Tuesday, May 03, 2005

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #250 Marvel Comics, 1984

I stole this comic book.

I really did. I'm not proud of it; twenty-one years ago, I stole this copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #250 from the 7-11 near Totem Bowl in Kirkland, WA.

My friend Bob and I had skipped class at nearby Rose Hill Jr. High, slipped through a hole in the fence around the baseball field, and made the short walk up to 7-11. We had some pocket change for candy and had no intention of buying a comic book. But there it was, on the spinning rack by the door: The Amazing Spider-Man #250, a "special normal sized 25oth issue!" On the cover (above) Spider-Man was grappling with the demonic Hobgoblin in the middle of a raging inferno - that looked cool. And in the corner box, The Hobgoblin himself urged me to shoplift this comic: "It's great! Steal it!"

So I did.

I'm sure it wasn't Marvel's intention to promote shoplifting, but I would bet that I wasn't the only kid in 1984 that took Hobgoblin's advice and stole this comic instead of buying it. I'm glad I did, because after I read this, I had to buy the next issue, and track down the issue that came before this, and any Spider-Man with art by those Romita and Janson cats, and anything to do with Hobgoblin, and Green Goblin, and I was hooked.

This comic is part two of a three-part story written by Roger Stern, who at one point or another seems to have written every damn Marvel character ever made. The guy was ubiquitous during the 80's, and while he cranked out his share of mediocre tales (e.g., Avengers #232), this is Stern at his best.

In this story, the evil Hobgoblin is extorting money from a bunch of NYC multi-millionaires and Spidey has to stop him. The Hobgoblin was a mysterious figure who had "inherited" the weaponry and reasearch of Norman Osborn, aka The Green Goblin, Spider-Man's deceased arch-enemy. In addition to the pumpkin bombs and bat glider and other Halloween-motif weaponry, The Hobgoblin possessed a ton of Osborn's notes, which contained some incriminating dirt on the previously mentioned millionaires. He uses this information to extort money from his prey, including J. Jonah Jameson, editor of the Daily Bugle and constant thorn in Spidey's side. What dirt does The Hobgoblin have on JJJ? He has proof that Jameson bankrolled the villain The Scorpion, and possibly that he used to enjoy listening to The Scorpions. I'm not sure which.

One of the great things about this storyline is that The Hobgoblin isn't some twisted psychotic who wants to kill Spider-Man or kidnap Aunt May or any shit like that. No, The Hobgoblin just wants to get paid, and Spider-Man is trying to stop him. Simple as that. I swear, in some books the superheroes just fight an endless stream of foes who hate them or blame them for the death of their dog, or whatever. Like in Tim Burton's Batman movie - did the Joker really have to be the guy who killed Batman's parents? That's bullshit. If you ask me, and clearly nobody is, I think superheroes should be out fighting crime and halting alien invasions and stopping school buses from falling off the Golden Gate Bridge - shit like that. I don't mind the occasional grudge match, but I can't stand it when that's all a monthly comic book is about. Some recent Spider-Man comics are good examples of this.

Think about it, if the purpose of being a superhero is to save people, defend the earth, crush organized crime, etc. and you spent most of your time in epic, city-trashing battles fighting bad guys that have a personal beef with you, what kind of hero are you? You should be solving problems, not creating them.

I mean I'd be embarassed if I was, say, Captain America, leader of The Avengers, and at the end of the fiscal year somebody hands me a spreadsheet that says that out of the 14 property-destroying super-brawls the Avengers were in last year, 9 were a result of supervillains with a grudge attacking the group and only 5 battles were of any actual civic value. Seriously, I don't think The Avengers would be very popular with a record like that. What could you say? "Sorry about the Chrysler Building, but Wonder Man's insane brother The Grim Reaper tried to kill us all again."

Okay, got off track a little bit there. I was saying that I liked the story.

The art in this issue is awesome. No, wait: it's fucking awesome. John Romita Jr, son of famous Spider-Man artist John Romita, pencilled the book, Klaus Janson inked it, and Christie Scheele colored it (beautifully). I am one of the world's biggest JR Jr fans, but I think his pencils are best served when he has a true ninja inker backing him up, somebody like Dan Green or Klaus Janson.

I'm going to geek out here for a second: Klaus Janson is The BEST INKER IN THE WORLD! Seriously, who is better than Janson? Don't answer that: nobody is better. He knows when to lay down a heavy line and when to back off. He always enhances and brings out the best in a penciller's work. I'm not a huge fan of his pencilling, but when Janson inks over an artist's pencils, he elevates the art in the book to that special place I call The Janson Zone. Okay, I just made that up, but it sounds good, doesn't it? The best example of the Janson Zone is Frank Miller's legendary The Dark Knight Returns. I submit to you, gentle reader, that Dark Knight wouldn't have been half as cool if Klaus Janson wasn't laying down the inks over Miller's pencils. The man is a genius.

Check out this page below and you'll see what I mean. This is the last page of the issue, where J Jonah Jameson decides to print his mea culpa admitting that he created The Scorpions. Little does Jameson know, the smoke he sees in the distance is from the big Hobgoblin/Spidey battle, during which all the Hobgoblin's notes and extortion material go up in flames. This page is just... well, take a look. Click to enlarge:

You better recognize: that is some masterful shit right there. The writing, the art, the coloring - everything. That shit is masterful.

