1981 · The 80s

September 1981: Amazing Spider-Man 223- Or, wow Peter Parker is still a bit of a d*ck

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Amazing Spider-Man 223 was written by Denny O’Neill (with J M Dematteis scripting) with art by John Romita Jnr and Al Milgrom and opens with Peter Parker, in his Spider-Man costume heading towards Empire State University. He sees a fellow grad student, Roger Hochberg heading into library annex. He comments to himself how he’s brilliant, but has very few friends, but not in that, know how that feels kind of way. (Well Pete, glass houses and all that)

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In the library annex, Roger is getting some books together when in pop Ivan (the Red Ghost) Kragoff and his super-apes (Yup, we’re back at the bottom of the barrel with Fantasticast legend Steve Lacey’s favourite FF villains) seeing Roger, Kragoff sends his apes to get him. The gorilla (being super strong causing a serious fire and runs. Peter hearing the fire alarm, goes back into action as Spider-Man and saves Roger, just after battling the shape shifting baboon. (No, seriously, it’s a shape shifting baboon) which was disguised as a fire extinguisher (answers on a postcard please) but as Roger is taken outside, Kragoff and his apes escape.

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Peter heads to his other job at the Daily Bugle to research the shape shifting baboon he found, while Kragoff scolds his baboon and gorilla, while praising his orangutan  (with magnetic powers) who really did nothing.

While the baboon stalks Roger, Peter invites him to a  dorm party, at this point he’s a bit more sympathetic, realising he was similar to Roger and his way out of that was being Spider-Man, Roger doesn’t have that. Roger is dragged to the party and is there long enough to be made a fool of by stereotypical college bell-ends who get Peter so angry he’s throwing crockery and yelling at them. They realise he was right as he leaves to go after Roger, rather than the “What the f**k was that about?” that I would have expected.

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Now alone, Roger is attacked by the super apes and once again, Spider-Man intervenes, so the apes attack him, at Kragoff”s insistence. There is a battle with the apes that ends up in the local athletics stadium, but unknown to Kragoff, Roger has seen someone help him twice and knows he has to call the police, who show up, Kragoff escapes as does his apes. Spider-Man muses that sometimes there is no justice. The next day, he sees Roger, standing a bit taller, being joined by several of the d*ckish grad students, who after hearing of his bravery (phoning the police) take the time to get to know him. Back in his civilian clothes, Peter walks by thinking that sometimes there is a bit of justice.

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Notes: This felt more like a saturday morning cartoon from 1981, rather than a comic, but that’s not a criticism. JR Jnr’s pencils suffer from Milgrom’s more heavy handed inks and we’re still waiting for the John Romita Jnr we know well to emerge. The writing is fairly solid, but the story makes little to no sense, for example why does the Red Ghost care if he’s seen? It’s not like he has a reputation to protect, or that what he’s doing is so obvious that it can be stopped, but that’s not really the point. Like Julie Schwartz of DC knew, monkeys and apes make comics better.

Really this is  nice bronze age one and done and it’s lack of logical consistency is part of it’s fun. Does it really matter why they are there? Or is it more a case of Spider-Man against two apes and monkey being fun? And it is that, fun.

Next Time: More Spider-Man as we get to team up.

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