Really, the intent, of late, has not been to write about every Denny O'Neil-scripted issue of the Amazing Spider-Man. It's only working out that way. Here are two more of Denny's issues with the one and only appearance of the Sandman/Hydroman Mud-Thing.
It is seconds after Spider-Man put the wraps on two gunmen who were trying to kill Congressional candidate Barney Wicker in the previous issue. (See the Lookback of ASM #216 in the March PPP.) The wall-crawler accomplished this by pulling the lid off a rooftop water tower and dumping it on the bad guys. Now, exhausted from all he has gone through, Spidey webs the villains into a sack that he attaches to the water tower. Two policemen arrive on the scene. They are ready to hear Spidey's story of the assassination attempt. But before the webhead can tell it, a figure rises up out of the water tower. A man dressed in a blue t-shirt and blue jeans who is actually composed of pure water. He is Morrie Bench a.k.a Hydroman. (The covers always seem to call him Hydro-Man... with the hyphen... and the stories do not. Take your pick.)
The web-slinger's spider-sense signals danger just as Hydroman rises out of the water. Spidey is surprised to see him since he thought Hydroman died when they fought before. (In ASM #212, January 1981.) But the bad guy explains that, though he previously evaporated, he ended up mixing with the rain and re-combining in the water tower. He's been trapped inside, waiting a chance at escape... which has come only because Spidey knocked off the lid! (Of all the lids on all the towers on all the roofs in this town...) He thanks the wall-crawler by pummeling him with a hard jet of water.
As Spider-Man tries to recover, the two cops shoot at Hydroman, but the bullets go right through him. The villain leaps, apparently at the police, but he is actually escaping by diving down the storm drain. Spidey takes advantage of the diversion to run off. The poor cops are left holding the bag. One asks the other for help in writing the report on all this. He's not quite sure what to say.
Meanwhile, Spidey makes his way from Midtown Manhattan to the Staten Island side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. This is where the runners began the marathon in the previous issue. It is also where Spidey left his civvies, webbed up safely on the top of the bridge. (But it has to be more than an hour since he left them, so why is the webbing still there? Details, details.) He is worn out, "in no condition to fight", so he doesn't feel guilty about letting Hydroman go. In fact, he needs a diversion, something so he can "mellow out". So, changing to Peter Parker, he heads to the Griffith Theatre to see the film "Halloween II". (I kid you not.)
Peter buys one ticket, while ruminating that "the critics say the ending of this film is dynamite... absolutely impossible to guess". (I kid you not.) And, wouldn't you know it, just as Peter is entering the theatre, he runs into Debbie Whitman and Biff Rifkin coming out. (I kid you not.) Biff offers a hand to shake ("Press the palm, Petey", he says.), then, when Pete asks how the movie was, proceeds to give away the ending, telling Peter that "it was the grandmother who planted the bomb" and that having this knowledge ahead of time makes it pointless to see the movie. The couple leave, with Debbie looking down, ashamed. Peter can only glower at Biff's shabby stunt and head home, eating the price of the movie ticket... which he can barely afford.
Elsewhere, in a rundown part of town, the Sandman hangs out at the bar of Duffy's Pub. He has attracted the attention of a tough-looking, cigarette-smoking, pearl-necklace-and-low-cut-sleeveless-blouse-wearing redhead named Sadie who is fascinated by his stories of how he almost finished off the wall-crawler. She cuddles up close to him as he drinks from a bottle of beer. "I love a take-charge kinda guy", she says. Outside, Hydroman rises up from the sewers. He is coming to meet Sadie (who, by the way, is his girlfriend from ASM #212). He needs "a place to crash an' a little of her famous tender lovin' care". But, looking in the window, Morrie Bench sees Sadie in the arms of another man and he is not at all pleased with the situation.
At the same time, Peter arrives home, planning to watch some television. He passes by a tall neighbor in a cowboy hat. ("Howdy", is the greeting he gets from this neighbor.) This is the man, he thinks, who is the "late night country-and-western" singer. Then a short bearded quiet man passes him on the stairs. Pete wishes all his neighbors could be like this scholarly fellow.
When he reaches his apartment, Pete decides to forget the TV and fall right into bed... without getting out of his clothes. But two minutes after he falls asleep, the caterwauling country singer is back ("My pappy was a butcher, my mama cooked the meat. Ahh wuz the fathead that played out onna street.") and he's worse than ever.
Pete can't stand it any longer. He pounds on the wall, yelling at his neighbor to "Shut up!". But, he forgets his spider-strength and smashes a hole, twice the size of his head, in the wall. And there, sitting on his bed, guitar in hand, ten-gallon hat on head, and white cowboy boots on his feet, is the little scholarly man with the beard. He introduces himself as "Lonesome Pincus". Pete introduces himself, recognizing the "little guy I thought was so quiet". He doesn't know whether to laugh or cry... and decides to laugh.
--- But, back at Duffy's Pub, things are a bit more serious. Hyrdroman enters the establishment and socks the Sandman right in the jaw. The place empties out. ("I just remembered a dentist appointment", says one customer. "Me, I'm just chicken", says another.) The surprised Sandman sits on the floor with Morrie issuing threats above him. Then, he retaliates by lifting a bar stool and using it to smack Hydroman right in the face. Sadie is surprised to realize that the two villains are fighting over her, but the Sandman thinks it should more likely be termed a "slaughter". Forming one arm into an anvil-like wedge, he narrowly missestriking Morrie in the head. Only now does Hydroman recognize his opponent, but he's not impressed. He retaliates with a stream of water that shoves the Sandman back. Sandy forms his hands into large mace-like balls and moves in once again but Sadie breaks it up. She has just had herself a great idea.
