Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #62
This story is part of a Lookback Series: Year of the Woman
This review was first published on: 2003.
She first appears coming out of a cave on a "small Mediterranean island" in Fantastic Four #36 (March 1965), using her floor-length living red hair to send four policemen tumbling. She is known as Madame Medusa. Hearing "rumors of her for years", the evil-genius called the Wizard tracks her down and convinces her to join him. They, along with the Trapster and the Sandman, team up to form the evil FF, the Frightful Four. For eight months worth of appearances (including FF #38, May 1965, Journey into Mystery #116, May 1965, and FF #41-43, August-October 1965, Medusa remains a mystery, serving as the evil counterpart to the FF's Invisible Girl. But then Gorgon appears on the scene in FF #44, November 1965 and everything changes.
Gorgon has come to capture Medusa and return her to the Great Refuge and to her people, the Inhumans. (Who are an offshoot of humanity created by the alien Kree but that's a whole other story.) Before the storyline is through, we are introduced to all of the major members of that race; Crystal, Lockjaw, Karnak, Triton and Black Bolt. Medusa is revealed to be a member of the royal family and steadily rehabilitated into a good guy, though a lot more time has to go by before she loses the snooty attitude. It is at approximately this point that Spidey encounters her. The fact that she's no longer a baddie doesn't mean she can't mix it up with the web-slinger, though, in one of the odder little tales from the first half-dozen years of the Amazing Spider-Man.
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #62
Jul 1968 : SMURF 062.500 : SM Title
Summary: Spidey Meets Medusa
Reprinted In: Creepy Worlds (UK) #112
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #45
Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #3
|Articles: George Stacy, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker|
Spidey is swinging through the city when something slices through his webbing, causing him to start falling. He doesn't tumble far before he is halted by four red tentacles that grab him by each leg, by the left shoulder and by the left elbow. At first the wall-crawler thinks it is "another form of spider webbing" but then he realizes that it is actually "flaming strands of human hair!" The living hair belongs to Medusa. She is wearing a green mask and tight-fitting outfit that shows off all her curves (as only Jazzy Johnny can present them) and is flying through the air on a machine she calls a "mono-cruiser" (that looks like two giant boomerangs stuck together with a handrail on top). She introduces herself to Spider-Man and then gets nice and royal and snooty. She calls Spidey a "fool" for getting in her way. When he objects to being a "hit-n-run victim", she lowers him to a rooftop, wraps one of her tendrils around his neck and declares, "Neither you nor your sarcastic prattle are of any interest to Medusa! He who rules the proud and powerful Inhumans has sent me here to learn whether the rest of mankind still fears us or whether we may at last rejoin the unthinking suspicious human race."
Having dropped Spidey off, Medusa starts to fly away. The web-slinger volunteers to provide his stance on the issue ("If you're taking a public opinion poll" he says, "Why not start with me?") but Medusa is only interested in the "reaction of the average man". And, just like that, she's gone, leaving Spider-Man perched on the side of a building. Spidey decides he's just happy to "find a super-powered swinger who's not out to rid the world of Spider-Man", and then he takes to the webs, heading toward the home of Gwen Stacy. He knows full well that Gwen still blames Peter Parker for betraying her father but he decides to "visit her again and see if she's had a change of heart".
(This whole "betrayal of Captain Stacy" thing comes from the events of the previous three issues. In ASM #59, April 1968, Captain Stacy is brainwashed by Dr. Winkler who is working for a mysterious villain who calls himself the Brainwasher and who turns out to be the Kingpin. In ASM #60, May 1968, the changed George Stacy tries to attack Peter Parker. Peter instinctively defends himself, knocking George to the ground. Gwen enters in time to see the aftermath and tells Peter she never wants to see him again. In ASM #61, June 1968, Spidey saves George and Gwen's lives which makes him a hero in Gwen's eyes. But, Gwen also learns that Peter sold a picture of her dad breaking into police files that is later published in the Daily Bugle, meaning, as Spidey puts it, "Peter Parker is all washed up with her!")
Meanwhile, Medusa makes her way through the air above the streets of New York. As she soars over Madison Avenue, she passes the executive suites of Heavenly Hair Spray. Montgomery G. Bliss, CEO of the company, a middle-aged man in a purple suit coat, yellow vest, a flower in his lapel and a Hercule Poirot mustache, grabs the arm of Wilberforce, his short bespectacled yes-man and directs his attention out the window to Medusa. "We've been searching for someone who could be a trademark for our Heavenly Hair Spray" he says, "and there she is!" Instantly, he invents the perfect slogan for his ad campaign. "The lovely lady with the living locks uses Heavenly Hair Spray". Wilberforce throws out the possibility that Medusa will say "no" but Bliss won't hear of it. He sees Medusa landing on the street below and orders Wilberforce out to get her.
