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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 62

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we take a look at Len Wein’s run on Amazing Spider-Man….

Enjoy!

Gerry Conway finished a very memorable run on Amazing Spider-Man with #150 (the conclusion of the original Clone Saga), and Len Wein came on to the book with the very next issue, and boy did he join up with a bang!

Paired with penciler Ross Andru (and for the most part, inker Mike Esposito), Wein embarked on a thirty-issue run that was filled with action, humor and character-focused stories.

The run kicked off with a classic John Romita Sr. cover…

That story has what has since been a standard plot approach for writers starting on a book like Spider-Man, do a cool revamp on a minor character.

Here, Wein makes The Shocker into a serious threat, leading into a great cliffhanger for his first issue…

Did you know that Ross Andru used to get a lot of crap for his Spider-Man artwork? Isn’t that nuts? The guy’s awesome!

Although, admittedly, he was a lot better at the action stuff than he was at the character stuff, but still, it wasn’t that his character work was BAD, just that his action stuff was SOOOO good.

Wein did good work during his run continuing the strong foundation that Gerry Conway had laid for the Peter/Mary Jane relationship…

In one of his early issues, Wein had a touching moment with a former football star rushing (literally) to save his daughter’s life. It’s quite heartfelt. Check it out…

Wein had a fun multi-part story involving the return of Doctor Octopus and the “ghost” of Hammerhead…

During that story, Wein had a particularly strong sequence where he had Spidey fall from a helicopter. He and Andru really outdid themselves on this sequence…

During Wein’s run, he had Betty Brant and Ned Leeds marry, he had Liz Allen and Harry Obsorn get engaged, and he also introduced Dr. Marla Madison, who later became J. Jonah Jameson’s wife…

By the way, it’s funny how background characters like Marla have almost zero consistency in how they’re drawn over the years. It’s striking to see how different Marla has been drawn over the years.

In that same issue, Wein had the Lizard fight Stegron the mothereffin’ Dinosaur Man!!! That’s enough for ANYone’s run to be awesome!

But Wein ALSO gave us the Rocket Racer…

And Punisher versus Spider-Man versus Hitman (with J. Jonah Jameson as a hostage) on the Statue of Liberty!!!

Talk about an awesome set-piece!

Wein’s run ended with a sprawling Green Goblin arc that was good…

This is not even mentioning the powerful Kingpin arc, the first appearance of Nightcrawler outside of the X-Men books and a lot of other great stuff!

This was one hell of a run! I wish it had lasted even longer!

28 Comments

I utterly LOVED this run…

Stegron… Punisher… Doc Ock…

And MARY-JANE!!!!

Stegron!

Next to Ditko/Lee this is my second favorite Spider-man run. Just so many good story -lines and great work with all the supporting characters.

I think Ross Andru is one of the better Spider-Man artists, and I loved the issue about the football player as a kid (although that page doesn’t have the same impact when you haven’t read the near-identical page about his failed football match first).

Just FYI, that Spider-Man sewer flood was also connected to events in an issue of Iron Man.

Wow, this run does seem pretty cool.

Shocker is awesome.

I love this art, but I wish they would re release it recolored.

I subscribed to Spider-Man during this run when I was a kid. LOVED it then and LOVE it now! I just picked up a mint copy of the 100 Yards of Death sotry that you feature above. Now THAT is an awesome cover!!

While I loved Ross Andru’s art, this run ranked squarely in the upper-middle-of-the-pack of Spider runs for me. Much respect for Len Wein as one of the definitive writer/creators/editors of his era, but I just didn’t think that his stuff translated as well to Spider-Man as it did to other characters. There’s just sort of a hoakey silliness to most of it that didn’t click with me (and was probably indicative of the mid-to-late seventies era that it was written in). And as awesome as Stegron vs. The Lizard Man was, I thought the whole Doc Ock-being-haunted-by-the-ghost-of-Hammerhead storyline to be one of the all time silliest in Spidey history. Rocket Racer was damn near unforgiveable. And the 100 yard dash just didn’t resonate with me the way it seems to have done for most people (much in the same way that Stern’s “Kid Who Collected Spider-Man” left me feeling cold as well – and I loved Stern’s run).

Don’t get me wrong – it’s just my personal tastes I’m speaking for. Wein had his strong points and his run was light years better than some of the bad Spidey runs we’ve seen. There’s just some kind of 70′s kitsch to it that didn’t agree with me. The fact that he had to follow in the foosteps of my all-time second favorite run (Gerry Conway) may have unfairly prejudiced me a bit as well.

Sorry – I meant to say “the Lizard”, not “the Lizard Man”. I should have my Spidey credentials stripped away for that.

