(EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s never too late for a first! Longbox Graveyard may be ninety-two issues old but this week sees our very first guest column. Mark Ginocchio is author of the Chasing Amazing blog, where he recounts his quest to own every issue of Amazing Spider-Man and — most importantly — reflects on what each of those issues has meant to him throughout his life. Chasing Amazing is a unique and heartfelt blog and bound to be of interest to readers of Longbox Graveyard — check it out! Fan as I am of his work, it didn’t take me long to jump on Mark’s offer to provide guest content for Longbox Graveyard. In this week’s article, Mark begins his countdown of his Top Ten Spider-Man battles! Take it away, Mark!)
Spider-Man (a somewhat neglected superhero here at the Longbox Graveyard) has never been known for his abilities in combat, and yet the character still has been the star of a number of memorable confrontations over the years. One thing that I’ve always found amusing is how various Marvel creative teams have always set up a conflict for Spider-Man by basically admitting he’s not as tough as the Hulk, Captain America, The Thing or Thor, and yet the Web Slinger has still been able to overcome these terrible odds enough times that you would think someone should finally give him the credit he deserves.
These 10 confrontations are personal favorites from my 25-plus years of reading and collecting Spider-Man (which you can read all about over at my blog, Chasing Amazing – plug, plug). If a random person who has never heard of superheroes came up to me and asked what was so awesome about Spider-Man, I would point this nefarious stranger to this list because I believe each battle reveals critical elements that have gone on to contribute to Spidey’s massive popularity over the years (but still not popular enough to make Longbox Graveyard’s Top 10 Marvel list – sorry still bitter about that).
Let’s kick the first part of this list off with Spider-Man taking on another superhero’s arch nemesis:
10. Spider-Man vs Red Skull (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5)
One of the longest-running mysteries during the Silver Age of Spider-Man was whatever happened to Peter Parker’s parents. In Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5, we discover that Peter’s parents were both international spies who had betrayed the United States before dying in a plane crash over Europe. A dismayed Peter flies overseas to confront his past and finds out that his parents were set-up by the Red Skull. Peter’s actual confrontation with Captain America’s greatest foe is fairly rigorous – a couple of henchman, some lasers and some Red Skull bombs are his biggest obstacles. But it’s the conclusion to this battle that is very emotionally satisfying. The Skull escapes during the battle while his headquarters burns to the ground. But the flames partially melt the I.D. card of Peter’s father, Richard, revealing a U.S. intelligence card underneath and clearing his name of treason. Despite the parental love he received from his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter can finally be at peace with his past thanks to his victory against the Red Skull.
9. Spider-Man vs Firelord (Amazing Spider-Man #269-270)
Galactus’ herald discovers the hard way that Spider-Man packs a wallop. What I’ve actually always enjoyed about this two-issue arc is how Spider-Man ultimately succeeds by not doubting his physical strength and taking the fight straight to his rival. Throughout these two issues, Firelord torments Spidey and various innocent people around New York City, and the hero’s initial response is to pussyfoot around the confrontation through insults and distractions. Spider-Man tries tricking Firelord into flying into an abandoned building that’s about to explode, an oncoming subway train, and a gasoline tanker. And in each instance, Spidey becomes increasingly frustrated with himself for endangering innocents during his futile attempts to subdue Firelord. That’s why Spidey basically says “screw it,” starts wailing on Firelord and beats him to a pulp before the Avengers finally join the scene and peel him back. It’s a moment that’s so bad-ass, it makes me say “if you come at the Web Slinger, you best not miss.”
8. Spider-Man vs Thanos (Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2)
FINALLY, a battle not from the pages of the Amazing Spider-Man (seriously, what’s wrong with me?). But in all seriousness, Spidey’s first confrontation with the Mad Titan Thanos is a great one, albeit one that’s more familiar in tone and construction to some of the others that will appear higher on this list. With Thanos bent on taking over the world (again) and the Avengers imprisoned in a state of suspended animation, Spidey and The Thing are there to save the day. Until Thanos takes out Thing pretty quickly, leaving only Spider-Man to save the galaxy. That’s when things get a little weird – Spidey is so intimidated by his odds of success against Thanos, he’s ready to web sling out of town and just let it be The Avengers problem. That’s reminiscent of how Peter Parker/Spider-Man would operate BEFORE the death of Uncle Ben taught him about responsibility, and I wonder if Jim Starlin’s lack of familiarity in writing Spidey helped foster this somewhat unnerving moment. Fortunately, Spider-Man wises up and uses his intellect and his uncanny ability to wreck his own body to save the day, throwing himself onto the case holding the Avengers, thus freeing them, and then lunging like an overthrown wide receiver to destroy the Soul Gem and bring Adam Warlock to the scene. Warlock encases Thanos in stone, but who cares because Spidey did all the dirty work, right?
