Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #114

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This story is part of an Arc: "Who the Heck is Hammerhead?"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 2001.

Background...

We continue our looking back at the three part arc which introduced Hammerhead, as we began in review of last issue, Amazing Spider-Man #113.

In Detail...

"Gang War, Shmang War! What I Want to Know is... Who the Heck is Hammerhead?"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #114
Nov 1972 : SMURF 114.500 : SM Title
Summary: Hammerhead Origin
Arc: Part 2 of "Who the Heck is Hammerhead?"
Editor:  Roy Thomas
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  John Romita, Sr.
Inker:  John Romita, Sr.
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
Add. Art:  Jim Starlin, Tony Mortellaro
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 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man Family #2 (Story 4)
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #93
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #6
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), Flash Thompson, Gwen Stacy, Hammerhead, The Jackal

As the gangsters open fire, Spider-Man jumps, leap-frogging over Hammerhead and kicking one of his gunsels in the jaw. He then dives over the side of the building. Hammerhead instructs his men, Bennie and Waldo, to take the wall-crawler out. The two thugs lean over the side to shoot but Spidey has slipped around the corner. He comes up from behind, hitting Hammerhead in the back and knocking out Bennie (or is it Waldo?). Waldo (or is it Bennie?) fires at him but misses. Spidey responds by grabbing a loose brick with his webbing and uses it as a club to knock the hoodlum unconscious. Hammerhead is not at all pleased with this. Bennie and Waldo have been working for him for three years and are two of his best. "It was a matter of business before" he tells the web-slinger, "but friend, you just made it personal!" Spidey doesn't care. He wants to end this battle in a hurry. He takes a powerful right-hand swing at Hammerhead's face but the gang boss ducks and Spidey ends up punching the top of his head. Instantly, his hand feels like it is broken. "Even with my power heightened by Doc Ock's harness" he tells Hammerhead (Uh, Spidey? Last issue, you said the power of the harness had run out.), "that felt like I slammed into a brick wall". "Now" replies the bad guy, "you know why they call me Hammerhead". And behind Hammy, Doctor Octopus regains consciousness and decides to attack.

Spidey seems frozen in shock as Hammerhead pulls his pistol. But, even as he shoots, Doc Ock attacks from behind, throwing Hammerhead's aim off just enough so the bullet only grazes Spidey's skull. Ock has decided that he needs every ally he can get in his battle with Hammerhead. If Spider-Man's continued involvement will aid in that battle then he will take Spidey as an unwilling ally, as well. Declaring to Hammy that "every setback to you is a victory to me", Ock uses his metal arms to swiftly take his leave. Hammerhead shoots at him to no avail. And Spider-Man? He lies unconscious at Hammerhead's feet.

Down on the street, a 30s style sedan knocks over a "Men at Work" stanchion as machine gun bullets spray out from inside the car. Ock is impressed with this attack and with the quality of Hammerhead's men. He knows he must personally take part in the fighting if he is to win this war. To that end, he smashes a tentacle through the windshield of the car, sending it crashing into a building and killing the men inside. Hammerhead is furious at Ock's actions. He vows to play for keeps from now on.

Spider-Man is still out but Waldo and Bennie have regained consciousness and they are on the verge of putting a few slugs in the wall-crawler. Hammerhead puts a stop to that. He reasons that "Octopus wanted this creep alive, wanted to use him against us" so he plans to turn the tables and use Spider-Man against Ock.

Lost in his nightmares, Spider-Man relives the discovery of the note Aunt May left him, is haunted by her disappearance, and becomes angry at himself for getting involved in the gang war. He knows he should be searching for May, that "she could be hurt, lost, dying". He torments himself with "whys" and, when he comes to, finds himself in Hammerhead's private office. The big boss is sitting with his feet up on his desk. Two goons with machine guns protect him. (One of them is Bennie but the other is a guy named Porky. So, ahem, Where's Waldo?) A very sexy floozy named Myrna (in a very short purple dress with a very low neckline and sporting a beauty mark on her left cheek) stands behind Hammy, leaning on his chair. The goon named Porky tells Spidey "the boss wantsta talk with ya" but Myrna tells Porky to lay off. She has a soft spot in her heart for Spidey. "He's really sweet", she says of the wall-crawler as she lights Hammy's cigar, "Promise you won't hurt him much, hmmm?" Hammerhead promises nothing and Myrna, hating to be involved in the messy end of the business, decides to take a walk. (Never to be seen again.) Hammerhead pokes a finger into Spidey's chest and gives him his offer. "Either join up with me'n the boys or Mister you're one dead wall-crawler".

