Monday, August 28, 2023

Longbox Junk - The Spectacular Spider-Man #35

Welcome to Longbox Junk! It's the blog where I just keep on writing comic reviews nobody asked for!

Sorry about the delays again.  There's always a huge bump in business toward the end of summer when people who put stuff off for the past few months are rushing to get in some fun time with the kids before they go back to school.  It's just one of those strange things about hotels that the END of summer is one of the busiest times of the year.


I felt like getting a little random this time out, so I basically generated a random number between 1 - 40 (the number of boxes I keep in my comic-cave) online. That got me one of my "S" boxes.   Then I closed my eyes and pulled out a comic.

And here we are.

Truthfully, I'm not much of a Spider-Man fan.  Don't get me wrong. . .a cool comic story is a cool comic story, and Spidey has some pretty cool stories.  I'm just not one of those guys who goes out of my way to collect massive full runs of the many Spider-Man titles.  Most of the issues I have, I've either gotten by accident as part of a larger lot, or they had a great cover that caught my eye.

This is one of those great cover issues.  I've never actually read this comic, but I have had it up on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" in my office several times.  So, now the question becomes: Is the story as cool as the cover?

Let's find out!

Marvel (1979)

COVER: Carmine Infantino


SCRIPT:  Tony Isabella
PENCILS: Lee Elias & Mike Esposito
INKS: Mike Esposito


Like I said above, I might not be a big Spider-Man fan, but I AM a fan of great comic covers. . .and in MY book, this is a great Spider-Man cover!  I mean, just LOOK at it! What's not to like?  Eye-catching contrasting blacks, reds and yellows. . .the hero in an iconic pose, leaping at the reader. THIS is a cover that delivers a nice punch of great Bronze Age art in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

So yeah. . .great cover.  Let's get inside and see what's going on with the story!


We begin our tale with the Spectacular Spider-Man, wracked with pain and falling, mid web swing. We see a mysterious figure who realizes that if Spidey falls to his death, he will be robbed of revenge.  

He releases the hold on Spider-Man's mind and the disoriented wall-crawler smashes through a window and into a building, only to be confronted by two police officers intent on arresting him!

As Spidey tries to reason with the police, the mysterious figure once again invades his mind, commanding him to kill!  Spidey manages to fight back the mental commands enough to avoid killing the officers, but the mysterious voice in his head demonstrates his ability to mentally control Spider-Man by forcing him to throw himself against walls!

Spidey, helpless to resist the mental commands, follows the voice in his head to an old neighborhood, and then to a run-down shack.  Inside that shack, he finally meets his tormentor. It's a foe that he had fought once before (in Amazing Spider-Man #138), now back for revenge. . .the mutant mindbender called MINDWORM!

As Spider-Man tries and fails to fight free of Mindworm, the villain gloats and gives Spidey (as well as the reader) a quick recap of his short-lived criminal career, brought short by the hero now helpless before him. . .

A psychic parasite who gained strength from draining the emotions and thoughts of those in his area, Mindworm had taken a large group of people to feed on until Spidey had fought and defeated him, leaving him unable to feed on emotions, which nearly killed him.

After their battle, Mindworm spent several months in the hospital close to death, but during that time, he had found the strength to increase his mental powers and escape custody!  With newfound energy, Mindworm was determined to have his vengeance on Spider-Man!

The villain's origin flashback monologue now at an end, Mindworm blasts Spidey out of a window, where the hero falls into a strange maze-like place.  Almost immediately, a woman rushes out of the shadows, she recognizes Spider-Man and cries out for help!

She introduces herself as Dr. Joyce Phillips, Mindworm's doctor at the time the villain escaped from the hospital.  Spider-Man tries to make sense of it all, but there's little time for conversation with his new companion as gigantic rats leap out and attack them!

It's a brutal, savage battle against the giant rats, but Spider-Man manages to win the fight and save the frightened Doctor from the oversized vermin!

With the immediate danger overcome, Doctor Joyce tells Spider-Man that she's not a medical doctor, but a psychiatrist who was trying to help Mindworm through his personality conflicts before he escaped.  

