Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #77

 Posted: 11 Mar 2024
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


Due to the stress of being kidnapped by the Maggia, Curt Connors has become the Lizard. He and Spidey duke it out for over half of last issue. Then, Spidey comes up with a cockamamie plan to pretend that he’s been defeated so that the Lizard will drop him from the roof of the building they are on. He will “spin around again and web onto a nearly window! Then, I’ll swing in, and wait for him to come to me!” I have no idea why this would be any better than fighting on the roof but we never get to find out because the Human Torch shows up and catches Spidey as he is falling. The Torch returns Spidey to the roof (“the one place I wanted to get away from”) and then faces the Lizard. Spidey fears that the Torch will “use all of his power to destroy” the Lizard, although he’s never killed his enemies before. “I’m still too weak to stop the Torch…or save the Lizard!” Spidey thinks, as he lies on the roof. Which takes us to this issue where Spidey isn’t so weak that he can’t stand up and the Torch has moved up to a higher ledge (that we didn’t know existed) to throw flame circles around the Lizard when he was face to face with Liz on the same level before.

Story 'In The Blaze Of Battle!'

  Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #77
Summary: The Lizard and the Human Torch
Arc: Part 2 of 'Lizard Lives!' (1-2)
Editor: Stan Lee
Co-Plot: John Romita, Sr.
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: John Buscema
Inker: Jim Mooney
Cover Art: John Romita, Sr.
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #58
Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #4
Articles: Lizard

But first, the cover. As with last issue, the interior art is by John Buscema (credited as “Innovator”) and Jim Mooney (billed as “Adaptor”), but John Romita (listed as “Consultant Emeritus in Residence”) provides the cover. At a glance, you might think this was a Fantastic Four issue since the Torch dominates the image. He is center stage and the largest figure shown with his flaming right hand stuck up into the “Amazing Spider-Man” logo so that your eye goes from that logo down to the Torch as he buzzes the Lizard, who is recoiling in the lower left corner. But Liz isn’t the next figure at which you look because there is webbing encircling the Torch’s torso which leads the eye back along those strands to Spidey, on one knee, in the middle right of the cover. Just above him and below Torchy’s left hand is the only blurb, which is also the title…”In the Blaze of Battle!” It’s only after viewing Johnny, then Spidey, then the blurb that you find the Lizard in the corner. The focus of the cover is Spidey tangling with the Torch. The Lizard is almost an afterthought.

Now back to the Torch throwing flame circles around the Lizard. Spidey tells him that “it’s a private fight between the Lizard and me,” adding, “I know you’re trying to help but you’ll only make things worse!” For the life of me, I can’t understand why Spidey can’t just tell the Torch that the Lizard is a “Mr. Hyde” to a good man’s “Dr. Jekyll.” He doesn’t have to tell him who the Lizard is, although the white lab coat and purple pants should be a tip-off. The Torch is a super-hero who has dealt with plenty of odd situations. I’m sure he’d understand. But, since Spidey doesn’t do that, the Torch (in an odd half-flame, half-flesh face reminiscent of Ditko’s half-Spidey, half-Peter panels) replies, “You’ve gotta be kiddin’, fella!” Except he then offers to hear Spidey out only to be interrupted by the Lizard who tears a chunk of a ledge off of the building and throws it at the Torch. Johnny melts that “granite into soup” and then pursues the Lizard who has leapt to another building. He gets halted in mid-air when Spidey snags him with some asbestos webbing. (Is Spidey’s webbing always asbestos? Or did he have some on hand in his belt? Needless to say, this was before the asbestos ban. After all, we used to have asbestos blankets in classrooms in case of fire.) While Spidey and the Torch argue, the Lizard doubles back and knocks Spidey flat with a two-footed leap. The Torch responses with a fiery blast that knocks the Lizard flat. He then melts the asbestos webbing with “sub-nova heat.” I’m not sure what that is but you’d think it would affect Spidey who is only about ten feet away. It doesn’t affect the Lizard because he is gone again; this time crawling up a wall.

The Torch finds him and blasts him with two flame bursts (ZASSK! and ZAZZT!), both of which miss. As he stands on a ledge, the Lizard fights back by knocking “chunks of cement with one swing of [his] tail” off the building. This proves to be a bad idea. Not only does he miss the Torch (it’s not like he was even aiming) but the ledge crumbles and Liz takes a tumble. Thinking, “Can’t let him die!” Spidey swings in and grabs him with his webbing.

