Spider-Man fighting the Hulk is never really a winning proposition. Just look at this cover. It looks like the Hulk's just broken Spidey's collarbone in three places and is ready to hit him hard enough to send most of his lower torso into orbit. And what is Spidey doing? He *eh* gets off one *feh* wussy punch, which completely whiffs over the Hulk's head. Jesus Spidey, with all your super-agility, how hard is it to hit the Hulk ? He's only seven feet tall, four feet across, and BRIGHT GREEN. Hard to miss.
But sadly, that's pretty much like every Spidey vs. Hulk battle in the main Marvel universe... except in this story, Spidey's high on laughing gas the whole time. I'm serious. Only here in Spidey Stoner Stories, er, I mean Spidey Super Stories!
A carnival has come to town, and Peter has gotten the day off to take Mary Jane. I don't know why he bothers to take her places anymore. Every single date they have, two minutes into it he's forced to give her some lame-ass excuse and ditch her. ("Oh, uh, I have to go, I forgot... um, I'm supposed to donate bone marrow for my Aunt's transplant surgery! At midnight!") Meanwhile, his date-killing Spider-sense (worse even than having your little brother ride in the backseat to the drive-in) is screaming at him that Major Pastry and his Croissant Corps are raiding the All-Nite Disco Bakery or something. And once again it's Spider-Man to the rescue, and Peter's love life to the crapper. It's *especially* dumb to take her to a high risk area like a carnival. You're just begging for trouble here. They already have all kind of weird circus freaks with unusually-shaped body parts running around. The odds one of them puts on some kind of yellow and lime green costume they made out of their underwear and messes up your play-date? High. Very High.
So a barker is running a cupie doll game, and Mary Jane says, "Try it! Peter! Win me a prize!" Why since you asked so nicely and all, Fraulein. Heil! I hate girls who are prize Nazis. Be it carnival games, or those crane machines in bowling alleys, nothing's more annoying than having to plunk dollar after dollar down and get really frustrated until you just want to break the machine open and it's not like there's any skill involved anyway but now it's a matter of masculine honor and your woman is watching and she finally says, Here, let me do it and she is even worse and than you and you both leave in disgust. *Ahem* Uh, no personal reference here, no sir. Seriously woman, next time just point to what you want, and I'll go bribe the bowling attendant with $5 to open up the machine and go take the damn thing out.
Anyway Peter "P-whipped" Parker immeadiately plunks down the change. The object of this game is to knock down some dolls balanced on a far ledge by throwing a baseball. However, shocker of shockers, the barker's game is crooked. (No! A crooked carnival game? Next you'll be telling me Liberace was gay!) There's a man behind the ledge who has a little lever that raises a piece of wood behind the cupie dolls. A very large piece of wood that no person who doesn't legally require a seeing eye dog would ever not notice. Yet they've managed to continue this scam for "years". So Peter's forcefully thrown baseball scores a direct hit on one of the dolls... and bounces right off, because it's now leaning against a wooden ledge that he somehow doesn't see.
Mary Jane says, "Peter! You said you could do this!"
God, is this ever starting to sound like my love life. Um... to clarify for sexy women in the reading audience, what Eric meant to say was, "God, is this ever starting to sound like Margaret Thatcher's love life." That's better.
So Peter decides to try again. He pays for another ball, and throws it this time "using his Spider-strength." Now, that I can buy that as something Peter can do. What I don't really get is how he makes this single ball then clone itself eight times in mid-flight and knocks down ALL NINE of the cupie dolls, each with a DIFFERENT ball, and shatters the little wooden cheater wall behind them. This is what it shows - 1st panel: Peter throws one ball at the cupie dolls. Next panel: Nine balls simultaneously strike every cupie doll with perfect accuracy. I don't even know how you'd classify this power. Hmmm.... still better than anything Aquaman's got, though.
But I know, it'd sure be useful in football. Just imagine John Madden announcing this: "The quarterback is looking long, he throws the ball, wait, uh... now there's nine of them. Huh. *3 minute pause* So, in the final tally for that play, we have two incomplete passes, a touchdown, two interceptions, a quarterback sneak, and three rushes. Man, this takes even longer than when we had every penalty on big screen instant replay and the audience phoned in their vote. Which always resulted in a penalty of 'mascot crotch kick'. Fun times, those."
So Peter wins Mary Jane little stuffed animal versions of Captain America, the Hulk and Spider-Man with his insane "clone-throw" power. Then he plunks more money down, just because he can, and "as only seconds go by, the barker is out of prizes and must close!" Yeah, Peter, thanks for destroying the poor guy's livelihood. You crushed all his carnival dreams of one day having a ring toss game, or maybe if he tries really hard, the one where you race numbered rubber duckies around in a kid's swimming pool. That's the good life.
So Mary Jane is wandering around with at least 20 different stuffed Marvel characters Peter won for her (including the ever popular 'stuffed Moon Knight' Really! Aw, he's a cutie) and she says, "This is the best carnival I remember!" Which means one of two things: Either 1) she enjoys getting people fired and putting them out of business, in which case she should either become President or a repo-woman; or 2) she just has the memory of a heavily caffeinated lemur, and doesn't remember her own last name, much less some other carnival some day other than today.
