Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #218

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This story is part of an Arc: "Mud-Thing!"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 2000.

Background...

We wrap up the two-part arc featuring the Sandman/Hydroman Mud-Thing.

In Detail...

"Eye of the Beholder!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #218
Jul 1981 : SMURF 218.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 of "Mud-Thing!"
Editor:  Al Milgrom, Jim Shooter
Writer:  Denny O'Neil
Pencils:  John Romita, Jr.
Inker:  Al Milgrom, Jim Mooney
Cover Art:  Frank Miller
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Articles: Daredevil, Deborah Whitman, Hydro-Man, Jameson, J. Jonah, Robertson, Joe "Robbie", Sandman

The monster stands over a crouched Spidey in the pouring rain. For the moment, it does nothing, and Spidey doesn't know how much of a mind it has. But he figures, sooner or later, it is bound to attack him, so he hooks his camera on a crate with some webbing and braces for the onslaught. The monster begins to move and the web-slinger responds by tossing another of those ubiquitous wooden crates at him. The monster never even feels the crate shatter against him. He continues walking, right past the wall-crawler. But even as it move, Spidey notices, it grows, "as though he's somehow feeding on the storm". The webhead decides to stop the monster before it becomes "unstoppable". He grabs a wooden barrel and leaps up onto the back of the now 12 to 15 foot high creature. Using all his strength, Spidey smashes the barrel onto the mud-monster's head. This move accomplishes nothing. Spidey knows that he is in trouble.

The monster reaches up and knocks Spidey off his back as casually as if he was brushing away a fly. The webster collides hard with yet more wooden crates. He lies unconscious, with his camera beside him, still attached to a shattered piece of the crate to which it was attached. The monster glances back but only briefly. Then he moves on "as though following an unheard command".

"Forty-five seconds later", Spidey revives, thankful that he hasn't suffered permanent damage. He retrieves his camera, hoping that there are worthwhile pictures in it. Something to "pay my medical bills", something to ease the humiliation of being "clobbered by a giant mud-pie".

Unfortunately, at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson isn't buying. To him, Pete's photos look like "globs of play dough". He even insinuates that Peter invented fake photos with a fake stories to make some money. Before Peter is adaquately respond to such an accusation, Robbie Robertson bursts into the office with news that "somebody spotted a giant downtown". Jonah is not finished with Peter but Peter is finished with him. He exits the office, clings to a wall as he changes to Spidey, then heads out. He feels responsible for the creation of the mud-monster and intends to stop it. He also has a hunch where to look for it. Since both Sandman and Hydroman had the hots for Sadie Frickett, her apartment is one destination that both can agree on.

And, at Sadie's place, the woman in question sits on her couch, smoking a cigarette and reading the newspaper. Suddenly, her front door and half the attacked wall crash into her room. The mud-monster has arrived and he is now big enough that he can pick Sadie up in one giant hand. At that moment, Spidey swings into the apartment via the window but Sadie tells him to stop. There is something about the way the monster is looking at her that convinces her she is in no danger. So, Spidey only follows as the creature breaks through several more walls until he is out in the street once more. A police S.W.A.T. team waits outside but Sadie, riding along in the monster's fist, asks them not to shoot. "Just stay cool and everything will be swell", she says. Spidey marvels over this odd relationship, even as he takes pictures. ("Let Jonah try to say I faked these pix!") The monster clearly loves Sadie. "I'd say it's a beauty-and-the-beast number except that Sadie doesn't exactly qualify as a beauty". (But she's pretty damn calm in the face of everything, isn't she? Whatta gal!)

A week later, with the monster, apparently, in custody, attorney Matt Murdock argues that "although the person known as Sandman and Hydroman were wanted criminals, since they have meded together, they constitute a new individual and that individual is innocent of any wrongdoing". (Wouldn't you just love to hang out in the courtrooms in the Marvel Universe? There must be some doozy defenses presented all the time!) The judge wants time to consider this defense. In the meantime, he releases the mud-monster into the custody of Sadie Frickett. Sadie thanks Matt and promises to pay him somehow. Matt tells her it's gratis. "The case is interesting enough to be its own payment", he says. But, soon after, Sadie meets a man who may have helped her pay those lawyer bills. He introduces himself as "Travis Rave, representative of theatrical artists". He hands her his card and tells her he has an idea that could make "stardom a definitely possibility". Peter Parker snaps a photo of the duo as they leave the courtroom. He is surprised to see the hardened Sadie "acting like a star-smitten schoolgirl". "It renews my faith", Pete thinks, "but I just can't decide in what".