And now, the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins. Stan doesn’t even bother to come up with a fancy alliterative name, just calling it “The Latest and Greatest Goodies from Maniacal Marvel.” I’m only going to spotlight one item (presented as two items) and Stan’s Soapbox, both of which are important to our concerns. In the Item, Stan tells us, “Remember years ago, when we started the MMMS? We promised we wouldn’t just swear you in and forget about you. Then what happened? We forgot about you! Naw, we didn’t really – but what DID happen is – our mags became so much more popular than we ever dreamed they would and we became so much busier than we ever expected to that we just never had the time to do all the things we had hoped to do with our swingin’ little club.” Then, in the next Item, he says, “We had the greatest stroke of luck the other day. We met a fanatical Marvelite who also happens to be a most talented California executive. He’s so impressed with our mags, and our club membership roster that he made us a fantastic offer, which we’ve just accepted. From now on, the MMMS will be incorporated into a fabulous parent organization named MARVELMANIA INTERNATIONAL! Because of this great new development, there’ll be an entire new company, independent of your Bullpen, working around the clock to make your club exactly what you want it to be. So, watch for the exciting announcements about Marvelmania International in our mags and remember – you won’t be watching alone, We’re as anxious to see what’s coming next as you are!”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? In fact, I’m going to review Marvelmania Magazine #1 next time. But here’s John Wells, writing in American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1960s (1965-1969): “Marvel’s in-house Merry Marvel Marching Society had recently fallen by the wayside – Martin Goodman saw it as a drain on profits – but Chip Goodman had made contact with a man named Don Wallace in California who was interested in licensing the Marvel heroes for products he’d sell through the mail. Once Wallace agreed to absorb the MMMS membership kits into his catalog, a deal for $10,000 was struck and Marvel began loaning the entrepreneur artwork – most of it by Jack Kirby – for illustration purposes. Early Marvelmania employee Steve Sherman added, though, that he believed Wallace never paid more than half of the agreed-upon fee. Wallace benefited greatly from the expertise of prominent Los Angeles fan Mark Evanier, a 17-year-old whose claims to fame then included the creation of a ranking system for Marvel collectors – i.e., ‘Real Frantic One’ or ‘Fearless Front Facer’ – that the company had adopted in 1967. ‘[Wallace] thought he was buying the rights to the Captain Marvel that Billy Batson turned into,’ Evanier sighed. ‘That’s how much he knew about comics and why he needed me.’ The young man was installed as editor of the Marvelmania fan magazine and Steve Sherman was named production supervisor. ‘At the time, Marvel was claiming, I believe, that they published six million comics a month,’ Evanier noted. ‘Well, that meant that they had about 25 titles were selling 200,000 to 300,000. But [Wallace] had this notion that there were six million Marvel fans out there’ and ordered product to sell accordingly. Once he realized that he was losing money on the deal, ‘Uncle Don’ – as Evanier sarcastically called him – ‘began siphoning money from the company to set up his next Get Rich Quick scheme and, suddenly, no one was getting the Silver Surfer posters they’d ordered.’ Incidents like Wallace’s payment to fans of loaned Jack Kirby art had raised Evanier and Sherman’s suspicions and they finally made a clandestine examination of their boss’ files. ‘We found hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of unpaid bills for previous companies under various permutations of his first and last names,’ Evanier revealed. ‘We cleaned up our ends of things as much as we could and quit – but not before we’d called everyone who was doing business with Marvelmania (Like Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, and, of course, Kirby) and advised them of what was going on.’ The fan club was officially disavowed in the December 1971-dated Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page and Don Wallace – a day before he was to appear in court regarding an earlier scam – vanished into the night.”

