Here’s Part Five of Spider-Man 1970s Classics, in which readers finally learn what lies behind the whole Dr Octopus/ Aunt May/ Canada storyline. For Part One click HERE.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #129 (February 1974)
Title: The Punisher Strikes Twice
Villains: The Punisher and the Jackal
NOTE: I skipped over the less than classic Spider-Man #s 127 and 128, which featured a rushed, poorly written story about our hero fighting a scientist who accidentally mutated himself into a copy of Spidey’s frequent foe the Vulture.
In issue 127 some subplots moved along, so here’s a recap – Spider-Man and his friend the Human Torch (Johnny Storm) of the Fantastic Four continued working on the Spider-Mobile that our hero will get paid for since Corona Motors’ new pollution free engine will be running it.
Meanwhile, Peter Parker and his roommate Harry Osborn had an ugly argument about their strained relationship since Harry’s father died. Peter does not yet know that Harry is the one who removed Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin costume from his dead body before the police arrived. Thanks to the documents that Norman had on his person, Harry now knows that Peter is really Spider-Man and – in his drug-addicted mind – thinks Peter intentionally killed his father.
Lastly, Professor Miles Warren, Peter Parker’s bio-chemistry instructor and academic advisor at Empire State University, had a terse talk with Peter about how he has let his grief over Gwen Stacy’s death seriously jeopardize his grades. Now, on with issue 129.
Synopsis: In a laboratory hideout are two costumed men, the Jackal and the Punisher, BOTH making their first ever appearances. The Punisher, the now-legendary vigilante who got multiple movies long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched, is blowing apart statues of Spider-Man with high-tech, specially designed rifles and machine-guns paid for by the Jackal.
Though the Punisher usually works alone, the Jackal has talked him into an alliance against Spider-Man, whom the Jackal wants dead for as yet unknown reasons. The Punisher wants Spider-Man dead because this was when our hero was wanted in regard to two murders – Captain John Stacy and Norman Osborn.
Elsewhere that night, Spider-Man defeats four armed robbers hijacking a truck, while having Peter Parker’s camera set to automatically snap photos of the action. The next morning, as Peter, he shows up at the Daily Bugle with the pics.
Betty Brant, Peter’s ex-girlfriend and J Jonah Jameson’s secretary, invites Peter to a Christmas Eve party that she and her fiance Ned Leeds will be throwing and Peter accepts. Next he goes in to see Jonah and black City Editor Joe “Robbie” Robertson to sell the photos and converse. Jonah is anxious for pictures of the new vigilante called the Punisher since he is in all the papers because of his war on organized crime. Peter Parker agrees to try and departs amid Jonah’s usual impatient blustering.
Later in the day, while our hero is swinging around the city as Spider-Man, the Punisher, who has been hunting for him, fires upon him from a rooftop. Our hero’s Spider-Sense warns him to take evasive action and the explosive shell that the Punisher launched blows up part of an abandoned building.
Spidey and the Punisher fight it out on a rooftop and when our hero has the upper hand, the Jackal strikes Spider-Man across the back of his head from behind with his electrified claws, causing Spider-Man to woozily stumble off the roof.
NOTE: As Peter Parker realizes, the fact that his Spider-Sense did not warn him about the approaching Jackal must mean the Jackal is really someone he is friends with as Peter Parker. The Jackal will be a major menace going forward.
Anyway, Spidey saves himself with his web-shooters but the Jackal and the Punisher foolishly think he fell to his death and leave. When our main character returns to the rooftop battlefield he finds only a rifle with a Reiss Armorers label on it. He takes it and heads for home.
Later, back at the Jackal’s laboratory HQ he and the Punisher are having a furious argument. The Punisher is outraged that he attacked Spider-Man from behind and just let him fall to his death. The Jackal counters that it doesn’t matter how he died but the Punisher disagrees. Eventually the Punisher says he’s off to get another souped-up gun from the Mechanic aka Reiss Armorers.
At Empire State University, Mary Jane Watson runs into Peter’s Professor Miles Warren, and they discuss the danger MJ faced from the Vulture last time around. She is doing better and ponders Peter and her growing fondness for him, especially given how depressed he still is over Gwen’s death. She feels Peter’s overall seriousness may clash too much with her fun-loving, party girl nature.
At the apartment Peter Parker shares with Harry Osborn, Peter is tending to the claw wounds on the back of his head, then sews his torn costume. Harry Osborn, strung out as usual, nearly enters the apartment but his paranoia makes him think Peter might be waiting inside to kill him, so he slinks off, feeling alone against the world.
