When Spidey Jumped the Shark, Pt. 4: The Len Wein Era

This should be a relatively quiet and easy post, particularly compared to the previous one in this series. After all of the Sturm und Drang of the Conway years, the Len Wein Era of Amazing Spider-Man should go down easy and smooth. But we still need to set the stage here by returning to that Sturm und Drang, however briefly.

Conway’s last issue, Amazing Spider-Man #149 (Oct. 1975), features Spidey facing off against his clone, with one of them left dead by the end of the battle. The Gwen clone then questions the surviving Spider-Man about this and he responds with complete confidence . . . at least at first.

“The other me? He’s gone, Gwen.”

“But— are you sure— that you’re—?”

“Oh, I’m the real one, Gwen. Believe me.”

“But . . . how can you tell . . .?”

“Simple. I . . . uh . . .”

Then, in its own little word balloon with tiny type, Spidey just says: “Far out.”

Was this supposed to be a joke on Conway’s part? The tone here lends that impression. I honestly don’t think Conway was trying create a big controversy with this, and in fairness to him, his creative successors could have simply ignored it and moved on. Then again, with the way fans were complaining more and more about every little detail of the stories, even the most minor gaffes, maybe they were right to address this directly and get it out of the way as quickly as possible.

So how can the surviving Spider-Man know he’s the real Spidey and not the clone?

“Spider-Man . . . or Spider-Clone?”

Lucky for Wein, he didn’t start on Amazing Spider-Man until issue #151 (Dec. 1975). The guy who had the unenviable task of figuring a way out of this—while celebrating the century and a half mark of issues of ASM—was Archie Goodwin, with Gil Kane providing pencils.

So in order to resolve the situation, Spidey visits Dr. Curt Connors to get himself tested. After rigorous testing, Spidey goes to lay down and try to unwind in the good doctor’s office. After he appears to fall asleep on a couch, he’s awakened by the sound of the Vulture’s voice calling from outside. Spidey goes out after him, fights him, and then the villain just . . . blows up.

You’re probably figuring Spidey’s dreaming, right? This would seem a pretty good guess, as the flavor here tastes just like the hundredth-anniversary issue. Similar episodes follow with the Sandman and the Kingpin, and then Spencer Smythe shows up in a new Spider Slayer, revealing that the three previous villains were very real robots he created to soften up Spidey for the kill. As Spidey is trapped in the grip of the Spider-Slayer and it appears doom is near, his thoughts turn to Mary Jane, making him realize that his feelings for her must mean he’s the true and original Spider-Man, as his clone never would have had the chance to develop such feelings. This inspires him to break free and clean Smythe’s clock.

The closing blurb: “Next Issue: A New Era!”

In that next issue, ASM #151, this new era, the Wein Era, properly begins. It would go on for thirty issues, through ASM #180 (May 1978), with almost every issue illustrated by Ross Andru. On a more personal note, this was also the era when I began buying the title off the stands regularly.

When Did It Start to Suck?

Love it or hate it, the Wein era of ASM was steady. So steady, some might even consider it boring. After the Conway era, however, I think this steadiness was a good thing. Sure, maybe there was nothing mind-blowingly great about this era, but there was also nothing horrifyingly bad either. Well . . . not outside of this one issue.

For me, there’s just one issue of the Wein ASM run that stands out as terrible: Amazing Spider-Man #169 (Jun. 1977), “Confrontation.” I’ll get into the reasons why in due time.

When Did It Pass Its Peak?

Yet again, this is where the debate gets interesting. Love it or hate it, the Wein era of ASM was, as noted, steady. It maintained so steady a level from beginning to end that it’s hard to capture a peak. In fact, I don’t believe I can do so objectively; I can only answer this one very subjectively, based on my own individual biases and quirks. From this perspective, my personal favorite of this run is probably the Kingpin two-parter.

This was the peak in my own opinion, but there was still plenty of good stuff to be found after this. The worst of Wein didn’t give us anything close to the worst of Conway . . . except for that one, aforementioned issue that sticks out like a sore thumb, when looking back in hindsight.

