Here’s Part Eleven of Spider-Man 1970s Classics. For Part One click HERE.
GIANT-SIZE SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #2 (October 1974)
Villain: Fu Manchu
NOTE: For anyone unfamiliar with the way Marvel licensed the rights to Fu Manchu and other Sax Rohmer characters and with the differences between the novels and Marvel’s use of Shang-Chi as the son of Fu Manchu I covered the first twelve issues HERE.
Synopsis: Still rooming with Flash Thompson after the destruction of his and Harry Osborn’s old apartment, Spider-Man is swinging around New York City one night. He comes across a robbery at the Guggenheim Museum and attacks the robbers.
That gang of criminals are secretly operatives of Fu Manchu and use their martial arts skills and weaponry against Spider-Man. He overcomes them all and when he interrogates one of them about who they work for, the thief does as ordered by Fu Manchu and instead claims he works for Shang-Chi. (Part of Fu Manchu’s plan is to pit his son Shang-Chi against Spider-Man.)
As part of the deception, the crook claims that he and his gang are just part of multiple robberies being committed around New York City to distract the police while “Shang-Chi” targets the Con Edison Electric building for destruction. After the unwitting pawn directs our hero toward Shang-Chi at the Con Edison building, the observing Fu Manchu activates units in the gang’s uniforms to electrocute them all to death so that none of this can ever be traced to him.
With Spider-Man in motion, Fu Manchu now has a separate gang that has been shadowing his son fight with Shang-Chi. They are wearing Spider-Man masks (but not the whole costume) and after Shang-Chi defeats all of them a make-believe fellow “victim” of the gang misleads Shang-Chi and his colleagues – Sir Denis Nayland-Smith and Black Jack Tarr – into thinking that Fu Manchu has hired Spider-Man to sabotage the Con Edison Building this night.
So with the stage set, Spider-Man and Shang-Chi clash with each other at the Con Ed Building while Fu Manchu and his agents strike at their TRUE target. After a running battle throughout Con Ed, Spider-Man and Shang realize they’ve been deceived and team up to bring down Fu Manchu.
An agent of Sir Denis tells our heroes that Fu Manchu is running some kind of operation at the Empire State Building as they speak. We readers jump ahead to that skyscraper, where the insidious Dr Fu Manchu has his underlings tampering with the broadcast antenna on top of the Empire State Building.
He says that the altered antenna will add specially prepared subliminal messages to all transmissions, transforming everyone who sees or hears those broadcasts into his unknowing agents, wreaking havoc in his name. Spider-Man and Shang-Chi arrive before the alteration to the antenna can be completed and do battle with the small army that Fu Manchu has brought with him.
As that battle rages, Black Jack Tarr arrives, leading two helicopters full of Sir Denis’ agents to help our heroes. The good guys win, Fu Manchu escapes and Spider-Man ends the night on friendly terms with Shang-Chi, Sir Denis and Black Jack. The police arrive, so Spidey swings off, since he is still mistakenly wanted in regard to the deaths of Captain John Stacy and Norman Osborn.
Shang-Chi can relate, since he was wanted for a time for the murder of Dr James Petrie.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #139 (December 1974)
Title: Day of the Grizzly
Villains: The Grizzly (first appearance) and the Jackal
Synopsis: Still searching for a new apartment so he can stop imposing on Flash Thompson, Spider-Man swings his way around town. He reflects on how he still feels guilty for not being able to save his girlfriend Gwen Stacy months ago, and is still torn up with grief over her.
He uses an alley in Chelsea to change into Peter Parker, then meets up with Liz Allen, who told him that she has found a potential new apartment for him. Given that Peter is now living on just his Daily Bugle photographer salary he will have to settle for something much more down to earth than the plush apartment he used to share with Harry Osborn when Harry’s father was paying all the rent.
Amid conversation and bantering, Liz leads him to a tenement building. Peter and Liz meet grouchy and loud Mamie Muggins, the woman who will from now on be Peter’s new landlady. The apartment is three and a half rooms and is very run-down but it’s all Peter can afford at the moment, so he takes it.
The next morning, Peter Parker drops by the Daily Bugle looking for his latest assignment. He visits with Betty Brant, J Jonah Jameson’s secretary, and with Joe “Robbie” Robertson, the older black City Editor. After everybody catches up with each other’s lives, Peter’s Spider Sense goes off.
A large, costumed supervillain calling himself the Grizzly bursts in, trashing the offices and causing most of the staffers to flee in a panic. Robbie tells Peter to run for help and he does so, taking advantage of the situation to switch to Spider-Man.
