Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #81

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 1997.

Background...

This one was in the planning stages for months. I kid you not! After all, it's a Looking Back natural, don't you think? The Kangaroo. I mean, here's this character that Stan invented, left uncaptured at the end of his fight with Spidey, then promptly forgot about and never used again! Can't you just see the fans at the time, intrigued by the Kangaroo's uncaptured status, speculating about his return, his new gimmicks, his new alliances and what do they get? Nothing! Ask Stan now about the Kangaroo and he'd probably say, "Who?"

That left Gerry Conway to clean things up a few years later. And let's be brutally honest here. Does anyone out there think that Gerry brought the Kangaroo back for any other reason except that HE remembered that Stan left him out there and he wanted to get rid of him once and for all? I mean, he DISINTEGRATED him, for gosh sake! How much more thorough can you get? That is a dismissal if ever I've seen one.

All of which made the Kangaroo a perfect subject for a retrospective. He only had two appearances, right? That's easy to deal with. Yeah, yeah, sounds good. We could call it...are you ready?...The "Komplete" Kangaroo. It's beautiful. It's perfect. It's...toast. Because some yahoo at Marvel has decided to bring back, I said BRING BACK the Kangaroo just before we could launch this installment. And, no, it's not the REAL Kangaroo they've brought back, but it is A Kangaroo, and, well, we're doing it anyway. The "Komplete" Kangaroo. Almost "Komplete". Sorta "Komplete". I'm so depressed.

In Detail...

"The Coming of the Kangaroo!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #81
Feb 1970 : SMURF 081.500 : SM Title
Summary: The Kangaroo
Editor:  Stan Lee
Co-Plot/Art:  John Romita, Sr.
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  John Buscema
Inker:  Jim Mooney
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #62
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #4
Articles: Aunt May Parker (FB), Aunt May Parker, Jameson, J. Jonah, Kangaroo I (Frank Oliver)

The Coming of the Kangaroo! was, of course, written by Stan Lee but has three artists listed with no division of labor explained. John Buscema, Jim Mooney, and John Romita get the credit. The artwork looks more like Romita than Buscema, which may mean that JR Sr. inked this one. But if that's the case, then what did Jim Mooney do? (Perhaps layouts, finishes, and inks in the above order?)

The tale begins with Spidey rapidly swinging on his webs on his way to meet Aunt May at Penn Station. He is late again and doesn't even notice J. Jonah Jameson at his office window as he swings by. (But JJJ notices him, losing his smuggled-in Cuban cigar as he rants at the Web-Slinger. Of course, "It's all that crummy Webhead's fault!") Peter arrives at the train station, changes to his civvies and runs to meet Aunt May, knocking people over in his haste. By the time he reaches his Aunt, he is flushed and sweating from the exertion. But Aunt May doesn't see it that way. She decides these are all symptoms of illness and Peter MUST go home with her and be put to bed.

As Peter tries to convince his Aunt that he is healthy, three other figures get off a nearby train. In the middle is a burly blonde-haired man. He is known as the Kangaroo and his companions are Federal Agents taking him to be deported. Before the two men can put the cuffs on him, however, the Kangaroo knocks his captors to the ground and bounds away, taking huge superhuman leaps. Peter watches it all but doesn't dare change to Spidey with Aunt May there, leaving the fugitive to get clean away.

As he bounds away, just for our benefit, the Kangaroo thinks back to his early days. "Maybe there was something in the air I breathed...the water I drank...back in Australia", he reflects. He remembers back to his vacations when he went out in the wild and studied kangaroos, "eating what they ate" (I shudder to think) "going where they went...working...training", until finally he gained his powers. (Yes, that's right. That's the best Stan could do. Get the feeling he didn't put maximum effort into this character?) In a perverse parallel to Spidey's own career, the Kangaroo decides to become a boxer but, in his first bout, he puts his opponent into a coma. (Maybe he would have done better if he had actually boxed rather than leaping around the ring and kicking his opponent in the face.) The referee threatens to bring charges against him, so the Kangaroo flees, first hopping a freight (no pun intended), then stowing away on a ship to the United States. But he is immediately caught by immigration agents when he arrives on the docks and they put him on a train to New York for deportation. (Deciding, I guess, that they will give the Kangaroo a trip around the world in the process, rather than putting him on a West Coast boat right back.)

