Here’s Part Four of Spider-Man 1970s Classics. For Part One click HERE.
DAREDEVIL & THE BLACK WIDOW Vol 1 #103 (September 1973)
Title: Then Came Ramrod
Synopsis: In a rare moment of kindness, Daily Bugle publisher J Jonah Jameson has sent Peter Parker to San Francisco to photograph and interview Daredevil and the Black Widow, who were at the time operating as crime-fighting partners like Captain America and the Falcon back in New York City. The Black Widow was also romantically involved with Daredevil in his secret identity of blind lawyer Matt Murdock.
NOTE: The Black Widow and Matt Murdock were currently a major San Francisco power couple (this was back before San Francisco was filled with human waste matter and drug needles). Because this is a comic book nobody figured out that Natasha’s man Matt Murdock was also her superhero partner Daredevil, who conveniently moved to the West Coast at the same time Murdock did.
In his Spider-Man costume, Peter Parker photographs the BW & DD swinging back into Natasha’s San Fran mansion. Daredevil was swinging on his billy club cable line and the Black Widow was swinging on the slender black weblines that her wristlets shot out.
NOTE: Natasha’s wristlets also shot powerful rays called her Widow’s Sting, too, and her costume let her cling to buildings and ceilings like Spider-Man did but none of those cool attributes of her costume were ever used in the Marvel Comics movies. Instead, she just shot guns. Lame.
Back to the story, Spidey switches to Peter Parker and enters the mansion’s grounds. He shows his press pass to get past Ivan Petrovich, Natasha’s chauffer back then. (Natasha was still rich through her inheritance from White Russian family members.)
Spider-Man and Daredevil by this point knew each other’s secret identities, but Black Widow does NOT know that Peter is really Spider-Man. Peter is still mourning Gwen Stacy and feels sorrow over the way Daredevil has a woman who can share in his superhero life the way the non-powered Gwen could never have shared in his.
DD and the Black Widow give Peter a tour of the mansion as he snaps photos along the way. After awhile, Peter feels his Spider-Sense tingling but before he can do anything, a supervillain calling himself Ramrod bursts through the mansion’s walls. He is there to steal secret documents from Matt Murdock’s safe, papers he is holding for his client Rolling Stone Magazine.
Matt has the papers as the publication’s attorney while they fight a legal battle to be allowed to go ahead and publish. Wealthy and powerful white collar criminal Kerwin Broderick is the subject of those documents and he got a court injunction against Rolling Stone to block them from publishing the docs.
NOTE: This was all a topical situation. It paralleled the case regarding press freedom and the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, but with this fictional instance involving Kerwin Broderick and with Rolling Stone the paper in question, not the New York Times.
Back to the story, Ramrod is a cyborg and his steel flesh plus incredible strength make him able to ignore Daredevil and the Black Widow’s attacks on him. Before Peter Parker can slip away to become Spider-Man and help them, Ramrod has torn open Murdock’s safe, defeated BW and DD, and fled via super-powered leaps.
When Daredevil and the Black Widow regain consciousness, Natasha tells Peter to stay at the mansion and they will complete the photo spread and interview with him … if they survive their rematch with Ramrod. Peter snaps photos of the duo swinging off after the villain and then dons his Spider-Man costume to help them.
The three heroes catch up with Ramrod to fight him and get the documents back. We learn Ramrod’s origin.
ORIGIN NOTE: This was during the very first Thanos War in the 1970s. The war was being chronicled in multiple issues of Captain Marvel, Iron Man, Daredevil & the Black Widow plus issues of The Avengers and the Thing’s team-up comic book.
The evil Kerwin Broderick was not yet exposed as a villain and he was manipulating Moondragon, the future Avenger, who mistakenly believed him to be a good guy opposing Thanos like she did. He repeatedly tricked Moondragon into using her spaceship and its technology from Saturn’s moon of Titan to create super-powered minions for him to use against Thanos. Instead, he would use them to advance his criminal ambitions, which involved destroying all of Thanos’ agents in San Francisco and taking control of the city himself.
