Spider-Man in the Early 1970s: Green Goblin, Death and the Anti-Drug Issues
The End of an Era as Stan Lee Steps Away from His Greatest Creation!
Essential Spider-Man Volume No. 5 collects issues No. 90-113 of the original Amazing Spider-Man series. These stories, published in the early 1970s, include some issues that have become known as classics, including the death of Capt. Stacy, the anti-drug issues with the Green Goblin and the introduction of Morbius the Living Vampire.
This collection also marks a significant transition on the comic. Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee, who had been writing the superhero's stories since his debut in 1962, stepped away from the title after issue 100. He would return to write issues 105-110, then give up the assignment for good.
Below are some of the highlights in this volume, which has the ISBN 0-7851-0881-5. Please note that the character's name is Spider-Man, with the hyphen. It is not Spiderman. The panel shown here is from issue No. 100, and if you want to find out what is happening please read below!
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Spider-Man -- The Killer!
Death to the Father of the Woman He Loves!
This collection starts out with a bang -- the final part of a trilogy that pits Spider-Man against Dr. Octopus!
Dr. Octopus has vowed to eliminate Spider-Man once and for all, and most of this issue is just flat-out action. An early fight ends with the villain escaping, then Spider-Man putting his scientific knowledge to work to come up with a way to fight him next time.
The two meet again in a fight on a rooftop, and Spider-Man springs is secret weapon. He has devised a chemical compound that causes Dr. Octopus to lose control of his metallic limbs! In a great action sequence the two adversaries fight while dealing with the flailing of the arms.
But then disaster happens! The arms, out of control, destroy a large chimney and send the rubble down toward the crowd below. The rubble is falling toward a tiny child but Police Captain Stacy, newly arrived on the scene, is able to push the child to safety while sacrificing himself.
Spider-Man breaks off the fight to try to get Stacy to a hospital in time, but it's too late. In one of the saddest scenes in the series so far, the dying captain tells Spider-Man that once he dies there'll be no one left to look after his daughter Gwen (Spider-Man's girlfriend). ''No one, Peter ... except ,,, you.''
That catches both Spider-Man and us readers off guard, as there had been hints in past issues that Stacy suspected something but writer Stan Lee kept us in the dark until this moment.
Stacy's final words are, ''She loves you .. so very ... much.''
It's a heartbreaking scene, and another masterful storytellng job done by Lee. Spider-Man in recent issues had gotten his life in pretty good shape, so Lee must have felt it was time to shake things up. And so he did in a way that would reverberate for years.
The last scene of the book becomes even more heart-wrenching in retrospect after issue No. 121, when Spider-Man is unable to save Gwen Stacy from the Green Goblin.
Spider-Man vs. the Green Goblin and Drug Abuse!
The Comics That Changed the Industry!
The three-issue story published in Amazing Spider-Man No. 96-98 featured the return of the Green Goblin but it's better known for tackling the social issue of illegal drug use.
The industry's self-imposed code of conduct prohibited the depiction of illegal drugs, but when the U.S. government asked writer Stan Lee to address the topic Lee enthusiastically bucked the code and with the permission of publisher Martin Goodman put out some of the first non-code approved major mainstream comics since the 1950s.
Harry Osborn, who is the roommate of Spider-man's secret identity Peter Parker, is having trouble with his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson and turns to popping pills to relieve his stress. He finally collapses and is hospitalized.
Meanwhile, Osborn's father, the amnesiac Norman Osborn, remembers he is the Green Goblin and attacks Spider-Man. The battle ends when Spider-Man forces the Goblin to confront his son at the hospital and the stress and worry about his son causes the Goblin to pass out and forget once again that he is a villain.
While I commend Marvel Comics for tackling the drug issue -- the company's actions led to a revised industry code -- I didn't much care for the resolution of the Goblin fight. Writer Stan Lee had painted himself into a corner with the Green Goblin by enabling the villain to learn Spider-Man's secret identity. Every fight had to end with the Goblin's mental collapse and it just seemed a bit strained.
