BHOC: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #179

I almost did it the previous month. That issue had a 1960s DC-style cover that promised an impossible situation for the wall-crawler to get out of, and it piqued my interest seeing it on the racks–though not quite enough to pick it up. Which is good, as it turns out, because as would happen again and again in the Marvel titles of the 1970s, that cover image turned out to be the cliffhanger of the issue, so had I bought it, I would have been frustrated, Finding out what happened to Spidey, captured by the Green Goblin while Aunt May needed a desperate operation for her injured heart which only Peter Parker could okay, was the reason I bought this book. And so, this is where I began reading AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

I’ve mentioned before that I had a hard time getting into Spider-Man, at least in the comics. I had watched his ubiquitous 1967 cartoon in reruns on New York’s Channel 5 for years, and I looked forward to his frequent appearances on The Electric Company. But any time I had read an actual comic book that featured Spidey, I found that I didn’t like him. He was somehow too hip, too modern, too much more stylish and together and with-it than I was–which is ironic, given where the character started out, but it was the 1970s and this was what the zeitgeist of the period seemed to call for. I also didn’t like most of his cast at the time–Mary Jane, for example, seemed like a real shrew to me, And there was also something just a little bit weird about Ross Andru’s version of the web-slinger. He was somehow often a bit awkward-looking. I had a friend who once described Andru’s Spidey as looking like a little old man in a Spidey costume.

This issue was part four of a five-part saga written by Len Wein which squeezed Spidey in-between the Maggia forces commanded by Silvermane and the Green Goblin. It was essentially Len’s remix of the two-part Lee/Ditko Goblin/Crime-Master story from the early days, expanded and modernized. The issue opens with the Goblin having captured Spidey, who desperately needs to get to the hospital to okay Aunt May’s surgery. But the Goblin is attacked in midair by some of Silvermane’s goons, and Spidey falls into a convenient dumpster. The gunsels carry him out, intending to take him to their boss, but Spidey breaks free and clobbers them. He then swings off towards Aunt May.

Pete gets to the hospital and signs all of the necessary paperwork. He’s also browbeaten by Mary Jane for his absence in another scene that made me not love her. And Robbie Robertson turns up to show his support and to give Peter a father figure to talk to about his problems of identity–it’s a bit strange to see Peter so self-focused while his Aunt May is going under the knife, honestly. meanwhile, the Goblin has returned to his hidden base to pick up a replacement glider for the one damaged by Silvermane’s hoods, and there he speaks to a hooded captive he’s been keeping. The captive is hooded because (SPOILERS) Len is trying to keep it secret that the Goblin this time isn’t Harry Osborn but rather his psychiatrist Bart Hamilton. But even without the backstory of the previous few issues, I could tell that something wasn’t right in this scene between these two guys, so the eventual reveal fell flat for me.

Anyway, Aunt may comes through the operation with flying colors, but while he’s waiting there, Robbie gets a call from Jonah Jameson: the Green Goblin has attacked Silvermane at Radio City Music Hall where the aged crime-lord was attending a function. Jonah (and by proxy, Robbie) wants Peter to rush over there and get some photos, and Peter agrees to. Mary Jane gets in one last cheap shot, telling Peter that he’d better be back before Aunt May wakes up–what a doll! Over at Radio City, there’s a brawl in play as the Goblin has decided to cut the head off of the Maggia operation that’s been getting in his way.

Pete shows up, changes to Spidey, and joins in on the fight. It’s a big of a sedate action sequence, to be honest, though the environment does give Ross Andru a chance to show off his skill at depicting both real-world architecture and dizzying perspectives. By the wrap-up of the issue, the Goblin’s glider gives out, sending him, Silvermane and Spidey plummeting towards the ground below. Doesn’t seem like much of a cliffhanger, really (especially having just seen Spidey survive a worse fall thanks to that handy dumpster earlier.)

And it isn’t, because the real cliffhanger is waiting for us back at the Goblin’s lair. Over the course of the issue, the hooded figure has been struggling to slice through his restraints, and now he manages to do it–taking off his hood and revealing himself as Harry Osborn. Judging from the letters they printed in subsequent letters pages, Len’s attempt at a misdirect here really didn’t play–just about everybody already had doped out that it was Hamilton who was running around playing Goblin. But now that Harry was free, all bets were off. And that’s where the story wraps up this month: To Be Continued!

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