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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Hi, I'm Octo, and that's right, I can read *two* comic books!

If you were to ask me who my favorite superhero is, I'd probably say... Bashful Benjamin J. Grimm, the Ever-Loving Blue-Eyed Thing (Idol o'millions).

But I put it to a vote, and he lost.

Luckily, my second favorite superhero was the winner, and that's Spider-Man! You know him! He does whatever spiders can! And it didn't take long for Stan Lee and Martin Goodman to realize that I wasn't alone in feeling that way. Which is for the best because Spider-Man was over 20 years old before I was born. And it's never really stopped being true; even purely on the comics page; Spidey (and his associated satellite characters) is matched only by X-Men for being the Marvel series with the most books being published per month. To say nothing of the many, many cartoons and movies.

And Marvel Team-Up was one of the first spin-offs out of the gate (second, if you count the two-issue Spectacular Spider-Man magazine from the 60s).

The premise was pretty simple, and basically summed up by the title; it was a team-up book between a popular character (usually, but not always, Spider-Man) and one other Marvel Character (often one who needed a bit of a popularity boost that comes from having Spider-Man show up in your comic); and they'd work together to fight... well... someone or other. These were Technically Canon, But Definitely Tertiary stories, so it was typically either a Brand New (and pretty harmless) villain or else an otherwise major threat who was having an off day. Sometimes both. In many ways, it feels like a companion to the Spider-Man Newspaper Strip.

And that brings us to this;


Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas (written by Roy Thomas, art by Ross Andru and Mike Espisito), where my favorite of Marvels teen heroes teams up with my least favorite, and both do a good job of confusing me about established canon. Also, it kind of wants to be a Christmas Special, but misses the mark pretty severely, which is understandable seeing as the story was published in March.

Anyway, with what Roy admits is a pretty weak poem, the story opens with Peter taking pictures at the beach of the Polar Bear Club as they get ready for their Annual "Jump Into The Cold Waters of the Jersey Shore at Christmas" thing. An event which is interrupted when one of the swimmers is suddenly attacked by a tentacle. An even which she quickly revises when she realizes she was actually being attacked by a moving hunk of sand. Sand... shaped like A MAN!

It's The Sandman, in fact! Wasting no time at all in making his appearance in the story. And this is still in that brief window when he had a truly, truly idiotic looking costume. And, seeing a supervillain on the beach (and reacting MUCH faster than the actual superhero with incredible speed and reflexes who was watching all this happen) a pair of cops charge the Sandman and try to arrest him for... being... a guy made of sand.

Also; no idea what those cops were doing there. They were apparently "providing security for the event" but umm... that feels like it'd be more of a lifeguard thing. Maybe coast-guard.

Regardless, they're not too quick to realize that a guy named Sandman, who has already proven he's called that because he's made of sand may not be the easiest person in the world to arrest; and are surprised when their handcuffs pass right through his arms. And are even more surprised when they try to escalate things to "tackling him from two different sides" just results in them knocking themselves out.

Luckily, their bumbling antics gives Peter enough time to change into his costume, and we have ourselves a right proper superpowered donny-brook. Which ALSO goes badly for the forces of justice. Mainly because we're on page 4 of a 20 page comic, and it would have been pretty unsatisfying if the story were over already; and partly because it's been a while since the last time Spider-Man and Sandman fought, and Spidey kind of... forgot how you're supposed to fight him.

To be fair; it's all but impossible to fight Sandman conventionally, and fighting him on a beach is really giving him the homefield advantage. About the only thing that saves Spidey is when he makes a quip about it being Christmas Eve, which throws Sandman off his game, and causes him to immediately leave the area; leaving Spidey kind of confused.

Of course, if there's one thing everyone knows about Spider-Man; one single core defining tenant of his character; it's that he accepts no responsibility alongside his great power, and decides to let the Fantastic Four know that Sandman is back and tearing up the city, since, if you check the tapes, he's fought the FF more often than he's fought Spider-Man as of 1974; that means he's a Fantastic Four villain and it's no his job to apprehend him, after letting him escape.

And, as it turns out, he could have saved himself a trip, as the FF are out of town, having left town to go on a Christmas Vacation. Except Johnny; who is sulking around the World Famous Baxter Building, casually throwing fireballs heedlessly out the window, and complaining that he isn't with any of his friends of loved ones because of "Girl Troubles" which is not elaborated upon beyond that (which sums up Johnny Storms entire character arc over the course of 60 years pretty succinctly).

Johnny and Spidey have a quick "No, Sandman is YOUR villain. YOU deal with him" argument, before begrudgingly deciding to work together to catch him, on the grounds that neither of them trusts the other to do a decent job of it, and after comparing notes ("Sandman hangs out on the Jersey Shore a lot") they head off to see if they can track them down.

And along the way, they also encounter very Spider-Man/Johnny Storm centric minor crises to solve; teaching each of them to respect the abilities of the other; Johnny stops a runaway truck by melting all the ice it was skidding on, and Spider-Man apprehends some muggers who stole some Christmas presents from a lady.

I kind of think that the speeding truck instantly stopping because there was no longer any ice underneath it violates some laws of physics, and also in the spirit of the season, Spider-Man just webs the thieves to a wall instead of hauling them to jail; and it takes hours for his webs to dissolve and it's Christmas Eve Night, so I think he may have let them die of exposure.


Anyway, after that chicanery is dealt with, they happen upon an abandoned warehouse and surmise that it must be Sandmans hideout. And they're proven correct, because Sandman is there, and another fight breaks out. And Sandman wins again, because Johnny Storm is a colossal idiot, and Spider-Man still isn't really equipped to deal with him. And because that's the kind of book this is, instead of killing then two heroes after knocking them out, he just concocts an incredibly elaborate death trap involving a complicated array of pullies in a nearby water tower and just leaves them inside it to drown to death while Sandman runs off.

Luckily, the rules of the elaborate death trap are... needlessly complicated; the pulleys mean one of the heroes will be pulled up and out of the water if the other dives, so Spidey holds his breath and lets Johnny out of the water long enough to Flame On and blow up the water tower, and once the two of them escape, Spidey realizes that he gave them an easy out because his heart wasn't really in the mood for killing them; and he was in too much of a hurry to do a thorough job of it.

I can't help but feel like any amount of hurry he was in was undone by setting up a Gordian knot of murder-pulleys.

So they resume chasing Sand-Man, somehow guessing exactly where he was headed; a nursing home somewhere in Jersey City; which they arrive at just as Sandman shows up; and he explains.

His mother is very old and very sick, and doesn't know he's a convicted super-criminal, but every year on Christmas Eve he pays her a visit, and he's been using the spoils of his criminal endeavors to pay for her medical bills. And Spidey and Johnny are so moved by this that they agree to forgive his recent murder attempts and violent assaults and wait until *after* his heartfelt reunion with his mother to arrest him, and Pete even gives him the present he was going to give Gwen Stacy as a Christmas present, because Sand Man was too busy beating him up to do any last minute shopping.

Which Sandman accepts with a "Aww shucks guys, thanks".

And then he skedaddles down the bathroom sink by turning into sand and avoids being arrested.

So Johnny writes "Merry Christmas" in the sky using his flame and the two heroes decide that's close enough to a job well done, and call it a night.

NEXT TIME: The Peril of Paste-Pot Pete
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Beta Metroid

At peace
Spidey's eagerness to hand off the Sandman-catching to the FF always struck me as odd in this one. He's so determined to do it that he tries to pretend the Sinister Six and at least one other Sandman fight never happened (claiming he's only fought the Sandman once before)!

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
At first I thought the Sick Mom thing was a ruse because she calls him “William” instead of “Flint” implying she didn’t know who he is; but it turns out that, no, “Flint Marko” is just an alias.

