Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #34

Background

The Enervator may have been invented with good intentions in mind, but it’s been nothing but bad news for Doc Connors and Spider-Man recently. This time around the confounded machine has turned an everyday iguana into a hulking man-sized reptile. In response, Connors has used the machine to turn himself in to the Lizard. Action ensues.

Story 'Lizards On A Hot Tin Roof!'

  Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #34
Summary: Iguana vs. Lizard
Arc: Part 3 of 'Iguana' (1-2-3)
Editor: Al Milgrom
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Pencils: Jim Mooney
Inker: Frank Springer
Cover Art: Jim Mooney
Articles: Iguana, Lizard

Much like the last issue, this issue begins right where the previous book had left off. Spider-Man is still dangling over the side of Connors’ high rise home in the clutches of the Iguana and the Lizard is moments away from administering a beat down on his reptilian brother. Once the Lizard climbs to the top of the balcony it lunges toward the Iguana causing the oversized lab pet to drop our hero from its hold. As the two reptiles go at it, Spider-Man swings back up to the balcony and figures that helping the Lizard would be his best bet. Spidey throws a potted plant at the Iguana and then webs up both of the reptile’s mouths (possibly because he is getting just as tired of the clichéd lines that the two lizards are exchanging as we are).

As the battle continues to rage on, neither combatant pays too much attention to Spidey’s interloping. Eventually though, the Lizard catches a glimpse of Martha Connors watching from the penthouse window. Mrs. Connors calls out to her husband’s alter-ego and Connors’ recognizes his wife’s voice. This Kodak moment gives the savage Iguana a chance to blindside his opponent, sending the Lizard tumbling off of the balcony. The same chance is then rewarded to Spider-Man as he nearly simultaneously kicks the Iguana from the balcony as well. With the aid of a web made Spider-Chute, Spidey gently follows the reptiles as they tumble to the ground below.

Once the Lizard and the Iguana find the ground, they both create a crater that leads into the city’s sewer system. Spider-Man follows the reptiles into the crater but sees no sign of either one of his adversaries. After a round of amusing quips with the stunned doorman, Spider-Man races back up to the Connors’ home to try and console Mrs. Connors.

Spidey explains that the Enervator is what has caused this whole mess and Martha herself recalls how strange and distant her husband has been over the past few months. As this short and sweet conversation goes on, Spidey suddenly figures out exactly how to solve everything. He promises to Martha and Billy Connors that not only will he bring Doc Connors home but that “he may be cured of becoming the Lizard forever!”

Mrs. Connors has her doubts, but Billy wisely recalls that “Spider-Man’s always kept his word to us!” If only for poor Billy’s sake that last part were true.

Realizing that the Enervator is the key, Spidey swings back to ESU and changes out of his Spider suit. As he races toward Connors’ research lab he runs headlong into Professor Dr. Sloan (for the second time in this arc). Sloan brushes Pete off with a compliment in hopes that he didn’t see the human skeleton lying in his office. Once Peter has gone his own way, Sloan claims that whatever it is he is experimenting on will make him “the most famous biophysicist alive!” Though the build up here may seem Dr. Warren like, it actually only results in the reincarnation of a ridiculous Bill Mantlo created villain two issues later, in Spectacular Spider-Man #36.

Meanwhile, Peter is in Connors’ lab deconstructing the Enervator and building it up again as a portable device. It’s nice when a part of the plot involves Peter using his background in science to foil the villain. It’s a part of Pete’s character that at times, especially in some of the lean ‘70s and ‘80s years, was severely underutilized. Though this particular project, using the Enervator to swap, trade and barter life forces, features quite a bit of unbelievable faux-science mumbo jumbo, it’s still nice to see Pete grab some goggles and weld together a crazy machine.

As Pete puts his finishing touches on the portable Enervator, Marcy Kane barges in to the lab and scolds Mr. Parker for skipping out on assisting one of Dr. Sloan’s lectures. Sloan himself overhears the conversation though and praises Pete for coming in early. This obviously infuriates Marcy, who has at this point already been drawn as Peter’s scholastic rival. Pete has no time to change Marcy’s mind about him though, as soon as he is able to escape the watchful eye of his classmates he heads to the roof and changes into Spider-Man, the portable Enervator strapped to his back.

After hours of swinging around New York in search of both the Lizard and the Iguana, Spider-Man’s spider sense brings him to the Water Purification Plant by the East River. Lowering deeper into the waterworks of the plant, Pete shines his Spider-Signal in hopes of bringing his enemies out into the open. The Iguana is first on the scene as he grabs Spider-Man and throws him down to ground level. As Iggy and Spidey tangle, the Lizard lurks behind Pete and grabs him by the leg. It seems that over the course of the day the Iguana and Lizard have kissed and made up.

The Iguana explains that “There is no reason for us to fight each other, insect!” After all we are basically the same being!” At this point it is clear to everyone, even the Iguana himself, that this character is pretty much useless. Mantlo never attempted to give the creature a unique or memorable personality and now that it has teamed up with the Lizard there is really no need for the Iguana to exist. Spidey feels the same way. Once the creatures are close enough to be captured by the Evervator’s rays, Spider-Man pushes the button and zaps the two reptiles. All at once, the Lizard morphs back into his human self and the Iguana boasts that he feels more powerful than ever. So powerful in fact that he eventually spontaneously combusts. With a SSSKRIEE and a FZASHT! the Iguana is gone forever.

Spider-Man then explains that he used the portable Enervator to zap all of the Lizard’s life force that was left within Connors and siphoned it into the Iguana. The power was too much for the tiny iguana to hold and it resulted in the creature’s demise. Spidey also comforts Connors with the fact that since all of the Lizard’s energy was transported into the Iguana, the Lizard should be dead and gone forever as well. We all know better, but the book ends with an overjoyed Doc Connors who believes to finally be free of his nightmare.

General Comments

After a nice build up two issues ago, Mantlo sort of lets his first Lizard story-arc go out with a whimper. Whatever promise the Iguana showed as a villain at the beginning of this arc is gone here. Mantlo made no effort to differentiate this new man-sized reptile from the original man-sized reptile and as a result this story-arc would end up being the only appearance the Iguana would ever make. The saving grace of this issue is the opening pages, which captures some great Jim Mooney artwork of the Iguana and the Lizard battling it out. Despite the apparent finality of the Lizard on the last page of this issue, the Lizard would (sort of) appear in the underrated Spider-Lizard saga less than a year later.

Overall Rating

I was really disappointed that this particular story-arc didn’t amount to more than this. The Iguana is a boring character and he is defeated in rather cheap fashion. While Bill Mantlo would introduce some fantastic original characters to the Spidey canon during his two runs on Spectacular, he also gave us some dull and forgettable ones. The Iguana fits into the latter category.

Footnote

It appears that his issue isn’t actually the last appearance of the Iguana. While a possible return of the villain is set up by showing an image of the iguana in its tiny original form on the final page of the comic, we don’t actually see the character again for 33 years. In 2012 the Iguana appeared as a fightable villain in The Amazing Spider-Man videogame that was released in conjunction with the new movie. Talk about digging deep.