Comics : Marvel Team-Up #36

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This story is part of an Arc: "Spider-Man and Frankenstein"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 1998.

Background...

I've been looking for an excuse to do this particular Lookback and now Chris Golden has provided it for me. What did Chris do? He re-introduced Spidey to the Frankenstein Monster in the pages of Spider-Man Unlimited #21. ("Dr. Walston Kraft", Chris? Very cute.) Which is my cue to say, "here's the first time they met". (Even if Spidey seems to have forgotten all about it in the latest appearance.) Gerry Conway getting wacky. With one of Gerry's dopiest villains ever. And remember, Gerry is the guy who brought us Skinhead and Drom the Backwards Man, so that's really saying something. And, oh yeah, Man-Wolf's in this, too.

In Detail...

"Once Upon a Time, In a Castle..."
Marvel Team-Up #36
Aug 1975 : SMURF 150.600 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man & Frankenstein (vs. Baron Ludwig Von Shtupf)
Arc: Part 1 of "Spider-Man and Frankenstein"
Editor:  Len Wein
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Vince Colletta
Cover Art:  Ed Hannigan
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 Reprinted In: Essential Marvel Team-Up #2
Articles: John Jameson (Man-Wolf)

It begins with two gunmen, named Hermie and Bernie, escaping with loot after robbing the National Savings Bank. Hermie brags that they pulled off the job with "no female tellers screamin' their heads off, no stupid watchmen playin' heroes, and best of all, no cops!!", but Bernie isn't listening. He's too busy watching his gun get yanked out of his hand by a shot of webbing. This alerts Bernie to the idea that he'd better duck but Hermie gets no such warning and he is knocked to the ground by an onrushing Spider-Man.

The money goes flying in all directions. Griping that "you super-guys" should "pick on creeps like Doctor Doom", Bernie picks up a nearby curbside waste container and heaves it at the web-spinner. Quiping that "Doom was out of town", Spidey punches the wastebasket back. It sends Bernie, and more of the stolen loot, flying. Hermie responds by firing his gun at Spidey but this is equally ineffective. Our hero begins to brag that "Nobody is going to blast your friendly neighborhood..." when he takes a blast in the back which renders him unconscious. Bernie and Hermie don't know where the blast came from... and they're not sticking around to find out. Leaving their ill-gotten gains behind, they beat feet out of there, heading in opposite directions.

When Spidey awakens, his mind reels at the sights around him. "I couldn't have been unconscious for more than a minute", he proclaims, "I should be on a dirty New York street". But he isn't. Instead, he's in a large high-beamed room built of stone with a blazing wooden torch attached to the wall and dungeon-like windows. He is locked onto a tilted operating table, strapped down with metal bands. But the strangest sight is the immense figure strapped on an adjacent table. He is pale and riddled with suture scars. He wears one of those Sonny Bono 60s fur vests like the Kangaroo wore, along with blue pants and a purple shirt and leggings. He is, in short, the Frankenstein Monster.

Spidey starts to converse with his fellow prisoner but the talk is interrupted by the appearance of the resident villain of the piece. He is long-haired, bearded, and wears a green jumpsuit, large blue belt with buckle and brown cavalry boots. Three of his flunkies follow him into the room. He introduces himself as "Baron Ludwig Von Shtupf... but you may call me The Monster Maker!" Spidey's response (since Von Shtupf strapped down the arms and torso of our hero but not his legs) is to kick the approaching villain in the solar plexus, sending him tumbling back into his henchmen.

Using the ol' spider-strength, Spidey breaks free of his bonds and webs up the bad guys. Turning to his fellow prisoner, he asks the Monster if he would like to come along. "Yes", is the reply. "That's what I like", says Spidey, "a man of few words". The web-slinger rips away Franky's bonds and the two of them leap out a window (which should be much too high up for the Monster to reach but... what the hey?) to an unknown fate.

Forty-five minutes later, our heroes don't know where else to go. They are somewhere in snow-covered mountains and the "near-zero" temperatures are penetrating Spidey's all-weather costume. Von Shtupf's henchmen ski past, looking to recapture the hiding twosome. Spidey takes advantage of the breather to ask his partner who he is and where he came from. "There is not much... to tell.", says the giant, "I... am not a man... like you... I am... a monster. Frankenstein's Monster." A startled Spidey interjects with "Huh? Come again?" but the monster is well into his tale by then.

