Thursday, December 08, 2016

366 Days with J. Jonah Jameson, Day 343: The Amazing Defiant Ones

One of my (very few) regrets about a year of J. Jonah Jameson is that even with this extra-length Leap Year, I've not been able to fit in every story I want co-starring our friendly neighborhood curmudgeon. At one point I'd even starting saving images for an entire "Spider-Slayer Week," but I won't have time to do those. (Spider-Slayer fans line here up to boo, hiss.)

Today, though, I'm gonna give you an expanded peek at one of my favorite JJJ stories that happens to be a fallout from the Spider-Slayer stories, in which Dr. Spencer Smythe, the scientific brains behind Jonah's money in creating the Arachnid Assassins, targets both Jameson and Spider-Man by turning them into The Defiant Ones!

No, no, no...that's De-Fightin' Ones. This story (like that terrible rip of a great cartoon) is a take-off on the classic 1958 movie The Defiant Ones, in which prisoners Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier escape a prison truck while chained together, and they must learn to work together and respect each other. Hey, that sounds like a perfect set-up for Spider-Man and JJJ to be chained an ultra-technical Kirby™-type electronic handcuff device that's due to explode at the end of 18 story pages! The story actually begins in the previous issue, but Amazing Spider-Man #192's cover sets up the plot as if it were the splash page! Go go, action Spider!

Cover of Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #192 (May 1979), pencils by Keith Pollard, inks by Bob McLeod, letters by Irving Watanabe

Out of vengeance against both Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson, Dr. Smythe has locked them together in a death-cuff! (Available from all good Sharper Image stores.) Smythe's taking revenge for all those times Jonah hired him to create Spider-Slayers, during which Smythe contracted cancer from all the radioactive materials. He clearly hadn't taken the precautions that Lex Luthor does to line everything in his purview with lead. So, it's actually Spider-Man's fault: if Petey had gained the X-ray vision of a spider, Smythe would still be alive! Yes, that's the most boring What If? ever.

Panels from Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #192 (May 1979),script by Marv Wolfman, breakdowns by Keith Pollard, finishes by Jim Mooney, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Diana Albers

With the clock ticking until their ultimate death and therefore the cancellation of his comic book, Spider-Man swings off, Jonah in literal tow. This story also takes place during one of JJJ's most angry phases against our favorite Web-Slinger: he believes Spider-Man is responsible for the death of his son, John. (Note: like everyone in Marvel comics, John eventually gets better.)

Of course, at one point Jonah dies have the chance to remove Spidey's mask and find out his secret identity. Does he? No. He does not. Looks like we're in for another twenty years of Spider-Man being able to keep his secret identity until Tony Stark sweet-talks him into blowing it, thus necessitatin' a literal deal with the devil. Smooth move, Spidey-Pants!

Spidey's dragged them both to consult the only scientist he knows: Peter Parker! Curt Connors! Yes, the genetic biologist is a great choice to remove a highly-advanced electronic device. (I'm presuming this is during the roughly 83% of the 1970s that Reed Rochards was off in outer space on routine Blastaar assignment.)

Desperate and defiant, Spidey and Joney return to the scene of the crime, only to find Smythe is dead! Note: he eventually gets better...hey wait! No he doesn't! He's still dead! Oh, sure, there's a clone of him running around Earth-616 Prime-Earth right now, but Dr. Spence Smythe is still dead! It's a rare victory for the Grim Reaper in the Marvel Universe!

You've gotta hand it to Jonah for holding it together this long, but he's finally beginning to have his nervous breakdown, and I for one don't blame him. Probably because Spidey's gonna drag them both back to see Dr. Curt Connors again. Get a real plan, web-slinger!

Luckily, the quicksilver mind of Spider-Man (not to be confused with the Spider-Man mind of Quicksilver) has given him an idea! An awesome idea. Spider-Man got a amazing, spectacular, web of idea!

Using a conduit piping coolant, Spidey freezes the power supply! With less than thirty seconds to spare! Either that, or Felix Leiter came in an\d switched it off when the timer read "007."

So, Jonah is forced to conclude: what is the price of hate? What are the wages of fear? What is the Tales of Suspense?*

*It's a comic book series that ran from 1959 to 1968, and features Atlas-era crime and mystery stories, later replaced by short Iron Man and Captain America adventures.

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