Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #223

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Other People's Villains

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

As the 1960s began, the comic book company owned by Martin Goodman was in sad shape. In 1956, Goodman had shut down Atlas News, his own distribution company because of his worries over the Senate hearings aimed at comic books and the start of the Comics Code. He signed on with American News, which left the comic book market in early 1957, leaving Goodman without a distributor. Desperate, he signed a deal with rival DC comics that only allowed him to publish eight comic titles each month. In the wake of this, Goodman gutted his staff and relied mostly on his inventory. The lone remaining creative staffer was Stan Lee who was moved to a tiny office with a single secretary. The company was so anemic that it no longer even had an official name. (With "Atlas" dispensed with after the shutdown of Atlas News and "Marvel" still a few years in the future, appearing for the first time on the books cover-dated May 1963.) After the inventory was used up, Stan began using artists like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby on a freelance basis, putting together science fiction and monster books like Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense, and Tales to Astonish.

There are various stories dealing with the birth of the Marvel Age of Comics. The "official" take, though later denied by Goodman, was that Martin was golfing with DC's Jack Liebowitz and Jack was giving him the business over the success of the Justice League. Whether this golf game existed or not, Martin Goodman certainly noticed that DC's new super-team was selling. He called Stan into his office and told him it was time to bring back some super-heroes. Forced into sixteen bi-monthly books by their DC distribution contract, Goodman and Lee slipped in a seventeenth and hoped no one would notice. (Later, as the super-heroes became more popular, Stan would convert Teen- Age Romance to The Incredible Hulk, Amazing Fantasy to Spider-Man and people Journey into Mystery, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, and Tales of Suspense with Thor, the Human Torch, Dr. Strange, Nick Fury, Ant-Man, the Hulk, the Sub- Mariner, Iron Man, and Captain America.) The seventeenth book was Fantastic Four #1, November 1961 and the comic book world was about to be changed forever.

The Fantastic Four was the work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for almost nine years and 102 consecutive issues. It was billed as "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" starting with issue #3, March 1962 (Well, technically with #4 since #3 said, "The Greatest Comic Magazine in the World!!") and it became exactly that for a glorious two and a half year run (from approximately FF #36, March 1965 to FF #67, October 1967) in which Kirby conjured up and Lee codified the Frightful Four, the Inhumans, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, Wyatt Wingfoot, the Negative Zone, the Black Panther, Klaw, Blastaar, the Kree, Him who becomes Adam Warlock, and on and on. Eventually, Kirby's dissatisfaction with his low pay and lack of credit and ownership convinces him to be less giving of his new concepts. The FF tales become more pedestrian as Jack stores up a continuity that explodes on his move to DC with The New Gods, The Forever People, Mister Miracle, and his amazing work on Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.

But before all of this, before the FF breaks out in all its cosmic glory, it begins as a strange mix of super-heroes and pre-Marvel monsters. Issue #1, with its cover showing the Mole Man's creature looks like any number of other monster books that Goodman and Lee were putting out at that time. The Skrulls (from #2), the Miracle Man's monstrous illusions (#3), Sub-Mariner's creature Giganto (#4), and Kurrgo, Master of Planet X (#7) also display this influence. It starts to diminish with time but even the villains we're highlighting reflect the monster theme, with super-apes and a hammer-headed faceless android.

The Red Ghost and the Mad Thinker first appear in FF issues that are on the newsstands at the same time as the earliest issues of Spider-Man. (FF #13, April 1963 and FF #15, June 1963 respectively). The Red Ghost is Ivan Kragoff, a Russian scientist who takes three apes with him into space (presumably because he has no friends) to duplicate the cosmic ray accident that created the Fantastic Four. (In a story written by Stan, penciled by Jack, and inked by Steve Ditko.) The gorilla gets super-strength, the orangutan gets the ability to shoot magnetic rays, the baboon gets the power to change his shape and "turn into a copy of anything" and Kragoff gets the talent to turn himself "unsolid" like a ghost. He is called the Red Ghost, for all of you post-Cold War people because he is a Communist who were known in the U.S. as "the Reds". We know he is a Communist because he refers to his apes as "Comrade" as in "No food for you yet, Comrade Baboon" and "Set the controls, Comrade Gorilla". But, by the time the adventure is over (which includes a battle with the FF on the moon and the first appearance of the Watcher) the apes turn on their master which is Stan and Jack's sly way of commenting on what they think most people under Communist rule will do to their leaders if given the chance, no matter how many times those leaders call them "Comrade".

