Marvel Team-Up #19

Story 'The Coming of... Stegron the Dinosaur Man!'

  Marvel Team-Up #19
Summary: Spider-Man & Ka-Zar (vs. Stegron)
Arc: Part 1 of 'The Coming of... Stegron the Dinosaur Man!' (1-2)
Editor: Roy Thomas
Writer: Len Wein
Pencils: Gil Kane
Inker: Frank Giacoia
Cover Art: Gil Kane

Spidey may be on the verge of a trip to a private Canadian island over in Amazing Spider-Man #130 (March 1974) this month, but here in Team-Up he's on a SHIELD Transport plane flying over the ice of Antarctica. The pilot tells him to get ready. They will be arriving at the coordinates the wall-crawler gave them "in about 45 seconds". The co-pilot tells him to hurry up and grab a parachute but Spidey says he doesn't need one. And to the surprise of the two pilots, the Amazing One jumps out of the airplane chuteless.

But he doesn't plan on pancaking onto the ice below. Instead, he whips up a parachute out of his webbing and drifts toward a mysterious mist. The temperature "is about 20 below zero" and Spidey can feel it right through "the special insulation" he added to his costume. But the wall-crawler has remembered the coordinates for the Savage Land (the tropical, prehistoric land that is hidden somewhere near the South Pole) from his last visit back in ASM #103-104 (December 1971-January 1972) and he knows that the mist "hides the secret entrance". At least he hopes he has remembered properly. If not, "there's gonna be one flash-frozen web-slinger stuck in the ice a few minutes from now". Why is he even here, risking his neck in Antarctica? The web-slinger thinks back and provides us with a handy flashback.

It all started with a summons from Dr. Curt Connors the night before in the personals of the Daily Bugle. Spidey spots the notice and shows up at Curt's New York laboratory. He builds a little "porch swing" out of webbing and settles in to listen to Connors's story.

"A few months ago, I took on an assistant... a Dr. Vincent Stegron", says Curt. The two doctors were working on a project for the super-spy organization, SHIELD, that involved using "dinosaur tissue supplied to SHIELD by Ka-Zar, Lord of the hidden jungle". It's not clear what the point of the project is, but the experiments used are very similar to those that Curt Connors used years before that turned him into the deadly Lizard (first appearing in ASM #6 (November 1963)). Why would Curt involve himself in such experiments? To further the plot along, of course! Anyway, Vincent Stegron becomes obsessed with the whole thing and is "convinced that if Lizard extract could turn a man into a human Lizard, then Dinosaur extract could" and so on and so forth. (This does again raise the question as to whether it is common knowledge that Curt Connors is the Lizard at this point in time. Is it common knowledge that "Lizard extract could turn a man into a human Lizard"? My guess is "No", but then there'd be no Stegron.)

"Eight days ago", Curt says, Stegron stole the Dinosaur extract and, Connors believes, fled to the Savage Land. (The panel shows Steggy having just finished a parachute jump into the jungle, but how the heck did he get a plane to take him down there?) Curt believes that "Stegron is basically a good man... tho' a bit misguided", so he asks the web-slinger to journey to the hidden jungle "and find Vincent Stegron".

Spidey, softhearted guy that he is, agrees. He knows that Nick Fury, director of SHIELD, "owed me a favor for helping... on that Grey Gargoyle caper a few months back" (Oh, I'm not going to get into that but it happened in Marvel Team-Up #13 (September 1973) so he is able to hitch a ride on a SHIELD jet. Finally, Spidey lands in the Savage Land. He stands on an arched rock formation while a stegosaurus ambles by underneath him. To his left, a pterodactyl flies by. In a meadow behind him, "eohippus, forerunner of the modern horse" run past. It all looks so beautiful, so lush. How can such a place be called "Savage"? Well, the big green plateosaurus that tries to sneak up behind Spidey and have him for dinner might offer somewhat of a clue. The web-slinger doesn't really have any trouble with the dinosaur, though. He simply shoots webbing that tangles the reptile's legs up with its tail. The plateosaurus has fallen and it can't get up.