Spidey is unimpressed. "Why should I trust a goon who needs a gun to be tough?" he wonders. In response, Hammerhead gives Spidey a little demonstration. He has Porky swing the butt-end of a machine gun at his head. It connects with a "whack!". The gun barrel is shattered and yet Hammerhead is unharmed. "Not a scratch, not a hair mussed." Clearly, Hammerhead is more than an average thug. And, while he won't reveal his origin to Spidey, our good friend Gerry Conway takes the time to present Hammerhead's beginnings to us.

Several years before, a discredited surgeon named Jonas Harrow came upon a gunman in an alley in the Bowery who was "beaten and disfigured", "delirious with pain" and left for dead. Above the gunman was an old poster for a movie called "The Al Capone Mob". Harrow took the dying man to his laboratory where he worked on him for three days, "replacing shattered bone with unbendable steel alloy". During all that time, the man dreamed of the movie poster, becoming obsessed with 30s gangster culture. Harrow ended up saving the man's life though the man's true identity was completely lost to both of them, as was the reason he was beaten and left to die. (Which is why Hammerhead can't possibly know who his sister is or even that he has a sister in spite of what we were told in the Spider-Man: Lifelines mini-series.) From this point on, he only has one name: Hammerhead.

Back in the present, Hammy wants to know Spidey's decision, though he is willing to let him take his time. Spidey, still dizzy from the scalp wound and the ulcer, can think of doing nothing now except to stall.

At this same time, Dr. Octopus arrives at his "gabled house overlooking the Hudson Shore" in Westchester. He does not enter it, however, unobserved. Two thugs in a car (named Bert and Ernie) have spotted him and immediately put in a call to their boss Hammerhead. Hammy is ready to put the squeeze on Spidey but the call allows the webhead a few more precious seconds to regain his strength. Bennie answers and passes the phone to his boss and Bert reports in that Ock has "a real little palace, just him and some old broad". Spidey overhears and wonders if the "old broad" could be his Aunt May. After all, May once took Ock in as a boarder (back in ASM #54, November 1967) and has never understood that the Doctor is a bad guy. Has Ock taken advantage of that, Spidey wonders, and kidnapped her?

Hammerhead, meanwhile, has decided to head out immediately to take on Doc Ock. He tells Bert he will be in Westchester "in thirty minutes flat", then orders Porky to get Jimmy to start up the car. (There will be a test on all of Hammerhead's henchmen afterwards, so keep track!) Spidey casually grabs Hammy by the arm and tells him he's positively inclined toward the offer of joining up. Secretly, however, he is touching the mobster so that he can plant a spider-tracer on him. "Hands off, creep!" yells the gang boss as he swats Spidey's hand away. "Nobody touches Hammerhead, y'hear? Nobody!" But he doesn't notice the planted tracer.

Apparently, Porky's trigger finger is getting itchy. He wants to take Spidey into the back alley and ventilate him. Hammy still thinks the wall-crawler could be their "whaddya callit... ace-in-the-hole". He tells Bennie and Porky to watch the webhead while he heads out to Westchester. In the meantime, he rotates the office to position three.

Wondering what this "position three" business is? Well, Spider-Man's spider-sense dopes it all out. (Bet you didn't know his sense could figure out floor plans, did you?) Hammerhead's office is actually a rotating turntable. It only has one window and the different positions swivel that window to different areas. Position three sets the room so that the window looks down on a conference room guarded by yet another goon with a machine gun. It opens the doorway to the garage. Hammerhead tells Jimmy to get Harvey down from the roof (Jimmy, Harvey, Bennie, Porky... are you still with me?) and the three of them take off in one of the cars.

Spidey, still guarded by Porky and Bennie, buries his face in his hands. He is still very weak and worried, which causes his ulcer to tighten up "like a steel claw". Meanwhile, Porky studies our hero. There is something about him that he can't put his finger on. Bennie notices it too. It is "sumthin' about his face".

