Spectacular Spider-Man #165-167
Issue(s): Spectacular Spider-Man #165, Spectacular Spider-Man #166, Spectacular Spider-Man #167
These issues feature the death of the Arranger. In the immediate sense, it's a pretty ignoble death for a viable supporting character; he is killed by a couple of new goofball villains called Fogg and Knight. But in a longer term sense, this is part of some long term plotting that Gerry Conway has been doing. The Arranger failed the Kingpin in a way that resulted in a three way gang war between the Kingpin, the Lobo Brothers, and Hammerhead & Chameleon, and it ended with Hammerhead and Chameleon carving out a piece of New York's crime scene for themselves. Since then the Arranger has been nervously waiting for the axe to drop, and it finally happens in these issues.
The Arranger's failure was pretty minor, in my opinion. He failed to stop Spider-Man from stopping a brainwashed Punisher from killing the Lobos. The Kingpin himself has failed to stop Spider-Man on several occasions. So i think the Kingpin is being unfair. But that's entirely in character for the Kingpin.
What is a little weirder is that the Kingpin feels the need to hire two super-powered assassins to kill the Arranger, especially compared to him just straight up crushing the head of one of his underlings in Daredevil #290. But Fogg and Knight's instructions do include being prepared for Spider-Man, so perhaps the Kingpin knew that the Arranger was reaching out to Spider-Man for help and planning accordingly.
In fact, this issue starts with the Arranger appealing to Spider-Man for help again. But after the Arranger tried to betray him last issue by sending the Beetle after him, Spider-Man has had enough and refuses to listen. He'll regret that later, of course.
First he and Mary Jane go to a dinner hosted by J. Jonah Jameson, and they are surprised to find that Joe and Martha Robinson are there as well. Joe is still not speaking to Peter due to the photo that Peter faked. Peter tries to confront him on it (Peter says that Joe's unforgiving nature is "great ethics, coming from an ex-con". Nice.), but then he's interrupted when the Arranger calls Peter asking for help from Spider-Man again. This is after the Arranger tried calling Hammerhead, Chameleon, and police detective Frank Farrow, all of whom either no longer wanted him or told him to wait until morning.
Peter leaves the party but by the time he shows up at the Arranger's office, he's dead.
Now for our villains, Fogg and Knight.
Fogg is the more violent of the two. Knight is more willing to leave Spider-Man alone since they've already performed their assignment. But Spider-Man doesn't let up anyway, so they wind up fighting.
Spider-Man thinks Knight's sword must be made of adamantium. He'll later think the same of Knight's armor as well. Aside from Spider-Man thinking it, there's no direct evidence that it's true.
Fogg is able to choke Spider-Man without Spidey being able to fight back, but Knight convinces him that they have to leave when the police show up. The two head back to England.
Spider-Man then listens in on the Kingpin, thanking someone on the other end for sending the super-assassins and offering to return the favor one day. We don't find out who he's talking to.
Feeling guilty about not listening to the Arranger, Spider-Man decides to go to England to bring the Arranger's killers to justice. He hits up Puma for the plane tickets.
I love the billboards that Puma is putting out. That Wonderful Webster!
Spider-Man says that paying for his plane fare would end the debt between them. Puma disagrees but still pays for the tickets. After Spider-Man leaves, Puma thinks to himself that it wouldn't be so bad if Spider-Man died so that he could then pay off the debt posthumously.
We next get to look in on a meeting of the Maggia. Chameleon is making the claim that the Kingpin is losing his touch, evidenced by the fact that Spider-Man had to help him fend off a number of super-villain attacks recently.
During the meeting, one of the Kingpin's men tries to recruit Tombstone into their organization.
Tombstone refuses (violently) but Kingpin is heartened by the fact that Tombstone doesn't say what happened.
If the larger Maggia organization responds to Chameleon's charges against the Kingpin, we don't find out about it in these issues. But in #167, Kingpin hires Puma to take care of Chameleon and Hammerhead.
Kingpin sure is using a lot of outside help these days.
After Mary Jane sees Peter off at the airport, she bumps into a Jason Jerome, the actor that she saw on her first day of Secret Hospital.