Spidey knows the webbing will dissolve in an hour and he plans to be well away by the time it does. So he runs off, only to head right into a trio of dinos. He knows he can't stop them all. His only chance is to use his webbing to take out as many as he can before they get him. (Actually, I think he could probably swing away on his webbing but then we'd lose the dramatic introduction of our co-star.) Before he can so much as "thwip!", a battle cry is heard... "not truly like the bellow of a beast nor quite like the scream of a man"... and into the clearing run Ka-Zar, lord of the jungle (wielding a knife, his long blonde hair flowing behind and wearing nothing but a brown loincloth) and his faithful sabertooth tiger Zabu.

(Ka-Zar began as a Tarzan rip-off, first appearing in Marvel Comics #1 (October 1939), the issue that introduced the original Human Torch and Sub-Mariner and currently lists in the Overstreet Price Guide at $175,000 in near mint condition. In that story, Ka-Zar lived in Africa and Zabu was nowhere to be found. It took a revamp in the Silver Age to introduce the sabertooth and the Savage Land in X-Men #10 (March 1965). Ka-Zar's full origin story didn't appear until Astonishing Tales #11 (April 1972) years later. Even with the revamp, Ka-Zar is still a rip-off of Tarzan but, hey, at least his jungle has dinosaurs in it!)

Zabu leaps on one of the "long necks" while Ka-Zar attacks another with his knife. This gives Spidey enough time to web up the jaws of the third one. ("Hey, I didn't know dinosaurs had tonsils?!" he declares while looking down its gullet.) In the space of three panels, the battle is over: Spidey being more PETA-friendly than Ka-Zar who brandishes a weapon dripping with the dinosaur's blood. The savage asks the web-spinner the reason for his visit and Spidey gives him the dope on Stegron. Ka-Zar has heard of the renegade scientist ("The jungle winds have spoken of this one.") and he promises to lead the wall-crawler to the one he seeks.

Ka-Zar leads the way through the jungle, explaining that he has heard that someone has recently "proclaimed himself Lord of the Long-Tails" and is living "in the village of the swamp-men". The two heroes never make it all the way to the village because the swamp-men jump down from the trees and attack them. (The Swamp-Men are brown-skinned men in yellow or orange loincloths. Some of them are bald while others have henna hair. Some appear to have beast-like faces while others appear more human. They carry clubs and spears as weapons. One guy even looks like he's carrying the swamp-man version of the Hammer of Thor. There do not appear to be any swamp-women, which might explain why they are in such lousy moods.)

Ka-Zar pulls his knife again and tells the swampers "we will slay you if we must". (I had no idea Ka-Zar was so bloodthirsty.) The swamp-guys keep coming. Soon, there is just a dogpile in the middle of a clearing, arms and legs everywhere, with Ka-Zar tossing guys around, Spidey swinging punches, and Zabu pouncing on unfortunates. But eventually, the swamp-men get Zabu tangled up in a net and knock him out with a club. Then Ka-Zar gets overwhelmed by sheer numbers. And Spidey is clubbed from behind, putting him out of commission. In the silence that follows, the swamp-men (who Len Wein refers to as "shaggy-pelted" in a caption, though they don't look hairy at all to me) have a brief discussion, then pick up their captives, bind their hands with ropes, and carry them to a huge shrine, carved out of stone into the shape of a fanged and open-mouthed reptile. The good guys recover consciousness and Ka-Zar recognizes the site as "The Temple of the Lizard-King!" Standing before them, holding a wooden staff, is Stegron the Dinosaur Man. He is golden-hued with a ridge of yellow scales flowing down his front. He has piercing green eyes and a beaked face, with stegosaurus spikes from the top of his head, down his back, and along his tail. And he has this annoying habit of stretching out the "S"s in his speech so that he says things like, "Ssstegron has been expecting you" and "I knew sssuch asss you would be sssent after me".

