Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #117

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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...

It's a bit confusing, but this story was actually was first printed in Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1. However, the details of our Looking Back are here under Amazing Spider-Man. Here begins part two, if you missed the beginning then you need to check out part one in Amazing Spider-Man #116.

In Detail...

"The Deadly Designs Of The Disruptor!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #117
Feb 1973 : SMURF 117.500 : SM Title
Summary: Disrupter (Reprinted, Reworked from Spectacular Magazine #1)
Arc: Part 3 of "Lo, This Monster"
Editor:  Roy Thomas
Writer:  Gerry Conway, Stan Lee
Pencils:  John Romita, Sr.
Inker:  Jim Mooney
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
Add. Art:  Tony Mortellaro
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #96
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #6
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

The Deadly Designs of the Disruptor! (Amazing Spider-Man #117, February 1973)

On the splash page of ASM #117, things have gotten very dire indeed. Great chunks of the fixture are falling and the people below can't help but notice. It wouldn't be so bad it was just plastic as mentioned in Spectacular but Gerry has transmuted this crumbling block into concrete. Hanging on desperately, Peter tries to hold off the impending collapse as long as possibe. When it all does fall, everyone has successful gotten out of the way. Peter tries to sneak away but the crowd notices him. "Get the lights on!", someone says, "it must be the saboteur".

None of this happens in the original story. The webbing easily holds the fixture and the only danger is to Peter's secret identity. Someone has found a flashlight. "They'll see who I am in a second!"

But Pete comes up with an idea. He fashions a large shield out of webbing, then holds it up so that he is completely concealed by it. The flashlight does the crowd no good. Peter slips out a window and scales the outside wall to the roof.

In ASM #117, Pete also fashions the shield but the panels have been redrawn so that the room is now filled with smoke and dust from the disaster. Outside, the fire department has shown up. On the sidewalk, Richard Raleigh is being interviewed by a TV reporter sporting long hair and a mustache. (It being 1972, you know.) Raleigh gives him the whole spiel about how the mob is attempting to silence him because "they know what I stand for, justice for the common man... That's why they sent that Smasher creature to strike against me and why they've hired Spider-Man as well". Raleigh vows to continue the fight and the reporter finishes his story by saying, "That was Richard M. Raleigh, the man many political experts claim is destined to become the next mayor of New York."

In both stories, Peter sits on the roof ledge and puts his shoes back on. While his main concern in "Lo" is to come up with an alibi for Gwen regarding his disappearance, in Amazing, he is puzzling over the whole Raleigh situation. "His attitudes are pretty liberal as well as being conservative enough to stay in the mainstream", Pete thinks, "so why all these attempts to ruin him?"

In the original, Pete returns to the hall to see that the lights have been turned on again. He doesn't have to come up with an alibi... Mary Jane gives one to him. She remarks that they all saw Spider-Man up in the shadows and figured Peter went off to try to get a picture of the webster. (One of the few moments in the pre-retconned time of Mary Jane always knowing Pete's identity where it looks like that may actually be true.) The firemen have been brought in to deal with the situation. While others are blaming Spidey for attempting to topple the light fixture, the firemen know differently. "Looks to us as if he saved you by webbing it up till we could get here.", one says. (J. Jonah Jameson overhears this comment. "Did you hear him?", he says, "That lamebrained smoke-eater thinks Spider-Man was trying to help us." He then collars Peter to ask if he got any photos. "Couldn't Mr. Jameson", Pete says, "There... eh... wasn't enough light.")

In ASM, what with the hall having collapsed, Peter meets up with Gwen and MJ outside. He tells Gwen that he was worried about her. "Worried about me?", she replies, "Peter, you dear boy, when are you ever going to learn?" (Cruel, Gerry. Very cruel.) J. Jonah Jameson buttonholes Peter but gets the brush-off. It's Peter's night off. "Right now", he says, "I've two fair damsels to escort home!"