Is He Still Pete/Spidey?

Again, as mentioned last time: The Boomer generation of writers that held the reins over Amazing Spider-Man in the twenty years or so after Stan, they all grew up on Spidey and knew all the strip’s characters extremely well. Character voices remained remarkably consistent. Pete/Spidey always sounded like the same Pete/Spidey we all know and love; ditto the supporting cast and villains.

Escape from the Darkness

Note that I’m about to go over a significant amount of information and opinion originally published in my Len Wein obit from 2017, so if you read or remember that post, apologies for repeating myself here.

Now Wein would bring a lot of good ol’ fun back into the Amazing strip, but you probably would not have predicted this based on the opening pages of his first issue, ASM #151 (Dec. 1975). That’s because we open on Spidey visiting an incinerating plant with the corpse of his clone in tow. Yes, he has come here to dispose of the clone’s remains, burn them completely to ashes, and rid the world of the clone for all time. (Or such was everyone’s hope.) Before he can finish this ugly business, however, there’s a moment when his spider-sense tingles, warning him of danger.

Then the moment passes, and Spidey completes his dark, disturbing task.

On the one hand, I wish Wein had skipped this scene. Goodwin had already established that the surviving Spidey was the real deal the issue before, so I’m not sure how necessary it was to ever mention the clone again. On the other hand, I can also understand the desire to make it absolutely and definitively clear that the clone was DEAD-dead, and would stay so forever after, which is what those opening pages did seem to firmly establish. (How naïve we all were back in those days.)

In any case, after three dour pages to open the issue, the clouds part and the sun comes out at last. No doubt the presence of Jazzy Johnny Romita, credited as an “illustrator” on this issue alongside Ross Andru, adds a lot to the more pleasant mood and atmosphere. Pete is hanging out on the ESU campus with MJ and Flash, enjoying some casual, everyday conversation, when they cross paths with a returned, recovered, and mentally healthy, Harry Osborn. This was a joy to see and a great way to get the new era started.

And it’s hard not to see all of this as a willful reset by Wein—the dark atmosphere favored by Conway has inarguably given way to brighter days. In addition to lightening the tone, another priority for Wein would seem to be cleaning up old and unfinished business, as he has Jameson throw an engagement party for Betty Brant and Ned Leeds. After all these years, it would appear their wedding day is finally drawing nigh.

The party at Jameson’s is a hoot, with the curmudgeonly™ publisher in classic form. He complains about the patio door being left open while the air is running. He complains about Pete attending the party instead of being out working, taking pictures for him. He complains about Flash Thompson touching his collection of Guy Lombardo records. He complains when another party goer almost sits down on his “antique Indonesian incense burner.”

Then JJJ’s apartment suffers a blackout, part of a string of blackouts hitting the city. When Pete ducks out, hitching a ride on a helicopter to investigate as Spidey (losing most of his civilian clothes in the process), he discovers who’s behind the blackouts fairly quickly.

Is this silly? Maybe. But as a kid I thought it was cool as hell (and still get a kick out of it today, honestly). From here, Spidey proceeds to track down the Shocker in the sewers and, in the cliffhanger to end the issue, our webhead is left to drown with rats.

In the follow up, ASM #152 (Jan. 1976), Spidey manages to escape the sewers; tries to track down MJ after abandoning her at the party (and gets the cold shoulder when he does find her); shares an amusing lunch with Flash and Harry; and eventually catches up with the Shocker as Spidey and takes him down. There was also an interlude with a homeless guy sifting through the garbage in some alley before being scared off by someone—or something. This guy would later be revealed to be Doc Ock, as teasing upcoming villains in his stories like this was something of a trademark for Wein.


The next four issues would be standalone, one-off stories, though we’d still usually get some subplots building in the background, much as the one with Doc Ock I just mentioned.

Amazing Spider-Man #153 (Feb. 1976) “The Longest Hundred Yards,” was clearly inspired by the Burt Reynolds film released in 1974, The Longest Yard. We’ve got a scientist, Dr. Bradley Bolton, who’s forced to turn over some technical equipment to some crooks holding his daughter Mindy hostage.