7. Spider-Man vs the Sinister Six (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1)
This is Spidey versus the ORIGINAL Sinister Six, his six greatest foes (in early 60s speak) consisting of Mysterio, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Vulture, Sandman and Doctor Octopus (the leader, of course). The stakes for this confrontation were obviously higher than they’ve ever been before – Spidey has had a hard enough time subduing these six Stan Lee/Steve Ditko creations individually, so how can he beat all six? On top of that, Peter has seemingly lost his Spider powers! The Sinister Six kidnap “the Brant girl” Betty Brant, who Spidey has rescued in the past and some old lady who was hanging out with her (Aunt May). This brings Spidey out into battle, despite not having his power. Of course, the powers magically reappear once his first opponent, Electro, engages him. I always subtract points for the Bond-villain level stupidity in the Sinister Six’s plan to attack Spidey one-at-a-time, rather than six-on-one in a fashion that probably would have guaranteed them victory (even Spidey says it’s stupid). But either way, each encounter presents Spidey with a unique challenge, and we all get to see how versatile of a hero he can be. Plus this appearance cements Doc Ock as Spidey’s arch-nemesis, while also confirming his ridiculous hubris that currently defines the pages of the Superior Spider-Man.
6. Spider-Man vs Mysterio (Amazing Spider-Man #66-67)
I have long maintained that Mysterio is such an underrated villain in not only the world of Spider-Man, but the entire Marvel Universe. What he lacks in physical prowess, he makes up in spades in the ability to mentally disarm his adversaries. After some earlier unsuccessful confrontations with Spider-Man, Mysterio cooks up a scheme in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #66-67 that I still believe is his masterstroke. Through his powers of special effects and mind alteration, Mysterio convinces Spider-Man that he has shrunk him down to miniature-size and placed him inside a gigantic killer theme park filled with traps and monsters. It’s such a wholly unique setting for a Spider-Man comic, and because Mysterio is a villain that deals so expertly with slight-of-hand, as a reader, we don’t have to suspend disbelief to the extent that we need to accept that Spider-Man is now Mini-Spidey. Rather, the tension is in watching Spider-Man trying to figure this all out for himself. Additionally, this is around the point where Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. were really pushing the love/social life on Peter. And waiting for him once he found a way to escape Mysterio’s death trap was a pretty little blonde named Gwen Stacy. If you’re not pulling for Spidey to prevail here, dare I say, you don’t believe in love!
(Mark will return in April to round out his list of Spider-Man’s top battles. In the meantime, please post your reactions to Mark’s preliminary selections in the comments section, below, and be sure to visit Mark’s Chasing Amazing blog, for even more amazing Amazing Spider-Man goodness! Thanks so much, Mark!)
View part two of this list HERE.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #93 Guardians of the Galaxy
MORE LONGBOX GRAVEYARD TOP TEN LISTS
- Top Ten Instagram Superheroes
- Top Ten Manliest Superheroes
- Top Ten Longbox Graveyard Articles (Year One!)
- Superhero Music Top Ten
- Top Single Issue Stories
- Top Ten Marvel Comics Characters
- Top Ten DC Comics Characters
- Top Ten Spider-Man Battles (Part 2)
- Top Ten Captain America Villains
- Top Ten One Hundreds
- First Images from the Set of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (collider.com)
- ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2′ Update: Mary-Jane’s Scenes Are Done; Peter Goes To College? (screenrant.com)
- Product placement in superhero movies: The Avengers vs The Amazing Spider-Man (brandsandfilms.com)
- First Look at Spidey’s Costume in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′ (comicvine.com)
- Spidey Sense May Not Be Just For Spider-Man Anymore (amcpress.wordpress.com)
- Ultimate Spider-Man No More! (comicvine.com)
- Parting Shot: This Spider-Man Themed Beard Is Genuinely Upsetting To Look At (comicsalliance.com)
- Amazing Spidey (fatsozen.wordpress.com)
- First Look: SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #6 (comicvine.com)
- Blast From the Past: 12/92 Marvel Part 2 (talkincomics.wordpress.com)
Last November, Flodo was kind enough to honor me with a Reader Appreciation Award, and it took me all the way to 2013 to finally return the favor!
