A couple weeks ago I decide to share a wonderful story with you all about Black Panther, Storm, and the entire nation of Wakanda fighting off an invasion of Skrulls. At the time that I wrote that article I mentioned that most Black Panther stories, while often a whole lot of fun, don’t typically fit in with the rest of these Marvel Madness posts. I usually like to focus on truly insane and crazy stories from Marvel’s history, and it seemed like Black Panther usually lent himself to more serious and badass stories. But, it turns out that that wasn’t actually the case. I wasn’t familiar with the crazier side of T’Challa, and after writing about the Skrull story I did a little bit of research, and found a story that couldn’t possibly be more up the alley of this project. And it’s all thanks to the incredibly strange series that was Marvel Team-Up. Similar to the previously mentioned Marvel Two-in-One, Marvel Team-Up was a series that told stories each month where a more well-established Marvel character, this time Spider-Man, would go on an adventure with new characters, or at least ones that needed a bump in popularity. Spider-Man fought crime with all sorts of members of the Marvel Universe over the course of this series, and they’re often gloriously weird stories. Case in point, today’s story where Spider-Man and Black Panther team up in order to stop an invasion of dinosaurs led by Stegron the Dinosaur Man. If that sentence became a string of nonsense words to you, buckle up, because we’re about to discuss one of the strangest characters in Marvel’s entire history.
This story actually is the second part of a larger story that began in the previous issue of Team-Up. But, that one’s far less interesting, and is actually streamlined and recapped in the beginning of this issue. It all began with Spider-Man agreeing to help out his old friend Dr. Curt Connors, the Lizard. Connors needed Spider-Man to travel to the Savage Land in order to find a former lab assistant of his, Vincent Stegron. Now, that was a very loaded sentence, so let’s break some of that down. The Savage Land is a mysterious area of Antarctica that was turned into a nature reserve by aliens. It’s a tropical jungle that’s populated almost entirely by dinosaurs. It’s great. And Vincent Stegron is a scientist who worked with Dr. Connors, and became so fascinated with Connors’ lizard formula that he decided to use it on himself, by with a twist. Stegron specifically used dinosaur DNA in his serum, turning him into a Dinosaur Man. Spider-Man was sent to the Savage Land, and with the help of Ka-Zar, the Tarzanesque inhabitant of the Savage Land, he tracked down Stegron. Unfortunately, Stegron had already administered the serum to himself, and become the Dinosaur Man. And, to make things even crazier, Stegron has brought a massive airship along with him, and he’s planning on loading it with dinosaurs to bring them to New York and attack the city. But, as Stegron flees with his haul, Spider-Man is able to stow away and follow Stegron back to New York.
Stegron’s Dinosaur Ark then begins rocketing back to America, while Spider-Man plans his assault. Spider-Man stealthily climbs up onto the deck of the Ark, where Stegron is standing and plotting his evil plans. Unfortunately, before Spider-Man can jump Stegron, he’s caught. Stegron whips around and begins fighting Spider-Man, and it’s pretty uneven. Spider-Man has always had problems fighting the Lizard, and Stegron is even stronger and his tail has barbs like a stegosaurus. Stegron is able to club Spider-Man pretty hard with his tail, leading Spider-Man to figure he needs a better plan. He quickly unloads quite a bit of webbing onto Stegron’s tail, hoping to make the fight a tad more fair. But, this still doesn’t go great for Spider-Man, because even in hand-to-hand combat he’s able to keep Spider-Man on his toes. Spider-Man does his very best, but Stegron is eventually able to rip through the webbing with his tail, and club the old webhead once more, this time knocking him out.
By this time the Ark has somehow already reached New York, which has been noticed by the Avengers. Well, Jarvis at least. He’s on some sort of radar duty, and when the Ark enters the airspace of New York he gets flagged and starts running around Avenger’s Mansion, looking for someone to help investigate. And the only person that appears to be in the Mansion is good old T’Challa. Jarvis tells him about what’s going on, and Black Panther hops into one of the Avengers’ quinjets, and flies off to investigate this mysterious ship that’s rapidly approaching Manhattan. Which is good for Spider-Man, because as soon as Black Panther gets within eye-sight of the Ark, Stegron picks Spider-Man up and just hucks him over the side of the Ark.
T’Challa catches sight of the ship, and when he notices someone being tossed off of the deck he zips to the falling person, doing his best to save them. T’Challa thinks quick, and after doing some fast geometry, he lowers himself down on a cable while activating an auto-pilot. Panther hangs from the cable, and just in time catches Spider-Man as he’s plummeting down to the ocean outside Manhattan. T’Challa is a little surprised to find that the person he’s just rescued is a fellow superhero, and he brings Spider-Man up into the quinjet to get the full story from him. And, by the time Spider-Man regain consciousness, he realizes that they’ve lost Stegron and his Dino Ark, and fills T’Challa in on what’s going on.