She recognizes the rats as one of Mindworm's mental traumas. . .he had been bitten by a rat as a child. She believes that she and Spidey are trapped in a labyrinth of Mindworms own neuroses!  

Further speculation on their strange situation is interrupted by a howling blast of wind that carries the two of them to parts unknown!

Spider-Man and the doctor regain consciousness only to find themselves confronting a grotesque blob-like creature!  

As it speaks with the voice of Mindworm and shouts it's hate of all mankind, Doctor Joyce tells Spidey that this is Mindworm's final embrace of inhumanity and alienation, and that they must help him before he is completely engulfed by madness!  

All Spidey knows is that he's finally in a position where he might actually be able to fight Mindworm and escape the prison of the villain's mind . . .

Unfortunately for Spidey, in the mental maze of Mindworm, he's at a disadvantage.  Mindworm sprouts tentacles and pummels Spidey.  Worse, the wallcrawler still doesn't have a way to fight against Mindworm's mental attacks!

Doctor Joyce shouts to Spidey that the only way he's going to be able to defeat Mindworm is mentally! If Mindworm is in Spidey's head, then THAT'S where he has to fight the villain!

And so Spider-Man opens his mind and is able to see some of what makes Mindworm tick.  He taunts the villain about his parents. . .accidentally killed with his powers.  An enraged Mindworm struggles against the truth, that his anger at the world is anger at HIMSELF!

In accepting the truth, Mindworm sees that he's still capable of being human, and in doing so, he defeats his greatest enemy. . .his own anger at himself.

The battle against Mindworm won, Peter Parker wakes up in an icy sweat in his own bed. . .it was all just a nightmare! OR WAS IT?

Peter suits up as Spidey and swings across town to the psychiatric hospital where Mindworm was confined after their original battle.  He's determined to get to the bottom of things.  Sneaking outside of Mindworm's window, Spidey is surprised to see Doctor Joyce. . .but she's just a nurse and not a psychiatrist.  

As he wonders just what is going on, Spidey is shocked to realize that Mindworm can read his thoughts as he invites Spider-Man into the room to ask his questions.

A calm and composed Mindworm tells Spider-Man that he never intended to drag the hero into his own internal struggle, but he's glad that it happened by accident.  

By fighting with Spider-Man, Mindworm was able to defeat his inner demons, but more importantly, he learned from Spider-Man that with great power comes great responsibility. . .and it's time to use his power responsibly.

Spider-Man is surprised by the turn of events.  He came expecting another fight, and discovered that he'd helped a villain turn the page from evil without even realizing it.  Taking the unexpected victory as it is, Spider-Man and Mindworm part ways peacefully.  All's well that ends well.

The End.


Okay, okay. . .not bad.  Not bad at all.  Let's break it on down!

I think I've mentioned a time or two that Tony Isabella is one of my favorite Bronze Age writers.  The thing I like most about his stories is that there's ALWAYS a little something to think about.  Even in this filler one and done Spider-Man comic, he takes an otherwise average superhero punch-up and throws an unexpected villain redemption ending at us!  Nicely done, Mr. Isabella!

Taken as a whole, the issue's story is decent.  Not really too memorable or groundbreaking.  A solid bit of  Bronze Age superhero storytelling.  Good for what it is, but ultimately nothing much to remember.

 But that ending. . .those last two pages.  A villain able to go into Spidey's head and taking the classic "With great power comes great responsibility" to heart and deciding to change his ways.  Now THAT'S a tasty and unexpected turn.  

On the art side of things, we have cover to cover of some good, clean Bronze Age artwork.  It might not be the GREATEST art out there, but it tells the story nicely and there's nothing wrong with it.  Like I always say. . .not EVERY comic has to be a masterpiece.  I'd rather have a good, solid piece of work than have someone try TOO hard to be different.  This is exactly the kind of art I want in a good old piece of superhero fun like this.


