Monday, October 27, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Breakdowns: John Romita, Jr. | Finishes: John Romita, Sr.
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editors: Danny Fingeroth & Tom DeFalco
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man visits "Nose" Norton to see if he can scare up some information on the Hobgoblin's whereabouts. Norton claims to know nothing, but the web-slinger plants a spider-tracer on his hat and, following dinner with Aunt May and Anna Watson as Peter Parker, our hero trails Norton to Brooklyn, where the stool pigeon sells a trombone case to a group of thugs taking orders from a man they call "Doc". Spider-Man is discovered watching the men and leaps into action against them. When Doc displays superhuman strength, the wall-crawler believes he has finally found the Hobgoblin. But the untimely arrival of Spider-Man's would-be sidekick, Frog-Man, allows the criminals to escape.

Later, Peter develops photos from his automatic camera and gets a look at a map Doc had been showing his men in preparation for an armored car heist. The next day, Spider-Man takes the Long Island Railroad to the heist location, but arrives moments too late. He attends to an ailing armored car guard, then followed the criminals' tire tracks to a nearby garage. There, Doc reveals the item he and his men have stolen is not, as he had claimed, gold, but a crowbar. When Spider-Man shows up, Doc sheds his lab coat, dons a mask, and produces a wrecking ball from a nearby crate, revealing himself to be Thunderball of the villainous Wrecking Crew.

The Sub-Plots: Peter thanks Aunts May and Anna for not trying to set him with Mary Jane, as both the Leedses and Osborns have done recently, only to find, after dinner, that they had intended to do just that. Aunt May also tells Peter she believes the two youngsters would be a good fit since they've "both lost so... very much," a cryptic comment which intrigues Peter.

Continuity Notes: Spider-Man reminds Nose Norton that his intervention saved the stool pigeon from Cobra and the Tarantula in issues 231 and 233. When the web-slinger asks Norton about Hobgoblin, Norton mentions that the villain was apparently killed in #245.
As he leaves Norton's apartment, Spider-Man wishes he had more underworld contacts to shake down, and muses on the importance of information, considering that if he had known the city would pay the Black Cat's hospital bills -- revealed in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #84 -- he might not have dropped out of graduate school.

Frog-Man, Eugene Patilio, previously appeared in MARVEL TEAM-UP #121 and 131.
"Doc", a.k.a. Thunderball, is actually Dr. Elliott Franklin, the smart member of the Wrecking Crew -- a team known primarily for battling Thor, but who have made the rounds of the Marvel Universe as standard-issue super-powered thugs.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "...I tried to throw in as many red herrings as I could. The only regular members of the SPIDER-MAN cast who absolutely couldn’t have been the Hobgoblin in those first stories were Peter Parker himself and Joe Robertson -– because Robbie had been shown with Pete while the mysterious figure who was to become the Hobgoblin was getting the ball rolling." -- THE ROGER STERN INTERVIEW: THE TRIUMPHS AND TRIALS OF THE WRITER, 2006

The Spider's Web: Readers love issue #242, in which Spider-Man fought the Mad Thinker's android, mainly for the return of Mary Jane Watson. Everyone is thrilled to see her back, and one reader even says that he "fell back in love" with her. An astounding feat, considering the hideous outfit she was wearing when she showed up at Peter's apartment.

Assistant Editor Bob DeNatale also pops by to tease next month's "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" as part of Marvel's "Assistant Editors' Month" stunt.

Also On Sale This Month: Spider-Man and Wonder Man battle the Mauler in MARVEL TEAM-UP #136. In PETER PARKER #85 -- well, we'll cover that ourselves soon enough.

My Thoughts: Spidey gets proactive! After meeting the Hobgoblin then sitting on the mystery for a while while dealing with the Vulture, his grad school situation, Amy Powell, and the return of Mary Jane Watson, the wall-crawler's encounter with Lefty Donovan has made him realize just what a cold, calculating foe he's up against. He knows that every minute the Hobgoblin is out there is another minute in which someone could die -- and, still believing he indirectly helped to create the goblin, Spider-Man has finally decided to go out and look for him. This is a great way to run a long-term mystery across a serialized format. Rather than sitting around and waiting to react to another Hobgoblin attack, Spider-Man goes searching for his enemy. Stern uses this quest as a springboard to bring the web-slinger into conflict with Thunderball. It's an extremely effective way to pay service to the Hobgoblin plot while branching Spider-Man off in a different direction.
The issue also continues the comical vignette series featuring everyone and their mother (or in this case, aunt) trying to set Peter and Mary Jane up again. And we get a dose of classic Spider-Man misfortune as, while our hero spies on Thunderball and his men, an automatic light turns on behind him, casting his shadow onto their table below. It's a fun bit, especially in light of the fact that the issue's cover depicts that same scene as if Spider-Man intended to get the drop on the criminals this way. Additionally, on the subject of artwork, this is another issue featuring John Romita, Sr. inking his son. Everyone -- Peter, Aunt May, Anna, Mary Jane -- is perfectly on-model as a result, and the artwork is gorgeous throughout.
My praise is not unconditional, however. What's the point of Frog-Man's appearance here? His previous appearances in MARVEL TEAM-UP were, I believe, more substantial. Here, he simply drops into the room and creates enough havoc for Thunderball and his men to escape. He serves no purpose that couldn't have been fulfilled some other way. And as soon as his part has been played, he's banished from the book once more, never to be seen again for the remainder of the issue, the story, or even the rest of Stern's run. It's a really weird inclusion.
Lastly -- apparently Bill Mantlo has upped the stakes in my imagined Cold War between Stern and himself. Mantlo, readers will recall, had Peter poised to fail his final exam in the pages of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. Stern took that ball and had Peter ace the test instead, but then dropped him out of graduate school so he could make more money to pay the Black Cat's hospital bills -- thus depriving Mantlo of the primary setting and cast for his series. Now we learn that Mantlo has had the city of New York cover the Cat's recovery, meaning Peter's reason for dropping out of school has been negated, just as Stern negated the entire point of SPECTACULAR's existence with his previous move. It's a weird, but somehow compelling, back-and-forth between these two bitter rivals as they struggle for control of Spider-Man's destiny.

(Again, for all I know they were good pals. I just like to speculate.)

Next Issue:


  1. "Nothing can stop... Thunderball!"... well look if someone isn't stealing catchphrase out of his league.

    Knowing that the fun PAD classic where three of Spidey's more desperate would-be sidekicks stumble on each other is coming up, I find it great that Frog-Man tried keep his foot in along the way and didn't just spring up there from obscurity.

    1. Yeah, I have no problem with keeping the character in circulation -- but, as I noted above, I just find his appearance here completely superfluous and even distracting from the story at hand.