Spider-Man Newspaper Strip: 10 April 1978 - 2 July 1978

 Posted: 3 Mar 2024
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


Peter returns from his Hollywood trip where he had a big letdown of an adventure that earned our lowest web-rating for the strip so far. Maybe the return of Dr. Doom will improve matters.

Story 'Dr. Doom's Robots'

Back in Queens, Peter visits Aunt May and gives her a (non-autographed?) picture of George Burns, which makes May’s day. The next day, Peter visits the Daily Bugle and offers two pictures of Spider-Man fighting Mysterio to J. Jonah Jameson for $200. Jonah grumbles but gives in when Peter threatens to take the pics elsewhere. At Empire State University, Peter runs into Carole and asks her if she has heard anything from Tana. (Remember Tana? It seemed as if Peter didn’t for the whole Mysterio storyline.) “I really blew it in that league!” Peter tells Carole. “Mary Jane ditched me for show biz and Tana’s written me off, too! “ “Oh Peter,” thinks Carole, “if you weren’t so blind, you’d realize some of us never even got a chance at bat!”

Later, Spidey web-swings over the city, noting how many pigeons get in his way. But he doesn’t notice a strangely-vibrating one “whose purpose it is to endanger the species known as Spider-Man.” We’ll get back to that pigeon later but first we visit Latveria, “a mysterious kingdom in the heart of the Bavarian mountains,” which puts it somewhere between Germany and Austria. Is this where Latveria always is or is this just the strip-verse version?

Dr. Doom is the ruler of Latveria and, as he strolls down the street, he “kindly” speaks to a “splendid lad” who dared to approach him but then orders a man put in chains for daring to petition him “without royal consent.” Back in his castle, his assistant tells him that “your costumed prey has finally been sighted” and Spider-Man is shown on a large strangely-shaped monitor. Doom switches his view to a shot of Dr. Karl Lazlo’s home in Vienna. That view is provided by a “mecho-man” who knocks on Lazlo’s door. Lazlo recognizes that the “mecho-man” has come from Doom and vows to “never…serve the mad monarch of Latveria” but the mecho-man grabs him and brings him to a car driven by another mecho-man.

Meanwhile, Spidey changes back to Peter, returns to ESU and bumps into Carole again. Didn’t this just happen? Apparently not, since Peter says “Hey, Carole, long time no see” and Carole does not say, “You just saw me this morning.” Peter goes to the library, checks out a book, and becomes Spidey again. While this is happening, the mecho-man’s car sprouts wings and flies away from the pursuing police, soon landing in Latveria.

Back in New York, Peter ventures out as Spidey and sees someone about to jump off a bridge. He doesn’t notice the one pigeon that is following him again and, this time, we can see that it is a robot. Dr. Doom can be seen on a viewscreen in its belly. Spidey gets close enough to see that the “jumper” is J. Jonah Jameson.

The pigeon emits a smoke screen preventing anyone below to see what’s going on. When Spidey confronts Jameson, asking him why he wants to jump, Jonah replies that his death will be blamed on the web-slinger. Then, he jumps into the fog, where he becomes a “disintegrating collage of wires, circuits, and plasti-skin,” because he is not Jameson but another of Doom’s robots. Spidey leaps after him but loses him in the fog. He searches the river but finds no trace. “It’s impossible! I wasn’t more than a second behind him! He must be here! He must!” But he isn’t.

Later, Peter visits the Daily Bugle and is shocked that everyone (including Betty Brant and Robbie Robertson) can be so calm after JJJ’s suicide. Then, he walks into Jonah’s office and finds him there. He quickly apologizes and exits.