The Red Ghost and his Super-Apes are not one of the most successful of the Kirby/Lee FF creations. As the series grows more sophisticated, characters like the Ghost are mostly left behind. But that doesn't stop Kragoff from appearing two different times in the Amazing Spider-Man. Here is the first one from Amazing Spider-Man #223, December 1981 with plot from the departing Denny O'Neil, script from the up-and-coming J.M. DeMatteis (his first "non-MTU" Spider-Man work) and art from John Romita Jr. and Al Milgrom.

In Detail...

"Night of the Ape!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #223
Dec 1981 : SMURF 223.500 : SM Title
Summary: Red Ghost and The Super-Apes
Editor:  Tom DeFalco
Plot:  Denny O'Neil
Writer:  J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils:  John Romita, Jr.
Inker:  Al Milgrom
Cover Art:  John Romita, Jr.
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Articles: Jameson, J. Jonah, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Evening on the campus of Empire State University and the whole place is deserted except for science grad student Roger Hochberg walking to the Library Annex and Spider-Man swinging to the Chemistry labs. The Annex is closed for the night but Roger has his own key since he's "such an Einstein", though Spider-Man notes that "it's too bad that outside the confines of academia no one'll give the poor guy the key to the Men's Room, let alone be his friend". Roger never sees Spidey above him as he unlocks the library and enters a huge hall filled with high stacks of books and statuary. Roger grabs a couple of volumes, takes them to a table and turns on a lamp, as J.M. reminds us "that other human beings aren't the only friends a man can have". In Roger's case, the friends are books. In the case of Ivan Kragoff, who materializes with his three pals in the library right behind Roger, the friends are apes. (I'm not sure where the Ghost got this ability... he can turn intangible which doesn't mean he can teleport... but I'm not going to pore through all of his appearances to see if I can find anything. I do know that his powers are boosted in his previous appearance in Fantastic Four #197, August 1978 but this only seems to allow him to make other things intangible, like Susan Richards can make other things invisible. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with teleporting at all.) Roger takes one look at the Red Ghost and His Super-Apes striking their poses and he runs off screaming. Unfortunately, he doesn't head for the door but blindly runs himself into a dead end, with bookshelves on either side of him and an out-of-reach window shining city light down from above.

The Red Ghost never expected to find anyone in the library at this time of night. This upsets his plans, whatever they may be, and he orders his apes to get Roger. The first to approach is the gorilla who backs Roger into his corner, reaches up, and yanks an entire bookshelf down with his great strength. But the disruption of the shelf somehow exposes some electrical wiring that starts to spark, immediately setting fire to one of the books and spreading to the whole area, including the treated wood of the shelf itself, in seconds. (This kind of accident at this kind of speed only ever happens in a comic book.) As Roger recoils, trapped by the huge blaze, the gorilla freaks out and hustles right out of there.

