These days, with Spidey teaming with everyone from Batman to Gen 13 to Badrock (whoever the heck he is), it may not seem like a big deal for the web-spinner to encounter characters from competing comic houses. But no one would have imagined, in the 60s and 70s, that the two most popular characters from the two biggest companies would ever meet in the same book... short of one company destroying the other and buying up all its characters. So, when Spider-Man and Superman finally met in a triple-length treasury-size comic, it was quite an event. It happened twenty-five years ago this month, in January 1976. Now, as we enter the new century, what better time to spotlight The Battle of the Century... Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man!
It is winter in Metropolis, home of Superman. Fortunately, this means that many of the residents are out of town otherwise there might be a fearsome body count from what follows. A robot, at least three stories high, is literally walking through the city. He steps on semi-trucks and smashes through entire buildings. No one seems to be hurt by all this but it certainly draws the attention of Superman.
(Everybody knows the drill, right? "Strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man." Super-strength, invulnerable, ability to fly, super-hearing, X-ray vision, the whole bit. "And who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!" All clear?)
The Man of Steel notes that the robot has lead shielding which prevents him from using his X-ray vision. The robot proceeds to greet him, calling him by name, and referring to him as "an old enemy" so Supey knows that someone is inside, controlling the robot, even if he's not entirely sure who it is. (Though, it isn't hard to guess.) The robot lifts an arm and punches Supes right in the snoot. The force of the blow knocks Big Blue into a building which knocks a huge chunk of the building loose. Superman flies down and grabs the chunk just before it will obliterate some by-standers.
The robot has taken advantage of this distraction to proceed on his way but he's easily found again by Superman (seeing as the robot is something like 200 meters tall). Supes using his "infra-red vision" (forgot to mention that one) to try to heat up the air around the giant who retaliates by blasting Supes with "some sort of inertia ray". He is forced back, "flying out of control", smashing through even more Metropolis buildings.
The robot moves on to the offices of S.T.A.R. laboratories. ("Strategic Hazard...", oops! Sorry. Wrong acronym.) He pulls the roof off the building "like a carton top". His right hand turns into a pincer and he reaches this hand into the building where he plucks "a small device" from a computer console. He lifts the device to his mouth and "swallows" it.
Meanwhile, Superman has used his super-speed to evade the inertia ray. Back at the scene, he digs underground and comes up underneath the robot's foot. His intent is to lift the robot and topple it but he can't budge the foot. He realizes that the soles of the feet have "a gravity beam crushing me with ten times the gravity of Krypton". But when the robot walks away, he understands that the gravity is not a weapon. Rather, the robot needs the beam to support its own weight. With that, Supey realizes that a "healthy shove will drive it into the ground". He flies up to the robot's shoulder and pushes. This works just fine, except the robot's head detaches from its body and flies away. Superman follows the robot-head missile. When he catches up to it, he destroys it with his bare hands. But, down below, in the body, a bald man in a purple jumpsuit with green suspenders gloats. The man is Superman's arch-enemy Lex Luthor (before the John Byrne reboot which turned the! evil genius into an evil business
man) and the missile head was just a decoy, allowing Luthor to use a jetpack to fly away with the stolen computer part.
The duped Superman reluctantly returns to the Galaxy Communications Building where, in a broom closet, he changes into his blue suit and glasses, and steps out into the hallway as mild-mannered Clark Kent. He meets up with Lois Lane and Steve Lombard. Steve is the sportscaster for GBS television station and a practical joker who loves to torment Clark. He tells Kent that there is a meeting in room 204. When Clark uses his X-ray vision to scan above the door, he sees that Steve has planted a bucket full of water, rigged to fall on him as he walks through. Using his super-breath to keep the bucket from falling, Clark calmly walks through the door. When Steve goes through the same door to see what went wrong, the bucket turns over and lands smack over his head. Inside the room, a drenched Steve is dressed down by his boss Morgan Edge. (Edge was a creation of Jack Kirby who was an agent of the evil Darkseid. DC decided they wanted to keep Edge around so they retconned h! is evil identity out of existence.
) Perry White and Jimmy Olsen are also in the room and Edge tells them all that they will leave in the evening for the "World News Conference in New York". Jimmy interrupts Edge and tells him there is a special report on Channel 2 about a giant robot that destroyed empty buildings on the West Side. The report goes on to say that the component stolen from S.T.A.R is "a newly-designed programming circuit, used for the direction of satellites in orbit". Edge berates Kent for not getting the story and Kent berates himself ("I've been a fool, a regular dodo...") for not seeing his course of action earlier. If the robot caused "the worst disaster in the city's history", then it shouldn't be very difficult to track the path and footprints backwards. He slips back into the broom closet, changes to Superman, and follows the trail. It leads to Metropolis Bay, so Superman plunges beneath the surface.
