Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #103

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This story is part of an Arc: "Gog!"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 1999.

Background...

Jonathan says, "This story has everything. Spidey, Ka-Zar, jungles, giant monsters and Gwen Stacy in a bikini. How can you lose?" (Okay, J., so it's not quite what you said. So sue me.)

Roy Thomas says, "One of the most offbeat Spidey shockers of all!"

It's Roy's super-hero take on the King Kong story and it's our tribute to Gil Kane, one of the greatest Spidey artists of all time. Gil is known for having pencilled a number of Spidey's big moments (the death of Captain Stacy, the four extra arms, the death of Gwen) but this is Kane at his best; drawing monsters, swamp men, lizard idols, planes, boats, helicopters, and sabretooth tigers. Thanks for all the great moments, Gil!

In Detail...

"Walk the Savage Land!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #103
Dec 1971 : SMURF 103.500 : SM Title
Summary: Ka-Zar, Kraven, Savage Land
Arc: Part 1 of "Gog!"
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Roy Thomas
Pencils:  Gil Kane
Inker:  Frank Giacoia
Cover Art:  Gil Kane
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Selects #4
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #81
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #5
Articles: Gog, Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Ka-Zar, Kraven The Hunter, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Walk the Savage Land begins with a great Gil Kane splash page. Spidey is swinging through the center of the scene but all around him is a chaos of bodies, money, and a gun, all flying though the air. Page two gives us a more traditional perspective of Spidey putting it to three men. A hippie type in the background, bearded and clad in a buckskin-fringe jacket, tells us all we need to know. "Oh wow! There's a sight I never saw in Dubuque! That Spider-Man stud leanin' hard on some protection heavies." Spidey has overheard. As he departs the scene, he wonders how "that guy" would have reacted if he had seen the wall-crawler "last night" when he had four extra arms. (In Amazing Spider-Man #100-102, September-November 1971, of course.) Spidey still hasn't figured out what to say to Gwen about the days he was gone. But the introspection must wait. The webhead spots two hoods that snuck away from his round-up. He swings down and easily puts them out of commission. Then it's back to the web-swinging and the explanation he has to give to Gwen. "Course I could just tell her that I grew four extra arms and had to blow town for a couple of days", he thinks. "Naw, level-headed chick like my Gwendolyn would never fall for a fairy-tale like that, just because it happens to be true."

His route takes him by the Daily Bugle and Spidey is momentarily distracted by the light in J. Jonah Jameson's office. He briefly wonders why Jameson is working so late at night, then he dismisses it. "You were working up the nerve to call Gwendy, remember? Don't go messin' with things that don't concern you!"

But as Spidey swings away, we join Jameson. There is a meeting going on in his office, attended by Joe Robertson and four reporters, and JJJ begins the session by dropping a bombshell. "One of these first sweet days", he tells the others, "there may not be a Daily Bugle!" The paper is having financial troubles and Jonah ticks off some of the reasons for the downturn: "Costs are up, ad revenue is down, even circulation's taken a dip this past year." But the biggest threat to the Bugle's future is "the idiot box, the boob tube, television!", and right there in the room, as if to emphasize Jonah's point, is a TV, tuned to the Dick Cavett show. Dick's guest is a man named Calkin who claims to have seen a giant monster. "It happened in Antarctica just a few weeks ago", Calkin says, "I was acting as guide to two scientists on a geophysical survey... when one night, this colossal thing attacked our camp... the other two men are still in a coma but I guess I got lucky." Mr. Calkin has even done a drawing of the creature. It is ten times the size of a man, with a gorilla-like body and long lizard-like tail. His face seems to be a combination of ape and cat with some "Star Trek Cardassian" facial lumps thrown in for good measure.

The reporters are not impressed with Calkin ("He's just some nut", says one of the group.), but JJJ is fascinated. He deduces that the creature must have "come from Ka-Zar's hidden jungle and he's gonna put this rag right back in the black!"

One of the reporters, working up some enthusiasm, suggests they do their own interview of Calkin but Jonah cuts him off with "Shove your interview, mister!" (yes, he does) and tells them that he wants a whole series of articles and photos from the Savage Land. When one of the men worries about the danger related to the monster, Jameson points to the TV and replies, "There's your monster, boys. There's your enemy. Not some big palooka with a scaly tail but a plain wooden box with a 21-inch screen." (JJJ never talked this way when Stan was doing the writing. I don't know about you, but I like it.) The publisher kicks all the men out of his office... except for Robbie. He tells his city editor that he wants Peter Parker for the assignment. Robbie objects. The Savage Land is "no place for a guy Pete's age", he says, but Jameson will have none of that. "I'm fighting for my life, my paper's life", he says, "I'm making that trip myself and Parker's going with me! Either you call him or go pick up your severance pay, and I'll do it."

