Jul 20, 2015

The Amazing Spider-Man by DeFalco and Frenz, Part 3

The Amazing Spider-Man by DeFalco and Frenz
Part 3 – The Hobgoblin Returns
Ben Smith

The year was 1985, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz were creating a definitive run on the flagship Marvel comic book, the Amazing Spider-Man. The black costume, the Hobgoblin, and Mary Jane were all key elements of the stories, and would have long-lasting impact on the series. The secret of the Hobgoblin’s true identity was yet to be revealed. Yet, all this creative and commercial success would come under attack from the most unlikeliest of places, recently appointed Spider-Man group editor Jim Owsley.

According to DeFalco, Owsley was repeatedly changing the deadline schedule on them, ordering more and more fill-in issues to make up for the supposed slack by the creative team. According to Owsley, they were frequently late, putting him in the hot seat with Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter. Jim Shooter claimed not to know anything about what was going on, which he’s been known to do. Regardless, there were already two fill-in issues among the comics I covered last week, which I skipped for being irrelevant. Those paying attention will notice from where I’m beginning this week, that I’m also skipping a couple more issues from where we left off last week, due to those comics being handled by substitute creative teams (even though one of those comics featured the Toad and Frog-Man fighting over the right to be Spider-Man’s sidekick). This would only be the beginning of Jim Owsley’s alleged meddling with DeFalco and Frenz on Spider-Man, eventually leading to the end of all three on the book.

But for now, the fun continues.

Amazing Spider-Man #268
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Ron Frenz; Finished Art: Josef Rubinstein; Editor: Jim Owsley

In a Secret Wars II tie-in, after the Beyonder turns an entire building into gold, the government tries to get rid of the gold as quickly and secretly as possible, and Spider-Man must intervene before the Kingpin steals a portion of it for himself.

I liked: The elite military unit deployed to help clean up the incident bears some resemblance to a certain Real American Hero being published by Marvel comics at the time.

I disliked: Other than it being a Secret Wars II tie-in, it’s basically an entire issue about ensuring the global economy doesn’t fall into chaos due to a sudden influx of gold. Nothing screams pulse-pounding action like economics.

Amazing Spider-Man #269
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Ron Frenz; Finisher: Josef Rubinstein; Editor: Jim Owsley

Spider-Man is trapped between the misunderstood Firestorm and a group of humans that assume him to be a dangerous mutant.

I liked: The fact that Firestorm came to Earth to get some pizza.

The synergy these old comics had with the anti-mutant television broadcast pulled from the Dazzler graphic novel, with the requisite caption box pointing you to pick up that book for more. (For everyone that complains about the prominence of crossovers and the subsequent tie-ins in modern comics, I think they’re forgetting the impact those caption boxes had on young readers. I had to try and get every comic referenced in those boxes that I possibly could. They were a subtle but effective marketing tool.)
I disliked: I know Frenz was trying to channel Ditko with his Spider-Man, but the tie and sweater vest combo is a little much.

Favorite panel:
Hey Spidey, get your hands off his firestaff!

Amazing Spider-Man #270
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Ron Frenz; Finished Art: Bob McLeod; Editor: Jim Owsley

Spider-Man is chased throughout the city by an enraged Firelord.

I liked: When I was a kid, Spider-Man beating Firelord was just further proof that he was the toughest superhero of them all. I didn’t think anyone could beat Spider-Man.

As it stands, this is probably the most famous story from the DeFalco and Frenz team. Along the same lines of the classic Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, Spider-Man is matched up against a far more powerful character, but finds a way to dig deep and win in the end. Thus, I must award it:

DeFalco and Frenz legacy point moment: Spider-Man whups Firelord’s ass!

I also love little moments of comedy to break up the action, and while this one may be a bit of a cliché, it works well.

I disliked: Some people might argue that Spider-Man defeating Firelord is unrealistic, but I would just remind them that it’s Firelord.

Favorite panel:

This drawing of Firelord getting pegged with a chuck of rock, with the “Fwokk!” sound effect, amused me more than it probably should have.

Amazing Spider-Man #271
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Ron Frenz; Finished Art: Josef Rubinstein; Editor: Jim Owsley

Crusher Hogan, the man Peter Parker wrestled after first getting his powers, stands between a young boxer and an enforcer named Man-Slaughter.