In Latveria, Doom shows Dr. Lazlo his “secret satellite-based viewscreen” along with the robot pigeon. (Has it flown all the way back to Latveria or is there more than one?) It turns out that Dr. Lazlo is “Europe’s most famous psychiatrist” and Doom wants him to use his skill to destroy Spider-Man. Back in Manhattan, Peter returns to the bridge and wonders if he imagined the whole JJJ suicide. Maybe, he thinks, he’s going mad. He is so lost in thought that he steps in front of a car that hits him hard enough to “dent the grill,” but the preoccupied Peter just walks away.

Back again in Latveria, Doom has shown his ravaged face to Lazlo to show he does not wear the mask “to instill fear in the hearts of [his] subjects” as Lazlo alleges. Doom tells him that he is the only one who has seen his “naked face,” because “you will never be able to reveal what you have beheld.” Lazlo thinks Doom means to kill him but, instead, Doom traps him in his “laser mind-probe,” which drains “every iota of scientific knowledge” from his brain. He orders Lazlo returned to his home. “He will remember nothing,” he says. (It looks like he won’t even regain consciousness.)

Peter, meanwhile, screws up “the most important exam of the semester” because he can’t stop wondering if he is going mad. Soon after, as Spider-Man, he encounters Dr. Octopus. “First Jameson was alive after I saw him die! Now Doc Ock is attacking me when I know he’s in jail! Has the whole world gone mad? Or is it me?”

In Latveria, Doom looks in on Spidey, then on Lazlo, who is back home in his dressing gown, smoking a pipe and reading a book. He has no idea that the knowledge that Doom took from him is now in a computer’s memory bank and soon to be “transferred to [Doom’s] ultimate weapon…the robot that will vanquish Spider-Man!”

As Doom watches from his robot pigeon, Spidey finally gets a punch in at Ock but it goes right through him because Ock is not really there. As Ock fades away, Spidey wonders “Is the spider venom in my blood driving me insane?” Doom gloats over the success of his Dr. Octopus hologram but “now it’s time for the unsuspecting Spider-Man to be destroyed by the real thing!” The real Ock? No, Doom’s ultimate weapon robot.

So, Doom ships his robot to the Latverian Embassy, “East of Madison Avenue.” Meanwhile, afraid he’s losing his mind, Peter Parker turns on the TV and sees psychiatrist Dr. Janet Wynn on the Dick Cavett show saying that “violent people are mentally disturbed!” She predicts that Spidey “will slowly but surely lose touch with reality! And he’ll never realize that analysis might have saved him!”

Unable to sleep, Spidey “takes to the rooftops” where his webbing is mysteriously severed. He lands on a web cushion, only to face Kraven the Hunter, who claims he cut the webbing with a “razor-sharp shark’s tooth,” although it was actually caused by the robot pigeon. “Kraven” is another of Doom’s robots and he captures Spidey in a net and then taunts him that “the rumors are true…you must be cracking up!” Spidey breaks free of the net but Kraven conceals himself to implement “phase 2,” where his appearance changes to that of New York Mayor Ed Koch, who pulls a gun on the web-slinger. Knowing he can’t defend himself against the Mayor, Spidey cowers on the ground. “He reached the breaking point, exactly as predicted,” says Doom in the pigeon. (You’d think Spidey might hear that.) Then Doom has the Mayor hide himself and self-destruct with a “SHOOSH!” (You’d think Spidey might hear that, too.) Convinced that he is out of control, Spidey tracks down “the psychiatrist I saw on TV last night” at her office. She agrees to treat him. (Was Spidey out all night? When he first encountered “Kraven,” it was because he couldn’t sleep after watching TV but now he saw Dr. Wynn “last night.”)

Wynn leads Spidey to her couch and asks for his name, age, and whether his parents are living. Spidey refuses to reveal these things, “not even to you!” She tells him to calm down and tell her his problem but, as he does so, he sees Ock, Kraven and Ed Koch coming through the wall. Wynn tells him they aren’t there which makes Spidey grab his head and cry out, “I am going mad!” Still, he leaps at his “attackers” and smacks into the wall. Wynn tells him that his hour is up (that went by fast!) but that he should be careful because he’s “growing more violent.”