It’s not a bad story but kinda generic—one of those tales that feels like you could have just as easily slotted in Daredevil or Batman or Moon Knight as the hero and it would have made no difference. One item of note: The bad guys are crooks in tech gear, and they’ll be reappearing frequently in the issues to come.

There is this one very funny scene, a gag that’s a favorite of mine, that does elevate my grade for this from C- to C+, however.

“‘Kung Fu Fighting’ is our song?

For all of the culturally deprived:

Bonus note for all the masochists out there who want to pore over every detail of the clone story line: In the wake of the conclusion of the Jackal/clone story in issue #149, ASM #153’s letter column, “The Spider’s Web,” is a full-text page (written by then-staffer Roger Slifer) that attempts to explain away all of the inconsistencies and contradictions that took place throughout the story line, which caused a deluge of No-Prize requests (along with more than a few criticisms, I’m sure) from fans. They were also kind enough to reprint this “Spider’s Web” page in the ASM Masterworks Volume 15.

Amazing #154 (Mar. 1976) and #155 (Apr. 1976) are the next two standalone stories, both drawn by Sal Buscema (filling in for Ross Andru, who I assume was busy working on the Superman vs. Spider-Man treasury). One’s got the Sandman and the other is a computer-killer whodunit.

Amazing #156 (May 1976) is the next self-contained story, but with a more interesting backdrop that better ties into the running narrative, as it’s Betty and Ned’s wedding day. The seeds for the Harry Osborn-Liz Allen romance are also planted here, as Spidey tackles the Mirage—a villain that wouldn’t be seen again (as far as I know) until he pops back up just long enough for the Scourge to kill him off in the mid-80s.

“The Ghost That Haunted Octopus”

Purchased by me at the Village Smoke Shop in the spring of ’76 and the beginning of my regular purchases of Spidey comics off the spinner rack, in addition to being my first exposure to Dr. Octopus, Amazing Spider-Man #157 (Jun. 1976) will always hold a special place in my heart. Ignoring my nostalgia and looking at it objectively, I’m not sure how well it truly holds up. But bonus points to Wein for coming up with some way, however outlandish, to explain how Doc Ock and Hammerhead managed to survive that nuclear explosion in their previous appearance in ASM. It’s a three-part story that concludes in issue #159 (Aug. 1976). And again, pitting Ock against Hammerhead with Spidey in the middle is always a fun scenario. The only really bad part is Wein writing Ock like he holds any real affection for May Parker. This relationship should have been tossed in the incinerator and never spoken of again along with the Pete clone.

A running background gag gets started around this time, as Jameson needs to find a new secretary. With the departure of Betty Brant (who’s gone to Europe with her newlywed husband), Jameson starts burning through replacements at an outrageous pace. This little subplot will eventually get resolved in a later issue of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, when Gloria Grant finally lands the job.

Meanwhile, Amazing Spider-Man #160 (Sept. 1976) gave us the return of the Spider-Mobile along with the Terrible Tinkerer, reappearing for the first time since the second issue in 1963. This was followed by ASM 161-162 (Oct.-Nov. 1976), that two-parter guest starring Night Crawler and the Punisher (and featuring the debut of Jigsaw). This was good.

One development in Pete’s personal life around this time is that Mary Jane briefly starts dating Flash Thompson after getting fed up with Pete ditching her all the time to go play Spider-Man. This evokes memories of the old high school rivalry between the fellas, which was fun, but more importantly, it shows us the ugly side of MJ, a side we saw often in the Lee days but not at all under Conway. This deepens MJ, adds some levels to her as well as making her more consistent with the classic character from the Lee era. It also makes her more her own character again, as opposed to just a fill-in for Gwen Stacy. Later writers will take the baton from Wein and continue this work.

