Thursday 5 April 2012

Spider-Man Annual 1977. Of Savages, Punishers and dresses.

Spider-Man Annual 1977, Marvel UK, hardback

That's right! That awesome jungle call can mean just one thing!

I'm fixating on Ron Ely!

As we all know, for any sane human being, there can only be two Tarzans in this world - Johnny Weissmuller and Ron Ely.

But the man they didn't call, "Rocket Ron," had another claim to fame. He wasn't just Tarzan. He was Doc Savage, Man of Bronze. And Doc Savage makes an appearance in Marvel UK's 1977 Spider-Man Annual, as Spider-Man teams up with the archaic adventurer.

In fact it's not really a team-up because they never meet. Instead, in the modern age, Spider-Man finds himself having to finish off a 1930s' case that involved Doc Savage, when a woman from another world shows up at a building site and complains she's being bothered by a giant monster.

Savage had helped her trap the beast but Spider-Man, being more worldly-wise than his predecessor, soon realises that women can lie and that she's the bad guy.

It does seem odd that a seasoned crime-fighter like Savage would be unaware that women can lie but the most unlikely revelation is that, thanks to having done a quick course in languages, Peter Parker can understand alien tongues. Building his own web-shooters, creating spider-shaped bugging devices, understanding alien languages - is there nothing the lad can't do?

After this opener, our hero finds himself teaming up with the Punisher to stop Moses Magnum from gassing people to death in a South American death camp. With its images of people being dissolved by nerve gas, it's a lot more gruesome than you'd expect of a Spider-Man tale from this era but that's the Punisher for you, dragging everything and everyone down to his own level. The tale's most memorable moment has to be when Magnum pulls off the captive Spider-Man's mask to reveal a face which - thanks to a cunning disguise that seems to consist of two gob-stoppers - looks nothing like Peter Parker.

But the best tale of the book - and I'd say the one that feels most like Spider-Man - is the final one, when our hero has to help an ex-footballing scientist rescue his daughter from kidnappers, leading him to re-enact a failed run in a game he played at the same venue years earlier. Unfortunately, thanks to the need to fit the story into the annual, it's heavily edited here. The loss of the opening few pages is no great loss but a later scene with Peter Parker and MJ at a university shindig ends up making no sense at all. This is a shame, as MJ's wearing a rather nice dress.

To be honest, what matters most to me about all these stories is they're drawn by Ross Andru, and I'll fight to the death to defend my claim that Ross Andru's my favourite Spider-Man artist of them all, occupying that stylistic middle ground, as he does, between Gil Kane and John Romita.

So there you have it; Spider-Man Annual 1977. All the fun you could want for a mere £1.10. Now to leap off this conveniently placed waterfall, wrestle with a crocodile and then punch a lion in the face.

I don't have to do such things.

I just like to.


Kid said...

That was my lion you punched in the face. Are you mad? He's tame and a household pet. Bully.

La Belle Esplanade said...

There is another classic Tarzan, who bears the classic name of Elmo Lincoln. I enjoyed the Ross Andru link. You make some very valid points.

Boston Bill said...

I believe the Doc Savage issue was originally published in 'Giant Size Spider-Man' over here. Glad you held onto it, because (apparently) it can't be reprinted due to licensing issues with whoever owns Doc Savage these days.

I recall that Doc was given the Marvel treatment and looked like he was literally made of bronze. As this was my first exposure to Doc, I was a little disappointed to learn that he was actually super-powered!

Steve W. said...

Kid, I don't have time to check whether a lion's tame or not. I have to get them bashed quickly so I can get on with duffing-up gorillas.

Whalehead King, thank you.

Boston Bill. Now that I know that, I shall lock my annual away in the sturdiest of vaults.

Steve W. said...

Actually, that last point does raise an issue that's puzzled me. Supposedly Shang-Chi stories can't be reprinted because they heavily feature Fu Manchu - who Marvel no longer have the rights to - but one of the Marvel Essentials reprints Spider-Man's meeting with Shang-Chi, featuring Fu Manchu.

Kid said...

Hell's teeth, Steve - you're not about to start picking on my pet gorilla as well I hope?

Steve W. said...

I've already seen it off. Now I'm chinning your elephant.

Kid said...

Is that a euphemism?

Steve W. said...

I've already killed all the jungle's euphemisms. Now I'm onto strangling its metaphors.

Kid said...

I guess its analogies' days are numbered as well then. Where's the real Tarzan when you need him.

Kid said...

I'd have ended that last sentence with a question mark, but they've all fled in fear at your approach.

Steve W. said...

I've now killed the entire jungle - including the trees. I now have nothing left to rule. :(

Kid said...

What about space...the final frontier?

Steve W. said...

I'm having trouble with the Klingons. :(

Kid said...

Especially around Uranus?