The two men agree to a truce while they hear Sadie out. She leads them outside, an arm around each, as she explains that they should try to team up. Each is reluctant. The Sandman declares himself, "choosy about partners", while Hydroman states, "Me, I'm a loner". The trio walks by an appliance store and the Sandman, eager to impress Sadie, gets an idea. He asks her if she owns a color TV. When told "I can't even afford a photo album", Sandy uses giant fists to smash the window of the store and pull out a small color set. Sadie is stunned by the gesture but Hydroman is snide about it. "Only a nineteen inch screen, I notice", he says. Still, he's worried. The Sandman is making him "look like a piker". He needs to do something himself, if he wants to stay in Sadie's good graces. He notices a couple walking on the sidewalk across the street. The young woman is wearing a full-length mink coat. Morrie marches right over and takes the coat right off the woman's shoulders. Then he intimidates the man into agreeing that "a little bad weather", without benefit of a coat, would do the lady good.
Hydroman drapes the mink over Sadie's shoulders. Even though Sandman tries to ruin the moment that mentioning that "Minks are okay if you don't mind wearing dead weasels", Sadie, thanks to both her men, feels like a queen. "A hunnert percent queen", agrees Hydroman, his arm around her. "Two hundred percent", agrees Sandman, his arm around her.
At the Daily Bugle, Peter relates the "Lonesome Pinky" story to a mustachioed man at a desk. The man tells Peter about the the news story on which he is working. A fight between Sandman and Hydroman at Duffy's Pub over "some local floozy". Hearing this, Pete figures he might as well find the two villains before they eventually find him. He dons the Spidey duds and ventures out into a vicious rainstorm.
At the Pub, the bartender (Duffy?) is busy mopping the water off the floor. Spidey enters, leaping onto the bar, and asks for fight details. Duffy tells him that the two villains left with Sadie Prickett who "lives above the garage on the corner". Spidey departs by climbing up the outside wall. Poor Duffy can't believe Spidey is leaving without ordering anything. "I'll recommend your establishment to the Diner's Club", the webhead replies.
Over at Sadie's small apartment, the rivalry between the two men has heated up again. She gets in between them and tells them to "be nice" but this doesn't have the desired effect. The Sandman wraps turns his arm into a big sandy vice and pins his rival to the wall but Hydroman turns to water, slides through the Sandman's legs, then reforms behind him. He turns his hands to a big ball of water and covers the Sandman's face. "Let's see if you can breathe water", he says. But the two villains are separated by the sudden arrival of Spider-Man who crashes right through Sadie's window.
The two baddies declare a temporary truce to take on the web-slinger but Spidey counters by shooting webbing over Sandman's face and rolling Hydroman into a carpet. ("Maybe you'll accidentally clean it or something.") His spider-sense starts "buzzing like a power saw". While Spidey tries to decides which villain is causing the alarm, he fails to notice Sadie, sneaking up behind him with a lamp. In an instant, she smashes it across the back of Spidey's head.
Spidey is staggered by the blow. (In fact, he worries about a concussion.) Before he can get away, Hydroman frees himself from the carpet and pounces on the wall-crawler. The two of them fall out the window into the storm and onto some garbage cans. The Sandman decides he can't let Hydroman hog all the glory, "'specially not when Sadie's watching", so he leaps to the street to join the action. But all he does is distract Hydroman enough to allow Spidey to clear his head. A blow from the Sandman totals a parked car but Spidey isn't there anymore. He has leapt over to a street sign, which he pulls back like a slingshot and releases so that it pops Hydroman in the head. Then, he swings away, wondering why he didn't just didn't leave the two baddies to "beat each other to jelly".
Back on the street, three police cars show up and try to capture Sandman and Hydroman. Only, the villains attack with powerful streams of water and sand, knocking all the cops for a loop. The duo marches off toward the docks, looking to find the webhead and "break him into little pieces".
As the men walk by a warehouse, Spidey springs an ambush. He pushes several large wooden crates out of the warehouse's second story. The crates land squarely on Sandman and Hydroman. Spidey swings down to survey the scene of his victory. But Spidey seems to have forgotten that his opponents can change to water and sand. The Sandman, springs up out of the crates and clasps a hand around Spider-Man's leg. Then Hydroman appears and punches the wall-crawler smack in he jaw. This blow forces Sandman to release Spidey's leg but he just follows up that move by uprooting a lamppost and trying to swat our hero with it. Spidey manages to leap away, but he is woozy. If the bad guys are going to act as a team, he is in big trouble.
Spidey's leap takes him to the edge of the dock. He tries to get the two crooks to resume their rivalry by bringing up Sadie's name but this only intensifies the fury against him. Both Hydroman and Sandman lunge for the web-slinger. Spidey realizes this may give him a chance to pull "one of the oldest moves in the book". Using all of his speed, Spider-Man ducks, as the two villains collide into each other. Their water and sand combine, as they tumble into the river.
Spidey is wiped out. He knows he should call the Coast Guard to have them search for Sandy and Hydro but first he must rest. The storm is intensifying with winds gusting up to seventy miles an hour! But, as Spidey tries to recover, his spider-sense tingles. Something is behind him, rising out of the water. It is a monster, huge and faceless, with pupil-less white eyes (looking somewhat like a giant version of Fusion, actually). It is clearly composed of wet sand and wears remnants of the Sandman's favorite t-shirt. Yes, Sandman and Hydroman have somehow combined to become the Mud-Monster and Spidey has nowhere to run.