Return of the Kingpin

By the time ASM #163 (Dec. 1976) rolled out, those crooks in tech gear had been popping up and fighting with Spidey for ten months with nothing in the way of an explanation. This issue finally reveals that the guy they’re taking their orders from is the Kingpin, who had not appeared in the title for more than six years, with his last appearance being ASM #85 (Jun. 1970).

Kingpin loves to throw hands with Spidey, so the action is always great when they meet, but going back and re-reading this now, as an adult, what stands out most is the characterization (which I’ll get into shortly). Kingpin’s son, Richard, is in this crazy kinda near-death state as a result of a battle with the Red Skull and Hydra over in the pages of Captain America. Kingpin’s plan is to restore his son Richard to full life by draining the “life force” of Spider-Man and transferring it to Richard.

The plan appears to succeed early on in issue #164 (Jan. 1977), but the restored Richard is not very pleased by this turn of events. Immediately upon his awakening, he turns all his attention on his mother and she reciprocates. “And across the room, the man responsible for Richard’s remarkable resurrection stands alone . . . and all but forgotten.”

What’s left of Spidey gets tossed out like trash (literally). With some help from Dr. Curt Connors, Spidey gets some “life force” back, enough to allow him to catch up with the Kingpin and his family at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There we find the Kingpin arguing with his son. It’s clear here that for all his strength, toughness, and ruthless cunning, these traits are of no use to the Kingpin when it’s time for him to relate and communicate with his family—who happen to be his highest and dearest priorities in life. Some really great character stuff here.

Naturally, Spidey gets the drop on them, and courtesy of this apparatus he pieced together with Connors, he gets his life force back from Richard. As terrible as this turn of events is for the Fisk family, you can almost sense relief from the Kingpin. Circumstances have placed him back in his comfort zone again, back in his element—that element being murderous violence.

Kingpin follows Spidey to the top of some very high scaffolding, determined to end him once and for all with his bare hands. They scuffle; Kingpin gets struck by a crane hook and falls but is able to catch himself. When Spidey extends a hand to save him, Kingpin decides he’d rather die and take Spider-Man with him.

Viewing this as a sort of victory, Kingpin smiles, perhaps even laughs, as he falls.

Not only did Wein bring the Kingpin back, he brought him back in grand style. These two issues, particularly the conclusion, are great comics.


Next up was Stegron and the Lizard in ASM 165-166 (Feb.-Mar. 1977) in a fine holiday tale I originally reviewed a few years back.

Then we’re treated to the introduction of Will-O’-The-Wisp and a revamped Spider-Slayer in issues 167-168 (Apr.-May 1977). Along with the Spider-Slayer, we get its designer, Dr. Marla Madison, who became a love interest for Jameson. The additions Wein made during this era and the character relationships he developed would stick for a very long time afterward, which says something about how well they worked and how good a job Wein did on them.

I really liked Will-O’. First, his name sounded strange and exotic, which intrigued me. Adding to this intrigue was the fact that he was almost a complete mystery, plus his power set felt fresh and somewhat unique. Shortly after I met him in issue #167, I learned his name was taken from old folklore and I loved nearly all things related to folklore and myth, so yet another point in his favor. And on top of it all, we saw Will-O’ display considerable nobility in this story line, despite his role as antagonist. And adding to all the mystery is the presence of Jonas Harrow, who Spidey still doesn’t even know exists at this point. It would take several years for Will-O’ to pop back up and this revival was brief. He would go MIA again shortly afterward and has not made another appearance for decades now.


ASM #169 (Jun. 1977) is the issue I’ve been dreading.

The previous issue (#168), Pete/Spidey retrieved an envelope Jameson was keeping in his office, an envelope containing some shocking photos.

He would surreptitiously return the envelope, with its contents, shortly afterward.

Now, this issue, Jameson confronts Pete with the photos. Lucky for Pete, his earlier discovery allowed him time to concoct an explanation for them, making it appear they were fakes put together from other photos (when the truth is the exact opposite—Pete put these other pics together from Jameson’s originals).

