Sunday, October 9, 2016
Retro Replay: Amazing Spiderman Vol. 1 #133
This week's Retro Replay selection comes courtesy of a viewing of Spectacular Spiderman: The Animated Series yesterday with my son, particularly the episode featuring the Molten Man. Not even seconds within the appearance of this show's teened-down Mark Raxton, I detected that twinkle in the boy's eyes, the one all you parents know. It's that mystified gleam, indicating fascination, an in-the-moment connection that imprints upon a youth's mind, be it short-term or long. Short-term being slack-jawed wonderment, long-term meaning the cogs are twisting inside that little brain to ask Santa for an unattainable Molten Man action figure to wage war against his vast army of Spidermen. Without a doubt, there's an appealing spectacle of a walking inferno if you're a young boy, one especially being raised by an adult comics nerd.
I thought highly of Spectacular Spiderman: The Animated Series, though nothing will beat Spiderman '67 in my eyes, despite the latter using stock footage to greater offense than even the Filmation cartoons of the 1970s and '80s. Yes, every new Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Supergirl, Flash, X-Men or Captain America motion media presentation is susceptible to reinvention and rule-bending. Thus I had no qualms with how Spectacular Spiderman handled Peter Parker's revolving love tryst of Liz Allen, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. It being for a younger generation than mine, it was hipper to the broken social taboos and put Peter into an interracial relationship by changing Liz's heritage. For that, I give the series a thumbs-up, as I do with the Flash series for what it's done with Barry's surrogate family--Iris in particular--that tells reinforces the message love and honor is deeper than skin.
In this particular round of events on the show (where Petey and Gwen declare their mutual love and Liz is on her way out romantically with an extra harsh twist fate ringing to the 'ol Parker luck), Liz's full brother, Mark Raxton, appears as an adolescent version of the more memorable adult Raxton from The Amazing Spiderman comics. You fellow comics nerds will flag along with me the original Mark Raxton is only Liz's stepbrother, for whom she felt responsible and vanished from the series to take care of him by becoming a nurse. Her efforts were to no avail, of course, as Raxton breaks from free to find the critical elemental cure-all, which is where we find ourselves in Amazing Spiderman #133.
The Molten Man first appeared in Amazing Spiderman #28 and with far less definition than Ross Andru's glorious depiction when #133 came out in 1974. Molten Man is reputed to be able to lift up to 40 tons and can withstand heat temps through 500 Fahrenheit. Mark Raxton gained his powers after exposure to a liquid alloy from a meteor discovered by Spencer Smythe, whom veteran Spidey readers will recognize as one of the webhead's eternal pains in the ass. Instead of turning Raxton into a walking plant ala Stephen King's Creepshow, Raxton becomes a walking blast furnace.
Spotting the reaction of Nolan while we watched the show, I slithered over to my archives and pulled out Amazing Spiderman #133 to show off, since that would be a comics nerd dad thing to do. Kiddo's jaw drooped further in reaction and, doing what any eight-year-old would, he quickly started pawing for it and asked me to pull it out of the bag. Now, of course, I never was the investor type of comics fan; I'm a reader, for God's sake. Yet when I spotted the current value for this issue at mint, I had to raise my brows. My copy would sit in the VF category (very fine, if you're a comic book rook), but I still had that protective snap trap inside my mind, the same one telling my kid we can only play with my original set of Star Wars figures on occasion since they're technically antiques.
I'd opened Pandora's box, however, so I had to follow through and let kiddo peek at the contents inside after being asked the question, "Did Molten Man live through this issue?" See, even kids today know what tricksters comic publishers are. Still, you had to have been there while I recited the splashed-out sound effects from the panels such as "SPAT!" "SPANG!" "WAK!" and "HISSSS!"
"The Molten Man Break Out!" was written by Gerry Conway, one of Marvel's master writers of the 1970s, and it was the rear half of Molten Man's second story arc in The Amazing Spiderman. Here, Molten Man is after Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds who is recuperating in the hospital. Leeds has discovered Mark Raxton's secret and ba da da daaaaaaa, Spiderman is there to thwart the attack. Essentially this story is broken into two primary conflicts involving Raxton. After failing to snuff out Ned Leeds, he turns his attention to acquiring a set of isotopes that can save him from melting into oblivion.
Of course, this is going to pit him against the wall crawler one final time (yeah, right) in a brawl carrying from the subway leading out of Manhattan into Brooklyn (presumably the 7 line if the rail system was the same back then) and into a construction zone, one of comics' tried and true superhero arenas. You can imagine my son's reaction when he saw Molten Man dissolve in the water after Spiderman diverts him into diving for the isotopes, ringing to the kid chime of "Noooooooooooooo!"
This being a significant person in Liz Allen's life, you can expect the ramifications to Molten Man's death aren't going to bode well in Peter's future life. In this story, we see a brief sequence where Peter spies upon Liz and MJ talking and Liz recounts her long disappearance. The ol' Parker luck strikes again, as Petey's stealth mode is foiled by an angry dog which rips his pants. It's one of the enduring charms of the Spiderman ethos, the omnipresent roll of snake eyes over Peter's tail-spun, er web-spun life, often to comedic effect.
Now this being 1974 when Molten Man was presumed to have bitten it, nobody expected to see Mark Raxton ever again. However, the comics revival through 1990s and 2000s saw everyone return from the dead, particularly Norman Osborn and of course, Mark Raxton, who has rampaged yet again. He's most notably been in Marvel's original Civil War crossover, the Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 video game and of course, Spectacular Spiderman: The Animated Series where he was, along with Rhino and others, a pawn of the Green Goblin.
As my son said it best upon sealing the book back up, some bad guys are just too cool to die forever.