Monday, January 27, 2014

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #14

 Hey, and welcome back to another week and another issue of The Amazing Spider-Man! This week, we have issue fourteen, and I'm going to have to ask a favor of my readers. I don't do this often, but this week is important. As you read through my recap this week, I have to ask that you pretend you have no idea who the Green Goblin is. This issue is the first time that he's introduced to the Marvel Universe and fights Spider-Man, and at this point he had the potential to be just another villain. In fact, a cameo by The Incredible Hulk gets almost as much space on the cover! Oh, how little they knew. For this week, however, let's approach The Green Goblin as an entirely new character and dig into this issue!

 Drawn by Steve Ditko and written by Stan Lee, with letters by Art Simek, we start this issue with another stunning splash page, featuring Goblin battling Spider-Man and telling us to be patient on the Hulk cameo. I do want to point out that Green Goblin is dressed in purple and green, which continues the great Marvel Color Tradition. If DC is fascinated with red and blue (which Spider-Man happily swiped), Marvel takes on green and purple. I just think it's interesting.
 The issue starts in Green Goblin's lair. His suit is in the foreground with his creepy mask grabbing attention. It's a great bit of composition, letting us know that it's not his natural appearance. As we check in, he's finishing work on an invention, which is shown to be a flying broomstick.

Flying. Broomstick. But okay, we've promised to forget we know who Green Goblin is for this issue. Fair enough.

In a hotel room not far away, three henchmen are hanging around, and what do you know? It's the Dick Tracy rip-offs from issue #10! I was just wondering if I'd get any more chances to see a henchman whose only skill is using a lasso! Thanks, Stan Lee! Goblin flies in and shoots some sparks out of his fingers, getting their attention. He taunts them for being defeated by Spider-Man and offers them a chance to have revenge in exchange for henching for them.

Later, at a movie studio, we see a movie executive lamenting that the studio's last his was, and I kid you not, The Nameless Thing From The Black Lagoon In The Murky Swamp. Something tells me "hit" is used very loosely by this studio, but it's a clever mash-up from Stan Lee of some popular monster movies of the time. He sends off his three over-the-top "yes men" and says that he has to think of another picture that will be as great as the first movie that I'm not about to type all the way through again (although, hilariously, the comic does.)

Green Goblin shows up as the executive ponders, and says that he has a real money making deal for him. The executive isn't terribly impressed and calls him a nut, up until Green Goblin suggests that he can arrange for Spider-Man to star in one of his films.
 As he flies off, we cut to Midtown High School 3,000 miles away, where Peter is once again experiencing the joys of Liz Allen flirting with him and asking how he managed to be one of the only people to get 100% on the exam. As Peter soaks up the attention, Flash comes along and lets his jealousy show through once again. Liz calls him dumb, pointing out that smart people are the ones that run the country, and the crowd around them laughs and agrees. Peter follows this up with a Khrushchev/Hoover burn which attracts chirping crickets. Well, win some, lose some.

Their arguing is interrupted by an announcement over a giant transistor radio stating that a green garbed figure on a broom stick has been flying around Manhattan for about an hour. Still, this is New York after the super hero explosion, so it might as well have just announced it was Tuesday. Peter decides to play it safe anyway, and races off to check it out.

He's a bit surprised to find out that the report is true, and uses a web catapult to go see what is going on. I do want to point everyone's attention to the last two panels of the above page. Seriously. Those drawings of the Green Goblin are hilarious! Well done, Steve Ditko! Well done!

Green Goblin verbally pats himself on the back when Spider-Man lands on his broomstick, and Spider-Man asks what the hell he's doing dressed that way flying around on a sci-fi broomstick. It's a fair question. Green Goblin says that he's there to make Spider-Man an offer, saying that the movie executive wants him to star in a movie. I should remind everyone at this point that this is the same Spider-Man era where Spidey broke into the Fantastic Four's house to demand they give him a job. He's not shy about looking for money.

He heads to the Ritz Plaza Hotel as the oddly dressed man suggested, and the executive offers Spider-Man $50,000 to star in "The Spider-Man Story." I suspect coming up with that clever title cost the executive more than a few brain cells. Heh. Spider-Man declares that if he accepts, there should be no interviews, no publicity, and no sight-seers on the set. Pretty sure a freaking movie is publicity, but that's beside the point.