Pete walks the two ladies home... one on each arm. MJ is busy trying out the sound of "Mary Jane Raleigh" but Gwen spots a dark hair on her boyfriend's sleeve. She pulls it off and quickly notices that it is actually a bit of spider-web. Pete gets worried, thinking that this gives away his secret but Gwen tells him "Those little web strands fell on almost everybody back at the dance-in." MJ notices none of this. She is too busy wondering "if Raleigh digs brunettes". (Brunettes? Well, I suppose, with the story published in black-and-white, Stan didn't want to confuse new readers. MJ's hair looks black through this whole issue. But over in ASM #117, Gerry corrects this as MJ wonders if Raleigh "digs redheads". Oh, and he changes Gwen's "dance-in" to "eat-in" because, well, in Gerry's version, they didn't dance.)

Meanwhile, back at Richard Raleigh's home, the candidate has learned that Spider-Man prevented the ceiling at the hall from falling. "You brainless bunglers!", he barks into the phone, "It would have made the entire city believe the underworld was out to destroy Richard Raleigh, the crusading candidate! That masked interloper must pay for this, do you hear?"

And, in ASM #117, Gerry makes an interesting decision. He chooses to conceal the fact that it is Raleigh himself who is behind the apparent sabotage. So he creates a masked identity for our would-be mayor. He clothes him in blue pajamas with a purple cape and completely covers his head in a metallic mask that makes his head look like Gort, the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still. He gives him the nom du guerre of the Disruptor. Since we aren't supposed to know who is under the mask, his phone conversation is a little bit different. "If it hadn't been for that costumed interloper, half of Raleigh's supporters would be dead", he says now (though why this would benefit Raleigh beats me), "Now I must see to it myself!"

Now, for the next four pages, everything is essentially the same except that all of the drawings of Raleigh have been replaced, in ASM #117, by similarly posed drawings of the Disruptor. Raleigh approaches his bookcase. He pulls on a specific book and a secret door opens. Inside is a brick stairway, leading down, like the dungeon steps in a cheap horror film. "Everything depends upon the next few days", he reflects, "Upon the gullible voters believing that the underworld is trying to silence me." (In the same scene, the Disruptor says nothing that reveals he is Raleigh, of course. He has some mumbo-jumbo about "swelling success or black bitter failure", which should probably be smelling success, come to think of it.) He calls down the stairs to a man named Thaxton and tells him he is checking to see "how the project is progressing".

The stairs lead to a secret laboratory where the monsterous billboard attacker is stretched out and wired up to various machines. Thaxton turns out to be a balding man in a lab coat. Raleigh reveals that Thaxton was a doctor who was shunned by the medical profession for strange experiements in bio-chemistry. Under Raleigh's aegis, Thaxton has "by altering the genes of a common thug... created a super-powerful monster" (who the Disruptor reminds us is called "The Smasher!"). But the job is not complete. Not as long as Spider-Man can defeat him.

Thaxton demonstrates that he has given his creation "new circuits, new strength". Raleigh insists that "He must be perfect, do you hear? Perfect!" He plans to have "an entire army of such creatures" so he can rule the world! Grabbing Thaxton by the labels of his jacket (an action he seems overly fond of doing), Raleigh demands the "hand-held control unit". Thaxton gives it to him and our candidate boasts that nothing can go wrong now... "For I will be controlling our man-made monster every moment of the day". Thaxton tries to warn him that the device is untried and unsafe but since Raleigh is a super-villain, he of course ignores the warning. He has Thaxton "activate all circuits" to maximum power. The giant screams in rage and pain breaks free, and starts smashing the heck out of the lab. Raleigh is paralyzed with indecision, until Thaxton tells him to tap "the nullify button... twice". Raleigh does so and the Smasher (now wearing a cool-looking headband and armband with broken wires trailing out of them) stops in his tracks. Thaxton promises that his creation will soon be perfect. ("Just a few more adjustments.") "Let us hope so, Thaxton, for your sake", Raleigh says, "And now, I'll order our little crime wave to continue."

Meanwhile, in science class, Pete is so distracted, wondering about his ten-foot tall sparring partner that Professor Warren, Harry and Gwen notice something is wrong. After class, Gwen tells him, "If you can use a soft shoulder and a sympathetic ear..." and Pete replies "I sure can, lady, if the eyes and lips go along with them." (Gerry eliminates this scene entirely in Amazing. Can't imagine why.)