Over in the Chemistry Labs, Peter Parker hasn't even had time to remove his costume (except for his mask which is still in his hands) when the fire alarm goes off. (Hmm. Let's see. There is no one around to pull the alarm since Pete is unaware of the fire and Roger is completely trapped by it. So that means that the alarm is set off automatically which I can buy but... why does an alarm go off in the "across the quad" Chemistry building when the fire is confined to the Library? And if the alarm goes off in every building, how does anyone know where the fire actually is?) Peter forgets about his plans to work on improving his web-fluid, puts his mask back on, and leaps out the lab's open window. Fortunately, the fire is so big that he can immediately deduce its location. "It looks like Dante's Inferno in there!" he thinks as he approaches. He picks a window and kicks it in, sending glass shards all over the room. He knows that Roger is somewhere inside and probably needs to be rescued. Fortunately, there is a red fire extinguisher hanging on the wall right next to the window that Spidey has broken. The wall-crawler reaches for the extinguisher but as soon as he grabs it, it seems to spin around in his grasp as if alive. Then it changes shape and becomes a cosmic ray-powered baboon. (This scene makes no sense, of course. Why would the baboon turn into a fire extinguisher on the wall next to what looks like a second floor window? On the off chance that Spider-Man was going to come crashing in? But, yeah, I've got to admit; it is a rather cool moment... which is probably the only reason it's there.)

The baboon climbs up Spidey's arm, jaws wide, intending to sink his fangs into the web-spinner's flesh. Spidey doesn't know if "it is the result of lightning- fast reflexes or just the response of an extremely startled man" but he manages to swat the baboon away before it does any damage. The seemingly unconscious baboon falls to the floor as Spider-Man locates Roger "still in an uncooked state" while everything else in the library seems to be aflame. He drops to the ground, determines that the singed and ash-covered Roger is "a wreck" and figures out what to do for him. There is one huge shelf still untouched by the fire. Spidey yanks on it and pulls it down. In spite of the fact that the shelf is full of books and not anvils, it falls and smashes right through a stone wall leading outside. Spider-Man scoops up Roger and leaps through, barely avoiding a spray of water in his face as the Fire Department is already on the scene and using their hoses.

The down side of this is that the firemen think that Spider-Man started the fire. Or at least one of them does. He comes running up and accuses the wall- crawler of arson as Spidey sets Roger (Is he on fire? There is a big puff of smoke coming off the back of his sweater.) on the ground. Spidey calls the fireman a "bozo", tells him that Roger will "tell a different tale" and asks the guy to "keep your opinions to yourself, okay?" Then he climbs a nearby wall and disappears.

On the other side of the building, unseen by anyone, the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes slip away into the shadows. The next morning as the apes work out in their super-slick gym in their Midtown Manhattan "reconverted loftspace" hideout, the Ghost raises both fists into the air and rags on them. The plan was to steal a "rare mathematical treatise" which just happened to be in the ESU library and which would have helped the Ghost in his attempts to increase all of their powers. Now the fire has destroyed their chances of getting it. "Did you have to act like childish show-offs instead of mature adults?" he yells, which seems like sort of a silly thing to say to apes, for God's sake, except that they seem to understand him. The baboon puts his face in his hands in shame. But the Red Ghost praises the orangutan (whom he calls "Peotor"... so when did the super-apes get names, anyway?) for his decorum, which seems to please him (if that's what it means when he smiles while saying "Reeep?"). So, what's next on the agenda? Well, since the Ghost's "presence in this country let alone this city must remain a secret", he must eliminate the one person who has actually seen him. In other words, Roger Hochberg must die... or, as the Red Ghost puts it, next up is "that young idiot's bloody death!" (Geez, Ivan, take a pill, will ya?)

At the Daily Bugle, Peter Parker is conferring with reporter Mr. Pauncholito about a monkey that can change its shape. Mr. Pauncholito has been "banging a typewriter here for thirty years" and he knows pretty much all there is to know. He immediately yanks a file out of his drawer and opens it up for Peter's inspection. Inside are photos of the Red Ghost and his apes. Pete borrows the file just as Jonah Jameson comes up and tells him to get out and "bring me some hot news photos". His cigar smoke wafts right up in Peter's face. Coughing, Peter heads on his way.

Later at ESU, the students are filing out of their classes for the day. A baboon perches on a rooftop watching the parade, looking for one "bespectacled scholar" in particular. When he spies him, he "growwr"s in satisfaction but before he can make a move the target is joined by another student. Peter Parker, books in hand, runs up to join Roger. He can't figure out why his spider-sense is tingling. Before he can do anything about it, the baboon leaves and the tingling stops.

