about Peter's disappearance. He decides to check in the missing student's room and, on a cupboard floor, finds one of Spider-Man's spider-tracers. It can only mean one thing.

Spider-Man has kidnapped Peter Parker.

Waking from his slumbers, Spidey hears a report on a nearby radio that claims he's kidnapped someone called Peter Parker. It also claims that the only person to have spoken up in Spider-Man's defence is John Jameson. With Jameson as his only defender, Spidey decides that he should go and see the man. He finds him at police HQ, with Captain Stacy. He tells them he's lost his memory.

But, just as he's getting somewhere, Gwen walks in. Sadly, after the highs of recent issues, Gwen's now reduced to standard super-hero girlfriend mode - a mode she'll never really escape from now on - and tearfully demands to know what he's done with Peter, while futilely pummelling Spidey with her fists. Clearly this is getting him nowhere and Spidey takes off, leaving those present to wonder just what he might do in his current state.

Amazing Spider-Man #57, don heck, john romita, spider-man grips gwen stacy's wrists as she tries to hit him, fearful about peter parker's disappearance

Another concerned about what Spider-Man might do is Ka-Zar. Convinced by the tale Jameson Senior's just spun him, the lord of the savage land sets off to find him.

Amazing Spider-Man #57, don heck, john romita, ka-zar leaps towards a flagpole as he sets off to find spider-man as j jonah jameson watches from a hotel balcony

He's not the only one because Spidey's out to find Spidey. He reasons that maybe he can find out more about himself by visiting the offices of a newspaper. So, he drops in on The Daily Bugle, where JJ's delighted to discover he's lost his memory. The jackalesque publisher uses this knowledge to try and trick Spider-Man into removing his mask.

And it's about to work!

Amazing Spider-Man #57, don heck, john romita, ka-zar smashes in through the window and launches himself at spider-man as j jonah jameson protests his timing

That's when Ka-Zar smashes in through the window. Jameson's less than pleased. He was on the verge of discovering Spidey's secret identity. Ka-Zar's not intersted in all that. All he cares about is that Spider-Man's trying to escape. So, Ka-Zar goes after him and the mandatory slug-fest breaks out, culminating in Central Park where Spidey decks Ka-Zar with one punch.

Sadly, he's in no position to enjoy his victory because that's when Zabu arrives and, looking to defend his master, leaps at Spider-Man. Man and sabre-tooth land in the water...

Amazing Spider-Man #57, don heck, john romita, ka-zar defeated, zabu leaps at spider-man and the man and the cat fall into the nearby lake

...but only the big cat emerges.

Recovered from the knock-out blow, Ka-Zar leaps into the water to search for the missing. And, emerging from the water with his foe's limp body, the lord of the jungle declares that Spider-Man is dead.

Amazing Spider-Man #57, don heck, john romita, ka-zar emerges from the lake, holding the seemingly dead spider-man

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #56. Spidey and Doc Ock team up

Amazing Spider-Man #56, Spider-Man and Dr Octopus team up
(Cover from Jan 1968.)


Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita
Inked by Mike Esposita
Lettered by Sam Rosen

So this is it. Now Spider-Man and Doc Ock are in cahoots and making their getaway. Exactly why Octopus launched his attack on Tony Stark's factory in the previous issue is anybody's guess as he's clearly taken no advantage of the situation whatsoever and has simply climbed into his van at the end of it and driven off.

Amazing Spider-Man #56, john romita, suffering from amnesia, spider-man helps doctor octopus load the ultimate nullifier onto the back of his truck

But the police are in pursuit.

Not for long they're not. Octopus fires his nullifier at their car and brings it to a halt. With the nullifier in his grasp, nothing can stop him. Nothing! It's worth remembering that boast for future reference.

But there's a problem. The nullifier's over-heating. It's not yet ready for full use. Still, the multi-limbed genius can sort that out once he reaches his secret hideout. By this, he means his real secret hideout, not Anna Watson's house which he'd previously been using as a secret hideout in the absence of a secret hideout. Octopus is clearly a confused man.

