Here’s Part Fifteen of Spider-Man 1970s Classics. For Part One click HERE.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #147 (August 1975)
Title: The Tarantula is a Very Deadly Beast
Villains: The Jackal and the Tarantula
Synopsis: We pick up a few days after the end of our previous installment. Spider-Man swings his way to the Daily Bugle building, where he switches to Peter Parker and walks into the offices. After standard hostile byplay with J Jonah Jameson, Peter is called over to the desk of crime reporter Ned Leeds.
Ned is still investigating the Gwen Stacy clone and who might have made it. (Peter has not told anyone that he fears the Jackal made the clone since that villain has apparently figured out Spider-Man’s secret identity.)
Leeds gives Peter copies of the long line of medical tests that the new Gwen has undergone in the past few days. Somehow the cloning process was accelerated, meaning she was created mere months ago, even though she is an adult as much as the real Gwen was when she was killed.
Meanwhile, the enigmatic villain the Jackal strikes again, busting Spider-Man’s old foe the Tarantula out of prison to use him as his latest operative against our hero as his plans approach fruition.
Elsewhere, Mary Jane Watson and her Aunt Anna Watson are picking up Peter’s Aunt May at the hospital. She is being sent home today. When MJ’s aunt leaves May and Mary Jane in a waiting area while she goes to bring the car around, the two have a conversation about Peter.
Mary Jane makes it clear how upset she is that just when things were intensifying between her and Peter this Gwen clone showed up, causing Peter more heartache and disrupting their relationship.
Aunt May, who has been trying to fix up Peter and MJ since Peter was in high school, makes it clear she is rooting for MJ and doesn’t trust the Gwen clone. She tells Mary Jane that if she wants Peter she needs to make it clear to him that it’s her or the new Gwen. Period. Mary Jane agrees.
Back to our hero, who has donned his costume and is swinging his way home as Spider-Man. He is still being eaten up by the emotional dilemma he’s in regarding MJ and the new Gwen. He’s also consumed with fear that the Jackal does know his secret identity and can destroy his life by exposing him whenever he pleases. AND, the Gwen clone might secretly be helping the Jackal.
As Spider-Man gets closer to his Chelsea tenement apartment he is attacked by the Tarantula, whom the Jackal had lurking in wait to try to ambush our hero. The Tarantula kills off two cops who try to interrupt the battle.
As Spider-Man and Tarantula battle on and on, Peter realizes that his foe is keeping him in the same vicinity as they go round and round in circles. We soon see why Tarantula is doing that – he’s been buying time for the Jackal to show up, driving a hijacked New York City mass transit bus.
Tarantula knocks Spidey into the bus, where the Jackal and the Gwen clone are waiting. The taunting Jackal drives off with them on board as the battle between Peter and Tarantula is now confined to close-quarters grappling as they ride along. Spider-Man wonders again to himself why his Spider Sense as usual did not alert him to the Jackal’s presence. He fears again that the villain is really a person close to him and that is why his Spider Sense doesn’t go off around him.
As the bus ride and our hero’s grappling with the Tarantula continue, Peter is further distracted by the realization that the Jackal has driven them to the Brooklyn Bridge, where Gwen Stacy died. The fight goes on and he fears that the Jackal may be planning some cruel Vertigo-style setup where he will force our hero to see Gwen get killed again at the exact same spot as the first time.
That fear increases as the Jackal stops the empty bus right at the support column Gwen was knocked from by the Green Goblin long ago. The Jackal leaves the bus, ordering Gwen to follow him as he enters the interior staircase of the column to climb up to the top.
All of this leaves Spider-Man so distracted and torn up with anguish that the Tarantula manages to pierce his flesh with enough of his boot-tips’ venom to knock out our hero.
An unknown amount of time later, Spider-Man comes to. He is lying bound in enormous, specially constructed chains on top of that support column of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Jackal, Tarantula and the new Gwen are standing around him. Cop cars are lined up on the bridge below, drawn by the battle and by the way the Jackal’s stolen bus is blocking traffic.