So Peter 'Monsieur Romance' Parker says "Hey! Let's go over there!" And while I was hoping he was at least talking about the "Tunnel of Extreme Making-Out in Little Swan Cars", it turns out he just wanted to go into the "Hall of Mirrors". Oh, how exciting! Now we get to see twice as many drawings of Peter walking around and not doing anything at all! Wait for the poster of this one, people!
So while they're waiting in line for the Hall of Mirrors, Peter helps MJ squeeze all 20-odd stuffed Marvel characters into her purse. A very normal sized purse, not much bigger than her hand. That could not reasonably fit in even one of these giant stuffed animals, each as long as her arm, much less TWENTY. The purse has to be denser than uranium after packing them all in. God, we better hope it's not possible to get nuclear fusion from stuffed animal material, 'cause if she accidentally dropped the purse, it'd be good-bye Eastern Seaboard.
So some kid in ahead of them in line has a "hand-held radio", which back in the 1970s is approximately the size of a small Buick. The radio says, "The Hulk has been seen in the area! People are warned to stay indoors!" Yeah... staying indoors, that's a great Hulk defense. Why didn't we all think of that sooner? Gosh, it takes almost half a second longer for the Hulk to collapse a building on our heads than to just turn our bones into a fine mealy powder with his bare hands. I think if I was the radio announcer, it'd be more like "The Hulk has been seen in the area! People are warned to quickly find a major religion with a conception of the afterlife!"
So Peter and MJ completely ignore the Hulk warning, and go on into the Hall of Mirrors. Apparently the carnival owners realize how damn boring a Hall of Mirrors is, because as you go inside, they squirt each person with a large cloud of LAUGHING GAS. That's right, the carnival will get you high for free, with a near-lethal dose of nitrous oxide. Ha ha! Peter and MJ start laughing and are unable to stop for the next four panels. Is it really safe to have people laugh so hard they forget to breathe? No one seems to think this is at all unusual. I guess it was the 1970s, the decade when people did more cocaine than they drank water, so this was no biggie.
Man, those bygone crazy days of the mid-70s, when they could quasi-legally squirt you with laughing gas in public so everybody had a better time. And also when you could still go and X-Ray your feet at shoe stores (allegedly to see if your shoes 'fit' well) anytime you wanted, or at least until they no longer fit in the machine because of all the cancerous growths. Man, they had all the fun back then. Consumer safety can kiss my ass.
So MJ and Peter go inside and laugh like people very high on laughing gas and they're like "Oh is that you *bonk* No that's just a mirror! *uncontrollable snort laughing* Hahahahaha" Yeah, our hero, role model for all ages. Drugs can be fun!
Meanwhile, they personally laugh so hard that their laughter carries over to the next panel and they wake up the Hulk. The Hulk is sleeping in a giant auto tire recycling plant, which I guess is right next to the carnival. Yes, one often has carnivals in the middle of industrial wastelands. He hears all the "Hahahahahaha!"ing from Peter and MJ's psychedelic experience. And the Hulk thinks, "Hulk hear laughing! People laughing at Hulk again!" MJ must have the most obnoxious high-pitched laugh on God's Green Earth if the Hulk can hear her three counties away while sleeping in the middle of a factory.
So the Hulk decides to leap over to the carnival to stop the people from laughing at him. He lands, and people start running and screaming, etc., as they damn well should. At the first sight of the Hulk, Peter ditches MJ so she can be trampled by the fleeing crowd and rushes off to change into Spidey.
Meanwhile, in a very weird panel, the police arrive with a paddywagon truck, and rather than try and stop the Hulk or something, they tell all the fleeing people to pack themselves into the jail part of the truck. "Step up! We'll take you someplace safe!" the cops say. Yeah... last time I fell for the old 'flee-into-the-back-of-the-police-truck' routine, I spent seven hours in interrogation until they forced me to admit I was really a Libyan citizen named Al-Agrari who supplied black market Viagra to vice-presidential candidates. Boy, you shoulda seen the look on my lawyers face that time... But MJ goes right along and hops in the police van, and they all flee the scene or something. Even what with the body cavity searches, this is probably a heck of a lot smarter than what Spidey does next.
So Spidey confronts the Hulk ("Uh, hey, don't do that. Please?"), and the Hulk rips out a telephone pole and throws it at Spidey. Spidey dodges, but is all worried about bystanders, so he jumps on another telephone pole connected to the same tent (How many telephone poles does a circus tent need?), and he shoots a web and catches the first telephone pole in mid-flight. (Following me so far?) So then the Hulk notices Spidey there and slams into the telephone pole Spidey is on, and it goes flying, with Spidey and the first telephone pole still attached. So net result after all that effort: TWO telephones poles and Spider-Man all go flying to land on various innocent bystanders. So Spidey's 'plan' had about the same effect as asking him to fix the leak in your sink, and instead he goes and clogs up your toilet and then charges you for it. Maybe we better just write this plan off to the laughing gas.
Hulk: People laugh at Hulk! Hulk smash!
