Here’s Part Eight of Spider-Man 1970s Classics. For Part One click HERE.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #134 (July 1974)
Title: Danger is a Man Called Tarantula
Villain: Tarantula (first appearance)
Synopsis: As Spider-Man, Peter Parker swings along, hurrying to catch a Hudson River cruise ship that he, Mary Jane Watson, Flash Thompson and the newly returned Liz Allen are taking for a few hours of fun. As he switches back into Peter Parker he notes that he’s down to his last current cartridge of web fluid in his web shooters and makes a mental note to pick up more the next time he’s at the apartment he shares with Harry Osborn.
As the ship sails along it is hijacked and held for $1,000,000.00 ransom (equivalent to $5,581,387.00 today). The hijackers are the brand new Hispanic villain Tarantula and his two costumed sidekicks. While the villain and his aides rob the passengers of all their valuables, Peter grabs the first chance he gets to become Spider-Man and saves a sailor knocked overboard in a scuffle with one of Tarantula’s men.
Unfortunately he exhausts the last of the webbing he has on his person by doing so. As the hijacked ship continues along the river, Spider-Man leaps from car-top to truck-top, etc to get home. In his bedroom he loads up on web fluid cartridges and then swings off.
Little did he realize the skulking Harry Osborn was coldly watching this, removing any last lingering doubt from his drug addled mind that the papers he found on the body of his late father Norman Osborn – the Green Goblin – were completely right about Peter Parker being Spider-Man.
NOTE: Peter’s Spider-Sense only warns him about enemies, not friends, that’s why he didn’t realize Harry was there.
Meanwhile, the mayor of New York City has been leaning on his acquaintance J Jonah Jameson, pressuring him to loan New York City the $1,000,000.00 in ransom money for Tarantula. He does so with the implied threat of political scrutiny of the Daily Bugle’s charter and commitments. Jameson gets the message and angrily prepares to comply, despite his greedy, penny-pinching nature.
NOTE: For anyone unaware of New York City’s financial problems during the 1970s, this was around the time when they were nearing their peak. Before much longer the infamous headline Ford To City: Drop Dead (often erroneously recalled as FORD TO NEW YORK: DROP DEAD) would be published, marking President Gerald Ford’s refusal to grant NYC a federal bailout.
Back to the story. Spider-Man gets back to the hostage tourism ship and defeats Tarantula’s sidekicks, then battles Tarantula himself. The spikes on the tips of his boots contain tarantula venom and one poke is enough to kill a normal person. For the most part our hero is able to dodge Tarantula’s kicks, but there is still the villain’s super-strength to deal with.
Eventually, Tarantula realizes that if Spider-Man is too quick to easily poke with his kicks, he will try using his spiked boot-tips to kill passengers. To save their lives, Spidey has to put his own body in the way, shielding the innocent passengers but having to absorb the venom from the villain’s spiked tips over and over.
Ultimately, the cumulative effect of the venom affects Spider-Man enough that he collapses, on the verge of unconsciousness. Near the point of blacking out, he realizes another figure has arrived – it is the Punisher, back for another battle with our hero and mistakenly thinking he is part of the hijacking scheme.
His machine gun aimed at the fallen Spidey provides the cliffhanger ending.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #135 (August 1974)
Title: Shoot-Out In Central Park
Villains: Tarantula and the Punisher
Synopsis: The Punisher tells the still-prone and woozy Spider-Man that he won’t fall for his “Mr Innocent Act” THIS time, since he’s “caught him red-handed.” Tarantula tries playing along, telling the Punisher to go ahead and kill Spider-Man, saying that the pair were fighting because web-head wanted more than his share of the loot.
The byplay between the Punisher and Tarantula buys our hero time to recover sufficiently from all the venom he absorbed in the previous issue and he disarms the Punisher.
The pair fight each other while the Tarantula and his two revived goons climb a rope ladder lowered from their helicopter, which just arrived.