Now, here’s Stan’s Soapbox: “This is it, gang! An announcement so momentous that it’s taken us months to get up the nerve to make it! Starting as soon as possible, we’re abandoning our policy of continued stories! Yep, than [sic] means we’ll try to make every Marvel masterwork complete in each issue! Our mail has been running 50-50 for and against, and since we personally preferred the continued yarns, we kept them going. But, we finally decided that the other 50% of Marveldom should have equal rights, and it’s always exciting to make a change. It’s gonna make our job much tougher – we’ll have to shorten our plots – perhaps tone down on our sub-plots, and tighten our pacing. But it’s the least we can do for our rollickin’ readers, and it’ll be fun to see how it works out. A few current tales may take another ish or two to wrap up, and occasionally we HAVE to present a two-parter – but, by and large, we’ve given up our continued stories till further notice! Now, for the love of Odin, write as soon as you can and tell us how you feel about it. If we’re making another bonehead mistake, next month’s column may be written by Irving Forbush!” This new policy will start affecting us in our very next issue.

Now, we look in on Martha and Billy Connors in their Midtown hotel room. They are listening to the radio and learn that Spider-Man and the Lizard (who I guess is now known by everyone) “have been observed battling among the rooftops north of the Gramercy Park area.” (Somewhere around E. 14th to E. 23rd Streets.) The radio adds that “the Human Torch has also joined the attack” and Martha worries about this because “Nobody – except Spider-Man and ourselves – knows that the Lizard is really Dr. Curt Connors.” (That’s right. She doesn’t say “the Lizard is really your dad” or “the Lizard is really Curt.” She says “the Lizard is really Dr. Curt Connors.”) Billy leaves the room and a tearful Martha thinks he is leaving to hide his own tears. But Billy is soon out on the street. He is in search of his father. “Maybe if I find him…there’ll be something I can do!” (I don’t know where in Midtown Martha and Billy are staying but it’s got to be a long walk to Gramercy Park.)

Back at the battle, the Torch pulls the Lizard by the tail to keep him from continuing to “belt” Spidey. Liz swings around and socks Johnny with a BTOK! He, then, grabs a ledge and heads for the waterfront. “Once I reach the river,” he explains to himself, “the battle will be mine! Water is a lizard’s natural element!” It is “seconds later” that he arrives at the docks. (I’m not sure he should have gotten to the river so fast.) Spidey and the Torch have spent their time arguing. “Thanks to your interference, the Lizard reached the waterfront!” Torchy says, but how does he know? They don’t seem to be near the waterfront. Johnny starts to fly away to get to the Lizard but Spidey webs him by the foot, then sticks the other end of the web to a building, I presume, since the webbing on the building is off-panel. As Spidey swings toward the waterfront, he thinks that “something the Lizard said before about water being his natural element gave me an idea!” Which should teach the Lizard to talk to himself aloud that way. “Everything depends upon me getting him alone and then finding what I need in one of the warehouses below! And that means keeping the Torch out of my hair…somehow!” But the Torch has already freed himself from the webbing and he flies down to the Lizard who is, for some reason, terrorizing a ship’s crew by swinging a mast at them. When the Torch arrives, he does what he should have done to begin with: jump in the water!

The Torch can’t follow but he can “boil the surface of the water using modified short-burst thermal blasts!” This appears to knock Liz unconscious but, when Spidey dives in to rescue him, it turns out that Liz is playing possum. The Lizard grabs Spidey, who responds by twisting the Lizard’s collar around his neck, cutting off his air supply and knocking him out. This seems like a rather weird tactic, not only because you’d figure Liz could resist it just as he has resisted everything else so far, but also because they’re underwater. Any breath the Lizard has, he’s already taken. There’s no air supply for Spidey to cut off.

If that isn’t bad enough, once surfacing, Spidey gets rid of the Torch by telling him, “While under the water, my spider-sonic hearing picked up a distress call from the Fantastic Four!” Johnny buys this and, thinking his partners are in trouble, flies off. I imagine that Stan got a kick out of writing this silly scene so I won’t be too hard on it but, really, all Spidey had to do from the start was tell the Torch that his spider-sense picked up a distress call and spare us about 14 pages of this issue.