And, in a "private midtown men's club", J. Jonah Jameson tries to talk Captain Stacy and an unnamed bald man into supporting Raleigh. JJJ practically guarantees a victory but the unnamed man retorts, "Didn't you also predict a Goldwater landslide?" Stacy wonders what "anyone really knows of Richard Raleigh... He photographs well, is against sin, and supports motherhood and apple pie." "Are you questioning my judgement, Stacy?", asks Jonah and the Captain replies, "Well, since you never question it, perhaps someone should." Jonah, now standing underneath the portrait of a muttonchopped club founder, reasons that "Both Spider-Man and the underworld are against Raleigh, he's got to be the best man." But Captain Stacy doesn't buy it. His years "on the police force have made me suspicious of anything that seems too pat."

In ASM #117, this scene takes place in Jonah Jameson's townhouse. With George Stacy being dead, his place is taken by "Robbie" Robertson. The bald man becomes Norman Osborn. After Jonah gives his guarantee, Norman asks, "Didn't you also predict a Humphrey landslide?". An extra panel is added of Osborn saying that Raleigh doesn't yet have his vote, then Robbie works up the nerve to go against his boss by giving the "motherhood and apple pie" speech. When Jonah asks if Robbie is "questioning my judgement", the Bugle editor does not give the harsh reply that Stacy did. "No, Jonah", he says, "just this man called Raleigh". JJJ gives his "Spider-Man and the underworld" spiel and Robbie gives the same reply that Stacy did, except that his years are "on the newspaper" rather than the police force. (And my favorite change of all.... the portrait above Jonah's head is still a mutton-chopped gentlemen but now he has been redrawn with a flat top haircut, making him clearly an ancestor of JJJ.)

The scene continues on, but only in ASM. (Actually, this scene does take place in the original, between Jameson and George Stacy, but it is a little bit later in the story.) Jonah asks Robbie if he'd like to join him in a private meeting he's having with Raleigh. Robbie turns him down. He's planning to spend that time studying "reports I've gathered concerning Raleigh's background". Jonah scoffs at this. "I know all I need to know about the man", he says. As Jameson hails a taxi, Robbie thinks, "May heaven protect us from those who know all they need to know... about anything."

Elsewhere, Spider-Man is wandering around town looking for the Smasher. He is right above a penthouse terrace when his spider-sense starts tingling. He recalls that the "paper said they're holding a big fund-raising party for none other than big daddy Raleigh" and three thugs have shown up to rob it. The lead thug (who is clean-shaven in the original but has a mustache in the remake tells the party-goers "we ain't about to let that punk Raleigh get elected in this town" but, behind him, his two buddies are trapped in a web spun by Spider-Man. The leader fires his gun at Spidey but misses. The webhead swings down and lands a hard right hand on the thug's nose. (An enthusiastic party-goer says of Spidey, "Oh, if you could only vote!) He gives the thug a swat on the head to knock him unconscious, then clonks the heads of the two webbed goons who are trying to reach for their guns. Then, he swings away, stopping to pick up his automatic camera, which he had set up for pictures.

Changing out of his costume, Peter decides to visit Aunt May. When, he arrives, he notices that May and Anna Watson are watching Richard Raleigh on television. "His honesty and his integrity are just what this city needs", Anna says. When Pete asks how they can be sure of Raleigh's honesty, May replies, "Would all those horrible gangsters keep attacking him if they weren't afraid that he'll be elected? And besides, he has the most beautiful smile." "It's nice to know that the ship of state is in the hands of such an aware, well-informed citizenry", Pete says, then he takes his leave. In the driveway, he gets ready to get on his motorcycle but pauses to wonder what "Captain Stacy feels about Raleigh". (And it is here that the scene takes place in which Jameson asks Stacy to join him on his visit to Raleigh. Stacy, like Robbie, in the ASM version, tells Jonah he has reading to do on Raleigh's background and he laments at the end that there are people who think they know all they need to know about anything.)