Tarantula and his men thus escape with the passengers’ valuables. Apologizing, the Punisher realizes he was wrong about Spider-Man and dives overboard, telling our main character to meet him at the museum at Fort Tryon at Midnight to make plans to capture Tarantula and his men.
Spider-Man, still unjustly wanted in regard to the killings of Norman Osborn and Captain John Stacy, flees the scene before the authorities can arrive. As Peter Parker he pretends to have been knocked overboard and in need of rescue by the ship’s crew.
Hauled back aboard, he is reunited with Liz, Flash and Mary Jane and tries to sell them on the notion that he fell overboard while taking pictures of the Spider-Man vs Tarantula fight for the Daily Bugle.
Back at the Daily Bugle building, J Jonah Jameson is still steaming mad as he consults with City Editor Joseph “Robbie” Robertson (the older black guy) about ways out of making the million dollar loan to New York City for the ransom money. Soon, their conversation is interrupted by a phone call from Peter Parker, using a pay phone at the dock.
Peter tells Jonah about what happened and that he got some news photos. Glad that he doesn’t have to part with a million bucks, Jonah gleefully tells Robbie that the next morning’s edition will have headlines about how the Punisher saved the day-cruise ship from Tarantula and his men, “despite Spider-Man’s bumbling interference.”
Robertson lets Jonah’s secretary Betty Brant know what really happened. Later, at Peter and Harry’s apartment, while Peter showers, we see Harry, drug-addled as usual, rummaging through the drawers in Peter’s bedroom, where he finds our hero’s spare costumes. No, I have NO idea why Harry needed anymore proof about Spider-Man’s secret identity at this point, but what can you do? Maybe he’ll ask Peter to sign a sworn affidavit stating he is indeed Spider-Man.
Little realizing what Harry was just up to, Peter finishes his shower, then later, as Midnight approaches he dons his Spider-Man costume again and swings off to meet up with the Punisher. At the vacant museum in the Cloisters, the Punisher shows our hero a slide-show about the Tarantula’s personal history.
The villain’s real name is Anton Miguel Rodriguez, and a few years earlier he had been part of the rebel army fighting a dictatorship in South America. Rodriguez was bloodthirsty in leading his squadron in derailing trains, ambushing government troops and robbing banks to fund the revolution. Ultimately his indiscriminate killing led to his expulsion from the rebel army.
The dictator’s army snapped him up, and the homicidal maniac was glad to betray all he knew about his former rebel allies. Rodriguez was also used in the oppressive government’s plans to create its own Super-Soldier, to be the dictatorship’s own version of the USA’s Captain America. Rodriguez received super-strength enough to go head to head with our hero, got advanced training and outfitted with his costume, including the boots with spiked tips containing tarantula venom.
The man couldn’t shake his homicidal tendencies, and after years of helping to put down the rebels, he went too far by angrily killing one of the dictator’s aides. Tarantula had to flee the country and had thenceforth been making a living as a criminal.
The Punisher says Rodriguez hit New York awhile ago and put together a gang to help him pull off the cruise ship hijacking, and that ends his presentation. He tells Spider-Man he found Tarantula’s hideout in the tenements of the West Hundreds, near Central Park.
Spidey and Punisher raid the criminal lair and while the Punisher shoots down Tarantula’s costumed gang members, Spider-Man fights the main villain again. Naturally, he wins this rematch, knocks out the Tarantula and webs him up for the police. He and the Punisher part as friends.
Epilogue: We join Harry Osborn at the Osborn Family-owned warehouse headquarters outside which his father died during his final battle with Spider-Man after he, as the Green Goblin, had killed Gwen Stacy. We see him enter, and he plans to at last launch his vendetta against Spider-Man, calling the lair the place where our hero “killed my father.”
The crazed and drug-addled Harry pushes a button and a hidden steel door seals off the inside of the warehouse from prying eyes – even ours – with the obvious implication that he will become the new Green Goblin and set out to kill Spider-Man.
I’LL COVER THE NEXT CHAPTERS SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK.
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.