And yes, it just so happens, that Medusa has chosen this spot as the place to land and take her poll of the average Joe. She gets an answer before she even lands. While still a few feet off the ground, the forming crowd panics and starts to run for it. A governess faints dead away leaving a little boy to run "blindly into the crowd where he may be trampled". Instantly, Medusa acts, stretching out several hanks of hair to grab the boy and stop him before he hurts himself. Once the crowd sees this, they calm down. "There's no need to run!" says one, "She means us no harm!"
Medusa turns the little boy over to an arriving policeman and, one panel later, he is back in the arms of his now-recovered governess. Medusa tells the cop that she has come in peace and merely wants "to walk among you as an equal". (The cop is black, by the way, which may be Stan and John making a subtle commentary on the wish of all peoples to be recognized as "equals" here in 1968 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.) The cop tells Medusa there's no law against walking among them and adds, "Far as I can tell, you haven't broken a single law! And if having long hair was a crime, we'd have to haul away half the kids in town." (Hasn't broken a single law, huh? What about parking her mono-cruiser in the middle of Madison Avenue?)
Medusa is pleased by this reception. It gets her thinking that it may be time "for the Inhumans to come out of hiding". But she knows she must learn more to be sure. (Off to the side, two ogling bystanders have a short conversation. "She makes Raquel Welch look like a boy!" says the first. "If she's not human, I'm resigning!", says the second... not that he should know about human and Inhuman since Medusa hasn't said anything to the public. "From what?" asks the first. "The human race!" replies the second. Sounds to me like these guys need their own mini-series.)
While Medusa is standing there, hands on her hips, making Raquel Welch look like a boy, Wilberforce comes up behind her and taps her on the shoulder. He offers her the job as "the Heavenly Hair Spray Girl" and never gets as far as the salary. Medusa tells him that money doesn't interest her, "but your offer does", because, she thinks, "Working for humans would give me a rare opportunity to study them!"
So, that was simple enough. Now, we move to something that may be a little more difficult, namely Peter Parker's attempt to regain Gwen Stacy. Pete arrives at the door of the "quiet well-kept garden apartment" in which the Stacys live. Gwen answers and, seeing Peter, almost slams the door in his face. "I wouldn't have thought you'd have the nerve to come here!" she says. Peter tells Gwen that she's "got to let me explain" but Gwen doesn't believe she has to do any such thing. After a brief conversation, Gwen tells Peter that she wants to believe and that she'll listen but Peter falters and admits that he doesn't know how to explain. So, Gwen closes the door on him, and Peter hangs his head, knowing that she wanted to believe, knowing that "she's heartbroken about what happened" but also knowing that he cannot explain without revealing that he is Spider-Man. Inside the apartment, Gwen goes to her father's room, where he is in bed, recuperating from the Brainwasher ordeal. He asks who was at the door. Gwen tells him it was Peter and that she sent him away. George doesn't understand why and Gwen explains, "You don't remember what happened while you were under the Brainwasher's influence". She wants to fill him in but ends up turning away, with her hand to her mouth and tears in her eyes. She just can't bear to talk about it now.
All of that took just enough time for Wilberforce to bring Medusa inside and usher her into the offices of Montgomery G. Bliss. Bliss asks her to come in, tells her she'll help them double their hair spray sales in no time and assures her that "the contracts are all ready". Medusa gives him a regal pose and informs him that "There is no need for contracts! Medusa's word is her bond!" Bliss throws his hands in the air with glee. He plans to call his advertising agency right away. "They'll start designing the ads at once!" he says. Medusa is sure that "before long, I shall be able to bring a most complete report back to my waiting people".
Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson is hanging out at his club. He is on the pay phone with some anonymous employee who informs him that "Some female refugee from a freak show... with living hair yet is in town and not one Bugle photographer was on hand to snap her picture." JJJ is not very pleased by this news. He stalks back to the lounge, puffing on a stogie and cursing all the "idiotic, insect-brained incompetents" who work for him. Jonah passes Norman Osborn, who is seated in a purple armchair, and the publisher begins to go off on a riff about how "the working man isn't worth a row of beans today". But Norman tells him to "give your larynx a rest". He is starting to sweat and is getting one heck of a headache. When Jameson asks if there's anything bothering him, Norman stands, pushes JJ away with his left hand and tells him to "shut up and leave me alone". Then Osborn leaves the room, with his right hand pressed up on the back of his neck. Jonah watches him go and wonders why "one of the richest men in town" is so upset. "I'd like to find out" he thinks, "because he's my friend and I want to help him! Besides there may be a story in it for me!"