I love this comic so much I want to marry it. I am glad that Young Dave Campbell took the low road that one day in 1984 and stole it.


Anonymous said...

What is this "The Dark Knight Returns" that you speak of? Is it any good?

David Campbell said...

It's not that good... I recommend the sequel "The Dark Knight Strikes Again."

David Campbell said...

I kid.

Nik said...

I actually remember not caring for Janson's inks back when I read this as a wee lad - I think Janson's the shinizzle but on Romita's pencils, he kind of dilutes them.

That aside, this whole Hobgoblin story from Stern just rocked, one of the best Spidey eras ever IMHO. Classic stuff. If only they hadn't screwed it all up by bringing back Osborn, arggh..

Kitty said...

Holy crap! After that JJJ page, now I want to find out what happened next too. Damn! That's good stuff.

Ian said...

Miller and Romita Jr.'s best art was when Janson was inking them. When Janson inks Gil Kane it's pretty nice too.

Check out the Batman/Punisher crossover where Romita/Janson draws Batman, Robin and the Joker for (what I think) is the only time.

Woody! said...

I can't remember if it was this time or the next battle, but didn't Spidey once make Hobgoblin to stick his own hand in the toilet? He webbed a live pumpkin bomb to Hobby's hand before he could throw it. Since they were in a bathroom, Hobgoblin couldn't be too picky. I loved that as a kid, makes me snicker now.

Oh, and congrats on the Newsweek blurb!

Greg said...

Yeah, Spidey did make Hobby stick his hand in a toilet. I can't remember when, though.

This is the end of Stern's great run on Spider-Man, and the beginning of the controversy over the Hobgoblin. They should have just killed him the next issue and NEVER revealed who he was. That would have been cool.

I too must congratulate you on the publicity. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I remember this era. The Hobgoblin was in my opinion a bit better than the Green Goblin villianwise. Really, must they keep bringing Osborne back over and over and over and over and over to reveal he's been responsible for many of the bad and wrong things in his life? "HA HA PETER! IT WAS I WHO KILLED YOUR HAMSTER WHEN YOU WERE SEVEN YEARS OLD! IT WASN'T OF NATURAL CAUSES AT ALL HA HA!"

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. It was issues like these that transformed me into a lifelong JJJ fan. With a good scripter and some awesome art like this, it transforms Spidey's supporting cast into one of the strongest in comics. Brilliant stuff. Thanks for reminding me of it!

lazy_cg said...

Personally i just started reading the dark night returns. it's good so far i really like what they did with the batmobile though. it looks bad ass

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, anonymous. Marvel's primary reason for bringing back Norman was to bail them out of the clone saga fiasco they created. After that, they transformed him into a Lex Luthor ripoff due to their denial that they ran out of good ideas. What was worst was that when they back the original Hobgoblin, they put him in the deep freeze in order to make Norman look good-Plus the confrontation between the both of them was so half assed as Norman wasn't even in costume.
What's even worst was that whenever we get a break from Norman, we get crappy and forgettable characters like Morlun, Charles Weiderman, Ezekiel, Senator Ward and Gabe and Sarah.
Sidenote to Marvel; admit that you've run out of good ideas because if you had to resort to keep using Norman over and over again, bringing back Aunt May and Harry,giving us d-list palette swap characters and erasing Peter and MJ's marriage, isn't it time to throw in the towel? The majority of the fans don't like these storylines, so when are you going to realize that? Maybe if you had used the original Hobgoblin and not killed off Ben Reilly and baby May, things wouldn't be so bad.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to think that Marvel hates the Hobgoblin period. In all his incarnations, he's made to look like a crappy second rate version of the Green Goblin.
They dumped the Hobgoblin thing on Ned Leeds after they killed him off, they made Jason Macendale look like a bungler during his long tenure( Not that I liked the character to begin with), Roderick Kingsley is almost never used except in Spider Girl and all the other incarnations have only made one or two appearances before being killed, incarcerated or forgotten.
I theorized that one of the main reasons they turned Norman into an over-the-top, egomaniacal and overly glorified Lex Luthor wannabe was so that they wouldn't have to use the original Hobgoblin. In fact, they gave some of the traits of the original Hobgoblin and the Jackal to Norman such as the use of decoys, clones and masterminding complex schemes.
It's such a shame that a really good villain is continually being overlooked by the writers and editors at Marvel who I theorize have a serious crush on Norman-Sorry to break to you guys but no matter how many things you pin on him, Norman will never be a A-Level Marvel villain along the lines of Dr. Doom, Magneto or Red Skull. Nor will he ever be mentioned in the same breath as Joker or Lex Luthor. Maybe if you had given him and the Hobgoblin equal attention, things wouldn't have been so bad. Unfortunately, Marvel is becoming more and more like DC Comics to relize this.

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Cease said...

Without a doubt, comics like this are why I still have such affection for the medium; it was one of the first I ever bought w/ (humble)chore & grade allowance (as opposed to MTU#110, which I bought w/ change stolen out of the plate at Junior Church while I was in charge of the plate on Sunday!). It doesn't matter that I buy maybe a comic or two a month tops now, I'll always have the memories of the smell of fresh-cut grass, Georgia humidity and fireflies, and comics like this. It's been a good life.
Janson's varying line really DID drive the art home.

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