SPOTLIGHT ON

SPIDER-MAN IN
MARVEL TEAM-UP #27
(NOVEMBER 1974)

 

 
 

"A Friend In Need!"
(18 pages)

Story - Len Wein
Art - Jim Mooney
Inks - Frank Giacoia
Colours - Glynis Wein
Lettering - John Costanza
Editor - Roy Thomas

Cover pencils - Jim Starlin
Cover inks -
Jim Starlin

 

 

SYNOPSIS
! SPOILER ALERT !

Pretending to be Spider-Man, the master-of-disguises super-villain Chameleon attempts to break a friend out of prison, but while he suceeds in having the guards and police officers believe it is actually Spidey they're shooting at, he fails to achieve his actual goal and flees the scene. When news about the attempted break in at the prison gets to Peter Parker, he is understandably baffled, knowing an impostor had to have been at work, and then decides to investigate the matter using his press credentials.

When he arrives at the prison facility, he finds J. Jonah Jameson and "Daily Bugle" journalist Ned Leeds already on the scene to cover the story, and is told by Jameson to make sure he gets some good pictures.

Meanwhile, the Hulk is in the city too - and feeling rather negative about everything (especially "puny humans") after a fallout with his fellow Defenders, Doctor Strange and Nighthawk. When he crashes into the Chameleon's get-away car, the Chameleon quickly puts on a Rick Jones disguise, hoping to trick the Hulk into breaking out his friend from prison for him, believing that the Chameleon is his friend Rick Jones. The ruse works, and the Hulk stomps to the prison and begins breaking in...

Meanwhile, at that very facility, Peter manages to slip away and change into Spider-Man in order to attempt to stop the Hulk.

 
 
Somewhat unsurprisingly, though, the Hulk proves to be rather a tad too strong for the friendly neighbourhood webslinger and thus succeeds in his appointed task. Spider-Man is at least able to follow the Hulk, and when the green giant meets up with the Chameleon, we learn that the man just freed from prison is Joe Cord, who saved the Chameleon's life when they were both kids.
 

  Spidey seizes the opportunity afforded him by the general distraction of the emotional reunion of the two old friends, leaps in, and reveals his old foe's true identity by pulling off his disguise mask.

This dénouement is not only startling to the Hulk but also hugely disappointing as he comes to the realization that he was being used by someone who was pretending to be his friend. But as ole Greenskin starts to attack the Chameleon, Spider-Man fights him off - after all, he still needs to prove that an impostor was at work (who gave himself away by still wearing the fake Spider-Man costume underneath his trenchcoat with the pants showing).

When the Chameleon tries to escape, Spider-Man stops his getaway car with a giant web net. In the ensuing chaos, a police officer accidentally shoots Joe who throws himself in front of the Chameleon, thus taking the bullet.

 
After this tragic turn of events, the Chameleon turns himself over to the police, and the Hulk and Spider-Man leave the scene - the Hulk to rejoin his fellow Defenders, and Spider-Man after leaving the ever-babbling J. Jonah Jameson with a web-gag parting gift.
 
 

REVIEW & ANALYSIS

 
By 1972, Spider-Man was Marvel's signature super-hero, but in spite of his popularity and ability to generate consistently high and rising sales both of his own title Amazing Spider-Man and on the merchandise front, he still only appeared as starring character in one title. After the short-lived Spectacular Spider-Man magazine in 1968 (which had only seen two issues, the first of which was all black & white), Marvel had tossed the idea of a second Spidey title back and forth without any concrete results, but things were finally about to change for 1972.
 
The March 1972 cover date production cycle Bullpen Bulletin announced the new title (albeit with a wrong plural form) as its second bulletpoint ITEM!, right after informing readers about an article on Marvel Comics in the September 16th issue of the Rolling Stone.

"For those myriad minons who've been crying for more of the ever-amazing Spider-Man, we're introducing a brand-new mag called MARVEL TEAM-UPS, which co-stars the ol' wall-crawler and none other than the Human Torch - and we're kicking off the series with an offbeat Christmas mini-saga, to boot!" (Marvel Comics, Bullpen Bulletin, March 1972)

Marvel Team-Up #1 went on sale December 21st 1971 (hence the Christmas themed story), and the title was an instant success. However, while Spider-Man was hugely popular, the Human Torch definitely was less so, leading to a change in concept.

Rather than having two permanent headliners on the series the Human Torch was dropped in favour of a rotating slot for (sometimes even non-superhero) "guest stars" alongside Spider-Man (of the 150 issues published between March 1972 and February 1985, only 11 did not feature Spidey).

 


Marvel Team-Up
#1
(March 1972)

 
As a result, the series became highly formulaic, featuring a string of unconnected and done-in-one-issue stories.

