I like to think about how crazy it is that some of these superhero comics have been running for 75 years, and are still putting out new stories. That seems ridiculous right? How many stories involving the same hero can one possibly create? You’re bound to make repeats, or tell the same stories. It just seems inevitable. So it’s fascinating when comics end up telling stories that have already been told, or re-purposing characters that are just thinly veiled ripoffs of other characters. I mean, that last part is kind of Marvel’s MO. They tend to take characters that DC has created, and then make the same exact character, but better realized. However, sometimes Marvel even cribs from itself, which is super strange, but really interesting. And guess what? I’ve scrounged up a weird-as-hell Spider-Man comic from the 80s that both rips off a famous story, and features characters that are blatant rip-offs of each other. And it’s wonderful. Let’s go!
The story opens up at the very end of the last issue, which featured Spider-Man saving a politician from assassination based on a prediction from Madame Webb. Always a crazy place to start. And as he’s sitting there, nursing the wounds from the assassins and waiting for the police to come up and arrest them, something strange happens. Because as he’s talking to the police the water-tower on the roof behind him starts to move around, and out pops Hydroman. You all know Hydroman? He’s a guy who go knocked off a research yacht, dumped into radiated water, and came out with the ability to turn his molecules into water. And in his last bought with Spider-Man he seemingly died, but as he explains, he really just evaporated up into the air, condensed, and rained down into this water-tower so he could reform. And once he’s reformed, he’s mad, and springs into action, beating up Spider-Man. But he seems to get bored with that quickly, and just goes down a drain-pipe to escape, while Spider-Man takes that opportunity to flee from the police.
And with that taken care of Spider-Man heads home, dries off, gets rid of his costume, and hits the town to unwind. I guess the watery supervillain he just ran into isn’t a high priority. Anyway, he heads to a movie theater to check out a screening of Halloween II and has an awkward encounter with perhaps Peter Parker’s blandest and least likable love-interest of all time, Debbie Whitman, and her annoying boyfriend Biff. The make strained chit-chat, Biff ruins the movie, and Peter storms home to complain to himself. Which gets ruined when he gets to his apartment to sleep and gets woken up by his neighbor’s loud singing. Which was a really weird running-gag from this era of the series, and I guess it finally pays off in this issue when he accidentally punches a whole in the wall and finds out that the mysterious singer isn’t the big cowboy that he sees around the building, it’s some little dorky accountant-looking dude. Neat.
But while Peter’s having a lousy day we catch up with Hydroman, who is materializing out of a gutter in front of a run-down bar called Duffy’s. His plan is to go inside and meet up with his old girlfriend Sadie to lay low. Unfortunately when he goes inside he finds that Sadie is making time with a new beau, who also happens to be a matter-changing supervillain. Sandman. Yep, Hydroman and Sandman, two characters that are virtually identical are running into each other in a bar, and are about to fight over a woman. Which obviously doesn’t go great. The two promptly begin whaling on each other, destroying the bar in the process.
After the two lunk-heads beat each other up for a while Sadie stops them to say that she has an idea. Which is probably not going to be brilliant. She basically says that the two should team up, because their powers combined could run the town. Which is a serious overestimation of their gifts. But whatever, they agree to a truce and begin wandering around the city, heading back to Sadie’s apartment, while trying to one-up each other. They keep using their abilities to steal stuff for Sadie to try and win her affection, like it’s some weird reverse Archie comic story. They steal TVs and fur-coats for Sadie and decide to keep working together for now.
Meanwhile, Peter has stopped by the Daily Bugle to complain about his apartment woes when he hears about the Hydroman spotting, and decides to stop by Duffy’s to see if he can learn anything. And when he gets there he’s shocked to see the place in ruins, and the bartender tells him about Hydroman, Sandman, Sadie, and even Sadie’s apartment. So Spidey decides to head over to Sadie’s apartment to question her about the incident.
And in true Peter Parker luck, when he gets there the two villains have lost patience with each other and have started brawling in the little place. So Spider-Man decides the best way to deescalate this situation is to just burst in through the window and start punching wildly. And shockingly, this goes pretty well. He’s able to keep the element of surprise, and webs Sandman up before rolling Hydroman up in a rug. But while he’s waiting for them to make their next move he’s knocked over the head by Sadie, and he ends up falling out the window. And the two villains follow. They get down on the street and start having a huge fight with Spider-Man, which is really kicking his ass. Because despite how silly their powers are, they do hit with a lot of power. So the start whooping Spider-Man, and gradually push him closer and closer to the water-front. And right as the two are about to charge at Spider-Man, he times things perfectly and ducks right as they crash into each other, and plop into the water. So that’s taken care of. And Spider-Man start heading out, planning on telling the cops to dredge the water and find the two villains in the water. But right as he’s walking away, something starts climbing out of the water. A mud-monster!