Also, this is a Roy Thomas book, and if there’s anyone who wouldn’t hesitate to over-explain a plot point, it’s my boy, Roy.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We've got one of the rare multi-part stories in Marvel Team-Up already, kinda sorta, with And Spidey Makes Four (written by Gerry Conway, with art by Ross Andru and Jim Mooney), which takes place a couple of weeks after the last issue, which naturally begins with Johnny moping about recent developments in his life on a pier.

Not the fact that he and Spidey let a dangerous super criminal escape by merit of assuming he would voluntarily go to jail after visiting his mother, just the fact that he had to break-up with his girlfriend, Crystal. The reasons for that break-up aren't elaborated on in this issue, but it's because the environment outside of the Inhumans city of Attilan is literally poisonous to her, and he didn't want to attempt to try making a long distance relationship work.

Luckily, there's a drunk derelict on the pier with him, and Johnny takes his advice of "Find literally anybody who can stand you and be his friend" to heart, Flames on and flies off to find Literally Anybody Who Could Stand His Presence.

Luckily, it doesn't take him long to find Spider-Man swinging around, and decides Spider-Man must be his best friend on the grounds that they both bonded over having recently been beaten up by Sandman, and Spider-Man is the only person outside his immediate family unit that hasn't tried to murder him. And Spider-Man replies that not immediately wanting to murder someone doesn't mean you're friends; and furthermore, he doesn't like Johnny, before swinging away. Johnny also introduced his invitation to friendship by nearly killing Spider-Man with fireballs, and burning through his weblines as he was swinging, so it's easy to understand his chilly reception.

It's basically the same relationship Picard and Q share.

Anyway, watching this squabble is the increasingly misnamed Frightful Four; which has at least been brought back up to a Frightful Three, since Sandman escaped last issue and rejoined the team; and despite the surprising level of success that the Fr. Four had in terms of villainy in their first few appearances, they have officially hit Joke Villain status.

When a full half your Evil Team is made up of Paste Pot Pete, you have nowhere to go but up.

And so, team leader The Wingless Wizard has officially made his decision; he'll let Spider-Man join the team so the Frightful can be Four once again!

There are certain logistical problems with asking Spider-Man to join your evil team-up, but Wizards got some hypnotizing gadgets, so... y'know... problem solved.

Presumably at least, since any capture and brainwashing of Spidey is entirely off panel.

Anyhow, a few days later, Johnny is still completely unable to find Any Friends, and also the rest of the Fantastic Four left the state, presumably because they were on an exciting science adventure that didn't involve Johnny, or they too were sick of him (a little Johnny Storm goes a long way), and he's busy sulking around the World Famous Baxter Building, when there's a knock on the door, from none other than Spider-Man!

Johnny naturally assumes Spider-Man has had a good long think about his offer to become Johnny's Only Friend, and has come over to... I'unno, sign the necessary forms or something. He doesn't pause to think about the fact that Spider-Man is a known solo-act superhero who doesn't team-up with other people, nor is he very open about his private life. Also, he's just staring soullessly into the security camera, and he isn't saying anything despite his reputation for never shutting up.

But you don't find "overly cautious" on a list of Johnny Storms personal failings, so he goes down to visit what must SURELY be his newest (first) friend... and Spidey Man punch's him straight in the jaw, kicks him in the stomach and webs him to a wall.

Johnny has had basically no historical understanding of things that friends do, but he's been on the "Get knocked out immediately" side of a superhero fight more times than he can count, so it doesn't take him very long to realize that Spider-Man has turned evil, but he's also fighting very badly and using techniques that pointedly do not work on the Torch (Spideys webs are very much not fire-proof), and also not talking (which is unheard of during a superhero fight, especially one involving Spider-Man), so he assumes Spidey's gotten some brain-scramblies.

And Johnny's reluctance to fight back against someone who isn't in full control of their mental faculties (and the fact that even if the Frightful Four are jokes, there's four of them) leads him to being beaten pretty soundly; and he wakes up with a pretty severe concussion courtesy of Spider-Man and Sandman, wrapped in a specially designed strait-jacket by Wizard and... umm... had his legs glued together by Paste Pot Pete

Big contributor, that Pete.

The FF left him tied to the floor while they went on to their actual objective; The Wizard wants to break into Reeds lab, while it's abandoned and study the Negative Zone Gateway; so he could learn how to build his own, and then he'd have access to the limitless supply of energy and resources of the Negative Zone to help him rob banks and stuff!

This strikes him as a good idea right up until the moment he realizes he forgot something very important about the Negative Zone; it's inhabited, and the guy who rules it is called Annihilus: The Living Death Who Walks; He Who Annihilates. And a whole list of other, similar, epithets. And the only thing that keeps him from destroying the human race on general principle is the fact that Reed Richards doesn't leave the door to the Negative Zone open.


Paste Pot Pete sees That Which Comes Before Nothing approaching the dimensional gate and immediately declares "My traps will stop this Annihilus character" before throwing some glue bombs at him.

It works precisely as well as you might expect, but you have to respect him for his sheer self confidence.

Anyway, the Frightful Fours plans have gone pretty pear-shaped, so they move their goalposts; decide to free Johnny and declare Annihilus to be his problem, and then steal a spaceship that Reed has kicking around and leave Earth because Annihilus is going to kill everything on it.

This plan, too, is a mitigated success as Johnny already freed himself (Petes glue traps are not fire proof, and there's lots of sharp things in the room to cut through the jacket; it's the least formidable prison possible), and also knocked out Sandman exploiting the fact that Flint can't change his density if he's caught off guard; which in turn melted his sand to quartz.

He also un-hypnotizes Spider-Man by screaming the word "FRIEND!" at him over and over, which works splendidly. I can only assume that Spider-Man is still very open to suggestion and that's why they became buddies; and together the two of them knock out Wizard and Pete for the cops, which just leaves the two of them alone to fight the Lord of the Annihilation Wave;

And while they're way WAY more formidable than the Frightful Four, Annihilus is still vastly above Johnny and Spideys weight-class. Johnnys strategy is to try to slow him down while Spider-Man alerts the Avengers or Fantastic Four of the danger and hopefully, between them, they could beat him back before he can ravage too much of the planet.

Spider-Man has a much better plan of... unplugging the Negative Zone portal, turning it off before he can finish emerging.

Which works; leading to perhaps the most ignoble defeat of Annihilus' career, and Spidey and Johnny to say "Well, we saved the planet so I guess we technically work together well."


Then Spidey leaves, leaving Johnny alone to call the police to report an attempted dimensional incursion. Which has to be in the police code list by this point.

NEXT TIME: Once Morbius With Feeling
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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Whuff, The Power to Purge (written by Gerry Conway, with Art by Ross Andru and Frank Giacoia) is one of the single roughest comics I’ve read in a bit. I’ve got damn near no idea what was happening in this one. Also, despite the title and basic premise of this series, Spider-Man barely teams up with anyone.

Also really not sure what the issues title means…

Anyway, gonna try my best to untangle this mess.

Kicking off this weird story of ineffectual superheroics and vampires, is an arguement between two brothers. I didn’t get their names in my notes and I kept mixing them up but the key thing about them is that they had an emotional falling out because one wants to go to college and one hates whitey. Also they both talk like what 1970s Gerry Conway assumed black people sounded like.

Not the worst example of Silver Age Marvel handling race relations but that’s mainly because that bar is quite low.

Anyway, Blue Jacket College Brother leaves in a huff, leaving Yellow Jacket Angry Brother behind to be the only person to see an obvious corpse drifting by in the river.

Movies tell me this isn’t an uncommon occurrence for 1970s New York but Yellow Jacket Angry Brother still decides to jump in and rescue the very clearly dead man. Which is a mitigated success as it turns out the corpse used to be regular dead, but now he’s undead! Sorta!

