Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #39

 Posted: 2000
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)

Story 'Scourge of the Schizoid-Man!'

  Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #39
Summary: Schizoid Man
Arc: Part 1 of 'Schizoid-Man and Spider-Lizard' (1-2)
Editor: Jim Shooter
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Pencils: John Romita, Jr.
Inker: Jim Mooney
Cover Art: Jerry Bingham

Night at Empire State University and Spider-Man enters the window of Dr. Curtis Connors' biochemistry lab. He has been summoned by the Doctor who wants to warn him of "a danger perhaps too terrible" for Spidey to face alone. Curt recalls the time that Spidey defeated the mutated reptile known as the Iguana and possibly cured him of being the Lizard (yeah, right) back in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #34 (September 1979) by using a "portable version of the enervator". Now, Connors has discovered that this device was "improperly shielded". There's a chance Spidey absorbed some of the "lizardly" feedback from the machine.

Believe it or not, Peter is relieved at this news. He was afraid that Connors had tumbled to his secret identity, since Peter Parker is now one of the Doc's pupils. Spidey thinks back to the morning at the Daily Globe (yes, once again, this is during that time when Pete left the Bugle for the Globe) and the crowd around the copy desk. The Globe's latest gimmick is a "Write your Favorite Super-Hero" page and one of the entries is this note to the webhead: "Spider-Man! Your life is in danger! Contact the one-armed doctor!"

Now that we've gotten an explanation as to how Doctor Connors could contact Spidey, let's move on. Curt wants to take a sample of Spidey's blood to see if it was affected by the enervator but Spidey leaps back and clings to the wall. He's afraid that a blood-sample may one day be compared to a sample of Peter Parker's blood, so he nixes the idea telling Curt that "needles make me squeamish". The Doc follows up by asking if he's "felt unjustifiably angry... or weak, or tired without reason". Spidey leaps off the wall, declaring himself "the original Mister Mellow", then tries to prove that he is fine by lifting Connors' entire lab table with one hand. Even while humoring his patient ("I guess my fears were groundless, Spider-Man!"), Curt flips a switch hidden in his lab coat pocket. It activates a "radiation spectrometer" on the wall that analyzes Spidey without his knowledge. It may be that the wall-crawler is perfectly fine but Connors has noticed that "in lifting my lab table, Spider-Man allowed everything atop it to shatter, and now he's setting it down without the slightest sign of remorse". Spidey takes his leave, thinking he has been given a clean bill-of-health. But Dr. Connors thinks all the signs are there. "If my spectroscopic analysis of high blood-cells comes up positive", he thinks, "Spider-Man may be changing and not even know it."

Meanwhile, in the slums of the Bowery, a man approaches an abandoned auto body shop. The garage door is shut but he opens it by sending a jolt of electricity through the built-in sensor. Inside, the man encounters three shadowy figures. One, gliding in the air, welcomes the man as a new member but the man with the paste gun and the man who appears to be made of sand want the new arrival to prove himself. This he does quickly by using electricity to fuse a paste-stream in mid-air, fuse the sand figure into glass, and disrupt the gliding man's anti-gravity discs. Convinced, the Wizard, the Sandman, and the Trapster welcome Electro to the Frightful Four.

The next morning, at Empire State University, grad students Philip Chang, Steve Hopkins, and Marcy Kane catch a glimpse of the parents of fellow student Chip Martin. Chip's father is a United States Senator and he is conferring with the president of the University concerning the disappearance of his son.