Amazing Spider-Man #56, john romita, suffering from amnesia, spider-man almost removes his mask in front of doctor octopus

Back at the hideout, Spider-Man's confused too. He's wearing a mask and hanging out with a criminal and, therefore, logic suggests he too must be a criminal - but every instinct he has tells him to punch Octopus in the face. Never ones to resist the urge to punch someone in the face, Spidey and Octopus come to blows, but the villain defuses the situation by sending him off on a mission. To make the nullifier fully finctional, he needs a rare isotope, of a kind that can be found at a not-too-distant fort. Still confused about what's going on, Spidey sets off to get it.

It's beginning to look like everyone's confused. Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn certainly are. They're wondering what's happened to Peter. To find out, they go to see Aunt May who still thinks Doc Ock's a good guy. She doesn't have a clue where Peter is and promptly starts whittling over the disappearance of her nephew. Then she too succumbs to the plague of confusion by wondering why Pete risks his life to get those photos of Spider-Man. Fortunately for us all, for once she manages to get through a scene without having one of her atttacks.

At last, a shred of light. A character who's not confused. Her taste in see-through clothing dumped, Mary Jane appears with a copy of The Bugle that leaves no one in any doubt that Spider-Man's teamed up with the vile villain.

It's not alone in talking about the incident because, in a locked room, John Jameson's addressing the relevant individuals about the theft of the nullifier. Among them is a man who we've never seen before but is clearly full of good sense. His name, we discover, is Captain Stacy, retired police officer and father of Gwen Stacy.

But what of his daughter's boyfriend?

Amazing Spider-Man #56, john romita, clinging to the side of a rocket, spider-man sneaks into a military base

He's busy launching his raid on the fort, sneaking in and taking the isotpope from the cell it's being stored in.

Amazing Spider-Man #56, john romita, breaking into a military base, spider-man bends a bunch of steel bars

All's not well. unknown to him, he's been spotted on CCTV and a bunch of guards set off to stop him. They fail miserably, of course, as non-super people always do against Spider-Man but, as he escapes, he drops something. It's the map that's guided him here from Octopus' secret lair. Did he drop it on purpose, his subconscious making him do it? We're given a strong hint that he has. Upon seeing it, Jameson realises he can use it to trace Spidey's steps back to the secret hideout.

Spidey delivers the isotope to Octopus but that's when Octopus discovers that he's left the map behind. The fool! Now the authorites'll be able to find them. "So what?" you might think. He's spent the last three issues declaring that, with the nullifier in his grasp, nothing can stop him, nothing! Anyway, cue another punch-up, interrupted when the military show up. In the melee, Jameson grabs the nullifier and uses it on Octopus, whose tentacles promptly stop working because of it. So much for, "With the nullifier in my grasp, nothing can stop me, nothing!"

Amazing Spider-Man #56, john romita, john jameson fires the nullifier at doctor octopus, causing his tentacles to stop working

That's one menace dealt with. Now for the other. Will Spidey side with Octopus in the battle, or with the military?

Well, we were never in any doubt were we? Amnesia or not, Spidey knows he's no friend of Octopus and flees the scene.

But what good does it do him? He may have his freedom but, as he gazes into his unmasked face reflected in a skyscraper window, he still has no identity.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #55. Dr Octopus

Amazing Spider-Man #55, Dr Octopus
(Cover from December 1967.)

"Doc Ock Wins!"

Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita
Inked by Mickey Demeo
Lettered by Sam Rosen

Don't mess with Spider-Man when he's angry. Like Bruce Banner, you wouldn't like him when he's angry. And why's he angry? Because, thanks to Dr Octopus, his aunt's had yet another of her near-fatal attacks. Now, Spidey's after the metal-tentacled menace - and heaven help anyone who gets in his way. He kicks off by tearing apart the roof of a building, to reveal the presence, within, of two of Ock's henchmen. He promptly trashes them, and the Dr appears on a screen behind him, to taunt him. But our hero's in no mood to be taunted and wrecks the place.

