So I really love Spider-Man. That’s not really a shocking statement, because c’mon, who doesn’t love Spider-Man. He’s one of the best superheroes ever created. The pathos of the character is terrific and he has one of the most diverse and fun rogues gallery of all superheroes. A lot of superheroes have one or two truly great villains, but Spider-Man has boat-loads. And yet, I don’t have that much experience with the character. I’ve read a lot of really great stories, but unlike Batman and Daredevil, I haven’t read a lot of the characters older stories. I’m more familiar with the more recent stories that have been done and well…they haven’t always been that great. I’m a big fan of the crazy Superior Spider-Man story that happened for a couple years ago when Doctor Octopus swapped brains with Peter Parker, but other than that, he hasn’t really had that strong of a run. So I’ve been trying to read some of the classic stories, which has been pretty easy with the Marvel Unlimited app, and man, they’re great. I really loved most of the Stan Lee/ Steve Ditko issues that introduced the whole conceit of the character, even though they occasionally got super crazy (Spider-Man defeated the Sandman the first time with a vacuum cleaner) they’re still a blast. And since I love talking about super crazy comic book stories, I’ve been on the lookout. I’ll probably go back and try to find a crazy Stan Lee story to write about eventually, but for the last couple months I’ve been firmly in the 70’s with the character, and boy are those issues nuts. The plots are getting really fun, but I think the thing I love most about them is just the crazy understanding Marvel writers and editors have of the slang and fashion of “young people.” I could seriously make a gallery of thousands of pictures that have Peter or Mary Jane wearing and saying the most insane things you’ve ever seen. It’s great. And while going through the crazy 70’s I found a particularly fun story.
Now, before I get into the plot I want to say just how much I absolutely love J Jonah Jameson. He’s one of the most bizarre and fun characters I’ve ever come across. An insane, rich, ultra-conservative newspaper editor/owner with a Hitler mustache who runs his paper like a tyrant and has public squabbles like a moody teenager with a blog. And man is it hilarious to me that he seems to spend like 90% of his time yelling about how much he hates Spider-Man, for essentially no reason. I’ve seen writers try to give some reasoning to his hatred for superheroes, and Spider-Man in particular, but it really doesn’t make sense. The Daily Bugle somehow is a functioning newspaper in 2015 when it devotes most of it’s time to railing about some random superhero most people really don’t give a crap about. He’s great. And I love anytime Spider-Man has to interact with Jameson, so of course I’m going to love a story that literally sticks the two together for a whole day.
Before I get into the story, there should probably be a little backstory. So, a thing that doesn’t come up that often is the fact that J Jonah Jameson is really involved with a lot of the beginnings of villains. In the 60’s he was using a lot of the Bugle’s money to directly fund villains. He paid for the Scorpion to get his powers and more important to this plot, he routinely hired some random scientist named Spencer Smythe to create robots specifically designed to kill Spider-Man called Spider Slayers. Hell, the first couple Slayers even had TV screens on them that would show Jonah’s face, completely letting Spider-Man know that this dude was funding what’s essentially murder. But when this story begins we find out that Smythe now has cancer or something that he got from the radioactive materials that he used to power the Slayers, and he’s a little pissed. He’s decided that he hates Jameson and Spider-Man, and gets them both to show up at his secret lab before knocking them out. And once they wake up they find out that Smythe has locked the two together in a pair of Science Handcuffs that are apparently unbreakable, unpickable, and containing an explosive charge that will blow them both up in 24 hours so Smythe can see them die.
They then run off and try to find a way to get out of the handcuffs for the rest of their 24 hours. And boy is it fun. It’s primarily just Spider-Man doing all the thinking and heavy lifting while Jonah just sits on his back heckling him like Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets. He keeps trying to pull Spidey’s mask off and just generally acts like an asshole the whole time. Spider-Man is the only one doing any sort of thinking, and he decides that they need help getting out of the handcuffs, and ends up paying a visit to Curt Conners, the Lizard, because I guess a geneticist will know how to crack some cuffs? Whatever, it doesn’t work and they end up getting the bomb squad called on them, which also doesn’t work. Oh, I should also mention that Jonah is being especially pissy to Spider-Man because just a couple issues ago Jameson thought that Spider-Man killed his son the astronaut/werewolf John Jameson (long story).
So the two leave the bomb squad and continue trying to figure out some way to solve their little bomb issue before they explode. We then get a couple goofy scenes showing that as usual things are messing up Peter’s life. He’s pissing off his friends because he didn’t show up at a little surprise party to get his college diploma and he accidentally has blown off a date with Mary Jane. Drama drama. Anyway, there’s a brief fight scene where they get harassed by some lame dude called the Fly. It’s pretty silly, since Spider-Man is out of web fluid at that point, and is shackled to a dude that hates him, but they still beat up the Fly. Although it does end with them falling off a building and Spider-Man getting knocked unconscious. There’s then a great scene were Jonah wakes up and finds the passed out Spider-Man and thinks about pulling the mask off. But he doesn’t, which is pretty shocking for Jameson. Instead he drags the duo back to Dr. Conners, because apparently he wasn’t unhelpful enough already. They talk with Conners for a while and Spider-Man decides that the only thing to do is go back to Smythe and get him to take the cuffs of. But when they get there they find he’s already dead, and the time is almost out. And right before the give up, Spider-Man realizes that there must be some sort of controls in the lab, and they start looking around for the machine that controls the handcuffs. And just in time Spidey finds it and breaks it using the crazy cryogenic tube that werewolf John Jameson had been in (again, long story) and the cuffs just fall off. The day is saved! Jameson of course continues to bitch at Spider-Man, who just peaces out, completely sick of Jameson. Then the story ends with some shocking pathos from Jonah, who can often just be a mindless ball of hate. Turns out he’s pissed at Spider-Man now because Spider-Man actually kept a cool head and got through the ordeal. And Jonah was a complete mess. He’s now mad at Spidey because he got to see J Jonah Jameson, one of the mightiest men in the world, as the frail human he really is, and he can’t stand by that.
This was such a crazy and fun story. I love Spider-Man and I love J Jonah Jameson, so of course I love when they’re literally stuck together. It was a blast seeing Spider-Man have to fight a villain while having one hand tied behind his back, and I really enjoyed just seeing Jonah bitch and moan for a whole issue while contributing nothing. Besides dragging a passed out Spider-Man back to the guy who was of no help to them earlier. Good job Jonah! It’s a fun story, and really emblematic of the crazy times it was made.
Amazing Spider-Man #192 “24 Hours Till Doomsday!” was written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Keith Pollard & Jim Mooney, 1979.