Marvel Team-Up #20

 Title: Marvel Team-Up
 Lookback: Al Observes
 Posted: 2002
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)
 Staff: Scott Knudsen (E-Mail)

Story 'Dinosaurs on Broadway!'

  Marvel Team-Up #20
Summary: Spider-Man & Black Panther (vs. Stegron)
Arc: Part 2 of 'The Coming of... Stegron the Dinosaur Man!' (1-2)
Editor: Roy Thomas
Writer: Len Wein
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inker: Frank Giacoia, Mike Esposito
Cover Art: Gil Kane

It's hard to say how long Spider-Man has been clinging to the bottom of the Ark but, as it nears New York, he decides to make his move. Stegron is lost in thought with his back to the wall-crawler. Spidey climbs over the railing onto the platform and figures on sneaking up on the dinosaur man and tackling him before he knows what's what. The trouble is one of the dinosaurs (who are now being kept in a cage... some leader, that Stegron) opens its big mouth and lets out an "auurkk!". This sound causes Stegron to turn. He sees the charging Spider-Man. How do you stop a charging Spider-Man? You take away his credit cards. Or, if you're Stegron, you bop him in the bean again with your spiked-up tail. Spidey does a mid-air flip and lands on his feet. He counters by webbing Steggy's tail to the floor, and then wades in with the punches. Stegron is reeling from the attack but his powerful tail is successfully straining against the webbing. He breaks free and, yes, clobbers the web-slinger in the face with his tail once again. The blow knocks out Spidey. Stegron lifts the wall-crawler high over his head and heaves him off the platform. They are just off the coast of New York and the web-spinner is heading for a watery grave.

But now, Len sends us back a bit in time and changes the locale to "the Park Avenue headquarters of the mighty Avengers" (I thought the Avengers were on Fifth Avenue but what do I know?). T'Challa, the Black Panther is just about to take an Avengers quinjet back to Wakanda, his African kingdom.

(T'Challa, who first appeared in Fantastic Four #52, July 1966, is the benevolent ruler of Wakanda and possessor of the Panther power... or something like that. He wears a stylish all-black outfit complete with black mask with white lenses for his eyes and some slightly goofy looking cat's ears on the top of his head. The Black Panther is one of the earliest examples of a black man as super-hero but has often been devalued by U.S. based fans in search of good black roles models in comics because he is African rather than African-American. He has been an occasional Avenger since Avengers #52, May 1968.)

It appears that the Black Panther is the only Avenger at home this day. Jarvis, the Avengers' butler, tells him that a sensor scan has revealed "a mysterious vessel of great size" flying toward Manhattan. The Panther promises to investigate on his way back to Africa. And so, T'Challa is flying along in a quinjet when he comes upon the Ark and, just at that moment, sees a body falling from the platform. He puts the jet on automatic pilot, activates this nifty trapeze that drops down from the underside of his ship and hangs from it by his legs. Using split-second timing, he flies by, reaches out, and grabs the unconscious Spider-Man by the ankle, stopping his fall. He twists the trapeze bar, which activates "the retraction mechanism" and hauls the web-slinger safely up into his quinjet. (So, to put it bluntly, if the Black Panther had not been around, the Amazing Spider-Man would have died. But do you ever hear Spidey thank the Panther for it? Do you ever hear him mention it? Does he ever call T'Challa? Send him a birthday card? Not that I've ever heard. The ingrate.)

When Spidey comes to, he wants to know what happened. The Panther explains that he saved him and Spidey says, "Looks like I owe the Avengers one for snatching me from big bad Stregron". (See what I mean? He owes "the Avengers", not the Panther. What is up with that?) The webster looks out the window and sees that the flying Ark is gone. "Panthy", he tells T'Challa, "have I got a story to tell you" and one panel later, the two heroes are at the lab visiting Dr. Curt Connors. Spidey asks Curt to make an antidote for Stegron's condition but Curt doesn't think it will be easy. "The formula lacks the built-in antidote of my Lizard serum", he says. (Built-in antidote? And here I thought Spidey concocted that serum because he was a scientific genius.) Still, he promises to try. Spidey and the Panther ask for lab space for a plan of their own. Then they have to go looking for Stegron.