Amazing Spider-Man #55, john romita, spider-man tears the roof away from the hideout of Docro Octopus's henchamen

Meanwhile, across town, the establishment's still fretting over the nullifier. They can't risk Octopus having another go at stealing it and so they've brought in John Jameson to organise its protection. The only problem is, a spy of Octopus has infiltrated the meeting and is merrily making notes.

Back at Anna Watson's house, Aunt May's tucked up in bed, still convinced Dr Octopus is a good guy and that he was only defending himself against that horrid Spider-Man. When it came to the handing out of self-preservation instincts, she was clearly so far at the back of the queue that everyone had gone home when she finally reached the front, leaving her just stood there, on her own, in an empty building, going, "Hello?"

Amazing Spider-Man #55, john romita, at aunt may's house, mary jane watson shows up

Downstairs, Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy turn up for a quick round of verbal sparring - Mary Jane wearing what seems to be a see-through dress, judging by her first panel. Pete, clearly no typical teenager, seems not to have noticed her exposed juggage and, instead, spends the scene worrying about the cost of repairing the hole in the living room wall.

Amazing Spider-Man #55, john romita, peter parker and mary jane watson stand inspecting the hole in aunt may's living room wall

Amazing Spider-Man #55, john romita, gwen stacy and mary jane watson engage in verbal sparring

Octopus, meanwhile, is worried about nothing. He's on the video-phone to his spy who's happily telling him about the security arrangements for the nullifier. Apparently, it's going to be taken to Tony Stark's factory, for safe-keeping.

Not if Octopus has his way.

Jameson and his convoy are already on their way to the factory but, suspicious of a parked utility maintenance van, they slow down as they approach it. The guileless fools, they're looking the wrong way as, unbeknownst to them, a tentacle's emerging from a man-hole cover behind them. Clearly, John Jameson's tactical masterplan for the safe delivery of the nullifier didn't include telling anyone to keep a look-out behind them. It's Octopus, of course. With no noticeable difficulty, he takes the entire convoy out, grabs the nullifier and he's off, in the back of the maintenance van.

Amazing Spider-Man #55, john romita, after the ultimate nullifier, doctor octopus attacks john jameson's convoy, causing havoc with his tentacles

Showing his usual uncanny knack of blundering into trouble, Spider-Man stumbles across the scene, realises at once what must have happened and, using an intuition that frankly borders on the psychic, decides that, now he's got it, Octopus'll head for the one place no one would expect.

Tony Stark's factory.

Amazing Spider-Man #55, john romita, doctor octopus uses the ultimate nullifier to disable the guards at tony stark's factory

There, Octopus uses his newly acquired weapon to render the security guards' guns useless and declares that he can do anything with his nullifier. Anything!

Amazing Spider-Man #55, john romita, spider-man is pinned to the ground by doctor octopus's tentacles

Yeah? Well, not if Spider-Man has anything to do with it. The webbed wonder arrives and starts to fight Octopus. But he's being too tasty with his fists for Ock's liking and so, for no real reason, the evil-doer decides to fire the nullifier at him. The nullifier is, of course, a device designed to render any weapon useless, so there's no reason at all to think it'll have any affect on a man. But this is where Octopus hits pay-dirt because, not only does it have an effect, it has a dramatic effect. Spidey falls to the floor in agony, his radio-active blood affected by the machine.

Now, Spidey rises to his feet. But it's a very different Spidey. It's a Spidey who doesn't know who he is.

Amazing Spider-Man #55, john romita, suffering from amnesia, spider-man is told by doctor octopus that he is his partner in crome

Octopus is no fool. Well, yes he is, he's proven it repeatedly in the past. But, for once, he shows some smarts and tells his foe that the reason he's wearing a mask is because he's a criminal and in league with Octopus. Well, he's not going to believe that, is he? Even without a memory, his moral compass will surely tell him that can't be so?