As regular readers will remember from Balladeer’s Blog’s articles on the Thanos War, Moondragon eventually got wise and helped DD and BW plus Captain Marvel save San Francisco from both Kerwin’s agents AND Thanos’ minions. In the meantime, however, she had created DD & BW’s foes Angar the Screamer, the Dark Messiah and Ramrod.
Returning to the story, Ramrod had been a boss on an oil rig owned by Kerwin Broderick. He was crushed in an accident so Broderick had Moondragon use her futuristic technology from Titan to turn him into the super-powered cyborg called Ramrod.
Eventually, Spider-Man, Black Widow and Daredevil are able to knock out and capture Ramrod by knocking him off a San Francisco skyscraper. He is alive but injured. Spider-Man asks DD & BW to keep his name out of this story as a favor. (In reality he wants Spider-Man’s presence in the city to be unknown, since it would be too coincidental for him to be in San Fran at the same time Peter Parker is there.)
Spidey turns back into Peter Parker and then meets up with Natasha and Daredevil to finish their photo spread and interview.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #126 (November 1973)
Title: The Kangaroo Bounces Back
Villain: The Kangaroo
NOTE: The Kangaroo is not exactly a classic Spider-Man villain but this issue includes further developments in some of the subplots that will have a major impact on our hero in the near future.
Synopsis: Back in New York now for an unknown amount of time, Spider-Man is swinging his way through the city on his way to Empire State University to attend his classes there as Peter Parker. He is attracted to a rooftop by two men shouting to him from bullhorns.
He swings down to talk to them and learns they are Carter and Lombardo, from a Madison Avenue advertising agency. Their new client is Corona Motors, a newcomer to the auto industry. Corona Motors has come up with a pollution-free engine and want to include it in a “Spider-Mobile” to cash in on Spider-Man’s notoriety as a controversial outlaw hero figure. (As if a pollution-free engine wouldn’t get enough publicity by itself.)
Spidey reminds them he is wanted for questioning in the murders of Captain John Stacy and Norman Osborn and tells them to forget the idea. He swings off.
Elsewhere in the city, the Australian thief Frank Oliver aka the villain called the Kangaroo, is still in hiding and just pulling off small jobs ever since Spider-Man defeated him in Spider-Man #81 (February 1970). He is approached by the crooked Doctor Jonas Harrow who offers to enhance his super-powered legs.
Harrow is the man who modified a gangster’s damaged skull, turning him into Hammerhead several installments back. He begins surgical procedures on the Kangaroo’s legs.
Meanwhile, Peter Parker has been attending his classes at Empire State University. He is still struggling to focus because of his grief over Gwen Stacy’s death. Professor Miles Warren, Peter’s academic counselor and one of his bio-chemistry professors, gives him a concerned talking to about his frequent absences. He understands about Peter grieving Gwen, who had been another one of his students, but reminds Peter to be there for Warren’s next lecture.
NOTE: Professor Miles Warren has been a supporting character in Spider-Man for over 80 issues by this point.
After this slightly embarrassing encounter, Peter runs into Mary Jane Watson and Flash Thompson. Mary Jane had been viciously dumped by Harry Osborn a few issues back but has bounced back to be her usual vivacious self. She and Flash invite Peter to come and hang out with them for awhile but he refuses. MJ tries to insist and Peter blows up at them and walks away.
Later, after his classes, Peter returns to the apartment he shares with Harry Osborn. Harry is not home but Peter learns that the rent has not been paid. Harry’s father Norman Osborn had been paying for both his son and Peter to live there, and Peter had assumed that Harry would keep up the rent payments given all the money he has now with his father dead.
This rent situation alarms Peter. The phone rings and it is Aunt May, still working as a “housekeeper” at Dr Octopus’ Westchester mansion while Ock is in prison. Peter still doesn’t know what Otto Octavius wants with Aunt May, just that it concerns some legal dealings that Canadian lawyer Jean-Pierre Rimbaud was trying to talk to May about before he was killed. (By one of Dr Octopus’ gangster underlings, unknown to the public.)
It turns out Aunt May is calling because Mary Jane told her Aunt Anna about Peter’s angry treatment of her. Anna is May’s friend so she phoned May and told her about it. Aunt May offers to come and “take care” of Peter for awhile if he needs companionship with Gwen dead but he insists that she not bother.
