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Comics You Should Own flashback – Amazing Spider-Man #229-230

Yes, it’s time for another flashback, to a time when my skills at writing these up weren’t as refined as they are now.  Yes, I know many people think my writing skills still aren’t terribly refined!  So I apologize for the rather short post.  I’d add more, but I think these work nicely as a way to track how I become more and more verbose as I go along!  And, of course, there are always SPOILERS in these posts!

Amazing Spider-Man by Roger Stern (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciller), Jim Mooney (inker), Joe Rosen (letterer), and Glynis Wein (colorist).

Marvel, 2 issues (#229-230), cover dated June-July 1982.

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There are a lot of great Spider-Man stories, and most people who talk about great Spider-Man stories talk about the beginning until, say, the death of Gwen Stacy in 1973.  Anyway, that’s all well and good, but I was two in 1973, and I don’t own any Spider-Man comics prior to these two issues.  [Update: this was before I got all eight volumes of Essential Spider-Man, so that’s no longer relevant.]  I’ve read some of them, but the point is that Spider-Man was in some pretty neat stories in the 1980s, but of course Lee and Ditko and Romita Sr. didn’t do them, so some people don’t care about them.  These two issues are occasionally cited as part of the “classic” Spider-Man stories, and they should be – it’s a great superhero story.

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These two issues form a two-parter starring the Juggernaut as the villain.  The Juggernaut always struck me as a stupid villain, because even though nothing can stop him, he always seems to get stopped.  He should really consider a name change.  The Juggernaut, as Charles Xavier’s stepbrother, has always been an X-Men villain, but part of the fun of old Marvel comics is that everyone existed in the same universe and could therefore show up wherever the writer wanted (yes, the Marvel Universe still exists, but other than Brian Michael Bendis, who seems to obsess about it, when was the last time someone tried to use characters from other “spheres” of the Universe – Kevin Smith in Daredevil?).  An interesting point about these issues is that Spider-Man does not know who the Juggernaut is – another reason for Cain Marko to get a publicist.

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So Juggernaut comes to New York with his “partner,” Black Tom Cassidy.  Why aren’t those two gay?  That would be awesome.  Anyway, Black Tom has a weird scheme to kidnap Madame Web, a psychic living in Manhattan who occasionally helps out Spider-Man because her psychic powers will help his criminal activities.  He sends Juggernaut to kidnap Madame Web.  She foresees this and asks Spider-Man for help.  He tries to stop the Juggernaut (which is foolish, as he should have known from the title of the story, “Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut”), but fails.  Juggernaut reaches Madame Web and realizes she cannot be separated from her life-support system.  Peeved, he leaves.  Spider-Man takes her to a hospital and then decides (in the second issue) to stop Juggernaut no matter what.  Because, you know, he’s a hero.  In issue #230, much knock-down drag-out fighting ensues.  Spidey wins, but not in the way you might expect.  So that’s the story.

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What’s neat about these issues is the way they really encapsulate the Spidey experience without dragging in Aunt May or even the worn-out catchphrase “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Neither make an appearance in these issues.  Many people in the 1990s complained about the ridiculous amount of people in Peter Parker’s life, something J. Michael Straczynski has tried to “correct” on his current run. [Remember, I originally wrote this when JMS was writing the book.]  It might be a little daunting for a reader to dive right into Peter’s world, especially because in the 1980s he had three titles (and at this point, 1982, two) and they all had an impact on each other.  Of course, when comics were 60 cents, as these were, you could afford to keep up with everything.  So in this story we see Peter at The Bugle trying to get some work, where he has quick and revealing conversations with Glory (I don’t know her last name, sorry), Robertson’s secretary (back when they still called them that), and Betty Brant Leeds, who’s married to Ned Leeds, who was later revealed to be the Hobgoblin (sorry if I ruined it for you, but it’s a secret from 20 years ago).  We also get a reference (in the fun Marvel manner of the day, with a footnote) of why the Avengers and Fantastic Four can’t help Spidey beat up Juggernaut.  We find out that Doctor Strange is also out of town, so he can’t help.  In issue #230, “To Fight The Unbeatable Foe!”, we see more mayhem in the streets, and we get an interlude with Lance Bannon, Peter’s photographic rival, who’s having an argument with his girlfriend Amy (can’t remember her last name, either).  After Spidey defeats Juggernaut, he of course shows up at The Bugle with great pictures of the fight, even though Bannon couldn’t get anywhere near it.  This is all part of what made Amazing Spider-Man such a cool book: real lives were going on, and Peter always had to worry about making enough money to earn a living, and he always had to worry about getting involved in lousy relationships (Betty and Ned’s) or being used to make others jealous (Amy does this to make Bannon jealous).  Despite all these subplots, we get two issues of almost non-stop action and destruction, and we see again why Spider-Man is the most popular hero Marvel has.

