Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Writer: Stan Lee (ASM#275), Charles Vess (ASM#277), Tom DeFalco (ASM#275-285), Peter David (ASM#278 & 289), Jo Duffy (ASM#278), David Michelinie & Len Kaminski (WOSM#24), James C Owsley (ASM#284-288, SMVW#1, WOSM#29-30)
Art: S Ditko (ASM#275), Charles Vess (ASM#277), Alan Kupperburg (ASM#289), Tom Morgan (ASM#289)
Storytelling: Ron Frenz (ASM#284)
Layouts: Ron Frenz (ASM#280-281)
Penciler: Ron Frenz (ASM#275-277 & 283), Mike Harris (ASM#278), Rick Leonardi (ASM#279 & 282), Brett Breeding (ASM#280-281 & 284), Del Barras (WOSM#24), Alan Kupperberg (ASM#285-286 & 288), Erik Larsen (ASM#287), Mark Bright (SMVW#1), Steve Geiger (WOSM#29-30)
Finished Art: Josef Rubinstein (ASM#275), Brett Breeding (ASM#276), Bob Layton (ASM#283)
Inks: Bob Layton (ASM#277 & 282), Vince Colletta (ASM#278-279 & WOSM#24), Brett Breeding (ASM#280-281), Josef Rubinstein (ASM#284), Jim Fern (ASM#285-286 & 288-289, WOSM#30), Art Nichols (ASM#286-287, WOSM#29), Al Williamson (SMVW#1), Abel (WOSM#30), Baker (WOSM#30), Steve Geiger (WOSM#30), Williams (WOSM#30)
Letterer: Joe Rosen (ASM#275-283) & Co. (ASM#283), Rick Parker (ASM#277-278, 284-289 & WOSM#24, 29-30), Bill Oakley (SMVW#1)
Colorist: Nelson Yomtov (ASM#275 & 281-282), Andy Yanchus (ASM#275), D Martin (ASM#276), Bob Sharen (ASM#277, 279 & 283-286, WOSM#24, 29), Elaine Lee (ASM#277), Julianna Ferriter (ASM#278 & 287), Paul J Becton (ASM#280), George Roussos (ASM#288-289, WOSM#30), Petra Scotese (SMVW#1)
Editor: James C Owsley (ASM#275-283), Jim Salicrup (WOSM#24 & 29-30, ASM#284-289), Ann Nocenti (SMVW#1)
Editor In Chief: Jim Shooter

Comicbooks just don't get any better than this.

These 19 issues chronicle the final act in the Hobgoblin saga. Well, I should actually say this Hobgoblin saga, as there have since been several others. (Hobgoblins) (and sagas)

And saga is definitely the word. Tom DeFalco's sprawling multi-year epic stretched the mystery of just whose face lay hidden behind the Halloween mask to such unrivalled extremes, that the letters pages of the day were never short of a several candidates. Was he really Lance Bannon? Or was he in fact Flash Thompson? Or Ned Leeds? Yes, he was Flash Thompson.

Well, no actually he wasn't, but that widespread belief is the thread that runs through all these instalments, along with Parker's decision to quit being Spider-Man just as soon as he's finished establishing Flash's innocence.

Those Marvellers, they clearly enjoyed all this conjuring of red herrings, probably as much as we enjoyed all the teasing. It seemed to slip by quietly unnoticed that the Rose's identity also remained a closely-guarded secret.

Ah, yes, the Rose - now he did have an effective disguise. Whereas most supertypes save the glasses for their human identity, he would mould-breakingly wear them over the top of his supervillain outfit.

Anyway, perhaps the best aspect of all these hints, implications and careful equivocation was that, in the end, the writers eventually did reveal all, along with the complex backstories that had been woven for so long.

And they managed to achieve all this, despite the tiny accident of losing the writer who'd masterminded it all.

Some curiosities to note…

Amazing Spider-Man #275 includes a complete reprint of the very first 11-page Spider-Man story from Amazing Fantasy #15, by way of a lengthy flashback that Peter relates to Mary Jane. There's also a splash panel on page 30 that quite prominently features Ron Frenz, Jim Owsley, Joe Rubinstein and Tom DeFalco!