No it won't, and at the end of the tale, arch-fiend Dr Octopus has gained a new - if slightly bewildered - ally in his war on niceness.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #54. Dr Octopus. Aunt May's lodger

Amazing Spider-Man #54, Dr Octopus - Aunt May's lodger
(Can it be true? Can Aunt May be dead? Readers can only hope.
From Nov 1967.)

"The Tentacles And The Trap!"

Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita
Inked by Mickey Demeo
Lettered by Sam Rosen

And so we kick off the tale with Aunt May finding the perfect lodger; Dr Octopus. She and Octopus are old friends. She first met him in Spider-Man Annual #1, where Octopus kidnapped her but she was so stupid that she never noticed. Of course, there is the little matter that she's now heard he's a master criminal, wanted by the police, but he easily talks her round, convincing her that he was merely trying to save the nullifier from that villain Spider-Man who was out to steal it. Aunt May, being even stupider now than she was on their first encounter, believes him and, hey presto, she and the absent Anna Watson have themselves a new lodger.

Amazing Spider-Man #54, john romita, aunt may agrees to take doc ock in as a lodger

Now upstairs, Ock unpacks his bags and starts to make his plans. His thinking's clear. The police'll be looking for him. His secret hideout - whose location no one knows - isn't a safe place to stay, so, instead, he'll stay in a suburban house, with two women who might tell everyone who their lodger is, with neighbours who can see his every coming and going. Oh, and for that matter, his landladies might have friends and family who'll recognise him straight away and go to the authorities. It has to be said that, as masterplans go, this has to be the most block-headed in history.

Amazing Spider-Man #54,, john romita, having moved in as aunt may's lodger, doctor octopus unpacks his tentacles

Not that Octopus cares. He's already planning his next attempt to steal the nullifier.

Peter, meanwhile, meets The Bugle's City Editor Joe Robertson for the first time. Robertson's curious as to how he keeps getting those shots of Spider-Man. Pete's not saying. The Silver Spoon long forgotten, he heads for the Coffee Bean where Gwen and Mary Jane both drool over him like he's made of purest chocolate. Sadly, he can't spend any time with them. He's heard about Aunt May having a new lodger and heads over to check him out.

When he gets there, his spider-sense is tingling. Concerned, he goes in...

Amazing Spider-Man #54, john romita, approaching aunt may's house, peter parker is about to get the shock of his life

...and, gasp, finds Aunt May and Dr Octopus sat there having tea together. He tries to warn his aunt about Octopus but, showing the stupidity that's become her hallmark, she refuses to listen. Left alone with Peter, the menace makes it clear what'll happen to his aunt if he blabs.

Amazing Spider-Man #54, john romita, peter parker looks aghast as he finds aunt may sat at the kitchen table with his arch-enemy doctor octopus

Right now, Peter can't do anything, not with Aunt May about but, once he's left the house, he hangs around till nightfall. Now in his Spider-Man guise, he decides to lure Ock out into the open. He shines his Spider-Signal in through the window of Octopus's room.

But, for once, Octopus plays it smart. He knows Spidey wants him to come out and fight and so, instead, decides to stay inside. He contacts his stooges and tells them to deal with the webbed nuisance. Almost instantly, they're there and attacking our hero. Needless to say, no matter how many of them there are, such minor hoods are no match for Spider-Man and he summarily disposes of them, just in time for the police to arrive and take them away.

Amazing Spider-Man #54, john romita, in aunt may's back garden, spider-man fights doctor octopus's goons, as a crowd watch him go

But Spidey can't hang around. Octopus is too big a menace. He smashes into Ock's room and is promptly grabbed by the tentacles. Hit in the chin by one, he feigns unconsciousess and then attacks Ock.