The Grizzly attacks J Jonah Jameson, who clearly recognizes whoever the man in the Grizzly costume is and tries to escape him. He can’t and the Grizzly throws Jameson out the window to fall to his death. Spider-Man saves him with his webbing while joking with Jonah that neither of them will be able to forgive him for saving Jonah’s life.
They exchange a few more insults and then Spidey takes on the Grizzly. During the battle, which trashes the Bugle offices, the villain makes reference to the way “a friend” of his has helped make him the Grizzly. Eventually, realizing that Robbie and Betty are still on hand and in danger, our hero lets the villain think he has beaten him by playing possum.
The Grizzly falls for the act and flees before the cops or any other superheroes can arrive. Spider-Man stops faking defeat and attaches a Spider Tracer to the Grizzly’s costume so he can trail him later. Next he brings in Jameson and leaves him with his mouth webbed again, so Jonah won’t be able to talk for an hour until the webbing dissolves.
Spider-Man then swings around the city, following the trail of the Spider Tracer for hours. Not for the first time, our hero reflects on how the dangers and action involved in being Spider-Man serve to distract him from the sorrow he feels over Gwen.
Suspicious because the Grizzly’s trail has led him to a townhouse in ritzy Washington Square, Spidey switches to Peter Parker to try feeling out the owner of the place before he goes charging in as Spider-Man. He rings the doorbell and, since his Spider-Sense is already going off because of the proximity to the Spider Tracer, he gets taken off-guard, captured and placed on a chair in the plush living room of the townhouse.
To his shock, he was captured by not just the Grizzly but by his presumed “friend” – the Jackal. NOTE: The Jackal is an enigmatic foe who has been waging war on our hero for a very long time now in these 1970s stories. The Jackal boasts to the Grizzly that now that they have Peter Parker in their clutches, Spider-Man can’t be far behind. This cliffhanger ends the issue.
NOTE: This was back when the excuse for Peter always getting so many photos of Spider-Man in action was that Spidey would supposedly tip off Peter about where he’d be, so that’s why the Jackal is making this assumption.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #140 (January 1975)
Title: And One Will Fall
Villains: The Jackal and the Grizzly
Synopsis: The Jackal informs Peter Parker how he was keeping his and Harry Osborn’s apartment under surveillance for a long time and saw him toss out the sack of Spider-Man costumes, web shooters and web cartridges on the day the apartment bomb went off. He recovered the items and realized Peter’s relationship with Spider-Man must be much closer than just getting occasional phone tip-offs since he was keeping some of web-head’s gear in his apartment for him, thus making him an accomplice to the outlaw hero.
NOTE: I agree, it is VERY far-fetched that the Jackal wouldn’t have immediately jumped to the conclusion that Peter IS Spider-Man rather than this convoluted theory, but you know comic book writing.
Next the Jackal has the Grizzly carry Peter Parker to a room down the hall which winds up being a portable laboratory. Peter has to pretend he can’t break free of the Grizzly’s clutches because he doesn’t want to give away his secret identity.
In the lab, Peter is knocked out by the Grizzly and strapped to an operating table. NOTE: After this issue, in a future letters page Gerry Conway explained that the reason the Jackal and his ally didn’t find Peter’s costume when they took off his shirt for the operation was because Peter had feared a trap so he left his costume in the Washington Square alley where he changed clothes last issue.
NOTE: Yep, it’s a pretty lame excuse that Peter would, this one time out of a zillion, NOT have his costume on under his street clothes.
Just a reminder that, even comparatively well written comic books are still just comic books, with much lower standards.
Anyway, the next morning, Peter comes to dressed back in his civilian clothes and finds Crime Reporter Ned Leeds and his fiance Betty Brant standing over him, worried about him. He was dumped in the lobby of the Daily Bugle building and that’s where Ned and Betty have found him as they arrived for work.
They take Peter to a coffee shop across the street to take care of him. He gets some coffee while trying to convince Ned and Betty that he must have been knocked out amid the rampage of the Grizzly. He can tell something is wrong with his right arm and takes the first chance he can to get away from Ned and Betty and into the Men’s Room.
Inside, he rolls up his sleeve and sees a high-tech harness around his arm. He says he’s got to get it off but the Jackal, obviously having bugged the harness and listening in, taunts Peter that he doesn’t dare do that. He tells him that if he tries to force the harness off, or unlock it or remove it or tamper with it in any other way it will vibrate itself to powder automatically, destroying both itself and Peter’s right arm.