Deep underwater is a hidden base but when Superman approaches it, it rises up on spider-like legs, and grows a battering ram that it uses to smack the Son of Krypton. The battering ram has a claw on the end. It grabs Supey and pulls him inside the base. He slides down a transparent tube and is actually surprised to learn that his opponent is Lex Luthor. Lex tells him the robot "had a twofold purpose: to commit a theft and to lure my greatest enemy to his destruction". And we all know who Luthor's greatest enemy is.
Superman makes a rush at him, but Luthor hits a switch on his control panel that sends out a high-intensity laser. These are lasers of Luthor's own design, powerful enough to destroy Superman. Another switch turns on another laser, then a third and a fourth, finally forming "a deadly web" around the Man of Steel. Superman compliments Lex on his scheme ("It's one of your better death-traps!") but he reasons that any web "is a pattern, a maze". And, as with any maze, a quick-thinking person can find his way through. Superman does just that, eluding the lasers and crushing the controls that Luthor used to create them. But Lex gets off one laser shot from his wrist gauntlet and hits Supey right in the eyes. The Man of Tomorrow realizes that the laser "must carry light from the same spectrum as a red sun" (under which Superman is a normal man) because the light has actually succeeded in temporarily blinding him. Sightless, Superman lashes out, knocking Luthor off his feet! and destroying the control consol e. Luthor knows his chance to kill Superman is gone but he had another plan in his back pocket all along. He takes the "programming circuit" from S.T.A.R., puts it in a capsule, and uses a pneumatic tube to "whisk [it] to an alternate hideaway" where he plans to use it "upon my escape from prison... 24 hours from now". When Supes recovers, Luthor gives him a laser blast smack-dab in the big "S" on his chest, just for effect. The blasts do weaken the big guy so he quickly retaliates by using his heat vision to melt the bulkhead behind Lex. With the wall burned down, the water comes rushing in. Luthor cries out for rescue from drowning and Superman obliges. He grabs his enemy and flies up, up, and away. "Just take me to jail!" Luthor says. Which appears to be the end of it. Clark Kent rushes to the airport and catches up with the whole Galaxy Broadcasting crew before they take off for New York City.
Now, a pause for a page detailing the Man of Steel; in case you don't like the one I came up with at the start. I quote: "Born on the planet Krypton, young Kal-El escaped the cataclysmic destruction of his home world in an experimental rocket designed by his father - coming to earth - where, thanks to the rays of our yellow sun and earth's lighter gravity, he gained the spectacular powers which have made him Superman. Stronger than any man alive on earth, Superman was adopted by the Kents who taught him to use his indestructibility in an everlasting fight against crime for truth, justice, and the Terran way!" (Yes, that's right, the Terran way. No more of that Ameri-centric nonsense for the big guy. It ain't the 1950s anymore.)
Winter in Manhattan. Spidey is hanging out on a flagpole across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art when he spots four crooks carrying artwork across the roof. (Nowadays, they would just run into a bunch of scaffolding and half-finished renovations up there... but I digress.) The web-slinger is pleased. J. Jonah Jameson has been after him all week for some "juicy news photos" and here is an opportunity dropped right into his lap. He webs his camera onto the tip of the flagpole and swings down to tackle the bad guys. The four men are dressed like soldiers with helmets and green fatigues. One of them carries a knife. But the webhead wades into them, kicking one, smashing the heads of two others together, punching the fourth into unconsciousness. The battle appears to be over until a metal tentacle, then another, crashes down from above. An angry voice cries, "Will you hound me forever? Will there never be an end?" All of which heralds the arrival of the ! boss of the operation; Dr. Octopus
Ock tells Spidey to "look to the sky... and behold"... (get ready for it)... "the flying octopus!" A flying saucer with metal tentacles and a green globe that looks like a poor man's Death Star hovers above. Spidey's response? "Yeech! And I thought the spider-mobile was a fiasco!"