I liked: Aunt May asking Peter to keep an eye on Nathan Lubensky, and Nathan getting severely beaten when Peter has to leave and help Crusher as Spider-Man. It’s a great representative situation that no matter how hard Spider-Man tries, someone is always going to get hurt.
I disliked: However, Nathan Lubensky is one of the most unlikeable characters in Spider-Man history, so I don’t feel all that bad for him. Aunt May guilt-tripping Peter about them growing apart is kind of unfair too. Old people man, I swear, you’re too old to drive!
Hobgoblin identity update: Ned Leeds continues to be extremely busy and uncharacteristically hostile, arguing with his wife Betty at work. Lance Bannon sets off Peter’s spider sense. Mary Jane is working for Roderick Kingsley’s modeling agency. A shadowy figure inside the Kingsley building sees Peter Parker outside and recognizes him as a Bugle photographer.
Favorite panel:
Mary Jane looks pretty good here, for once.

Amazing Spider-Man #272
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Sal Buscema; Finished Art: Kyle Baker; Editor: Jim Owsley
Spider-Man faces a new bank robber named Slyde, the master of friction.
I liked: How a man developing a non-stick cooking pan, gets fired, and decides to use his technology to create a frictionless super suit that he uses to skate around town and rob banks. Only in comics.
I disliked: Buscema and Baker is an interesting substitute art team, but it makes it feel like another fill-in issue that is just treading water on the ongoing storylines. The Hobgoblin has been absent for 7 months of publication time at this point.
Favorite panel:

Amazing Spider-Man #273
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Ron Frenz; Finished Art: Josef Rubenstein; Editor: Jim Owsley

In a Secret Wars II tie-in, Spider-Man and the Puma team up to try and take on the Beyonder.

I liked: This ad:

I disliked: I know its Spider-Man’s thing to never have any money and to not take handouts, but the hand-wringing he’s been doing for 6 months about this gold notebook he took is getting ridiculous. What is there to feel guilty about exactly? Cash the damn thing! There’s no person on Earth that wouldn’t take $40k when they’re broke and didn’t really do anything wrong to get it. On top of that, Puma offers him a $5,000 retainer just to work with him, and he turns it down. I understand you have to find ways to make Spider-Man suffer, but it shouldn’t involve him being an idiot.
Favorite panel:

That’s just a weird thing to say.

Amazing Spider-Man #274
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Layouts: Ron Frenz; Finishes: Joe Rubenstein; Finished Pencils: Tom Morgan and James Fry; Additional Finishes: John Romita Sr.; Background Inks: Russ Steffens; Art Assist: Jack Fury; Editor: Jim Owsley

A wager between the Beyonder and Mephisto, for the Beyonder to delay destroying the multiverse for another 24 hours, all rides upon Spider-Man’s sense of responsibility.

I liked: Despite the Secret Wars II connection, this was a pretty decent exploration of Spider-Man’s determination, which is arguably his greatest super power. First you have to beat him down with the weight of expectations and past failures.

But then you have him rise up and soldier on anyway, much to the shock of those pulling his strings.

It’s a solid Spider-Man scenario we’ve seen over and over again, most recently done to good effect in Avengers vs X-Men (Spider-Man refuses to go down against a Phoenix-powered Colossus). It’s usually cool to get a tour through the past of Spider-Man, with Norman’s Green Goblin and Gwen Stacy (before turning into a harpy) making hallucinatory appearances.

I disliked: This was obviously a classic rush job, with a slew of pencilers and inkers working on the issue, and the resulting artwork is uneven, to say the least.

Favorite panel:

It was always cool (at the time) to see the classic Green Goblin show up, and I would be shocked if Romita Sr. did not ink this page.

Outside of the classic Firelord two-parter, this was a pretty unremarkable and unmemorable stretch of comics. Knowing about the problems between DeFalco and Owsley, I have to assume the behind the scenes conflict was probably affecting the creators performance on the book. Or maybe they just hit a bit of a dry spell, stalling for time on the Hobgoblin saga. It’s possible they were stalling until Secret Wars II was finished running before getting into anything significant. Maybe Owsley was right and the problem was with DeFalco and Frenz. It is strange for so many artists to have to work on one issue, and I can’t help feeling a little of that falls on Frenz. Then again, it could be Owsley working hard to sabotage the creative team, so who knows. All I do know is, if I had been reading this on a monthly basis, I’d be pretty annoyed at this point on the lack of movement with the Hobgoblin. Even reading it now, it’s pretty annoying. Thankfully, Hobgoblin is back center stage starting with the very next issue, which we’ll get into next week.

For those keeping track, DeFalco and Frenz legacy points moments:

  • Mary Jane knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man
  • The Amazing Bag-Man
  • Symbiotes!
  • Mary Jane has a jacked up family
  • Silver Sable
  • Spider-Man whups Firelord’s ass

Next week, more Hobgoblin!

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