Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #159

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Ghost That Haunted Octopus!"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 2001.

Background...

Part three, three-arc, third, three-way Spidey, Hammerhead, Ock. Nuff said.

In Detail...

"Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm with Doctor Octopus"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #159
Aug 1976 : SMURF 159.500 : SM Title
Summary: Hammerhead, Dr. Octopus
Arc: Part 3 of "The Ghost That Haunted Octopus!"
Editor:  Len Wein
Writer:  Len Wein
Pencils:  Ross Andru
Inker:  Mike Esposito
Cover Art:  Gil Kane, John Romita, Sr.
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #136
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #7
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), Hammerhead, Jameson, J. Jonah, Kingpin, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

So, Hammerhead is back, right? And Spidey and Doc Ock aren't happy about it. Ock attacks first, shooting his tentacles out at Hammy but somehow missing him entirely. Hammy, much stronger than I remember him, grabs one of Ock's metal arms and yanks on it, dumping Octopus on his head. (He also explains briefly that the atomic explosion didn't kill him but only "blew [him] out of phase" so that Otto's particle accelerator was able to "rephase" him back to normal. I'll buy that. How about you?) Spidey prepares to attack next but he makes the mistake of first attracting Hammy's attention. He lets go with a strong right-hand punch but the alerted hardhead bends his neck so that Spidey's fist hits him squarely on top of his "solid-steel skull". The pain-wracked webhead's hand feels "like mangled jello". Hammerhead follows that up by head butting Spidey in the stomach. Even with his spider-strength, our hero is doubled-up on the ground desperately trying to recover.

But Hammerhead has not won. Octopus re-enters the fray. (And he also makes the mistake of ordering Hammy to "turn and face me".) He strikes with a tentacle and Hammerhead pulls the same move he pulled on Spidey. He ducks down so the metal arm "spangs" against the top of his head. But Otto doesn't experience pain in his tentacles so he is able to follow up with a punch to a more sensitive part of Hammy's head... his chin. An angered Hammerhead charges Ock. Ock charges back. A recovered Spidey rushes in as well. Each one collides hard with the other two. For a second, all three stand facing each other, dazed and wobbly, then simultaneously the trio topples over, knocked out.

Now everything seems to happen at once. The Suffolk County SWAT team enters the building, guns ready. On the roof, an elaborate helicopter lands and a squad of Hammerhead's yellow jumpsuited, gasmasked, rifle-toting goons gets out, ties a rope to a stanchion and descends in a ventilator shaft. Spider-Man is the first to return to consciousness and he plans to web up Hammy and Ock before they recover but a burst of gunfire halts him in his tracks. The goons have made it down from the roof to a catwalk and declare, "Hammerhead is going with us!" The arriving SWAT team begs to differ. The goons fire on the SWATs, though the leader's aim is ruined by a webshot right in his left eye. A SWATtie fires anesthetic bullets at the goon who, unfortunately, tumbles off the catwalk when he is put to sleep. Spider-Man moves in to catch the falling goon but an awakening Doc Ock gets in his way. Spidey trips over a tentacle. The goon ends up landing on Spider-Man's back. The other goons swing down to the main floor on ropes. Spidey throws the unconscious one at another one, as he vows to get Aunt May to safety. Doc Ock evades a leaping SWATster as he vows to be the one to rescue May Parker. In the free-for-all, Spidey punches out a SWAT member, gets two other SWATties to shoot each other with the anesthetic bullets, and kicks a SWATter in the chest as he jams the head of a goon into the floor. But all of this action is halted as Hammerhead gets to Aunt May first. He holds a gun to her head and tells the others to back off. The helicopter has lifted off from the roof and lowered a platform that dangles outside an open window. Hammy takes May with him onto the platform and lifts away as two of his goons cover his retreat with smoke bombs. Doc Ock and Spidey manage to take out the goons but it's too late. The helicopter has taken Hammy and Aunt May away. Hammerhead has succeeded in pitting Ock and Spidey against each other to further his ends and Octavius realizes it. He offers a partnership with Spidey until they have rescued May Parker and he offers his hand. Spidey agrees to the partnership but won't shake Otto's hand. "I'm liable to catch something contagious," he says, and the spurned Octopus vows to remember the insult.

Elsewhere, a mysterious man whose face is hidden for the entire scene works on the frame of a dune buggy. A tall, bald, powerful black man named Toy assists him. There is a third man in the workroom, barely shown, except for his cigarette in a holder. The mysterious workman is installing modifications into the vehicle at the behest of the smoker who has provided him with an "extraordinary fee". These modifications include "special tires" of the workman's design, and an "electron gyroscope to keep the vehicle ever upright". Toy carries the car's engine in one hand and sets it on its mountings. A few minutes later, the job is finished and the machine stands revealed as the Spider-Mobile, salvaged from the Hudson River and refurbished to serve the ends of Spider-Man's mysterious enemies.