Its our special guest villain Morbius The Living Vampire!

Morbius had the misfortune of being created just sliiightly before the CCA eased up its restrictions on depictions of the occult so he’s actually a guy who gained vampire-like traits because he was playing around with vampire bat DNA and Comic Books happened to him. The primary difference between Morbius and a Dracula is that Morbius is the only guy in the Marvel universe unhappy to be a Vampire and also he won’t ever shut up about how he’s not actually a vampire.

Furthermore he looks like a Monster Rock Steve Buscemi. It’s a really unflattering look.

Good name for a vampire though; credit there.

Anyway; Tellow Jacket Angry brother fished him out of the river and tried to give him CPR (despite Morbius literally being a drowned corpse) and then Morbius wakes up and proceeds to Drac him up.

And then I guess a couple months pass, as per narration box, and we cut to Spider-Man, our credits page, and a lot of sparkly dots surrounding Peters head because he has the flu.

Im not sure any character in the whole of fiction has had more colds or flus than Spider-Man; it’s pretty much the go-to reason for Spidey to struggle with any villain.

Anyway, besides the sparkles and Spidey complaining of feeling woozy, our other major indication that he’s not feeling well is that somebody screams for help and he fails to catch his web line when he goes to swing over to catch them; and the whole sequence is dedicated to him barely catching his fall as he plummets to the ground, and realizes he needs medical attention and heads off to the ESU campus to talk to his biology professor about it.

I hope whoever was screaming for help was just joking around because Spidey does not follow up on that in any capacity and that person is never heard from or seen again.

Meanwhile, at Four Freedoms Plaza, a panicky lady has come into the World Famous Baxter Building desperately looking for Reed Richards; it seems she’s Morbius’ fiancé and she gives a confusing, truncated version of Morbius’ backstory and also lost track of him shortly after he turned himself into an ersatz Vampire, and something like that sounds like it’s in Reed Richards’ wheelhouse to help with.

Reed agrees, since “Virulogist who specializes in Bat DNA and turned into a Dracula by accident” does sound like a Reed Richards kind of problem. And Johnny is completely dismissive, saying that a guy who mutated into a Living Vampire is completely unbelievable.

Johnny apparently forgot about the half dozen Science Wizards who all hate him, or the Space Gods he’s on a first name basis with. Reed just can’t deal with Johnny at the moment and tells him to go play outside.

This isn’t a good issue of comic booking, but it DOES confirm my suspicion that nobody actually likes Johnny Storm.

Anyway, he does and vaguely remembers Spider-Man telling him about fighting some vampire guy when he had six arms recently (even by Comic Book standards that’s the sort of thing you’d expect would have stuck out in his memory a little better) and decides to launch his own investigation into this Living Vampire hooey by going to see Morbius’ colleague; a biology professor at ESU.

Hey! Thats where Spider-Man is headed! Wild!

Incidentally, Spidey sees Johnny fly towards the campus while he’s there and complains that he shouldn’t have told that guy where he goes to school.

Johnny also barges into the professors lab mid class and demands he start spilling the beans on any potential relationships he has with any vampires (living or otherwise).

And the professor pretty quickly shuts him down for barging into the middle of a college lecture while on fire screaming about vampires and his own personal flame and all the students thank him for it.

Again, just want to stress this isn’t me projecting my own general dislike of Johnny Storm on to the comic; everyone is genuinely annoyed with him.

Anyway, under the guise of deciding that dealing with Johnny Storm is part of acting with great responsibility, Spider-Man heads to the class as well, and suggests they both just wait outside until the professor is finished with his lecture, which Johnny agrees to, and then they all have tea together.

The professor says that, yes, he does know Morbius but hasn’t spoken to him in a while, and Spider-Man fills in the gaps with honestly even less tact than if he said “Guess who has two thumbs and killed that man?”

“No One Dies” isn’t a rule that applies to pseudo-vampires, I guess. Also Spider-Man at no point asks the professor if he could offer any insight on his mystery illness, even though his every line of dialogue is complaining about how sick he feels.

So now this bewildering fever-dream of a comic cuts over to Morbius himself, and apparently he converted Yelkow Jacket Angry Brother into a vampire like himself, but UNLIKE Morbius, Yellowjacket Angry Brother thinks being a Vampire is awesome. Morbius is all Anne Ricey and says “No, I hate being a vampire so you should too.” and then leaves to go eat someone as is his whole deal as a vampire, regardless of whether or not the CCA is allowing him to call himself that.

Luckily among the people Morbius chose to eat is a homeless man who is within shouting distance of the professors apartment, so Spidey and the Torch are close enough to hear his death cries and arrive on the scene juuuust after Morbius finishes killing him.

And surprisingly for a first superhero fight of the issue; they do a good job of it; Torch is able to generate enough flame to simulate the sun, weakening Morbius enough that even a woozy and sick Spider-Man can beat him like a rented drum.

Unfortunately, things break down shortly after this, when the college students see the fight and jump to the wrong conclusion of seeing two of New York’s most celebrated heroes beating the hell out of a walking corpse, and decide to jump in to help Morbius.

It probably doesn’t help that in his fevered daze, Spider-Man is continuously and (seemingly) drunkenly beating the absolute cuss out of a guy who is flat in his back already.

So a riot breaks out in the campus grounds with everyone trying the pull Spider-Man off the deadly vampire he’s trying to subdue, and all the narration boxes read like it’s a *really* clunky and off-putting metaphor for the civil rights movement that kiiiinda feels like it’s trying to say both sides of it need to take a breather.

Like I said; still not quite the worst Marvel comic I’d seen broach the subject; when amidst the brawl Yellow Jacket Angry Brother jumps in to defend his buddy Morbius while Blue Jacket College Brother jumps in to… i’unno, resume contributing to the brawl and College Brother winds up accidentally knocking his brother out and killing him when he whacks his head off a rock, in a series of panels so confusing I had to reread the page multiple times to see what just happened.

If Angry Brother we’re still human, a whack like he got would have put him at risk for a concussion, but unless “Extremely Vulnerable to CTE Injuries” is an aspect of vampire lore I’m not familiar with, he really should have been fine.

So College Beother is very sad to see that after having a falling out with his brother he accidentally wound up killing him so now he won’t have a chance to make amends and also Morbius snuck off during the distraction and also Spider-Man is still feeling pretty sickly and there’s probably a plot relevant reason for that but ehhhh.

NEXT TIME: At Last; No Johnny Storm

Beta Metroid

At peace
This reminds me of another of the most striking things I remember about Marvel Team-Up (at least the first two dozen issues or so that I have a collected volume of): Spidey is a LOT more callous and generally uncaring about people dying, often in cases that range between "you probably could have prevented that with an average level of superhero effort" to "that was premeditated murder, Spider-Man". It's quite a contrast from Amazing, where he'd often agonize over things that even Jameson may consider unfair to pin on him. Heck, even contrasting his immediate reaction to Morbius's apparent death to his laid-back recap here is jarring, and it's far from the most extreme example of this.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Meant to put this into the write up;


“Yeah your friend and colleague died by my hands... anyway”

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
This reminds me of another of the most striking things I remember about Marvel Team-Up (at least the first two dozen issues or so that I have a collected volume of): Spidey is a LOT more callous and generally uncaring about people dying, often in cases that range between "you probably could have prevented that with an average level of superhero effort" to "that was premeditated murder, Spider-Man". It's quite a contrast from Amazing, where he'd often agonize over things that even Jameson may consider unfair to pin on him. Heck, even contrasting his immediate reaction to Morbius's apparent death to his laid-back recap here is jarring, and it's far from the most extreme example of this.

I do recall reading an issue from shortly Gwen Stacy died, where his general reaction was “Disproportionately Annoyed at a minor inconvenience”.

