Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Old Comics Wednesday- The Amazing Spiderman 121 and The Fantastic Four 135

Well, I can't imagine what it was like to be a Spider-Man fan in 1973 when issue 121 (6.73) came out, but I know even today the story has an impact.  (Pun unintentional).
The Spider-Man/ Green Goblin battle has been part of the character's story for years, but this issue was the culmination of years of stories- the Green Goblin knew Spider-Man's secret identity and kidnapped his girlfriend Gwen Stacy.  This was a standard trope of superhero comics, villain kidnaps loved one, then hero rescues them.

Well... this time it didn't work like that.  Gwen Stacy was killed from the shock of the fall when the Goblin threw her from the George Washington Bridge.

Things like that just didn't happen in the comics back then and it pretty much change the rulebook for superheros.  When they made the Spider-Man movie back in 2002, the character of Mary Jane Watson was put in the same situation, giving fans more than a little concern (except she was played by Kirsten Dunst and you know she'll be back for the sequel so it's OK.)

Meanwhile at the Baxter Building... Fantastic Four #135 (6.73 as well) The Eternity Machine.  Millionaire Gregory Gideon has kidnapped the Fantastic Four so he can steal their... cosmic ray stuff that gives them powers because he was dying from radiation exposure from an A-Bomb test, so he can save his (and his son's) life. 

Despite dying from radiation poisoning, Gideon's designed a battlesuit that allows him to take on The Thing.  There's also a large dragon robot that's fixated on Invisible Girl, because... ah, King Kong cliche, I guess.

There's lots of soap opera too- The Thing's blind artist girlfriend is worried about him,  and Invisible Girl is estranged from Mister Fantastic, she's worried about their son Franklin and how Mr Fantastic doesn't seem to have time for her but he's got plenty of time for the lab.  Yes, the soap opera was injected to give the story a little gravitas but... it just seems more "melodrama" than drama.

It's funny.  Spider-Man always, *always* did soap opera right.   Aunt problems, she's frail and can't afford her medicine, Uncle problem, *he's dead!*, girl-friend problems, she can't know my secret, best friend problems- he's a junkie and his dad's my arch enemy, work problems, his boss hates Spider-Man, honestly it's just one problem after another but it comes off as just part of being human.
But in the Fantastic Four, it becomes almost parody of soap opera- including the fact that Mr Fantastic was replaced by an evil twin (in addition to the blind girl friend of The Thing)^.  Maybe the team dynamic diffuesed some of the angst that a solo act has to carry.

^It gets better- years later The Thing stayed behind on an alien planet and the Human Torch ended up marrying the blind artist, but it turned out the blind artist he married was actually replaced by a shape shifting alien assassin who'd learned to love the Torch so she turned her back on her own species.  Of course... Spider-Man down the line got a little crazy, with clones of Gwen showing up, and Spider-Man marrying Mary Jane but after Aunt May is nearly killed after Peter reveals his identity on television, Peter and MJ give their marriage away in a deal with the Devil to save May's life.  Yes, maybe things were simpler in the early seventies for Spider-Man.