Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #116

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This story is part of an Arc: "Lo, This Monster"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 1998.

Background...

Ever picked up the latest Spidey and felt like you read it before? Well, if you were one of those who picked up Amazing Spider-Man #116-#118, then chances are your feelings were more than just deja vu, because that trio of issues was a re-telling of the story "Lo, This Monster" that appeared in black and white in the original 35 cent, 64 page Spectacular Spider-Man magazine. The subsequent "remake" less than five years later makes "Lo", the only story (as far as I know) to be wiped out of Spider-Man continuity. But we wouldn't do that to you here. Instead, we're going to try something a little different: a Lookback at one story told two different ways. The idea is to relate the story of "Lo, This Monster!" but to note any changes that occurred in the later retelling, as we go along. Let's hope this works. Here then, simultaneously, are Spectacular Spider-Man #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #116-#118.

In Detail...

"Suddenly... The Smasher!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #116
Jan 1973 : SMURF 116.500 : SM Title
Summary: Disrupter (Reprinted, Reworked from Spectacular Magazine #1)
Arc: Part 2 of "Lo, This Monster"
Editor:  Roy Thomas
Writer:  Gerry Conway, Stan Lee
Pencils:  John Romita, Sr.
Inker:  Jim Mooney
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
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Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #95
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #6
Articles: Betty Brant, Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Lo, This Monster! (Spectacular Spider-Man #1, July 1968)

Suddenly... The Smasher! (Amazing Spider-Man #116, January 1973)

On a beautiful day in Manhattan, the Amazing Spider-Man rests on a wall and watches two workmen on a scaffold putting up a billboard advertisement for a Mayoral candidate named Richard Raleigh. Raleigh is a man who has come upon the scene overnight but there is clearly money behind his campaign "with all those ads springing up". This one has a headshot of the candidate nearly a full story high. The workers are putting the finishing touches on it and Spidey has decided it isn't any of his business when the ol'spider-sense starts to tingle.

And in ASM #116, Spider-Man starts this story with a cheap mask he obtained from a costume shop instead of his original. The mask is made out of cellophane and does not have the sophisticated eye lenses that usually conceal Spidey's eyes. It fits unevenly, so a seam can be seen at the wall-crawler's neck.

(Spidey lost his real mask in a fight with Doctor Octopus in ASM #113, October 1972. Ock tosses the mask away and it is found by Randy Robertson, son of the Daily Bugle editor Joe Robertson. Randy brings the mask to his father and it eventually ends up on J. Jonah Jameson's bulletin board. Spidey's cellophane mask is the least of his problems. He is also manifesting the first symptoms of an ulcer and his Aunt May has taken a job as Doctor Octopus' housekeeper. When Ock is defeated and taken away by the police in ASM #115, December 1972, May tells Peter that she still intends to stay and take care of Octavius' house. May's continued association with one of his worst enemies is on Peter's mind as ASM #116 begins.)

Spidey sees no immediate danger so he starts to swing away. One billboard worker points him out and says, "Isn't that Spider-Man?" "Well, it sure ain't Everett Dirksen", replies the other. ( In ASM #116, the worker says, "Well, it ain't George McGovern!") The two workers gawk at the wall-crawler, not knowing "whether to wave or run for the hills", when, suddenly, a huge fist punches through from the back side of the billboard. A man, over ten feet tall, wearing a jumpsuit and bracelets, breaks through. (His suit is purple, his boots and bracelets are gold in the color version.) "Beat it, you punks!", he bellows, "Nobody puts up posters for Raleigh while I'm around!" (In ASM #116, he says, "...while the Smasher's around" immediately giving himself a name which he never has in the original version.) The Smasher's entrance snaps the cabling on the scaffold and the two workers start to fall to their deaths. Spidey snags the cable, puts the two workers on a narrow ledge just below the billboard.... the scaffold itself just seems to disappear... and turns to face the giant.