He was operating at the same level of emotional intensity at the death of his girlfriend as if he’d gotten the wrong order at a coffee shop, hit every red light on the way over there and also stubbed his toe walking in.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

So apparently the one unifying theme of Marvel Team Up is that Spider-Man is an unrepentant jackass, proving J. Jonah Jameson correct, as we see in And Now; The X-Men (Written by Gerry Conway, and with Gil Kane and Steve Mitchell handling art. I don't know which one of them is responsible for it looking like trash, but my moneys on Steve).

Bright side is that we don't have Johnny Storm around!

Anyway, remember last issue when Spider-Man was suffering from severe fevers, chills and light-headedness? And also an unrelated callousness to Morbius' apparent death? And then he forgot to follow up with that with the biology professor at ESU who might have had some insight into that because he accidentally caused a student riot?

Well, Spider-Man sure does because since then he's had constant hallucinations about Morbius killing and eating him, and also the fever and chills have gotten worse, and his nightly anguished moans over the fact that his own body is killing him for unknown reasons has... annoyed his roommate Harry Osborn enough that he's worried that he's going to cause some noise complaints and get them kicked out of their apartment.

This might have been him joking around, trying to make light of the fact that Peter is dying of an unknown illness but, given Harrys entire personality and upbringing, maybe not?

Anyway, Pete rejects Harrys suggestion that he go see a doctor because of the OBVIOUS DYING he's doing and as soon as his friend is out of the room, he immediately puts on his costume and decides to head over to Professor Hans Jargensson's lab, since... apparently he just plum forgot he was planning on doing that last issue until Harry reminded him.

At the lab, Hans is looking over the lab notes Morbius was working off of when he wound up getting Drac'd by accident and realizes that Spider-Man was telling the truth about him in the last issue; Morbius' attempts to cure leukemia were a partial success in that they eliminated cancer cells, but also caused Spontaneous Draculization in patients. And also he apparently tested the serum on himself because that's just how lab work is done when you live in comic books.

Can't help but imagine there's a geologist who jams a hunk of zircon into their forehead in order to test it for mineral purity. Or a DFA who has to eat a Monet because there's no time to go through the proper channels to see if it's authentic.

Anyhow, as it happens, Morbius was also hanging out in his old lab because... he... wanted to? And he saw Hans and figured "Well... might as well kidnap him too, I guess".

Morbius' life goals don't seem to extend in any particular direction beyond "Be Sad to be a Dracula" and "Hiss a lot".

Not long after that, Spider-Man shows up in the lab as well, see's the place ransacked and figures "Well, Morbius was probably here and kidnapped the professor" and turns to leave when the labs land-lady (?!?) comes in, having heard the noise of the professor having been kidnapped by a Living Vampire, sees Spider-Man and immediately passes out.

Spidey leaves her there because this is Marvel Team-Up, and this Spider-Man has a markedly different attitude towards power and responsibility than what you might be used to elsewhere.

Anyway, Spider-Man was seen adjacent to a crime scene, so, naturally, the Daily Bugle was quick to print a special edition accusing Spider-Man of being responsible for breaking in to a science lab and kidnapping Professor Jargensson (and based on the time-frame of the rest of this issue, this must have been printed and delivered *minutes* later). A special edition which was read by another professor; Charles Xavier of the X-Men! Who the cover of the issue suggested an appearance from!

This comic was published before Wein and Cockrum relaunched the series with the All new, All Different team, but after the book was semi-cancelled and existed as reprints, so this is the All Old, All Same X-Men team of Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Jean Grey and Beast. And also Beast opts out of appearing in this issue (see Strange Tales to learn why, True Believers -Smilin' Stan). Also Havoc and Polaris aren't on the team or mentioned as existing.

Also, I guess it was laundry day, so the rest of the team is out of uniform (which, in Angels case, means he's flying around shirtless, which has to be the least effective way to keep your identity secret).

Anyway, Chuck is apparently not aware of the Bugles editorial stance on Spider-Man, and how being unbiased about him means they don't definitively say if he's a threat or a menace, so he assigns the X-Men to go out and apprehend Spider-Man for the crime of being nearby when a kidnapping occurred. As is the traditional introduction for the X-Men, most of them are in the Danger Room showing off their uncanny mutant powers for new readers.

Except Beast who doesn't want to be involved in this story, and Jean, who is using her powers to telekinetically hold up a book while lounging on the couch in her uniform.

Anyway, we're halfway through a 20 page comic, so it doesn't take long for the X-Men to find Spider-Man and quickly subdue him on the grounds that he's still dying of a mysterious illness and is outnumbered 4-1. Granted, he did still manage to beat three of them pretty easily, and was only beaten because Jean sucker-punched him with mind-bullets and then flattened him to the ground with a telekinetic forcefield.

The team brings a very unconscious (and very nearly deceased) Spider-Man back to the Mansion where Professor X uses his own psychic powers to read Spider-Mans mind to see where he took Hans, and learns that it's distinctly possible that Mr. Jameson didn't get all the facts he needed before accusing Spidey of a felony; because it was Morbius who kidnapped the professor, and furthermore; Spider-Man is extremely close to death and the reason he's so sick is because when he injected himself with a chemical enzyme that Morbius developed in order to cure himself of having extra limbs, it had the side effect of also being a deadly poison because of his own mutated DNA.

So, just to break this down;
If a normal human takes Morbius' serum, they become a Living Vampire
If you have Radioactive Spider-Blood it will instead remove up to four limbs and also kill you

It definitely cures leukemia though. So that's a perk.

Also, apparently Chucks mental scan was thorough enough that he could read the memories of Morbius' vampiric genetics. Also, I can't help but assume he also now knows Spider-Mans secret identity, but he never mentions it. Also, Peter didn't actually know that Morbius took the professor, it was just a guess on his part.

So now the X-Men have a new mission of tracking down Morbius in order to rescue Professor Jargensson so that he can make an anti-serum that will cure Spider-Man... within the next couple of hours because he doesn't have enough time to watch a movie before shuffling off this vale of tears.

Luckily, there's only a few pages left in the comic, so it doesn't take them long to find him (also people keep screaming when they see Morbius, and he then eats them, it's not a difficult trail to follow), unfortunately a well fed Definitely-Not-a-Vampire like Morbius is a great deal harder to fight than a nearly dead Spider-Man, and Morbius just absolutely tears through the whole team like nobodies business, only being beaten because he didn't keep up to date on the details of Marvel Trading Cards, and so didn't realize that having just absurdly good aim with eye-beam ricochets is one of Cyclops' mutant powers, and he banks an Optic Blast off several buildings and garbage in order to hit the back of Morbius' head, knocking him unconscious.

It's honestly one of the only good sequences of panels in this issue.

So Hans is saved, and the X-Men bring him and the unconscious Morbius back to the mansion in order to use their combined expertise to save Spider-Mans life. Morbius wouldn't be very strongly inclined to save Pete, even if he were conscious, but between Charles and Jeans psychic powers, he doesn't really get a vote on the matter. And luckily, the cure for Vampire Chemotherapy is just *incredibly* fast acting, which even the X-Men agree is kind of weird, and Spidey goes from "dying any minute now" to "hale and hearty" in, like, five minutes.

A fact which he displays by jumping off the bed, giving Jean Grey a big ol' non-consensual smooch (declaring her the only X-Men he likes) and then jumping out the window; breaking the glass as he does so.


Seriously, it's like the end of a Three Stooges short.

NEXT TIME The Eyes Have It!
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Johnny Unusual

This is like when Marge tries to defend Homer to Patty and Selma and his pops his head out a window smashes a plate over his head and yells "WRONG!"