Doc Ock is clearly a little bit sensitive about his ugly machine if we can judge by his reaction to Spidey's comments. Declaring the web-slinger to be an "impudent clod", he attacks with his tentacles. Spider-Man grabs one of the metal appendages and tries to topple Ock over the edge of the roof but the Doc recovers and knocks the webhead over instead. Rescuing himself with his webbing, Spidey chides himself for showing off. Now it's time to get serious. He swings back up to the roof and takes the fight to Ock, kicking him in the gut and throwing him to the ground. But a blow fells him from behind. He receives a punch to the back of the head from a metal tentacle; not from an arm of Doctor Octopus but from the flying octopus instead. The Doc berates his pilot for cutting it so close. Then, even as the police arrive, the bad guys collect their booty and fly away. When Spidey comes to, he is surrounded by New York's finest. Ignoring the cry of "Don't move or we'll s! hoot, outlaw!", Spidey runs to the
edge of the building. He intends to swing away but has run out of web fluid. With cops spraying bullets all around him, the web-slinger is forced into the indignity of taking it on the lam by running down the wall.
Later, Spidey arrives at the Daily Bugle and changes out of costume to reassume the life of Peter Parker. (Gerry conveniently doesn't tell us how he picked up his camera from the flagpole without the cops spotting him. Suffice it to say, he has the camera and has the film.) Pete enters J. Jonah Jameson's office with the roll of film and tells him he has pics of Spidey battling Doc Ock. Without getting them developed beforehand, Jonah contacts a fellow named Carmody, passes the film to him, and tells him to "take the best shot and plaster it on page one"! Then, talking Pulitzer, he makes sure Peter is comfortable on his couch, even rolling up his jacket and fitting it under Peter's head for a pillow!
But forty-five minutes later (and what a fool Pete was to hang out on that couch all that time), Joe Robertson enters with some news. The night owl edition is on the street but Joe was not around to oversee it. Carmody has taken Jonah at his word. He picked out the best shot and put it on page one. Unfortunately, Pete's automatic camera was "out of synchronization". The "best shot", now on newspapers all over the city, is a partial shot of Spidey's head and right arm along with a shadow that could be almost anything.
Jonah doesn't take well to this screw-up. He cries out, "You did this deliberately!" and goes for Peter's throat. Peter gets knocked to the ground and Jonah puts a knee in his chest. "I'll kill you for this!", he yells, "with my bare hands!" He doesn't appear to be kidding, either. Robbie has to pull Jonah off of Pete. Jameson screams at Peter to "Get out! Get out! Get out!"
Mary Jane is waiting for Peter outside the office. (They are getting together for a showing of "Gone With the Wind". Hey, I wouldn't lie!) As they walk along Fifth Avenue, heading south past the Empire State Building, they discuss Peter's latest screw-up. Pete feels like he is "always making mistakes". He has even screwed up the plans for the next day's News Convention. Aunt May wanted to join Pete and MJ at the affair but our hero got the dates mixed up. As a result, May went off on a vacation with Anna Watson and will miss the whole affair. (This seems to be nothing more than Gerry justifying Aunt May's absence but why he would bother with that is beyond me.) As he talks, Pete is buzzed by his spider-sense. He looks up and sees a blimp hovering overhead. Excusing himself from MJ ("Feeling sick.. gotta get some water."), Pete runs into the Empire State Building. He shoves a tourist couple out of the way... the only two people waiting (yeah, right) so he can grab the express elevator. Fortunately the elevator is empty (yeah, right) allowing Pete to change into his Spidey duds.
The express only goes up to the 80th floor, so Spidey must hoof it the rest of the way. He runs up the outside of the building to the mooring mast on top and dives at the blimp. Unfortunately, he miscalculates his leap. The blimp is going to pass him by on his left. No problem. He squeezes the trigger on his web-shooters. Unfortunately, he's all out of webbing. (Yes, again. Already.)
Spidey has one chance. He stretches out his arms and legs and glides "like a sky-diver" towards the blimp. This ploy works and the webhead easily lands on the top of the balloon. Except the balloon is made out of tissue paper because it isn't a blimp at all. It is "camouflage for the Flying Octopus" and the web-slinger falls right through.
Doc Ock can't believe it. He thought he had the perfect disguise and the web-slinger has discovered him. As they grapple, Spidey reveals that he left a spider-tracer on the good doctor's back and Gerry provides a flashback panel to prove that it really happened. (OK, yeah, I missed it. I never said I was perfect.) With the tissue paper shredding and the blimp frame fracturing, Spidey and Ock fight outside of the Flying Octopus. No one is piloting the thing and it crashes into the Central Park reservoir. Ock is disoriented by the sudden immersion into water and Spidey gets a few good whacks in that knock Doc flat out. The police make the scene. Spidey drags the unconscious Octopus out of the water for them and races off to try to find MJ. Unfortunately, Pete doesn't track her down until the next day "when he arrives at the Daily Bugle offices to join his friends on their way to the World News Conference at the Coliseum". But first a one page lowdown on the Amazing ! Spider-Man.