Spider-Man swings to Reiss Armorers that night and finds “the Mechanic” dead, slashed up, obviously by the Jackal. The Punisher soon shows up, thinks Spider-Man killed his friend Reiss, and attacks him. Spidey defeats him and shows him Reiss’ slashed up corpse to prove he didn’t kill him.
Our hero and the Punisher realize that the Jackal – thinking Spidey was dead – now wanted the Punisher out of the way, too, so he left the gun with the Reiss Armorer plate on it, hoping the cops would find it. He also hoped to have the police catch the Punisher with Reiss’ dead body and arrest him. But Spider-Man taking the rifle foiled that plan.
The police show up, though, sirens blaring, since the Jackal tipped them off to further his plan. Spider-Man and the Punisher part on civil but cold terms as the vigilante accepts that our hero is not the criminal that he is accused of being.
As Spidey and the Big P flee the scene, the Jackal watches from a nearby rooftop. He is furious that Spider-Man is still alive but vows to kill him by using one of his old foes against him – Hammerhead.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #130 (March 1974)
Title: Hammerhead is Out
Villains: The Jackal, Hammerhead and Dr Octopus
NOTE: The title Hammerhead is Out is a topical reference to the Richard Burton movie Hammersmith is Out.
Synopsis: This story opens up in the wee hours of December 20th into the 21st. Spider-Man attacks a pack of gangsters in yellow uniforms and wielding laser-rifles. They were in the act of trying to break into the skyscraper office of a law firm affiliated with the Canadian practice of the late Jean-Pierre Rimbaud. (Rimbaud was murdered by one of Dr Octopus’ gangland soldiers in Spider-Man #120 before Rimbaud could tell Peter what Ock wanted with his Aunt May.)
All but one of the high-tech armed goons in yellow escape in the subsequent battle, and when Spider-Man tries getting info out of the one gunman he captured, a psychic/ hypnotic process causes the goon’s mind to collapse into death before he can reveal who he works for. (We readers know it must be Hammerhead from the title but our hero doesn’t.)
Elsewhere in those overnight hours, the Jackal is meeting with Hammerhead, who has just returned from hiding in Europe ever since the gangland war between him and Doc Ock months earlier. The Jackal is manipulating Hammerhead via the information that HH stole from Dr Octopus’ HQ back in Spider-Man #115, information pertaining to Ock and Aunt May.
The Jackal goads Hammerhead on to kill both Spider-Man AND Ock, while reflecting to himself how he hopes that entangling Spidey between both Dr Octopus AND Hammerhead a second time will manage to kill him this time. Hammerhead doesn’t want what the Jackal is trying to sell him and drives him away with his threats.
Hours later, at 7:00AM, Spider-Man visits the Human Torch at the Baxter Building HQ of the Fantastic Four. Dialogue indicates that the Spider-Mobile is at last ready for our hero to test-drive. The Torch shakes the sleep from his head and the pair hit the streets in the Spider-Mobile, with Johnny Storm impatiently trying to teach Spidey how to drive. Our hero tells the Human Torch he never learned to drive since he lives in New York City, so he has always either used public transport or web-slung his way around town.
Elsewhere, Dr Octopus is temporarily released from prison on a special, low-key furlough arranged by his high-priced lawyers for special reasons which will become clear at the end of this issue. Ock reflects on how Aunt May is still working as his housekeeper while he has been away at prison and now the plans he has for her can come to completion.
Later, Spider-Man swings back to his apartment, turns back into Peter Parker and reflects “Never have a friend teach you how to drive. If you survive it, you’ve either lost the friendship or your sanity.” The phone rings and Peter answers it in his bathrobe. It is his Aunt May. As usual, Peter tries to talk her out of her misguided sympathy for the “misunderstood” Otto Octavius but as usual doesn’t get anywhere.
Mary Jane shows up at Peter’s door. She tells him about how Professor Warren at Empire State keeps telling her how worried he is about Peter, whose academic abilities he has always been so impressed with.
MJ also tells Peter that she has decided to appoint herself as Peter’s official guardian angel to shepherd him to all his classes from now on so he can save the semester. (Classes should not still be going on this close to Christmas but, hey, it’s a comic book so just go with it.)
As Mary Jane succeeds in putting a smile on Peter’s usually glum face by flirting and teasing him about all the “deep” intellectual books he reads, it becomes clear that she is starting to put the moves on Peter. As she escorts him to his classes that day she reminds him of Betty Brant and Ned Leeds’ Christmas Eve party coming up in a few days and, in her usual assertive way, drafts Peter to go to the party with her.
A few days later, in the late afternoon of Christmas Eve, when it is already dark in New York, Spider-Man stakes out the lawyer’s office that the yellow-garbed men tried to break into on the 21st. They try again, this time with jet-packs added to their equipment.