Morbius, the Living Vampire
A Landmark Issue as Lee Steps Down
Amazing Spider-Man issue No. 101 marked the end of an era, as writer Stan Lee stepped down as the regular writer of the comic book after 100 issues. As co-creator of Spider-Man, Lee had guided the superhero's adventures for almost nine years at this point while leading Marvel Comics to the number 1 position in the industry.
Roy Thomas was given the job of following Lee on Spider-Man, which must have put some pressure on Thomas. And Lee didn't make it easy because issue No. 101 was the second part of a three-issue storyline that involved Spider-Man growing an extra four arms! That was the odd result of a potion Spider-Man had taken in issue No. 100 in an attempt to eliminate his powers so he could marry his girlfriend Gwen Stacy.
In this issue, Spider-Man tries to go into seclusion until he can figure a way out of his problem -- how can he appear in pubic with four extra arms? -- but ends up confronting a new adversary called Morbius.
The comic code had been changed to allow traditional monsters just a few months before, so Thomas wanted to introduce a vampire into the series. But Stan Lee wanted a costumed villain so Morbius was created as a ''living vampire'' in a scientific experiment. Note that he appears almost in a super-villain costume.
Morbius would be defeated and Spider-Man would lose his extra arms in issue No. 102, but the villain would return and become a fairly regular second-tier character in marvel Comics. The extra arms never came back, thank goodness.
Issue No. 101 is a landmark issue for me in particular because it's the first issue I can ever remember reading. It's amazing the things you remember even after four decades!
Dr. Octopus Sparks a Gang War in New York City!
While Spider-Man's Usual Troubles Continue...
This collection ends the same way it began, with Spider-Man facing the menace of Dr. Octopus!
In issue No. 112, we find out that there's gang war erupting between two crimelords in New York City, and on the last page it is revealed that one of the crimelords is Dr. Octopus. This issue showcases two fights between Spider-Man and Doc Ock and ends with the superhero confronted by the other crimelord, a new villain named Hammerhead!
Also in issue No. 113, there's a bit of comedy that highlights what made Spider-Man so special over the years -- he's always dealing with problems and indignities that other superheros don't have to face. In this case, he loses his mask during a fight with Dr. Octopus at the beginning of the book and ends up buying a cellophane one from a costume shop because he just doesn't have time to make a new one.
Even worse, the mask makes it way into the hands of Spider-Man critic J. Jonah Jameson, who also unknowingly is the boss of Spider-Man's secret identity, Peter Parker. Jameson tacks the mask onto his newsroom's bulletin board for everyone, including Peter, to see!
On top of that, it turns out Spider-Man has an ulcer -- perhaps the first superhero to develop one in the history of comics!
Dr. Octopus or Green Goblin?
Dr. Octopus kind of receded as a top Spider-Man villain as the years went by, while the Green Goblin (with different men wearing the costume) became more of a menace.
It had been said that writer Stan lee saw Dr. Octopus as Spider-Man's greatest enemy, while the Green Goblin was the greatest enemy of Spider-Man's secret identity, Peter Parker. I always like Dr. Octopus better, mainly because the whole mental illness aspect of the Green Goblin got overplayed as the years went by.
p.s. the illustration here is from the final page of issue No. 112.
Which Villain is Cooler, Dr. Octopus or the Green Goblin?
Captain Stacy's Death From Amazing Spider-Man No. 90
Leading Up to Capt. Stacy's Death
Get the Full Story With the Preceding Volume!
As mentioned above, Marvel Essential Spider-man Vol. 5 only contains the final part of the three-issue fight between Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus. Unfortunately, you need to get Marvel Essential Spider-Man Vol. 4 for the first two parts. We have written a review of that volume that you can read here:
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If you don't need our review above to persuade you to buy Marvel Essential Vol. 4 go ahead and click here!
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Marvel Essential Volumes on Amazon
The Marvel Essential series is a great for anyone who wants to read the Marvel Comics from the past don't want to spend top money to buy the original individual issues. Keep in mind that the Marvel Essential volumes reprint the original tales in black and white only, on cheap paper, to keep the costs very low, so a reader doesn't get the full experience.
Amazon has more than 600 items listed under a search for Marvel Essentials in the books category, so there probably is something available for any comic book fan!
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