Again, I quote: "While still in High School, young Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider at a science exhibition. Instead of dying, he soon found himself possessing uncanny abilities.. the proportionate strength of a spider, the knack of climbing walls.. all of which made him a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. With the death of his Uncle Ben.. a death Peter felt he could have prevented.. Spidey turned his talents to fighting crime. He had designed a costume with one-way eye-holes, a handy-dandy web-shooter which carried his own web-formula and a special belt-pack, containing all sorts of spider-goodies. (Have you ever seen so many hyphenated words in one sentence in your life?) Now, he, too, battles evil.. as Spider-Man!"
Now, thirty pages into the story, it is time for...
Out in Deming, New Mexico, three armor-clad army vehicles approach "Federal Maximum-X Security Penitentiary Number One, the most escape-proof prison in the world". Doctor Octopus is already in a cell. The convoy heralds the arrival of another super-criminal. Lex Luthor is brought in by guards convinced no escape is possible. After all, "every cell has an automatic video monitor complete with a sound pickup" and Luthor was searched so thoroughly "back in the prison hospital [he] couldn't carry a toothpick in here". Doc Ock recognizes the criminal genius and introduces himself. It turns out Luthor has heard of Ock as well. Luthor's shackles are taken off and he is placed in a nearby cell. They have a chat: Octopus musing over his fortunes if he didn't have to deal with Spider-Man, Luthor musing the same over the Man of Steel. As the conversation continues, Lex proposes a "small trade". If they are free tomorrow, why not join forces and swap enemies. "Why not?", says! Ock, "as long as we're playing make believe". But Lex calmly reclines on his cot and tells the doctor "anything can happen".
In a separate room, two guards are listening and watching. They don't like the sound of Luthor's boasts but they still assume he can do nothing as long as they keep an eye on him. But with his back to the camera (apparently the super-sophisticated prison only has one lousy camera in each cell) so the guards can't see, Lex peels away a "layer of false epidermis" from his forearm. Underneath the phony skin are a whole slew of tiny components. (Either these things are wafer thin or the guards thought Luthor had pretty bumpy skin.) It is, in short, an escape kit.
First he inserts plugs into his ears. Then, he places a "sonic disruptor" on the camera's microphone. The piercing sound knocks out every guard within earshot. In the adjoining cell, Doc Ock is overwhelmed as well. But Luthor's next gadget is a "small power cell" that allows Ock to control his tentacles enough to rip off the doors to the cells. Luthor steps into Ock's cell and places plugs in the doctor's ears. Octopus recovers and criticizes Luthor for not warning him beforehand. Luthor replies that a warning to Ock would also be a warning to the guards. (But how can they talk to each other when the sound pulse is still incapacitating everyone and the two of them wear earplugs? One of life's little mysteries, I guess.) With the entire prison rendered helpless by the pulse, Ock uses his tentacles to walk over the walls. Lex Luthor rides on Doc Ock's back.
One more page to quote: "And leave us not forget our villainous villains: Such as our Otto Octavius. Once a physicist working to unlock the ultimate secrets of the atom, Doctor Octavius became a victim of his experiments when a model atomic pile exploded grafting Otto's 'work arms' to his body and providing him with telepathic control over his new metallic limbs. Thus was born that dread menace... Doctor Octopus! Young Lex Luthor, on the other hand, was a criminal since the days of his adolescence. Like Octavius, he, too, was the victim of an experiment gone wrong... this time, indirectly, because of his childhood friend, Superboy. As a result of the disaster, Luthor lost all his hair.. permanently.. and the shock of this, coupled with the explosion itself, and the loss of a vital experiment to create life, caused Luthor to hate his former pal. Over the years, he's invented many devices to defeat the Man of Steel and has proven himself Superman's toughest and most el! usive enemy!"