Spider-Man drives the Spider-Mobile to the attack, using its built-in web shooters to capture some of the goons and leaping out to take down the rest personally. This time their boss – Hammerhead – has tagged along and he attacks Spidey now.
The two fight for the first time in months, as Hammerhead rehashes how he stole something from Ock’s office during the final battle of the Gang War and wants both Ock and Spidey dead. Our hero underestimates how Hammerhead has improved his fighting abilities while in hiding and he gets the upper hand on Spider-Man and escapes with his men.
The Jackal, meanwhile, is lurking nearby. He had stolen the final piece of information that HH and his men were after in the lawyer’s skyscraper office. He gives it to Spider-Man since he knows that it will force our hero to once again dive in between Doctor O and Hammerhead.
Spider-Man drives off in the Spider-Mobile to get to Ned and Betty’s party, planning to read the documents the Jackal gave him after he gets to the party. Arriving, he parks the Spider-Mobile, pushes the button that transforms it into a regular car, then turns into Peter Parker and heads upstairs to the apartment of Ned Leeds for his and Betty’s party.
Mary Jane is waiting for him there and distracts Peter from the documents in his pocket with her bantering conversation. At present J Jonah Jameson, another one of the guests, approaches Peter to give him his Christmas Bonus – one of Jonah’s personal blend cigars. (Peter doesn’t smoke.)
Mary Jane takes Peter away from the crowd and says they need to find some mistletoe because she wants to “give him something.” Peter at last catches on to MJ’s intentions toward him and awkwardly backs out of it because he is still mourning Gwen and isn’t ready to move on yet.
MJ is a bit hurt but understands. Peter slips away to read the documents he brought with him and at last understands what Ock wants with his Aunt May. He is incredibly alarmed and switches to Spider-Man, intent on going to Octavius’ Westchester Mansion to FORCE Aunt May to leave, even if Ock’s soldiers try to prevent it. (Which is what he should have done long ago.)
He arrives at the mansion in costume, and approaches a window. Since he didn’t know Otto just got out of prison on the furlough he is stunned by what he sees inside – Aunt May is in a wedding dress, Ock is in a tuxedo and, with his army of gunmen looking on, a minister is marrying him to Aunt May.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #131 (April 1974)
Title: My Uncle, My Enemy
Villains: Doctor Octopus and Hammerhead
Synopsis: Spider-Man continues to look through the window, stunned. He feels helpless. Octavius’ entire army of men is in the room, armed to the teeth. If he breaks in to get Aunt May under these circumstances she could get killed by a stray bullet, but if he lets the ceremony go all the way through, Ock will have a clear road to completing his sinister plan.
(As a humorous bit, one of the big, tough gangsters is drawn crying, since it’s a wedding.)
Suddenly, his Spider-Sense goes off, and Hammerhead breaks into the mansion with his own army of goons to interrupt the wedding. As a battle breaks out, Doctor O and Hammerhead clash while their soldiers shoot it out.
Ock still needs Aunt May alive at this point, since the ceremony is not over, so he fights his way past Hammerhead and his men and retreats to another room with May, as he struggles to keep up his facade of “being in love” with her.
From the final battle there months ago, Spider-Man deduces where Octavius is headed and swings ahead to a lower level where a secret door opens up and Ock emerges with Aunt May at his side.
Spider-Man attacks his archenemy but Ock manages to fight him off while he and May escape in a high-tech helicopter that rises from an underground hangar. Hammerhead and his men arrive as it takes off and pepper it with gunfire to no avail. (They had been using knock-out pellets for the raid on the wedding to prevent accidentally killing Octavius before Hammerhead could learn what Ock’s entire plan was. Afterward they switch to regular bullets.)
HH orders his men to follow him back to their own aircraft and they fly off in pursuit of Dr O and Aunt May, with Spider-Man clinging to the bottom of Hammerhead’s chopper, unknown to the men inside.
As the aerial chase heads north for hours, we cut to Ned Leeds’ apartment where he and Betty Brant’s Christmas Eve party is still going on. Everyone is having a great time despite J Jonah Jameson’s attempts to monopolize the conversation with grandstanding tales of his own perceived greatness.
At length, Ned Leeds takes Betty and Mary Jane into the kitchen to get away from Jonah’s boasting. He asks MJ where Peter went. She replies that Peter apparently decided to give her the cold shoulder and she feels chilled.
Ned observes that Peter DID just lose Gwen months ago and in his opinion is still dealing with his grief. He and Betty tell Mary Jane that Peter will likely come around in time. MJ tries to laugh it off as if she doesn’t care and claims a serious man like Peter might be a drag on her social life.
