Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #101

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Six Arms Saga"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 1997.

Background...

We continue with part two of our Looking Back at the classic three-part masterwork entitled "The Six Arms Saga". In an attempt to rid himself of his powers, Spider-Man has given himself an extra four arms. Don't you just hate it when that happens!

In Detail...

"A Monster Called...Morbius!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #101
Oct 1971 : SMURF 101.500 : SM Title
Summary: First Morbius
Arc: Part 2 of "The Six Arms Saga"
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Roy Thomas
Pencils:  Gil Kane
Inker:  Frank Giacoia
Cover Art:  Gil Kane
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Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Selects #2
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #252 (Story 1)
 Reprinted In: Marvel Treasury Edition #14
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #5
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man #101 (Silver Reprint)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Strange Adventures (TPB)
Articles: Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Lizard, Morbius, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Our next issue picks up right where the preceding issue left off. While it is still pencilled by Gil Kane, the story is written by Roy Thomas. In these days of everyone and his brother getting a shot at writing Spider-Man, it is hard to recall just how shocking this writing credit was. No one but Stan had EVER written a Spider-Man story. At times, it seemed as if no one but Stan ever would. (Those were the days.) Another shock appeared on the front cover. No, not the ghostly appearance of Morbius or Spidey's four extra arms. It was the price which read, "Still 15 cents". And, oh oh, when the price is preceded by "still", it's a sure sign that it won't be for very long.

Now, where were we? Oh yeah, Spidey has grown four extra arms! Peter realizes that the potion actually had opposite the intended effect on him. Instead of removing his spider powers, it has made him more of a spider than ever. He never bothered to create an antidote to the mixture so he sinks into despair, imagining himself a sideshow attraction. "Step right this way folks! Only 25 cents and two boxtops to see the human spider..the freak!" Pete's somber thoughts are interrupted by a phone call from Gwen. She is "playing the liberated woman"..."in honor of Betty Friedan's birthday" and inviting Peter out to a movie. (Her offered choices: Love Story or I Am Curious (Yellow).) In typical Parker fashion, Pete decides to treat her miserably so that she'll hate him and forget him..just in case he never gets to see her again. (Oh, good thinking, Pete!) Gwen, crushed, says, "I won't bother you any longer" and Pete, ashamed, buries his face in one of his six hands.

Soon, the phone rings again. (Peter uses the intervening time to mope, imagining Aunt May seeing him like this, imagining the terror he will inspire as a six-armed Spider-Man.) This time it's Joe Robertson, with J. Jonah Jameson looking over his shoulder, offering a late night photo assignment. But Pete blows them off too, saying he is going to the country for a rest cure. (Jonah gets steamed over this response but Robbie is worried.) This excuse finally gives Peter an idea. He calls Dr. Curt Connors at his lab in the Everglades and, after he convinces Curt he really IS Spider-Man by revealing he knows the Doc is the Lizard, asks if he can use Connors' house in Southhampton. Curt agrees, telling Spidey that the key is under the mat and the fully-equipped lab is in the basement. Pete just up and hangs up on the doctor ("Couldn't trust myself to talk any longer", he proclaims... whatever THAT means.), takes his money from his cookie jar and starts to pack.

He quickly realizes he can't take a cab or a train with six arms hanging out of his clothes (Hey, our hero's no dummy!) so he decides he must travel to Long Island as Spidey by web. He hates to leave the apartment in such a clutter for Harry to find when he returns from the hospital ("Who know... maybe I'll be back soon to give him a hand and a hand and a hand.") but off he swings, almost immediately crashing into a wall. The extra arms are flailing about, throwing off his timing. The night starts to pass into day. ("My Spiro Agnew wrist watch tells me it's nearly dawn", Pete thinks, which prompts me to mention that Roy pulled out all the topical stops and cultural references he could think of in his Spidey debut. He even mentioned David Frye in a quip, for goshsakes! Take deep breaths, Roy! You're trying too hard!) As he gains more control over the arms, Spidey successfully swings to the Long Island railroad where he hitches a ride to Doc Connors' secluded and creepy (He "could sub-let it to Alfred Hitchcock". There's another one of those cultural references!) oceanfront home.