And now, at last
Chapter One: A Duel of Titans
A series of escalators lead to a huge foyer above which hangs the "world's first orbiting communications laboratory": Comlab One. This is the site for the World News Conference. One escalator carries Joe Robertson, Betty Brant, and her husband Ned Leeds who is glad to be back in New York after working in Paris. Another escalator carries Jimmy Olsen, Morgan Edge, Perry White and crew. Clark Kent complains to Lois Lane that New York is "too filthy for my taste". Lois thinks Clark is "so dull I can't stand it". Just stepping off the escalator is J. Jonah Jameson who accosts Peter and Mary Jane. Pete tells Jonah he promised MJ he would take a holiday from work today. Jonah tells him that a hard-working photographer deserves a holiday, but, he screams, "You're not hard-working, not diligent, and there are times Peter old boy when I'm not even sure you're a photographer!" Peter decides not to take it anymore. He tells Jonah he's "through being stepped on" and takes the ! "down" escalator away from the pub lisher. MJ follows and congratulates him for standing up to Jameson. But "enough with the rage", she says, "let's go see the show".
Upstairs, Lois and Clark are taking in the Comlab One sight. Clark is impressed by it, though Lois is surprised that he finds "all that technical eyewash interesting". Turns out there are reasons for Clark's interest. The real story of the experiments the satellite will perform has never been revealed. In fact, NASA is intentionally keeping it quiet. Clark thinks that anyone who gets that scoop "might just win himself a Pulitzer Prize".
Not far away, Morgan Edge is having a conversation with Tony Short, "programming director for Ralson's Foods". Short wants to sponsor Edge's "coverage of the National Convention in Metropolis this year" but doesn't think Clark Kent is well-known enough nationally to be the anchor. Clark overhears and confronts his boss. But Edge casually blows smoke in Kent's face and tells him he will be replaced for that show with someone like "Walter Cronkite, Roger Mudd, Dan Rather". Lois asks Clark if he is going to stand and take such an insult. He tells her he is. Lois stalks away in a fury.
On her own, Lois decides to climb a nearby scaffold and investigate the Comlab. Just as she nears the top, she loses her grip and starts to fall. A hand reaches out to grab her and pull her to the top of the scaffold. She has been saved by Peter Parker, who is up there taking photos of the mysterious satellite. They introduce themselves to each other and realize they have heard of each other. Lois wants to know if she is talking to "the Peter Parker whose newsphotos almost won last year's Newsguild Award". Pete wants to know if another photographer is needed at the Daily Planet.
Pete helps Lois back down the scaffold where Mary Jane awaits. MJ gets catty about Pete's new attachment to Lois and Lois tells her to "pull the claws in". Pete is cute but too young for her. And, after all, she is really only interested in Superman. Just at that moment, the Man of Steel flies in and heads for the two women. Lois waves at him but her motion is cut short as Superman attacks the women with what appears to be his heat vision. Abruptly, MJ and Lois disappear.
Everyone is shocked by what they have seen. But no one is more stunned than Clark Kent who knows the attacker can't be Superman. Pete, meanwhile, tries to overcome his shock and take action. He grabs Clark Kent by the shoulder and asks him where the phone booths are. (Get it? Get it?) Clark points him in the right direction but, when Pete reaches the phones, he discovers that Ma Bell has replaced the booths with stalls. He must run up the stairs to the roof and change into Spider-Man. He takes to his webs and, there, high over Columbus Circle, for the first time anywhere, he comes face to face with Superman!
Chapter Two: When Heroes Clash!
Spidey still can hardly believe he's meeting the Action Ace. Superman is far more poised but he blames Spidey for the events inside and wants an explanation. On the contrary, the web-slinger thinks Superman is the one who needs to explain things. He dodges Superman's blow and comes to a rest on the side of a building. Superman has made the assumption that Spidey is involved with "the phoney Superman" because of the webhead's sullied reputation. Now, after hearing the wall-crawler, he's not so sure.
Over on another roof, Doctor Octopus and Lex Luthor look on. (Luthor is dressed as Superman and holds a Supey mask in his hand which means, of course, that he was the phoney Superman who zapped Lois and Mary Jane.) The villains notice that Spidey is jacked up and determined to fight Big Blue. They decide to give him some assistance. They shoot him with a blast from their "red sun radiation device" which they think will give a temporary boost to Spider-Man. And, boy, are they right. Superman flies up to Spidey to tell him their fight is a mistake and Spidey takes a swipe at the Man of Steel that knocks him for a loop. A stunned Supes plummets toward the Columbus Circle statue and only manages to right himself at the last minute. He flies back up to face the wall-crawler. He doesn't know where Spidey got such power but he doesn't care. All he knows is that the webster has made him mad. But all the anger in the world won't do Supes a bit of good right now. The web-hea! d swings in and clocks the big guy in the jaw with his two feet. Supes crashes hard against the side of a building.