The next morning Peter Parker walks Gwen Stacy back to her apartment. Gwen is happy that Pete has gotten in touch with her again even though he tells her he can't reveal where he has been. Gwen promises to "try not to pry". The phone is ringing as they enter the apartment. Gwen answers but it is for Pete. Joe Robertson, calling from the Daily Bugle. Initially, Pete decides not to talk to him ("Tell Robbie I'm in a leper colony...") but he quickly gives in. Robbie explains the assignment (all the while telling himself that he's doing the right thing... "at least you plan to give it to Pete straight so he can make up his own mind") and Peter jumps at the chance. Excited, he hangs up the phone and starts explaining to Gwen, only to discover that she is far from happy about it. "H-how could you say yes... now of all times?", she says with tears in her eyes. "Don't cry, Gwendy", Pete says, "It means money... money we could use to get mar..." (Whoa! Almost a marriage proposal there.) But it's no use. No explanation is going to get past those tears. So, Pete takes Gwen by the hand and marches off with her to the Daily Bugle.

At the newspaper, J. Jonah Jameson is still in a snit. He's all prepared for the monster-hunt but "something's missing, something I can't quite put my finger on". At that moment, Peter and Gwen march in Jonah's office. Pete proclaims that "There's something I've got to say, Mr. Jameson and I wanted Gwen to hear it." But we are destined never to know what Peter had to say because JJJ takes one look at Gwen Stacy and the final piece of the puzzle clicks into place. He points his finger at Gwen and tells her "You're the missing ingredient I've been wracking my brain for!" (And if you could see Gwen in her blue mini-skirt and go-go boots, you'd have some idea of what JJJ has in mind.)

"A girl like you is just what my expedition needs", Jonah tells Gwen. It might help sell papers to women. "Besides, a pretty face never scared gents away from the newsstand." When Peter voices his concerns, Gwen tells him, "What a male chauvinist pig thing to say!" She's interested. She could use the money. But Jonah needs an answer right away. "Wadda you say?", he asks. "I say, a-ok, Mr. J.", says Gwen.

For the next forty-eight hours, plans are made. While Jonah orders everything from pith helmets to safari jackets, Pete and Gwen just have time "to listen to Jesus Christ: Superstar" and Robbie checks expenses. If this trip doesn't pan out "New York'll soon be getting all its news off men's room walls!"

Finally the trip begins. The trio takes a plane to Rio de Janeiro, then a ship to an ocean rendezvous point, where they are picked up by a helicopter and flown to Penguin Base One in Antarctica. Here, all bundled up in their parkas, the group finally meets Calkin. He leads them into a nearby quonset hut. While Pete and Gwen warm their hands by the stove, Calkin takes Jonah to a wall-sized map of the region and shows him the site of his encounter with the monster. "Hasn't it occurred to you that I might be a fraud or just plain looney?", asks Calkin. "At this stage", JJJ says, "I can't afford even to consider that possibility."

The helicopter is refueled and ready to go. Calkin takes over as the pilot and the quartet heads on an hours-long journey to the heart of the continent. They pass their fuel "point-of-no-return", then a "gleaming ivory wall of mist" appears, blotting out all visibility. Suddenly, with a cry of "sskrawwkk", a pterosaur flies by, nearly colliding. The search party has found the Savage Land.

(The Savage Land is a sort of tropical "Land That Time Forgot" located somewhere underneath the Antarctic ice. It is a home to dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, early man types, and the "Tarzan-like" savage known as Ka-Zar.)

Everyone is shaken up by the encounter but Calkin manages to land the chopper in a jungle clearing. Jonah and Pete exit the aircraft, with Pete pointing out that "it's like a hothouse out here" even though they're in Antarctica. "Quiet, boy. This is a moment for words of more substance", Jonah says, "Such as, 'that's one small drop for a man, and one giant drop for....' er, forget it."

Jonah strips off his parka and snow pants to reveal his safari shirt and shorts (just what I always wanted to see... Jonah's bony knees). He tells Gwen to slip into the underbrush and "get into that outfit, young lady"... an outfit that Gwen has been keeping as a surprise. "Well? How do I look?", she asks, emerging from the brush in a red bikini. The expressions on the faces of Pete and Jonah say it all. (The wide-eyed looks drawn by Gil successfully impart admiration, attraction, and just a hint of lust. A great panel.)

Gwen stretches out on the ground for a little cheesecake photo shoot. She and Pete are hailed by Jonah, who has wandered (along with Calkin) to another clearing. "Must've found a buffalo nickel", Pete says, but when he and Gwen join the others, their eyes widen in surprise. (Another great Kane reaction shot, this one of Gwen and Pete's openmouthed awe... a counterpoint to the previous Jonah and Pete shot, even using the same panel size and shape as the other.) "That's definitely no buffalo nickel", Peter says.

Part Two: Gog!

What it is, is a statue, two stories high, of a lizard with gaping jaws and outstretched claws. There is an altar between its legs along with a gong, a mallet, and an offering of fruit. (OK, I know how that sounds. Stop giggling.) Calkin informs the others that his mystery monster doesn't look anything like this idol. Jameson is more concerned with posing Gwen in front of the statue for a few choice photos. He also decides that the altar must have been built by "my old pal Ka-Zar" and that the gong must be used to summon him. (Sort of a Savage Land version of the bat-signal, I guess.) Before anyone can stop him, Jonah whacks the gong with the mallet, creating a loud BONG. Unfortunately for the group, it is not Ka-Zar who is summoned by the sound. It is a whole tribe of squat, spear-carrying neanderthalic savages... the Swamp Men.