Wein opened his tenure seemingly putting the clone stuff to bed for all time. Then he brings it back here to give us a cheap little subplot that takes up all of four pages. Was it worth it? Were these few pages worth reminding everyone that all this terrible clone stuff happened? Bringing up the clone stuff again was a terrible idea by itself; and the specific way it was done here was nearly as terrible. This was just so bad, I have no clue what the hell Wein could have possibly been thinking. Definitely the nadir for this era.

Thankfully it was done in just a few pages and things would get better quickly. Wein would introduce Dr. Faustus as the next villain by issue’s end. Then, in the middle of concluding Spidey’s battle with Faustus in issue #170 (Jul. 1977), we get this little one-page interlude.

We know Wein likes to plant seeds, but this seed is planted thirty months in advance. It’s set up for the 200th anniversary issue and by the time we get there, Wein won’t even be around to write it; he’ll have moved on to DC.

Next up was a crossover that began in Nova #12 (Aug. 1977) and concluded in ASM #171 (Aug. 1977). May not seem like much now, but as a kid I thought the reveal of the villainous Photon’s identity was clever. Then the first appearance of the skateboarding Rocket Racer in ASM #172 (Sept. 1977)—not the last fad-based character we’ll see in Spidey comics during this era. Molten Man returns by issue’s end, beginning a battle with Spidey’s that would conclude the following issue, ASM #173 (Oct. 1977). Then came ASM 174-175 (Nov.- Dec. 1977), which brought the Punisher back for a compelling two-parter that centered on the Hitman (a villain that had only debuted in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man eight months earlier) kidnapping Jameson.

Finally, Wein closed out his run with the five-issue Green Goblin epic 176-180 (Jan.-May 1978). When this thing started, it seemed clear that Harry Osborn had taken up the Goblin identity again, but then Wein gave us a big twist and it turned out the Goblin was Harry’s psychiatrist, Bart Slade. At the time I thought this was most brilliant thing I’d ever read—in fact, if the adolescent me had been writing this post, I’m sure he would have gone with this five-issue story line as the peak of this era. Obviously, the adult me is a bit less impressed by this. It’s still okay, but it’s not the work of genius I once thought it was as a kid. (It’s also revealed in the concluding chapter that Harry, while under the hypnotic control of Hamilton, was the one who snapped those pics of Spidey disposing of his clone. Invoking the clone one last time also gets more points deducted from the adult me.)

Amazing Spider-Man Annuals

With a plot by Wein, script by Bill Mantlo, and pencils by Gil Kane, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #10 (1976) was my first Spidey annual. This may play a part in my fondness for it, but there may be other factors equally idiosyncratic involved. The biggest thing I like about it is that it introduces the Fly, a villain that really could have been put to much better use, in my opinion. (He certainly could have appeared far more often than he wound up appearing before getting killed off in the 80s by—yup—the Scourge.) I should point out that the villain was originally called the “Human Fly,” which they’d walk back just a couple months later after Marvel started a new comic titled The Human Fly—this new comic being inspired by the real-life, costumed stunt performer, Rick Rojatt. After this annual, in the Spider-Man stories and Hostess Twinkie ads to follow, the villain would be referred to as simply “the Fly.”

I found Rick Deacon, the slimy crook who would become the super-villainous Fly here, compelling. He gave off tough-guy-bully vibes, and I had already experienced many terrifying run-ins with bullies at this point, so this made me dislike him a lot, which made it all the more satisfying when Spidey punches him out at the end of the story. Plus spiders and flies go together so naturally, it seemed to make perfect sense for Spidey to have a fly-based antagonist.

The following year’s annual, #11 (1977), seemed to go in the exact opposite direction, pitting Spider-Man against other spider-based characters. “Spawn of the Spider” by Bill Mantlo, Don Perlin, and Jim Mooney may not be the greatest comic book of all time, but it’s solid fun. I liked the design of the “Spider Squad” villains, who were made to look more like actual spiders and thus appropriately creepy—I feel Don Perlin had a gift for such design, as I also enjoyed his Werewolf by Night monsters and demons. Even if the main story doesn’t do it for you, this annual would still be notable for the six-page story in the back, “Chaos at the Coffee Bean,” which features the artistic debut of John Romita, Jr.