Spidey can hardly believe it himself. He had always heard that Superman was "one of the toughest guys around" and here he is handling him with ease. He swings down to the roof where the Man of Tomorrow has landed. Superman tries again to reason with the wall-crawler but Spidey's not in the mood. He demands to know what has happened to Mary Jane. When Superman starts to lecture him, Spidey tells the Kryptonian to "stuff it" and clobbers him once again. ("Man, is this guy over-rated!", he thinks.) Superman is flung off the roof, taking a massive chunk of the wall with him. Now, he has had enough. He flies back up, tossing the stone aside with ease, evades Spidey's next attack, then throws a punch of his own. But at the last instant, with his fist inches away from the wall-crawler's face, Superman realizes that his opponent will never survive such a blow. He pulls his punch in time to keep from hitting Spidey but the "wind-blast" from the speed of his blow is enough ! to send the webhead flying "with the force of a compact hurricane". (Now, I don't care how strong you are, or how fast you are, you are not going to create a hurricane-force wind extending your arm from the shoulder to the end of your reach. Still, for a guy who once had a super-dog that wore a little red cape as it flew around, I guess anything's possible.)
Spider-Man is shot across town. He smashes through the window of an art museum, flies through an abstract sculpture, and comes out a window on the other side. At that point, he gets oriented enough to grab the wall, reverse himself, and head back to the fight scene. Now, he's really mad. He returns to the roof, somersaults several times to get his momentum up and crashes into Superman. But the power boost from Luthor has worn off and the web-head bounces off with a "thud". Spidey can't understand how Superman has "gotten harder" but he's not ready to quit. He rains punches down on the Man of Steel, over and over, to no effect. Superman doesn't even budge. Actually, there is one effect. Spidey's hands feel like they're broken. This finally puts him in a listening mood. The two super-heroes compare their notes.
When they're done, they realize that they've been duped. They decide to work together to solve the mystery and they shake hands on their partnership. The shake practically crushes Spidey's hand again but he won't let Superman know it. "Let's not shake again till after I get a titanium steel hand!" he thinks, holding his sore paw behind his back.
Chapter Three: The Call of Battle!
Following an "energy residue" from Columbus Circle, Superman arrives at the old Penn Central Railroad Yard. He acts as a sky-faring speedboat, towing Spidey through the air with each hanging onto an end of a web; Spidey coasting on web-derived skis. They land near an abandoned building ("Acme Importers"... the company the Coyote buys from), which Superman's X-ray vision has revealed as the villain headquarters. Spidey climbs the wall, then sneaks in through a skylight. As soon as he leaps down to the floor, metal doors slam shut, eliminating his exit. Machine guns start firing bullets through the floorboards. Spidey takes to the walls but they are electrified. He leaps to the ceiling and finds it to be "red hot!" There is only one direction for him to go and he is forced to take it. He webslings down a darkened narrow hallway. Only his spider-sense prevents him from being sliced up by a hidden wire screen. He dodges, ducks, flips, and lands safely at the end of th! e hallway.
Outside, Superman has given Spidey time to enter with stealth. Now he takes to the air and smashes right through the sealed-up waterfront entrance. He arrives in the war room of the bad guys just as Spidey enters from the other side. Waiting are Lex Luthor and Dr. Octopus. They tell the heroes that they have captured Lois Lane and MJ as bait. They show the good guys a video image of the two women shackled to a steel beam. Then, they disappear, since they were never in the room to begin with. A quick examination by Spidey reveals "a hologram projector", which relayed the images from somewhere else. Spidey thinks he can find the location of the villains by examining the computers in the room but Superman spots a booby-trap with his X-ray vision. Just as Spidey presses the keyboard, Supes blasts him back with a "burst of super-breath". The booby-trap explodes the computers but Spidey is safe because Superman pushed him out of the danger zone.
Spidey figures they are back to square one but he hasn't reckoned with the Man of Steel's super-speed and photographic memory. In a second, the Action Ace reassembles the computer (without the bomb, of course) and turns it over to Spidey to work his trace. The web-slinger comes up with a location... "3.04 degrees south latitude, 37.22 degrees east longitude". Spidey knows enough geography to know that site is in Africa. The know-it-all Man of Steel pinpoints it as Mount Kilimanjaro.