Jonah is not going to find out, however. And he'd never guess that Norman Osborn is "haunted by... strange dim memories" of Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. Norman visualizes a Spider-Man mask and a Green Goblin mask being held in the air over a fire as well as a view of Spider-Man web-slinging behind the Green Goblin and he wonders "why do I feel dread danger closing in on me?" (You all know, of course, that Norman Osborn is the Green Goblin and that he lost all memory of this fact in ASM #40, September 1966.) He gets his coat, goes out into the New York night and heads for home but the images continue to torture him. Now, he can see the Green Goblin holding Spider-Man's mask, while the web-slinger is tied-up, maskless and helpless. But he can't quite see the wall-crawler's face, even though "it seems to get clearer every time!" In his despair, Norman grabs his head in his hands and worries that he is going mad. But if he is, who will look after his only son, Harry?
Harry, as you all know, is Peter Parker's college roommate and the next panels segues to him beating his brains out studying, grousing over the fact that he just gets by in spite of all his work "while everything seems to come so easy to Pete". Just then, Mr. Parker enters the apartment. Pete asks his roomie if he's having trouble with his courses and Harry snaps back, "No, I'm just trying to learn to live without sleep!" Harry immediately apologizes for the attitude and asks if Pete had a good time on the town with Gwen. But Pete leans on his desk, puts his hands in his pockets and tells him that Gwen "can't see me for dust".
Now, you'd think it was nighttime, wouldn't you? What with it being dark when Norman leaves the club and with Harry's comments about lack of sleep and Pete and Gwen going out on the town and everything? But no, it isn't too much later because Medusa is only now at the photo studio but she's already throwing a fit. She uses her hair to knock the camera equipment around and the photographer must dive for cover. "She's a tigress!" he declares but she is just what Montgomery Bliss wants. "That savage excitement... She'll be a sensation!" he says. But after hours of "having my hair arrange itself in different styles for your amusement", Medusa tells Bliss that she is bored. When Bliss tells her that "Heavenly Hair Spray will make you famous", Medusa declares that she cares nothing for fame and smashes some camera equipment again. This time Bliss realizes that the equipment costs thousands of dollars. Wilberforce cowers behind Bliss and wonders what they have gotten into.
Bliss tells Wilberforce to clam up. Then, he puts his arm around Medusa and ushers her to the door. "Why not take the rest of the day off?" he offers but Medusa plans to take more time off than that. "Medusa shall not return!" she casually informs him, "There is nothing more for me to learn here!"
With Medusa gone, Wilberforce breathes a sigh of relief. He is just glad that "we took some pictures of her that we can use". Bliss, however, shakes his arms in frustration. He still plans to "get a million dollars worth of publicity out of that female". He vows, "Nobody walks out on a Heavenly Hair Spray campaign." He only has to think of "something clever" that will keep Medusa around. And it is then that he looks out the window and notices Spider-Man.
Of course, the last time we saw Pete, he was having a heart-to-heart with Harry and didn't seem to be going anywhere. But it looks like he must have snuck out to patrol the city. He has just decided that "every criminal in town must be home watching the Late Show" (which seems to confirm that it is late at night except the sky is bright blue and Bliss and Wilberforce are still at the office making the time sequence such a jumble that it's giving me a pounder of a headache but wait a bit because it gets worse...) when Bliss orders Wilberforce to "mess up the studio even more" as he goes to the window and shouts for help. Spidey, passing by the Heavenly Hair Spray sign, hears the cry for help and swings into the window of the office where he finds Bliss sitting on top of some camera equipment and Wilberforce hiding under the desk. (Didn't I say it gets worse? The last we had heard, Bliss, Wilberforce, and Medusa were over at a "Midtown photo studio" but Spidey is swinging past the Heavenly Hair spray building. The room he enters is clearly Bliss' office at Heavenly except there is now camera equipment lying around. It is as if the two locations have gone through some extra-dimensional experience that has shoved them together into one. Combine that with the Late Show coming on in the middle of the day and you have a complete mishmash of time and space.)
