Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Clash Of The Crime Lords!

It's always a lousy situation when two rival crime lords are interested in claiming the same turf--lousy for them, but top-notch entertainment for comics readers who are interesting in seeing which tough-talking villain has the smarts and the strength to prevail over the other. One such "gang war" that comes to mind is the late-1972 clash between Otto Octavius (a/k/a Dr. Octopus--"Doc Ock" to his friends and wise-cracking enemies) and Hammerhead, the new thug in town who's literally muscling in on New York City at the same time that Ock is staking his own claim on the territory.

When these two butt heads, they clearly have different ways of conducting their affairs in terms of tactics and weaponry. Ock, not surprisingly, makes use of sophisticated technology across the board, whether it's employed through surveillance, or communications, or weapons; while Hammerhead, a strict follower of the methods and style of late-1920s gangsters, relies on old-style weaponry and fear-inducing hits to build both his reputation and his power base. Initially, both men are focused on making strikes against each other in order to remove their threat as quickly as possible--and both have their share of setbacks as well as inroads.

The first round of their clash must go to Ock--who's walking into a canny trap laid by Hammerhead, but winds up turning the tables beautifully on his assassins.

(You have to admire a villain who has the boldness to confiscate the Kingpin's headquarters and equipment to further his own ends.)

Later, Ock must deal with the interfering Spider-Man, who's unfortunately caught in the middle of this war. Ock shrewdly ends up saving Spider-Man from being killed by Hammerhead, in order to gain an unwitting ally who might prove useful against his gangster-rival--and in the process, the war between Ock and Hammerhead explodes into the open and escalates.

Ock then retreats to another base of operations in Westchester where he employs May Parker as a housekeeper, further complicating Spider-Man's efforts to bring down both Ock and Hammerhead. Hammerhead, however, has put a "tail" on Ock and learns of his location, and immediately invades the property in force. Naturally, the taunts between both men fly as thickly through the air as the bullets laid down by Hammerhead's men.

Ock then retreats to a "safe room," while bringing his own armed men and technology into play to deal with Hammerhead's ill-prepared forces.

With Spider-Man on the premises, and the relentless Hammerhead still a threat, Ock decides to withdraw rather than trust in his men to turn the tide. Of course if Ock had joined the fray after deploying his men, who knows how this encounter might have turned out? Suffice to say that Ock inevitably finds that he has his hands--er, arms full with the attack of Hammerhead.

With Ock easily a match for Spider-Man, my money would be on Ock to come out on top in this fight. But it looks like Hammerhead is flanked by enough men (and with enough bullets) to send Ock into retreat.

Ironically, neither of these men comes out of this with their forces intact so as to declare victory over the other. Ock is in police custody (thanks to his run-in with a very angry Spider-Man), while Hammerhead is on the run and forced to lay low. Yet the two would clash again, with explosive results.


B Smith said...

I believe Hammerhead's creation was influenced by the popularity of the "Godfather" movies of the early 70s (and presumably the cash-in imitators that followed thereafter).

david_b said...

I missed this first run-in (didn't start collecting until ASM 122..), but I soooo love this gansta rivalry between Ock and Hammerhead.

Luckily I did enjoy their next tangle during Ock's wedding, adding to the mix our beloved 'Spidermobile'...?

Ohhh, what memories.

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