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Romita’s art (I assume he pencilled and Mooney inked, but it just says they’re both artists) is not as excellent as his work later became (and remains).  It’s standard work, but it doesn’t do anything to drag the story down, and the New York details remain a reason why Marvel prior to, I don’t know, 1990? 1995? was a fun company to read – it felt more real than DC.  Romita gives us what we expect – nice renditions of Spider-Man and Juggernaut, good composition of the fight scenes, and a sense of exactly what Spidey is up against.  It’s not revolutionary, but it’s nice.

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That’s the whole point of these two issues, really – nothing revolutionary, but a good story.  It boils down Spidey into his essence – helping friends, not giving up even when there’s no reason to fight, always looking for work – without bogging down the story.  It’s straightforward superhero action, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It appears that these issues show up in a few trades, but the books might be out of print.  However, I got my (admittedly, somewhat beat-up) issues pretty cheaply, and I’m sure they’re fairly easy to find.  Check these two out if you’re a fan of Spidey, because they’re fun to read.

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There’s also an interesting letter in the second issue.  In this letter Kenny Dunckley (where have you gone, Kenny?) wonders why so many Spidey villains are animal-themed.  Did JMS read this letter and think “Ah ha”?  I think Kenny Dunckley should sue JMS!

That’s it for another trip down memory lane.  You can always check out the archive for more essential comics! 

30 Comments

[…] Amazing Spider-Man #229-230 by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr. – the Juggernaut strikes! […]

This story is one of my favorite Spidey stories ever for the same reasons you cited. I remember after reading the first issue wondering how Spider-Man would defeat the Juggernaut, which turned out to be pretty clever, IMO.

Great story, Greg, but I think Stern’s whole run should be considered a comic people should own! :)

I *do* own these issues, as Spider-Man Megazine #3.

I also agree with Brian. Stern’s run is pretty much where Amazing gets worth reading again after the loooooooooooooong mid-late ’70s drought.

These issues were basically The Terminator, two years before the movie.

“I *do* own these issues, as Spider-Man Megazine #3.”

Me too. Since my interest in comic was waning around this time, I only picked up the first couple issues of this (although I have no idea if it went on longer than that) and its sister magazine. I’ve always really been fond of the concept of it; it had reprint of a Lee/Ditko story, a Marvel Team Up reprint, and a couple ’70s Spidey stories every issue. The Spider-Man Family and Spider-Man Team Up Magazines sort of do the same thing, but I liked the megazine approach better. Of course, nostalgia and everything, but it did introduce me to this story, so I think it has its merits.

And yeah, this is one of my favorite Spider-Man stories. It helps that it fits in to one of my favorite Marvel tropes; the hoplessly overmatched hero facing down a threat he can’t hope to overcome, which pops up a lot in Spider-Man and Daredevil, particularly, but is something I associate with Marvel itself (that does at least sort of encompass stuff like the Galacts and Dark Phoenix Sagas).

Man, Roger Stern could sure write the HELL out of some Spider-Man, couldn’t he?

And yeah, this is one of my favorite Spider-Man stories. It helps that it fits in to one of my favorite Marvel tropes; the hoplessly overmatched hero facing down a threat he can’t hope to overcome,

Yes indeed, which is infinitely better than the usual DC formula, which consists of a hopelessly overmatched villain facing down a hero he can’t hope to overcome.

I really love JR JR’s style during this period, which I think was his best style. It’s a shame he abandoned it and went into his blocky thing, which is still good but nowhere near as good as his old style. I guess he was deliberately trying to escape his dad’s shadow by trying to draw as unlike him as possible, but I sure miss the days when he aped his dad. Frank Cho, by the way, is a master of aping old-style JR JR when he draws Spider-Man. I’d love Cho to be a regular artist on Spider-Man.

Forgot to add, JR JR’s old style is at its best when not inked by Jim Mooney, an artist I love, just not my favorite over JR JR’s pencils.

FIRST COMIC BOOKS I EVER OWNED. Also one of my favorite Spidey stories.

