Or – “The 1970’s Called, And They Wanted Me To Show You Something…”
Recent events in the Marvel Universe have made many of us yearn for days past, when heroic figures strode like giants across the streets of Manhattan, and legendary artists created comic works that tower over the hackery of today’s fan-fiction scribblers. In those heady days, the heroes of the Marvel Universe were formed from the basest clay into world-famous icons whose every move was that of latter-demigods.
And then, this one time, Peter Parker got beat up by his car.
So, he has that going for him.
Which is nice…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #160
Script: Len Wein
Pencils: Ross Andru (breakdowns), Mike Esposito (finished art, figures), Dave Hunt (finished art, backgrounds)
Inks: Mike Esposito, Dave Hunt (backgrounds)
Colors: Glynis Wein
Letters: Gaspar Saladino (page one), Joe Rosen
Published by Marvel Comics
Previously on Amazing Spider-Man: The life of Spider-Man has always been a difficult one, but recent events in Peter Parker’s life have been more disturbing than most. After a brush with Morbius left him disfigured, he immediately embarked on a series of devastating battled, culminating in the death of his beloved girlfriend Gwen Stacy. A lunatic Vietnam veteran calling himself the Punisher starting shooting up the place, then his only living relative nearly married his worst enemy (and yes, I consider Doctor Octopus to be Spider-Man’s greatest enemy. Neener.) The Tarantula, The Jackal, The Gibbon, The Grizzly, The Kangaroo, The Vulture, The Scorpion, and many other guys named after animals messed with his head, but his greatest challenge came in a battle with his OWN CLONE! Peter isn’t even really sure that he IS the original Spider-Man anymore, after dumping the corpse of the other Spider-Man in a smokestack in Jersey. (At least there’s no chance that he’ll show up again in 20 years and ruin the entire Spider-Man franchise…) One of the worst villains of all has turned out to be lawyers, as the Corona Motor Corporation (who paid Spidey and the Human Torch to create an iconic Spider-Mobile with their technology) has threatened to sue him if he doesn’t produce the goods. Since the car was dumped in the East River, this is problematic, but it’s even moreso since the sunken car has disappeared!
We open with Spider-Man swinging over the city after a hard day of studying, looking for a little bit of physical combat to clear his head. He finds what appears to be a group of fur theives, but is overcome by a gas bomb from an unknown assailant. Unable to catch his breath, Spider-Man gets a lungful of unknown gas, and collapses in the alleyway, unaware that his REAL enemy lies in wait in the shadows.
His web-shooters failing him, Spidey is forced to improvise against the Spider-Mobile, relying on his radiation-imbued spider-powers to save the day. Of course, he doesn’t reckon on THOSE failing him as well…
His own creation bearing down on him, a gruesome vehicular homicide threatening to take his life, Spider-Man pulls one last desperation move in the hopes of saving his bacon…
Having gotten away from his dune-buggy, Peter heads for the hospital, visiting Aunt May who is recuperating from her injuries during a battle between Doctor Octopus and Hammerhead. He heads home long enough to verify that his powers are working and reload his webbing cartridges, then sets out again in search of his lost wheels. An alleyway full of mysterious gas again signals the presence of evil, and confronts the Spider-Mobile again. Spider-Man acts quickly to keep out of the malevolent car’s range…
Dune buggies were, by the way, all the rage during the 1970’s, much like huge lapels and bell bottoms. As Spider-Man fights off the car, he finds that his abilities are once again on the fritz, and falls to his inevitable death. The End.
Okay, fine, something happens and he miracuously escapes, UNHARMED!
Spidey is unceremoniously dumped in the back of the buggy, and the car sets off to take him to it’s mysterious master…
Man, the web-wheels trick is pretty brilliant, and I like the exposition that explains how a rogue web-covered dune buggy has been running rampant through the streets of Manhattan. As for the “You’re an alien!” crack, that’s kind of a long story. Suffice to say that, in Amazing Spider-Man #2, about a million years ago, Spider-Man fights the Tinkerer. At the end of that story, we get a very Silver Age Marvel Monsters moment where the bad guy’s rubber mask pulls away and he flies away with his alien pals in a space ship. This story retcons that moment (even 40 years ago they were changing Spider-Man’s backstory wholesale!) as being a joke Tink played with the help of Mysterio, and reveals that he has been designing weaponry for super-villains throughout the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man quickly busts free, causing the villain to flee in the Spider-Mobile…
With his own powers still suppressed by the Tinkerer, Spider-Man has to think quickly, lest he be smashed by the Tinkerer’s henchman, someone that I believe may be former WWE star Tony Atlas. But even a former Tag Team Champion of the World hasn’t dealt with the agile mind of one Peter Benjamin Parker…
Those guys in the last couple of panels are the publicity men who initially convinced Spider-Man to build the car for Corona Motors in the FIRST place (as well as being dead ringers for former Marvel editors-in-chief Stan Lee and Roy Thomas.) It is now Marvel canon that the Spider-Mobile ended up in the Smithsonian Institution and in one alternate future ends up in the possession of a blind Clint “Hawkeye” Barton. The vehicle ends up being used to cart James Howlett around for seven issues before we get a double-sized full issue fight scene that passes for story resolution. Either way, it’s somewhat rare these days for a comic book writer to recognize a ludicrous concept and then CRAFT A STORY ABOUT IT, rather than just hang a lampshade and mock the silly concepts in retrospect.
Len Wein is one of thoee writers who has created, whole cloth, huge swaths of both the Marvel and DC universes as we know them, but this is Len at the peak of his powers. It’s a funny, done-in-one tale that ties into old-school Spidey continuity, and even has some wildly inventive ideas regarding what SHOULD have been done with the idea of Spidey having a car in the first place. The art team of Andru and Esposito is a venerated conglomerate, who had been working together for decades at this point, and deliver a solid art job throughout, even when panel after panel ends up just being Spider-Man jumping out of the way of a moving car. (The seminal horror movie “The Car” didn’t come out until a year or so later, I might add.) Overall, it’s a fun affair, and it leapt out for inclusion while I was bagging and boarding an extended run of Bronze Age Spidey comics this afternoon at work. (Gatekeeper Hobbies, Huntoon and Gage, Topeka! Ask us about our newly acquired complete set of Gen 13 #1 alternate covers!) Amazing Spider-Man #160 fights off the malaise, lusts in it’s heart, has a nice day, keeps on trucking, and does it all in a very ’70s way for a quite impressive 3 out of 5 stars overall.