Well that makes sense. So Spider-Man stands there gawking at the monster for a little bit before deciding to set up his camera and make some money. But apparently a monster that just stands there isn’t impressive enough, she he starts smashing boxes on it. Which doesn’t go well. The Mudman gets irritated and just swats Spider-Man away, knocking him unconscious while it can lumber off into the night.
Some time later Spider-Man wakes up, wet and confused, and decides to head to the Bugle to try and sell his pictures of the Mudman. And Jameson doesn’t want any part of the terrible pictures, just giving Peter some crap for wasting his time. But the visit wasn’t a complete waste, because as Peter’s leaving in a huff he hears about a giant being seen downtown, and decides to go track down the giant. And wouldn’t you know, the thing has kept some of the memories of both Sandman and Hydroman, and has decided to track down Sadie. But there’s some good news, because it turns out that the Mudman isn’t malicious, it just wants to find love.
And let me tell you folks, this is where the story starts to get insane. Because when Sadie and the Mudman walk outside they’re shocked to find a bunch of police and reporters waiting to see that the Mudman is docile now. However, the fact remains that the Mudman is made up of two wanted criminals, so it obviously has to go on trial. But Sadie apparently has some pull, because she manages to get Matt Murdock (you know, Daredevil!) to be the defense attorney, and he somehow manages to convince the jury that the Mudman is now an individual entity who has committed no crimes, and should therefore become it’s own legal person.And they go with that!
So the Mudman is a free monster, and Sadie is visited by an entertainment agent who has an idea to make a show featuring Sadie and the Mudman. But before we see where that goes we cut over to Peter to watch him deal with stupid relationship drama with Debbie. But that’s boring as hell, so let’s just move on to when Peter’s swinging around, clearing his head, and finds a sign promoting Sadie’s new show. So Peter decides to go check out the show for the Daily Bugle. And what is the show? Well it’s exactly the same thing that happened in King Kong, where rich people pay to just gawk at the giant monster. Except this show one-ups the King Kong one by putting the Mudman in a purple cape for some reason. The theater!
Awesome. But, obviously, what goes up must come down, so as the people are celebration and gawking at the Mudman, things start to fall apart. Because Sadie thinks that she’s the star of this show for some reason, and when the talent agent from earlier comes over to congratulate her, she plants a huge kiss on him for making her a celebrity. Which is not a good thing to do around a giant monster whose only thoughts seem to be about it’s love for her. Plus, they thought it was a good idea to keep pouring sand and water on the Mudman to make it bigger and bigger. So the creature notices the kiss, gets jealous, and starts freaking out. The Mudman destroys it’s chains and start running amok in the theater.
Peter changes into his costume and tries to stop the Mudman as Spider-Man, but that doesn’t go well, and all he really does is piss it off more. And after Spider-Man is done pestering the Mudman it busts a hole in the wall of the building, grabs Sadie, and decides to start climbing the side of the building to get away from the police. And Spider-Man just kind of watches. I guess there’s not much he can do to stop the monster that he essentially created, but whatever, he just watches it with the rest of the crowd surrounding the building. But the police actually have an idea, and start sending helicopters up to fight the Mudman, who has reached the top of the building. Which is when the helicopters start spraying the Mudman with some sort of chemical that dries out all the moisture in the creature, returning it to just sand. So the Mudman crumbles, Spider-Man snags Sadie out of the sky to finally do something, and everyone crowds around to look at the big pile of lifeless sand that’s surrounding the building. And it’s at this point that Spider-Man finally comments on the fact that this has been the exact plot of King Kong, but the agent just yells at him for making tasteless jokes as he tries to console Sadie.
So there you have it. Two issues of Spider-Man that just blatantly parody the plot of one of the most famous movies of all time. And I love it. I really like Sandman as a villain, and I always thought that Hydroman was kind of a weird off-brand version of him, so I loved the idea of them teaming up and using their powers together. And boy oh boy does it make perfect sense for them to join together to make a Mudman. That’s genius. The first issue, where it was just Sandman and Hydroman trying to one-up each other for Sadie’s affections was pretty fun, and I had a good time reading that, but when the two meld together to become a giant mud monster this story really takes off. The first time I read this story I was laughing the entire time, waiting for someone to finally acknowledge what was happening, and I’m so glad that Spider-Man waited until the very end to do that. It’s just ridiculous. And I wish it happened more often. The idea of Spider-Man being thrown into the plot of King Kong is hilarious, and it worked pretty brilliantly. Even though Spider-Man barely had anything to do when the monster actually started to freak out. But that’s okay, we were here more for the mud-monster, and less for the Spider-Man plot that surrounded it. This is just some silly, weird, Bronze-Age nonsense, and I love it.
Amazing Spider-Man #217-218 were written by Denny O’Neil, drawn by John Romita Jr, inked by Jim Mooney, lettered by Jim Novak, and colored by Bob Sharon, 1981.