The tribe approaches silently and slowly. They stop mere yards away from the visitors and one of them calls out "Notar! Kadda Gog! Notar!" as he gestures at the idol. (Meaning, perhaps, "don't you idiots know that this gong summons Gog?") Calkin thinks it is his rifle that has made the tribe hesitate, though Peter can tell that it is the "lizard-idol itself". But the Swamp Men don't pause long. They begin to edge closer. Calkin aims his gun while advising Peter to use his pistol. Peter has other ideas. He intends to use his spider-powers no matter who may end up seeing him use them. The savages begin to charge... and then abruptly stop. "They're gazing in terror at something beyond the idol", Peter says. And JJJ, in EC horror comic tradition, gazes off-panel and intones, "Good Lord!!"

In a full-page panel, Gil shows us what the others have already seen. The monster called Gog, looking much as Calkin has previously described him, except he is wearing a brown tunic and gold wrist bands. Being a presumably red-blooded boy with a refined taste in women, Gog reaches a giant hand out to scoop up Gwen Stacy. Peter unholsters his pistol and fires at the creature (yes he does), shouting, "Let go of her, blast you!" Calkin and JJJ fire at Gog as well. But it does no good. The bullets bounce off "that thing's hide like raindrops". Gog takes his prize and starts lumbering away.

Desperately, Peter grabs up the backpack that contains the expedition gas bombs. Calkin and Jonah think he is planning to use them on the beast but Pete is really just looking for a diversion. As Pete starts to leap at the giant, Gog swats him away with the back of his hand (fortunately NOT the hand with which he is carrying Gwen). Pete's limp body hurtles through the air and over a cliff where he lands in the river below. Certain that Peter must be dead, Calkin and JJJ decide to pursue the monster rather than search for him. "Maybe I wasn't ever much of a boss", says Jonah, "but maybe... I can make it as an avenger".

But if the two men had waited a bit longer, they would have seen that Peter is far from dead. He pulls himself out of the water, astonished that he was swatted away so easily, even though he was braced for the blow. He has also taken note that Gog is wearing clothes denoting a higher intelligence. Fortunately, Pete can't seem to go anywhere without bringing along his Spidey suit so he changes into it here. He knows that this probably means the end of his secret identity "but Gwen's life may be at stake so the devil with it!"

Far off, Gog has arrived at a clearing with his prize. "You may cease those incoherent gruntings, Gog", says a man standing on a nearby boulder. "Your friend is here, Gog. Your friend... Kraven the Hunter!"

Gwen recognizes Kraven, presumably from his attack on the soda shop in ASM #47 (April 1967), but the Hunter not only recognizes Gwen but calls her by name and this relationship is not as easy to trace. How does Kraven know who Gwen is? Did Roy screw up here or is there a previous issue that explains this? If anyone knows, let's hear from you!

In any event, Kraven reveals not it was not a mistake (or raging hormones) that prompted Gog to grab Gwen rather than, say, Peter. "With Gog's help, I'm carving a kingdom down here", Kraven says, "And what good a kingdom without a queen?"

In another part of the jungle, Calkin and Jameson follow Gog's tracks. Jonah puts up a brave front but when he finds himself nose-to-snout with a sabre-toothed tiger, he turns and flees the other way. (Hey, who can blame him?) But JJJ's retreat is cut off by a loin-clothed clad figure with long blonde hair who leaps down from the trees. He is Ka-Zar, the Lord of the Savage Land and the tiger is his faithful assistant Zabu.

Ka-Zar is not happy to see J. Jonah Jameson in his jungle. (They had an unpleasant experience together in ASM #57, February 1968.) He demands to know why the publisher is there. Jonah tells him of Gog and Gwen's abduction. "Ka-Zar will find the girl for you", the savage says as he leaps onto Zabu's back, "Then, you shall leave this land... forever."

Ka-Zar is not the only one who is following Gog's tracks. Swinging from tree to tree, the Amazing Spider-Man is on the trail, too. He leaps onto a large tree limb that starts to undulate under his feet. Spidey realizes "that it isn't a tree-limb at all! It's some kind of gigantic serpent!" The web-slinger jumps away from the huge jaws of the snake. He picks up a fallen branch and flings it into the serpent's mouth. As the monster hisses in rage, the webhead runs away, only to come to a river which the immense Gog has just forded. Not wanting to chance encountering any water-bound inhabitants, Spidey bends a sapling back and uses it to catapault himself over the river. He picks out a "soft spot to land" and opts for a "puddle up ahead". He makes a "perfect two-point landing" but something is wrong. He can't move his feet. Too late the wall-crawler realizes that the puddle is actually quicksand. "It's pulling me down like some starving animal. Can't even latch onto a limb to gain time!" It looks like, this time, Spider-Man has had it! (And it HAS to look that way because the story is continued next issue!)