Now that Peter is walking along with Roger, he doesn't have anything to say. He decided to flag him down because Roger reminded him of himself when he was a "shy introverted bookworm" in High School and it makes him feel like he should help to free Roger from his shell... but how? He tells Roger that there is "a big dorm party at Boylan Hall" this evening and that the two of them should go together. Roger says he has to study but Peter tells him that "everyone needs a break now and then". When a suspicious Roger asks Pete why he's "so friendly all of a sudden", Pete replies, "Cause I think you're a good guy, Roger." Pete won't take "no" for an answer and tells Roger he'll meet him outside Boylan Hall at eight o'clock. "Okay, Rog?" says Peter. "Okay... Pete" says Roger.

Roger heads to class and tries to puzzle everything... from the fire to Pete's offer of friendship... out. But he has no idea what else he is going to get into. Outside the window of his classroom, the Red Ghost and his baboon peer in. They have identified Roger. Kragoff declares, "This boy must die. And he will die tonight."

The party at Boylan Hall is really going by 8:12 PM already. Graham Parker is blaring from the speakers. (Hey, I didn't make that up. JM mentions it in a caption.) The keg is flowing. Some suspicious-looking smoke hangs in the air. (Or as JM puts it, "The air is pregnant with a sweet, smoky scent." Bet you didn't know there was any dope smoking in a Spider-Man comic.) There are all sorts of hugging and talking and general partying going on. As soon as Peter and Roger enter, they look out of place. Roger tells Peter he thinks "this is a mistake" and wants to leave but Peter tells him to relax. But already one guy starts to mouth off as soon as he sees Roger ("We might as well split. This party's goin' downhill from here.") and some blonde dude in a striped shirt goes up to a busty brunette in a low-cut shirt and tells her he has an idea of a great prank to pull. Forty-five seconds later, the attractive brunette walks up behind Roger, puts her arms around him, introduces herself as Mia Carrera and asks if he remembers her. "I used to sit behind you in homeroom back in Midwood High School", she says. It's all a trick to distract him, of course, as a dopey-looking guy in the same shirt as the blonde guy pours a big slug of cider vinegar into Roger's glass of beer. (It's possible that this is supposed to be the blonde guy but now his hair is brown and he has a spit curl.) When Roger tells Mia that he went to Millard Fillmore High, she says, "Oh sorry. My mistake" and wanders off, her job being done. Roger looks at her back, admiringly, and takes a gulp from his glass, which he immediately spits out like Danny Thomas doing a spit take. As JM says, "it's not the taste of vinegar that leaves Roger red-faced and teary-eyed, it is his own utter humiliation." Roger covers his mouth and bolts from the party. Everyone laughs uproariously at Roger's predicament... everybody but Peter Parker, who just gets extremely angry.

Pete lashes out, knocking a table, punchbowl, and ice flying. And here is the full text of what he tells the other kids before he runs after Roger: "You selfish inconsiderate morons! You think it's so blasted funny to step all over a guy whose only crime has been a fear of people? You think it's a million laughs to make another human being feel like dirt, to hurt him, to ruin the little bit of trust that he's got left? Well, I think it stinks! And you can all go flush yourselves down the nearest toilet for all I care!" Everybody quiets down and Mia turns to the others and says, "Y'know guys, he's right."

Which doesn't do Roger much good. Feeling horribly spurned, he walks through the pack of students on his way to the only place where he feels at home (and which should be completely burned to a crisp by now, but isn't)... the Library Annex. The Red Ghost and his Super-Apes watch from the rooftops and they know where he's heading. Peter Parker has a pretty good idea where Roger is going, too. On his way there, his spider sense tingles and he looks up to see the Ghost "and his furry stooges" above him. He figures Roger may be in need of help from Spider-Man.

