Saturday, April 28, 2007

Greatest Spider-Man moment ever?

Remember when Spider-Man was actually funny and not just so annoying you wished Thor would toss him into the sun? I sure do. I miss 70s comic books.

There are a lot of great moments in Spider-Man's history. When he lifted all that machinery off his back as the tide rolled in, the final battle with the Green Goblin (the first final battle, that is), when he looted the gold steno-pad to pay for Aunt May's surgery, surviving the attack of John Byrne, etc., etc..

But today I am going show what is possibly the greatest, no all right, it is the greatest Spider-Man moment ever to appear in comics! Guess what? It was written by Bill Mantlo. A lot of people criticize the Mantlo style but I usually enjoyed his work even when it made me question my coolness. MAntlo did a great run on Hulk that set the tone of the book to this day and let us not forget the awesomeness of Rom!

For several years, Spidey was getting his butt kicked every month and it was usually by some guys wearing gloves with suction cups on them or a furry monkey suit. Spider-Man had become a joke. Point of fact, Spider-Man wasn't alone and many of the Marvel heroes of the time were having a very hard time of it. Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil and all the others were routinely having their lunches handed to them by some clown who had a gimmick that consisted of nothing more than shoes with pointy tips on them.

Fortunately, one day Bill Mantlo got tired of all that silliness and stepped in and put a stop to all of that nonsense by returning Spider-Man to the one we used to know from days of yore: The hero who beat up Doctor Doom and slapped Doc Ock into next week without breaking a sweat. In Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #19 (June 1978). Spidey went up against the D-List villains The Enforcers. Working for the criminal underworld as thugs for hire the Enforcers had as members a guy who was big and stupid (Ox II. Yes, there were multiple Oxes...Oxen?), a redneck who used rope to tie you up (Montana) and a short person who could kick you in the knees (Fancy Dan).

As Count Floyd would say, "Oooh, scary!"
In PPtSSM #19, Spider-Man intervenes in a neighborhood extortion racket maintained by the Enforcers and beats the crap out of the team in little time. The big fight is over just how it should be, quickly and conclusively. No more three issue (four, if you count the inevitable Dreaded Deadline Doom fill-in) life and death struggles against the Kangaroo! Not with Bill Mantlo at the typewriter!
"Too hard to spell"!?!?!

As great as that scene is Mantlo nearly ruins it with the next page, featuring novice hero Hector (White Tiger) Ayala who stuck around during the battle to watch Spider-Man in action.

Sorry, that's just creepy. Maybe I'm reading too much into the 1970s subtext for this scene but given Spidey's seeming discomfort and hasty exit it sure seems to me that he thinks Hector is getting something else from analyzing the fight other than a few pointers.

Interestingly, it seems the prolific Bill Mantlo had an interest in having the heroes in his scripts get back up to their former greatness, because nearly a year earlier he also wrote an issue of Iron Man, where Tony Stark gets fed up with being totally lame and decides to "put the Invincible back into Iron Man" by making short shrift of pathetic villains and even having him put down the Punisher of Galactus (unfortunately, Denny O'Neil would later undo all that in a series of sucktastic stories with elements recycled from past Iron Man tales).

Let's face it: Spider-Man can pick up a car with one hand, move almost too fast to see, has unparalleled acrobatic skills and is a scientific genius. When Spider-Man throws down against a group who have the collected abilities of crushing a beer can on their forehead, tying up baby cows and bruising the shins of opponents the results of the fight are a predictable and humiliating conclusion.



  1. Interesting exchange with Hector. To me it just glows with foreshadowing. Since there's no Spidey-sense going off, I trust Hector doesn't have any antagonistic feelings. But the other likely possibility is that Hector's gonna wind up getting himself killed and plunging Peter into another Uncle-Ben funk. The one guy in comics you'd think wouldn't blow anyone off, and here he is setting himself up for the fall.


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