What we have here is a story that COULD have just been what it is. . .a filler.  But thanks to Tony Isabella, what we got was a little more meat on the bone than what I would have expected from a late 70s Spider-Man comic.  The ending of this story just tells me once again why Mr. Isabella is one of my favorite Bronze Age writers.

If you're a Spider-Man fan, a fan of Bronze Age superhero comics, or a fan of Tony Isabella (or maybe all three!), then I can certainly recommend this comic as a tasty little nugget of Bronze Age Longbox Junk gold.   From the outstanding cover, to the thoughtful ending, to the solid art throughout, there's NOTHING I can find to gripe about.  They can't all be winners, but this one is!

Up Next. . .

I like where going random took me this time.  I think I'll try it again.
In the box I go, what I pull, nobody knows!

Be there or be square.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Longbox Junk - The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #6

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews you never even knew you wanted!

Those of you who have been reading Longbox Junk for a while know that I'm not really a fan of most superhero comics.  MY favorite heroes are the more pulp-style characters. . .Tarzan, Lone Ranger, Zorro, The Spirit, Green Hornet, The Shadow, James Bond, Rocketeer. . .so on and so forth.

If you haven't been reading long enough to know this, well now you do. . .and a hearty Longbox Junk welcome to you!

Not that there's anything wrong with a good superhero story.  Batman, Moon Knight, and Captain America are some of my favorite characters out there.  But in MY humble opinion, there's nothing better than some good old-fashioned pulp action.

Today's comic stars a hero that is a modern throwback to those classic pulp adventures, the one and only globetrotting archeologist and adventurer, Indiana Jones! 

I'm a big fan of Indy. The movies are great!  I even liked the much-maligned Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  And even though the newest (and presumably last) Indy movie outing, Dial of Destiny, landed with a resounding thud, I still had fun watching it.  

Indy's comic adventures on the other hand. . .

They have a bit of a problem.  Despite the character being a homage to the pulps, Indiana Jones' adventures don't often translate well to the printed page.  I guess it's hard to reproduce the spectacle, action, and music of an Indiana Jones movie into silent words and pictures.

Not that they haven't tried! What we have here today is an issue of an early effort by Marvel to continue the adventures of Indiana Jones on the comic page.  The series lasted a respectable 34 issues from 1983 to 1986, and actually established its own continuity outside of the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. . .similar to what Marvel did with Star Wars.  

Marvel added character development and a supporting cast that assumed the first movie was going to be the ONLY movie.  The series even completely ignored Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when it hit the theatres in 1984. . .opting to just continue along as they were.  It's just sort interesting to me that Marvel created a whole divergent Indian Jones continuity that most of the movie fans probably aren't even aware exists.

So let's take a look at what Marvel was doing with Indiana Jones back in 1983, shall we?  We shall!

Marvel (1983)

COVER: Howard Chaykin


SCRIPT: Archie Goodwin & David Michelinie
PENCILS: Howard Chaykin
INKS: Terry Austin


I like Howard Chaykin's art a lot.  He's actually the FIRST artist I ever really took particular notice of, because of his work on the first comic series I ever collected, Star Wars.  But this isn't Chaykin's best work.

I mean. . .it's okay.  It's not a BAD cover.  It's just not that great.  For some reason, even though there's plenty of action being depicted, this cover seems sort of bland.  Not really something I'd give a turn up on the office wall.  Like I said, I like Chaykin's work. . .but I guess they ALL can't be winners.  Let's get inside this thing!


We begin our tale in New York City, sometime shortly before WWII.  It's the day of the grand opening of "The Raven's Nest", the hottest new nightclub in Manhattan, owned by Marion Ravenwood and her silent partner, Professor Indiana Jones.

But their big day gets off to a shaky start when Marion narrowly avoids being hit by a car outside the club.  Indy saves her in the nick of time.  He chalks it up to a nasty accident.  Marion isn't so sure.

It seems that notorious criminal Emil Marko had tried to get Marion to let him be a partner in the club, so as to use it as a front for an illegal gambling club.  When Marion turned down his offer, he was not pleased.  This revelation convinces Indy that Marko must have been behind the "accident" earlier and that Marion is in danger.

