Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #124

 Posted: 1996
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


What do you do after you've killed off the main character's girlfriend? Well, if you're Gerry Conway and you're writing the Amazing Spider-Man in the early 1970s, you delve into the monster craze that is currently overtaking comics (by the time the whole thing was done, Marvel alone had "Tomb of Dracula", "Werewolf By Night", "The Man-Thing", "Vampire Tales", "Tales of the Zombie", "Supernatural Thrillers with the Living Mummy", "Adventure into Fear with Morbius the Living Vampire", "The Son of Satan", "The Ghost Rider", "The Frankenstein Monster", and "Creatures on the Loose" with You-Know-Who), add a pinch of science fiction to reconcile it with the super-hero genre, and bring back a character who hadn't been REALLY used since, well, since Amazing Spider- Man #42.

The combination of traditional monster and science fiction had already been successfully done in Spider-Man, two years before when Roy Thomas played riffs on the vampire theme and came up with Morbius. So, if the vampire angle has already been used, what else is left? The werewolf, of course. And who better to imbue with the curse than the forgotten character who had once been given super-powers in the past; J. Jonah Jameson's astronaut son, John. Which brings us to Amazing Spider-Man #124-125 and "The Mark of the Man-Wolf".

Story 'The Mark of the Man-Wolf'

It has been almost ten days since Gwen Stacy died. (In #121.) Peter is deep in mourning; wracked with pain and confusion. He cannot understand why no one seems to know that Norman Osborne was the Green Goblin. (He doesn't know that Harry Osborne stripped his father's corpse of the Goblin costume.) Instead the Daily Bugle's headline is Spider-Man Murders Prominent Businessman!. Rain is pouring down, creating a somber and strange mood, wonderfully rendered by Gil Kane in his last art work on the Amazing Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, in the Daily Bugle offices, J. Jonah Jameson and Joe Robertson are discussing Spider-Man's possible role in the whole affair when they are interrupted by Jonah's son John. He is dressed casually with what looks like a ruby on a pendant worn around his neck.

John is introduced to Robbie (the fact that it took John 124 issues to meet Joe is testament enough to his rare appearances) with JJJ explaining that his son has retired from astronautics after being one of the last men to walk on the moon. John surprises the two newspapermen by announcing his engagement to a young woman named Kristine Saunders but the joy of the announcement is cut short when John mysterious collapses in the hall outside. Ominously, the rock on his pendant glows.

Back at Empire State University, Peter tries to go to class but he can't stand being there. Too many thoughts of Gwen, too many thoughts of what others are thinking about him after the death of Gwen. He bolts from the room thinking, Another minute in here...and I'll go bug-a-boo permanently. Mary Jane follows him out and tries to help but Peter tells her and Flash to Bug off, both of you! Elsewhere in town, someone else is stumbling out into the rain. The figure is drawn with his face obscured and Gerry's narration tries to be cagey about who it is, but the secret was already blown on the cover (on which JJJ reveals to Spidey that It's my son! as the Man-Wolf comes crashing through the window). So, yes, it's John Jameson, wearing a special outfit, which suspiciously resembles the yellow suit with green trim he wore in ASM #42, designed to prevent his change into a werewolf. It fails, and the Man-Wolf, much to a Freudian's delight, tracks down his father with murder on his lupine mind.

At the same time, Peter is wandering in the rain. He comes upon the latest edition of the Bugle in a newspaper machine and reads the headline, The Spider-Man Menace: A New Series by J. Jonah Jameson. This sends him into a rage and he decides to go to the Daily Bugle as Spidey and teach JJJ a thing or two. Luckily for everyone, he shows up just seconds after the Man-Wolf has crashed through Jonah's window and gone after Jonah's throat. Spidey leaps in and joins the action (telling Jameson, I'd say White Fang here had a grudge against you!) and he seems to be winning his battle when the Man-Wolf uses his claws to slash Spider-Man's chest putting the super-hero out of action. Man-Wolf and terrified publisher confront each other and Jonah sees the glowing pendant around the creature's neck. Inexplicably, the monster departs and Jameson prevents the recovering Spider-Man from following by threatening to blame the whole attack on the Web-Spinner.

Later, the Man-Wolf is on the prowl tracking new prey. Spider-Man is sitting alone on a rooftop, feeling better than he has in days. Almost, he thinks, I can dig the world. (Hey, it was 1973. What do you want?)His spider-sense warns him but not fast enough as the Man-Wolf attacks and #124 comes to an end.

Before we continue with the story in #125, let's take a moment to review a couple of comments from the letters page of #124. From Sergio J. Andrede of New Jersey, To Whoever had the idea of killing off Gwen Stacy, You rattlesnake, you buzzard, you large red insect, you worm, you cockroach, you lizard, you skunk, you tapeworm in the digestive track of humanity... and from J.M. Black of California, Marvel, how DARE you kill Gwendolyn Stacy!? You are a pack of soulless, mercenary sadists. I am no longer a True Believer. Just in case you thought fans only got mad at the Spider-Man writers in the clone-filled 1990s.

Overall Rating

We're all still in shock from the events of ASM #121 and Gerry gives us werewolves? Surprisingly it works. Maybe it's the nifty way Gerry pulls John Jameson into it, maybe it's the Man-Wolf's cool Gil Kane look, or maybe something goofy like werewolves is just what we needed right now. Whatever it is, it's three and a half webs.

 Posted: 1996
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)