The Beast has been part of the Marvel Universe almost since the very beginning. He has gone through many tribulations and transformations. At the time of this story, he is in his blue-furred, pointy-eared, faux-werewolf phase that most Marvelites are familiar with.
This issue starts off in media res with Spider-Man catching a man falling from the sky in the pouring rain. The strain of the man’s added weight, however, snaps his webbing and they both go tumbling. No problem, he just shoots another webline. That one misses. He shoots another one. That one hits a smokestack of a passing steamer. Somehow that breaks their fall enough that they survive tumbling into the drink.
Well, not only was that a rather embarrassing episode for our hero, but I don’t buy it. Spidey’s weblines have been shown to hold up multi-ton machinery before. The idea that it would snap because of the added weight of one skinny guy is silly. And the whole smokestack save is just horrendous science. If I remember correctly from the 11th grade, the energy from the fall would just be transferred into the swing of the arc and instead of smashing into the water you would just end up smashing into the side of the ship (any physics majors out there that can correct me on this?).
Anyway, Spider-Man eventually resurfaces and this month’s guest star, the Beast, is there to lend him a helping hand. Unfortunately, the guy Spidey snagged out of the sky wasn’t so lucky because his heart couldn’t take all the excitement. Before he expires, though, he drops an exposition bomb on our heroes…
It turns out that the man was a scientist. He used to work for the Secret Empire and was the one who helped give the Griffin his powers way back in Amazing Adventures #19. After the Beast’s initial encounter with the villain, however, the Griffin continued to mutate - basically, his personality has become more feral and he’s grown a spiked tail. After busting out of prison, the Griffin decided to track down the man responsible for his current predicament and get his revenge by dropping him to his death. Which is pretty much where Spidey (and us) came into the story. The Beast, meanwhile, explains he was hanging around the docks because he heard about the Griffin’s recent breakout and was trying to track him down before anyone got hurt.
Saving our heroes the bother of chasing him, the Griffin suddenly dives out of the sky and attacks them both. He uses his power to control the mind of anything that flies (yes, really!) to send a flock of seagulls to attack Spider-Man. The Beast, on the other hand, goes on the offense and gets knocked into the water for his effort by the Griffin. After dispatching his fine-feathered foes (unfortunately we don’t get to see this epic battle), Spidey manages to jump on the villain’s back just as he takes off into the sky. The Beast fishes himself out of the water and tries to press his attack again, but his leap falls short.
Eventually, Spider-Man and the Griffin arrive at the Brooklyn Bridge. The Griffin knocks Spidey off of his back, but he uses the same trick from earlier in the issue to break his fall (How’s that for foreshadowing? Or is that Chekhov’s Gun?). Instead of doing the smart thing and cutting his loses the Griffin decides to press his attack again. By this time, however, the Beast has managed to catch up to the pair and within a few pages our two heroes put the smackdown on the villain. All’s well that ends well.
This is a pretty solid Bronze Age story.
The Griffin is the perfect foil for the Beast. Whereas the Beast’s fearsome appearance is paired with a sensitive intellect, the Griffin’s exterior perfectly matches his savage personality. I just wish Spidey wasn’t matched against so many flying villains because it limits his attack options and pretty much guarantees a hokey last minute save of our hero by the guest star.
The Beast joined the Avengers right around this time, so if you’re interested in his further adventures you can check that book out. The Griffin, meanwhile, keeps on mutating. He even makes another appearance in this series (see Marvel Team-Up #78). Surprisingly, his Mind Control Pigeon Power is not a one-off fluke, because it shows up again there!