Spidey: So THAT's why he's angry!
But Spidey doesn't know what to do about it, so he shoots some webs at the Hulk's legs and trips him so he falls flat on his face in the dirt. It doesn't really hurt Hulk or even slow him down, but Spidey sure thinks it's funny. Yeah, and I bet it really helps in convincing the Hulk that nobody's laughing at him. Then Spidey plays "leapfrog-over-Hulk's-back" for a panel, then he runs in the Hall of Mirrors and grabs six giant mirrors and drags them outside using only his webs. These mirrors are taller than he is, yet he manages to do it without breaking a single one. So he sets all these mirrors in a semi-circle around the Hulk, who rather passively just sorta sits there the whole time.
Once they're in place, the Hulk suddenly jumps up and decides that he's just gotta smash something RIGHT NOW. Hulk sees a merry-go-round horse, and says "Hulk smash horse thing!" And the Hulk is too stupid to look behind him, and "smashes" the mirror image of the horse-thing, instead of the actual horse thing. That's Spidey's whole plan to prevent massive property damage - to have the Hulk smash giant mirrors instead. Which sorta works, except for the fact that an eight foot-tall mirror is about 10,000 times more expensive than some plastic horse on a merry-go-round. I'm an astronomer, I know all about how expensive mirrors are. (Plus, there's the one I bought for the ceiling... uh, nevermind.)
So while the Hulk is busy for all of ten seconds smashing things he sees in these mirrors (and yes, he's completely fooled by them), Spidey runs back into the Hall of Mirrors, and finds a portable Laughing Gas backpack tank and spray gun just lying around. Man, not only does this carnival's buildings squirt you with laughing gas for free, but apparently workers go around with portable laughing gas tanks and go squirt random people! Wow. Those carnival people are insanely dedicated to making sure everyone is having maximum fun all of the time. If you didn't go around laughing like a hyena every moment at their carnival, I'm sure their crack unit of Laughing Gas Commando Clowns would swing into action and make sure you get a healthy lungful or ten.
The Hulk has finished smashing the other mirrors, and he again just waits around like an extra-passive cow while Spidey grabs "the last of the mirrors" and sets the six of them up again in a semi-circle around Hulk. He then says "Stand still Hulk! What do you see?" And the Hulk actually does stand still, because you know how much he loves people telling him what to do and yelling at him.
So then, and this is the kind of genius move that would only come to you when high on laughing gas, Spidey sprays the entire contents of his laughing gas tank on the Hulk. Hulk then looks in the mirror and "Hulk sees Hulks... many Hulks!", and sees himself laughing at himself.
Spidey: Nobody's laughing at you, Hulk, except yourself!
Spidey's Thought Balloon: Hulk doesn't know these are mirrors!
Hulk: Hulk not understand... people not laugh at Hulk! Hulk laugh at himself! Good joke on Hulk! *Hulk leaps away from carnival*
Spidey: So long, Green-skin!
Okay, so let me get this straight: the Hulk, who has already thoroughly demonstrated his inability to understand the complexities of mirror technology, sees six clones of himself, laughing at himself. And the Hulk DOESN'T want to smash them?!?!? In fact, he thinks it's hilarious, and assumes the whole time, it wasn't other people laughing, but rather his mirror-clones laughing at himself, so he decides there's no pressing need to smash everybody, and he leaves.
Is it really safe to let roam free a drugged-up Hulk who's just had his already poor self-esteem further destroyed by seeing himself laughing at himself? Is this the best plan you could come up with? Or maybe that laughing gas Spidey's on is just some extra-primo stuff.
Ok, so maybe it's not like Spidey doing smack in a dead-dog alley, but nitrous oxide is a controlled substance. And I absolutely guarantee this is the only pro-drug "Drugs are fun for teenagers! Being high is frickin' hilarious! And you too can beat the Hulk with drugs!" issue of Spider-Man you will EVER read.
All I gotta say is, the Hulk's gotta be a drag to take to Comedy Clubs, if everytime someone laughs he rips their liver out because he thinks they're laughing at him. You'd all just sit there in dead, perfect silence, trying desperately, desperately not to laugh. Much like me at my 'rural' cousin's most recent wedding.
Wow, I so missed out on a golden opportunity by not being born until the late 70s. I mean back then, you go out on a date, and it's not going so well --- squirt her with laughing gas! She'll think any damn thing that comes out of your mouth is funnier than Gandhi in a poodle skirt. You could talk about deductions on your parent's tax return all night, and she'd still invite you in at the end.
And traffic court! How much better would it be if the bailiff squirted everybody with massive doses of laughing gas as they entered? And Congress would definitely pass some cooler laws.
Man, I just don't know why ever they outlawed this stuff. Except for the part where everyone drives home from the carnival and they're like, "Hahahah! Yield! Yi-eld! That word's so funny! YEEEE-ULDDDD. Hehehehe! I think I'll crash into that sign, it makes me laugh so much!"
4 webs. Spider-Man and drugs - a winning team! You too can overcome hulking obstacles using quasi-legal controlled substances! God, the whole thing's like an insane anti-afterschool special.