After their lengthy conversation is over, Peter reflects to himself that he’s not entirely sure Doc Ock’s goons would LET Aunt May leave the premises, given how they hovered over her even at Gwen’s funeral. He doesn’t want to find out the hard way if they would or would not so he figures she should stay put for now.
Elsewhere, the Kangaroo tries out his enhanced powers for Jonas Harrow. Satisfied, Harrow starts to give orders to the Kangaroo for a criminal endeavor he has planned but the villain just swats him aside and leaves, saying nobody orders him around.
The next day Spider-Man covertly approaches Carter and Lombardo to take them up on their offer for him to advertise their client’s new motor by way of a Spider-Mobile. He insists he be paid an advance in cash, though, since Peter wants to use the money to pay the rent.
Carter and Lombardo inform Peter he is to design and build the vehicle from scratch and they will just supply the motor by way of Corona Motors. Annoyed, Spider-Man starts swinging his way to the Baxter Building to get help with designing and building the Spider-Mobile.
On the way his Spider-Sense tingles and he is attacked by the Kangaroo, whose legs are now so powerful that the villain’s kickboxing blows against our hero seriously knock him around. Harrow also amped up his arm strength. The fight is interrupted when Jonas Harrow activates a device he secretly implanted in the Kangaroo’s brain to use pain to make him obey.
The Australian villain leaps off to do Harrow’s bidding, with Spider-Man too woozy to pursue him right now. When he is recovered, he resumes swinging to the Baxter Building headquarters of the Fantastic Four, to seek out his good friend the Human Torch (Johnny Storm).
Eventually, the Human Torch – given his well-known passion for cars – agrees to design and build the Spider-Mobile as a favor to him. The two get started on the designs right away.
NOTE: Spider-Man and the Human Torch had a bond of friendship going back to their early days, since they both started super-heroing as teenagers. They even starred together in the first few issues of Marvel Team-Up.
Meanwhile, at Saint Michael’s hospital, J Jonah Jameson is still at the hospital bedside of his son John. John remains in a coma following Spider-Man’s tearing off of the moon rock which was causing John’s transformations into the Man-Wolf monster.
Jonah is there with his son’s fiancee Kristine Saunders. They have been at John’s bedside every available moment for weeks now. Jonah is, of course, throwing his weight around with his son’s doctors and threatening negative news coverage if his son doesn’t survive.
Okay, now back to the Baxter Building, where our hero and the Human Torch have been working late into the night on Johnny’s design for the Spider-Mobile. The police band monitors go off, reporting on the Kangaroo’s invasion of a nuclear tech laboratory. (This is what Jonas Harrow wanted him to do.)
Spider-Man tells the Human Torch that this is personal between him and the Kangaroo so he swings off to do battle with him at the scene of the crime. They fight it out at Hudson Nuclear Labs. In his bull in a china shop way, the Kangaroo ignores Spider-Man’s warnings about how careful he should be with the isotopes he is trying to steal and the villain winds up dying from exposure to them.
Jonas Harrow is furious but plans to try again with another super-powered minion in the future.
Epilogue: Mary Jane visits Harry and Peter’s apartment, hoping to charm Harry into taking her back. Her attempt fails and she leaves angrily. Alone in the apartment now, Harry, still strung out on drugs, etc, is revealed to us readers to be the mysterious person who removed Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin costume and equipment before the police found his dead body. From the papers and photos in the packet he found on his father’s person Harry now knows that Peter is really Spider-Man and plans to get revenge against him as the new Green Goblin in the future.
In closing, we rejoin Spider-Man swinging around the city, reflecting on how these days he feels he might be better off if one of his foes succeeded at killing him, that’s how despairing he feels over Gwen Stacy’s death.
FOR THE NEXT CHAPTER CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ MANTIS/ KANG/ CELESTIAL MADONNA STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s ADAM WARLOCK/ GAMORA/ THANOS/ MAGUS STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s BLACK PANTHER VS KILLMONGER STORY CLICK HERE.