The Big Man first appeared way, way back in Amazing Spider-Man #10 and was revealed to be the reporter Frederick Foswell in that very same issue. The Crime-Master first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #26 and revealed to be the mobster Nick Lewis in the following issue. Now there’s a new Big Man and Crime-Master on the scene and they’re both gunning for Spidey.
This issue starts off with a big 2-page spread of four-color action. Spider-Man and the Human Torch square off against the combined might of Sandman, Big Man, the Enforcers, the Crime-Master, and some random mob guys. I find it interesting that even though four of the random mob guys are shooting at our heroes no one lands a single hit.
Anyway, Spidey quickly takes out Montana, while avoiding a blow from the Sandman. Unfortunately, he gets a thump on the back of his head by the Big Man. Meanwhile, the Human Torch takes out Fancy Dan’s asbestos anti-flamethrower thingamabob, but then gets caught up by Sandman. By this time, Spidey has recovered from his pistol whipping and trades some blows with the random mob guys (who have given up on the guns and are just using their fists). When he’s done with them, the Crime-Master and Sandman hold him at bay by using the Human Torch as a hostage. Then, the Big Man pulls out a blackjack and hits our hero on the back of the head again!
Cue the intro to the Sons of the Tiger, who just happen to be training in the warehouse next door. Who exactly are these guys? Well, imagine a kung-fu Mod Squad and you pretty much get the idea. If you don’t know what either kung-fu or the Mod Squad is, well sonny, I’d like to introduce you to the Seventies!
They hear the ruckus and naturally go to investigate. What do they see? Spider-Man is trussed up on stage while the Human Torch is trapped in a man-sized vacuum tube of some kind that they just had lying around. The Big Man and Crime-Master, neither one apparently learning from last issue’s mistakes, decide to hold a referendum with the mob guys deciding who gets to kill Spidey. (Sigh. I don’t have the energy to go into all the reasons this is a stupid idea, so I will roll with it just this once.)
Of course, the Sons of the Tiger bust in and start kung-fu fighting. The mob guys are knocked out, Spider-Man and the Human Torch are freed, but the Big Man and Crime-Master use poison gas as a cover for their escape. Then… Well, then the Human Torch decides to cut out on the adventure. I mean, these guys have just been trying to kill him for the better part of the day. He says screw the superhero jazz, he’s got a hot date! (At least someone in this mag has his priorities right.)
Everybody goes their separate ways, and Spider-Man ends up on the very same rooftop he began this adventure on last issue. Luckily for our hero (and the story) he sees the Big Man and Crime-Master coming out of a concealed trap door in the vacant lot next door! He swings after them, but not before they can raid the warehouse next door and take a little revenge on the Sons of the Tiger.
Unfortunately, after our guest stars are subdued, an argument breaks out between the Big Man and Crime-Master. Crime-Master wants to kill them all, but Big Man wants to wait. Crime-Master makes his play for a hostile takeover by shooting the Big Man in cold blood.
This is Spidey’s cue to enter the scene. He manages to free the Sons of the Tiger and more kung-fu fighting ensues. Eventually the Crime-Master is subdued and it’s time for a surprise or two! The big reveal is… the new Crime-Master is actually the old Crime-Master’s son – Nick Lewis Jr. And the new Big Man is actually the old Big Man’s daughter – Janice Foswell. They met each other in some European boarding school and fell in love. Taking a page out of the “Gift of the Magi”, they both decided to get revenge on Spider-Man on behalf of the other. But because they didn’t tell each other what they were doing it turns out more like “Romeo and Juliet”. Wah wah waaaah.
I think the best way to describe this story is as a simple morality tale about picking good neighbors.
I hate legacy characters. I don’t mean character like the Flash or Green Lantern who use the same name of a previous character. I’m talking about children who inexplicable decide to follow in their parent’s footsteps. There must be some unspoken rule in comic books that only villains get to age and have kids while the heroes retain eternal youth. At least in this instance, the villains were old enough to have kids when they were introduced and not artificially aged.
The Sons of the Tiger first appeared in Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu #1 released in 1974. Interestingly enough, the White Tiger (who later appeared rather regularly in the early issues of Spectacular Spider-Man) owes his origin to this group. Just don’t ask me how exactly, because even for me it’s kind of convoluted!