Jul 27, 2015

The Amazing Spider-Man by DeFalco and Frenz, Part 4

The Amazing Spider-Man by DeFalco and Frenz
Part 4 – The Hobgoblin Revealed?
Ben Smith

The year was 1986, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz were creating a definitive run on the flagship Marvel comic book, the Amazing Spider-Man. The black costume and the Hobgoblin’s identity were key plot points, and Firelord got his ass kicked. But behind the scenes turmoil with editor Jim Owsley, and Secret Wars II tie-ins, would throw a monkeywrench into the proceedings, resulting in the remarkably mediocre run of stories covered last week. A run of stories that puts a serious dent in my claim for DeFalco and Frenz as one of the all-time great creative teams on the book. Yet, my determination and resolve is on par with Spider-Man himself, and I remain confident that the book can correct course and return to its entertaining ways. With a certain orange-hooded goblin set to make his dramatic return, it’s a good bet that we will discover that to be true.

Enough talk, throw on your frictionless bodysuits and read some comics with me.

Amazing Spider-Man #275
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Ron Frenz; Finished Art: Josef Rubinstein; Editor: Jim Owsley

After a string of recent failures, Peter Parker has decided to quit being Spider-Man, but the Hobgoblin reappears for one final battle.

I liked: How they used a reprint of Spider-Man’s first appearance to represent Peter telling Mary Jane his origin story. Mary Jane actually convinces Peter to stop whining and go fight the Hobgoblin.

The little nods to the Sin Eater crowd incident, and Gwen Stacy falling to her death, were well done. I always love when they do a good job of representing Spider-Man’s speed and agility.

I disliked: I know Peter Parker is always a little whiny, but he gets especially whiny anytime they do a story where he’s decided to quit being Spider-Man.
Hobgoblin identity update: Betty asks Joe Robertson if he can stop sending her husband Ned Leeds out on undercover assignments, but he doesn’t have any idea what she’s talking about. Ned and Flash Thompson have an altercation in the street over Betty, right before one of them clearly dons a Hobgoblin costume in a state of agitation. Hobgoblin picks Flash’s girlfriend Sha Shan purposefully out of a crowd to use as a hostage.

Favorite panel:
I’ve said it once or twice before, but I love the way Frenz draws Hobgoblin.

Amazing Spider-Man #276
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Ron Frenz; Finished Art: Brett Breeding; Editor: Jim Owsley

Spider-Man finally unmasks the Hobgoblin, and discovers it’s his old high school rival Flash Thompson.

I liked: Along with the ongoing mystery of the Hobgoblin’s secret identity, DeFalco and Frenz also unintentionally created a second mystery with the true identity of the Rose. I love the way Hobgoblin refers to Spider-Man’s life as “miserable,” it’s like he knows him.

I disliked: The Human Fly makes a strange side appearance before being shot down by a mysterious attacker. The Fly was far more prominent a villain in my mind as a kid than he should have been. I think I just got overly excited for anyone I had the first appearance of, especially in Spider-Man’s world, since all his major villains and supporting characters were established so early on.
I didn’t understand: Why they immediately disproved that Flash Thompson could really be the Hobgoblin, by showing that he was framed by the real Hobgoblin at the end of the issue. They should I have run with that reveal for a little longer.
Hobgoblin identity update: Hobgoblin trashes the Hobgoblin in a public news broadcast, drawing the attention of Roderick Kingsley and Lance Bannon, providing them both motive to target Flash Thompson if they were the Hobgoblin. Ned Leeds still has motive, due to Flash diddling his wife.
Favorite panel:
That’s conceited of her.

Amazing Spider-Man #277
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Ron Frenz; Finished Art: Bob Layton; Editor: Jim Owsley

Still distraught over the unmasking of Flash Thompson, Peter Parker visits a broken Matt Murdock still reeling from a full on assault by the Kingpin. He decides to visit the Kingpin himself, as Spider-Man.

I liked: I’ve always liked the Spider-Man and Daredevil friendship, so DeFalco taking some time out to acknowledge what was happening to Matt Murdock in the seminal Born Again storyline was one of the great examples of how comics referenced each other well in the ‘80s. Spider-Man webbing Kingpin to his chair after their little talk was a nice touch. The backup story written and drawn by Charles Vess had some beautiful art.
I disliked: The story wasn’t long enough to dislike much, but you could say this was a complete throwaway as far the current ongoing storylines in Spider-Man were concerned. If one were to complain about such things.
Favorite panel:
Again, I always love these perspectives.
Amazing Spider-Man #278
Plot: Tom DeFalco; Script: Peter David and Jo Duffy; Pencils: Mike Harris; Inks: Vince Colletta; Editor: Jim Owsley

The mysterious Scourge of the Underworld has been targeting low-level supervillains, and has turned his sights on Flash Thompson right in the middle of a Daily Bugle interview by Peter Parker.