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Well, bad news is that The Passion of the Mind (written by Gerry Conway, with arty by Gil Kane and Mike Espisito) is not the issue that introduces the Basilisk (one of my Favorite MTU creations), despite the blurb at the end of the previous issue promising him. It also doesn’t have Spider-Man being an asshole, nor is he really teaming up with anyone so much as “Standing Near another Superhero who is passed out”, and the arts honestly pretty good. In that regard, it’s barely a MTU issue at all!

On the other hand, it is a suitably weird ass comic, and a title that has nothing to do with the plot, and the villain on the cover looks nothing like he does inside, so it does have that going for it.

Anyway, one night Spidey happens to see a lurching figure stumbling around in the dark, and immediately figures “This guy needs a Superhero to save him” as opposed to “this guy had one too many and can’t legally drive.” And as it turns out, he’s correct to think this when the lurching man falls over and through the pavement; leaving his clothing and skin behind.

This is pretty weird even for someone who lives in Comic Books, and so Spidey goes over to see what the hell just happened and is surprised to see half of a robot sticking out of the concrete; it’s The Vision, as the books cover helpfully foreshadowed!


Vision was one of the stars of one of last years most popular prestige TV shows, and was a major part of a good size chunk of the MCU films as well, so I don’t think anyone reading this thread is unaware of him, but I’m nothing if not thorough (this is a lie). Vision is a Synthezoid (a kind of fleshy robot) built to be henchman/son by the genocidal android villain Ultron (guy has really weird family issues). Visz basically immediately rebelled against his dad when he realized that Ultron didn’t really have any proper answer for *why* he wanted to wipe out the human race and joined the Avengers on their general anti-apocalypse platform. He can fly, he’s really strong, and he can make himself intangible, and he and Wanda Maximoff want to smooch faces all the time.

Wanda doesn’t show up in this comic, but it feels weird to talk about Vision without mentioning her.

Anyway, all that is more information than Spidey has about Vision (his knowledge begins and ends with “Avenger who kind of looks like the National Flag of Cameroon”) and suggests taking him to the doctor as the Vision is currently suffering from epileptic seizures and “random bouts of madness”. And Visz shoots him down on the grounds that he’s a Synthezoid and what human physician could help one such as he!

And also because I don’t think “Random Bouts of Madness” is a medical term you can base a diagnosis off of.

And Spidey accepts that a medical doctor probably isn’t trained for that, but HE is a student at ESU, and that's sort of like a scientist, so maybe he can figure out what’s wrong with a super advanced physics defying super android built by a fifth generation malevolent AI.

Also during this whole exchange Vision has no control over his intangibility so he’s half submerged into every surface he comes into contact with; it’s great.

Anyway, at ESU, Spidey whips up an Android-caliber MRI machine pretty easily and is quick to figure out what's causing Visions fainting spells and Random Bouts of Madness; he's got an extra brain in his head!

Yeah, that... that'd do it.

And to learn "wha?" we get a "Meanwhile, previously" kind of cutaway where we see what our issues surprise villain The Puppet Master was up to a few days ago!

Puppet Master, as you may recall, is neither a Spider-Man nor Avengers villain, so his appearance in this story is just a *wild* coincidence. He can control people by making clay sculptures of them; whether this is because of his own mental abilities, or special properties of the clay he uses or both, I don't know (the rationale for him changes a lot), but the important thing is that a few days ago an alien spaceship crashed into the cabin he was hiding out in since his last attempt to murder the Fantastic Four failed. I'd comment on how unlikely this is, but Coincidence is the strongest force in the Marvel universe.

Ol' Mister Masters couldn't get the spaceship open in order to look inside (spaceships are made of sturdier stuff than Very Creepy Old Men), but he COULD look inside and saw a giant robot and figured he'd try to make a clay sculpture of THAT and see if he couldn't get himself an alien robo-minion. Good news (for Phil Masters at least) is that this does actually work more or less; his mind control clay doesn't work the same way on alien robots as it does on humans, but it IS enough to reactivate it and put it under Puppet Masters control;


Phil also decides to rename the robot from its actual name BALLOX (which is a pretty cool name for a space robot) to The Monsteroid (which is not).

Also, thanks to the weird interference between Radioactive Clay Sculpture to Space Robot, every time Puppet Master commands BALLOX to do anything, Vision picks up on it and is struck by a Random Bout of Madness. Puppet Master has NO IDEA this is the case, mind, but it's a thing.

Anyway, back in the present and closer at hand, Spider-Man figures that while he's good enough to make a Synthezoid MRI out of lab scraps, he isn't good enough to yank out a surplus brain pattern from someones head with the tools on hand, so he decides to break into the World Famous Baxter Building and rummage around Reed Richards' lab to find something that would work.

And by wild coincidence, the World Famous Baxter Building is also where Puppet Master is headed, with the much less altruistic goal of... umm... vandalizing it with his robot buddy, I guess. Dude isn't a villain with the grandest designs.

Spidey abandons his "help the Vision with his brain problems" plan to the wayside and leaves him on the couch (half sunk through it) when he realizes he's on hand while someones trying to break in and winds up encountering and getting into a fight with BALLOX; which is a real 6/10 superhero fight. Whole sequence really wouldn't have been out of place in the 60s Spider-Man cartoon, or one of those early issues where Steve Ditko was really phoning it in.

Meanwhile, Vision naps on the couch, enjoying random bouts of madness and clutching his head while screaming.

Eventually, Spidey gets the upper-hand by stomping on BALLOX's head like Super Mario going for a 1-up, which doesn't really damage him very badly, but DOES ring its bell enough to mess up its mechanical brain in such a way that commands to BALLOX are no longer being routed to Vision, which immediately cures him of his Random Bouts of Madness (only scheduled bouts of madness from now on!) letting him get off the couch and confront the Puppet Master, who was in the room with him, and wouldn't have noticed the Robot Man who was inside a couch, and is unaware of the fact that Vision is tired of this story and ends it the way he solves most of his problems; by shoving his intangible arm into Puppet Masters chest and briefly solidifying.

Which, I will be honest, has always absolutely horrified me whenever I see him do it; thank God the CCA is in effect so this always just makes people pass out instead of instantly die BECAUSE SOMEONE JUST SHOVED AN ENTIRE ARM THROUGH THEIR CHEST



Anyway, since the Puppet Master is sleeping off having his heart and lungs telefragged, (incidentally, today I learned that my spell-check accepts "telefragged" as a proper word), BALLOX shuts down, and Vision pops up to thank Spider-Man for helping him, and filling the very confused Pete in on all the plot points from this story he wasn't around for, and explaining what the heck was going on in general.

He also mentions that BALLOX was a Skrull robot left over from the Kree/Skrull war (read recent issues of Avengers for more about that, True Believers), and that Vision couldn't have gone to the AVengers for help with his Brain Problems for "[his] own reasons" (read present issues of Avengers for the reason why, True Believers) and then he leaves.

Because... you know... the comics over.


Next Time: Well, he got better fast

Johnny Unusual

The Monsteroid on the Cover looks like a very old-school Japanese robot from the era they were controlled by little kids in short pants instead of being ridden around by troubled teens.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
I was thinking it was more like Jack Kirby had to draw fifty monsters for a comic, and that was number 43.

In the interior, he looks more like one of those monsters in an RPG that's just a liiiiiittle bit tougher than the other enemies in the same dungeon

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Well, one area in which this book is remarkably consistent is that characters I love, some of my very favorite in the whole of fiction in fact, are just *complete* turds to everyone, as we see in As Those Who Will Not See (written by Gerry Conway, with Gil Kane and Mike Esposito). Also, once again the very title promise of "Marvel Team Up" is thrown into question as Spider-Man basically sits this one out and explicitly comments that he has no business even being involved with this story.

But it IS, to my knowledge, the origin of a pretty major FF villain finally revealed so that ain't nothing.