He tells the famous story of a scientist "questing for the most guarded secrets of nature... the secret of life... the secret of creation". He tells the Marvel-version of how Baron Frankenstein built a man "with the mind of a newborn child", a "child" who turned around and "slew its creator". He tells of fighting his way through frightened mobs in Balkan villages. He tells of ultimately learning "the meaning of the wrong he'd done" and wandering "grief-struck into history", disappearing from humanity's sight. He tells of his body reappearing a hundred years later "in a circus side-show preserved in a chemical-filled coffin, unmoving" and how "a young man revived him, accidentally or intentionally, the Monster no longer knows". He tells of his battle with Count Dracula, his friendship with Ralph Caccone, his fight with the clone-creature (yep, you heard me right) all of which originally appeared in the 18 issues of the Monster's own mag (January 1973-September 1975). Then he pauses, having talked more in five minutes than he talked for the entire hundred years before.

Spidey takes all of this with relative calm. "Yesterday I would have laughed at what you just told me", he says, "but after all that's been happening in my own life, with Gwen returning as a clone, heck I don't know what's real and reasonable anymore". (This issue came out in the same month as ASM #147, in case you were wondering.) "So, okay", he continues, "you're Frankenstein's Monster. It's as good an explanation as any for what's been happen...." but this sentence is interrupted by a woman's scream. The odd couple follow the sound and discover a blonde, full-figured "snow bunny" surrounded by five of the Baron's men, cornered by a treacherous ledge.

Spidey and Franky leap to the rescue. They dispatch the bad guys in seconds but the cliff starts to crumble under the woman's skis and she falls over the edge... only to be rescued by the strong, fast-moving hand of the Monster who snags her wrist and pulls her up again. The shaken skier moves closer to the duo, acting the helpless damsel in distress. But this is all just an excuse to get in range so she can spray a green mist at the good guys. It is a knockout gas that swiftly does its work. "It was all a trap... and we fell... for it", mutters Spidey, then he and the Monster are unconscious.

Chapter Three: To Make a Monster!

Thirteen minutes later, Spidey and the Monster come to in a ski lodge with a roaring fire. Actually they have both come to two minutes before and are faking it in order to plan their next move but this doesn't work since their attacker, now sitting in an armchair, knows the duration of the knockout drug. Gone is the helpless snow bunny persona, replaced by strength and self-assurance. But she is not an ally of the Baron, as Spidey suspects. She introduces herself... "My name is Klemmer and I'm an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Agent Klemmer explains that she has been assigned to stop Von Shtupf, whose plan is to "create an army of monsters... sub-humans who can stand extremes of climate... who have super-normal powers. In a word, he wants to combine your abilities into a monster supreme!" Both Spidey and Franky want to assist Klemmer in her assigment but the Monster's offer is turned down. "This operation will require stealth", she tells him, "You're too much on the obvious side."

"Less than five minutes later", Agent Klemmer expertly skis toward the Baron's castle with Spider-Man web-swinging behind. But unbeknownst to the both of them, the Monster has not remained behind. Guided by Klemmer's ski tracks, he follows ploddingly along. "The moment will come when they need me", he thinks, "and when it comes, I will be there."

In the meantime, Spidey and Klemmer arrive at the castle. They scale the first wall and spy three guards in the courtyard. Spidey uses his webbing to knock out the first two (in a manner similar to the old web-bolo trick) and webs shut the mouth of the third, then pulls him off his feet and webs him securely to the top of the wall. Agent Klemmer worries that their next destination, a window in the castle wall, is too high to reach but she hasn't reckoned with Spider-Man's webbing. He shoots a strand up and easily transports the two of them to the window.

Back on the other side of the wall, the Frankenstein Monster arrives to discover the front gate unguarded and unlocked. He enters the castle itself but he is suspicious. "Something is wrong", he decides. "Not enough guards. Breaking in was too easy for them." Slowly, carefully, the Monster makes his way through the castle. He takes a couple of guards by surprise and flattens them rather easily. (The sound effect used when the Monster strikes is "WHAT". Now is this the the guards crying out or the sound the Monster's fist makes? Either way, I like it.) Getting closer to the laboratory, he hears the Baron's "madness-tinged voice". "While you were gone, I engaged another specimen in the same manner I captured you", the Baron is saying. (Whatever that mysterious manner may be.) The Monster locates the source of the voice. He arrives at the door, reaches for the ring it has in place of a knob, and pulls it open. "What he sees beyond the opened door makes him momentarily speechless." It is Spidey and Klemmer and the Baron and the new "specimen" to which the Monster Maker was referring. The Man-Wolf! Now with all specimens returned to the roost, the Baron crows (sorry about that), "What a monster I'll make now, eh?"