At that same time, two elderly ladies are walking in Central Park when they are confronted by (as one of the ladies calls him) "a mugster". The guy has a big knife and tells them to "fork over them fat little purses". But the ladies find something more frightening and amazing just behind the petty crook. Suddenly, the "mugster" is knocked off his feet by a swat from a dinosaur tail and the ladies run off for their lives, screaming for the police. (And, after all that, at least one of the ladies went and left her purse behind.) Stegron, carrying his staff, and sitting astride the tyrannosaurus, taunts the "sssenile old foolsss" before leading his herd of dinosaurs into a charge. They come rumbling out of the park, right onto Central Park West, tying up traffic for sure.

At the Connors lab, Curt is close to an antidote but can't get it quite right. Spidey has succeeded, though, in creating a new, albeit unstable, "super-strong web fluid" with the help of the Panther. It will never replace his usual formula but it will temporarily work against dinosaurs and such. Just then, they hear a report on the radio that dinos are "lumbering down Broadway towards Times Square". Spidey and the Panther race to the scene, in time to see Steggy and his crew smashing through Times Square (in a two-page spread which, unfortunately, doesn't look a whole lot like Times Square at all). Cars are being overturned or are running into fire hydrants. Terrified people are running for their lives. (My favorite is the guy who has decided to climb WAY up on a street light even though it must have taken tons more effort than just running away and even though he has to use all his strength to cling up there and even though he is right at dinosaur-head level so that could reach up and nibble on him whenever they want.) Stegron thumps his chest and claims Manhattan "in the name of the Holy Dinosssaur Empire". He receives a reply from the Panther who leaps down and kicks him in the head.

Spidey, meanwhile, web-swings down to the head of Stegron's steed and uses his new strong webbing to seal up the t-rex's jaws. Now, apparently T'Challa's kick knocked Steggy all the way down to the ground because the two combatants are duking it out in the street. The compassionate Panther tells Stegron he wants to help him. ("Surrender, Stegron, while you can. You're sick.") The Dino Man responds by swinging that spiked tail but T'Challa is fast enough to evade it. He jumps in close and pounds ol' Steggy right on the snoot.

But, suddenly, we change our scene "a few blocks further north" to the offices of the Daily Bugle. Mary Jane Watson is in Joe Robertson's office looking for Peter Parker but Robbie hasn't seen him. J. Jonah Jameson walks in with news from the wire service. "There are dinosaurs on Broadway!" and Spidey and the Black Panther are out there fighting them. MJ tells the men that that explains where Peter is. "Wherever you find Spider-Man these days, you're bound to find Peter Parker snapping the 8x10 glossies." MJ decides to go check it out. Robbie and Jonah try to convince her that it is too dangerous but she tells them not to "sweat it". "Danger is my middle name", she says, "I have it monogrammed on all of my towels."

Back at Times Square, the police are doing their best to keep the crowds behind their barricades. (I got pushed behind some police barricades the last time I was in Times Square, too, only it wasn't dinosaurs causing it, it was Carson Daly.) One guy in the crowd has heard something about "mobilizing special SHIELD units to handle things" but, he thinks, "by the time they get here, Times Square'll be a parking lot".

And in the battle itself, Spidey uses his new special webbing to tie up a number of the dinosaurs. The Panther leaps over Stegron's thrashing tail and pounces on the Dinosaur Man's chest.

By this time, Mary Jane has shown up and is on the hunt for Peter. Now, here is your challenge. I defy anyone to come up with a reasonable explanation to fit the following scene into the present-day continuity that claims that MJ has known that Peter is Spidey all along. (Has it become obvious that I like MJ knowing Pete is Spidey but hate this wrinkle that she's known since the very start?) Okay, here we go. MJ arrives on the scene, thinking, "I was sure Petey'd be here someplace. Maybe on the other side of the crowd." This is her own thought, shared with no one, so either she doesn't know Pete is Spidey or she hasn't seen Spider-Man amidst the dinosaurs. When a policeman tries to stop her, MJ fakes him out with misdirection and runs out past the barricade into the field of battle. Spidey has used his webbing to take care of all the dinosaurs except "this buck-toothed brontosaurus". He seals its jaws and trips it up with webbing, just as MJ runs out into the street yelling, "Peter? Peter, are you out here?" (And she can certainly see Spidey by now, if not before.) Suddenly the brontosaurus starts to fall and...wouldn't you know it?... MJ is standing right in the way. With only seconds to act, Spidey snags Mary Jane with his webbing and yanks her to safety. The dinosaur crashes down hard just behind her. Spidey decides that he can't act too much like Peter Parker so, rather than comfort MJ, he gives her a stern lecture. "If I wasn't so concerned about my public image, I would've let that ugly flatten you", he says; "Now bug off, sister and stay out of the way." A very freaked MJ mutters, "Y-y-yes, sir."