Now, free in New York City, the Kangaroo vows, "If my power has made me a criminal...I won't fight it!". Then, to inspire fear, he puts on a shaggy 1960s Sonny Bono vest, which, combined with his blonde "mop-top" hair, makes him look like a refugee from Eric Burden and the Animals.

Meanwhile, Aunt May has taken Peter back to her Forest Hills home. Since her roommate, Anna Watson, is still in Florida, May has an extra bed to spare. She insists that Peter stay there even though he has his own apartment. Peter is perfectly, totally, completely healthy...but he can't convince his Aunt of that.

Back in the city, a trio of guards carry a valise containing a jar of "deadly, live bacteria" to a waiting armored car. The Kangaroo, needing money, thinks that the valise must contain a load of cash so he leaps down, clobbers the guards and swipes it. He bounds away, smashing the tops of cars with his leaps, then takes to the rooftops. Opening the valise, he finds only one small metal vial. Deciding that it "must hold jewels or something", he puts it into the pocket of his vest without opening it. (Because, "Blast it! Jewel'll take too long to sell! I need cash and I need it now!")

Back in Forest Hills, Aunt May returns from buying cold serum at the drug store to find Peter up and watching the TV. Before she can shoo him back to bed, a special report comes on the station reporting the theft of the "deadly experimental bacteria" (meaning that someone is designing deadly bacteria?) which could "unleash a plague thruout the city" (was it such a good idea to let people experiment with this?). Peter feigns dizzyness and weakness and goes back to bed where he leaves a human figure made of his webbing stashed under the covers to fool Aunt May. He goes out to search for the Kangaroo as Spider-Man.

It is many hours later, near dawn, when Spidey finds the Kangaroo shaking down guests on the terrace at a penthouse party. Our hero announces himself, intending to ask the Kangaroo to give up the deadly vial of bacteria, but the super-villain takes it as an attack and defends himself. Spidey sees the vial nestled in Kangy's pocket. He doesn't dare fight all-out for fear of jostling the vial and opening it in the process. Taking advantage of the Web-Spinner's hesitation, the Kangaroo lands a hard left, knocking Pete to his knees. Spidey defends himself with a backhard smash to Kangy's jaw but doesn't have the nerve to finish the job.

And back in Forest Hills, Aunt May enters the dark bedroom to give Peter his medicine. She lifts the sheet, sees the web dummy lying there and with a strangled cry of "Peter!!", faints, falling across the bed.

On the terrace, the Kangaroo kicks Spidey right through the balcony, shattering bricks. Peter decides enough is enough. Quickly, he saves himself with his webbing, swings up, yanks the Kangaroo off the balcony by grabbing him between his legs, carries the villain out over the street and shakes him until the vial is dislodged from his pocket. He snags the vial with his webbing and dumps the Kangaroo back on the balcony as he secures the deadly container. Unfortunately, as Spidey takes the vial up to the balcony, the Kangaroo escapes, not to be seen until...well...you know. The cops show up and Spider-Man turns the vial over to them but one buttinsky party-goer says, "How do we know he didn't try to get it for himself...then got cold feet when you showed up?" As he leaves, a bitter Spider-Man declares, "Nuts! If I find a way to stop war, crime, and illness...there'd still be someone to say I did it for a selfish reason!"

Peter heads back to Forest Hills where he is horrified to discover Aunt May passed out on his bed. In a panic, he tosses the web dummy out the window. (But, hey, didn't Stan say it was almost dawn when Spidey met the Kangaroo? Doesn't that mean the web dummy should have dissolved by now?) He then brings his Aunt around from her swoon. But May is still in a panic over the "horrible thing" she saw in Peter's bed. Hoping to make her feel better, Pete tells May that there's nothing horrible there, that she must have imagined it. But this only makes May think she must be getting senile. In agony, Pete thinks, "Now I've made her doubt her own sanity." He gazes out the window...

Footnote...

You're halfway through now. Go read the second part of our Komplete Kangaroo in Amazing Spider-Man #126.