Incidentally, I was surpised to learn that Gil and Mike were *not* among the artists who worked on the Spider-Man Newspaper strip; the art style is uncannily similar.

Anyway, this issue opens practically in medias res from where the last one left off; with Spider-Man standing in the World Famous Baxter Building, with a comatose Puppet Master at his feet, after the Vision telefragged his entire sternum.

Again, "knocked unconscious" is the best of all possible outcomes to that action.

Anyway, turns out the World Famous Baxter Building wasn't empty, even though the FF were completely ignorant of the Spider-Man vs. Alien Robot fight on the roof, coupled with the Vision suffering a Random Bout of Madness in their living room, and Ben Grimm (idol o'millions) barges in wandering what all the racket is that was interrupting him making time with his lady pal Alicia Masters, then he sees the unconscious (and badly in need of medical attention BECAUSE A ROBOT SHOVED ITS ARM THROUGH HIS CHEST) Puppet Master and says "Aw frig, this dweeb." before picking him up by the scruff of the neck and leading him into another room to question him.

Puppet Master, incidentally, wakes up when Ben approaches, and panics so severely he starts blubbering when he's picked up, and off camera, Ben has obviously been beating the hell out of him, and he returns unconscious again.

It's... umm...


It's not the kind of behavior generally associated with Aunt Petunias favorite nephew, I'll say that. Really doesn't do anything to make me want to read Gerrys FF run.

Anyway, while Ben is off camera beating a terrified man relentlessly, Alicia fills in Spider-Man to the fact that Puppet Master is her step dad in the most overwrought and confusing means possible (As a blind person, my other senses are more honed, I can easily tell people apart by their gait and breathing for example. Especially... when it's the gait and breathing of... MY OWN FATHER!")

So after finished beating a badly injured man until he lapses into a coma, Ben comes back out and reveals that Puppet Master said something interesting mid pummel; that he may have found a treatment that could cure Alicias blindness; a condition that has never really presented itself as an impediment in any real way nor which she's expressed any interest in having addressed. But it's news that made Ben stop beating her stepdad into the ground like a fence post, so... y'know... I guess we're doing this now; and Ben, Alicia and Puppet Master head off to the secret lab Phil had been working in.

And Spider-Man is there too!

Along the way, Puppet Master wakes up and fills in the group to his origins which I don't think were ever revealed before; as befits everything else about him, they're sketchy AF and do nothing to make me sympathize with him even after he was beaten senseless by a big rock man and had his torso destroyed.

Turns out that Phil, along with his partner Jacob Reiss, were scientists working on "the foundational building blocks of life", which took the form of working on a big kiln full of specially crafted radioactive clay; and while "we made clay that's sort of alive and and control people" would be enough for most people, it didn't do a blessed thing for Phils self confidence because he's a freaky creeper who looks like a marionette and was deeply envious of Jacob for being Handsome and Beloved and having a loving family and friends; so Phil got into a fight fight with Jacob, murdered him, and then blew up the lab to hide his crime. Unfortunately, Jacobs wife and daughter were in the car outside the lab waiting for him to come back out and got caught in the blast; blinding them both as a face full of exploding radioactive chemicals is bad for the eyes.

Jacobs widow winds up marrying Philip soon after that on the grounds of "gotta marry someone", and mistaking him feeling guilty for the blinding explosion for genuine love, and he dedicated his life to trying to find a cure for blindness. Which later became a love of making mind-control puppets and attempted murder, as untreated remorse tends the lead to.

Also, there's a confusing breakdown between art and text and I'm genuinely unsure if it's Alicias mom, Alica herself, or both who got blinded and/or romanced.

Anyway, this kooky quartet eventually lands in Pennsylvania (Where Shadows Lie), and make their way to the ruins of Phils old lab, now his current lab, with the intent of going in to find Phils notes on curing blindness so that Alicias peepers will work again; only to learn that Puppet Master was just goofin'; the lab has a pretty advanced and deadly security system which pops out of the ground and blasts Spider-Man (who, again, has no business being here at all) and Ben and knocks them both out, while Phil jumps into a secret entrance to his lab and makes his way to the labs main control room and the issues OTHER villain; The Mad Thinker, Marvels go-to choice when you need a Mad Scientist and don't care about him being compelling!

Thinker and Puppet Master explain (to... each other, who know this already) that they agreed to team up because Phil honestly was looking for a treatment for Alicias blindness and the Thinker was the only scientist who would return his calls, and Thinker needed a new lab because his keep getting exploded, and this one was pretty secure as Pennsylvanias superhero population is pretty slight compared to New Yorks, and he's pretty aggrieved that Phil just brought two of the upper-tier members of that social group literally to his doorstep.

Luckily, this is neither of their first rodeos, and decide to stick with a proven strategy for dealing with separated members of the Fantastic Four; prepare a bunch of death traps and hope that one of them works.

Naturally, they do not, and they're not even particularly creative death traps; Ben is locked into a big steel vault and the air is sucked out (he survives by merit of the fact that it takes a hell of a lot more than a complete lack of oxygen and titanium-lined walls to keep Ben down) and Spidey falls down an oil-slicked vent into a pit of spikes. He gets out by the much more ludicrous means of curling into a ball and pinballing his way own the vent which apparently slows him down enough that he can land safely on the spikes instead of being gored by them, then taking a maintenance shaft to the control room.

And also the Thinker sends one of his robots out to capture Alicia because... he... still had another trap left over and didn't see any reason not to go for a clean-sweep of everyone barging into his property. He keeps this part of the plan secret from Phil as, while he IS a manipulative creep who is way too obsessed with controlling his step-daughters life, that doesn't really translate into wanting to kill her with robots.

When Alica screams because a big robot is accosting her, Phil hears it over the labs radio, and attacks Thinker with a big wrench, Phil can't bring himself to hitting someone from behind even though subterfuge like that is basically all he does, but Spidey pops in and knocks out Thinker by knocking the wrench out of Phils hand with a web-line, and decides to count that as them working together.

Maybe that's the Marvel Team Up for this issue?

Anyway, Ben got turned around in the lab maze at some point and wound up outside apparently (just about everything Ben does in this issue happens off panel) just as the robot reaches for Alicia, so he Clobbers it, as is befitting the present time, and then Spider-man also appears outside of the lab because... the comics nearly over, and then it all explodes for some reason and Alicia figures that her dad had a change of heart about his evil deeds and decided to blow up his lab, along with himself and the Mad Thinker (who she didn't know was involved at all) as a way to apologize for a lifetime of psychological abuse and manipulation.

And Spider-Man and Ben figure "Yeah... I guess?!?!"


NEXT TIME: I really don't know how much help Spider-Man can be in this situation

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Well, once again we have a story that can be best described as “some stuff happened and then the book abruptly ends” in A Hitch In Time. (Gerry Conway and Russ Andru) A story where even a deus ex Machina can’t really provide any kind of narrative closure; and it’s not even the deus ex Machina associated with either of the characters.

On the plus side, it’s a well drawn book at least.

And all the pages are definitely in the right order, even if it feels like a few are missing.

Anyway, we open on the dead of night where Peter Parker is just amblin’ along, and he hears a lady screaming for help as she’s being attacked by some muggers; and figures that he’ll solve that problem by doing whatever a spider can at them.

Luckily someone who can do whatever a spider can is more than a match for three or four miscreants cloaked under the shadow of night, and Spider-Man beats them easily. Mainly by bouncing off the walls like a pinball and tackling them.

You know, like how a spider behaves.

Anyway the lady is saved but runs for her life afterward as she was just threatened by a gang of armed robbers and in the middle of a superhero fight, and Pete is weirdly very put out by this pretty reasonable reaction especially given that he made some pretty threatening advancements on her himself (nominally in order to escort her wherever she was going as this is 1970s New York, which TV and Movies have informed me was basically Mad Max times).