Spider-Man signs on the dotted line, which I'm not sure is entirely legal, as the executive declares for the THIRD time that he once made a movie called "The Nameless Thing from The Black Lagoon in the Murky Swamp." Yeesh. Stan Lee is very proud of that title, I think. Who wants to bet in the next fifty years worth of comics we'll never hear it again!

The next morning, Peter swings by the Daily Bugle to talk to Betty Brant, but he's interrupted by Jameson, who says that he needs to send Peter to Hollywood in order to cover the movie that Spider-Man is starring in. It's quite convenient, but honestly - it makes sense. Peter has been Jameson's go-to guy for Spider-Man pictures, and there's no reason to think it would change now. Betty has a flash of jealousy, Peter calms her down, and J. Jonah Jameson mugs for the camera for no particular reason whatsoever.

 Of course, Peter has a much bigger problem to deal with..getting permission from Evil Overlord May. As she sits in her rocking chair, knitting him a nice, pink strait-jacket (one can only assume), she predictably declares that he can't leave the area of her iron grip. He pleads and points out that he'll be ready for college soon, until finally she relents and grants him permission. After all, he'll always come back to her overlording ways.

A bit later, we see Spider-Man hanging around on set as Green Goblin hangs out with The Enforcers from issue 10. Spider-Man is impressed with the quality of Hollywood's make-up, thinking they look like the real thing, as the real things plot to take him down.

The shooting takes place in New Mexico, which makes absolutely no sense at all for the Spider-Man story, but hey, this executive isn't exactly successful. Now we know why. Goblin approaches Spidey with the Enforcers and suggests that they rehearse the fight scene before actually filming it, in order to make sure that no one gets hurt.

Naturally, Spider-Man sees no problem with this whatsoever,  because Spider-Senses are only a sometimes thing.

The Goblin cues the attack, and the fight is on! Ox lands a haymaker on Spider-Man, giving him a hint that perhaps this isn't a rehearsal, and the other Enforcers move in as Green Goblin flies overhead. Fancy Dan and Montana both strike from either side, distracting Spider-Man long enough for Ox to punch him again. It's a nice bit of team work, I have to admit, from three of Stan Lee's worst goons of all time.

Yeah, I said it. I'm not an Enforcers fan. That they manage to survive into the modern era defies all logic.

Spider-Man gets lassoed by Montana and jerked off his feet, and just manages to avoid another strike from Fancy Dan's Dangerous Judo. Of course, as he deals with the two of them, he just manages to avoid another punch from Ox. Looks like these guys have learned a few tricks since their first appearance. Unfortunately, getting away from the three of them lands him clearly in the cross-hairs of The Green Goblin, whom Spider-Man identifies as being behind the whole mess.
 He starts tossing stun grenades at Spider-Man while avoiding Spider-Man's webs, and it looks like Spidey might just be in trouble. He gets lassoed by Montana, but the spider wrangler failed to count on.. uhm.. Spider-Man's power of Chest Expansion.


I just wrote that, didn't I?

Well, anyway, the guy with the proportionate strength of a spider manages to break some rope, so.. whoopie? Ox manages to punch Spider-Man as he recovers from his expanding chest and they tackle him, finally taking Spider-Man down. They pile onto him, trying to hold him in place, but he manages to throw them off and attaches some tumbleweed to some webbing, creating a dust storm.

As they are blinded, Spidey runs off using his Spider Sense in the hopes of catching his braeth. Unfortunately, The Green Goblin is hovering overhead, waiting for him to show back up.

As Goblin waits, we have an odd cut back to New York, where we see what is happening with the rest of the supporting cast. Flash and Liz are arguing about her fondness for Peter, and Liz actually refers to Peter as a dreamboat, describing him as sensitive, intelligent, and articulate. Well, can't argue there. Flash's best argument is that he's afraid of his own shadow, despite the fact that a few issues ago they thought he dressed up as Spider-Man to throw off a super villain. Ah, the fickle memories of the young.

At the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson grumbles that he better get good pictures from Peter Parker, rather than having him spend all his time dating Hollywood glamor girls. This, of course, sends Betty off into a tizzy at the horrible though. Oh, how times have changed!

Back in the New Mexico desert, Goblin spots Spider-Man sneaking into a cave, despite looking in entirely the wrong direction, and signals the Enforcers to follow him. Desperate to catch his breath, Spider-Man hears them approaching and sees them rolling a giant, and perfectly shaped, boulder into place to keep Spider-Man from getting out.