So, Roger enters the closed library as he did the night before. There are stacks of books piled very high on some tables but otherwise it looks perfectly normal. Amazing how they put out that fire, fixed the smoke damage, repaired the wall, replaced the shelves, and recatalogued and restocked the books all in one night. It's all as if the night before never happened, except the super- gorilla jumps out of the shadows again, this time grabbing up Roger in a powerful bear hug... um, ape hug. The Ghost materializes in front of Roger (who is squeezed so hard that his glasses tumble off) and prepares to put an end to the lonely college student. Before Ivan or his ape can make a move, Spidey swings in and lays a haymaker on the gorilla's chin. (This so surprises Kragoff that he comes out with the exclamation solely reserved for Soviet comic book characters... "Lenin's beard!") The Red Ghost doesn't recognize Spider- Man (though I think he's been around enough so that he should) and refers to him as "my garishly-garbed friend". "Garish?" replies Spidey, as orangutan and baboon flank the Red Ghost and gorilla and Roger writhe on the ground. "Garish!? Look who's calling whom garish!" And saying this, Spidey picks up a whole stack of books and flings them at the Red Ghost. All the books in the air confuse the Ghost. Spidey has read in the file he got from Mr. Pauncholito that taking out Kragoff will make the apes "too confused to do anything" so he leaps right at his human opponent. But Ivan uses his powers of intangibility and Spidey jumps right through him, smacking into the bookcase behind him instead.

That's when the apes step in. Peotor, the orangutan, uses his magnetic powers to lift Spidey up in the air and toss him over to the gorilla. But before the big ape can wrap his arms around him, the web-slinger ducks down, bounces away and climbs the side of a nearby bookcase. While Spidey climbs, Roger decides he must do his part. He hopes to slip away and phone the police. Meanwhile, the wall-crawler has reached the top of the bookcase, which just happens to be positioned right under a skylight. He opens the window at the top of the skylight, jumps through to the roof, and taunts the apes into following.

All three climb the bookcase and Peotor is the first one to reach the top. He pushes open the window and looks around but can't find Spider-Man anywhere. Smart as he is, Peotor is apparently too stupid to see Spidey perched right on the window itself even though he would have seen him through the glass when he opened the window in the first place. No matter. The web-head has faked out the orangutan. He clobbers him on each side of his head with two fists simultaneously and Peotor is down.

While this has taken place, the other apes have made it to the roof. The Red Ghost, too, has materialized up there, telling Spidey, "I have the ability to appear and disappear at will!" which I still don't think means he can teleport but I guess I'm just going to have to live with it. Having appeared right behind the web-slinger, Ivan tries to push him off the roof. But Spidey's reflexes kick in and he leaps off by himself instead, twisting in mid-air and snagging the ledge with some webbing.

Now, JM reminds us that the apes "are not stupid" (except when they don't see Spidey through the window they are lifting up) and the gorilla figures out that he can reach down and rip the webbing right off the ledge. Rather than try to shoot another web somewhere else, Spidey just leaps down to the ground since he is "close to the ground" anyway. (But if you look at the panel in which he shoots his webbing while falling, you can see he isn't anywhere near the ground at all.) The apes follow, with the baboon turning himself into a parachute and Peotor and the gorilla hanging on. They face Spider-Man on the sidewalk, with the Red Ghost using that power he shouldn't have to teleport down and appear between Spidey and the apes. Spider-Man tries to hit the Ghost with his web but Ivan just turns intangible again and the webbing goes right through him and snags the gorilla instead. This doesn't do any good. The super-strong ape just yanks Spidey around on his webbing until the wall-crawler does a flying cannonball right through the Red Ghost and into the gorilla's gut. Then the baboon is upon him (and we find out that his name is Igor), turning into some sort of clinging tarpaulin to cover Spidey's eyes and set him up for the kill. None of the bad guys know about the spider-sense, though, which allows our hero to duck the gorilla's punch and leap over the orangutan's springing attack. "No dumb old ape is gonna lay a paw on me!" Spidey thinks as he reaches up, gets a grip on the baboon and tosses him off. But as soon as he does this, the gorilla comes up and grabs him from behind. This gives the Red Ghost an idea. Since Spidey (whom he calls "Man-Spider"... get it right, Ivan!) has exposed his presence to the campus, he decides the wall-crawler's defeat should be public. And now we learn that the ESU stadium is right next door and that a track meet is going on so that the place is absolutely packed with people. (Hmmm. This is the same night as the party when we've seen only a handful of students walking the campus. When did all these people arrive at the stadium?) Kragoff orders Peotor to use his magnetic powers to carry Spidey and the gorilla "into that nearby stadium" and Peotor either gets lazy or his powers poop out because it looks like he is going to levitate them right over the top but, in the next panel, they just crash through the wall of the stadium instead. (From the splinters, it looks like the stadium is made of plywood.)