Another week goes by, in which, we are told, Spidey battles the Jack O'Lantern and the Man-Killer. (Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #56, July 1981 for the former and Marvel Team-Up #107, also July 1981, guest-starring She-Hulk in the latter. The first has been featured in a previous Lookback some time ago. The second one... well, don't hold your breath.) At Empire State University, Pete walks the halls with Steve Hopkins discussing his love life. Peter confesses that things have not been going well for him in that department. Steve says he thought Pete "had something going with Deb Whitman", only to have Debbie herself show up in the hall. Pete is glad to see her. He asks if she would like to have a cup of coffee with him and Debbie is definitely interested. But she has a date with BiFf Rifkin and "the ol' Biffer" takes that moment to show up (early). He has tickets to see "Evita" and wants to consult with Debbie about dinner reservations. Biff escorts Debbie away and Steve asks Peter is he feels a "tinge of jealousy". Peter's response... "I honestly don't know".

But Biff Rifkin does get under Peter's skin and the best way for him to ease his anger is to do a little web-swinging. As she does the Spidey thing, he wonders how much he really does care about Debbie. After all, he "ignored her for months". Is he only interested in her now because she doesn't seem interested in him? Not knowing the answer to that question, Spidey decides to go to Times Square. To his surprise, the news ticker there is relating the story of Sadie Frickett and her Monster. Her show is opening at the Winter Gardens that very night. Spidey immediately decides that he wants to go. The best way to get in, he figures, is to convince JJJ to let him cover it for the paper.

Pete arrives at the Daily Bugle and gets Jonah's permission to attend the show. But the publisher is far from cheery about it. "I publish a highclass newspaper, not a second-rate monster magazine", he says. Still, Peter has gotten what he wants and he ducks quickly out again.

That evening, the Winter Garden is lit up with sparkle and searchlights. Limos line up to drop celebrities off. It is the "major Broadway opening" of a very unusual (but very familiar) show. Like Carl Denham in "King Kong" (and you knew there would be a Kong homage in here somewhere as soon as the mud-monster picked Sadie up in one paw, didn't you?), Travis Rave steps to the microphone and introduces the act. The curtains part behind him. There, in a purple cape, torn blue pants, and shiny metal girdle holding him to the wall, stands the "mud-thing", now about 30 feet high. Five dancing girls in bikinis and peacock crowns prance around the unmoving giant. Sadie, in a casual pink outfit, stands right in front. The crowd is stunned by the size of the creature and, in truth, he grows right before their eyes, since stagehands in the wings dump more sand and spray more water on him.

Backstage, Peter Parker, dressed up in his white Travolta leisure suit, is impressed with the applause the act brings. Still, he recognizes that there is something familiar about the whole scene and this makes him wary. In the afterglow of the successful premiere, Sadie leaps into Travis' arms and gives him a big kiss. "I'm a star", she says, "and I owe it all to you!" Unfortunately, the mud-monster gets an eyeful of the two lovebirds and, since he is composed of two men with "a thing for Sadie", gets understandably upset. Flailing about, the monster shreds his metal restraint. Seeing this, the audience flees in panic. Pete knows he has little chance against the monster but can't let people come to harm. As the mud-monster trashes the theatre, Spidey arrives upon the scene.

The wall-crawler assumes that the monster is mindless enough "to have forgotten the reason for its anger". It is now indulging in rage for rage sake. He knows he won't get anywhere with "a direct attack" so, for a start, he detaches the fire curtain and drops it over the thing. This gives everyone in the audience a chance to escape.