The Len Wein, Ross Andru Spider-Man run is a classic example of solid, old school comic book story telling. For the benefit of those who have not read it , the whole thing is readily available in the Essential Amazing Spider-Man, vols. 7 and 8. The price? A mere 16.99 each. Some random observations:

1. Len Wein was the last writer who had Spider-Man all to himself (barring Marvel Team Up, of course), as not too long after he started writing the book Marvel began publishing the Spectacular spinoff .

2. Ross Andru: He defined the Spidey look for the 70s. In contrast to Ditko and Romita, with their rather stylized depictions of New York, Andru’s New York feels very real. The shots of Spider-Man swinging through the city have a realism of background detail that was never before seen in Amazing.

3. The villain revival: Unlike Conway, Wein brought a sense of retro revival to Spidey. As noted, issues 151-152 saw the return of the Shocker. 154 brought back the Sandman, a character not seen in Amazing since Ditko’s run.160 brought back the Tinkerer, not seen since SM #2.163-164 brought back the Kingpin ( who had been a behind the scenes threat from 153 on).WEin also brought in the pseudo Goblin in issues 176 through180.

4. Tone and atmosphere: Conway’s Spidey was, without a doubt, the most neurotic depiction of the character; his Spidey always seemed to be teeetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Wein’s Spidey, in contrast, while still troubled, was better balanced. In tone, I would say that Wein’s characterization of Spidey harked back to the Lee-Romita years.

5. Of the post-Conway Amazing Spider-Man writers, I wpuld place Len Wein and Roger Stern at the top. Both are infinitely superior to the Wolfman and O’neil runs that came between them.

6. Hey Brian, for a follow-up, why not a spotlight on Roger Stern’s Amazing Spider-Man run? There was some truly sensational stuff in Stern’s time on the title. For that matter, how about about Stern’s run on Dr. Strange?For my money, its only rivals are Ditko-Lee and Engelhart-Brunner runs.

How come Spidey never makes stuff out of his webbing anymore? That was always one of my favorite bits from the old books.

Ross Andru may very well be the greatest Spider-Man artist ever. I had a lot of these issues when I was a kid, but unfortunately they all disappeared for one reason or another over the years. I’ve only been able to replace two of them– the final issue with the Green Goblin, and the Spider-Slayer/Will-Of-The Wisp issue which came right after the Lizard-Stegron story shown here. I wish I could afford to get the rest.

The first comic book I ever read was the last issue of this run, when I was six years old. To this day, Ross Andru’s Spider-Man is the definitive one for me.

This is jampacked with awesome! GO LEN WEIN!!!

Hey Brian, your caption describes the art from Amazing Spider-Man 156 (Doc Ock and Aunt May) as being by Sal Buscema. The reprint in Essential Amazing Spider-Man 7 says that it was by Andru.

Hey Brian, your caption describes the art from Amazing Spider-Man 156 (Doc Ock and Aunt May) as being by Sal Buscema. The reprint in Essential Amazing Spider-Man 7 says that it was by Andru.

I’ll gladly defer to them!

For the curious, my grades on the Wein Spider-Man run. All grades are from one to ten, with the ranking based on internal criteria (i.e., a 10 is a 10 in relation to Wein’s other work in the run, not in relation to every issue of Spider-Man ever written). Grades will contain some spoilers (i.e., villains will be identified, etc.).

151-152: A solid 10. Wein restores a sense of fun to the title after the sturm und drang of the Conway years. WEin shows his flair for going back to the basics by reviving the Shocker.

153: 10. A nice change of pace issue. Perhaps the best tearjerker until Stern’s BOY WHO COLLECTS SPIDER-MAN. The Kingpin is the behind the scenes villain.

154:9. Sal Buscema fills in for Andru and does the job with solid professionalism. Again showing his interest in reviving old foes, Wein brings back the Sandman, a ” lost ” Spider-Man villain (rented out to the FF, just as Electro was rented out to Dardevil).The Kingpin lurks behind the scenes.

155: 8. Another SAl Buscema fill-in. As before, SAl’s art is solid. The plot is an offbeat one for Spidey, with a brand new foe.

156: 7. Andru comes back in all his glory. Features the wedding of Betty Brant and Ned Leeds The villain, however, is the very lame Mirage.

157-159:6. The Doc Ock-Ghost of Hammerhead epic. Probably the low point of the run. Even on comic book terms, the explanation for Hammerhead’s survival is absurd. Even worse, Wein revives the Ock-Aunt May relationship.

160: 10. A return to form. Wein goes all the way back to issue 2 and revives the Tinkerer. Bonus points, Wein brings back the Spider-mobile, the most gloriously absurd creation of all. Behind the scenes, lurks the Kingpin.