Spider-Man pleads with “Gwen” to explain to him what is going on and why she’s doing this. The Jackal taunts our hero about his confusion. He tells Spider-Man that he still does not comprehend the level of hatred he feels for him.
He rants that all of this has been done to kill him as revenge for the way he let Gwen Stacy die here at this exact location. He further states that he gave this new Gwen life and that she belongs to him (the Jackal) now. He tells the costumed Peter that he can never hurt Gwen again. NOTE: At this time Spider-Man was also mistakenly wanted in regard to the death of Gwen’s father, Captain John Stacy.
With that, he and the Tarantula toss the chained hero to his death, as they and the Gwen clone look on.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #148 (September 1975)
Title: Jackal, Jackal, Who’s Got The Jackal?
Villains: The Jackal and the Tarantula
Synopsis: We pick up immediately after the cliffhanger ending of the previous issue. The chained Spider-Man is plummeting to his death. Bound as he is he is at the wrong angle for the webbing being fired from his web-shooters to hit and stick to the bridge column.
At the last possible moment, as his falling form passes the highway portion of the bridge his fired webbing DOES manage to catch the underside of the highway bridge, saving him from hitting the water and drowning since the chains would prevent him from swimming.
Unfortunately, his collected momentum causes him to swing back and forth wildly and he accidentally smacks his head against metal supports of the bridge, rendering him unconscious and leaving him dangling there between the underside of the bridge and the river below, helpless.
Back on the top of the support column, the Jackal and Tarantula are angry that Spider-Man may still be alive but can’t stick around because of the dozens of policemen gathered below. One of the cops is shouting to them through a megaphone, telling them they are under arrest and to stay there.
The Jackal is unperturbed, however, and has the Gwen clone remove her coat (he even had her dressed like the original Gwen was dressed when she was killed). Concealed in the clone’s coat was a portable jet pack harness. The Jackal assembles it and has the Tarantula wear it so he can carry him and Gwen away from the bridge.
Tarantula objects that there is no fuel, but the Jackal tells Gwen to give him her purse, which she does, and inside the purse are two containers of fuel for the jetpack harness. The Jackal attaches the fuel containers to the harness, following which the Tarantula flies off in it, carrying Jackal and Gwen in each arm.
With those three having escaped, the police use one of their department police boats to approach the dangling and still-motionless Spider-Man under the bridge. There are several heavily armed cops on board.
The cop in charge briefs his men as they pull up to Spidey, saying “Okay, this one we don’t blow. Spider-Man’s been handed to us on a silver platter and it’ll be our heads if he gets away.” NOTE: Our hero was still mistakenly wanted in regard to the deaths of Norman Osborn and Captain John Stacy back then.
The blustering cop in charge tells his men to unwrap the chains from the seemingly out cold Spider-Man and put him in handcuffs instead. He uses the lame excuse that it will look bad if a bunch of New York’s Finest can’t haul in Spider-Man without having him chained up like a gorilla.
Comment: I would have instead gone with the more plausible for the time period excuse that the cop in charge didn’t want any lawyers getting Spider-Man off by saying his Civil Rights were violated by being brought in in chains. It’s still a stretch, but I think it makes more sense.
The minute the chains are unwrapped, Spider-Man immediately knocks aside the nearest cops to him and dives overboard to swim away. We cut to the cop in charge being chewed out by his superior in front of the news cameras.
After that bit of levity we join Peter Parker later in the evening, showing up at his apartment building in Chelsea in his civilian clothing. Mary Jane Watson is waiting there for him on the steps outside. She tries to engage him in conversation about how he hasn’t called her in days and demands to know what’s going on with the Gwen Stacy clone.
Peter is all frazzled and at the end of his emotional and psychological rope given everything that’s been coming down on him. He responds robotically and unenthusiastically to MJ’s questions.