As Mary Jane goes back in to the party to flirt and dance, Ned disapproves but Betty tries to tell him not to judge MJ harshly. She says that despite her bravado MJ is a bit scared about the way she is beginning to feel about Peter and just needs patience and understanding.
Ned states he’d hate to see a nice guy like Peter get hung up on “a girl as flighty as MJ.” Joe “Robbie” Robertson enters the kitchen and joins in the conversation, and he gently weighs in on the side of letting Peter make up his own mind about Mary Jane and how he may or may not feel about her.
We now cut back to Hammerhead’s copter in pursuit of Ock’s copter as they head further and further into Canada. Because it’s a comic book we’re supposed to believe Spider-Man is able to eavesdrop on Hammerhead and his men inside despite the sounds of the rotors, etc. He hears Hammerhead discussing how Ock had Rimbaud killed before he could tell anyone that May Parker had inherited something big.
Spidey is surprised that Hammerhead still doesn’t know exactly what Aunt May inherited but HE does, after reading the documents that the Jackal stole from the law office in New York before HH and his men could get to them.
Our hero also reflects to himself that Otto Octavius must have intercepted some of Aunt May’s mail long ago when she first started out working as his maid, when she was missing, and he’s been playing her for a fool ever since. If they get married, he’ll have a stake in what May has inherited, and if Ock arranges a fatal “accident” for her afterward, it’ll be all his.
At long last, we readers are shown what all this has been about, as the two aircraft approach what May has inherited – a remote northern Canada island with high tech scientific facilities covering much of it. Hammerhead is outraged, because in his simple-mindedness he doesn’t understand what the place is and thinks this has all been a waste of time.
Peter reflects to himself how the documents revealed to him that this island is rich in uranium and contains one of the world’s most sophisticated nuclear breeding reactors as well. Through the high-powered Intelligence Community connections from May’s sister and brother in law (Peter’s late mother and father) she has inherited a secret, privately owned nuclear processing plant.
That plant can produce enough fissionable material to power warfare against the entire world in the hands of a madman like Dr Octopus.
Ock’s aircraft lands on the island’s airstrip first, and Aunt May is confused about what the place is and why she and Otto have come there. Before she, Ock and his goons can enter any of the buildings, Hammerhead’s copter approaches and his men open fire, with bullets this time. Ock’s men shoot back.
Next, HH has his pilot ram Octopus’ grounded aircraft as the firefight continues. Dr O tries to get May to safety since he still needs to marry her, but Spider-Man tries to separate him and May Parker. May passes out, since she still mistakenly believes Spider-Man is a criminal.
Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus have a hard-hitting battle in the snow and the cold. Peter is furious at what Ock has been trying to do to his Aunt but can’t let on exactly why he is so angry with the villain. At long last, he knocks out Ock as he says to him “Pleasant dreams, you pig!”
Spider-Man scoops up Aunt May in his arms and swings off to the island’s hangar. As the firefight between the rival gangs continues, Otto at last regains consciousness and vows to crush Spider-Man in revenge, since he plans to be a nuclear power now. He mistakenly leads his remaining men into the nuclear reactor building, thinking that is where Spidey and May went.
Hammerhead and his remaining men chase after them, with HH vowing to force Ock to tell him what this island’s secret is. With both villains and their soldiers now inside the reactor building, Spider-Man pilots the supply plane from the hangar out onto the runway and into the air.
Inside the reactor building, Hammerhead attacks Doctor Octopus savagely, causing all kinds of destruction despite Ock’s panicked attempt to calm him down so he doesn’t create a disaster. Because this is a comic book, the damage that the villains’ battle causes is enough to make the entire island go up in a nuclear mushroom cloud just as the plane with Spider-Man and Aunt May gets to a safe distance.
Spidey is relieved that Ock and Hammerhead are dead and took the problem of what to do with the island with them. (Naturally, they both turn out to have survived all this years down the road. You know comic books.)
Aunt May comes to, and as Spider-Man tries to explain to her what Dr O wanted with her she passes out again. Peter gently says “Pleasant dreams, Aunt May” and continues piloting the plane south toward New York.
As the sun comes up on Christmas Day, Mary Jane is the last guest left at Ned and Betty’s party. Betty and Mary Jane have been talking in the building’s lobby to see if Peter was ever going to come back. With daylight dawning, MJ decides to head home to get some sleep and spend the day with family.
Betty is still trying to get MJ to commit to her exact feelings toward Peter Parker. MJ – in vintage 1970s style – says “This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I don’t WANT to ‘love’ him. I like him too much for that kind of scene.” (I can dig it.)
With that, she heads out to a taxi, quoting Scarlett O’Hara’s “Tomorrow is another day” line from the end of Gone With The Wind. +++
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.