The Smasher takes a swing at Spidey and misses. The webhead counters by kicking his opponent, hard, in the back of the head. The giant shrugs it off, turns and grabs the startled wall-crawler. "I've gotta be dreaming! No one that big can be so fast!" The monster flings Spidey toward the ground, proclaiming, "Spider-Man, huh? Big deal! I could handle a dozen like you without tryin'." ( In ASM #116, he says, "You're gonna regret the day you ever decided to take me on, pal... me... the Smasher!" The only reason I can see for this change is for ol' Smashy to yell out his name again.) Spidey saves himself by using his webbing, though he is only about ten feet from the ground by the time he snags two buildings with it. He climbs back up the wall toward his enemy, trying to talk peace, but the Smasher lifts the entire billboard and throws it at our hero. Spidey evades it easily but must catch it with his webs lest it injure someone on the street below. Taking advantage of Spidey's distraction, the Smasher leaps down to attack. The wall-crawler leaps out of the way but is surprised to see that the giant is so strong "he can cling to the wall by digging hand-holds in the solid brick!" "You've had it, punk!", the monster says but Spidey stays out of reach, responding "Don't bet on it, butterball!" (Or, in ASM #116, responding, "Don't bet on it, Smasher, or whatever you call yourself!" which is three times in seven pages that Gerry has snuck that name in. Oh, and don't worry that I'll let you know about every little word change that Gerry decided to do. Just making a point.)

The Smasher climbs along a ledge, following the webster, until he's in the most vulnerable position. Then Spidey gives him another swift kick, sending him falling. Unfortunately, there is a "protruding ledge" below that breaks his fall... though it's still a plunge that would kill any ordinary man... and the Smasher gets up for more. Spidey girds himself for the continuation of the battle when he hears "screams from where I left the painters". One of the men can no longer hang on and tumbles off the narrow ledge. But the web-slinger arrives in time and deposits both men on a nearby rooftop. By the time, Spidey gets back to the action, his opponent is gone. Here, we arrive at a slight deviation of the storyline.

While Peter talks to himself over in Spectacular, Gerry Conway has subplots to tie up in Amazing. Remember that mask that Spidey lost in ASM #113? It's time to get that little baby back. At the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson and Joe "Robbie" Robertson are discussing candidate Richard Raleigh when a webline zips right by Jolly Jonah's forehead. The webbing attaches to the Spider-Man mask displayed, like a trophy, on JJJ's bulletin board and pulls it toward the window into Spidey's waiting hands. Jonah blusters at the wall-crawler, telling him he'll have him arrested but it's all talk. Spidey webs away, carrying his reclaimed mask and later, clinging high up on a building, he replaces the "suffocating cellophane" with the real thing.

Spidey fetches his civvies, which have been discretely webbed to a nearby wall. ("One of these days I'll probably find a bird's nest in here.") He dons his Peter Parker duds and decides, since "Jameson still owes me some dough for the last batch of prints I sold him" to go to the Daily Bugle. (Since Spidey was just at the Bugle in ASM and since, at this time, Pete was on staff at the newspaper, Gerry has to go through some gyrations here but the result is the same. He gets Peter hoofing in the general direction of the Daily Bugle.)

On the way there, he is hailed from a convertible. Harry Osborn is at the wheel and his passenger is Mary Jane. MJ leans over from the passenger seat and hands Pete a Raleigh campaign button, which our hero subsequently pins on his windbreaker. ("Root for Raleigh", reads the button, the words encircling the candidate's mug.) Harry offers a ride but Pete tells him that he needs to stop at the Bugle. MJ tells Pete about a "big Raleigh dance-in at the hall tomorrow night" then she and Harry drive off.

Over in ASM, the panel illos are all the same but Gerry has changed some of the dialogue. The reasons for most of the changes are not readily apparent (I guess Gerry just didn't care for Pete telling his friends, "Tis meself you're seeing" or MJ praising Raleigh by saying, "He's got the dreamiest smile".) but some are affected by his current continuity. In Spectacular, MJ tells Pete to "Grab yourself a gal and be there, tiger" with Pete replying, "I'll see if Gwen is free later on." In Amazing, MJ tells Pete to bring Gwen which gives him a chance to fret over the fact that Gwen and Flash Thompson "have been hanging around together". (Pete has spotted them together in ASM #105, 107 and 112.) He worries, "is it all over between us?"