At the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson is breaking in yet another new secretary (a slightly-plumb woman dressed in purple named "Miss Plumm") when he spots Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus pass by outside, clearly in cahoots. He orders Miss Plumm to "call the Mayor, the Governor, the President" and to get "the files of Octopus, the web-slinger, and anybody else you can think of". Miss Plumm races to the phone at her desk only to have JJJ ask her what she is doing on the phone. "I told you to get those files!" he bellows, "Get on the stick, Miss Plumm." The harried secretary retrieves the files only to be told by Jonah "I told you to make phone calls!" When he adds that "We can't afford to carry any dead weight around here!", Miss Plumm snaps. She flings the files into the air and tells JJJ to "stick your files and your phone calls and your dead weight in your ear". Needless to say, she quits. "Well, that's two down", Joe Robertson comments.

Across town, Spidey and Doc Ock arrive at the old nightclub that "used to be Hammerhead's hangout". They notice two thugs guarding the door... evidence that Hammy "has flown home to roost". (Now, way back in ASM #113, October 1972, remember, there was a place called the Club Four, owned by Hammerhead, which Doc Ock crashed. As far as I could tell, that club and Hammy's hideout...complete with the rotating room... were two completely different locations. Len seems to have now combined these two into one. Which is okay with me if it's okay with you.) The thugs discuss the amazing resurrection of their boss. The one with the slicked black hair and pencil-thin mustache who is lighting a cigarette waxes philosophical. "I figgered that A-bomb had finished him fer keeps but I guess ya just can't keep a good mug down!" he says. His buddy says nothing to that. He has been snatched right out of the room by a tentacle belonging to Doctor Octopus. The philosopher suddenly notices his pal (Max) is gone. When he feels a tap on his shoulder, he assumes it is Max playing around. But, no. It's Spider-Man hanging from the ceiling. A little love tap puts the philosopher to sleep.

Ock knows a short cut to Hammy's office through the kitchen. Unfortunately, there are two men in chef's outfits in there. (Bernie and Joe. Hey whatever happened to Waldo and Bennie and Porky and all the gang?) They go for their guns but before they can reach them, Ock seizes six assorted knives and cleavers and flings them using all six of his human and metal arms. The knives expertly pin the two men to the wall, piercing only their clothing. At that moment, two other goons burst in with guns out. But Spidey picks up a couple of frying pans and whacks these two characters over their heads.

In the rotating room from ASM #114 (November 1972), Hammerhead offers a slug of booze to Aunt May. "I would sooner die than touch that vile drink!" says the feisty old lady and Hammerhead raises his arm as if to backhand her right in the snoot. But, just then, the door bursts open and a gurney rolls in, carrying the two goons Spidey clobbered. (Did Ock and Spidey pass through a hospital ward to get the gurney? I don't know.) They are webbed back-to-back to each other. Hammy yells to his boys to "grab yer chatter-guns" but there isn't time to act. Spidey and Ock have arrived on the scene. Secretly, Hammerhead pushes a button hidden under his desk. Immediately a wall slides up to the right of Ock and the web-slinger revealing a line-up of goons with machine-guns. Then the wall on the left slides up, too, to reveal more armed thugs. (So, do these guys just sit around in these dark closed-off alcoves on the off chance that they can ambush some stray intruder? Did they hang around all these months, waiting for the buzzer to be pushed, unaware that Hammerhead had been blown up in an atomic explosion, like those Japanese soldiers in the jungles that didn't know World War II was over? I could speculate like this about these guys all day.) Spidey and Ock find themselves caught in the crossfire.

It looks pretty bleak for the duo but, for some reason, the guys in the alcoves never fire a shot. (Maybe they're aware that they're in each other's line of fire.) Instead, Hammerhead grabs a gat from a flunkey and shoots at his enemies. Spidey leaps to the ceiling and plugs Hammy's gun with some webbing. With the barrel blocked, the gun blows up in Hammerhead's face. Spidey somersaults down from the ceiling and kicks Hammy in the head. (And in the lower left corner of the panel, we can see Aunt May, unconscious yet again!) As Ock easily dispatches Hammy's thugs, Spidey decides to protect his perpetually passed out Aunt by ripping up the metal floor and rolling her in it. (Sounds less safe than just leaving her there, but, hey, he's the super-hero.) By peeling up the floor, he reveals the gears that run the rotating room. Hammerhead knows he's lost this battle but he refuses to be captured. He messes with the controls for the turntable, which sets the room spinning. When the window reaches the access to outside, he leaps out, leaving everyone else in a room that is, thanks to his sabotage, "spinning out of control". The room turns so rapidly that the centrifugal force pushes all the thugs to the wall. Ock is able maintain his balance but the wall-crawler is almost "instant Spidey-burgers" when the spinning sends him right toward the ripped up floor and the gears. (And Aunt May, we can only assume, is held fast in the flooring.) The webhead hangs on and saves himself but this near miss convinces him that the only course of action is to "stop this runaway room or we'll never get these goons out of here alive". Doc Ock has a different idea. He waits by the window and leaps as soon as it passes by the outside access again. Timing it perfectly, Ock makes his escape. Using his ability to adhere to surfaces, Spidey fights off the centrifugal force and throws Hammerhead's chair and desk into the hole in the floor until they jam up the gears. The room finally comes to a stop but the webhead's two main enemies are gone.