(It all happened in the previous issue... Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #38 (January 1980). Chip Martin hosts a costume party at his family's lavish Long Island Estate. While others dress as a clown, a skeleton, and the Frankenstein Monster, Chip is garbed, for no particular reason, in a one-piece leotard with a low-plunging neckline. The leotard is colored blue on the right side and orange on the left. He wears a round amulet on a chain around his neck and has colored the right side of his face blue to match his outfit. But the fun is spoiled by the arrival of Morbius, the Living Vampire. Chip is affected by Morbius' cravings and the subsequent emotions of the party-goers. He starts talking to himself ("Pain, anger, fear, hope, terror!"), then his eyes begin to glow. His parents are not surprised by this. It becomes clear that they have known of this condition for some time and have kept Chip on tranquilizers to combat the condition. Before Senator Martin can intervene, Chip's subconsious creates ravens out of thin air to drive his father and the local sheriff away. Spidey, meanwhile, battles Morbius, managing not only to defeat the vampire but to cure him! (Oh well, nothing lasts forever.) Out on the grounds, Chip Martin flees in a sports car, not to be seen between that moment and this.)

Peter Parker, his hand steadying an aching head, approaches his three schoolmates. Marcy Kane is not happy to see him. She refers to him as "Pantywaist Parker, King of the Cowards", recalling that he chickened out both against Swarm (in PPSSM #37, December 1979) and Morbius in the previous issue. But Philip and Steve are worried about Pete. He's not looking too good lately. In fact, his face is starting to look a little scaly. When Philip puts a hand on him to talk to him, Pete takes irrational offense. "I don't have to answer to you!", he screams, "You're nothing to me! Nothing! Why, with one hand I could... Bah! You're not even worth worrying about!" Then he storms off.

Philip and Steve are shaken by this behavior but not Marcy. According to her, Pete is "just a snob" who's someday "going to learn that even a genius needs friends". None of them notice Chip Martin, still in his costume, standing on the roof of the ESU dorms. Chip is busy having an argument with himself. Not because he's indecisive but because, as Bill's caption so conveniently explains to us, he is now "One body... Two personalities." The blue side appears to be the compassionate, regular Chip, while the orange side is an evil paranoid who seeks "revenge on those who sought to leash us!" "Blue" is not interested in revenge and vows to prevent it, but "Orange" claims, "you no longer have the strength to stop me!"

And suiting action to his words, a giant ectoplasmic hand stretches down from the roof and grasps Senator Martin's car. Rather than being shaken by this, the Senator is relieved. He knows this manifestation can only come from Chip. He gets out of the car and yells up to his son to "let us help you". Chip, with "Orange" in control, vows to destroy his father "before you can bind me again". Using the power of his mind, he sends dozens of knives flashing down toward his defenseless dad.

Peter is still nearby but has been so consumed with his own illnesses that he has been oblivious to the event. Finally, the screaming of bystanders gets through to him. He sees Chip Martin on the roof, sees the knives heading for the Senator and races quickly over to knock the helpless man out of the way. Steve Hopkins asks Marcy Kane what she thinks of "Pantywaist" Parker now and Marcy has no answer. But, soon after, Parker reverts to her conception of him by running away and leaving the scene. Steve, however, tells her that "Pete's got problems" and that maybe she should be "helping him sort things out instead of hounding him all the time." With Pete's departure, Philip aids the startled Senator. Mrs. Martin arrives, telling her husband not to "challenge... that fiend". "That fiend is our son", the Senator replies. "He needs us now more than ever."

Back at Dr. Connors' lab, the results are in and Curt can plainly see that "Spider-Man's blood cells show a rapid, uncontrolled mutagenic growth!" He knows that this is the result of Spidey using the enervator "while transforming me back from the Lizard to Burt Connors". (Burt Connors? Spidey must have transformed the Doc more than we thought!) Curt knows he must somehow save Spider-Man "from himself!"

Back at the dorm, Chip uses his mind-power to create a giant tentacled tendril that carries him safely to earth. ESU Security approaches him, guns drawn, but more tentacles rise up out of the ground and stop them in their tracks. The tentacles then grab hold of the guns and start to turn them back on the guards, forcing them to shoot themselves. But, at the last moment, a gun is snatched away by webbing. Spidey has arrived and he swings right into the Schizoid-Man, knocking him slightly silly. (Well, he's already pretty silly but you know what I mean.) The kick shatters Chip's concentration and all his mental manifestations disappear. The web-spinner notes that a good kick did the job and is glad of it. Woozy, with his own evil self starting to manifest itself, he's grateful for an opponent he can pound on. "Today I feel like kicking somebody from here to Schenectady! And guess what, you lucky Devil, you're it!"