With the Torch gone, Spidey picks up the Lizard and takes him to a warehouse. He seems to be in a back alley but, somehow, Billy Connors finds him. “What happened?” he wonders, “Why is [his dad] so still?” That’s a good question, Billy! All Spidey did was choke him for a few seconds. Spidey smashes a hole in the wall to get in, then hangs the unconscious Lizard in webbing from the ceiling. “A place like this just has to have what I’m looking for!” he states and it isn’t long (it’s the next panel) that he finds it. “Those drums of chemicals! That’s it!” While Spidey is hefting one of those drums (labeled CaCl2, namely Calcium Chloride), Billy enters. He walks past the Lizard who is just waking up. Slashing his way out of the webbing, the Lizard attacks Billy, who calls for help. “That sounds like…Bobby Connors!” says Spidey, who has forgotten Billy’s first name. Spidey hurries over with his CaCl2 barrel and is relieved to see that Billy has fainted and that the Lizard has not hurt him. (“The way he’s looking at him…as though, in some dim recess of his tortured brain…he remembers…what he was!”)

The Lizard drops Billy when he sees Spidey, declaring, “Now, all that remains is to crush you!” “Not if this dehydrating powder will do its job, you won’t!” says Spidey as he rips open the barrel with a SKRUNNCH! He dumps the powder on the Lizard who recoils from its effect. Then the dehydrating triggers “a chemical reaction…causing a new transformation…until [he’s] Dr. Connors once again!”

Curt goes to comfort his son, asking him if the Lizard hurt him. “The Lizard wouldn’t ever hurt me,” says Billy. (Wrong!) And we skip to the reunion of Curt, Martha, and Billy back at the hotel. Spidey takes his leave and perches on top of a tower as he muses, “The only thing I’ve got to worry about is…meeting the Torch after he realizes he’s been had! But, after some of the problems I’ve been living with…a hassle with that human matchstick could seem like swinging vacation!”

And Stan kills the buzz by giving us a final blurb: “And, speaking of problems…perhaps it’s just as well that Spidey doesn’t suspect that he will next confront…The Prowler!”

A tiny “Two More Triumphs for Marvel” on the next page, highlighting Thor #168, September 1969 (“Galactus Found!”) and Tower of Shadows #1, September 1969 which brings us back to American Comic Book Chronicles: the 1960s: 1965-1969: “Martin Goodman and Stan Lee were …exulting over the fact that their decade-long distribution deal with Independent News was finally at an end. Effective with the same October-dated issues that announced Marvelmania, Marvel had its comics distributed by the Perfect Film-owned Curtis Circulation…and it could publish as many of them as it wanted.” This distribution problem originally came about because, in 1956, Martin Goodman lost his distributor. In Ditko Shrugged, David Currie writes, “Left stranded, with comic books in production but no means of shifting them to retail outlets, Goodman signed a highly restrictive distribution deal with industry leader DC Comics’ own distribution arm Independent News Company, which allowed only eight titles a month from the company to be produced.”

Back to American Comic Book Chronicles: “Once the Curtis deal began, Marvel tackled other categories, too, devoting places on the schedule for a returning Western… kid humor…romance…and horror,” namely Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows. Neither one lasted very long. CoD had 8 issues, ToS had 9. Both had reprint “Specials” a couple of years later.

On to the Spider’s Web, led by eventual comic book writer Donald F. McGregor of Providence, Rhode Island, who writes, “Spider-Man contains the elements of all superior literature. A strong supporting cast creates believability about the central characters. This is one area in which most strips fail. Yet, Spider-Man has all the complex attitudes of a huge metropolis. Scenes shift from newsrooms to police stations or college campuses. Social mores and current conflicts can be examined or commented upon.” Except, you know, in this particular issue.

Bill Labrie of Athabasca, Alberta, Canada says, “The return of the Shocker was excellent, [in ASM #72, May 1969] but you certainly should have kept him around for another issue because we probably won’t be seeing him again for two years or so.” Try six and a half years, Bill. He’s not back until ASM #151, December 1975.

Dirck L. Van Sickle of New York City, New York says, “Something should be changed with Aunt May” and offers “Introduce a brilliant young doctor – May could develop a tumor, say, and out of gratitude, Dr. Connors could put Spidey in touch with him. Only he can save Aunt May, but he would have to use a radical new technique he’d been working on but which was not yet perfected or tested. Time is short. Aunt May is wheeled into the Marvelmachine, and the switch is thrown. Next issue, we discover all did not go right. May is alive but her bodily readings are changed. All of Marveldom assembles around to watch (what else) the birth of a new super hero, albeit an aged one. The first of the Senior Superheroines! (The Golden Oldie?) How’s that strike you, guys?” It didn’t strike Stan particularly well, writing “it’s not really our bag to turn either toddlin’ tykes or aging octogenarians (which May isn’t, by the way) into superheroes or supervillains!” Well, not yet, Stan. But, eventually, there will be Katie Power for the toddlin’ tyke set and as for The Golden Oldie…I wonder if Dirck was still paying attention when Mike Carlin and Greg LaRocque turned May into a superhuman with exactly that name in Marvel Team-Up #137, January 1984?

