Sunday, 3 May 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #76. The Lizard & the Human Torch

Amazing Spider-Man #76, the Lizard and the Human Torch
(Cover from September 1969.)

"The Lizard Lives!"

Written by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema and Jim Mooney
Lettering by Sam Rosen

When people talk about John Buscema's career, they tend to acclaim his work on Thor, The Fantastic Four and The Avengers - not to mention his immense stints on Conan, omitting to mention the work he did on Marvel's flagship character. Equally, when they talk about great Spider-Man artists, they tend not to mention Buscema. Maybe it's because he drew relatively few issues of Spider-Man (although he drew more than people seem to realise) though I suspect it's just that his artwork may not have been quite quirky enough for him to have been viewed as a true Spider-Man artist.

Either way, you know, no matter what he's drawing, he's never going to let you down. And he doesn't here. Even under Jim Mooney's inks, you can spot the essential Buscema-ness of the art, even on the pages where he clearly contributed nothing more than the layouts.

As for this issue's other returning favourite, happily the Lizard's not changed his attitude one jot since his last appearance. He's still obsessed with destroying the whole human race. Maybe this is what makes the Lizard my favourite Spidey foe. Antagonists like Doc Ock, the Kingpin and Mysterio just want to line their pockets, shove people around or prove they're tougher than Spider-Man but the Lizard's ambitions are on a whole different level, even if he never does get within a million miles of achieving them.

Now all he has to do is find Spider-Man so he can be the first up against the wall come the reptile revolution.

If only he knew that he doesn't have to go looking for the hero because Spidey's already looking for him.

But first, the titular teen has to phone his Aunt May, who's still in Florida and then have a quick chat with Harry Osborn who mentions Mary Jane's love of his new moustache, despite the fact she hasn't been seen in the comic for months. It's like all those years in Coronation Street where Tracy Barlow disappeared into her bedroom for about ten years, only to reappear with a brand new head.

After the Spidey-heavy tales of the last few issues, we're getting a whole bucketload of Mr P this time round, coz now he's at Gwen Stacy's house and she's still mithering about his sudden disappearances. All trace of the live-wire that Gwen once was have gone by this stage on the strip, which is a shame. It might be a more realistic portrayal of how a super-hero's girlfriend would be in real life but it's a lot less interesting. It turns out they're not alone in the house because, elsewhere within its realms Captain Stacy and Joe Robertson are discussing Spider-Man and who he might be. They start asking Pete what he knows about Spidey. He gets all hot under the collar and the next thing you know it's tomorrow morning as he leaps out of bed upon hearing a radio bulletin of a scaly madman on the loose. Either Norman Osborn has scabies or it's the Lizard.

Yup, there he is, in the street, causing no end of chaos. As with these things, the police are nowhere in sight. It'd be great if, one of these stories, Spidey would hurry to the scene of a fracas, to deal with a villain, only to find that the police had got there first and already shot him.

In the total absence of a competent gendarmerie, Spidey enters the fray and they spend the next few pages flinging each other around, the Lizard yet again looking too tough for his opponent. Not only is he at least as strong as Spidey but, thanks to his thick hide, he can't even feel Spider-Man's strongest punches. After yet more trading of blows - from which our hero comes off worst - Lizzie smacks him in the mouth with his tail and then drops him off the roof.

Is this it?

Is our hero doomed?

Of course he's not. After 76 issues, we should have learned by now that no fall's ever likely to kill a man with webbing. What it is, however, is the ending of this issue and the start of a whole new raft of problems for its star as, halfway down, he finds himself being caught by someone.

It's the Human Torch.

And, when it comes to fighting the Lizard, he wants a piece of the action.

Mary Jane vigil.
Number of consecutive months now without Mary Jane: 11

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