Marvel Team-Up

This period was certainly an interesting one for Marvel Team-Up. If you’d been following the debate in the letters page, there seemed to be some unrest among both fans and some creators over the direction of the strip. Most of the stories in the strip’s earliest days were self-contained, one-issue stories, and many fans wanted longer, continuing stories that connected back to the ongoing continuity of Amazing. In 1975, three years into the strip’s life, they started putting out longer (sometimes much longer) story lines.

With Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema pairing up for the first time (the two would later enjoy lengthy collaborations on Hulk and Rom), they had a two-parter teaming Spidey with the Torch and then the Sons of the Tiger to take on a new Big Man and a new Crime-Master in Marvel Team-Up 39-40 (Nov.-Dec. 1975). Then they gave us a running story of epic length, from MTU 41-46 (Jan.-Jun. 1976). The first four issues feature Spidey going back in time to the 17th century to battle a menace during the Salem Witch Trials, roping in the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, Dr. Doom, and Moondragon (in that order). When he tries to take the time platform back home, Spidey gets detoured into the future, where he meets Killraven and Deathlok in issues 45 (May 1976) and 46 (Jun. 1976), respectively, concluding this six-month journey.

Not much time to catch your breath though, as the webhead gets dropped directly into a two-part crossover between Marvel Two-in-One #17 (Jul. 1976) and MTU #47 (Jul. 1976) that pairs up Spidey and the Thing against the Basilisk. This is followed by another healthy-sized arc teaming Spidey with Iron Man and Dr. Strange across MTU 48-51 (Aug.-Nov. 1976). Jean DeWolff and the Wraith are introduced in this arc, another story that holds fond memories for me.

Spidey then teams with the X-Men in the first MTU Annual, which then leads into another multipart story with the Hulk and Woodgod in issues 53-54 (Jan.-Feb. 1977) and then Adam Warlock in Marvel Team-Up #55 (Mar. 1977). That’s practically near-continuous action for about a year and a half.

Chris Claremont begins as writer with Marvel Team-Up #57 (May 1977), a team-up with the Black Widow against the Silver Samurai. John Byrne joins Claremont on the title with MTU #59 (Jul. 1977), beginning an iconic run together that would last about a year, through issue #70 (Jun. 1978). During this time, they had Spidey team with Yellowjacket & the Wasp, Human Torch, Ms. Marvel, Iron Fist, the Daughters of the Dragon, Captain Britain, Tigra, Man-Thing, Havok, and Thor. And they faced a myriad of menaces, from Equinox to the Super-Skrull to Arcade (in his comics debut) to D’Spayre to the Living Monolith.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man

The title that was created so Gerry Conway could return to writing Spider-Man without having to displace his friend Len from Amazing. As it turned out, Conway would only write the first two issues and plot the third (leaving Jim Shooter to script) before leaving as Marvel’s editor in chief and jumping back to DC.

Conway’s public justification for this new Spidey title (as he wrote in the lettercol space in the first issue) was that with shrinking page counts, this extra title would allow Spidey and all his supporting cast the proper room to “live, breathe, and develop.” His plan was that character development and subplots would “overlap” between this new title and ASM, “moving back and forth in a carefully structured ballet (we hope) that will bring you more story than you could possibly have in one monthly magazine.” Conway would not achieve the two-title continuity he had hoped for here, but would succeed with it in Batman and Detective Comics over at DC about five years later.

I purchased Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #1 (Dec. 1976) off the racks at the Smoke Shop in September of ’76. Honestly, as I preferred Sal Buscema’s art over Ross Andru’s at the time, I probably preferred this title to Amazing back then. Conway starts out with one of his original villains, the Tarantula, then brings in Kraven for the second issue (Jan. 1977), then the all-new villain, Lightmaster, in issue #3 (Feb. 1977).