The Reader Appreciation Award is a blogging chain letter of the benign variety, an excuse to say, “thank you” to blogs you enjoy, and pay your thanks forward with an easy bit of blog fodder for your friends to write about. You can find the details at Flodo’s post, which started this all for me, but in a nutshell, by accepting this award I am compelled to …
1) Thank the blogger who gave me the award (thanks, Flodo!), and link back to their site.
2) Pick a dozen or so blogs that entertain and inspire me and link to their sites, thereby nominating THEM for this same honorific:
Besides good Flodo, of course, in no specific order I count the following comics book blogs among my favorites:
Worthy sites all, for reasons too numerous to list … I hope you will include them in your blog rotation! (And apologies if I overlooked your site in my survey).
3) Answer ten questions provided by the blogger who put my name up for the award (which follow below).
4) Add ten questions for my nominees to answer (and here I will lay up and request that my nominees answer Flodo’s excellent questions, just as I have).
5) Include the Reader Appreciation Award Award logo on my site.
Yuck, the logo is horrible. But a deal is a deal:
If we’re talking flowers, I far prefer …
Maybe a more Photoshop-savvy blog downstream from me can do something with Mike Zeck‘s Thanos image above so we can send that yellow flower back to whatever Geocities site where it originally bloomed!
6) Get in touch with my own nominees to let them know about the award, and invite them to keep the chain going!
(Which I will do).
And so on to Flodo’s questions!
1. DC, Marvel or Other? Which comics publisher is your favorite?
I am a Marvel guy, I suppose, that is where I started, Marvel books comprise the majority of my Accumulation, and most of my columns here at Longbox Graveyard have concerned Marvel titles. The record is clear! I stand naked before your baleful eye of judgment.
2. Who is your favorite writer or artist currently working?
Regular readers of Longbox Graveyard will know that I am stuck in 1978 (though I did recently offer some Best of 2012 praise for Saga). I don’t read a lot of contemporary comics but I am a great admirer of Ed Brubaker’s writing on titles like Captain America, Criminal, Incognito, Catwoman, and Gotham Central.
3. Who is your favorite writer or artist from the past?
Too many to list, but I will try … Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, John Buscema, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Jim Starlin, Alan Moore, Bernie Wrightson, and Will Eisner all deserve spots on my plus-sized comic book Mount Rushmore.
not quite what I had in mind, but it’s a start
But here I am talking pencilers like an amateur, where professionals such as we should really be talking inkers … but that’s a whole different blog, and I’ll save that topic for later.
4. What superhero do you think makes the best team player?
Captain America, of course! The consummate comic book leader … always loved him in 1970s Avengers books.
5. Whose superhero costume do you hate the most, and why?
It’s an obscure thing to hate, but I really dislike the new version of Star Lord from the rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy. He looks like a bellhop with a radiator grill for a face. (And more about Star-Lord shortly!)
6. If you could bring one title back from comic book limbo what would it be?
For the most part I like the past to remain in the past. I just wrote an appreciation of Captain Marvel that I might have to entirely reconsider if that character was brought back in any meaningful way. If I could grant a blanket amnesty I suppose I’d bring back the entire range of Malibu’s Ultraverse characters, either on their own or as part of the Marvel Universe.
7. What’s the best comic book cover you’ve ever seen?
Trying to pick the “best” is a blog post all by itself (hmm …), but I’ll give you a favorite, and one not often referenced:
8. Comic book action figures – way cool, or a step too far?
I never got much into them myself, but I write a weekly comic book blog. That’s what’s known as a “glass house” and I ain’t throwing stones at anyone.
9. What was the best comic book single issue that you read in the last 2 months?
In the last two months? Honestly, it was the Claremont/Byrne/Austin reboot of Star-Lord from Marvel Preview #11, which I will get around to writing about here at Longbox Graveyard sooner or later. Told you I was stuck in 1978! (And now maybe you see why I dislike that new costume).
yep, I said Star-Lord!