At the Bugle, Jameson is wide-eyed with excitement over Richard Raleigh. "More females than ever are buying the Bugle since I threw him our support." Betty Brant announces Peter's arrival (Her hairstyle has been changed in ASM to conform to her then-current appearance.) but Jonah doesn't want to see him. Tough luck. Pete pushes his way in, anyway. But his attempts to get paid are interrupted by a phone call. Jonah answers and hears big news. "Some nutty giant just wrecked a rooftop Raleigh billboard single-handed". JJJ bellows for Joe Robertson but Pete pushes for his money. In Spectacular, he is successful with Jonah saying, "Awright! Awright! Pick up a check at the cashier. And don't come back without some pictures of that nutty giant!" but in Amazing he fails, with Jonah bellowing, "Parker, get out of here! I want photos of that giant, not has-beens like Hammerhead!"

When Robbie enters, Jameson tells him that the underworld is out to get Raleigh. "First threats, then bomb scares, and now billboard smashing!" Pete leaves the room, promising himself to "learn more about Raleigh". After all, "if Jolly Jonah's in his corner, he can't be all good". Out in the city room, the reporters are huddled around a television. They are about to watch Raleigh give a speech. Betty thinks Peter should stay and listen, since "Raleigh's different. He's honest." but Peter begs off. In ASM, Peter's excuse for leaving is that "I've got to get hustling for some pics of that Smasher character". Trouble is, the only people who have heard the name "Smasher" are Spidey and the two workmen.

On the tube, Raleigh seems angered by the news of the billboard. "The underworld has just declared war", he says, "War on law and order! War on you and on me." (In Amazing the panel of Raleigh on TV has been toned down so he looks reasonable instead of wild-eyed and crazy as he looked in the original. In fact, Raleigh's appearance is toned down in subsequent panels as well as Gerry chooses, very successfully I might add, to present Raleigh as an apparently genuine caring leader, rather than the power-mad lunatic Stan immediately presents him to be.)

Raleigh finishes his speech (Why is the stage hand only holding up one finger in ASM when he held up two in Spectacular? ) and is approached by a local ward politician who tells him to stop laying it on so thick since "you haven't been elected yet". This sends Raleigh off his nut. He tells the man that "Before I'm done, I'll be the most powerful man in the state, the entire nation." Then, really getting warmed up, he grabs the man by his shirt collar and tells him "To me, you're just another sheep, like all the unthinking masses. One day, all who live will be my slaves." And when the man tells him "You... you're mad...", Raleigh scoffs at him. Why? Because "It is I who am... the Power!"

As mentioned, Gerry takes a different route. Again the panels are fundamentally the same but this time the ward politican becomes a spokesman for the mob who warns Raleigh that "If you don't watch your step, you might just find yourself givin' speeches from the bottom of the river!" Raleigh will not back down. "I mean what I say, friend", he says, "and I have not yet begun to speak". He grabs the man by the shirt collar, declaring, "My voice will echo like a bell, a bell which will summon the legions of righteousness and together we will crush you... like the vermin you are!"

Later, Spider-Man, on his way to pick up Gwen to take her to the Raleigh party, decides to look for the Smasher on his way. He doesn't find him (but in Amazing, he thinks, "The way he's stirred things up, I almost wonder if... No way! The idea's too far out", as if he has already figured out some connection between Raleigh and the Smasher. Do you think Gerry thought the mystery was too obvious?) While in Spectacular, the process of picking Gwen up is pretty straight-forward, in Amazing it has all the earmarks of a big showdown. "I'll just have to face her... ask her if it's me or Flash".

Now, a necessary deviation as Gwen's father, Captain George Stacy, dead at the time of ASM #116 makes an appearance. Pete arrives at the Stacy home and Gwen answers the door. They engage in some of that wacky Stan Lee romantic banter ("She walks. She talks. She's super-Gwen", Pete says.), then our hero tells Captain Stacy he'll get Gwen home at a reasonable time. The Captain thanks him but he is more interested in watching Raleigh on TV. "Raleigh is spending a fortune", he muses, "I wonder where the money comes from?"

