As a super hero, Spider-Man never got any respect.
From the beginning of his costumed career, Spider-Man was often misunderstood. Perhaps because of his early days as a professional wrestler, he was often dismissed as being an immature attention seeker. Unfortunately, when you combine that with Peter Parker’s legendary lack of luck, bad things are going to happen. Especially during the early run of Amazing Spider-Man, being close to Peter Parker meant that there was a good chance that you would end up dead and Spider-Man would somehow be blamed for your death. Leading the charge would always be J. Jonah Jameson, the bombastic editor of The Daily Bugle.
At the start of Amazing Spider-Man #124, Spider-Man is again finding himself being blamed for two deaths. This time, though, it’s personal. Spider-Man is still coming to grips with the death of his first love, Gwen Stacy. Meanwhile, both the police and Jameson suspect that Spider-Man is also to blame for the death of businessman Norman Osborne. (What they didn’t know, however, was that Norman had actually been terrorizing the city as the Green Goblin and, as was revealed decades later, Norman wasn’t really dead.) While Peter Parker struggles to get back into rhythm of everyday life, Jameson demands that Spider-Man be brought to justice.
However, Jonah has a bigger problem to worry about. His son, John, has returned home. John is an astronaut and, up until this issue, was always portrayed as being everything that Peter wasn’t. While Peter was struggling to pay the bills and keep Aunt May from being evicted, John was going to the moon and returning a national hero. John, however, has brought back something from his mission. The moon rock that John wears around his neck as a necklace causes John to turn into the Man-Wolf, a werewolf who is full of rage at John’s father, J. Jonah Jameson. Can Spider-Man save the man who has dedicated his life to making him miserable?
Spider-Man always had a rich and well-drawn supporting cast, with characters like Mary Jane Watson, Flash Thompson, Liz Allan, and Harry Osborne becoming almost as well-known as the webslinger himself. No character, though, was as beloved and hated as J. Jonah Jameson. For all of his bluster, Jonah was frequently portrayed as being not evil but misguided. He may have been too stubborn to admit that Spider-Man was not a menace but Jonah was often portrayed as having his own brand of integrity. Usually, he tried to do the right thing. The Man-Wolf saga put Jonah’s integrity to the test. After years of accusing every super hero in New York of being a menace, how would Jonah react when the menace was his own son?
These two issues also provide a turning point in Spider-Man’s character. Despite being haunted by Gwen’s death, Peter realizes that he cannot shut himself off from the world. And, despite his justifiable anger at Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man still saves his life and protects his son because he know that’s what a hero does.
This saga ends with John Jameson temporarily cured and freed of the curse. Of course, it wouldn’t last. Man-Wolf would return, sometimes as a hero and sometimes as a menace. And Spider-Man would be there to meet him.
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #124 (September, 1973)
“The Mark of the Man-Wolf”
Inker:John Romita Sr., Tony Mortellaro
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #125 (October, 1973)
“The Man-Wolf Strikes Again”
Inker:Tony Mortellaro, John Romita Sr.
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