10. Finally, the age old question: if you were writing, who would win a fight between Superman and Hulk? What’s your logic?
If I was writing a Superman/Hulk fight I’d write whatever my cruel corporate masters at Marvel and DC told me to write! And then I’d cash that check, baby!
Thanks to mighty, green, and amorphous Flodo for thinking of me for this recognition, and thanks to all the worthy comic book bloggers everywhere who provide us with a free flood of love and joy for this art form we all admire.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #83 Farewell To The King
- The “Reader Appreciation Award” Meme (naplesgirlblog.com)
- Reader Appreciation Award Nomination (theconfashionary.wordpress.com)
- Reader Appreciation Award (patriciaddrury.com)
- Reader Appreciation Award, Thank you Dreams of Dunamis! (legionbegone.wordpress.com)
- Reader Appreciation Award (theunemployedphilosophersblog.wordpress.com)
- Reader Appreciation Award (aventurasdeabril.wordpress.com)
- The Final Award: Reader Appreciation Award (crankygiraffe.wordpress.com)
- Reader Appreciation Award (experiencelaughterandlove.wordpress.com)
- Reader Appreciation Award (sparklestarsunshineglitter.wordpress.com)
- Comic book history the fun way (rappler.com)
If you’re one of those tiresome people who shoves their fingers in their ears and shrieks about SPOILERS! when the conversation turns to Luke Skywalker’s paternity or who won World War II, then skip this column, because it indirectly touches on a reveal in the biggest superhero movie of all time, The .
Like many of the geeks reading this blog I fairly came out of my seat when I saw Thanos in the Avengers end credits. Avengers purist that I am, I’d prefer the sequels circle around the Hank Pym/Yellowjacket/Ultron/Vision saga, but Thanos is a fine consolation prize. He’s one of my favorite Marvel bad guys (celebrated in a recent Panel Gallery) and the backbone of fondly-remembered Captain Marvel and Warlock runs that were among the first books I reviewed here at Longbox Graveyard.
We’re still years out from an Avengers sequel, but speculation is already flowing hot and heavy that if Thanos is involved, then the “Infinity Gauntlet” can’t be far behind. Marvel has shown off an Infinity Gauntlet prop at recent road shows, and sharp-eyed viewers spotted the Gauntlet in Odin’s treasure room during 2011′s Thor.
Put Thanos, the Avengers, and the Infinity Gauntlet together, and it’s small wonder the Infinity Gauntlet graphic novel is “flying off the shelves,” as I was informed when I bought a copy at the cosmically awesome House of Secrets comic shop in Burbank, California a couple weeks ago. It appears a least a few fans of Marvel’s new billion-dollar franchise are eager to get ahead of the curve and soak up all the Thanos and Infinity Gauntlet lore that they can.
I recommend the terrific “Thanos For Beginners” primer that Mars Will Send No More put together if you want to know everything about the next Avengers villain, but for now it’s enough to note that Thanos is a Death God from Titan, a superpowered alien obsessed with Death personified in female form, whom he courts as a lover. Unfortunately for Thanos (and everyone else), Death doesn’t much care for Thanos, driving the Titan to greater and still greater acts of murder as he tries to win her favor.
Back in those Captain Marvel and Warlock runs, Thanos threatened to destroy our solar system, leaning heavily on the Cosmic Cube (or “Tesseract,” as they call it in the movies). But for the Infinity Gauntlet limited series, Thanos took his game to the next level, using the Gauntlet to annihilate half the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. (For starters).
How did Thanos come by such awesome power?
Following one of his many resurrections, Thanos collected the “Infinity Gems,” cosmic MacGuffins affording all sorts of nifty magic powers. Binding them together in a gauntlet, Thanos became a god with power over time, space, and dimension — kind of like Sauron, Darth Vader, and Dick Cheney all rolled into one.
With that kind of power in Thanos’ grasp, the only solution was to create a big, sprawling mini-series, authored by Jim Starlin, and illustrated (for awhile, at least), by George Perez, who has made a career out of drawing these every-superhero-in-the-universe team-up books. The six issue series uses the entire universe as the setting for the ultimate battle between good and evil.