In Amazing, Gwen sits in her apartment worried that Aunt May's decision to stay at Doc Ock's house is all her fault. She is the one who accused May of being too maternal (in ASM #109 and again in ASM #110) and it looks like the older woman has taken that to heart. When Peter arrives, Gwen is on the verge of asking if he now hates her, but, before she can, he asks if there is anything between her and Flash Thompson. Gwen gives him a big hug. "Oh, Peter, you darling fool! There's nothing between Flash and me", she says, "Just hold me and don't let go!"

Plenty of subtle differences show up in the following scene...

At the hall, Peter and Gwen are greeted by Mary Jane, who is acting as an usher for the affair. "Seat us where we can't hear the speeches, and we'll be friends for life", Gwen says. "Sorry, sweetie", MJ replies, "if you want to dance later, you've got to suffer like the rest of us."

In ASM, Peter and Gwen also meet MJ at the entrance but this time our favorite redhead is not ushering. She tells the couple that Raleigh has already spoken and left. "I may not buy some of his views", Gerry has MJ say, making her less of a dupe, "But one thing's for sure... Raleigh's sincere." This panel has also been redrawn, apparently to make the party look like less than a formal affair. All of our characters are dressed down from the original. Peter even gave a corsage to Gwen in "Lo, This Monster" but not here.

Mary Jane leads Pete and Gwen to their seats. She gets catty with Gwen, saying "I just adore that dress you're wearing... And for all we know, it may come back into style some day." (In Amazing, the catty dialogue is eliminated.) Peter notices that the last speaker is J. Jonah Jameson. (In ASM, he refers to JJJ as "Mr. Charisma 1972!") Jonah drones on until the band arrives for the dance. His neighbor on the podium tells him, "Either say good-night or grab a horn." (In Amazing, it isn't dancing time, but eating time. The podium neighbor says, "Better say good-night before our guests faint from hunger." I can't imagine why this change was made. )

Pete and Gwen get up to dance but in the midst of the fun, the ol' spider-sense kicks in. Pete looks up at a huge light fixture above the dance floor and notices that "the entire plastic composition is beginning to crack". It could collapse on all the revelers at any time. Pete dares not cause a panic by telling people about it. "The vibration of running feet might make it collapse sooner than ever." He decides only Spider-Man can stop it by "webbing it up before it falls". Grabbing her by the wrist, Pete tells Gwen she must get back to the table, away from the danger. He tells her he has remembered something important and he wants her to sit tight until he gets back. Realizing that the fixture could fall at any time, Peter goes into action without bothering to change into his Spidey outfit.

In Amazing, the couple does not dance. They sit at their table discussing "the New Politics". Pete looks around the room and notes that the other attendees are not "old men in grey suits" but "our age and younger". "It's not just Raleigh", says Gwen, "it's happening everywhere". In the midst of this conversation, Pete gets the spider-sense tingle about the crumbling fixture. He tells Gwen he is having a "twinge from my ulcer" and asks to be excused for a moment. Then he goes into action.

Peter finds a "power panel" in a nearby wall. By ripping it out, he cuts the electricity. This way, he figures, he can go into action without being recognized. He climbs the wall but is spotted by one of the party-goers. It is too dark to see more than a shadowy shape but someone yells to "get a flashlight, hurry". "If they dig up a flashlight, that'll be the end of my secret identity bit", Pete thinks but he has no time to worry about that now. He climbs to the ceiling and successfully webs the fixture up to the ceiling, ending the threat.

But in ASM he is less than successful. He clings to the ceiling and covers the fixture with webbing but, "no good, the webbing's not strong enough. I've blown it, and because I failed, Gwendy's going to die!" (Don't worry, Peter. Gwen won't die for, oh, another five issues yet.) And why does Pete fail in this version when it was an easy task in the original? Because it's the end of ASM #116 and the story needs a cliffhanger, doesn't it?