The “Next” blurb at the bottom of the page says, “The Newest Super-Villain!” but, really, he’s neither super nor villain, although he is the newest.

General Comments

Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)

  1. It’s the sixth appearance for the Lizard who will take a couple of years off and be back (along with his alter ego, Curt Connors) in ASM #101, October 1971
  2. Martha and Billy Connors will not join Curt in that issue. They both return in, of all places, Marvel Feature #4, July 1972 with Martha not appearing again in a Spidey mag until Giant-Size Spider-Man #5, July 1975 and Billy in spider-limbo until ASM #165, February 1977.
  3. I’m a little shaky on the number of times the Human Torch has shared a comic with Spidey but I decided last issue that this issue is the nineteenth. I’m even shakier on the next time they meet but I think it’s Marvel Team-Up #1, March 1972. Would somebody please let me know if I’m wrong?
  4. Don McGregor has another letter published in the Spider’s Web. I haven’t counted how many that is but his last one was in ASM #63, August 1968.
  5. No Gwen, no Harry, no MJ, no Aunt May, no JJJ, no Robbie, no Randy, no Flash, no Anna Watson, no Betty, no Ned, not even any Josh Kittling in this issue.
  6. The Torch gets the half human face treatment that Spidey usually gets.
  7. Apparently, Spidey has whipped up a batch of asbestos webbing in case he runs into the Torch.
  8. It now appears that everyone knows about the Lizard. At least the radio announcer does and he blabs it to everyone.
  9. The Lizard heads to the waterfront because “water is a Lizard’s natural element,” then wastes time terrorizing a ship docked there.
  10. Spidey’s cockamamie invention of “spider-sonic hearing” to fake out the Torch actually works!
  11. Billy runs out of his Midtown hotel and somehow finds Spidey and the Lizard in an East River warehouse district.
  12. Fourteen pages of Spidey battling the Lizard battling the Torch leaves us with not a whole lot.
  13. Sound effects in the battle include SKRAKK!, ZZISST!, ZASSK!, ZAZZT!, VURRAK!, BTOK!, SPAK!, SPTHUPP!, KRRAK!, and, of course, THWIPPP! Some of what seem to be the hardest blows create no sound effect at all.

The Spider-Man checklist entry for this issue (exactly as written):

J. Buscema-Mooney/Lee/Rosen
“In the Blaze of Battle” – Spidey must defeat the Lizard before H.T. does.”

Overall Rating

It’s page after page of senseless battle (Spidey, just tell the Torch that the Lizard’s alter ego is someone you don’t want harmed, already!) that ends when Spidey gets rid of Johnny by inventing “spider-sonic hearing” and defeats the Lizard by cutting off his windpipe when he’s not breathing anyway! It doesn’t feature a single regular supporting character (Martha and Billy don’t count). It wants us to believe that Billy (or as Spidey calls him, “Bobby”) finds Spidey and the Lizard just as Spidey breaks into a warehouse, that the Lizard regains consciousness and escapes Spidey’s web just in time to menace Billy and that Spidey turns the Lizard back into Curt Connors by using calcium chloride to dehydrate him. (Actually, I rather like that last part.) Did I mention that Spidey appears to have taken his pants off (page 18, panel 4) in order to administer the CaCl2? And as for Billy’s belief that “the Lizard wouldn’t ever hurt me,” sorry Billy. The Lizard kills and EATS YOU in ASM #631, July 2010, which doesn’t prevent Billy from eventually coming back.

I hate giving this issue the lowest rating I’ve given to an ASM issue yet but there’s really just nothing here.


Next: Didn’t I already tell you? Marvelmania Magazine (1969 One Shot) #1

 Posted: 11 Mar 2024
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)