"Mere minutes later", a towing Supey and skiing Spidey arrive at the plains of Kilimanjaro. They encounter three Masai warriors. The condescending imperialist Man of Steel starts to talk to them like a great white hunter to his bearers but he is interrupted by one of them who introduces himself as Nu'Chaka and tells Supes he recognizes him from photos he saw when he studied in London. Nu'Chaka leads the heroes to the Masai village and to his father Chagga who is either the chief or the witch doctor. Chagga is happy to help but wants proof of Supey's powers, as a trade for his assistance. The big guy obliges by juggling a dozen Masai warriors at once. This proves to be sufficient and the Masai invite the heroes to partake of their "finest food, a mixture of milk and cattle blood". The two squeamish westerners turn down the drink.
After the rituals, Nu'Chaka accompanies Supey and Spidey to Kilimanjaro. He tells them that one of their "warriors disappeared in this area months ago". Since that time, the Masai have avoided the area as haunted. Nu'Chaka leads the duo to the spot where the warrior vanished and Superman finds a stone door leading to a cave indicating that the disappearance is probably connected with Lex Luthor. Supes opens the door while Spidey observes the arrival of another man. It is, in fact, the missing warrior, only juiced up with extra strength as the wall-crawler was in his battle with Superman. The warrior knocks Nu'Chaka aside, rips apart the webbing with which Spidey covers him, and then shrugs off an attack by the web-slinger.
The warrior unsheathes a sword, which glows red, as Superman takes a punch at him. The warrior is unfazed. In response, he swings his sword. Superman ducks just in time. The sword actually cuts some of his hair. With that, the Man of Steel realizes that the warrior and sword are imbued with red sun radiation. He quickly comes up with a plan. In his earlier fight with Spider-Man, he analyzed the webster's webbing with his super-vision. Now he thinks that "a dose of heat vision" can change the chemical composition of the web just so and that this will entrap the warrior. The two heroes put the plan into action and, sure enough, the webbing takes on "the consistency of steel", which immobilizes the warrior. With Nu'Chaka (who now has his left arm in a web sling) watching over his countryman, Spidey and Supey enter the cave to find a hideout reminiscent of James Bond's nemesis Dr. No.
Chapter Four: The Doomsday Decision
The hideout consists of computers, consoles, and a map of the world. But there is one other item... an empty rocket silo... and it is this that concerns Superman. For good reason. Up in space, Lex Luthor and Dr. Octopus ride a spaceship to their new home... "the satellite headquarters of the Injustice Gang!" The villains enter the satellite. Inside are Lois Lane and Mary Jane, trapped within a large transparent globe. They have been previously teleported up to the satellite. (It was, in fact, a teleportation beam that struck them when they disappeared back at the convention.) Ock thinks this is all well and good but he wants to know the ultimate point of their "baiting" of their enemies. Luthor reveals the programming circuit that he stole "yesterday". (Yes, that's right. All that stuff that happened way back when only happened yesterday.) "With it", he says, "we can destroy our foes once and for all and simultaneously achieve the greatest blackmail payoff i! n the history of mankind."
Back in New York, J. Jonah Jameson enters a bar and runs into Morgan Edge. The two share a drink as they discuss their mutual woes over being in the news business. Edge admits that Clark Kent is his best reporter but is never around when he needs him. JJJ says it sounds like his photographer Peter Parker. They exit the bar together, return to the hall and notice that, in spite of the recent disturbances, NASA has just launched Comlab.
(Um... excuse me a moment, but wasn't Comlab just sitting up in the rafters at the World News Conference? How could they have launched it from there? And, if they did, wouldn't it blow off the roof and wipe out all of the reporters attending the conference?)
The men at the command consoles think they have an easy flight. Comlab leaves the atmosphere and its heat-shield releases as planned. They rotate the communications tower and unfurl the solar panel. But, over in the Injustice Gang's satellite, Lex Luthor has used the stolen programming circuit to take over Comlab. Now he sends "a high-intensity laser probe into the earth's atmosphere" and declares himself victorious.
As the laser whips up "wild storms" that pummel Middle America, Superman (flying in airless space) and Spider-Man (in a "borrowed space shuttle model") approach the Comlab. Superman knows that he must stop the laser before the atmosphere goes into chain reaction and "the entire earth ecology is kicked out of balance". He puts his body in the path of the laser but the beam is strong enough to knock him unconscious. Spidey puts the space shuttle in the laser's line and loses his life support system. The lack of air causes him to black out.
