Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #118

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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 we conclude with part three, if you missed the beginning then you need to check out part one in Amazing Spider-Man #116.

In Detail...

"Countdown To Chaos!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #118
Mar 1973 : SMURF 118.500 : SM Title
Summary: Disrupter (Reprinted, Reworked from Spectacular Magazine #1)
Arc: Part 4 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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Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #97
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #6
Articles: Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Countdown to Chaos! (Amazing Spider-Man #118, March 1973)

In "Lo", there is a page or two of set-up before the monster attacks Captain Stacy but in ASM #118, the Smasher abruptly attacks Joe Robertson by smashing a hole in the wall of the records room in which Joe is working.... right on the splash page.

Let's start by tracing the story in the original.

The monster stalks off, goaded by Raleigh pressing "the control button ever so slightly to speed you on your way". At the same time, at the Stacy house, Peter and the Captain are discussing politics and discover they share the same suspicions about Richard Raleigh. Captain Stacy is just about to tell Peter the results of his Raleigh research when Gwen comes downstairs, dressed in a new pantsuit, ready for her date. ("Gwendy, if you looked any better, they'd lock you up", Pete says.) The two lovebirds ride off together on Peter's motorcycle and I have just got to reproduce the dialogue... Pete says, "Hang loose, heroine! My chariot is thine this day." Gwen says, "One groovy thing about a cycle... you don't pay extra for the air conditioning." And Captain Stacy, waving goodbye at the front door, says, "Have fun, you two. But don't break the sound barrier."

Pete and Gwendy only travel a block or so when they hear someone screaming for help. The scream has come from a fleeing man who tells everyone to get off the street to avoid "a giant... a monster!" Then, the giant himself appears, smashing buildings and cars as he goes. Pete thinks that the monster has tracked him down but Gwen quickly realizes that "he's going towards my house... he's after my dad!" Peter talks Gwen into running for help, which gives him a chance to change into his Spidey duds. Meanwhile, the giant crashes right through the wall of the Stacy home. "I found you, Stacy", he says, "and now you to die!"

This is where the stories meet up again. On the splash of ASM #118, the giant crashes into the Daily Bugle offices and says, "Don't move, Robertson! The Disruptor wants to see you! And what the Disruptor wants, the Smasher gets!"

The giant approaches Stacy, saying "You must die... I have to obey." The Captain uses his cane to swat at the creature but this has no effect. The monster grabs Stacy by the jacket and prepares to smash him with a giant fist. Panicked, Captain Stacy offers him money but the monster isn't interested. He wants to take Stacy's life. Fortunately, Spidey arrives on the scene, kicking the monster in the jaw as he swings in. The webhead tells Captain Stacy to flee but the monster shoves Spidey aside and pursues the retired police officer. Before he can pounce, though, Spidey grabs him with webbing ("It's like trying to hold back a hurricane.") and tries to pull him back. The monster shreds the webbing, so Spidey tackles him instead. "All right, wise guy", says the giant, "that does it! Now Stacy can wait." He turns on Spidey... just what the wall-crawler has wanted. Spidey scales the wall of a nearby building and the monster, "scruntching" his fingers into the wall in order to climb, gives chase.

In ASM #118, Robbie uses the leg of a broken chair to fend off the Smasher, since he doesn't have Captain Stacy's cane. When he offers money to his assailant, Gerry prefaces this with a thought balloon. "Perhaps if I try to stall him... maybe the police...", Robertson thinks, which makes Robbie look cool and smart where Captain Stacy looked panicked. Right after the Smasher shreds Spidey's webbing, the web-spinner tosses a spider-tracer on him. Someone had to draw it onto the Smasher's back in all the subsequent scenes.

Back in the original, the cops that Gwen called finally show up. They shoot at the monster but the bullets "bounce right off that gear he's wearing". Around the corner, Gwen finds her father and is relieved to see that he is all right. But, when she mentions Peter, her dad tells her that he hasn't seen him. This gets Gwen all worried again. Now, she's afraid that her boyfriend has been hurt by the monster. Which is just what the monster is trying to do!

Up on the rooftops, Spidey is surprised that the giant is still following him. ("That muscle-bound killer must be part mountain goat", he thinks.) While he is wondering how to stymie his pursuer, Spidey notices that a huge poster of Richard Raleigh has stopped the monster in his tracks. The Smasher holds his head, in pain. "Raleigh's face is affecting him, violently", Spidey realizes and he comes up with a plan. "It's a real long shot and maybe I flipped my lid, but I'm leading him to Raleigh's town house".

In ASM, Spidey's little flash of insight does not take place because Gerry has a twenty page book to fill and there are only nine pages left in the original story. The solution? You guessed it. A whole new scene created just for this issue!