As the audience charges out, the S.W.A.T. team charges in. They are there so quickly because the captain (who is probably a King Kong fan) figured the monster might go berserk. They approach Travis and Sadie and tell them that they will probably "have to destroy your star before it destroys the city". This upsets Travis because he has sold advance tickets that will have to be refunded. He tries to reassure Sadie by telling her that "our insurance might cover the loss", but Sadie isn't interested in money. She's interested in the well-being of the monster.

Even as the mud-thing breaks free of the curtain, Sadie runs up to him, trying to tell him to "scram outta here". The giant turns to look at her, then picks her up in his huge left hand. Spidey yells at her to try to wriggle loose but Sadie replies, "I don't wanna get loose". The cops attack with a gas "developed in Viet Nam [that] could dry [the monster's] tissues and wither it to nothingness". Sensing this, the mud-thing breaks right through the wall of the theatre and begins climbing the building across the street, with Sadie still safe in his hand. From her perch, Sadie tells the cops to back off... "my friend ain't gonna hurt nobody" but her words are lost in the wind.

Below, the police signal a squadron of helicopters to "blast that thing outta the air". In the heat of the moment, only Spidey realizes that this will cause Sadie to fall to her death. He climbs up the wall after the odd couple.

The mud-monster has reached the top of the building. He faces the choppers as Sadie, again, tries unsuccessfully to warn the police off. The copters fly above the creature and release huge amounts of the green gas. It engulfs the monster, having no effect on Sadie but absorbing the water out of sandy skin. Suddenly, the creature begins to break up into fragments of sand. His left hand breaks apart and Sadie falls. Spidey has one chance to grab her with his webbing. He doesn't miss and Sadie is saved. The crowd below scatters to avoid the descent of huge chunks of sand. "No one is hurt"... at least, "No one human."

Spidey helps Sadie down to earth. She weeps against his shoulder, not in relief for the sudden save but in sorrow for the death of the monster. "He loved me!", she says, "He really did!" As Spidey lets her down on the ground, Sadie rushes over to claim the body. But it is already too late. The NYPD is out with shovels, putting the remains in trucks for scientific study. Street sweepers are out as well, putting sand into trash barrels. This strikes Sadie as very sad and she weeps again for the creature. Travis Rave puts a hand on her back to comfort her. "No need for tears", he tells her, since he has been on the phone and learned that insurance will cover the loss. But Sadie isn't interested in that. All she knows is her "baby" is dead.

Behind them, Spidey suddenly realizes why it all seemed so familiar. He tells them that it is just like the film "King Kong". Travis chastises Spidey for speaking of films when he hasn't completed a deal yet. He has already spoken to Hollywood about it and wants nothing to upset the "handsome profit" he foresees. Sadie is appalled by all this. She can't bear to talk money, not with the knowledge that the monster loved her, that she used the monster to her own advantage, and, doing so, ended up getting him killed. She leaves Travis behind, telling him, "I gotta be alone to do some heavy thinking". Spidey does some heavy thinking of his own. He recalls that King Kong ended with the line "it was beauty killed the beast". "What he forgot to mention", he thinks, "was that beauty didn't do too well, either."

It takes Marvel Two-In-One #86 (April 1982) to reveal that the police scientists subjected the sand to a battery of tests with no results, only to seal it up in a steel canister and take it to a city dumping site. Once there, the canister is blown open and Sandman and Hydroman break free. Apparently, one of the radiation doses used by the police gave their powers the needed boost "to completely separate our molecules from each other". The two go their separate ways, with Hydroman vowing to leave the city and South. Sandman ends up having a few beers with Ben Grimm (A.K.A. The Thing of the Fantastic Four) and deciding to go straight.

Since then, of course, Hydroman has returned for a number of New York battles with Spider-Man (most recently in Sensational Spider-Man #26 (April 1998)) and the Sandman has been reverted to villainy, with lame explanation that his reformed, three-dimensional character was just an aberration caused by the merging with Hydroman. (Which, as can be seen in this Lookback, violates the tenor of the character from the moments before the mud-monster.) Sandy is now back to his boring evil two-dimensional self to the detriment of the character and the readers.

And what of Sadie Frickett? Has she ever shown up again? Beats me. Time for everyone to get their back issues out and see for themselves!