Spidey races off to join the Panther in his battle with Stegron, even as Dr. Curt Connors shows up with "top priority clearance from SHIELD", allowing him to cross the barricades. No one seems to want Curt there. T'Challa is concerned for his safety. Stegron is filled with loathing for the man. But Curt has important news. He has fully investigated the serum that Vincent Stegron has taken and he has discovered there is no cure.

It's one thing to play at being the ruler of the dinosaurs. It's another to find out you are stuck this way for the rest of your life. Stegron tries to digest this news and doesn't take well to it. He knocks Curt Connors flat with the end of his tail, and then he lets out a screech that summons the pterosaur. The flying creature zips down and swats both Spidey and the Panther in the back of the head. Before either hero can rise, Stegron climbs on the pterosaur's back and makes his escape. But the web-slinger recovers and follows, swinging from building to building on the ground below. Finally as Stegron reaches the southern tip of Manhattan, Spidey shoots his webbing and snags the pterosaur underneath. He knows he must act quickly before Stegron heads out to sea.

Quickly, the webhead climbs up to the wing of the dinosaur. With the Statue of Liberty in the background, Stegron (guess what?) tries to hit Spidey with his tail (the guy needs to branch out a bit with his attacks, don't you think?). The wall-crawler ducks then connects with a hard left to Steggy's jaw. The dino man tumbles off his bird and lands in the water below. Spidey is afraid that he has accidentally killed Stegron, then is relieved to see that the water broke his fall. But then he sits around and does nothing as Stegron discovers that armor-scaled dinosaurs are pretty useless at swimming. His weight bears him down and Stegron sinks. The last we see is his hand reaching up out of the water. (But don't worry about Spidey being a murderer. Before he goes under, Stegron tells the webster that he intentionally fell off in order to "plan anew my conquessst of your world" but what's the point of being in the water when you could be flying above it? Sounds like a little bit of the "I meant to do that" if you ask me.)

The Amazing One webs up the pterosaur and leaves him hanging off of Miss Liberty's torch. Then he sits on the docks and waits for the arrival of Curt Connors and the Panther. Spidey is feeling very low about the outcome. "You sent me out to save your friend" he tells Connors, "and all I brought you back was an obituary". But Curt puts his arm around him and tells him not to shoulder the blame. "I truly believe now that Stegron was doomed long before he ever swallowed that formula", he tells Spider-Man. The webhead knows that Connors is probably right... "but somehow that just doesn't make me feel a whole lot better."

Not much in the way of loose ends to tie up with this one. The mysterious group know as "They" lurks in the shadows for five-plus more years before they are revealed in The Incredible Hulk #240-243 (October 1979-January 1980). It had something to do with El Dorado and Tyrannus, was eminently disappointing, and pretty much not worth worrying about at all.

Spidey again teamed up with the Black Panther in Marvel Team-Up #87 (November 1979) versus the "destined-to-be-Scourged" villain Hellrazor. It isn't until Ka-Zar the Savage #21-26 (December 1982-May 1983) that he again meets the Lord of the Hidden Jungle. (And Ka-Zar is really in no condition to do any teaming up in those issues.)

And Spidey really should cheer up about what happened to Stegron. After all, it takes less than three years for the Dinosaur Man to return from the dead and take on the web-slinger again. If you want, you can jump ahead to Amazing Spider-Man #165 and read it right here, right now.


Elsewhere in Spidey's world: Aunt May is showing some incredibly poor judgement and marrying Dr. Octopus in "My Uncle, MyEnemy!", Amazing Spider-Man #131.

And meanwhile, in the real world: on April 4th, Hank Aaron hits his 714th home run, tying Babe Ruth's record. On April 5th, the World Trade Center opens in New York City, her 110 story towers the tallest buildings in the world. Patty Hearst and her SLA playmates rob a bank in San Francisco, and at the end of the month the last Americans are evacuated from Saigon.

 Title: Marvel Team-Up
 Lookback: Al Observes
 Posted: 2002
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)
 Staff: Scott Knudsen (E-Mail)