It was disappointing to see the informative and friendly Bronze Age Babies blog announce a state of permanent hiatus back in November. By way of a tribute, today’s post, the last one for 2016, will look at Bronze age Spider-Man team-ups, reprinted in one of my Xmas ebay buys.
Spider-Man Annual 1977 would have gone on sale in the autumn of 1976. My parents had bought me the trio of annuals for 1975 but none of the 1976 annuals. Then for Xmas 1976, they got me the Mighty World of Marvel annual, the Star Trek annual and that year’s oversized Dr. Who annual (as they had the previous year) so I was lucky to get what I did in that era of austerity. My dad was still working as the manager of the TSB in Strathaven- it would be another couple of years before he moved to the Uddingston branch, his last job- and my mum was still a civilian typist in the police pool in East Kilbride. I was in second year at Strathaven Academy at that time.
In the present day, I like to pick up a UK Marvel annual for its nostalgia value and the fact they sometimes contain material which wasn’t reprinted in the weeklies, such as the 1977 Avengers and Titans annuals.
Another case in point are the two 1975 Giant-Size stories in the Spidey annual:
The Yesterday Connection is a collaboration by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru. It’s a timey-wimey adventure with Doc Savage, where the protagonists never actually meet. It also has something of the flavour of a Gardner Fox JLA yarn. On October 7th, 1974, Spidey is lured to a demolition site by an extra-dimensional woman called Desinna. Her astonishingly revealing costume gives Aala of Bal-Sagoth a run for her money.
Spidey’s antagonist is not a satyr as the cover suggests but a Dick Dillin-style force field in humanoid form. A flashback establishes how Clark Savage and his Amazing Five encountered Desinna in the Thirties. She requested their help to restrain her mutated colleague Tarros and the sextet imprisoned the entity in the foundations of a building, now demolished. Spidey reasons that Doc was deceived by Desinna’s feminine wiles, which rather writes off the elder hero as her dupe, and ensures that Tarros metes out his own justice for his mutation and exile.
My first encounter with Marvels’ Man of Bronze was the Buscema/Moench Silver Ziggurat story in the UK Super-Heroes Weekly but Ross Andru’s rendition of the Thirties heroes is quirky and full of character. Conway’s story rather cheats the reader of a team-up; if you can buy into a parallel world without time inhabited by blue humanoids, why not a full-blown time travel adventure for Web-head?
The second story has no sci-fi elements. To Sow the Seeds of Death is the first team-up for Spidey and Conway’s gangland executioner the Punisher since his first UK appearance in the 1975 Spider-Man annual. The Punisher’s killing of a kidnapper at the beginning of the story is quite brutal and shocking. Spidey trails the Punisher to his abandoned power station hq and is informed of the Deterrence Research Corporations experiments on kidnap victims with toxic gas. Punny and Spidey infiltrate the DRC’s office but Spidey is captured and shipped by hover-copter to the death camp run by the organisation.Of course, Punisher pursues him and ensures director Moses Magnum dies horribly and graphically, exposed to the gas. Merry Christmas!
Magnum is unequivocally established as being born fifteen years before Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Despite his advancing years and melting to death, the alliterative arch-fiend appears in a sequel to this story – a Luke Cage adventure by Chris Claremont, published in the US in the summer of 76- which would be reprinted in the 1978 MWOM annual. Moses Magnum would return yet again from apparent death to menace Japan in the X-Men story which wrote out Banshee; the DRC, meanwhile, return in Spider-Woman 34, from very early in 1981, also written by Claremont.
The Longest Hundred Yards is a straightforward crime thriller with no super-villain presence. The daughter of a computer scientist (and former university football star) is kidnapped to extort a computerised catalogue of “all worldwide habitual offenders”. The scientist re-enacts his last,losing game in order to save his child but of course, it ends tragically- a key note of Spidey stories? It’s a bit corny but shows Len Wein was a writer with a shade more flair than Conway. Unfortunately for the 1976 reader, the story would immediately be reprinted in the Super Spider-Man weekly in January 1977.
Next year, I think I’ll go for that aforementioned Mighty World of Marvel annual for 1978. but I’ve never read “The Web and the Flame” in the 1979 Spidey annual. That’s a decision to make eleven months from now! In the meantime, have a happy new year- all the best for 2017!
Coming soon: Strange Tales
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