Not the best choice of words for the web-slinger. The Schizoid-Man acknowledges that he has been besieged by devils for years. Now he is tired of trying to control it. Seething, Chip sends five demon figures "of pure hatred" right at Spider-Man. But the wall-crawler is somewhat of a demon now himself and he doesn't back off. Instead, he pounds away with his fists. When he connects, the demons disappear in a wisp of smoke.

Back in the crowd, Philip Chang is confused. He always thought Spider-Man was "so reasonable". Now, even though it's clear that Chip Martin is mentally disturbed, "he's striking out at him savagely! Angrily!" Marcy Kane asks Senator Martin just what is wrong with his son and the Senator tells this story...

It seems that the delivery of the newborn Chip was difficult. As a result the doctors used drugs that accidentally "entered the child's bloodstream". No one knew what the result would be but Senator and Mrs. Martin noticed Chip levitating his toys and forming "a mallet out of thin air to smash them" while still a baby in a crib. Later, in grade school, Chip caused snakes (with horns and little claws) to appear in the air after being reprimanded on his schoolwork. "At such moments", says Senator Martin, "a sinister second personality seemed to possess Chip". The Martins tried to repress this evil side with drugs, then a straitjacket and a stay in a hospital when the "emotional outbursts became more frequent, more violent". But finally, progress was made and a Psychiatrist seemed able to keep Chip in check... "until the night of the party". (Jeez, what kind of drugs did they use to ease that delivery, anyway? Couldn't they have just given Mrs. Martin morphine?)

Spidey overhears the whole story, even as he continues to fight multi-colored demons, and he's not impressed. "I'm through feeling sorry for anybody but me, punk!", he tells the Schizoid-Man as he shatters the demons with a web-club. Then he tells Chip he'll do him the favor of returning him to "a nice, cozy padded cell" by way of "the nice men in the white ice cream suits". Chip has spent half his life in institutions and this threat scares him so much that he loses his grip on his "little mind creatures". The projections become indistinct and only project a few feet from Chip's head. The panicked young man vows to keep Spidey from returning him to his former drugged life but the schizoid wall-crawler isn't interested in that. "I'm gonna wipe up the street with you!", he tells Chip. Then, he grabs the amulet around Chip's neck with one hand and begins slapping the tortured Schizoid-Man with the other. Blow after blow rain down on Chip Martin. From the crowd, a one-armed man rushes up, telling Spider-Man, "In the name of heaven, you're killing him!", then grabbing onto the wall-crawler with all his strength when ignored. Finally, Spidey becomes aware of Dr. Connors holding onto him. He stops. But the damage has been done.

Connors tries to calm Spidey in order to get him to his lab but Senator Martin lashes out at the web-slinger. His son needed understanding and the wall-crawler "nearly murdered him". This "violent brand of vigilantiism has set back [Chip's] therapy, perhaps irreparably". (And, the sad truth is, as far as I know, Chip Martin has never appeared in a Spidey book again.) Connors tries to convince Spidey that he was not in his right mind but the webster will have none of it. A strange rage continues to consume him. He dashes off, telling the crowd, "I'm not gonna stick around and take any more abuse from a pack of scared, bleeding-hearts like you". A frightened Connors looks on, knowing that Spidey's "enervator-enhanced blood is racing" which means, "the change could begin at any minute".

And, sure enough, atop the Physics building, Spidey is overwhelmed with fatique, fever, sweating, anger, and thoughts of crushing "the puny humans who envy my power!" Even as he thinks this, he begins to change. He turns green, grows a tail. His reptilian face bursts right through his mask. He looks exactly like his enemy the Lizard in a Spider-Man suit. He has become... The Spider-Lizard!

 Posted: 2000
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)