And now, since it's been about two and a half issues since we've had a super-villain (dreams don't count and ish #99 was barren of them as well), let us turn our attention to a ship lying at anchor less than a mile from the Long Island shore. There is a meeting of scared sailors on deck led by a fellow named "Whitey" who tells the others that Cap'n Bloom is dead. "He bought it last night." Whitey blames "the guy in the hold" since the ship has had "nothin' but bad luck and vanishin' crewmen ever since we found 'im adrift in the middle'a the ocean". The crew becomes a mob, tracking the strange goateed passenger to the engine room. One of the crewmen attacks the stranger but he "moves like he's half asleep an' we STILL can't put a dent in him". In fact, in spite of the ten-to-one odds, the man breaks free and manages to hide until nightfall. The crew assumes he has fallen overboard (Why? Because they are not continuing characters, that's why.) and turn in for the night. But the night brings a strange figure to the deck of the ship. It is the passenger, but now his skin is chalk-white, his eyes large and red like a bicycle reflector, he is garbed in a blue-black and red outfit, his nose has sunk in, and his incisors grown so that he greatly resembles a human bat.

As he stalks the crew, he thinks, "But now, it is night once more and the night belongs to me...to Morbius! For the darkness is a time for strange thirsts and when Morbius thirsts, it must be quenched." By dawn, Morbius' thirst is assuaged and all the crewmen are dead, drained of blood. But, with the dawn comes the return of his humanity and his guilt and revulsion become so intense that he leaps into the sea. But any attempt at self-slaughter is frustrated. He soon comes ashore and walks the beach to a familiar looking beach house. (And he's got a great soliloquy while he's doing it too: "Daylight saps me of my will..dead men's faces glower at me..lifeless fingers point..rasping voices say, J'accuse!" Try to imagine the Sandman or the Rhino saying that!) Morbius spreads his arms and the winds lift him up. (This is because his bones are hollow, you see.) He wafts into the belfry of the house where he settles in for his vampire sleep.

A few floors below, as sunset nears, a six-armed Spidey continues his research. It has been two days since he has arrived but his work is going nowhere. His latest attempt again a failure, he smashes the test tube in disgust. Above, Morbius awakens and spies on our hero. He notices the six arms and the spider costume is familiar but none of it matters to him. He thirsts. So he soars down on Spidey and strikes!

Pete leaps away and tries to engage in his usual verbal repartee. But his pause, expecting a super-villain retort, almost proves his undoing as Morbius leaps and begins choking him instead. Spidey notices the ghostly face and sharp teeth but cannot accept that he's fighting a vampire. He knocks Morbius away, figuring him to be just another costumed villain. Which is his second mistake (or maybe just the first mistake repeated) for Morbius goes for the throat. Pete moves away but he is exhausted by his ordeal and becomes easy prey. Morbius lifts him up by the throat and heaves him over the landing to the floor below. (And you thought the lab was in the basement, didn't you? Actually, so did I.)

Spidey lies unconscious at the foot of the stairs. Morbius glides down and prepares to feast but he is interrupted by the newly-arrived Curt Connors. Somehow the Doctor evades the vampire's lunge but the stress becomes too much. Rapidly, Connors turns into the Lizard. Morbius warns him away from his intended victim but the Lizard claims Spider-Man as HIS enemy. Spidey wakes up just in time to see two monsters approaching him from opposite sides.

And the next issue blurb reads, "To be concluded in ish #102...the first double-size double-action issue of Spider-Man!" (What?! No die-cut? No hologram? No padded page count with extra stories about minor-league characters nobody cares about? All right!)