That doesn't mean he's out of danger, however. Now that the centrifugal force is history, three goons get to their feet and grab their weapons. Spidey takes care of them simultaneously... a punch each for two of them, while stomping on the third one's head. Now that the henchmen are unconscious, our hero figures it's safe to leave Aunt May behind while he goes after Ock and Hammerhead. There's only one thing he didn't figure on. "When the stupid room stopped spinning it left the only window facing a solid brick wall."

While Spidey grapples with this new problem, Dr. Octopus has made it to the roof in his search for Hammerhead. Suddenly, the rooftop opens up. It is a hidden access for a helicopter. The swinging of the roof/door knocks Ock right over the side. He lands on his back in the adjoining alleyway. (And he is completely unharmed even though he didn't even use his tentacles to protect himself.) Ock looks up to see Hammy's helicopter rising out of the building and making an escape. Swiftly, the chopper is out of range of the arms of Dr. Octopus. Still, Ock refuses to give up. He spies a collection of garbage cans in the alley. He picks them up in his tentacles and starts throwing them at the helicopter.

The first throw is too long. The second throw is too short. The third throw misses but has found the range. The fourth throw knocks a propeller right off of the escaping whirlybird.

Hammerhead can't believe Ock has beaten him. He screams out his protest, "Ya can't do this to me! Not again! Not again!!" all the way down. The crashing helicopter plummets into the Hudson River where it ignites in a mighty explosion. Hammerhead, it seems, has finally met his end.

Back at the nightclub, Spider-Man has finally escaped the room by punching his way out through the ceiling and onto the roof. He deposits an unconscious Aunt May next to him and braces himself for an attack by Doc Ock who promises, with Hammerhead finished, "it is time we settled our differences". He orders Spidey to hand May Parker over to him or else. Spidey gets ready to rumble. This battle is postponed by the sound of the sirens. Ock thinks it announces the arrival of the police and decides he can't let them capture him now. (Though why he thinks they can is beyond me.) He takes it on the lam, vowing, "someday, Doctor Octopus will return!"

Spidey is happy enough to let his enemy go. He needs to get some help for his Aunt. He lifts her onto his shoulder and takes her down to the street. There he discovers that the sirens are coming from fire trucks, which are reacting "to the smoke I stirred up when I jammed those grinding gears". (Smoke? There was smoke? Not that I see. So, let me get this straight... the NYFD comes running for some non-existent smoke but couldn't care less about a helicopter crashing and exploding in the Hudson River?) The wall-crawler decides it is best if he leaves Aunt May for the arriving rescue folks. (It looks like he places her right in the middle of the street. He's lucky they don't run over her. Or maybe he's hoping...? Nah.) Then he beats a hasty retreat before the firemen can blame him "for starting the Towering Inferno". (Or for leaving an old lady in the middle of the street, anyway.)

If you are wondering whom the mysterious mechanic is that fixed up the Spider-Mobile, he is revealed in ASM #160 (October 1976) to be the Terrible Tinkerer in his first appearance since ASM #2 (May 1963). But wasn't the Tinkerer an alien? That's all explained in the issue, which was profiled by our esteemed Editor Jonathan Couper way back in PPP's first year.

The mysterious cigarette smoker who financed the changes to the Spider-Mobile? That was the Kingpin, of course. He faces the webhead directly in the pages of ASM #163-164 (December 1976-January 1977).

J. Jonah Jameson's secretary shuffle ends when he hires Glory Grant in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #2 (January 1977).

Dr. Octopus doesn't resurface until ASM Annual #13 (1979).

And Hammerhead? Is he really dead this time? Nah. He faces off against the Human Torch in Fantastic Four #233 (August 1981). Writer/artist John Byrne doesn't even bother to explain how Hammy survived. When the Human Torch comments that he heard that his opponent was dead, the mob boss replies, "Hammerhead don't die that easy, punk. And you're gonna find out if you mess with me."