I can't hold off any longer! Spidey is my favorite superhero but, I didn't want him to be the first I'd write about. I also kind of figured that every Spider-Man book has probably been reviewed by lots of people a lot more educated in writing, history, art, ... grammar ... and common sense than me.
Regardless! I want to share my love of Marvel comics with people, and if no one will listen, I'll at least share it with the abyss that is "the internet"!
Spider-Man # 165 and #166 are very special to me. They have a lot of nostalgia attached to them as I got them when I was young. I got #165 first and I remember very specific events about it. I don't remember exactly how old I was but I think I was in 4th or 5th grade.
I was excited on this particular Saturday as I was able to ride the train to Ridgewood with my brother Jeff. This ment I would be coming back with baseball cards and comic books probably full from hoagies and iced cream.
I thought the Dinosaur man looked cool and it happened to be a cheap back issue. After I bought it, I remember my brother saying that it looked dumb. What?!
Dude. You're the one who got me hooked on Spider-Man comics, and they are all AWESOME! How dare you! I couldn't believe my bro would say something like that.
That evening, I remember reading it and thinking to myself, "That may have been the best comic book I have ever read."
I think I was trying to make it really good because I knew my brother was WRONG!
I recently read it and once again, I absolutely LOVED it.
The cover is okay. The word bubbles are sweet! Stegron is swatting Spidey into the mouth of glowing Dinosaur bones. A glowy Triceratops thing lies in wait. Len Wein wrote it, and the underrated Ross Andru drew it.
The issue begins with Spidey crashing through a sky light. His spider-sense was tingling. Out of curiosity ol' webhead decided to see what was going on.
The room is thrashed! Agents dressed in orange are strewn about. A foot comes out of the darkness and clobbers the unsuspecting Spider-man in the gut. Spidey gets up quick and makes chase. He runs into two more agents and our first editor's note!
Spidey realizes that this is a secret SHIELD lab and disarms Nick Fury's men. He then refers us to Marvel Team-Up #13 and lets the agents know he is a good guy and friends with Fury.
The mystery thief gets away but something about the hissing voice is very familiar. Spidey says that it sounds like a sinister TALLULAH BANKHEAD. (Haha! Good one Pete.)
Elsewhere, Curt Connors is chilling at his Apartment/Laboratory. His wife, and son Billy, come home and it's a nice family moment. They have presents! They are all cheerful as it's Christmas time!
Suddenly, Curt falls to the floor. He's having an attack of some sort. As his wife consoles him there is a KNOCK KNOCK at the door. Not now! UGH, this is not the time.
Martha asks Billy to get the door and to tell the visitor to come back later. THROOM!
It's a large orange DINOSAUR-MAN! He grabs Billy, scolds Mom for her bad manners, and gives Curt a "SPAK", knocking him across the room.
With Billy wrapped up tightly, Stegron gives Dr. Connors an ultimatum. Create the device with the instructions given, or get your son back ... bone by bone. Connors succumbs and says he will do as he must within the 48hr time limit.
Spidey changes back to civilian mode and quickly bumps into Flash Thompson. Flash and MJ have a date. What?! Peter is infuriated and gets quite bold. He tells Flash to back off. MJ is HIS girl and if he doesn't like that, there will be trouble.
Flash tells him that MJ is the one who asked him out, and that he'd never do that to Pete. Oooops. Pete feels dumb and does his best to save face by shaking Flash's hand. (That nine panel interaction between Pete and Flash was really nice and one of the stand out moments of the comic.)
Again our scene shifts. We see the familiar face of J. Jonah Jameson and a not so familiar face of a lady named Dr. Madison. She is measuring JJJ's head with a psycho-cybernetic helmet. Seems they are concocting a plan to defeat Spider-Man!
Following that little get together, we are given the finest part of the comic. MJ and Peter Parker are discussing their relationship and it's very well done. I congratulate Len Wein for adding great dialogue to an action/adventure comic book. As a kid you want the fun stuff, but moments like these really shine.
Credit also goes to Ross Andru. Look how MJ gets the hair out of her face. The wind in New York is strong this evening and Andru captures the realistic moment well.
Pete is giving MJ a hard time for playing games. MJ didn't quite know what she was doing and her immaturity in relationships is revealed. They talk all the way, past the Museum of Natural History, and arrive at their destination, the Hayden Planetarium.
(I went there when I was in high scool and saw the Pink Floyd laser light show. The laser shows are neat. Trippy, and scary, and fun!)
During the show MJ and Pete are "Shushhhed" as they continue to work things out. Oh no! There's a BLACKOUT!
What's happened? Pete tells MJ he's going to step out and see. A perfect excuse to change into ... SPIDER-MAN!
Back at the Connors' household, husband consoles wife until THE LIZARD begins to appear. Curt Connors' body starts to become reptilian so he quickly tells her he has work to do and leaves the room.
Stegron begins to reanimate the dinosaur skeletons. Apparently his life long dream is to hang out with dinosaurs and conquer the world and he's real close to doing that.
Spidey's change into Spider-Man is actually quite cumbersome. He is taking his shoe off. Clothes are everywhere. He still has pants on over his suit and his mask isn't on yet! Four panels later and he finally is able to get a move on.
While out and about Spidey is shocked to see a set of Brontosaurus bones walking down the steps. With three other boney dinosaurs behind the large leader, Spidey gets out of the way.
Turns out they were not interested in him. Looks like their just going to ... WAIT! Spider-sense! Spider-Man dodges the first attack and immediately knows why that voice sounded familiar. It's STEGRON!
