Well everyone, it’s that time of year again when things get a little more jolly here on Marvel Madness. I’m a bit of a Grinch myself, but if there’s one thing that can get me in anything resembling a holiday spirit it’s checking out the utterly bizarre ways that the various creators at Marvel Comics have decided to celebrate Christmas over the years. Frequently pretty far removed from the month of December, which is always an added little treat of weirdness. I’ve found something very strange for the second Marvel Madness post of the month, but for now I figured we’d honor the arrival of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse by finding a story about how everyone’s favorite webhead celebrated Christmas. And, surprisingly, I came up with quite a few options. I don’t know why Spider-Man has been involved in quite so many Christmas stories, other than perhaps the fact that he was basically Marvel’s mascot and kind of became the character that they would try things out with. But, for whatever the reason, Spider-Man has had quite a few holiday adventures, and most of them have been that special brand of insanity that I just revel in. But, when I came across this story, I knew it was going to have to be the one I’d pick. Because not only do we get Spidey at Christmas, we also get an appearance from the Lizard, who has become one of the most consistently insane villaisn when I bring Spider-Man up. And, as some added spice, we get the return of Stegron the Dinosaur Man, one of the absolute weirdest Spider-Man villains of all time, and one who we talked about earlier this year. This is the direct follow-up to that story, making me kind of want to just filling you all in on the continuing misadventures of Stegron the Dinosaur Man. But, well get to that later, as for now let’s get ready to celebrate the holidays with a bunch of reptile-men and the return of the dinosaurs!
The story begins with Spider-Man swinging around Manhattan one night, just a few short days before Christmas. He’s minding his own business, looking for some crimes to fight, when he gets a pretty powerful signal from his Spider-Sense, luring him towards a pretty anonymous building. Spidey pops into the building and finds that it’s a secret SHIELD laboratory, full of some very irritated SHIELD agents. They’re furious because someone has just stolen a very powerful piece of scientific equipment, and they assume that the sudden appearance of Spider-Man means that he’s in cahoots with the thief. Spider-Man has to fight the two agents pretty quickly, and ends up encountering the thief in a shadowy room. He doesn’t get a good look of the thief, and they’re able to escape before he can stop them, letting the SHIELD agents catch up to our hero. Spider-Man then decides that it’s more important to catch the thief than explain things to the SHIELD agents, and flees from the building, giving chase. He fails pretty much immediately though, because the mysterious thief has left no trail for him to follow.
Meanwhile, we see that Dr. Curt Connors, famed geneticist, friend of Spider-Man, and occasional lizard monster is hanging out in Manhattan with his wife and son, getting ready to perform some new tests. Connors has been under tremendous strain, primarily thanks to a recent run-in with Spider-Man who needed to use his scientific expertise, but the Connors’ are looking to have a nice relaxing Christmas together. Which is of course when everything goes wrong. Someone begins pounding on the door to their apartment, and before they can even decide if they want to open it or not, the door comes crashing down, and Dr. Connors is pretty shocked at the identity of their visitor.
Yep, it’s Stegron the Dinosaur Man! No, in case you aren’t familiar with Stegron, and haven’t read my article about his first appearance, he was once a man named Vincent Stegron. He was a lab assistant of Dr. Connors’ who wanted to transform himself into a dinosaur version of the Lizard, so that he could become a supervillain. And he succeeded! We last saw him bringing a commandeered SHIELD helicarrier full of dinosaurs from the Savage Land to New York so that he could conquer it and make it a dinosaur utopia. Yeah, he’s great. And, he’s returned to New York in order to force Dr. Connors to help him in his latest scam. And, to make sure that Connors obeys him, he’s going to kidnap Curt’s son Billy as a bargaining chip. Stegron has set up a special lab with specific instructions for Connors, and tells him that he’ll only get Billy back if he completes the science he needs.
But, in case you were getting too invested in the kidnapping of a small child for dinosaur blackmail, it’s time to hop over into the ever-depressing world of Peter Parker. Because, as always, things aren’t going well for old Pete. We see him get into a squabble with Flash Thompson over which one of them is actually dating Mary Jane, we see J Jonah Jameson hard at work on the latest iteration of the Spider-Slayers, and we see Pete having an awkward conversation with Mary Jane. The two are going on a date to a planetarium near the American Museum of Natural History. They’re having a pretty serious talk about their relationship, Mary Jane’s insecurities, and why Peter is always vanishing at weird times to “take photos.” It feels like a perfect time for Peter to tell her the truth about his life, but he keeps all of that secret, and the two just agree to be more understanding in their relationship, and just enjoy the laser Floyd or whatever they’re there to see. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last long, because pretty quickly the power to the planetarium goes out. Why? Well, there’s something going on in Museum that’s overloading the power to the building.
