Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #3

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Spidey has managed to deal with Kraven, but is still grappling with the menace of the Tarantula. Chancellor Gorman and Vice-Chancellor Lansky of Empire State University are still kidnapped, and there's a new villain on the scene... Lightmaster! Actually, Lightmaster turned up again recently, in the Cable & Deadpool limited series, just in case you get nostalgic about the guy.

In Detail...

"...And There Was Lightmaster!"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #3
Feb 1977 : SMURF 164.650 : SM Title
Summary: Lightmaster
Editor:  Archie Goodwin
Plot:  Gerry Conway
Writer:  Jim Shooter
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Mike Esposito
Cover Art:  Sal Buscema
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 Reprinted In: Hi-C Fruit Drinks (Spectacular Spider-Man Reprints) #1
 Reprinted In: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #1
Articles: Flash Thompson, Lightmaster, Robertson, Joe "Robbie", Sha Shan, Tarantula I

Spidey's happily webswinging through town when he stops the mugging of an old man whom he mistakenly thinks is afraid of him. This brings him back to thinking about his problems, including the kidnapping of Chancellor Gorman and Vice-Chancellor Lansky.

Meanwhile, Tarantula frees himself from his bondage alongside Gorman. But he runs into his boss, who is now the costumed Lightmaster: "You are the first to feel the shattering force of solid light!" Lightmaster knocks both prisoners out and leaves to pursue his plans.

Spidey swings home and sneaks inside to avoid seeing a visiting Glory Grant and Flash Thompson while in costume. He comes out to find them looking through his old records (including Elton John) and Flash asks them out to dinner. While at the restaurant, Flash sees his old flame Sha Shan and she refuses to speak to him. While Flash walks off alone, Peter begs off Glory's company to investigate a light in City Hall "My spider sense is going bazoonies!".

Spidey finds Lightmaster over the crumpled form of City Controller Goldin. There is a brief fight which finds Spidey hanging onto a ledge while Lightmaster flies off with the politician. He tries to affix a spider-tracer but it just bounces off. The dazed Spider-Man is greeted with a chorus of "Jump! Jump!" from onlookers below. "Yeah...Merry Christmas to you, too!"

The next day a sunglasses-wearing Peter Parker asks for Joe Robertson's help to investigate the kidnappings. He finds what he's looking for and goes after Lightmaster using a special filter in his mask.

Lightmaster is none other than Dr. Lansky, who faked his own kidnapping. Spidey confronts him: "Thought I'd drop in to ask why you gave up being a physics prof specializing in light phenomena to go into school administration...and kidnapping. Lansky's rationale for this spree: "It was all for the college!...I intended to get rid of that idiot Gorman and the corrupt city officials who were denying us funds to operate...I would have been a good chancellor! Better than Gorman!"

Spidey leads Lightmaster into a theater and tricks him into knocking himself out by blasting a high-voltage switchboard.

In General...

Lightmaster's master plan may be the most original villain's goal ever...that doesn't make it good. Kidnapping politicians, hiring super villains and becoming one yourself just to help a college? I'm just glad Sandman never found out that they cut out sandbox time at my nursery school, otherwise all heck would have broken loose.

Lightmaster himself has the potential to be a great addition to the Spidey Rogues Gallery...his alter ego is a bit loopy, though. Lghtmaster next appears in issue 19.

Our Pal Sal turns in a decent job and gets his requisite full page panel to show off Lightmaster attacking our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

Given that Marvel was, of course, based in New York and that these comics are produced in the '70s, a lot of attention is given to the various financial crises that plagued my fine city. New Yorkers don't fare too well either...the only civilian who seems to respect Spidey in this issue is a "foreigner" (not the Foreigner), as one of the youths about to rough him up calls him.

A notable upcoming subplot is introduced in this issue with the return of Sha Shan, Flash's Vietnamese love interest.

I'm not certain what happened in the Marvel staff, but this issue features only a plot by Gerry Conway, with a script by Jim Shooter. The editor is now Archie Goodwin (who is said to be the new writer as of next issue). After all his caretaker promises in the previous issues, was there a shake-up that removed Conway? Or was this when he went to DC to help create Firestorm? G.C. would come back to Marvel and Spidey years later, of course. Admission: I'm reviewing these issues in sort of a vacuum, using any knowledge I already have of comics as supplemental, in order to more fully appreciate this title on its own.

Overall Rating...

A slightly disappointing conclusion to a rather ordinary story. Two and a half webs.

Footnote...

According to our friends at the Marvel Chronology Project, Spidey appears in this issue right after issue 2. He then gets a little busy, appearing in Ms. Marvel 1, Marvel Super Special 1 (wasn't this with Kiss?!?), and Amazing Spider-Man 165 & 166 (with a quick side-trip into Marvel Treasury Edition 13 - perhaps a quick frame narrative set in the "present" wrapped around Christmas stories from the past - in the middle of 166). Then onto issue 4 and The Vulture.

The letters page debuts here in issue three.

Interesting ads include Bring on the Bad Guys and other Marvel books, Marvel Super Hero stamp album, Crazy (with the Hulk going...well, crazy), What If? #1 (the most astonishingly offbeat idea of all from ye olde House of Ideas) and Spidey and Captain America ricocheting to freedom through a giant web thanks to Ricochet Racers.

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page talks a bit about What If? and Spider- Woman's debut in Marvel Spotlight #32. It also features a welcome to a gent named Jubilant John Romita Jr. and asks "Why does that name seem so familiar?"