Stegron has been expecting someone because he knows that men of "ssso-called ssscience" will not allow his plans to continue. Ka-Zar tells Steggy that he can forget becoming ruler of the Savage Land since that is a job Ka-Zar has already staked out. But Stegron isn't interested in just the Savage Land. No. "I ssseek to rule the world!" Yes, that's right, the plan is to "return the dinosaur to hisss rightful place as massster of thisss earth". After all, who needs technology and civilization when you could just have a bunch of savage dinosaurs running around? Steggy tells the swampsters to guard the prisoners while he leaves to put the "final phassse" (tired of those "S"s yet?) of his plans into operation. The bonehead swamp-men, who can't possibly be getting any perks out of a deal that makes rulers out of the dinosaurs, stand guard. Ka-Zar even tries, in the swampy's own language to tell them that they are being duped but they answer him by hitting him in the face with the butt of a spear. Zabu, angered by the treatment afforded to Ka-Zar gives out a big roar from within the net and this sound distracts the swamp-men long enough for Ka-Zar to slip his bonds over a conveniently-placed spear and sever the ropes. Then he wades into the swamp-guys, pausing just long enough to use his knife to cut Spidey's ropes. The freed web-slinger lifts the net off of Zabu and the sabertooth wraps things up rather nicely.

Minutes later, the three heroes make like Creedence Clearwater Revival and run through the jungle. But they aren't able to catch up with Stegron before he comes upon his Ark, a huge metal platform capable of flight that has been donated to him by the mysterious group known as "They". He boards the Ark, presses a golden button, and a "huge metallic ramp" grows out of the platform's side. Then Stegron screams, which attracts dinosaurs of various species who are milling nearby. They begin climbing up the ramp and boarding the Ark. While they do so, Steggy gives a little speech to them (in English), telling them that they were destined to rule the world except that their brains were too small to handle it.. but now there is a superior brain ready to lead them to glory. his brain. Up in the treetops, Spidey (aside Zabu and Ka-Zar) tells Stegron, "if you're in command of this little operation, your long-tailed chums still have no brain to lead them!" Stegron responds by screaming yet again. This call sends the dinos who have not yet boarded the Ark into a stampede! Suddenly, a t-rex, a stegosaurus, a pterosaur (who, I suspect, won't do too much damage flying along above the herd), a brontosaurus, and all sorts of other "sauruses" rumble right toward the village of the swamp men. Ka-Zar and Zabu follow through the trees until they get to the front of the pack. Ka-Zar realizes that "the tyrannosaurus leads the pack" so he is the one who must be stopped. The jungle man jumps down onto the t-rex's head, pulls his knife, and prepares to stab!

Back at the Ark, Spidey jumps down from the tree and kicks Stegron right in the snoot. The dino man is not fazed by this attack. He responds by thwacking Spider-Man in the head with his spiked tail. Spidey is knocked for a loop. He falls to the ground and loses consciousness. Stegron brags to Spidey (who can't hear him because he's, you know, knocked out) that he will take his dinosaurs to New York City and attack. "Once New York City has fallen to me", he reasons, "sso, too, will the ressst of the world". (Ah, sure. That follows.) He presses another button and jets of fire blast down, raising the platform into the air. Spidey comes to in time to see the platform lifting away and it is already too high up for Spidey to do anything about it.

Back at the stampede, Ka-Zar has stabbed the t-rex in the head who-knows-how-many times until finally the great beast falls and dies. ("Ka-Zar warned the long-tail... but the long-tail would not turn... and so the long-tail died", says the savage in his best "big green dumb Hulk" impersonation.) With the leader dead, Zabu easily turns the rest of the stampeders, like a sheep dog guiding his flock. With this battle done, Ka-Zar looks to the sky and sees Stregron's Ark flying away. But below it, he sees a pterosaur flying along with webbing attached to its belly. Hanging onto the webbing is a friendly neighborhood hitchhiker. One look at that and Ka-Zar is confident that Spider-Man can take care of Stegron without his help. And the web-slinger gets close enough to shoot a stream of webbing onto the underside of the Ark where he plans to stay for the entire trip from Antarctica to the Big Apple.


Elsewhere in Spidey's world: Edward G. Robinson wannabe Hammerhead is causing trouble over in Amazing Spider-Man #130, which also features the super groovy Spidermobile!

And meanwhile, in the real world: Seven members of Richard Nixon's White House staff are indicted in connection with the Watergate break-in, the Mariner 10 Probe flies past Mercury and, most ominously, the Ayatollah Khomeini calls for the transformation of Iran into an Islamic Republic.