Amazing Spider-Man #54, john romita, spider-man is grabbed by the tentacles of doctor octopus

And what happens next?

Aunt May happens next.

Hearing the commotion, she re-enters the house (having gone outside to see what all the fuss was about) and blunders in on Spidey battling Octopus. The shock's too much and she collapses in a heap. Octopus smashes out through the wall and leaves Spidey to worry about the old woman. Totally ignoring the existence of ambulances, he calls the always available Dr Bromwell who turns up and adjudges that she'll recover but another attack could kill her. That's it. Pete's going to get Octopus if it's the last thing he does.

Amazing Spider-Man #54, john romita, peter parker tears off his spider-man mask as he holds aunt may who's been injured in his with with doctor octopous

Monday, 9 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #53. Dr Octopus

Amazing Spider-Man #53 Dr Octopus
(Cover from October 1967.)

"Enter: Dr Octopus"

Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita
Inked by Mickey Demeo
Lettered by Artie Simek

It's the same old same old for Spidey as the latest edition of The Bugle makes him out to be a villain. After a quick dose of verbal sparring with J Jonah Jameson, he heads off to ESU where he's spotted arriving, by Gwen and Flash. Flash is still his biggest fan in the whole wide world. Gwen asks how he can be sure Spidey's not someone he wouldn't dislike in real life. Flash says there's not a chance of that. Is this a hint that Gwendolyne knows who Spider-Man really is? Harry, meanwhile, is not Peter Parker's biggest fan. He's getting fed up of his flatmate's disappearing acts.

Oblivious to all this, Spidey sneaks into the gym and changes back into Peter Parker, almost getting caught in the act by Professor Warren. Given what happens a few years down the line, it makes you wonder how it would've changed things had the Professor entered the gym a few moments earlier and caught him red-handed. That, of course, is something we can never know. While he's there, the prof invites Pete to a science exposition that's going on later that night. Pete, of course, would be delighted to go and the good news is he can take a guest.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, peter parker is almost caught by Professor Warren as he climbs down a rope with his spider mask sticking out the back of his pants

No prizes for guessing who that guest might be as he bumps into Gwen Stacy and invites her along. There's time for a quick argument with Flash, who's understandably peeved about Peter stealing his girl. Peter says she was never his girl. Flash says she was. Peter and Flash threatening each other? It's just like the good old days.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, gwen stacy and flash thompson talk about spider-man

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, Gwen Stacy, Flash thompson and Harry osborn with peter parker on campus

And then Peter, Gwen and the prof are off to the show. It has to be said these early pages are beautifully drawn by Romita. By this stage in his run, he really has hit his stride and his pencils are complemented perfectly by Mickey Demeo's fluid inking.

The trio arrive at the exposition. It seems the show's centrepiece will be the demonstration of a thing called the "nullifier" which, Gwen explains, works by nullifying the homing signals of enemy missiles. I think this is the first time in the strip that it's been acknowledged that Gwen has an interest in and knowledge of science. She is, after all, meant to be a science student. Their arrival's not good news though because, the moment they get there, Peter's spider-sense starts to tingle.

But why?

Then he gets his answer. As soon as the guest speaker starts to do his spiel, a figure in the audience stands up and starts to lay on the sinister. Peter does what we can't do and recognises that voice.

It's Doc Ock.

And he's after the nullifier!

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, doc oc steals the ultimate nullifier as peter parker watches

Mayhem breaks out. Everyone flees. Ock polishes off some security guards, and then Spidey joins the fray. For some reason, the quality of Demeo's inks deteriorates noticeably during this sequence. But then they take the fight outside and it's normal service resumed from Demeo. Gwen, meanwhile, wants to know what's happened to Pete. So much for the earlier hint that she might know Spider-Man's real identity. Spider-Man, meanwhile, is gunking up Ock's glasses with webbing.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, spider-man fires webbing at doctor octopus' glasses

But Octopus is no fool. From the roof of the building, he drops the nullifer. If it lands on anyone they'll be killed! Abandoning his scrap with the villain, our hero deals with the machine, catching it with his webbing. But, when he returns to resume his fight with Octopus, the man's gone. Happily, Spidey had time to plant a tracer on him and can catch up with him later.