"Either Spider-Man or that issue's guest-star would encounter a menace and then by sheer chance cross paths with another hero who would lend a hand. The title's guest-stars were an equal mix of A-list characters whose presence was likely to increase sales and fledgling heroes being given exposure in the hopes of launching them into stardom but who for the most part continued to languish in obscurity." (Miller, 2010)

 
In that respect, Marvel Team-Up #27 is a typical example of the series, although one of the stronger ones as Len Wein's bringing together of Spider-Man and the Hulk by way of the Chameleon never feels too forced and doesn't require any deus ex machina type of improbale constellation to inexplicably drop from the skies.
 

  Choosing the Cameleon as villain was another good move by Wein, and if you ever wondered just how on earth this guy makes his disguises and elaborate costuming work the way they do, you are given some behind the scenes glimpses here (think hands and feet suction cups and web-shooting gun). His potential ability to turn into virtually anybody adds a lot of interest to the plot, too - although whipping out a Rick Jones mask with zero preparation time seems rather stretching it.

And as a bonus (as editor Roy Thomas is quick to point out) this is, of course, Spidey's first ever costumed villain, from way back in Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963).

 
An original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko creation, the Cameleon was originally only revealed to be a nameless Soviet agent using a "multi-pocket disguise vest" in Amazing Spider-Man #1, but over the years his personality and biography have seen a lot of refinement, including a much later retcon making him the half-brother of Kraven the Hunter (who played an essential part in the Chameleon's second appearance, in Amazing Spider-Man #15 in August 1964). In a nod to the original Lee and Ditko narrative, Wein has the Chameleon once again impersonate Spidey - just as he did way back in the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man.

But Len Wein's handling of the plot and the characters according to established Spider-Man lore didn't stop there.

 
The storytelling fashion surrounding Spider-Man has always been known for its humour, originally injected, of course, by the wordsmith supreme himself, Stan Lee. He infused his jazzy narrative with his freewheeling and, at times, quirky puns and jokes right off the bat, starting out with his famous introduction page in Amazing Fantasy #15:

"Confidentially, we in the comic mag business refer to [superheroes] as ‘long underwear characters’! And, as you know, they’re a dime a dozen! But, we think you may find our Spiderman just a bit … different!"

 

 
Len Wein (1948 - 2017) was only 26 when he penned this tale for Marvel Team-Up #27, but he had a seasoned knowledge of what Marvel Comics - and especially Spider-Man - was all about, and he knew what comic relief could do for a superhero yarn and how to apply it to make it work. In a wonderfully direct link to Stan Lee's tongue-in-cheek "long underwear characters", Wein has Peter Parker ease up the storyline with self-irony as he muses about what "super-types would do without convenient darkened alleyways" in order to switch between their identities. It's the Marvel way of involving the reader by having the main character point out a cliché and turn it into a witty punchline.
 

  This feel for what was needed in order to make a Spider-Man story a really good Spidey yarn stemmed from Len Wein's background. Together with Marv Wolfman - whom he had met and become friends with at the age of 11 (Wolfman, 2003) - he belonged to the group of comic book fans who turned comic book creators in the late 1960s and early 1970s, bringing to the table not only a deep enthusiasm for comics but also a profound understanding of what made them tick, and tick well.

"I write my stories for me and hope that other people will like them as well (...) The majority of stories I've written over the years came to me as I went along. I've always thought of myself as an organic writer, rather than a cerebral one. I feel my way along as I go." (Len Wein in Wolfman, 2003)

"Daily Bugle" owner J. Jonah Jameson is comic relief poured into a character, and Wein makes good use of him too, slipping in a joke on JJJ mid-way through the story and right at the end.

 
Naturally, the Hulk's somewhat limited intellectual capacities are also always good for a laugh or two, and while Len Wein didn't miss out on that one either, he did it not in a mean and condescending way but rather with an endearing twist of amusement - after all, there is some logic in the Hulk's own reasoning when asked by what he feels to be his only friend to help that person's friend - who surely then must be the Hulk: So you want Hulk to help Hulk?

I am all but certain that I would have loved Marvel Team-Up #27 as a young teenager - after all, Spider-Man fighting the Hulk, how cool is that. Today, from an adult fan reader's perspective, the story will never rank as a classic, but it remains highly readable, thanks to Len Wein keeping the plot flowing and interest high (while safely steering away from some of the 1970s comic book silliness), all through those 18 pages of a done-in-one story.

Of course, there's also an almost philosophical angle to the story, a true forte of Len Wein. In this case, the title really does tell readers what this stoyr is about: friendship in time of need, and the sacrifices true friends will make.

 

 
Wein would often inject some humanistic perspective into his stories, writing tales which, underneath the surface of a superhero yarn, were all about the good in humans and the empathy which brings out the best in us (another outstanding example of this is his story "Heaven" in Detective Comics #514).
 