The fourth issue began Archie Goodwin’s brief run writing the title from issues #4 through #8 (with a reprint sandwiched into the sixth issue). Goodwin continued the mix of classic and new stuff, with stories featuring the Vulture and Morbius, as well as the Hitman and the Empathoid. I really enjoy Goodwin’s writing and wish he had a longer run writing Spider-Man, but he had to take over as editor in chief. Grateful for the four issues we got out of him, at least.

Bill Mantlo arrived with issue #9 (Aug. 1977) and brought the White Tiger with him (from the pages of the B&W magazine, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu). The Tiger/Hector Ayala would be a series regular going forward, without him ever appearing in Amazing. This really increased the feeling that these two Spidey titles each existed in their own separate worlds, killing the “overlap” that Conway originally hoped for.

As mentioned on this blog before, I find Mantlo’s work spotty at best—while he does come up with good ideas at times, I don’t find him to be a great natural writer, and I feel he’s better when he’s doing something new and original, as opposed to working on established characters and concepts. The White Tiger is a good example of the former. After introducing him to PPTSSM in a two-parter across the ninth and tenth issues, Mantlo began a mini-arc from issues 12-15 (Nov. 1977-Feb. 1978) that gave us Brother Power and Sister Sun, a new Hate-Monger (that turned out to be the Man-Beast) and an all-new superhero named Razorback.

Razorback was a superhero created (at least in part) to capitalize on the CB radio fad and, while remembered derisively today, I really liked him as a kid. To be embarrassingly honest, the child-me was actually hoping he’d be popping up regularly in the pages of PPTSSM after this first appearance. I was into CB radio via my cousin, who happened to live on the first floor of my home at the time, so this added to his appeal. (Fun Fact: when I went on my cousin’s CB, my “handle” was “Spider-Man.”) I even liked the character design, which most today would characterize as stupid or goofy. Sadly (or perhaps not so sadly), the only time Razorback would be seen again was in a joke story in the pages of She-Hulk.

On the supporting cast side of things, this mini-arc also brought Flash and Sha Shan together as a romantic couple. Another very positive development for the Spider-Man cast—and a testament, I feel, to how far our society had evolved (by that point, anyway; I’m less sure about the present day), as the interracial aspect of the relationship was never remotely controversial.

Mantlo closed out this time frame with a two-part story that wrapped up some Champions business that had been left unfinished when that title had been suddenly cancelled. These issues, #’s 17-18 (Apr.-May 1978), featured the Angel and Iceman as guest stars.

Spidey Super Stories

The material in Spidey Super Stories is outside continuity, but let’s do a brief check-in, just for fun. This comic always had stories with guest stars and during this time there were several interesting ones, among them Lockjaw, the Silver Surfer, and Kid Colt, Outlaw(!). There were also a whole lot of female guest stars, like Storm, Ms. Marvel, Medusa, Thundra, and Spider-Woman.

Also of note: all of my favorite issues of Spidey Super Stories were published during this timeframe. As noted in my Spidey Super Stories post from a few years back, these issues included:

  • “The Amazing Shrinking Spidey” from issue #23 (Jun. 1977).
  • Web-Man, evil double with the colors-reversed costume design, from issue #25 (Aug. 1977).
  • And, of course, the classic “Star Jaws” from Spidey Super Stories #31 (Feb. 1978).



. . . Alrighty, that should put a bow on this era. Next time (whenever that ends up being), it will be Marv Wolfman’s turn. Hope to see you then.

2 thoughts on “When Spidey Jumped the Shark, Pt. 4: The Len Wein Era”

  1. I gotta be honest, as a kid Confrontation was prob my fave issue of the run because I thought Pete’s way out of it was so clever. Maybe that’s why I make a living now as a Photoshop jockey.

    1. As a kid without continuity concerns, it didn’t bother me as much. I was also going to point out how modern photoshoppers would have gotten a kick out of this too, but decided not remind most of us how ancient we are now in 2023.

      Btw, I hadn’t realized when I scheduled this post that it would be the day after Len Wein’s birthday (he would have been 75). Happy Birthday in heaven, Len.

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