Even though the crash occurs all the way at one end of the stadium next to the shot put area, all ten thousand spectators immediately notice it. They get to their feet and gape as Spidey picks up a shot put and throws it with a "thuddd!" right into the gorilla's stomach. ("Here gruesome, suck on a shot- put" he says.) Ivan and the other apes follow through the hole in the wall. Igor turns into a net and Ivan picks him up and tosses him at Spider-Man who nimbly leaps away. But moments later, the wall-crawler has the Red Ghost's hands around his throat as Kragoff slowly becomes visible right in front of him. (Again, I haven't checked all of the Ghost's appearances lately but I don't think he is capable of invisibility, either. All he can do is make himself insubstantial but you can still see him when he's doing it. In fact, his power is the same as the Vision and you don't see the Vision going invisible or teleporting, do you?) Anyway, Ivan becomes tangible from his wrists to his fingertips so that he can choke Spidey and the wall-crawler realizes that this means he can grab the Ghost by those wrists. He pulls Ivan's hands from his neck and declares, "I've got you, Kragoff! And nothing, not man, not ape, is gonna get me to let you go!"

For a moment, this actually seems to work. The Red Ghost stands there like a stooge, his wrists grasped by Spider-Man, as if he never had the power to turn intangible. Then the police, summoned by Roger Hochberg, arrive on the scene and the Ghost seems to remember why he's called the Ghost in the first place. "The authorities!" he cries, "They must not have me!" and he fades away to nothingness, making his escape. Meanwhile, Igor turns into an eagle, grabs Peotor and the gorilla in his talons and flies them all away. Spidey tells the cops to put their guns away (they're out there with rifles in the midst of a crowd of ten thousand people) since all the bad guys have gotten away. "Sometimes there's just no justice in this world" Spidey thinks, "no justice at all".

Now, apparently, making the Red Ghost known to ten thousand people is enough to save Roger's life, seeing as Ivan was going to kill Roger to protect his secrecy. In any event, Peter and Roger are walking the campus the next day with no worries that the Ghost is going to show up again. Roger tells Peter that his experience with Spider-Man has made him realize that "Everybody's got his place." "I don't get depressed because I can't fight super-villains" he says, "so why should it upset me that some people just don't like me?" But then four very attractive co-eds (including Mia) spot Roger coming and rush right over to him. "We heard all about your little adventure with Spider-Man, Roger!" says the African-American one. "We sure did! The way you rushed for the police and saved Spider-Man's life," says the red-haired one with glasses. "You know, I wish you did go to my High School. Then we'd already know each other very well," says Mia. (The blonde one doesn't say anything.) Roger looks this way and that, stunned by the plentitude of pulchritude and finally just comes out with, "Wow." Smiling, Peter slips away, thinking, "Well, what do you know? Maybe there is some justice in the world after all!"