  Back on the more conventional side of things, Marvel Comic's fans of the 1960s and 1970s loved their editorial memory refreshers, and Wein gave Roy Thomas plenty of opportunity for those too (although he failed to point out that the police call Spider-Man a "web-slinging killer" on the splash page because, at the time of this story, Spider-Man was wanted for questioning for his involvement in the deaths of both George Stacy (Amazing Spider-Man #90), his daughter Gwen (Amazing Spider-Man #131 as well as the apparent demise of Norman Osborn (Amazing Spider-Man #132).

Maybe that was just too much to fit into an editorial box inside a panel.

 

"For most of the super-hero yarns (...) I try to keep a stack of all the villain's previous appearances." (Len Wein in Wolfman, 2003)

The Hulk isn't really the villain here, but it still works: the Marvel Style applied with perfection - which always takes two: a writer and an artist, and Marvel Team-Up #27 works so well because the classic storytelling was accompanied by classic artwork.

 

 
Jim Mooney (1919-2008) began his career in the 1930s Californian science fiction pulp magazine scene. Following art school in Los Angeles he returned to his native New York City in 1940 and began his career as a comic book artist, starting out at the Eisner-Iger shop, drawing features for Ace and Fox Publications. Not long after, Mooney turned freelance and did work ranging from funny animal features at Timely for Stan Lee (the beginning of a long-standing friendship) to a Catholic comic book called Treasure Chest. In 1946, Jim Mooney found his professional home at DC Comics, where he would be staying for the next 22 years, starting out on Batman as a ghost artist for credited artist Bob Kane. He went on to work on many of DCs top-selling characters, including Batman, Superboy and Supergirl (possibly his best known work for DC, the back-up feature in Action Comics from 1959 to 1968), as well as on titles such as Dial H for Hero, House of Mystery and Tales of the Unexpected. During that period Mooney moved back to LA - and also ran an antiquarian book store on the side (Evanier, 2008).
 
In 1968, Mooney made two moves in his life: from LA back to NYC, and from DC to Marvel.

"I went before they could kick me out. They were getting into the illustrative type of art then, primarily Neal Adams, and they wanted to go in that direction. Towards the end there I picked up on it and I think my later Supergirl was quite illustrative, but not quite what they wanted. I knew the handwriting was on the wall, so I was looking around and (...) went over to Marvel and I talked to Stan. The reason I hadn't worked at Marvel for all those years was because they didn't pay as well as DC. I couldn't afford to do a page for I think at that time was $30 when I was getting closer to $50 at DC (...) but later on, when this happened, the rates were getting a little closer to DC (...) When I went over there I just picked the right time I guess. John Romita was getting swamped trying to turn out all the Spider-Man material. [Stan] wanted me to take a shot at Spider-Man, finalising it over John's layouts. I said great, wonderful, and that was the story." (Adelaide, 2004)

 
 
Mooney would go on to ink a lengthy run of Amazing Spider-Man (#65, 67-88) from October 1968 through September 1970, but in reality it was more than that. Given the enormous Spidey output demanded from Romita, Mooney would also tighten up the pencilwork before inking, so that in many cases it was Mooney's work over Romita layouts (Knowles, 2000).
 


Amazing Spider-Man #84
(May 1970)
Cover signed by John Romita and Jim Mooney (although the cover, quite unlike the interior artwork, is all Romita)

 

This provided him with a hands-on initiation to the Romita Spider-Man style.

"John [Romita] was one of the nicest guys I ever worked with in comics because he could tell you what he wanted without putting you down. He could give you what I would truly call constructive criticism. We worked together very well and I thought it was a very compatible relationship." (Adelaide, 2004)

This working arrangement continued even when John Buscema took over Amazing Spider-Man for a few issues (#78-81), with Jim Mooney still working from layouts and finishing up the artwork. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when Mooney started doing his very own Spider-Man pencils for the first time - on both the cover and interior artwork of Marvel Team-Up #8 (April 1973) - his renderings instantly had the "classic Spider-Man" look.

"Marvel (...) needed someone who could get the right look on Spider-Man, and that's what Mooney wound up doing primarily for the next few years." (Evanier, 2008)

From there on, Mooney's pencilling work for Marvel included a wide range of titles and characters, including further issues of Marvel Team-Up as well as Crypt of Shadows, Sub-Mariner, Ghost Rider, Dead of Night, Journey Into Mystery (vol. 2), Uncanny Tales, Marvel Spotlight (Son of Satan), Vault of Evil, My Love, Weird Wonder Tales, Chamber of Chills, Fear, Man-Thing, Son of Satan, Defenders, Omega the Unknown, Daredevil, Ms Marvel, Invaders, Inhumans, Godzilla, Spectacular Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Avengers - and all of this between 1973 and 1979.