But Pete abandons this weird train of thought by going down a different weird train of thought and realized he was an absolute fool; because he took off his shoes for some reason to fight those guys and if the lighting was better they might have noticed his socks were red, and surmised he must be Spider-Man.

This is some next level bonkers Comic Book Logic that even Otto Binder would have stopped and reconsidered before commuting to the page.

Watching all this and providing no assistance whatsoever is this issues special guest; Thor: God of Thunder; a guy who is normally on the shortlist of being my favorite Marvel characters but who I have to admit was a particularly big goobus in the 1970s. And hes always at least 60% Goobus. And he’s in Marvel Team Up, where “Goobus” is the default state of being.

Anyway, Thor sees Pete beating himself up for being unable to catch a frightened fleeing woman and then getting mad at his own socks, and figures “This guy is upset about something”. And starts to give him a pep-talk…

When suddenly time stops and New York City turns into a photo negative of itself and there’s Trolls everywhere.

Oh… okay. We’re doing this now, I guess.

Thor was fine from the time freeze because he was quick to react and started spinning his hammer around (the full list of things Thor’s hammer can do when he’s got a good twirl on it is past my ability to summarize) and Pete happened to be standing nearby when he was doing it, so they’re fine but everything else in the city is frozen in place. Spidey puts on his costume, revealing his identity to Thor whose reaction is basically “Oh. Huh.”

As for the trolls, they look suitably like a Henchman Jack Kirby would draw, and there’s dozens of them so Spidey and Thor beat them down until they reach their leader Kryllk the Cruel

That’s him on the cover; according to the Marvel Fan Wiki, you aren’t going to find him a second time. But his marital status is “single”, in case you were on the market

He also has one of those designs where I don’t know if it is supposed to be a racist caricature but that’s definitely where they landed

Anyway, Kryllk hates Thors dad, and he somehow got his hands on The Dark Crystal (no relation to the movie) which allows him to stop time across an entire planet which he was going to use on both Earth and Asgard and then kill Odin.

And that’s about all the explanation this plan gets but they sure repeat it a bunch.

Then Kryllk and his trolls leave Earth because they finished freezing it in time and Thor and Spider-Man head off to Avengers Mansion in order to get some help. The Avengers themselves can’t help (they’re also frozen), but apparently all their cool stuff is perfectly valid, and while Thor doesn’t have a clue how science works, Pete does and he’s able to build a scanner that can detect Dark Crystal Time Energy to figure out where Kryllk went.

Because apparently him talking about killing Odin and destroying Asgard wasn’t enough of a hint for either of them.

As it turns out the scanner found the Dark Crystals energies on both Asgard AND an uninhabited asteroid near Asgard so the two of them decide to split up and visit each location; Spider-Man taking Asgard and Thor taking the place that is not his actual literal house.

They each arrive and are not nearly as surprised as the reader is to see that Kryllk, the Crystal and his troll army are at both locations simultaneously.

Another fight breaks out and again the only explanation for anything is Kryllk reiterating his stance on Odin (“hate ‘im”) and Asgard (“hate it”).

Eventually the fight is resolved when Pete punches his instance of Kryllk and the one Thor is fighting is injured, and the one Spidey is fighting is hurt when Thor hits the one he’s fighting and then he and his army just disappears, and Uatu the Watcher shows up;

Turns out the Dark Crystal was in his garage and Kryllk stole it (somehow sneaking around the guy who Watches Everything) knowing it did something big and flashy and figures he could use it to kill Odin, but nothing else about it. And Uatu was pleased that someone else beat him up so he wouldn’t have to interfere on his own behalf. Also it turns out that using the Crystal made time skip a few ticks and that’s why Kryllk and his guys were in two places simultaneously.

And then the comic just abruptly ends so that’s all the narrative closure you’re getting this month, kids!

Next Time; AKA Feminism!
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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Based on my memory of 70s Marvel: OOOOOOOH NOOOOOOOO!

Though they've had some great feminist statements completely on accident.

This is… not one of those times.


You know, sometimes I’d post a particular panel of a comic I’m recapping if there’s something particularly galling about it, but if I posted every panel that made me go “oh WHUFF” this time, I’d wind up having reprinting the entire issue, To its credit though, Jim Mooney is on arts and inks with The Mankiller Moves at Midnight and it is a VERY nice looking comic book as a result. Otherwise, most of the issue is Gerry Conway having some vague idea about what feminism is and saying “Maybe both sides are wrong!”.

At least it doesn’t Do anything to make me dislike Hellcat; she’s still aces in my book! Very little of her later personality is present in this, but, you know, not worse!

Anyway, we open as is traditional with a Spider-Man story; with him swinging around New York in the dead of night when he’s being tracked by an unknown person in the shadows and they immediately get into a fight. This being the traditional Superhero Handshake of two good guys meeting for the first time and thus fighting. Spidey can be forgiven for not knowing who this is, as she’s a newcomer to the superhero scene and even today she’s not nearly as prominent as she deserves;


HELLCAT (aka Patsy Walker)
Actually, Hellcat not being that popular IRL is ironic, given that she is, in the context of the Marvel Universe, a celebrity who is deeply ashamed of her popularity. And also one of the more bewildering instances of trying to rewrite an existing character into a superhero comic context. The original Patsy Walker comics were effectively Marvels (or possibly Timely, it was a *while* ago) answer to Archie; a teen romantic comedy. She was the Betty of the group, and also the comic focused on her instead of the Archie. These stories of her youth, were against her wishes (she was dead at the time of publication), adapted into comics WITHIN the Marvel Universe and were incredibly popular. When Patsy learned about them, she was deeply embarrassed, as you might expect. Then later, doing grad work in a mad science company, she got herself a super-suit that gave her increased speed strength and agility and called herself The Cat. Then later still she died and came back to life and got vague magical powers, and all the various D-list super teams. Then she got a job working for She-Hulk, then she got fired and now she runs a temp agency for people with superpowers but who have no interest in Supercrimes or the Avenging thereof, a task she excels at by using her popularity after having all of her shameful high school secrets on supermarket checkout lines Nation-wide.

Racheal Taylor plays her in Jessica Jones!

Also, in double-checking this, I think it might have actually been the other Hellcat who shows up in this particular issue, who later got turned the human/tiger hybrid Tigra, but I like Hellcat more and she doesn’t reveal anything about her identity beyond “suit makes me strong” so… you know… I’m sticking with what I said.

….Oh, right, Spider-Man, he’s in this too.

Anyway, Spidey defeats cat in the inaugural Meet-up fight but is surprised to discover Hellcat is a girl. This confusion does not continue as nearly every panel of the rest of the comic has someone pointing out what gender each character is, and how it immediately determines their emotional connection to them (invariably hostile), and then Hellcat gives a quick rundown of why she’s in New York, hassling Spider-Men; turns out she’s on the trail of a murderous anarchist, already responsible for the murder of a “violently anti-feminist” political candidate known as…



Mankiller is… not a character born of subtlety. You… umm… you can basically guess her entire deal just from that panel; she was an Olympic skier who decided to show-up a misogynistic rival skier, and they wound up both nearly dying as a result. Well, he wound up all the way dying, she was basically just splattered on the bottom of a crevasse. AIM scientists found her, figured “Hey, let’s make this lady bionic, why not?” And rebuilt her as a cyborg.

All of which being a series of very in-character decisions for AIM.

Anyway, she woke up super strong and decided to wage war on anything with a Y chromosome. No idea how she feels about trans or non-binary folks, but given her general demeanour, I’m assuming she’s not a fan.

Presently she’s leading (or was hired by, the org-chart is not clear) a feminist version of the Weather Underground, and has been enjoying murdering… umm… just men. Not really any kind of political statement they’re making; dudes simply gotta go. And now they’re in New York, and Hellcat has enlisted Spidey to help her track them down because he was the first person with superpower that she saw.