In this version, Spidey easily swings away from the Smasher. A few blocks away, he spies Gwen, MJ, and Harry "doing some last-minute electioneering for Richard Raleigh! And I do mean last minute! It's the night before the election, nearly midnight and it's illegal to campaign after 12 o'clock!" Pete gets out of his Spidey suit and joins up with his friends. (Harry tries to question Pete as to his recent wherabouts but our hero is too busy smooching with Gwen to answer. MJ says, "Let them be, Harrykins and maybe pay a little more attention to your own girl.")

The group has a green van with a yellow "Vote For Raleigh" sign (which turns into a "Vote Raleigh" sign five panels later) and a loud speaker mounted on the roof. The foursome drive around Manhattan. As MJ announces slogans over the loud speaker ("Fight crime by keeping the criminals out of office!"), Harry, driving, tells Pete about "this costumed dude" who "just about destroyed Raleigh's Lower East Side campaign headquarters." But their conversation is cut short as Harry, wide-eyed with terror, sees the glowing Smasher standing right in front of them in the middle of the road. Pete quickly ushers Gwen and MJ out of the van (with Harry following) and not a moment too soon. The Smasher stands his ground and punches the van repeatedly. "Raleigh, Raleigh, Raleigh!", he yells, "You've gotta die... The Disruptor says you gotta go!" By the time he stalks off, the van is in ruins. An intense Peter, concerned that the Smasher has "really snapped in his skull" ignores Gwen's frightened "Peter, where are you going?" and slips into an alleyway to change back to Spidey. Zeroing in on his spider-tracer, he follows the Smasher at a distance, convinced that the giant is "on his way back to see his boss". But Peter doesn't get it. What does the Disruptor have to gain? "Because of the way Raleigh's been dumped on by the underworld, he's almost a cinch to win tomorrow's election, which is supposedly just what the crime bosses don't want". Which brings us to the two story versions converging once again.

Over in "Lo", Spidey is a little more savvy than his ASM alter-ego. He is onto Richard Raleigh. (Of course, there isn't any Disruptor for him to puzzle over.) He surprises Raleigh and Thaxton by popping into the candidate's window. When Raleigh exclaims, "Spider-Man!", he replies, "Well, it's not Dean Rusk!" (Over in ASM, he replies, "Well, it's not Henry Kissinger!") Raleigh responds by pressing a button on his hand-held remote and Spidey doesn't have to guess what it controls. The giant (who, you may recall, was trailing Spidey in "Lo"), comes crashing through the window, scattering the bricks of the frame, as well. Raleigh, afraid that the monster will be distracted by Spidey's patter, really lays into his remote buttons. Thaxton warns him that "the artificial circuits I installed can't take an overload". Raleigh doesn't listen.

The same scene happens over in ASM, except that Spidey pops into the window to find the Disruptor with Thaxton. When the villain pushes the button, the Smasher arrives from another room (since, you may recall, Spidey was trailing his spider-signal in this version). Also included is the nifty gimmick of an electronic ticker flashing election predictions between the upper and lower tier of the panels on five of the last ten pages. The first page tells us... "sixth hour report... survey indicates Raleigh leads..."

And now a strange extra page is thrown in to fill out the issue in ASM. It is a page seen before in "Lo" (page 36, to be precise), taking place just after Raleigh has revived the monster with his nullifier button. But in ASM, it fell between the climax of #117 and the new splash page of #118. So, Gerry uses it here... only with Spidey drawn into one panel when he wasn't there before in order to align it with the situation. It has almost entirely new dialogue, of course, as the Disruptor uses his nullifier to induce great pain in the Smasher's head as a spur to get him to fight harder. (And the ticker between panels reads, "margin of 15 pct... Raleigh's victory will be...")

Though the dialogue again differs in the two versions ( mostly, in ASM, to conceal the fact that Raleigh and the Disruptor are one and the same), the action is the same. Raleigh keeps pressing the pain button on his remote until the whole system shorts out and the giant is no longer under his control. (In "Lo", Raleigh sings like a canary, blurting out that "My plan was perfect! I had used advertising, TV, publications, to project an image of myself as a crusading reformer. Then, to gain the public's sympathy, I pretended the underworld was out to destroy me!") With "the mini-control shorted", the giant turns on his two tormenters. He lumbers toward Raleigh and Thaxton declaring, "You tried to hurt me, to make me your slave. But now, you'll never hurt me again." (In ASM, the ticker reads, "triumph for reform... conservatives uneasy...")