That night, at the gala grand opening of the Raven's Nest, all seems well.  The sold out crowd is enjoying the music and drinks. . .but a bit of a dark shadow falls on the proceedings as Emil Marko is spotted by Indy and Marion among the guests.  

But before they can do anything about the gangster, calamity befalls the party!  A pillar collapses, and it's only through the quick thinking and action of Indy that it doesn't land in the crowd!

Marion closes down the party, promising to re-open the Raven's Nest after repairs are completed.  The crowd leaves, except for Emil Marko and his bodyguards.  Indy and Marion confront him.

Marko insists he had nothing to do with any of the "accidents" and leaves.  In the closed-down club, Indy, Marion, and their friend Jamal (an antiquities dealer) discuss what will happen next.  Repairs will be made. The club WILL re-open.


While the club is readied to open again, Marion and Indy enjoy lunch together and a carriage ride through Central Park.  As they discuss what to do about Emil Marko, a shadowy figure emerges from the trees and shoots a blowgun dart, hitting the horse pulling their carriage!  

Indy manages to save himself and Marion with his whip, leaping from the runaway carriage before it plunges into the icy waters of the lake!  After this third "accident" they are now definitely convinced that Marko is trying to kill Marion.  Indy resolves to get some proof to take to the law.


Indy and Marion have hatched a plan to infiltrate Emil Marko's mansion.  Marion will provide a distraction by meeting with Marko, pretending to want to smooth over their differences.  In the meantime, Indy will come to the back of the mansion by boat and try to find some evidence in Marko's office. 

Both parts of the plan initially go off without a hitch, but Indy runs into trouble when a guard unexpectedly catches him in the act of going through Marko's files!  

Now that the jig is up, Indy and Marion are forced to flee under gunfire as Marko's guards pursue them from the mansion.  They make it to Indy's boat and make a run for it down the river.  Unfortunately for them, a waiting boat opens fire and gives chase!

Indy jumps to the second boat in order to subdue the man chasing them.  A gunfight turns into a knife fight, and then a fist fight as the person in the boat turns out to be a bigger challenge than Indy thought.  But just as our hero gains the upper hand, he hears Marion shouting for help from the other boat!

The gunfire has disabled the boat's controls and Marion is headed for some rocks! The gunman jumps from the boat as Indy takes the wheel and dashes to Marion's rescue.  He manages to save her just before her boat slams into the rocks and explodes!

The danger now past, Marion and Indy discuss what they both discovered while in Marko's mansion.  Surprisingly, Indy has come to the conclusion that Marko wasn't behind ANY of it. . .but he thinks he knows who was. 

And so the pair head straightaway to their friend Jamal's shop.  Indy is convinced that ordinary thugs wouldn't use blowguns or the strange wavy knife the man in the boat had.  Jamal's shop is closed, but Indy and Marion break in. . .and find explosive blasting caps!

Having found proof that Jamal is up to no good, Marion and Indy rush to the Raven's Nest, where they catch Jamal red-handed as he plants dynamite around the club!  Confronting Jamal at gunpoint, he confesses that he's been behind all the "accidents".  

Jamal had made a lucrative deal to smuggle illegal artifacts into the United States.  He had hidden them in the decorations he provided for the Raven's Nest.  He tried to make it look like Marko was trying to kill Marion in order to reclaim the artifacts and then blow up the club to hide the evidence.

As he confesses, Jamal catches Indy off guard and attacks!  As the two fight their way through the club, a fire ignites and the building begins to burn down around them, the flames coming closer to the crates of dynamite!

Seeing that the club is about to come down around them, Marion and Indy make their escape.  Indy tries to rescue Jamal, but their former friend tries to save some of the artifacts and Indy is forced to abandon him as explosions rock the club!

Marion and Indy barely escape the exploding club.  In the aftermath, as firefighters try to douse the burning Raven's Nest, Marion tells Indy that it's a complete loss.  In her haste to open the Raven's Nest, she didn't get any insurance for the club.