Meanwhile at the Mankillers hideout, Mankiller sees that her underlings (or bosses?) hired someone to help with security for their next objective, and that is was a man. And so Mankiller points out that she wasn’t just whistling Dixie when she picked out that name by then killing that man, with the power of man killing. Then she has an internal monologue that recaps her origins, that ends with her yelling out loud the last thing she was thinking of, which is something that always delights me, and confuses whoever she’s in earshot of. Then she announces that they’re going to strike the place with the highest concentration of men in New York City; the Harlem Power Plant, and after knocking It to the ground, they’re going to steal the nuclear reactor from the middle of it!

And they’re going to do this with a giant flying tank with a big hammer attached to it, because Jim Mooney really wanted to draw that and I encourage him in that endeavour.

Naturally, a flying tank with a hammer knocking down the wall of a nuclear power plant catches Spidey and Hellcats attention while they’re looking for Mankiller and her goons, so they go there to investigate (nobody else seems to notice a mysterious wall being knocked into the side of a nuclear power plant, flying tank, or all the consequent death by man-killing, but New Yorkers are a stoic bunch), and a fight breaks out; Hellcat fights Mankiller for a while to a draw, and Spidey fights everyone else and makes a bunch of pretty problematic wisecracks (“Sorry, didn’t mean to knock you so far, but I usually punch GUYS” says the Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man), and Man Killer makes off with the nuclear reactor core in the scuffle, after knocking Hellcat around a bunch.

The Plants owner comes out to kind of… weirdly say “Hey, that muscle-lady just stole a nuclear reactor. It’s… not a good thing to steal. That’s a situation we would all benefit to have resolved.” And Spidey goes off to chase her down because there’s only a couple of pages left in the comic, and he fights her and loses because her bionic upgrades make her Seven Times Stronger than Spider-Man (this is a weirdly exact thing to know), but Spidey has the power of Machismo on his side for some reason and he holds out long enough for Hellcat to reach them and inform Mankiller that AIM, the people who rebuilt her as a man-killing cyborg also employs dudes.

A fact that apparently never crossed Mankillers mind before, and the shock of the revelation drives her over the brink of madness, and they pry the nuclear reactor from her slackened hands and leave her alone there in the alley mouth agape with existential horror.

Another win for the heroes!

NEXT TIME: Nobody’s Favorite Time-Travelling Warlord who Uses the Technology of the Future to Conquer the World of the Past

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Well, right back to Spider-Man being an ineffectual and completely unlikeable bozo with The Tomorrow War (another Conway/Andru joint), but at least we got a special guest appearance from a villain who was obscure even in the 1970s, and is pretty much completely forgotten now. Also Iron Man shows up and… contributes.

Anyway, the story kicks off with an Earthquake in New York, which would be more surprising in reality than it is in Comic Books, where i don’t have to strain myself very hard thinking of individual people who could cause that to happen. But in This case, it’s an Earthquake localized entirely to Avengers Mansion, and doesn’t seem to extend any farther than the sidewalk outside the building; followed by the Mansion being encased in an energy dome.

Again… not that uncommon an occurrence for Marvels New York. Definitely less uprising than the narration boxes insist must be the case. A cop picks up his gun and heads off to arrest the Avengers on the grounds of… being the victims of an Earthquake, when he’s stopped by the only Avenger who wasn’t inside the building when it started shaking and getting all energy-domed; Iron Man!

We all know who that guy is, I can skip the recap.

Anyway, Iron Man is upset to be locked out of his house, and isn’t feeling as creative as usual, so he decides to try to break through the barrier and head into the Mansion to see what’s up by head-butting it a bunch. A technique which works exactly as well as you might expect, and which is apparently newsworthy, as we cut to Peter Parker’s apartment where he’s watching this and getting just irrationally angry.

He is so mad to see Iron Man headbutt an energy dome, you guys. There is nothing he hates in the world more than seeing Iron Man fail. And he's also using an expression that I can only assume sounds far less inflammatory in 1974 than it does today (referring to his attitude as being "fagged out"). Also he’s apparently got the TV loud enough to enrage his room mate, Harry Osborn, as he storms in and screams at him to either turn down the TV for find a new place to live.

To be fair on that last point, I think Harry was strung out on comic book drugs (or possibly regular drugs, I forget which) at the time, so some wild mood swings can’t be a surprise.

Anyway, Spidey takes the advice of turning down the TV to heart and instead goes to the Avengers Mansion in order to make fun of Iron Man in person for repeatedly trying to headbutt an energy dome. But just as he arrives and before he can come up with any suitable zingers, both are pulled into a Time Hole.

MTU may not be a great comic, but it sure isn’t a boring one.

Spidey and Tony find themselves in a weird Ditko-y Limbo Dimension full of spider-web skies and orange dirt, and futuristic spacecraft shooting at one another ("Star Trek LIVES" thinks Spider-Man, because this was before any other pop culture about spaceships existed). And after seeing one of the unidentifiable spacecraft shoot down another, Iron Man assumes that it's a Bad Guy Spaceship (his evidence for this conclusion is not forthcoming) and he decides to fly off and attack it, only to be quickly shot down, and the pilot reveals himself;


Artur Zarrko: The Tomorrow Man
You will be forgiven for not recognizing Zarrko. He's a time-travelling warlord, who, sickened of living in a peaceful utopia, decided to steal a time machine and use the technology of the Future to conquer the world of the Past. And unlike certain other time-travelling warlords who stole time machines in order to use the technology of the future to conquer the world of the past, he is *not* actually Kang the Conqueror. In fact, I believe he's the ONLY time travelling warlord who isn't Kang the Conqueror. That is... about the only thing distinctive and memorable about him; that he isn't a more popular character.

Also, he does things backwards, as Present Day Earth has WAY more and better weapons than the time he came from, so he's actually using the Technology of the Past to Conquer the World of the Future.

Anyway, dudes had, like, two appearances up to this point and they were both in Early weird Thor comics, and apparently he only ever talks about fighting monsters and Evil Gods, so Tony has absolutely no idea who Zarrko is, or that he's a bad guy; accepting Zarrkos cover-story of being an inventor whose time-period was conquered by an Invader of some stripe ("Four days ago, The future was conquered", he says and I don't know if that's a wonderful or stupid line of dialogue), so he kidnapped the Avengers to help repel it.

Iron Man sees no possible holes with this story, he leads an interesting life, and Spider-Man is also... umm... present... so he goes along too, and Zarrko takes them back to the future; a grim land conquered by the armored soldiers of The Invader.

They experience some serious culture shock when they arrive, and I don't know why because Future New York is basically identical to Present Day New York; just with one single futuristic military base in the middle of it. And Zarrko kicks them out of the ship their in and says "Have at it, boys!".

So Spidey and Iron man (mostly the former) spend a couple of pages knocking out henchmen, and getting into a fight against a very tall robot who apparently had very strong religious feelings and considered Iron Man to be a blasphemer for looking like a robot but being a guy in a suit instead.

Then we're up to the last couple of pages, so Iron Man and Spidey find the rest of the Avengers, who are frozen in some kind of energy field (lots of energy fields in this issue), just before they themselves are blasted and paralyzed by an energy field by the leader of the army that invaded the future; who reveals himself to be Kang the Conqueror himself, the GOOD VILLAIN equivalent of Zarrko.

Oh... huh.

And Zarrko reveals his actual plan was to send Iron Man and Spider-Man out to take out Kangs entire army so he could swoop in and defeat a weakened Kang himself. Which is... very ambitious of him, gotta admit. Army or no, he is punching WAY above his weight class here.

NEXT TIME: Meanwhile, Previously.