Let's tie up some of these characters. (Well, not literally.) These are the first appearances of Roger Hochberg, Mia Carrera and Mr. Pauncholito but JM uses all of them again in his other books. Roger re-appears in Marvel Team- Up #117, May 1982 looking very suave indeed and out on a date! By MTU #124, December 1982, Roger and Mia are helping Peter and Aunt May move the Restwell Nursing Home folks into May's old home and Mia seems to have her eye on Peter Parker. By MTU #128, April 1983, Mia seems to be receptive to any move Peter cares to make but she is pretty clearly dating Roger. As far as I can tell, this is Mia's last appearance.

Roger Stern uses Roger at around this same time, making him the "best lab partner [Peter] ever had" in ASM #231, August 1982. Roger attends the surprise party for Peter (along with Marcy Kane, Philip Chang, Steve Hopkins, and Deb Whitman) which Peter never attends in ASM #232, September 1982 and points out a Brand Corporation intern program to Pete in ASM #234, November 1982. Roger isn't seen again in ASM until Peter decides to quit the graduate program and tells him he needs to find a new lab partner in ASM #243, August 1983. Years later, Roger is still hanging out in the ESU labs when Corona smashes her way in, in The Spectacular Spider-Man #177, June 1991. When Peter ends up back at ESU and back in the science labs, Roger is seen (in Spider-Man Unlimited #5, May 1994) working there too. You sort of get the feeling that all Peter has to do is go down to the labs again and he'll find Roger there waiting for him.

Mr. Pauncholito returns in MTU #129, May 1983, out on assignment with Peter Parker as his photographer. It is in this issue that we learn his first name is Andrew and that he is a few months away from mandatory retirement. He hopes to go out with a bang by filing a story worthy of the Pulitzer Prize and he finds just such a story when he gets in the middle of a battle between Spider-Man, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch and Necrodamus, figuring out along the way that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. But in the end after seeing the web- slinger's heroism up close (in MTU #130, June 1983) he can't bring himself to reveal Spidey's identity and takes an early retirement, telling Peter, "This world needs heroes... more than I need a Pulitzer Prize." He offers to buy Peter a beer but Pete tells him, "this one's on me".

The Red Ghost shows up, sans Super-Apes, in Marvel Super-Hero Contest of Champions #1, June 1982 with plans to attack the Soviet Union with "mighty earth tremors which will topple their greatest cities from Leningrad to Moscow" in revenge for being labeled an enemy of the state. He is stopped by the Soviet Super-Soldiers (Darkstar, Crimson Dynamo, Vanguard and Ursa Major) who then disappear in a burst of light, transported along with pretty much every other Marvel hero to the contest that is the point of the entire mini-series. I don't know why the Red Ghost doesn't just pick up his plan again after the Soldiers are gone.

Paranoid over the way his enemies keep thwarting his plans, the Ghost hides out in Manhattan and works on his "Cosmicizer", a device he hopes will increase his powers "a thousand-fold". (In ASM #255, August 1984.) Needing money to keep his work going, the Ghost forces the Black Fox to team up with his Super- Apes to commit crimes. But the apes don't understand subtlety and they draw the attention of Spider-Man who tracks them back to the Ghost's hideout. In the ensuing battle, the Cosmicizer is destroyed. As he escapes, the Ghost blames Spidey and vows "You shall pay!" but he hasn't yet followed up on that threat. Instead he makes the rounds of Quasar, Power Pack, Deadpool, Wolverine and so on, appearing most recently hanging out with his apes at the Bar With No Name in Deadline #2, July 2002.

In General...

Anytime you get a plot concocted by a departing writer and the script performed by a temporary writer, you almost always get a story that hangs rather shapelessly on the dress dummy. JM DeMatteis is very good at what he does so he nearly pulls it off but there are too many instances of baboons turning into fire extinguishers for no reason and libraries that burn up only to be perfectly fine the next evening to give this tale more than a mediocre rating. (Even the Romita, Jr./Milgrom art seems pedestrian.) The plywood stadium alone is enough to reduce this to a couple of webs so that's what it's going to get.

Overall Rating...

Whoops! Sorry. I'm not going to get around to the Mad Thinker after all. Maybe some other time. But not next time, which is: