Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My Killer, The Car!

The cover to a 1976 issue of Amazing Spider-Man, featuring everyone's favorite wall-crawler no longer able to crawl on walls, might have indeed made for *ahem* gripping drama--that is, if it wasn't recycling a previous cover that had Spidey in a similar predicament nearly five years earlier.

Even the cover's mystery villain and the Goblin are on the same page (so to speak) as far as having "planned" for this development, which makes it seem as if the newer cover might have been done in homage to the original. There are other "coincidental" similarities, as well--such as the fact that both stories deprive Spider-Man of the use of his web-shooters, for different reasons. (In the earlier story, Spidey discovers in the heat of battle that his web-shooter is empty, while ridiculously letting it slip his mind that he can simply switch to the web-shooter on his other wrist.) Also, for the sake of dramatic license, the cover takes liberties by claiming that all of Spidey's powers are gone, when in fact in the story he retains his spider-sense and his enhanced strength--just as was the case in the Goblin story.

However, arguably the more eye-catching development on the new cover is the reappearance of the custom-made roadster known as the spider-mobile, missing in the book ever since it was ditched in the Hudson River and then mysteriously disappeared. It also now seems to be gunning for its former driver, with no one at the wheel. Another reason why this issue's theme might seem familiar is that it, er, paved the way for another such story two years later, when writer Steve Gerber sicced a VW Beetle on Captain America within the confines of his own apartment. (Come to think of it, there was also a Fantastic Four story where John Buscema sent a steamship flying after the Fantasti-Car. It's not exactly comforting to live in a world where your transportation can turn on you. Are we seriously getting stoked for self-driving cars?)

But, what gives here? Spider-Man was admittedly not too enthusiastic about the Spider-Mobile, having partnered with the Human Torch to design and build it to fulfill a business deal for promoting a new nonpolluting car engine--but is his car now taking that ridicule personally? The pieces of this puzzle begin to fall into place when Spider-Man catches some fur thieves red-handed, only to fall victim to a gas bomb--the effects of which won't be realized until he comes face-to-headlights with a vehicle he's fondly referred to in the past as a four-wheeled monstrosity.

Whatever the reason the driverless spider-mobile is trying to run him down, Spider-Man discovers in evading it that two of the assets he's come to depend on in his battles are gone, which forces him to improvise to an extent. Again, he still has his speed, strength, and agility, so it's no great surprise to see him avoid an oncoming car. What does come as a surprise is that he needs to pole-vault over a wall that separates him from an alley, despite the fact that we've seen him make more challenging leaps with ease, unaided.

Now that the police are involved, the spider-mobile makes its exit, tabling the strange circumstances of its reappearance for now. If anyone recalls the earlier ASM issue, it's not difficult to guess what else has been recycled from that story--the method by which Spidey has lost his wall-crawling ability, a strange gas that's seeped through his costume and, in this story, has also affected his web-shooters (albeit both of them this time).

When he returns home, Spider-Man discovers that not only are his web-shooters operational again, but also his power to adhere to surfaces. And so he heads out on patrol that night with the intent of locating the renegade vehicle and solving this mystery. Eventually he hits paydirt, when he discovers a strange mist in an alleyway and investigates, not realizing--and, absurdly, with no warning whatsoever from his spider-sense--that this is the same gas that he fell victim to before. Sure enough, the gas precedes the arrival of the spider-mobile, which appears this time to have been refitted with one or two extra features that would probably impress even the Torch.

While the spider-mobile seems to be again coming after the (former) wall-crawler with the apparent intent of killing him, this time it will complete its true objective--which is fortunate for Spider-Man since, deprived of his abilities that would make travelling over rooftops an easy matter, he's run out of options.

And so with Spider-Man's capture, we finally learn who is responsible for tinkering with the spider-mobile and adapting it to pursue its quarry. We'll have to wait to discover the whys and wherefores--but given the circumstances of this bizarre chase, the identity of Spidey's immediate adversary here is apropos.

Toy doesn't "take charge" of Spidey for long, once he's goaded by the web-spinner into tearing him free from the webbing and thus setting himself up for a roundhouse punch. After that, it's the Tinkerer's turn to be nailed--thanks in part to the very machine that has given Spider-Man so much grief this evening.

As for the spider-mobile, while it may be out of commission it's still in one piece (more or less), and overdue for its delivery to the gents at Corona Motors. Of course, they unfortunately have approximately one hour to accept delivery, before the strands that suspend it evaporate and their prize plummets fourteen stories to the ground.

Sort of lends new meaning to the phrase "car crash," doesn't it?

Amazing Spider-Man #160

Script: Len Wein
Pencils: Ross Andru
Inks: Mike Esposito
Letterer: Joe Rosen


Anonymous said...

I assumed the Spider-buggy was inspired by, or an ironic comment about, the Mego toy, which was, er, a little spider-buggy you could put your Mego Spider-Man in, and have adventures.
I did not have these toys as a child, and that may be why I'm a neurotic mess today. If anybody out there is thinking real hard about what to get me for my birthday, this would be an acceptable gift.
I like seeing the Tinkerer again! I first saw him in a reprint of the early Spider-man comic, and, years later, in Captain America of all places! I thought, "Hey, wasn't this guy an alien?"
Nope, he's like your friendly neighborhood super-villain mechanic, who works under the table and off the books and will fix and upgrade your super-villain weapons at a reasonable price. I wonder if the Shocker gets his gear worked on by that guy.
I enjoyed this post! Cheers!


Anonymous said...

We were promised flying cars but instead we get self-driving cars :D

Comicsfan said...

M.P., if the Shocker is indeed having the Tinkerer tinker with his fist units, he should probably ask for his money back!

Colin, maybe we should count ourselves lucky--would you want to see some of the crazies we encounter on the road airborne? Egad!

Anonymous said...

It's kind of a weird coincidence, but I just read that both the Shocker and the Tinkerer are gonna be in the new Spider-Man movie, along with another old favorite--the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton! One of my favorites actors.
He must be at the point in his career where he just plays bird-guys, now.
It sounds pretty good, actually!


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