Anyway, Spidey comments that it "looks like a cyclone just hit the place". Bliss tells him that it was Medusa, that "she must be mad" and that "all she wanted to do was wreck the place". When Spidey tries to ask questions, Bliss waves those hands at him and tells him, "Don't waste time talking!" and to "just go get her!" Spidey doesn't think this story makes any sense but he can't risk the possibility that Medusa is on the rampage so he leaves the office and hits the webs in pursuit. Still waving those arms around, Bliss watches from the window and revels in the success of his scheme. He orders Wilberforce to call the publicity department and to round up every cameraman and station them all on the rooftops. Then he adds, "History will record this as hair spray's finest hour!" which has to rank in the Top Ten of classic Spidey lines, if you ask me.
Medusa, meanwhile, has not gotten very far at all. She is flying along on her mono-cruiser, musing over her discovery that "though the humans are not as hostile as we may have feared, their intelligence leaves much to be disired (sic)" (that last word being the third misspelling in the issue... very sloppy work, Sammy) when she is called out by the arriving web-slinger. Spidey swings down from above, insisting that Medusa has "a lot of explaining to do". Medusa, annoyed at being confronted by the web-slinger again, replies, "Medusa explains nothing to anyone!" and tangles Spidey up in a mass of her living hair.
Did I mention that Medusa didn't get very far at all? On second thought, she must have been hovering on that darn mono-cruiser. Because Bliss and Wilberforce can see the whole thing from the window of the office and the cameramen perched on a nearby roof have a perfectly clear view. If that isn't confusing enough, Bliss notes that the super-opponents are "right near our very largest advertising billboard" which is, sure enough, the one for Heavenly Hair Spray we've been seeing all along only I thought it was on top of the Heavenly Hair Spray building but now seems to be somewhere across the street. Bliss wrings his hands with delight. "This will make the late edition of every paper in town," he says, "to say nothing of the late evening TV news" thereby exposing his billboard to the whole city. Wilberforce nervously chews his fingernails and wonders, "What if one of them is injured?" "That's their problem" replies Bliss, "What am I supposed to be, a social worker?"
And so, in the shade of the Heavenly Hair Spray billboard, Spidey tries to explain that he's "never fought a female before" (which isn't quite true since he has encountered Princess Python) as he attempts to extricate himself from the hair. But all his squirming does is to upset the mono-cruiser and, next thing you know, Medusa and the webhead tumble off the vehicle and land on a nearby roof. But Spidey is still wrapped up in various strands of Medusa's hair and he has had enough of it. He manages to free himself just using "the strength of [his] own two arms" much to Medusa's surprise (holding two locks at arm's length like he is grappling with two snakes). "If you wanted a fall guy" says the cheesed-off super-hero, "You picked the wrong webhead!"
Now, apparently, the bell rang to end the round and the two combatants had to retreat to their respective corners, because the next panel shows Spidey and Medusa in a showdown position, standing about five feet apart from each other. Spidey tells the Inhuman that he's "willing to listen to your side of the story if you've got one" but this only pushes Medusa's superiority complex button. "You are willing to listen to Medusa?" she brays, "Why, you presumptuous costumed clod!" Then, she strikes out at Spidey's face, using a chunk of her hair as a whip. Spidey retaliates by leaping and wrapping his arms around Medusa's knees, telling her... wait for it... "Nobody's using me as a whipping boy! Not even a ring-a-ding redhead with a far-out fright wig!" (Ah, the sixties! Damn, I miss 'em! Wait, wait, let me take an inventory. Hmmm. Assassinations, riots, Vietnam, police brutality. No, I don't miss any of that. It must just be lines like "ring-a-ding redhead" that I miss.)
Medusa, on the other hand, has no fondness for such expressions at all. She prefers to refer to herself as "The Mistress of the Living Locks" and she won't stand for being addressed in such a cavalier manner. Spidey, meanwhile, manages to crawl up her back and get her in a full nelson even as he fends off her hair, which makes it "like fighting someone who has a thousand arms". He doesn't stay up there long. Medusa pries him loose with her hair and flings him across the roof. He crashes into a chimney, scattering bricks all around. Spidey is woozy from the impact and slow to get up. Medusa shows no mercy as she scoops up a section of chimney in her hair (definitely one of the odder images in a very odd book) and throws it at the web-slinger. Fortunately, she announces her intentions before she acts which gives Spidey time to clear his head and leap out of the way. (And in 1968, at the height of the Equality movements, he has the nerve to say this: "Didn't they ever tell you not to broadcast your plans? But that's the trouble with women. They just can't keep their mouths shut!")