On the campus at Empire State University, Professor Miles Warren approaches Gwen Stacy. He tells her that Peter hasn't been in class for a week. He's heard a rumor about May Parker and Gwen confirms that Peter's Aunt has run away. Gwen adds that it is her fault since she confronted May about being "too maternal, too protective, too overbearing". "Now Gwen" says the Professor, "you mustn't blame yourself" but she doesn't listen. Who else is there to blame except her? "I drove Aunt May away" she tells herself and she hopes Peter will one day forgive her.

Just then Flash Thompson drives up in Harry Osborn's convertible. He was just visiting Harry to borrow the car and he has heard about Peter's ulcer. "What a laugh!" he says. This is the last straw for Gwen. She lets Flash have it, telling him she "hoped that being in the army had taught you something about maturity... but no! You're still nothing but an overgrown child! Peter's one of the nicest sweetest men in the world and one of him makes twelve of you!" She stalks off with the parting shot that "you promised me you wouldn't joke about him anymore. You should learn to keep your promises!" All Flash can say is, "Oh, beans!"

Back at Hammerhead's office, Porky has finally figured out what's been bugging him. In all the photos he's seen of Spidey you can never see his eyes and yet "there he is, plain as day, two big baby-blues blinkin' at us like saucers". (Yes, it looks like Peter's eyes are blue this month.) Spidey (who, you may remember, has borrowed a mask from a costume shop) silently thanks Doc Ock for swiping his mask and providing an easy way out. He tells Bennie and Porky that, "if you'll look real close, you'll see two tiny masks" and when the two dopes lean in to get a closer look, he nails each one of them in the face with some webbing. The blinded thugs respond by sweeping the room with bullets, hoping to hit the web-slinger accidentally. Spidey leaps up to the wall to evade the gunfire, then grabs Porky and carries him along with him. Porky calls out to Bennie to stop shooting... "I'm in your line of fire!"... but Bennie keeps blasting away anyway. Spidey leaves a cowering Porky on the floor, ("With friends like Bennie, you sure don't need me!" he says.) then approaches Bennie by crawling on the ceiling. He takes out the trigger-happy hood with one punch in the jaw from above. With both goons out of action, Spidey leaps over to the control box and rotates the room until the window faces the street. Then, protecting his face with his arms, he smashes through the glass and does a neat flip to the roof across the street. Hammerhead has only been gone for about ten minutes. Spidey figures, "knowing what traffic's like up here in the Midtown area" that the gangster hasn't even reached the West Side Highway. It only takes Spidey minutes to cut across town on his webs and it isn't long before his spider-sense goes off to steer him to a black 30s sedan below. He jumps down to a lamppost, does a 360-degree swing off of it, and settles down on the roof of the car softly enough so the goons inside think the sound they hear is just the wind.

Twenty minutes later, the car arrives in Westchester and pulls near an identical car parked by the gated mansion. Bert goes to the car to confer with Hammerhead but Spider-Man has already fled the roof. He has jumped, unseen, into a tree on the mansion's property. Hammerhead sends Jimmy and Bert onto the grounds to take on Octopus. Spidey takes care of them quietly by dangling down on his webbing, removing their hats, and using them as mittens as he smashes their heads together. He webs them up against the tree and moves over to the wall of the house. He peeks in a window and sees Doc Ock brooding, "not even aware his place is being watched". This is just what Spidey wants to see. He uses a different window to slip into the house and sneaks down a stairway, crawling on the wall. He assumes the coast is clear since his spider-sense doesn't give him a tingle. But when he gets to the bottom of the stairs, someone hits him over the head with a flower vase! Unprepared for the blow, Spidey takes it full force and starts to black out. He has just enough time to wonder why his spider-sense didn't warn him of the attack before he lapses into unconsciousness. And why didn't his spider-sense warn him? Because it only warns him of attacks from "sworn foemen". (Actually, this has been a debatable point for years... does the spider-sense warn him only of dangers from enemies or does it warn him of dangers of any sort? Remember in our last Lookback of ASM #156 (May 1976) the spider-sense does warn our hero of an impending attack with a broom from his landlady. Unless you want to consider Mrs. Muggins to be a "sworn foeman" of Spider-Man, we must admit to the fact that the spider-sense works whichever way best suits the plot of the writer at that particular time.) This attack was carried out by the housekeeper of Dr. Otto Octavius, a woman who now calls for her employer fearful that she just "killed that awful monster, Spider-Man". The woman known as Aunt May!