But, with no clue where to Stegron and his assortment of dinosaurs are, Spider-Man and Black Panther decide they need to regroup and get an expert’s opinion. So, they fly over to the laboratory of Dr. Curt Connors to fill him in on what’s going on. They let him know that his old lab partner has turned himself into a dinosaur man, and apparently plans on destroying New York with an army of dinosaurs stolen from an alien nature reserve, but he takes it in stride. Connors tells Spider-Man and Black Panther that he’ll start working on a potential antidote to the serum that turned Stegron into a Dinosaur Man. And, while he does that, Spider-Man and Black Panther get to work creating a super-strong version of Spider-Man web-fluid so the next time he spars against Stegron it won’t break so easily. Oh, and speaking of Stegron, what’s he up to?
Okay, so Stegron has apparently landed his Ark of dinosaurs in Central Park, unloaded them, and has begun marching them through the Park for the beginning of his war against humanity. Right on. He scares off a mugger who was getting ready to steal from two old ladies, and then continues on his way, stomping through the park. But, when they get to the border of the Park and enter the streets of Manhattan, words starts to travel about the army of dinosaurs invading New York. And that word quickly reaches Spider-Man and Black Panther, who were still at Connor’s lab. So, they load Spider-Man up with his new and improved web-fluid, and they hit the town.
Luckily, it’s not very hard to find Stegron, since he’s leading a veritable parade of prehistoric beasts down 42nd Avenue, straight into Time’s Square. People flee in terror from Stegron, which is exactly what he was hoping for. He spouts off a bunch of supervillain babble, which leaves him pretty open for a solid punch from T’Challa. They apparently decided to switch up their tactics, so now Panther is going to try and fight Stegron while Spider-Man uses the heavy-duty webs to truss up the dinosaurs. And it turns out that this is a really successful idea, because T’Challa’s enhances strength, speed, and agility make it so that he’s pretty easily able to dodge all of Stegron’s attacks, keeping the Dinosaur Man on his toes.
While Black Panther is keeping Stegron occupied, Spider-Man is also being quite successful. The new web-fluid that Black Panther cooked up for him may be a tad unstable, but its doing a good job keeping the rogue dinosaurs from hurting civilians. But, that doesn’t stop a whole bunch of New Yorkers, used to all the insane bullshit that happens in their city, from milling around and gawking at the dinosaurs And, of course, one of those civilians is Mary Jane Watson, who just starts wandering around between the dinosaurs, narrowly avoiding being crushed by a brontosaurus that Spider-Man webs up. He gets a little distracted by that but ends up scaring Mary Jane away from the rampage.
Meanwhile, Panther is still sparing with Stegron, avoiding his powerful blows and keeping him from realizing that Spider-Man is slowly but surely ruining his plan of dinosaur invasion. But, our heroes get a surprise bit of help when Dr. Connors arrives on the scene of the rampage, and forces his way through the police barricade. Stegron recognizes his old lab-mate, and let’s Connors speak. Unfortunately, he doesn’t come bearing good news. It turns out that his experiments have prove that whatever changes Stegron made to the Lizard serum have made it permanent. There’s no cure. Stegron will never return to normal humanity. This really does seem to bother Stegron, and he responds by summoning a pterodactyl to fly away on.
Stegron hops on the pterodactyl and starts to fly away, leaving the stunned heroes behind. But, thinking fast, Spider-Man is able to shoot a web onto the back of the pterodactyl, hitching a ride. Stegron starts yelling at Spider-Man, furious that the webhead is still sticking around and bothering him. Stegron is hoping to flee from our heroes, return to the Savage Land and get another army of dinosaurs, but Spider-Man’s unexpected weight on the pterodactyl is causing some problems. Stegron and Spider-Man tussle on the back of the pterodactyl for a bit, when disaster strikes. Spider-Man hits Stegron just a little too hard, and the Dinosaur Man falls from the back of the pterodactyl and into the bay near the Statue of Liberty. And, apparently, dinosaurs can’t swim? So Stegron appears to drown, saving New York from the dinosaur invasion, and ending Spider-Man and Black Panther’s little team-up.
So, yeah, this is more of a Spider-Man story than a Black Panther one, but I’m still counting it. I had always thoughts that, other than a few out-there Avengers stories, good old T’Challa rarely got involved in stories this weird. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a story this goofy, even if Black Panther wasn’t really the main draw. Plus, any time I can talk about a character as utterly absurd as Stegron the Dinosaur Man is a great one. This is a story that’s just stuffed to the gills with everything that I love about weird Marvel stories. I mean, the fact that this story involves the Savage Land, one of the silliest features of the Marvel universe, and it’s just kind of glazed over delights me to no end. I feel like I’m going to return to this series occasionally, because it seemed tailor-made to craft weird little stories that beg to be featured on this project. But, after getting every expectation blown away by the Black Panther film I knew I needed to look back in on another story of the once and future king of Wakanda, and this was a solid way to accomplish that need.
Marvel Team-Up #20 was written by Len Wein, penciled by Sal Buscema, inked by Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito, colored by Glynis Wein, and lettered by Art Simek, 1970.
Categories: Marvel Madness