I thought it would be a good time to hop into the Wayback machine to a time when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN wasn’t afraid to serve up some goofy fun. Like what, you ask? How about Spidey fighting dinosaurs and Kraven the Hunter in the Savage Land alongside a bikini-clad Gwen Stacy?
How did this come about, I hear you asking. Well, our story begins in the offices of the Daily Bugle, where we’re treated to one of artist Gil Kane’s trademark up-the-nostril shots, as Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson declares hat seems like the umpteenth time that the paper is in danger of closing down:
What’s the threat this time? Why, it’s television (or as Jameson might have put it, “Television: Threat or Menace?”), which has leeched away all the readers in favor of the evening news. Ironically, it’s while he’s pointing at the TV and decrying it that he hears a report of a mysterious prehistoric monster in Antarctica. Deducing that it must have come from the Savage Land (JJJ is surprisingly up-to-date on his Marvel Universe geography — then again, he is a newsman), Jameson declares that this is exactly what’s needed to save his paper and resolves to take an expedition to the Savage Land himself to find it, and that he wants Peter Parker to go with him, because “that punk kid takes photos like nobody else we’ve got!” Always a charmer, that Jonah.
Peter Parker, meanwhile, is trying to smooth things over with his girlfriend Gwen Stacy, after having to avoid her for days because of the four extra arms he grew in an effort to rid himself of his spider-powers.
With his bonus limbs now gone, Peter and Gwen are on the mend; that is, until Pete gets a call from Bugle editor Robbie Robertson, offering him the gig as photog for JJJ’s Savage Land expedition, including something all-too-rare from Jameson: a cash bonus. However, Gwen’s not too happy about Pete leaving again so soon, so Parker takes her down to the Bugle office so he can turn down the job in front of her in a grand romantic gesture, I guess. Instead, when JJJ lays eyes on her, he realizes what his expedition is missing: cheesecake, apparently.
Gwen accepts the integral “stand-around-and-look-pretty” job, and before long JJJ, Peter, Gwen and Calkin, the scientist who claimed to have seen the monster, are headed for the Savage Land. And clearly, this is a serious expedition, which is why as soon as their copter touches down in the Savage Land, that old perv Jameson insists Gwen strip down to her bikini:
Bleah. The look on JJJ’s face makes me a little nauseous. Good thing Norman Osborn isn’t there.
A quick look around reveals an enormous stone idol with a gong, which JJJ decides is just begging to be rung. The sound attracts first an army of savages (this is the Savage Land, after all) and then an enormous orange monster, which wastes no time in trying to get all handsy with Gwen Stacy.
Naturally, Peter responds, but in a way I don’t think readers have seen before or since: by busting a cap in its ass:
The bullets, they do nothing, and Peter is backhanded over a cliff by the monster, clearing him to get away and make his change to Spider-Man, despite the fact that Peter Parker and Spidey just happening to both be in the Savage Land at the same time would pretty much mean au revoir to his secret identity. Spidey’s not much of a jungle dweller, though, as after quickly dispatching an enormous serpent, he blunders right into a patch of quicksand.
Gwen, meanwhile, is taken by the monster to the monster’s master: none other than Spidey’s old enemy Kraven the Hunter, who’s planning to declare himself king of the Savage Land, and has designs on Miss Stacy as well:
Good thing for the Wall-Crawler that Ka-Zar of the jungle happened by, and plucks Spidey from the deadly quicksand with a mighty splug:
And before we get back to the action: a quick message from Lee Riders jeans: tough enough to put out dangerous forest fires!
Where were we? Ah, yes — Spidey and Ka-Zar had teamed up, and were heading off to track down the giant monster that had kidnapped Gwen.
Meanwhile, Kraven was indulging himself with some prime monologuing, explaining to the captive and still scantily clad Gwen exactly where he got his giant orange friend (whom he named “Gog,” by the way). Upon returning to the Savage Land for another takeover attempt, Kraven discovered a crashed spaceship, and inside, two infant aliens, newly hatched from their silver metallic shells, one living, one dead.
Adopting the living one for his own, Kraven raised it to adulthood in a matter of weeks, with the colossal creature growing at a highly accelerated rate. Soon the enormous alien is worshipped as a god by one of the Savage Land’s tribes (with puppeteer Kraven pulling its strings), with Kraven planning for the rest to follow.
Spidey and Ka-Zar overhear Kraven’s rant and leap to the attack, with Spidey luring Gog away from the scene, while Ka-Zar makes with the frontal attack on Kraven. Of course, Kraven goes with the old standby “poison-gas from the lion vest” routine, not counting on Ka-Zar’s innovative defense: he holds his breath.
Considering this is a SPIDER-MAN comic, the Ka-Zar/Kraven fight gets a surprising amount of screen time, scoring a full four pages, complete with a Zabu run-in…
…and your patented Disney-villain finale, with Kraven being kicked off the side of a cliff and declared dead, although we never see a body…
Meanwhile, Spider-Man lures poor dumb Gog first into the path of a passing-by T-Rex (in yet another of writer Roy Thomas’ salute to KING KONG, in case you haven’t already gathered what’s going on here) …
…and then right back in to the quicksand, where the poor dumb beast swiftly succumbs to the mire, drowning before Spidey’s eyes.
Ka-Zar and Zabu swiftly return Gwen to Jameson’s camp, where a morose JJJ is drowning in his own guilty conscience.
His delight at seeing Gwen is only momentary, as he breaks the news of what’s happened to Peter.
Before Gwen can react, though, Peter stumbles in from the brush, having just “woken up after some trees broke his fall over the cliff.” And since no one but Ka-Zar saw Spidey swinging around, none’s the wiser.
So what did it all mean in the big picture? Not a whole lot, really. And that’s kind of the point. Not every story has to have “LIFE-CHANGING DEVELOPMENTS THAT WILL CHANGE SPIDER-MAN’S STATUS QUO FOREVER!” Back in the day, sometimes it was enough to have Spidey fighting giant monsters. Personally, I kinda miss that.
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