Back home, Peter gets a visit from Aunt May, which doesn’t go well since he’s so freaked out about his sanity. After she leaves, he goes web-slinging again. Doom’s pigeon has no trouble finding him and dropping a disc on his back that causes dizziness. Again, Spidey falls, saving himself, this time, with a web-hammock. Unwilling to chance web-slinging, he clings to the side of a truck which, fortunately, is heading near Dr. Wynn’s office. There, he dozes on her couch only to wake up and find everything, including Dr. Wynn, upside-down. When he blurts this out, she says, “I feared this would happen! Your spider identity has finally taken control! You’re seeing things as a spider would – hanging from a ceiling.” She tells him that the only way to “banish your madness” is by “banishing Spider-Man” by revealing “your true identity.” Spidey can’t bring himself to do that (“It would hurt someone who loves me!”) and leaps out the window. Confused, vulnerable, unwilling to “climb or crawl anymore,” the web-slinger walks home.

Once there, he decides that “Spider-Man must die” to preserve his sanity. He throws his costume into a trash can and the “power-drain disc” falls off. Spying it, Peter figures out that it was affecting his powers. “It’s part of a plan to shake my confidence!” he says, “But who? Why?” I’m also asking why. Doom’s plan was working just fine without the disc. Ah, but then, if there was no disc, Peter wouldn’t be able to start figuring it out. Except…Spidey takes the disc to Dr. Wynn attached to a bit of webbing and, when he gets there, the disc is gone. Completely rattled and believing the disc was also a hallucination, Spidey starts to remove his mask for Dr. Wynn. Outside, Doom gets frustrated that he can’t see the culmination of his triumph from his robot pigeon and flies into the room. (Why didn’t he just put a camera on Dr. Wynn?) The pigeon sets off Spidey’s spider-sense, which it hasn’t done before. He sees it and Doom’s face on it, then he snags it with his webbing. Unable to see, Doom steers the pigeon into Dr. Wynn’s arm, giving off “the sound of metal striking metal!” With that, Spidey knows that Dr. Wynn is one of Doom’s robots. “She” removes her Dr. Wynn mask and reveals herself as the ultimate weapon robot. (Doom had no trouble creating a robot who changed from Kraven to Ed Koch so I don’t think he needed this robot to wear a rubber Wynn mask.) Removing all of its Wynn disguise, the robot attacks and crashes through a wall to reveal the upside-down room on the other side.

Spidey clings to the ceiling but the robot can climb walls too. Doom’s pigeon has somehow gotten free of the webbing and causes bars to cover the windows. With both Spidey and the robot clinging to the ceiling in the upside-down room, Spidey reaches into the desk drawer and finds an oil can (because the robot is like the Tin Woodsman of Oz, I suppose). He squirts oil on the ceiling. The robot slips on it and falls to the floor with a PLANKK! Now, a “worthless compendium of wires and steel,” the robot is defeated. (THIS is the ultimate weapon?) As the Doom pigeon yells at his robot to get up, Spidey grabs him. “Time, wealth and patience are on my side! I’ll crush you yet!” says the pigeon. “Hey, who writes your dialogue…Darth Vader?” says Spidey (Vader had been around only about a year when this strip came out. Try to imagine that.) Then, Spidey crushes him. Not wanting to leave any evidence of his failure, Doom flips a switch and the brownstone housing Dr. Wynn’s office explodes with a BUTOOM! Back home, Peter is washing his costume when he spots a pigeon on his window sill. “Was I careless?” he wonders, “Did Doom follow and learn where I live?” (Which makes you wonder why Doom didn’t do that to begin with.) But no, it’s “just an ordinary pouter.” (An ordinary what? The Dictionary says a pouter is “a kind of pigeon able to inflate its crop considerably,” which I’d never heard before.) “I’ve gotta relax,” Peter tells himself, “Doom is beaten…at least for now! So, my biggest problem is ring around the collar and that’s how I like it!” Except, meanwhile, as Aunt May gets her Social Security check from her mailbox, she is surrounded by three thugs. But that is another story.