She follows him up the inner staircase to his apartment, telling him how his Aunt May told her that if a woman wants to keep her man she needs to FIGHT for him. MJ goes on to tell Peter that she can sympathize that something weird is going on with the Gwen imposter but demands that he make it clear to her that she (Mary Jane) and Peter are a couple now.
Peter, still in a virtual daze, accidentally shuts the door in Mary Jane’s face behind him. He quickly realizes what he’s done and reopens it but MJ is infuriated and refuses to come back. She keeps going and leaves.
Peter needs some sleep and a bath to recharge amid all these ordeals. Like a man in a dream he feels helpless, with danger fast approaching in the form of the Jackal potentially blowing his secret identity sky high, but unable to decide on a course of action.
The next morning Ned Leeds shows up at Peter’s apartment to talk over the Gwen Stacy mystery, telling him how she never returned to his and Betty Brant’s apartment last night. Ned rehashes how this new Gwen is a clone with all of the original Gwen’s memories EXCEPT her memories end a short while before the real Gwen’s death.
Ned goes on that whoever created the Gwen clone obviously means either Peter or Spider-Man harm, given the ties between Peter and the Stacys – both Gwen and her father. NOTE: Back then the excuse for Peter getting so many pictures of Spider-Man in action was that Spidey would sometimes anonymously tip off Peter about his activities, like other anonymous sources with the news media.
As Leeds goes on, he says scientists he has consulted have told him whoever made the Gwen clone would have had to have access to the real Gwen’s bodily cell tissues when she was still alive. That jogs Peter’s memory.
At Empire State University, where both he and Gwen were students, their biochemistry professor, Miles Warren (a supporting character in Spider-Man stories since 1965) had a lab assistant named Anthony Serba. Anthony collected cell samples from ALL the students in that class for some experiments and research he was involved in.
Peter and Ned realize that if Professor Warren knows where Serba is now or what he did with those cell samples it may lead them to the person behind the Gwen clone – maybe even Serba himself. The pair go to the Empire State University campus.
They talk to Professor Warren and brief him on the recent appearance of the Gwen clone and want to know if he has Serba’s address or knows what happened to the cell samples. Warren leads them to the campus lab center where the samples were stored but is alarmed to see them all missing.
As for Anthony Serba, Miles tells Peter and Ned that Serba quit long ago and hasn’t been heard from since. Ned Leeds tells Peter to get Serba’s last known address from the Empire State personnel records while he goes back to the Daily Bugle offices to see if anyone has found the missing Gwen clone.
Naturally, once Peter gets the address he switches to Spider-Man and goes after Serba himself. He swings over to Serba’s shabby old apartment and finds it deserted and empty of all furniture. The Tarantula is on stake-out there, obviously assigned by the Jackal to wait there, and he attacks our hero.
The two fight it out again, a fight that takes them to a nearby rooftop and Spider-Man at length defeats Tarantula, knocking him out. He thinks to himself that once he’s turned the villain over to the nearest cops he will go over Serba’s apartment with a fine-tooth comb to look for clues regarding the Jackal.
Without warning, the Jackal uses his claws to slash the back of Spider-Man’s head from behind. The claws were drugged and Peter falls down on the rooftop, with consciousness fast escaping him. He asks the Jackal the question he’s pondered ever since the villain first caught him from behind, when the Jackal was allied with the Punisher – How is he able to sneak up on him without his Spider Sense warning him?
The Jackal, with the Gwen clone and a drugged Ned Leeds with him, addresses our hero as “Peter” and answers his question. He reminds Peter that his Spider Sense only warns him about enemies, not friends. And as he removes his mask he says “And dear boy, haven’t I ALWAYS been your friend?”
Seeing that this villain has been his long-time mentor and academic advisor all along, our hero cries out “Professor Warren! The Jackal is … Professor Warren!”
OKAY, EVERYTHING COMES TO A CONCLUSION NEXT TIME AROUND, AS THE WHOLE JACKAL/ GWEN STACY CLONE STORYLINE WRAPS UP, ENDING MY LOOK AT SPIDER-MAN 1970s CLASSICS.
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.