Properly trapped in the dark, Montana shows some small amount of intelligence by notice that Spider-Man gets around a LOT better in the dark than them, and perhaps they are trapping themselves with Spider-Man rather than the other way around.

Spider-Man, of course, then promptly snares Montana and webs him up in the shadows. He manages to do the same to Fancy Dan before being spotted, but the battle is on between him and the final two attackers.
 Goblin tosses another stun bomb at Spider-Man, but Spidey manages to use the stalactites to maneuver. Remember, kids, Stalactites point down, while stalagmites point up! Science! Standing on the side of one of the stalactites, he webs Goblin into a cave pocket in order to buy enough time to take down Ox. With Ox being left alone, he's easy pickings for Spider-Man, who knocks him out quickly before Goblin can free himself from the webs with his broomstick.

Things get ramped up, though, when smoke from a stun bomb clears up, revealing the Hulk lumbering toward Spider-Man! Angered at being bothered in his cave, he thinks that Spider-Man is trying to capture him and attacks, giving Spidey yet another attacker to deal with. He tries to rationalize with the Hulk as Goblin decides the best thing to do is to hang back and let Hulk do all the work (and, naturally, managing to not piss off Hulk in the process).

The well-spoken Hulk (in these days, he was aggressive but not stupid) starts tearing apart the cave to try and get at Spider-Man, who wisely realizes that he can't keep that strategy up. Moving in close, Spider-Man webs Hulk's hands, but the webbing is torn like paper without Hulk even breaking a sweat.

Going back to relying on his agility, Spider-Man dodges another attack and declares that he's done trying to rationalize with Hulk, and punches him with everything he's got.

And very nearly breaks his hand without damaging Hulk at all. It's pretty funny.

Hulk alludes to being much smarter than Spider-Man gives him credit for (no one in the Marvel Universe other than Rick Jones knew that Hulk and Bruce Banner were the same back then) before throwing a boulder at Spider-Man and wrecking more of the cave.

Spider-Man finally decides he needs to be smarter about this, and comes up with a desperate ploy to get this working. Hulk knows that it's a trick, but still approaches him. With a mighty swing, Hulk punches Spider-Man, who manages to twist his head and avoid all but a slight part of the punch, which still staggers him and sens him flying back to the boulder blocking the entrance. Jumping out of the way, Hulk smashes right through the boulder with ease, opening up the cave once again.
 Spidey very quickly makes for the exit, but encounters Goblin on the way, who is happily leaving the Enforcers behind. Spider-Man grabs onto the flying broomstick, and Goblin tries to maneuver so that Spider-Man gets caught in the jet exhaust. Knowing that he's too tired to continue avoiding the flames, he lets go and lands in a pool of water as Goblin gloats and flies away, considering it a victory.

Being in the pool of water gives him the added benefit of letting the Hulk get past him without being seen. As Hulk heads back into the cave, though, Spider-Man remembers that the Enforcers are in there, and races back to save them from Hulk's anger. As he leaves the cave with the Enforcers in tow, an Army helicopter flies down to investigate and Spider-Man decides it's a good time to beat feet.

Back at the studio, the movie executive realizes that his movie is sunk and panics, until he hears that the Hulk was involved. Revived, he starts dreaming of a movie starring The Hulk and declares that a contract should be drawn up immediately. Because, you know, "Hulk" is a legal signature.

Spider-Man interrupts the movie executive's ramblings, declaring that the executive needs to be careful who he works with, and asking about his money. The executive declares that with the movie dead, so, too, is the contract. Out the money and exhausted, Spider-Man gives up and just decides to head back home.
Peter decides to take the bus back, saving at least enough of the money for expenses that he has something to bribe Evil Overlord May and spare himself from her wrath for another week.

Green Goblin manages to beat Peter there by quite a bit, thanks to his flying broomstick. Landing in his hideout, he strips out of his costume and ponders what he's learned from his first battle with Spider-Man. His identity still hidden as the mask once again takes the foreground, our mystery villain decides that he will wait for the next opportunity to strike Spider-Man, proving that he has a lot more intelligence than pretty much anyone Spider-Man has fought so far.

And that wraps up another issue of The Amazing Spider-Man! Who is The Green Goblin? Will Peter ever make it in show business? Will I ever have to type The Nameless Thing from The Black Lagoon in the Murky Swamp again? Only time will tell, True Believers, but I can tell you that next week's issue is going to feature The Chameleon and another new villain, Kraven the Hunter! So check back then! As for this issue, it's a no-brainer...


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