Amazing Spider-Man #135 (August 1974)
"Shoot-out in Central Park!"
Gerry Conway-Ross Andru/Frank Giacoia
Karen: I absolutely love this awesome Romita cover. Spidey right in the middle and the rest broken into sections with his various friends and foes. It's very striking. Inside the book, Spidey's in pretty dire straits. For some reason, The Punisher thinks Spidey was actually in cahoots with Tarantula! Tarantula is no fool, so he tells Punisher that Spider-Man turned on him during the course of the hijack. All this talk gives Spidey a chance to recover from the poison he was hit with by Tarantula's boots, and he knocks Punisher's gun out of his hands, and tries to reason with him. While the two of them are engaged, Tarantula manages to escape on the helicopter he had waiting to pick him up. Punisher realizes his mistake and tells Spidey to meet him later. Oddly enough, Punisher then jumps into the river and swims off! Really? No raft over the side? Hmm.
Doug: That cover is great, isn't it? How many of our readers had the school folder with the same image? I have a couple of comments about the Punisher to start off: First, that's a pretty high-tech gun he's toting, isn't it? And secondly, as this was only his second full appearance, this pre-dates his using rubber bullets, doesn't it? Does anyone know when he went to that? I recall that Spider-Man insisted on it, and the Punisher was quite reluctant to do so, but I cannot remember what story it was in. I like that Pete got super-mad and just leveled ol' Skull-shirt. We all know Pete held back often, but it's always a little bit of a pleasure to see him cut loose. The swimming away thing was odd -- did I miss it last issue that the Punisher had been aboard the cruise incognito before the Tarantula and his goons made their play?
Karen: I don't think so. Once Punisher is gone, the passengers all confront Spidey; some of them think he was part of the hijack. He too jumps in the river and swims off. Flash begins to think about everything that's happened (providing a flashback to last issue), and wonders why Peter disappeared and Spidey showed up. After all these years, Mr. Thompson seems to be starting to use his noggin. Suddenly, there's a cry of 'man overboard' and who should need fishing out of the drink than Peter Parker. But Flash isn't buying it.
Doug: I think these scenes about Flash and his doubts about Peter make Pete's moving in with him in ASM #138 all the richer. There's some nice camaraderie between the two old rivals in the beginning of that story. And Pete would have been in the water a very long time, don't you think? I'm guessing at some point there must have been police helicopters circling, huh? But I guess not, since Tarantula was able to get away using his own bird.
Karen: Peter calls J. Jonah Jameson and tells him how the Punisher and Spidey drove off the hijackers. All JJJ cares about is the fact that he's off the hook for the ransom money! Next we see Peter's apartment. As he takes a shower to wash off all the yucky stuff from the river, a deranged looking Harry rifles through his dresser drawer and finds his costume. Pete thinks he catches a glimpse of his room-mate as he towels off, but pays it no mind. He should.
Doug: Harry is drawn as really, really creepy. So, let's take an art time-out. While John Romita will always be the consummate Spidey artist, Ross Andru was "the guy" when I started reading ASM regularly. While I guess I wouldn't claim to "own him", I do find his work familiar and comfortable. But... only on Spider-Man. His work on the FF, Superman, the Defenders, etc. you can have. His style works well for Spider-Man and his cast of friends and foes, and it is a style -- just as Gil Kane has a style, Ditko has a style -- it's all quite distinct.
Karen: Later that night, Spidey meets up with the Punisher at the Cloisters, which is a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the northern edge of Manhattan (thank you Wikipedia). Somehow the Punisher has been hiding out in a room here while he plans to stop Tarantula. We get a 2+ page recap of Tarantula's origin (with an unusual black panel background) as Punisher shows Spidey a slide show. Tarantula started out as a revolutionary in a South American country, fighting against a dictatorship. But his cruel nature won out and eventually the revolutionaries dumped him. He then signed up with the government, who turned him into Tarantula, "the twisted, perverted Captain America of his country," as Punisher puts it. He was turned loose on his old buddies and soon his ultra-violence got him booted out by his government masters as well. He then decided to go solo as a criminal, and what better place than NYC? I can't help but feel this entire origin was inspired by a mix of the crime films of the time (the scene on the steps of a building instantly reminded me of the climax of The Godfather) and the political events in Latin America. Here, and more obviously later in the story, the revolutionaries seem to be depicted as heroes.
Doug: Just an aside here -- I cut the Marvel Value Stamp out of this comic. Yep, big hole right there on the letters page. The black background on the Tarantula backstory did seem out of place. Which is funny, since that's how most comics today are printed! But I thought the origin story was a good one, and it showed to me the Punisher's dedication in knowing what was going on in "his city" and in bringing down those unsavory elements. Funny -- even in the Punisher's second appearance, you can see what another dark avenger, the Batman, would become in the hands of Frank Miller.
Karen: Punisher knows where Tarantula hangs out, so he and Spider-Man head over there. There's a really cool shot of Punisher kicking the door down, and then it's mayhem. When Tarantula sees Punisher shooting a sub-machine gun, he decides it's time to leave and runs, but Spidey is waiting outside for him and jumps him. The two tangle but Spidey is on his own turf now and easily evades Tarantula's kicks. The thief runs off into Central Park with Spidey right behind. As Spider-Man puts him down, he gives a little speech about the revolutionaries, calling them heroes. This is an interesting little look into 1974 politics that I have never thought about or been aware of. Just as Spidey is finishing up, Punisher comes along, henchmen in tow, and asks if Spidey is really that idealistic. Spider-Man answers affirmatively and asks if the Punisher doesn't have any ideals. "I did, once," the mysterious soldier says, and leaves us wanting more. Wasn't it fun back in the days when the Punisher and Wolverine were actually mysterious, interesting characters?
Doug: Spider-Man's soliloquy is interesting, given that Vietnam should have been fresh in everyone's mind -- armed conflict of any sort must have seemed unsavory. But at this point, I don't believe we were as involved in some of these Latin American hot spots as would come to light later during the Reagan administration. The fight between Spidey and the Tarantula was again a good one, and shows Andru's ability to convey action. Solid storytelling.
Karen: I agree, and I'm not a big fan of Andru. We close out the issue with Harry Osborn, looking crazier than ever, entering his dad's secret warehouse, the one he kept all his Green Goblin paraphernalia in. This can't be good...
|Ken Osmond as Eddie Haskell on Leave It to Beaver, c. 1950's -- we've made reference to Osmond's hair in the comments section of this post.|