Spider-Man then makes Stegron look like a total fool. Over the course of four fun panels Spidey throws blows and dodges tails, while not suffering a scratch.
What is really nice about this page is that even though the panels are separated, the fight scene is fluid do to the technique of breaking borders.
One of my favorite things is when characters limbs extend beyond the constraining border. In many circumstances, it is much more subtle than it is here on page 26. I love it when artists do it whether it's obvious or not. It adds life and fluidity to the storytelling.
I know Spidey is nimble and a good fighter but, his manhandling of Stegron all makes sense now. An editor's note at the bottom of the page tells us that they got tangled up once before in MARVEL TEAM-UP #20.
While continuing to kick Stegron's butt, Spider-Man asks him how he escaped his drowning in MTU #20. And, while fighting, the Dinosaur Man tells him. He lowered his metabolism and drifted to shore.
Suddenly, Stegron drops his dinosaur bone controlling device and Peter Parker gets sloppy. He lunges for the machine, giving Steggy time to smack a pillar with his tail causing debris to cave in on Spidey.
Stegron grabs his device and runs away while Parker is left wondering how he'll find him again.
Oh no! His fears came true. He could not stave off his reptile form and once again, Curt Connors becomes THE LIZARD.
The Lizard knows Stegron is the one who wronged him and flat out is ready to DESTROY him. Great final semi-splash by Ross Andru.
(Soak in the image and then hurry down to see how it ends!)
What a great way to start a comic. Spider-Man swinging on his webs. So cool!
Parker has no leads. Since Vincent Stegron used to be Curt Connors lab assistant, then maybe he might provide some answers. Spidey approaches the New York City dwelling and is rapidly attacked by THE LIZARD. Spider-man is careful not to hurt him as he knows Curt Connors and the Lizard are one.
Before jumping down the sewer, the Lizard gives Spidey a warning. Stay out of my way. I don't want to hurt you, but I will if you interfere!
Spider-Man checks in on Martha and gets the scoop on what's going down. Billy got captured, and Dr. Connors was given 48 hrs to make a device. Spidey cleans up a bit and stands the Christmas tree back up. He tells her everything is going to be fine.
The scene goes away from Spidey and the reptiles for a bit. First, we see JJJ and Dr. Madison again. He can't believe she made him extinguish a cuban cigar. He cheers up when she shows him a SPIDER SLAYER!
Elsewhere, MJ is at the bachelor pad of Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn. Spider-Man calls in the guise of Peter and tells MJ it is going to be a bit longer until he can make it.
And, we see another reason why these issues are not dumb. There is somewhat of a MARVEL MILESTONE as Harry Osborn announces he has asked LIZ ALLEN to marry him. She said, "YES"! Woohoo!
In an abandoned storage vault, Stegron takes his experiment to the next level. After taunting Billy, he adds flesh to the dinosaur skeletons with his RETRO-GENERATION RAY. Stegron then reveals that the plans he gave to Curt Connors are for a formula that will allow the user to clone and create an army of dinosaurs.
Unfortunately, for Steggy, it's not Connors that showed up. It's the Lizard and he's real mad about Billy being snatched up. Let the REPTILIAN WAR begin!
During the fight, borders are broke in every panel. The brawl is evenly matched. Stegron says that maybe they should become a team.
As the skin adding process ends, the dinosaurs lumber towards Billy. Before he is crushed, the Lizard saves him. The four dinosaurs go outside and roam the streets of New York City. Spidey sees them and saves a woman. After he sees the police helping, Spider-Man checks out the place where the dinosaurs came from.
Stegron and the Lizard are surprised to see him. Spidey simultaneously smacks them both. The Lizard strikes back first. Spider-Man shoots so much web fluid into it's mouth, that it causes the Lizard to pass out.
Stegron gets in a cheap shot from behind and runs off with Billy. Spider-Man helps the now transformed Dr. Connors to his feet and then tries to fulfill his promise to Martha.
Outside the scene is horrific! Stegron rides on the back of a mighty T-Rex with Billy as his hostage. Police stand with guns afraid to hit the innocent child. Spider-Man comes swinging in and easily knocks Steggy of his mount while grabbing ahold of Billy.
A daring move, but now Spider-Man and Billy are surrounded by the giant beasts. For some reason, they stop. They revert back to bone and KRASH!
What happened? Curt Connors was able to reverse the RETRO-GENERATOR.
Now, where did Stegron get off to? He's not getting away that easy! Spider-Man takes off looking for the one who caused all this havoc. It's snowing and Stegron is cowering underneath a bridge.
Spidey is close and Stegron hides. Spider-Man walks right past him without noticing. Stegron then throws a rock and Spidey falls for it! A perfect distraction. But, Stegron may have been better off getting caught. He slips and falls into the freezing water with a SPLASH!
The last we see of Vincent Stegron is his orange dino claw reaching out of the water for anything that may keep him from going under. By the time Spidey investigates, the area of water that Stegron fell into has become ice.
On his way home Spider-Man observes the Connors family from outside their window. He leaves a nicely wrapped gift hanging from a web in plain sight.
The comic ends with Spider-Man swinging over Rockafeller Center yelling, "MERRY CHRISTMAS NEW YORK-- YOU GREAT BIG SHINY APPLE YOU! And, God BLESS us every one!"
See big brother! Those issues were awesome. Kind of ...
*I forgot Flash and Harry shared a pad for a bit.
*With a name like Vincent Stegron, did he even have a chance NOT to be a mediocre villain?
*Do any hardcore Spider-Man maniacs know if they ever showed what was in the gift left for the Connors' family?)