Back in his Peter Parker guise, our hero reunites himself with Gwendolyne. who's so glad to see him that she doesn't do the usual and demand to know where he disappeared to. He opines, "She's the only girl who's never asked me for explanations." Seemingly, he 's forgotten all about the fact that Mary Jane's never asked him for explanations.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, gwen stacy is worried about peter parker but then he shows up and, delighted, she gives him a big hug as professor warren watches on

Saying goodbye to Professor Warren, the pair enter the Coffee Bean. It seems that this, and not the Silver spoon, is now the gang's chosen hangout. Aunt May and Anna Watson enter. They've decided to take in a lodger. Pete says it's a great idea. Mary Jane says it's a great idea. That's that sorted then.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, mary jane watson, flash thompson and harry osborn are sat in the coffee bean when peter parker and gwen stacy arrive

Meanwhile, Octopus has discovered the spider-tracer our hero planted on him and is using it to set a trap. In a waterfront shack, he's created a booby-trapped dummy of himself. In the dark, Spidey'll think it's the real thing and come blundering in, only to be blown to pieces by a bomb planted by the multi-armed menace.

Following the signal from his tracer, Spider-man shows up.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, spider-man finds his spider-tracer attached to doctor octopus's chair but he gets suspicious and rolls a ball of webbing

But the Dr hadn't counted on one thing. The spider-sense that led him here now warns him of the danger. Playing it safe, Spidey fires a ball of webbing at the figure and, boom, the whole place goes up. Doc Ock's convinced he's killed Spidey and sets out to enact the next part of his heinous plan, finding somewhere to live.

But what's this? In the final panel? Doc Ock and Aunt May?


Could this be the start of a deadly new alliance?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #52. Kingpin. Fred Foswell dies

Amazing Spider-Man #52 fred foswell dies
(Two enemies united in peril. From Sept 1967.)

"To Die A Hero!"

Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita
Inked by Mickey Demeo
Lettered by Sam Rosen

This issue kicks off with a great splash page, as J Jonah Jameson's bundled down some cellar steps, with the unconscious Spider-Man being carried before him. John Romita's use of angles here is excellent.

Amazing Spider-Man #52, john romita, the kingpin's thugs carry the unconscious spider-man into a basement while j jonah jameson protests

It soon becomes clear what the Kingpin's plan is. He's going to manacle his two captives to a couple of iron plates on the floor (see front cover) and then flood the room with water. Why he doesn't just shoot them is a whole other matter but that's master criminals for you. Never kill someone quickly when you can do it in the most convoluted way possible.

Jameson and Spider-Man are left alone as the Kingpin savours his moment of triumph. But, as you always knew he would, Spidey wakes in the nick of time. Quickly assessing the situation, he breaks the manacles that hold his wrists. But what good will that do? demands JJ. They're still trapped in a room that's filling with water. Spidey has a plan. He starts shooting webbing into the air.

Amazing Spider-Man #52, john romita, as the shackled j jonah jameson watches and the room fills with water, spider-man shoots webbing into the air

Back at The Bugle, Ned Leeds is worried. Leeds is a character who could hardly be said to have pulled his weight since his introduction all those issues back. He's barely had anything to do since then but he's determined to get to the root of this mystery. First Fred Foswell goes missing and now Jonah. There's something up and he's out to discover what.

But who's going to fill in for Jonah in his absence? Cue Joe "Robbie" Robertson, making what I believe is his first ever appearance in the strip. Leeds tells fiancee Betty Brant that he's off. She begs him not to. She can't bear the thought of him dying. Yeah, build his confidence up, love. Frankly, she can be a bit of a pain in situations like this. You can't help but feel Peter had a lucky escape when his relationship with her broke down.