I liked: I’ve always liked the web backpack.

I disliked: This is a hodgepodge of a creative team (that did a decent job) so either DeFalco and Frenz were really struggling to produce the book on a monthly basis, or Owsley really was sabotaging the book to justify firing DeFalco.
Hobgoblin identity update: Joe Robertson makes note of the change in Ned Leeds overall demeanor. Hobgoblin really has a mad-on for Flash Thompson.

Amazing Spider-Man #279
Written By: Tom DeFalco; Penciled By: Rick Leonardi; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Edited By: Jim Owsley

In a solo Silver Sable tale, she develops a personal vendetta against a local gang, while clashing with the mercenary Jack O’Lantern.

I liked: Silver Sable. I have no idea why I wouldn’t have liked her when I was younger. Also, thinking about it, I’m pretty sure Jack O’Lantern was at one time one of my favorite villains, maybe even my second favorite under Hobgoblin.

I disliked: Nothing. You could complain about the lack of Spider-Man in the core Spider-Man comic (due to him being assumed dead in a situation over in Web of Spider-Man, I miss that level of coordination) but that would just be silly.
Favorite panel(s):

I love the choreography of this sequence, and the “no… just you” line is bluntly matter of fact, which is perfect for Silver Sable.

Amazing Spider-Man #280
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Layouts: Ron Frenz; Pencils/Inks: Brett Breeding; Editor: Jim Owsley

Silver Sable hires Spider-Man to help her take on Jack O’Lantern, only for them to find the Sinister Syndicate waiting for them instead.

I liked: The chaotic energy of the fight between Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and the Sinister Syndicate was captured very well. As soon as they knock one villain down, there’s another right on top of them. There’s something appealing to me about a big superhero slugfest in the middle of a deserted amusement park.

I love that Silver Sable was about to get it on with this dude before Spider-Man interrupted them.

I disliked: Once again, the perpetually broke Spider-Man turns down an offer to get paid to help take down a supervillain he’d normally fight for free, because… reasons.
Hobgoblin identity update: Roderick Kingsley meets with the Hobgoblin in his office. Later, the Hobgoblin leaves a building in his civilian identity and runs into Mary Jane, and they know each other well enough to walk and talk together.

Favorite panel:
This might be the pinnacle of the terrible looks for Mary Jane in this run.

Amazing Spider-Man #281
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Story Layouts: Ron Frenz; Pencils/Inks: Brett Breeding; Editor: Jim Owsley

Sandman arrives to help Spider-Man and Silver Sable against the Sinister Syndicate. After breaking Flash Thompson out of jail, Jack O’Lantern draws the ire of the real Hobgoblin.

I liked: The kinetic battle between Spider-Man and friends against the Sinister Syndicate continues to be extremely entertaining. I really felt the pressure of them being overwhelmed and outnumbered by the Syndicate. Hobgoblin versus Jack O’Lantern was pretty great (and probably made my little head spin around when I was a kid). Flash Thompson on the run is an intriguing concept.
I disliked: This panel of Silver Sable drowning was eerily prescient of her eventual death at the hands of the Rhino during “Ends of the Earth,” and it made me sad.

Favorite panel:
Half-man, half-tanks have always been appealing to me, going back to
some movie I saw as a kid that I can never remember the name of.

This week was a solid group of stories, punctuated with a fun two-parter of Spider-Man and Silver Sable fighting for their lives against the Sinister Syndicate. A nice rebound from last week’s subpar collection of tales. The inconsistent creative team struggles continued, lending some credence to DeFalco’s claim that Owsley was purposefully sabotaging his work on the series. Frenz would have to be really slow (or have something else happening in his life) to get two months of the book off and still only be able to provide layouts for those Sinister Syndicate comics. I’m inclined to side with DeFalco and Frenz on this one, since they clearly had few problems getting the book out on time when Fingeroth was the editor. At this point, Ned Leeds was the obvious pick to be revealed as the Hobgoblin, which was just how DeFalco wanted it. Unfortunately, DeFalco wouldn’t be around long enough to execute his actual plan for the reveal, and Peter David would have the unenviable task of resolving a mystery several years (and two previous writers) in the making.

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, DeFalco gets fired!

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