 
The variety and diversity of work handed to Mooney made him "one of the most prolific artists to ever draw comic books" (Evanier, 2008) and speaks not only of his availability (he had a fixed contract with Marvel) but also of his versatility.

Jim Mooney's artwork, especially on Spidey, was the classic, clear and neat approach which everybody loved and wanted and was drawn to (no matter whether you were introduced to the webcrawler through the works of Romita or hopped onto the Marvel band waggon at a later point of the Bronze Age). Marvel Team-Up #27 is a good case in point.

 


Original artwork by Jim Mooney (pencils) and Frank Giacoia (inks) for the final page of Marvel Team-Up #27 (scanned from the original)
and the same page as it appeared in print

 
Mooney settled in Florida in 1975, retired in 1985 (but continued to do freelance work both for Marvel, DC and independent publishers), and passed away in 2008.
 
 

FACTS & TRIVIA

 
The letters page (actually two of them, sharing the space with an in-house ad for Deadly Hands of Kung Fu) was almost entirely dedicated to replies from readers pouring in after Marvel had published a letter in Marvel Team-Up #23 which called for the abolishing of the Comics Code and a liberalisation of standards in Marvel's comics with regard to sex, nudity, violence and - the use of Zombies not just in the black and white magazines but also the colour comic books.

The vast majority of the numerous short statements from readers echoed the sentiment that while nobody thought censorship was a good thing, Marvel should refrain from adding sex and violence simply for their own sake and that of sensationalism (a feeling taken up by the overall editorial comment). Zombies, on the other hand, were given a pass pretty much by everyone - but then banning the walking dead from comic books was, of course, a true oddity of the Comics Code.

 


 
Marvel Team-Up #27 is cover-dated for the November 1974 production cycle but actually went on sale August 27th 1974. It was also available as a UK pence price variant and was published later as part of several foreign market and language editions, with the original cover used in Italy, Australia and Mexico (the latter displaying a mirror image).
 


Marvel Team-Up #27
(November 1974)
UK,
Pence Price Variant

 


L'Uomo Ragno #166
(June 1971)
Italy, Editoriale Corno

 


Marvel Team-Up #9
(March 1973)
Australia,

 


El Asombroso Hombre Arana #21
(June 1973)
Mexico,

 


Mighty World of Marvel #44
(August 1973)
Marvel UK, Cover Jim Starlin

  The Jim Starlin cover for Marvel Team-Up #27 bears a strong resemblance to another Starlin cover, namely that of The Mighty World of Marvel #44.

The Mighty World of Marvel was the flagship title of Marvel UK, the House of Idea's publishing channel for Great Britain. Reprinting classic material in black and white, MWOM was published weekly (as was the norm for UK comics in the 1970s), creating a pronounced need for covers. Jim Starlin was at hand in the US and ended up providing pencils and inks for quite a number of UK Marvel covers. Whether he was inspired to repeat his previous work and reuse the composition and the stance of the Hulk for the cover of Marvel Team-Up #27 or whether he simply more or less did a swipe of his own work to cut corners is anybody's guess or opinion.

"A Friend in Need!" was reprinted in 1980 in Marvel Treasury Edition #27 and collected in black and white in the Marvel Essential Team-Up edition vol. 1 (2006). More recently, the story has been made available again, this time in bright colours and on glossy pape,r in the hardcover Marvel Masterworks Marvel Team-Up vol. 2, published in early 2018.

The story itself has also been reprinted for international markets multiple times, showing the global popularity of both Spider-Man and the Hulk. In 1979, Editions Lug published a French version (in Aventure de l'Araignée #6) and Atlantic Forlag a Norwegian one (in Edderkoppen pocket #2); readers in Mexico were able to read it in 1980 in El Asombroso Hombre Araña #21 by publisher Novedades, and a German language version for Germany, Switzerland and Austria was published in 1985 in Die Spinne Extra #3 by Condor.

 
 


 
BIBLIOGRAPHY

ADELAIDE Comics and Books (2004) "Jim Mooney", published online March 2004 (now archived)

EVANIER Mark (2008) "Jim Mooney, R.I.P.", in News From Me (Mark Evanier's Blog), 31 March 2008

KNOWLES Chris (2000) "Jim Mooney over Marvel", in Comic Book Artist #7

MILLER Jonathan (2010) " Spider-Man and Company: The Wide World of Marvel Team-Up", in Back Issue #44, TwoMorrows

WOLFMAN Marv (2003) "Speaking with... Len Wein", in Comics Bulletin (30 March 2003)

 
 

The illustrations presented here are copyright material.
Their reproduction for the review and research purposes of this website is considered fair use
as set out by the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. par. 107.


(c) 2020

 

uploaded to the web 3 April 2020