Yep! Stegron just so happens to be hanging out in the Museum of Natural History with a weird little ray-gun that he stole from that SHIELD lab, and he’s using all the power in the museum to charge said ray-gun so he can blast the various dinosaur skeletons that the museum has. And why would he be doing that? Well, because this “Electro-Magnetic Field” gun is able to bring the skeletons back to life, obviously! It doesn’t put skin on them or anything, so I have no idea how they’re able to walk, but they somehow are able to become shambling skeletons, ready to do Stegron’s bidding. I guess because he couldn’t afford to fly to the Savage Lands again.
Stegron walks all around the paleontology wing of the museum, bringing a series of skeletons to life, while Peter Parker takes it upon himself to leave the planetarium to figure out what’s going on. He puts on his costume, assuming the worst, and comes face to face with a very angry brontosaurus skeleton. Things immediately get hairy, and Spider-Man is forced to flee from the skeletons, quickly coming across the other three. Spider-Man immediately realizes that he’s in over his head, and rather than try beating up some skeletons he decides to hightail it out of there. He manages to get out of the museum, and just so happens to run into Stegron, who was standing by to watch all the chaos. Spider-Man is pretty shocked to see Stegron, since the last time they encountered each other Stegron appeared to drown in the Hudson River. But, he hand-waves that away with some comic book bullshit, and the two do some battle.
Sure, Stegron, whatever you say. You’re the biologist. I assume.
Anyway, as you can see, Spider-Man manages to sock Stegron right in the breadbasket, taking him down momentarily. But, sensing some momentary weakness, Stegron decides to protect himself by taking Spider-Man out, momentarily. He uses his tail to knock down a wall, dropping a whole bunch of bricks and mortar on Spider-Man, and knocking him unconscious. Stegron then manages to flee, leaving Spider-Man quite confused when he finally comes to and pulls himself out of the rubble. He takes a quick look around, and realizes that Stegron and his weird awoken dinosaur skeletons have vanished without a trace. He has no idea what Stegron wants, where he might be, or how he was able to bring skeletons to life. But, he does think he knows someone who might be able to help him.
Spider-Man swings across town to the apartment of Dr. Curt Connors, assuming that the good doctor will be willing to help him take down yet another supervillain, especially one who is a former assistant. But, when he gets there he finds a pretty big surprise. The strain of the last few weeks, but especially of seeing a dinosaur man kidnap his son, has caused Curt Connors to initiate his transformation into the Lizard. So, when Spider-Man shows up he finds the bestial Lizard waiting for him, and not exactly in a mood to talk about a team-up. The two immediately start fighting, and the Lizard pretty quickly is able to throw himself and Spider-Man out of a window. Spidey’s able to break their fall a bit with some webs, but he gets dazed after they land on an awning. And, while Spider-Man is dazed, the Lizard takes that opportunity to slip into the sewers through a manhole cover, instantly losing himself in New York’s vast sewer system.
Spider-Man has now lost two different reptile-men in the course of like, thirty minutes. Great work, Spider-Man. He has no idea how to find either of them, but before worrying too much about either of them he decides he needs to head back up to the apartment the Connors’ were using in order to make sure that Martha and Billy are okay. He pops up into the apartment only to find Martha suffering a bit of a mental break, trying to get the apartment all ready for Christmas as if her son wasn’t just kidnapped by a dinosaur man and her husband didn’t just turn into a lizard man. Spider-Man is able to calm Martha down, since they actually do have a bit of a history together, and she starts to tell him everything. She tells Spidey about how Stegron broke in, took Billy, and forced Curt to start working in a secret laboratory that Stegron had set up for him.
Spider-Man promises to rescue Billy and help Curt, and heads back into the snowy night to fix things. Which of course means it’s time to sort out some ongoing Parker drama. He has to call Mary Jane and tell her he’s not coming to a party being thrown at Flash Thompson and Harry Osborne’s place, which just so happens to be in celebration of the surprise engagement between Harry and Liz Allen. We also see more progress on Jameson’s new Spider-Slayer, but that’s super irrelevant. Things finally start to matter when we cut to an abandoned warehouse where Stegron is keeping Billy and the skeletons of the dinosaurs he stole. And Stegron is quite happy, because with Connors’ work he was able to perfect his weird little ray gun, now causing it to bring the dinosaurs to life, and surround the bones with muscle and flesh, fully bringing them back to life. But, as Stegron is celebrating to himself, and plotting the destruction of the feeble mammals, he gets a surprise visitor.
