Monday, October 19, 2015

When Newspaper Magnates Attack!

Any Spider-Man reader needs no introduction to J. Jonah Jameson, the irascible newspaper publisher who doggedly pursues the wall-crawler in the pages of the "Daily Bugle"--but there came a time when "the power of the press" took on new meaning for Jameson, and he found himself able to pursue his webbed nemesis beyond the limits of an editorial!

Jameson's new mobile threat comes courtesy of inventor Spencer Smythe, who shows up in Jameson's offices with a proposal to have his robot creation seek out and capture Spider-Man. At first, Jameson is skeptical, having been burned before by people using him to get to Spider-Man; but Smythe gets some unexpected assistance in convincing Jameson from, of all people, Peter Parker, who has recently learned to play on Jameson's ego in selling his pictures to him and now sees an opportunity to make some additional cash.

And so Smythe's robot is given the green light, operated remotely by Jameson and sent into the streets to locate Spidey by tracking his "spider impulses." In hindsight, we know that Spider-Man is facing the first of Smythe's "spider slayers," models which Smythe improves on with each attempt at Spider-Man's defeat; though this one looks like it's doing pretty well, with Jameson relentlessly attacking Spidey through the streets and over the rooftops, the robot's steel coils capable of containing him should they finally grab him.

Naturally, Jameson is having the time of his life, in no personal danger from the safety of his control console elsewhere but able to relish humbling the web-spinner as if he were at the site of the battle. (Jameson would probably have made a decent gamer.) Eventually, the robot is able to close in and seize Spider-Man with its coils; but Spidey is able to pull victory from near-defeat before Jameson arrives on the scene to personally enjoy his triumph.

It's back to the drawing board indeed for Smythe, who unfortunately feels the humiliation of his robot's defeat on an even deeper level than Jameson. Consequently, his next model receives a formal name, which may be an indication that it has a deadly new mission.

Despite Jameson's obvious enthusiasm, he only considers this venture to be a continuation of their original scheme and doesn't take Smythe's name for the robot literally. On the surface at least, that may also hold true for Smythe; after all, if he felt otherwise, he likely wouldn't bother with involving Jameson in this second phase of the robot's operation. But once the slayer locates and engages Spider-Man, it becomes clear that Smythe isn't willing to indulge Jameson's plan to capture Spidey by toying with and wearing down the wall-crawler as before. Eventually, Smythe wrests control of the slayer from Jameson, with the intention of having the "spider slayer" live up to its name.

Spider-Man clearly has a plan in mind for dealing the the slayer, one which involves finding the location of Smythe's lab; and how fitting (and clever on the story's part) that Spider-Man, who has no resources to speak of and no ties with the police, resorts to finding its address by thumbing through a phone book in a sidewalk telephone booth. (Though the listing having a "scientist" tag was a bit of a stretch.) As for Smythe, he's totally obsessed with destroying Spider-Man at this point, a fact even Jameson--who could be said to be of like mind, if not homicidal--has no difficulty discerning.

Even so, you can't help but note that Jameson allows Smythe to play out his hand at the controls, as this battle draws to its close--which might well have made Jameson an accomplice to murder, had Smythe been victorious. Fortunately, Spidey has once again out-thought Smythe, by executing a hairbrained plan that could only be found in a comic book.

Could these two jokers join forces again? Does Aunt May have a heart condition?

Watch out for the Spider Slayer, 3.0!
(OR:  "When Remotes Battle!")


George Chambers said...

I always wondered why Jonah never had to deal with anything like an aggravated assault charge after these Spider-Slayer fiascos. I guess money talks.

Comicsfan said...

George, the only explanation I can think of off-hand is that, while it would have been easy to make such a charge stick (given that Jameson's face was being streamed to the slayers' faceplates), you would have needed someone to press that charge. Smythe wasn't about to, for obvious reasons; nor could Spidey, being on such shaky ground with the police. And since no lives were presumably lost, that left anyone (the city or, say, someone whose car or building sustained damages) who suffered financially. No doubt restitution was made by Jameson with dispatch.