In an instant, Spidey is standing on a wall behind Medusa and spinning a web around her entire body. It doesn't work. Medusa's hair slices through the webbing easily. Now convinced that humanity as a whole is completely insane, Medusa declares, "Never shall we dwell among you. From this day forth, our proudest boast will be... We are the Inhumans! We are a race apart! To you and your kind we leave this world of violence." And just to prove that the "world of violence" belongs to us and not her, she tells Spidey that, before she leaves, "the hair of Medusa will teach you a lesson such as you have never known!"
But before Medusa gets her non-violent licks in, Spidey calls a halt to the proceedings. "Wasn't it you who threatened to wreck the city?" he asks and Medusa tells him she said "no such thing".
Finally, it starts to come out. Spidey mentions Montgomery Bliss as the source of the story and Medusa replies "I have not seen him since I refused to advertise his hair spray product." With that, the wall-crawler has it all figured, realizing that Bliss tricked the two of them into battle "hoping he could cash in on the publicity". "Lady" says Spidey, "We've both been had!" Hearing this, old non-violent Medusa states that "Nobody may take advantage of Medusa" and starts to run off to kick a little Bliss-like butt. But Spidey grabs her by the arm and tells her to lay off. Now that she is "in the clear", he tells her she should just get on her mono-cruiser and be on her way. He promises her that Bliss will get what's coming to him. Medusa "no longer know(s) whom to trust or what to believe" but she gets on the mono-cruiser and flies away, happy to "leave your race of madmen".
Not long after this, Montgomery Bliss is on the phone in his office, being informed of all the good news. The pictures made the front pages of all the newspapers and the TV news has run the story. He is ready to use his own photos of Medusa in his ad campaign. But then Wilberforce bursts in, looking panicked, with a sheaf of photographs in his hand. He tells his boss that "Our campaign has backfired" and that "Our sales have dropped!" (Just in the last five minutes, apparently.) All because Spider-Man told the press that "Medusa was wild... uncontrollable." Believe it or not (you can if you want... I don't) this is not the image the public wants for a hair spray, making the whole Medusa ad campaign unusable. Bliss slaps his hand onto his forehead and wonders how he will explain this fiasco to the Board of Directors. Wilberforce tells him it's too late. The Board has already voted to replace him and give the job as company President to... Wilberforce! "It's all the fault of that rotten web-slinger!" says Bliss. "Personally, I'll be his fan for life!" says Wilberforce.
And meanwhile, on the street, Peter Parker slogs along with his head hanging down. The fight with Medusa made him forget his troubles for a while but now he's back facing the fact that "the one girl I really care about it thru with me". Just then, he is hailed from behind. It's Mary Jane, dressed in a snazzy green mini-skirt with matching handbag and she's just heard the "good news" about Peter and Gwen "being pffftt!" "I knew you'd come to your senses sooner or later, Tiger" she tells him. "After all, how long can a boy dig someone else when yours truly is on the scene?" But Pete gives her the brush-off, telling her he's not in the mood, and leaving her behind as he walks into the shadows. Giving MJ the chance to come to a realization and give us yet another classic line from this issue: "Well, pierce my ears and call me drafty! He really misses her!"
In the Spider's Web, Mark Lamberti of Dallas, Texas passes along this word of advice: "Special note to Pete: Lissen, you idiot - if you don't care too much for Mary Jane, send her down this way, all expenses paid. Buddy, you don't know when you've got a good thing!" (Words that are still true today.) And Greg Boles or Rural Hall, North Carolina thinks, "Issue #58 was fab, groovy, gear, and all that wonderful stuff." (Just in case you needed further convincing that these issues came out in the sixties.)
No, hard as it may be to believe, Bliss and Wilberforce have not gotten their own mini-series. In fact, they have never been seen again.
If you're dying to know just what happens next with all the subplots, you're in luck. There are already Lookbacks for the next several issues, and for the Spectacular Spider-Man #2, November 1968 too. All the Gwen, George, and Gobby questions are answered for you there.
As for Medusa, she does run into Spider-Man as a solo one other time, nine years later. That meeting is in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #11 (October 1977) and we'll feature that story in Lookback one of these days like maybe, oh I don't know, now?
It has some of the wackiest moments in Spidey's history up to that point, the sub-plot of the re-emergence of the Green Goblin is very cool, and John Romita's Medusa is absolutely gorgeous but the whole thing is really sort of, well, lame. Heavenly Hair Spray? Please. Or, to put it another way, "Well, pierce my ears and call me drafty! Two webs!"