Roger Stern can write the hell out of anything. He’s one of the pro’s pros, and he doesn’t get near enough attention for his body of work.

I finally picked up issue 230 last year, twenty years after getting 229. It was well worth the wait.

I only own these two and then the first part of the Hobgoblin saga, which is also written by Stern. That’s up the next time I do a flashback. I should probably go back and buy the rest of Stern’s run, as it appears the Essential volumes have dried up recently!

so… what’s the clever way in which Spidey wins? I assume it’s not those “hold on tight and get pummeled” frames…

I wouldn’t call the way he wins “clever,” Jacob – Don did, but I think he means that it’s clever what the writers did, not the way Spidey defeats him. As he’s holding on for dear life in those panels, Juggernaut walks into wet cement and sinks. He’s stuck there for quite some time, if I remember. It’s a nice way for Spidey to win because he doesn’t actually defeat the Juggernaut, which would have stretched belief a bit!

These comics were the first Marvel comics I ever read. I was a kid and a DC guy because of Superfriends. I didn’t have much comic buying experience. But this was honestly the first time I ever felt inspired and moved, even before I know what those two words meant. I couldn’t put it in words, but it really changed how I looked at everything. The art, the writing…so incredible, I spent years doodling JR JR-style Spider-Man pictures in EVERYTHING, even though his original run was incredibly short. It was the first book where I ever bothered to notice the names of the writers and artists.

Going back to Jim Mooney, just wanted to add that even though I didn’t think he brought out the best in JR JR, I really loved him on people like Ed Hannigan, Bob Hall and Al Milgrom over in Spec Spidey.

Clearly, this story could not have been written with a married Spider-Man.

> because in the 1980s he had three titles
> (and at this point, 1982, two)

Hmmm. I thought there were 3 Spiderman titles then: ASM, Peter Parker – Spectacular Spiderman and Marvel Team Up

Yeah, I guess Marvel Team-Up counts. I forgot about it. My bad.

I have those issues as a Prestige-format reprint from 1989, under the “Sensational Spider-Man” banner (I have a couple others like that too).

Seeingt he cover of #230 again makes me wonder why comic book covers aren’t done like that anymore. Little gnat-sized Spidey in front of garmungous Juggy’s face — if I’d have seen that when it came out, I would have snapped it up. Just screams action. So many covers these days are so posed, lifeless and dull.

This is all part of what made Amazing Spider-Man such a cool book: real lives were going on, and Peter always had to worry about making enough money to earn a living, and he always had to worry about getting involved in lousy relationships.

So you are the reason JMS & Quesada gave us OMD! Way to go, Burgas!

Hope you’re habby. ;)

The first issue of Spidey I ever bought was 230, mostly because of the cover. That got me hooked onto him. Really my favorite Spidey story of all time.

Such a great story of heroism and triumph.

The way that conveniently placed hole sat there for years, unnoticed, until it’s hour finally came! I cheered at how the conveniently placed hole defeated the Juggernaut, with minimal help from Spider-man.

(OK, I have issues with this particular story. :) But, from what I’ve read, Stern’s Spider-man run in general is really good.)

I’ve got the Megazine too! Great story, and I’ll second (third? fourth?) the endorsement of all things Stern.

>>Great story, Greg, but I think Stern’s whole run should be considered a comic people should own! :)

You got that right. I own Stern’s entire Spider-Man run from the 80s. It’s MY Golden Age of Spider-Man.

So this guy Kenny is the reason we ended up with whole Totem/Spider-Totem dumb idea?

These were the last 2 issues of Spider-Man I managed to pick up before going to boot camp (wow have I dated myself), and they remain my all time favorite comic book story. The page in issue 230 with 3 panels consisting of the truck bearing down on Juggy, closeup of Juggy’s eyes, then the massive explosion remain my favorite piece of comic book art to this day!

In 1990 when i was 4 years old i was realy shocked when i saw the Jugguernaut. Irresistible, unstoppable and so incredibly mega-hero like him. I remebered it till now i atm i buy every original x-men and spider-men comics i see. This is one of my favourite story. Brilliant!!! Person who created Jugg shoud be given an Oscar ! Its UNBELIEVABLE !

Jonathon Riddle

January 8, 2012 at 10:09 am

Like many others posting comments here, I think the whole run of Roger Stern’s 1980’s Spider-Man are Comics You Should Own. I realize it may be a little off topic, Greg, but have you considered Stern’s run on Doctor Stange (48 – 74)? These were also wonderfully fun comics.

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