Meanwhile, Spidey's still firing webbing into the air. Maybe he'd be better firing webbing into the nozzles that all that water's coming in through but no, he has more extravagant things in mind. Exactly what isn't clear yet but, by the end of the page it is. He's surrounding himself and Jonah with an air bubble, using his webbing to keep it in.

Amazing Spider-Man #52, the room filling up with water, spider-man creates a web bubble around himself and the captive j jonah jameson

Certain their captives must be dead by now, the Kingpin's lackeys open the cellar door, to find their "victims" cocooned in a large orb of webbing. Quick as a flash, Spider-Man leaps out of the cocoon and, with one blow, knocks them both out. Another lackey runs in, gun in hand. Spidey takes him out. Now for he and Jameson to depart the scene. Jameson's in a panic over it all but there's no time to worry about that now because more goons are on their way.

Spidey gets Jameson to flee while he deals with them.

Jameson promptly runs head first into a steel pipe and knocks himself out. Unaware of this, Spider-Man goes in search of the Kingpin.

Amazing Spider-Man #52, john romita, spider-man bursts in on the kingpin who is threatening to kill fred foswell

He finds him, just as the villain's about to beat Fred Foswell to a pulp. Foswell's had a fit of conscience and won't be any part of cold-blooded murder. That makes him useless to the Kingpin and that means it's curtains for the man who only last issue was planning to be criminal overlord of all New York (presumably, one with a, "no hurting people," policy. Clearly, this was going to be a caring, sharing brand of criminal underworld).

But that's enough excitement for now. Time for the strip to cut away to a happier scene as Flash Thompson's back. Down at the Silver Spoon, he shows everyone his new uniform and it seems that Mary Jane's no longer going out with Peter Parker.

Amazing Spider-Man #52, john romita, flash thompson shows off his new military uniform to gwen stacy, harry osborn and mary jane watson

Back at the Kingpin's, Spider-Man's tangling with the corpulent crime lord. Our hero clogs his tie pin with webbing, to stop him firing any more gas. Foswell grabs a gun and flees as the pair grapple. Spider-Man's clearly getting the upper hand and the Kingpin unknowingly copies Foswell's example and scarpers. I like the fact that the Kingpin's always boasting about how hard and unbeatable he is but, whenever a fight gets tough, he always does a runner. It makes hm seem all the more unadmirable. Spidey follows him but a gas bomb delays him and the villain gets away. Spider-man goes in search of Jameson. Jameson meanwhile has recovered from his knock out and is running around in a panic. He's spotted by two goons who go after him. He's doomed.

No he's not.

Foswell's found him.

Foswell, who doesn't seem able to decide what side of the law he wants to be on, tells Jameson to get behind him. He'll hold the goons off for as long as he can.

As it turns out, he can only hold them off for one panel. That's how long it takes the former Big Man before he gets shot. Hearing the gunfire, Spider-Man rushes to the scene and takes out the thugs.

Amazing Spider-Man #52, john romita, as j jonah jameson watches, fred foswell is shot by the kingpin's goons

But it's too late for Foswell. He's on the floor, dying. By the time, Spider-Man gets there, Foswell's dead, his life sacrificed to save the boss who gave him a second chance. At last we see why Foswell's been getting so much panel room over the last two issues, bearing in mind that his presence seemed so irrelevant to proceedings. The whole story has been set up so the ex-criminal can go down in a blaze of glory and show that even the baddest of men might, somewhere within him, retain a spark of nobility.

Amazing Spider-Man #52, john romita, spider-man watches as fred foswell lays dead on the floor with j jonah jameson kneeling over his body

The cops arrive. Jameson declares to Leeds - who's still not got round to doing anything much - that Foswell will get a hero's write-up in The Bugle, and Spider-Man departs cursing the fact that Jameson never writes him up as a hero.


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