161-162:9. Nightcrawler, Punisher, Spider-Man mash-up. Great fun. WEin shows real flair for the Punisher. Wein also introduces long time Punisher foe Jigsaw.

163-164:10. A terrific old school confrontation with the Kingpin, depicted in all of his pre-Frank Miller glory (If anyone tries to tell you that the Kingpin does not have superhuman strength, show him these issues). Needless to say, the Kingpin has decided to step out of the shadows in this one.

165-166:7. A Stegron-Spidey-Lizard mash-up. Lots of fun, but a bit too silly for my tastes (note the bringing to life of dino skeletons).

167-168:10. How did the old time writers do it? In these two issues WEin gives us 6 months (at minimum) od Ultimate Spidey. A grand Spider-Slayer (designed by Marla Madison) -Will-o-the Wisp-Spidey-Jonas Harrow mash up. This was the kind of comic book crack that hooked 10 year kids for life.

169-170: 9. Great fun. WEin ends a long simmering J.J.J. subplot in these issues, and brings in surprise villain Dr. Faustus. Note to Mr. Bendis, kindly look at the penultimate page of 169, and note how Spidey easily shrugs off a normal man’s punches to the gut. Also note how the aforementioned goon’s hands are broken from the repeated contact with Spidey’s super hard muscles. Bear this scene in mind when you write future issues.

171: 6. The Nova-Spidey team-up. The story is very flat, and AIM makes a very poor villain for Spidey.

172-173: 8. Rocket Racer (campily cool or just campy?) and Molten Man. Classic stuff. Marred by Spider-Man being kicked by a doctor who has had mail-order Kung Fu lessons in 173 ( Although that might have been meant as a joke).

174-175: 8. Punisher-Hitman-Spidey. Wein again shows his knack for handling the Punisher in 174. However, things fall apart in 175, where Wein writes a strangly out of charcter Punisher (e.g., Punisher humor, the horror, the horror).

176-180:7. The long awaited boiling over of the Harry Osborn sub-plot. Spidey-Bart Hamilton-Harry Osborn-Silvermane mash up. Lots of fun, but Hamilton as the Goblin just lacks the weight of Norman and Harry. Furthermore, the whole thing feels a bit padded out. While a five issue sequence like this seems almost “compressed” by today’s standards, this was a long slog for the 70s.

"O" the Humanatee!

March 3, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Ross Andru’s storytelling skills, but for a long time I couldn’t get past his wonky anatomy: He drew the upper limbs (humerus and femur) too short and the lower limbs too long – which might have work to give Spider-Man an interestingly spider-like quality, but he drew everybody that way, throughout his career. I have no idea why nobody ever called him on it, or if they did, why he didn’t learn to correct it.

I also have that Molten Man issue, but I forgot it before. Thanks, Trajan.

Mary Warner, no need to thank me for shooting my mouth off. I will tell people my thoughts on a given issue at a moment’s notice. I, too, have Spider-Man 173, featuring Spidey’s confrontation with the Molten Man. As a matter of fact, I received it as a gift from my uncle’s personal collection when I was 8. When I complained about the doctor kicking Spidey, he told me that Spidey was just having an off day.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 3, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Peter looks like he’s literally on MJ’s back in that panel where she asks him to get off it.

Weird.

O
“Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Ross Andru’s storytelling skills, but for a long time I couldn’t get past his wonky anatomy: He drew the upper limbs (humerus and femur) too short and the lower limbs too long – which might have work to give Spider-Man an interestingly spider-like quality, but he drew everybody that way, throughout his career. I have no idea why nobody ever called him on it, or if they did, why he didn’t learn to correct it.”

Yeah, that always bugged me – I’ve always preferred Andru as a CARTOONIST, in the R. Crumb or Harvey Kurtzman mold (See: GET LOST, the Metal men) to Andru as a semi-realistic superhero artist.

OK, that’s freaky. I’m reading all the Amazing Spider Man issues off the DVD that Marvel sold a few years back and I literally just finished reading this run.

*Queue twilight zone music*

Matthew Johnson

March 4, 2010 at 7:13 am

Andru wound up being responsible for a lot of how people imagined both Spider-Man and Superman — Spider-Man with this run and Superman by doing what seemed like every bit of merchandising art for Supes in the 1970s and 80s.

seeing those shots shows Len wein could have had a legendary run on spider man to match even steve ditkoes or stan lees. though rocket racer always wondered who created that character. not to mention loved how he made Mary Jane seem a snob .

Do NOT mock the Rocket Racer.

Just… do not.

My first encounter with Spidey was ASM 136, but I was a wee bit young – my first understanding of Spidey was ASM 176 and I was able to gather plenty of back issues right off the bat – so, Wein/Andru were my first understanding of Spidey. And, no one has been able to replicate that feeling.

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