Thaxton flees for the secret exit behind the bookcase but Raleigh, "raving like a madman", holds his ground, uselessly clicking away at his remote. "I'm a man of destiny", he yells, "The people need me to rule them, to think for them, to command them. Defeat is for other men. But I was born to rule... rule... RULE!" (In #118, the Disruptor, concealing his identity even in his madness, rants, "I haven't spent all these months planning, slaving to meet my destiny, to have it all end now, because of a costumed punk and a mindless giant!") But it doesn't much matter what he yells. It ends the same either way. The Smasher strikes such a huge blow that not only is Raleigh felled but the emergency corridor collapses, trapping Thaxton in the rubble. (The ticker reads, "...barring major turnabout in next few hours... Raleigh is the man to win... the man to win...")

"Now, only Spider-Man is left", the monster declares. "Once you are destroyed... I'll start a crime rampage that'll make Raleigh look like a nowhere piker." And having said this, he quickly lunges at the web-slinger. But Spidey has anticipated the leap and he bounds away.

In his Daily Bugle office, JJJ gets a phone call that informs him that the giant has been seen "heading across town toward Raleigh's house". He orders his car and tells Robbie Robertson to come along. "The man-monster's heading for Raleigh and Spider-Man was seen in the area. This time we'll get the goods on that costumed clown."

But over in ASM, JJJ is over at Raleigh campaign headquarters telling a television reporter that he is a Raleigh supporter. "Don't you feel it's your duty to be more objective" as a newspaper publisher?, the reporter asks. "Objective?" says JJJ, "Raleigh's a sure winner! How more objective can you get?"

Back at Raleigh's house, Spidey realizes that he "can't keep dodging him forever". He needs to find the giant's weak spot and suddenly he thinks he may know what it is. He strikes a powerful blow to the man-monster's jaw but the giant is barely fazed by it. It doesn't matter though. "Now," Spidey thinks, "I've got the answer." If Raleigh controlled his creation electronically, then, he reasons, "something must be implanted near his brain". Leaping onto the giant's shoulders and wrapping his legs around his opponent's neck, Spidey inflicts a karate chop right by the monster's left collarbone. The Smasher is unimpressed with that "crummy side-hand blow" and Spidey knows "I gave it everything I had". If it doesn't work, nothing will stop the giant now. But suddenly, the giant topples hard, his implant shattered. The monster is dead. (It takes a little longer in ASM. There are three small panels of the Smasher feeling the effects and yelling out, "My head, my head, my heaaaddd..." Meanwhile, the ticker reads, "...latest projection: Raleigh 50 pct. -- incumbent 42 pct." and in a panel right underneath the fallen Smasher, a reporter states, "...one of the great electoral races of our time! If Raleigh holds this lead when the polls open in a few short hours... he's the next mayor of New York!"

In "Lo", Spidey hears sirens and decides to cut out. As he swings away, he is spotted by J. Jonah Jameson. "Now it's a cinch the story'll read: 'Spider-Man kills Raleigh and flees scene of crime'.", Spidey says.

Over in ASM, though, there is one other task Spidey must perform. He approaches the lifeless body of the Disruptor and unmasks him. Surprise! It's Richard Raleigh. "I sensed it somehow... near the end", Spidey thinks. When the sirens arrive, Spidey decides to take the Disruptor costume with him (eerily preshadowing the disrobing of the apparently dead Green Goblin four issues later) "I can't let them find Raleigh like this", he reasons (but why?), "there's too much at stake!"

The police enter the room, guns drawn. JJJ and Robbie accompany them. The body of the giant fills the room. Over in the rubble, one of the cops finds Raleigh. "He must have fought gallantly", he says, "but he didn't have a chance". JJJ is nearly overcome by anger and grief. "Even in death, his honesty, his fearlessness, shine out like a beacon", he says, "His life will be an inspiration to us all." When Robbie asks if he isn't going a bit overboard, Jonah replies, "Spider-Man hated him and that's good enough for me! I'm going back to write the greatest editorial of my career. I'll make the world ashamed that Raleigh is dead while Spider-Man roams free."

So ends "Lo, This Monster" but a few panels remain in ASM #118. Spidey eavesdrops on Jonah's speech, then takes the Disruptor costume to a chimney to burn it. "Maybe because we need myths and heroes and, yeah, martyrs!", he says. "Something twisted inside Raleigh made him what he was but whatever else he was, he's still a symbol! Isn't that all that really counts in the end?"

The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 finishes up with a ten page retelling of Spidey's origin entitled "In the Beginning..." The last panel of ASM #118 shows a huge green-tinted figure looming over the buildings of Manhattan. The next issue blurbs reads, "In the Shadow of the Hulk!", promoting the last adventure Spidey has before "The Night Gwen Stacy Died!"