The Jackal says that now, able to listen in on Peter’s every conversation and able to trace his location at all times via the harness, Peter will eventually lead him to Spider-Man so he can kill him. Peter is horrified as the depth of the danger sinks in to him.
We cut to much later in the day, as Flash Thompson drops Peter off at his new apartment with his few remaining possessions after the explosion at his old apartment a few installments back. Flash and Peter meet one of Peter’s new neighbors, struggling black model Gloria Grant, who introduces herself and the trio get acquainted.
After some friendly conversation, Gloria leaves, as does Flash to drive back to his Far Rockaway apartment. Peter spends a nerve-wracking rest of the day contemplating his plight. In the evening he takes a cab to Empire State University, where he has a key that gives him access to some of his student laboratory equipment there.
He has decided he has no choice. He can’t leave the Grizzly and Jackal at large, and can’t live with this device on his arm. He MUST hope the Jackal was bluffing about the harness being able to vibrate itself to powder and just remove it. Using some of his lab equipment, he burns out the audio and tracing equipment in the device, clips it off with special scissors and breathes a HUGE sigh of relief when nothing happens. The Jackal WAS bluffing.
Now ready for action, he dons his Spider-Man costume which he brought with him in a gym bag and swings off with the harness. After tossing it into the Hudson River he swings over to the Daily Bugle building. As J Jonah Jameson does so often, he is sleeping on the couch in his office since he is such a control freak about the Bugle’s operations.
Spider-Man wakes Jonah up, outraging the man, of course. Spidey ignores Jonah’s insults, puts a cigar in Jameson’s mouth, lights the cigar, then says “There we go. All comfy? Good. Now tell me everything you know about the Grizzly before I paste you one across that darling nose.”
Jonah blusters but our hero cuts him off by saying “As Jack Webb used to say, just the facts, mister.” And so Jameson goes on to answer in flashback why the Grizzly tried to kill him the previous day. Long years ago (so before Peter worked for the Daily Bugle in comic book time) the Grizzly was a pro wrestler who used particularly brutal methods in the ring. Jonah started a crusade against him, obviously unaware of the staged nature of wrestling matches.
Anyway, in the fictional Marvel universe, apparently wrestling is real, because the Wrestling Commission investigated the Grizzly (real name Maxwell Markham) and had his license revoked, ending his wrestling career. The angry Markham vowed revenge against Jameson some day.
The blustering Jonah tries to make it sound like it was all a matter of high principle and was a triumph for him over the forces of lawlessness and immorality. He ends with “That’s why the Grizzly’s after me, because -” Again our hero cuts him off and says “Because you ruined his career, JJJ. Why don’t we call a spade a spade?”
Jonah says “Listen, punk, don’t get frivolous with ME!” Spider-Man snatches the cigar from Jameson’s mouth and grinds it up into ashes. Then he says “That’s what the Grizzly’s going to do to you, JJJ, and after what you just told me, I’m tempted to LET him.”
Spidey swings off, and Jonah angrily throws one of his shoes out the window after him, hollering that Spider-Man can’t talk to him like that.” Too late, Jonah realizes he shouldn’t have thrown one of his shoes at our hero and screams about how that was an expensive pair of shoes and blames THIS on Spider-Man, too, in another bit of comedy.
Later that night, Spider-Man reaches the Washington Square brownstone and breaks in. He sees traces that reveal the Jackal and Grizzly are long gone along with the portable lab equipment. He ponders maybe tracking down the real owner of the townhouse to see if that person can be traced to the Jackal, but for this evening he pursues another lead.
Our hero asks around town for where the wrestler Maxwell Markham used to work out. Conveniently, he DOES find a wrestling business figure who remembers where and tells webhead.
Arriving at that gym, our hero finds the Grizzly has just beaten up a lot of his old foes, who gloated over his downfall over the years. Spider-Man and the villain fight again and Spidey uses his webbing and his super-strength to tear apart the Grizzly’s costume, revealing the high-tech exo-skeleton which gave the villain his own super-strength.
The Grizzly bemoans the fact that the Jackal custom-made that equipment for him. Spider-Man destroys the exo-skeleton, telling his foe that when Jameson told him he was just a normal wrestler he figured that there must be something built into the costume that made him as strong as he was.
Spidey easily beats the depowered Grizzly and webs him to the wall. Next, he calls the police to come get him and departs after promising the villain that some day he’ll catch up with the Jackal, too, since Markham knows nothing about that mystery man’s secrets.
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.