Sunday, July 15, 2012

Black Widow and the Fever (Amazing Spider-Man #86 & 87 by Stan Lee and John Romita)

This is from my occasional hobby blog, Amazing Bronze Age of

Amazing Spider-Man #86, 87 1970

The Black Widow sounded really exciting---let’s face it, my impression was built entirely on the cover!

I saw it for the very first time one April afternoon, home from my trip to Kessler's with Mom for Easter clothes (it fell April 22nd that year). I managed to get us a block down Broad Street with some very polite suggestions that it would be a lot of fun to visit the comic book shop, Amazing World of Fantasy. (It was NOT, as Gordon told people on the phone weekly, an adult sex items shop.) Sure enough, amidst the posters and figurines and very stimulating visual environment could be found more comic books than ever I had seen in my life!!!

I could get just one, basically, for what I had. Maybe two regular ones, but what...? So why not something extra special? That's when my eyes settled on a comic with the exciting title:

The Official Marvel Index to Amazing Spider-Man #4

Here was Spider-Man, crouched, and from behind him, we see he carries George Stacy's fallen body in the face of the Hulk, the Kingpin, and SO many B and C list villains! I had a fascination for comics made before I was (made), imagining them to be of surely exciting quality, and now I had a store within pleading distance (not to be abused, but floated often) stocked full of them. Rather than picking a single back issue from the boxes of plastic-bagged yesterday---and looking was and always will be a delight, but especially then, when it was like sneaking a peak at Heaven---I chose this brand new comic, with 28 covers and publishing details, credits, chronology for all characters as they appeared in each story, 32 pages of faithful prose re-tellings of each and every page of the comics magazine, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, from #85 in 1970 to #114 in 1972. The very first one was reprinted in Marvel Tales #66, in 1976---a salvage store comic I'd bought for a quarter with my good grades money, courtesy of Mama and Daddy. I recently realized that was one of the first dozen comics I owned. I must have read it a hundred times, even all the ads a few times. I knew the Kingpin was in for a shock at the end, over a secret his wife Vanessa had figured out. Cool, but their soap opera apparently required Spider-Man in a net for the entire climatic scene, which was very soap opera-style, but suggested rubber masks work better than they generally really do (though Face Off shows how truly a skilled artist can change an appearance). New content was always the mission: bang for buck. I would come back and buy Alpha Flight #12 at Gordon's suggestion, his first ever I took, and bang indeed that buck did.

So, the Index:
We get some 'cue from this new place on North Broad, Ole Timer Barbecue. Amazing smoked goodness, that sandwich was. And finally, chores done and Saturday, it almost had to be, maybe even April 20th, I open the door to enjoy the air outside and crumple comfortably into Dad's recliner.

I skipped the Kingpin finale on page one, oohed over John Romita's cover for #86 with its mysterious silhouette on Spidey's surprised wall-crawling frame. I read the

synopsis on page two of my brand new comic book. I was just innocent enough to be spooked and amazed and totally engrossed, reading each page, describing an issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Remember, in those days,

there was no readily more affordable way for me or any young fan to read a couple years’ worth of Spider-Man plots from fifteen or so years before. This comic book I describe featured each cover and a list of characters and other comments tying the individual stories to the larger storylines of the Spider-Man title. So the first page had my first true favorite comic book’s plot and cover, as they originally appeared. On the next: Spider-Man’s adventure with the Black Widow, one where the build-up of the suspense of her hunting down Spidey didn’t seem to match with that mysterious cover! By their second encounter, she realizes he doesn’t use gadgetry so much as raw, strange powers---no wonder he’s so difficult to subdue! Spider-Man’s on his way to bigger trouble, as we’ll see.

#87 has that very dramatic cover, and then the unthinkable occurs on the first few pages: a feverish Spider-Man, still desperate to produce a nice birthday present for Gwen Stacy (as seen in our subplot now for a few issues), uses his strength and climbing abilities to steal a nice necklace! He can’t just use being Spider-Man to get whatever Peter wants!

He puts it back, very worried about his fitness to function as a superhero anymore. He tries to take a look at his blood under a microscope, and can't focus.

Hoo, boy! Peter walks into Gwen’s party late, feverish, takes out the Spider-Man mask and tells them WHO HE IS!!! Talk about how does a hero get out of a jam?

Peter's problem, it turns out, is the FLU. And now he's walked into his girlfriend's party and announced "Spider-Man is finished! I know...because I'M Spider-Man!!!"

The solution revolves around the second of three pretty neat appearances of his friend Hobie Brown, who became Spidey’s friend after a misunderstanding in his first shot, ASM #78. (He was suggested by John Romita, Jr. I remember estimating, with a careful look at his age listed in a Bullpen Bulletin, JR Jr must have been about eight or nine when his father drew in his character! Nice, one-time deal for a father and son. And John Romita Jr.’s gone on to draw many more Spider-Man stories to continue the tradition with Marvel!

You can send $30 and get any three t-shirts and the comic, too---or $25 for the two styles of shirts and a comic.

NOT ANOTHER COMIC BOOK IS COMING IN 2016!!!! Like the INTEGR8D SOUL page on FB for more!!! And this blog and more new material are coming out as a book in spring of 2016, INTEGR8D FICTIONS.

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