None of the scene between Peter and May takes place in Amazing, of course, because May is presently the housekeeper at Doctor Octopus' mansion. (And, there's no scene with Peter and his motorcycle, since that was long gone by 1972.) What happens instead is a five page section not seen at all in the original. Feeling like a "regular heel" for not speaking to May in some time, Spidey heads back to his apartment and phones Doc Ock's residence. May tells Peter that she is fine... "Doctor Octavius' business associates have been just wonderful". Peter tries to get her to leave but he quickly gives up, knowing he won't be able to convince her. After the call, Harry Osborn sticks his head into the room (where Pete is still dressed as Spidey but conceals the fact, I guess) and tells his roommate he has just the thing to cheer him up. "The Raleigh Youth Rally."

Harry drives them down to the scene, where Raleigh is just finishing up his speech. A crowd of young people, holding placards and listening respectfully surrounds the stage. When Raleigh finishes, he steps into a waiting car and drives off. Peter is uncertain of Raleigh's sincerity but Harry is sold. While Pete is wondering if he's simply too cynical, Mary Jane and Gwen find him in the crowd. MJ offers Peter a chili-dog but Gwen warns him that spicy food could double him over "in pain from an ulcer-attack". But Pete is barely listening. His spider-sense has just kicked in. "Something's going to happen. Something dangerous!"

Suddenly, a car with mirrored windows, rushes into the crowd spraying "some kind of tear gas" that burns "like acid". The crowd disperses in panic. Pete sneaks off to change to his Spidey duds. The Disruptor climbs out of the car's sunroof, holding a pistol, and yelling, "Where is he? Where is Richard Raleigh? I want him dead or alive and I want him now!" His henchmen, wearing gas masks and carrying rifles, step out of the car. The Disruptor orders them to burn the voter registration stands down. But Spidey leaps into action, telling the Disruptor, "those stands hold some pretty vital records, records people need in order to vote". He uses his webbing to yank the Disruptor's gun away from him, then uses a backhand slap to stagger the Disruptor. But the bad guy kicks Spidey off the roof of the car. He is grabbed by the Disruptor's goon squad. Before Spidey can free himself, the Disruptor makes his escape.

Over in "Lo", J. Jonah Jameson arrives for his interview with Raleigh. Before they begin, JJJ lets slip that George Stacy is checking into the candidate's background. Raleigh finds this very unsettling. When the interview with "that old windbag" is finished, he rushes back to his town house.

In ASM, Jonah arrives just in time to see Mr. Samuels, the mob stooge from the TV studio, threatening Raleigh again. Samuels leaves as Jonah enters, but the door to Raleigh's office is left open. In this version, JJJ lets slip that Joe Robertson is checking into Raleigh's background. Out in the hallway, Mr. Samuels eavesdrops as well. "Background material, eh?", he thinks, "Wait'll the boss hears this!"

Back in the original, Raleigh arrives at his basement lab and tells Thaxton that his monster must be ready to go into action tonight. Thaxton assures him that the hand-held control unit is ready. "I've secured an ionic neuro-band to his skull", he says, "Should he seek to defy you, you can shock him into total obedience at the push of a button." Thaxton pulls a lever to awaken the giant. A glow surrounds the creature "caused by the ionic energy flowing thru his bloodstream". He returns to consciousness, crying out "my head! What's this pain in my head?" A nervous Thaxton urges Raleigh to push the nullifier button but the candidate wants to see what the monster will do. At first, the giant only tries to wrench the headband off but then he notices the device in Raleigh's hand and he realizes that it is causing his pain. The monster turns on the two men but Raleigh presses the button and the giant is engulfed in agony. "Do not do that to me again", the Smasher says, "I will do anything as long as you don't do that again." With the monster in his power, Raleigh gives instructions to silence the one man who is investigating him. "Go to the address I give you", he says, "and kill a man named Stacy".

In ASM, it is the Disruptor who arrives at the laboratory, telling Thaxton to speed up the timetable. Thaxton gives him the control button and pulls the lever. The Smasher wakes up in agony. "Smasher, listen to me, to your master", says the Disruptor, "I want you to find Joseph Robertson, I want you to bring him to me, dead or alive!" That is our cliffhanger for ASM #117.