Sunday, 3 May 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #77. The Human Torch & the Lizard

Amazing Spider-Man #77, cover, the Lizard and the Human Torch
(Cover from October 1969.)

"In The Blaze Of Battle!"

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

I've never been a big fan of this issue. Don't get me wrong, it's perfectly entertaining and beautifully drawn and I've also always liked the somewhat fractious nature of Spider-Man and the Human Torch's relationship. They're sort of friends but seem to always end up fighting. It's just that it makes the Lizard look a bit rubbish. Normally, when he fights Spidey, he seems like one of Marvel's deadliest menaces. In this issue, he spends the whole story running away from the Torch, trying to avoid getting toasted as Spidey tries to save him. But who wants twenty pages of the Lizard running away? Not us. We want twenty pages of him threatening to destroy humanity, while bashing Spidey about.

The Torch, of course, doesn't know what's going on and why it's vital not to harm the Lizard. Spider-Man's no good at explaining things and the Torch is no good at listening to things. No wonder they're always at each other's throats. The Lizard's made it to the waterfront, declaring that, now he's here, nothing can stop him.

Spidey and the Torch are both going to make a damn good try at it.

Being able to fly, Torchy gets there first. He finds the Lizard on the deck of a ship, trying to hit the panic-stricken crew with a mast he's broken off. Why he's doing this is never explained. Presumably, he was just in the mood to let off steam. Well, the Torch is ready to let off steam too but in a whole different way. He flings a fire blast at the villain, who leaps into the water to escape it. Now the Torch lets of his steam. He boils the water. The Lizard'll be killed. Spidey jumps in to save the villain. The Torch stops boiling, in order not to kill Spidey.

Seemingly, the water stops being boiling hot instantly because Spider-Man's totally unharmed by the experience of leaping into it. It won't be the last bout of unlikely physics in this tale.

Happily, the villain didn't need saving. He was just playing possum. Not so happily, he grabs Spider-man and tries to drown him.

But Spidey breaks free and strangulates the fiend with his own collar. When he's passed out, Spider-Man returns to the surface with him. There then follows a short argument between the Torch and Spider-Man, which is ended by Spidey claiming his non-existent spider-sonic hearing's detected a distress call from the rest of the Fantastic Four.

With the Torch out of the way, Spidey can get on with the task of turning the Lizard back to Curt Connors. He takes him to a warehouse and secures him in a webbing net while he goes in search of the chemicals he needs.

Oh dear, things start to go wrong again. Curt Connors' son Tommy's spotted our hero entering the warehouse. Concerned about his father, the boy's gone inside. The Lizard wakes, spots the boy, breaks loose from the webbing and leaps at him.

Spider-Man hears his scream and rushes to the scene... see the reptile stood over the fainted boy. It seems that, somewhere in the deep recesses of his brain, he remembers who the lad is. The Lizard spots Spidey and, putting the boy aside, says he's going to kill the hero.

Oh no he's not because Spider-Man throws a king-size barrel of talcum powder at him. The fool! How can mere talcum powder stop the mighty Lizard?

Well, pretty easily as it turns out. The powder dries Lizzie out and weakens him so much that he transforms back into Curt Connors. It has to be the most wonderfully illogical idea ever seen in the strip but who cares? As a solution, it has a certain charm - and it's a safe bet that, by the time of Spidey and the Lizard's next meeting, Spider-Man will have completely forgotten that he can be defeated by talcum powder and will spend several issues battling to work out a way to beat him.

Mary Jane vigil.
Number of consecutive months without Mary Jane now: 12 (It's MJ's first vanish-a-versary).

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