Amazing Spider-Man #276 sees the Hobgoblin finally unmasked as Flash Thompson. This plot-development is milked for all it's worth, with even Ron Frenz's art investing a whole half-page on this startling moment of revelation, even though it's also revealed by the end of the issue that Thompson has in fact been set-up.

Amazing Spider-Man #277 goes nowhere and is only half an issue long. The second half segues into a completely different tone for the snowy Cry Of The Wendigo by Charles Vess and Elaine Lee, neither of whom I think I have ever heard of again. Parker even has red hair! A great sojourn.

Amazing Spider-Man #279 doesn’t feature Spider-Man, but then, neither did any of the other regular Spider-titles that month. Part of the 'Missing In Action' ploy, and a good opportunity to prove how strong the supporting characters were. In this case we get an issue of Silver Sable comic.

Web Of Spider-Man #24 doesn't really contribute to the Hobgoblin storyline at all, but his and the Rose's brief appearance in this toward the end, along with their references to current events, earn this issue a place in the arc.

Amazing Spider-Man #284-288 compose the incredible five-part story Gang War (only really called that on the covers), which also marks the departure of Tom DeFalco as scripter. Jim Owsley scripts over Tom's plot, with the result that the title's high-quality is never in any doubt.

Often when a genius creator leaves an ongoing series, their successor writes too much in reaction to their work and consequently fails to accomplish the same level of originality, but not so here. These issues are, in my opinion, Amazing Spider-Man's finest hours for so many reasons, as New York's cocktail of crime factions repeatedly engage each other with more strategic combinations than a Rubik's cube.

There are so many strong characters and outstanding moments in here, but my top one has to be Peter Parker losing his temper with Daredevil's alter ego Matt Murdoch in a cab, and having to be wrenched off of him by the driver for beating up a blind man!

Yes, tensions were running high.

By the way, from the same page…

How cool is this for… 1987?!?

Spider-Man Versus Wolverine #1 is one of the most pivotal publications of the era, featuring as it does the death of Ned Leeds. In fact, it even spawned its own What If riff 21 years later.

However, the original was the one comic that I missed buying from this run, as I don't think it was generally available in the UK. Consequently, when reading these issues recently, I had to just skip it, and it really noticed.

Later however I finally received a copy for my birthday and… it's rubbish! Ned's death is so brief and the tone throughout so slow that it's hard to believe this is written by the same guy who I've just typed so glowingly about above. Not really worth the 64 page-count, although the colour looks gorgeous. I'm still none the wiser as to what the actual story has to do with Ned's death. My fault, probably.

Amazing Spider-Man #289 sees Peter David take over the writing with The Hobgoblin Revealed! - a story that actually delivers on this long-awaited promise! David had more than proved his credentials with his mixture of darkness and humour in the pages of recent editions of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man.

As a result, his build-up to such an enormous reveal, together with Alan Kupperberg, Tom Morgan and Jim Fern's stunning artwork, makes the splash panel on page 22 the most stark and horrifying one I've ever seen. They worked up to this moment for years, and when it finally came, it actually delivered on all that anticipation! Fantastic!

Pane 24 panel 4 is awesome too, along with a highly satisfying resolution to Pete's vocational crisis by Flash.

But it doesn't stop there. Web Of Spider-Man #29 sees James C Owsley relating the same cataclysmic events from alternative perspectives. Thanks to the Marvel Chronology Project, I read these pages and panels in chronological order, and it all fits together so well that I've little idea now which events took place in which issue. Several scenes occur in both titles, but the respective artists were smart enough to liaise and ensure general consistency, giving the impression of observing events through multiple hidden cameras.

Finally, in Web Of Spider-Man #30, James Owsley plunges back to the beginning of both the Hobgoblin's and the Rose's stories, recapping the last few years without their masks on, and proving that, would you believe, the whole tangled saga actually did hold together and make sense.

Well, I assume it did. I don't have all the early issues, and I've enjoyed this closing act so much that I just can't be bothered going back looking for continuity errors. You may burst my bubble if you like, but I've sure no wish to do it myself.

They called the main title Amazing Spider-Man, and in my opinion that opening adjective was certainly qualified by this run.

No wonder that, 25 years later, I've been hooked back into reading them again.


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