It’s not just the Marvel heroes that get into the act — Starlin puts out a casting call for every cosmic god in the Marvel Universe, too. Odin and the Sky Fathers are stuck in Asgard, thanks to a shattered Rainbow Bridge, but more space gods than you can shake a stick at respond to the call, including Galactus, Eternity, a couple Celestials, and less well-known gods like the Living Tribunal.
It’s this very scope of the book that most undermines the drama. When half the Marvel Universe is wiped out in your first issue, it’s not a matter of “if” — but “when” and “how” — the carnage will be undone. It’s fun, in a disaster-movie sort of way, to watch California slide into the ocean and see Manhattan in ruins — but because we know it must all be set right somehow, it’s hard to take the story seriously.
Which means that what we really have here is an apocalyptic wrapper for a bigass superhero beat down, and in this Infinity Gauntlet delivers. The defense of creation is led by Adam Warlock, who rounds up the requisite Avengers and other Marvel heroes to keep Thanos distracted by beating on his head. Warlock maneuvers to checkmate his old foe by playing on Thanos’ weaknesses, such as the hubris that leads the Titan to create a pretty damn groovy outer space floating palace of death.
But even after awarding her the next cover feature of Tomb & Garden Magazine, Death still won’t give Thanos the time of day. Finally getting wise to Death’s ways, Thanos throws her under the bus for a woman of his own creation — Terraxia The Terrible — who looks like Oprah Winfry in Thanos drag.
Thanos and Oprah
Infinity Gauntlet might span all of time and space, but when the chips are down, it’s still about comic book characters throwing haymakers at each other. And that’s fine with me. It’s genre-appropriate — and even kind of comforting — to debate the nature of good and evil with a smack in the mouth.
It’s not all fist city. Even with such a vast cast of characters beating each other up, Starlin finds time for some nice spotlight scenes, such as a little Hulk/Wolverine bromance over being the toughest guys in the room.
So Infinity Gauntlet really is quite a traditional comic book event, with a universe-devouring threat, and a bunch of heroes solving things with their fists. Kind of like Secret Wars, without all the angst and cross-overs. It does get a little silly at times, but all is redeemed by a solid ending, which sees Thanos defeated in clever fashion (“spolier,” I guess), and the ol’ re-set button punched in a way that I didn’t see coming. I would have preferred that Jim Starlin both draw and write the book (or that George Perez had done the whole series, rather than yield to Ron Lim half way through), but for the most part I’m satisfied with Infinity Gauntlet, for it’s high stakes action and an overload of Thanos triumphant!
Of course there would be more “Infinity” series to follow, before the property extended into cash grabs and parodies, first as the Infinity Gems sought to bring my beloved Rune and the Ultraverse into the Marvel Universe, and then later as they became fodder for the Pet Avengers.
When I get an Infinity Gauntlet of my own, I’ll wish three decades worth of Marvel comic book continuity into the cornfield.
In the meantime, I’ll wish for Thanos to be handled as well in the next Avengers movie as Loki was handled in the first!
- Title: Infinity Gauntlet
- Published By: Marvel Comics, 1991
- Issues Reviewed By The Longbox Graveyard: #1-6, July-December 1991
- LBG Letter Grade For This Run: B
- Read The Reprint: Infinity Gauntlet
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #54 Top Ten Manliest Superheroes!
- Thanos: Where Do I Start? (ifanboy.com)
- Who Is The Marvel Character At The End Of The Avenger’s Credits? (firewireblog.com)
- Who was the alien shown in The Avengers credits scene? (geekasms.com)
- Who’s That Guy? AVENGERS Post-Credits Cameo Revealed (newsarama.com)
- Awesome Toy Picks: Thanos and Adam Warlock (comicvine.com)
- Thanos 101: Who’s The Big Purple Guy Who’s A Sex Machine To Death? Thanos! (geek-news.mtv.com)
- ‘Avengers’ spoiler special: Mystery villain’s creator speaks out (herocomplex.latimes.com)
- What’s In Store For Avengers 2? (simonwalters.wordpress.com)
- Film: Spoiler Space: The Avengers (avclub.com)
- Listen: An In-depth Look The Future of the Marvel Movie Universe (slashfilm.com)
- ‘Avengers’ ending: What was that [spoiler]? And what does this mean for ‘Avengers 2′? (popwatch.ew.com)