General Comments

Here are this story’s “First appearances in the Spider-Verse:”

  1. George Burns (in photo), April 10, panel #4
  2. The robot pigeon, April 15, panel #4 (with Dr. Doom on the belly viewscreen), April 24, panel #3
  3. Latveria, April 16, panel #1
  4. Citizens of Latveria, April 16 panel #1, including the boy Doom calls a “splendid lad,” panel #1, and the man Doom puts in chains for daring to petition him without royal consent, panel #5
  5. Doom’s lackey who never gets a name, April 16, panel #8
  6. A Mecho-Man! (hand only, April 17, panel #3, full view April 18, panel #2)
  7. Dr. Karl Lazlo, April 18, panel #2
  8. The ineffective Austrian police (car only, April 21, panel #1, actual policemen, panel #3)
  9. The J. Jonah Jameson robot, April 23, panel #7
  10. A couple too busy kissing on a park bench to pay any attention to Spidey jumping into the river, April 29, panel 3
  11. The driver who hits Peter, only denting his car grill, May 7, panel #6
  12. Doom’s laser mind-probe, May 10, panel #4
  13. Doom’s ultimate weapon robot, May 14, panel #6, (as Dr. Janet Wynn), May 19, panel #1
  14. Dick Cavett, May 19, panel #1
  15. Mayor Ed Koch (but actually a Doom robot), May 24, panel #3
  16. Doom’s power drain disc, June 3, panel #2
  17. The three thugs (Angel, Whitey, and Jim Harper), shadow of one of them, July 1, panel #3, all shown, July 2, panel #6
  18. An Ordinary Pouter, July 2, panel #2

Overall Rating

Admittedly, there are cracks in Doom’s plans here. Why does he bother to abduct Dr. Karl Lazlo and probe his mind of its psychiatric brilliance, then implant it in his ultimate weapon robot if the only thing he’s going to do is have the robot dress up as Dr. Janet Wynn and come out with psychiatric platitudes that any hired actor could do? Why does Doom bother to have his face on his robot pigeon so that Spidey can immediately identify his foe…particularly when Doom tells his lackey “Remember he must never know it was Dr. Doom who sealed his fate! (June 10, panel #1). Why does Doom bother to fly his pigeon into the room just as he is about to triumph? Couldn’t he have a camera on his Wynn robot? If Doom can make robots that can change their form from Kraven to Ed Koch, why doesn’t he give the ultimate weapon robot a better disguise than a rubber Janet Wynn mask…and why doesn’t Spidey notice that his shrink’s face is not real? Does Doom really go to all this trouble just to discover Spidey’s secret identity? I thought he wanted to drive the web-slinger insane. Does the ultimate weapon really need to keep an oilcan in its desk drawer? How “ultimate” is it if a simple fall from the ceiling (PTLANKK!) does it in? And, does the whole plan really depend on Spidey watching the Dick Cavett show? What if the wall-crawler doesn’t have a television?

Also admittedly, much of the best of this story is lifted from Amazing Spider-Man #24, May 1965, including a bogus psychiatrist and an upside-down room.

Still, I enjoy the way Dr. Doom is a major Spidey villain in the strip-verse and this convoluted plot is a fun romp with a suicidal JJJ robot, Ed Koch wielding a gun and a robot pigeon with Doom looking out of its belly. Yes, the ending is a letdown but the ride is such a blast and it is so much better than the previous “Mysterio in Hollywood” story that I am tempted to ignore all its flaws and give it five webs.

No, I can’t justify that but I am giving it four and a half webs.


Next: No robots, no mind-probes, no upside-down rooms! We fall back to earth with “Aunt May and the Street Hoods.”

 Posted: 3 Mar 2024
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)