I picked up another issue of MARVEL TALES on my latest weekly jaunt to the local 7-11, the ongoing reprint series re-presenting stories from earlier issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. This one, though, was a double reprint. You see, in order to pick up some time on the schedule, new ASM writer Gerry Conway had decided to repurpose the story originally prepared and run in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #1 Magazine. As that publication had only limited distribution, Conway reckoned that most readers wouldn’t have read this tale before. He and John Romita had to go about updating it, of course, to fit into the current continuity (to say nothing of John needing to laboriously take out all of the graytone work on the pages that had been done for the B & W Magazine printing.) They also had to add in additional pages both to fill out the three issues over which the story would now run, as well as to provide sufficient cliffhangers in-between each installment of it.

As this story had originally been created for SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN Magazine, writer/editor Stan Lee had attempted to skew it in a slightly more realistic direction than the typical Marvel adventure. Which is to say, as originally produced, it didn’t really feature any costumed super-villains apart from a hulking strongman. For the reuse, Conway and Romita changed that, reworking some of the artwork to introduce a new villain into the mix, the Disruptor, and altering the plot of the original tale substantially in doing so. Stan’s story was about a seemingly-progressive new candidate for mayor who was secretly a creep and a criminal. In the revised version–and spoilers for the ending here–the candidate is genuine in his beliefs, but he’s got a dark alter ego, a split personality, which dons costume an mask and attempt to strike down his campaign.

It wasn’t a completely invisible patch-job, however. As you can see on this page, the size of the lettering occasionally bounces up and down, even on the same page as here, where old material is being used without any lettering alterations. The pacing on these three issues is a little bit weird as well, as they weren’t originally intended to be serialized chapters. Anyway, this outing opens at a campaign rally for candidate Richard Raleigh. Peter Parker and all of his cronies and cast-members are in attendance–and wouldn’t you know it? The ceiling begins to buckle and collapse. With no time to change into his Spidey suit, Peter kills the light and in the gloom races up the walls to where he can web up the failing ceiling and support it until people can get clear. In the darkness, nobody’s able to identify him as anybody other than Spider-Man, so his secret identity is still safe for the moment.

As Peter rejoins Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson in the aftermath of the collapse and the trio heads for home, elsewhere a cloaked figure rails against the fact that Raleigh’s supporters survived. This is the Disruptor, who has it in for Richard Raleigh for reasons unknown. Undaunted, he makes his way to a basement laboratory where his underling Professor Thraxton is making the final adjustments to his powerful creation: the Smasher! An ordinary thug transformed through genetic modification into a colossal, unstoppable monster. Spider-Man had already danced with the Smasher once, at the start of this three-parter, but now that the wall-crawler has interfered directly with the Disruptor’s designs, he’ll be targeted aggressively for elimination.

There’s actually precious little Spider-Man in this Spider-Man issue, and so after an interlude with J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson and Norman Osborn at Jameson’s Club, in which we learn that Robbie is digging into Raleigh’s mysterious background, Gerry and John insert a short, meaningless sequence of Spider-Man searching the city for the Smasher and his overseer. But to no avail. Gerry does move his ongoing plot threads ahead a bit during this sequence, as the web-slinger returns home in time to phone his Aunt May, who has taken a job as Doctor Octopus’ housekeeper and is surrounded by underworld types all the time. These were not wonderful days for Aunt May, as Conway in particular wrote her as a doddering old fool who perhaps wasn’t getting enough blood to her brain. (Which is what later writer Roger Stern suggested when he gave Aunt May a bypass after which she was a lot more centered and wise.)

The next day, Raleigh is holding a Youth Rally in the park to drum up support for his candidacy among college-aged voters. We’ve already seen that Mary Jane is a big Raleigh booster, and so she drags Harry Osborn, Peter and Gwen along to the event. But the Disruptor has decided to take a hand himself, and he and his men attack the rally, launching a gas attack and firing into the crowd. Within moments, Spidey is on the scene, but while he’s able to keep the crowds of bystanders safe, he’s unable to prevent the Disruptor from getting away. So it’s another perfunctory action sequence that doesn’t really amount to very much. (There’s also a bit of sleight-of-hand going on here, as Conway and Romita show Raleigh elsewhere in the next scene, and the implication is that it’s happening at pretty much the same time, though it can’t be since Raleigh himself is the disruptor, unbeknownst even to himself.)

In that meeting, blabbermouth Jameson lets slip to Raleigh that Joe Robertson is digging into the candidate’s past–which is news enough to propel the Disruptor into moving up his timetable. Which doesn’t really make a lot of sense in this revised story, to be honest. If the Disruptor wants to bring down Raleigh’s campaign, then Robbie’s efforts are aligned with his own interests. Whereas in the original version, when Raleigh himself was simply a bad guy, Robbie needed to be silenced before he could reveal something compromising about the candidate. Anyway, the issue wraps up with pretty much a reprieve of the scene we got at the center of the issue, with the Disruptor going down to his basement lab and where Thraxton tells him that the Smasher is pretty much ready to go! And that’s where this issue is To Be Continued. In all honesty, it’s not a great story, and the assorted alterations, while they do make the overall tale better, seriously hurt this as a single chapter. I can remember finding it an unsatisfying read.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s