Lizard and Stegron then begin grappling on the floor, both of them yelling about how each of them holds the rightful title as the king of the reptiles. They start beating the crap out of each other while Billy Connors looks on in horror. And, while that’s going on, Stegron’s experiment starts to come to fruition, and his dinosaurs end up becoming sentient. They then immediately start attacking the Lizard, really putting him in a tight position. And, against all of the Lizard’s beliefs he ends up going out of his way to save Billy from the rampaging dinosaurs, even though the Lizard typically has no love for Curt Connors or his family. This catches both Stegron and the Lizard off guard, and their battle takes a momentary pause, giving the dinosaurs the opportunity to lose interest and wander out of the warehouse and on to the streets of New York.
Which is how Spider-Man comes across their little scuffle. He hasn’t had the best luck at coming across these violent lizard people, but the appearance of a bunch of angry dinosaurs is enough to get Spider-Man’s attention. He quickly tries to take care of the dinosaurs, blinding them and shutting their mouths with his webs, incapacitating them enough that he can leave them behind for the NYPD to take care of. However he thinks they’re going to manage to do that. Spider-Man then hops into the warehouse, only to find both of his missing reptile-men at each other’s throats. So, Spider-Man leaps into the fray and begins beating them both up, all while looking like he’s in the middle of an interpretive dance.
The fight gets pretty intense at this point, so Spider-Man does something that at first seems like a pretty low blow. He shoots a wad of webbing right into the Lizard’s roaring throat. It momentarily feels like maybe Spider-Man was attempting to suffocate the Lizard, but we see that he actually had a much stranger plan. Because apparently, in between other stuff we actually saw, Spider-Man whipped up a new batch of webbing that contained the cure he usually administers to Connors to get rid of the Lizard. So, with a chunk of antidote webbing lodged in his throat, the Lizard starts to fade away, leaving Curt Connors in charge of the body.
However, while Spider-Man focuses on Connors, Stegron takes his opportunity to get the hell out of there. He sucker-punches Spidey in the back of the head, grabs the kidnapped Billy Connors, and hops onto the back on one of his dinosaur steeds, heading out into New York. The citizens of New York, hoping for a normal Christmas Eve, are pretty shocked by all of this, and Spider-Man quickly gives chase, managing to hop onto the back of the Tyrannosaurus Rex that Stegron and Billy are riding. Spidey saves Billy, and drops him off with a police officer for safety. And, just as it seems like Spider-Man is about to be eaten by dinosaurs for his effort, they all revert to their skeleton state, harmless. Apparently Dr. Connors has woken up, figured out how to reverse the power of Stegron’s weird beam, and has returned the giant beasts to their prehistoric slumber. Meaning all Spider-Man has to worry about now is Stegron himself. Spider-Man chases after Stegron, and ends up tracking him to Central Park. Stegron has holed up under a small bridge, primarily because he can’t really handle the cold. He huddles for warmth under the bridge, his dinosaur blood freezing. But, as he lies in wait for Spider-Man, he finally succumbs to the cold, and ends up fainting, falling into the frozen river under the bridge. he then sinks to the bottom, as the ice reform above him, trapping Stegron once more in some water. Spider-Man then immediately loses interest in Stegron, I guess assuming he drowned again, and goes to drop a Christmas present off at the apartment of the Connor’s hoping to spread a little Christmas joy.
Listen, this may not have been the most jolly Christmas story I could have picked, except for maybe the incredibly schmaltzy ending that kind of comes out of nowhere, but it’s still a delightful story. I just love Stegron so much. It’s insane to me that the creators of Spider-Man decided that they needed a character who was exactly like the Lizard, but with the subtle difference that he was into dinosaurs rather than lizards. And to then have the first two appearances of that character involve him being defeated by drowning in relatively shallow bodies of water inside New York City is just that extra bit of weirdness that I love in my Marvel stories. It’s also just so very on-brand, in the best possible way, that Peter Parker is spending his Christmas Eve hunting down a dinosaur man and his army of bizarre army of revitalized dinosaurs just to put a family back together. Peter’s relationship with Curt Connors is always interesting, almost reaching the levels that Batman and Two-Face can, with Spider-Man constantly seeking to redeem Curt, and always being disappointing and crushed when he returns to his Lizard form. So, it’s pretty heartwarming to see him travelling through the cold and snowy streets of New York, ignoring all of his personal obligations, just to save Curt Connors and give his family a happy Christmas. Because Spider-Man’s a good dude.
The Amazing Spider-Man #165-166 were written by Len Wein, penciled by Ross Andru, inked by Mike Espositio, colored by Glynis Wein, and lettered by Joe Rosen, 1977.
Categories: Marvel Madness