Indy reveals that he knew she'd forget and got a policy without her knowing about it.  All's well that ends well.

The End.


Okay. . .there it is.  Hmmmm.  Interesting.  

The first thing I like about this issue is that it's a single self-contained story.  A one-shot.  I DO like a good one-shot story!  I wouldn't call this a GREAT one-shot, but it's a good one.  Looking at the other issues of this series I own (six of them I got at a yard sale a few weeks ago), and a peek at GCD tells me that this whole series is in nice little bite-sized pieces.  One shots, two-fers and just a couple of four parters later on.  I like that in a series.  It makes a comic series easy to collect and read in single issues.

As far as the story itself, it's not really what I was expecting from an Indiana Jones story.  No exotic locations (unless you count Central Park as exotic), no death traps, so on and so forth.  It's a bit of a departure.  Definitely a scaled-back Indiana Jones story.  Does that mean it's a BAD story? Not at all.  It's hard to find a bad story from the late comic veteran Archie Goodwin.  Is it a masterpiece? No.  It's just a fun little romp through pre-war New York with Indiana Jones, and that's just fine with me.

Once again, looking at the other issues I have (and GCD) I see that Marvel sort of did the opposite of what they did with Star Wars.  Instead of going crazy and expanding the original source material WAY beyond the original movie (as with Star Wars), Marvel scaled things DOWN.  They certainly went around the world with Indy, but many stories are set in and around New York City and the University Indy teaches at.  I kind of like this scaled down approach.  It gives us unusual little Indiana Jones stories like the one in this issue (and in some of the others I have).

So, getting back to the story itself, it's a nice little read.  It has a clear beginning and end.  It reminds me of what an episode of a Indiana Jones television show might be like.  Sort of like the show they had on for a while about young Indiana Jones that I really enjoyed.  I could easily see a T.V. show about an older Indy with stories like this one.

On the art side of things. . .

Like I said in my look at the cover, I'm a fan of Chaykin's early work.  He was the first artist I ever paid attention to, thanks to his work on Star Wars.  I'm not such a fan of his later, much more angular and exaggerated style, but thankfully this is before that time.  Like the cover, this is certainly not Chaykin's best work, but it's not bad at all. Chaykin has one of those "love it or hate it" kind of styles, where there's not much opinion in between.  I'm on the "love it" side when it comes to his earlier stuff like this.

One thing I DON'T like about the art is how Chaykin utterly fails to capture the likeness of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.  But to be fair, I think I read a while back while writing another review that I had the same gripe about (I think it was when I did my review of Topps' X-Files series) that often with licensed properties, the company will get the rights to the characters, but not the likeness of the actors. 

This was a strange little scaled back Indiana Jones story, but I liked it a lot!  Archie Goodwin gave this one-shot a cinematic feel that made me think of what an Indiana Jones T.V. series might be like.  

If you're a fan of Indiana Jones and want to see a different take on the character than what we get in the movies (or the Dark Horse comics that came later), then give this early Marvel series a look.  You'll get bite-sized chunks of story that have unique continuity, character development and supporting cast.  

This story isn't a masterpiece, and honestly it's a bit forgettable.  One of those stories you read and then forget about pretty quickly.  That said, it's fast-paced and fun.  And like I say pretty often, comics don't ALWAYS have to be deep commentary. . .comics can sometimes just be fun.  This is one of those comics.

This story (and the whole series) has been reprinted in a HEFTY omnibus by Dark Horse, but the individual issues have to be found in the back issue bins.  I've read the other five issues I have and can say that I enjoyed each of them, so this is definitely a series worth taking a look at.  All in all, The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones is a nice little chunk of Longbox Junk. 

Up Next. . .

I'm feeling a little random!  I think I'll just reach into one of my boxes and pull out an issue. Yeah. . .I like the sound of that.  Will it be a Golden or Silver Age oldie? 80s? 90s? Brand new? I DON'T KNOW!

Be there or be square.