When the two heroes recover, they are in the Injustice satellite with their enemies. (Luthor informs Superman that he included "ultra-frequency sonics" in the laser to hurt him, in case you wondered.) Luthor boasts about his plan. At this moment, the entire Midwest of the United States, "from New Orleans through Saint Louis to Chicago" is being swamped by a hurricane. Luthor is demanding ten billion dollars from the U.S. Government or he will allow the storm to spread out over the entire world. Lex is smart enough to devise this scheme but not smart enough to realize it isn't a good idea to leave your enemies unshackled in the midst of your operation. The two heroes brace themselves and leap at the bad guys. Spidey takes on Lex and Supey takes on Ock. (Luthor is shocked that they could do such a thing since they "were stunned... groggy!" Yeah, good one, Lex.) But Luthor isn't finished yet. He flips a switch and cancels the gravity in the satellite. Then, he punche! s a startled Spidey away from him.
Meanwhile, Superman, still stunned from the sonic blast, allows himself to be grabbed by Doc Ock's tentacles. Spidey tries to fire his webbing but, without gravity, it does not follow its intended flight. Unable to slow his momentum, the wall-crawler crashes into a wall. Octopus tosses Superman at the webhead and the two collide, entangled in Spidey's webbing.
Superman rips the webbing away from them. He tells Spidey "there's a form of Oriental fighting in which you don't resist your opponent". He suggests they "allow him to make his move first and then you use that move against him". When Ock uses his tentacles to grab him, Superman uses that momentum to rip two of the tentacles away. Ock loses his glasses as well, making him helpless. Superman, however, cannot follow up on his success. His momentum carries him into a bank of computers, putting him temporarily out of the action. (Dare I ask why Superman can't just fly wherever he wants, seeing as he often flies in space where there isn't any gravity?)
Spidey lunges for Doc's glasses but Luthor gets there first. Spidey grabs Lex by the arm but Luthor is still able to pass the glasses along to one of Ock's tentacles. An ungrateful Octavius tells himself that the blackmail money will only be enough for one man (he intends that one man to be him) then he is distracted from his intended treachery when he discovers that the lenses in his glasses are shattered.
Floating in gravity-less space, Spidey and Luthor grapple. The monitor shows the weather getting worse on earth. Luthor doesn't care about all the people who will be killed and Spidey can't believe Lex's callousness. Then a tsunami appears, heading for the east coast of the United States. Spidey promises Supes that he can tackle both of the villains, allowing the Man of Steel to exit the satellite and take on the tidal wave.
Luthor makes one last try at trapping Superman. He breaks away from Spidey and closes the airlock chamber but Supes just flies right through the outer door. Supes races to earth. Luthor races to his control panel. As Spidey and Ock fight, Lex tells them that he plans to destroy the whole world, that he kidnapped Lois Lane to make sure Superman was present "to witness the final culmination of my black ambition". With that, Dr. Octopus realizes that his ally is mad. Spidey goads Ock into acting on behalf of the good guys by saying, "He's gonna destroy the earth! Where're you going to spend your loot then, friend?" Ock doesn't want to see his planet destroyed. He uses a tentacle to smash the control panel so that Luthor can no longer control Comlab. The chain reaction is shattered but the "two hundred mile tidal wave" is still on its way to the coast. As Lex and Otto fight each other, Superman rushes down to the wave. He pushes his speed past the sound barrier, "from! Mach One through Mach Two, Mach Three". This creates a wall of sound that meets the water. The two forces collide and the sound wave wins. The water settles back down to earth once more. Up in the satellite, Spider-Man finally takes care of Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus.
And so it comes to an end. The group returns to New York. Lex and Otto are webbed up. Lois and MJ are safe. Spidey and Superman shake hands one last time, then head their separate ways carrying their respective archenemies off to jail. But there is a one last page...
It turns out that Clark set up "an automatic video-camera" to record the battle in Columbus Circle and Pete set up his automatic camera to do the same. The two men meet up with Lois, MJ, JJJ, and Morgan Edge at a restaurant and announce their respective scoops. Jonah is so pleased he treats Pete to dinner for his good work, while Edge allows Clark to anchor the convention coverage after all. So, the happy foursome of Peter, MJ, Clark, and Lois walk off, arm-in-arm, "secure in the knowledge that peace reigns on earth and that justice is triumphant, for tonight anyway."
By the way, Spidey and Superman met again five years later in another Treasury-size book that guest-starred Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk and featured the Parasite and Doctor Doom as the villains. Look for a Lookback of that one... sometime.