He seems to be the guy that MJ was kissing in Amazing Spider-Man #327. Jerome invites her out to dinner, and has designs on her.
MJ does go on that date later, and they kiss.
Love that leering cabbie.
When Spider-Man gets to England, he helps out with a bank robbery and that gets him in good graces with someone from Scotland Yard, who gives him info on Fogg and Knight. Those are the characters' actual last names. Malcom Knight had a brother Leo. And both Knights were orphans adopted by Thomas Fogg's father, Edgar. Edgar also has a daughter, Evelyn Fogg, and we'll learn that she's got a crush on (Malcom) Knight. Fogg and Knight became criminals growing up and got their powers while on a job to kill a physicist doing particle theory work.
Spider-Man goes to Liverpool and gets in a fight with Fogg and Knight again. And they defeat him again, but this time are stopped by an appeal from Evelyn.
So instead of stabbing him, Knight just throws Spider-Man off a bridge. Peter is recovered by Leo Knight, but wakes up with amnesia. To protect his brother, Leo hides Peter's Spider-Man costume for him, but eventually gives it back when he realizes that Malcom is standing in the way of his love for Evelyn. What the hell kind of soap opera did you stumble into here, Spider-Man?!
Spider-Man gets his memory back and confronts Knight and Fogg again. But the villains' partnership is ruined when Fogg kills Knight's brother (don't worry, the brother turns out to be alive in the end). And then Spider-Man knocks them both out with an electric wire.
Really an uninteresting pair of lameo villains. Their names were clearly picked out of a hat of "things we associate with England". Their last names predicting their powers is too dumb for words. And i couldn't care less about their personal lives and romances.
A couple of people from England write in to the lettercols to (good-naturedly) complain about the depiction of Liverpool, saying that it looks like a 19th century fishing village and they kept expecting Sherlock Holmes to jump out of the fog. They also complain about the accents. This is a good opportunity for me to place this scan of the Butts Inn.
The arc ends with Mary Jane hoping that Peter will get home soon because she is "confused" over liking Jerome's kiss.
I don't really have good feelings about this plot, either. It kind of says to me that Marvel was already finding Peter and MJ's marriage to be restrictive and so they're looking for ways to insert drama into the book.
The focus on the New York villains helps keep this book interesting, though.
I don't know if this is interesting, but while Peter has amnesia and is demonstrating great strength, a boy working on Leo's boat feels Peter's arm but doesn't find it particularly muscular or anything.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Fogg apparently has one more appearance in Marvel Knights Spider-Man. Knight doesn't have any further appearances but i've listed him as a Character Appearing for consistency. This takes place before Web of Spider-Man #66-68.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showArranger, Chameleon, Fogg, Frank Farrow, Hammerhead, J. Jonah Jameson, Jason Jerome, Joe 'Robbie' Robertson, Kingpin, Knight, Marla Madison Jameson, Martha Robertson, Mary Jane Watson, Puma, Spider-Man, Tombstone
I enjoyed Conway's work on Web & Spectacular for the most part but this MJ/Jason stuff is strictly soap opera writing at its worst.
Posted by: Robert | June 23, 2015 2:17 PM
Chameleon's dig at the Kingpin during the Maggia meeting is the last act in the long war between the two. I guess Web #55 was technically the "climax" of their battle, but I still think it's odd that their heated feud just fizzles out at this point. Chameleon won't be seen again until the upcoming "Powerless" arc in Amazing SM, which makes me wonder if this gang war was somehow a part of his vendetta against Spider-Man for Kraven's death.
Posted by: TCP | June 23, 2015 2:31 PM
It amazes me that Conway could write great little stories like the retirement of the Grizzly in Web #58 and then fart out nonsense like "Knight and Fogg". Its almost like he's two different writers at times.
Knight and Fogg are too dumb for words. They'd be too dumb to be DC villains from the 1950s. They would make my worst villains list for sure (but so would about any villain created in the 90s)
They are gonna try to make Jason Jerome the bad guy, seducing a married woman, but the blame lies mostly with MJ. She's the one with the commitment. But at least MJ has a bit of a personality, unlike the walking pin-up in ASM at the time.
Posted by: kveto | June 23, 2015 3:39 PM
I thought Kingpin wasn't affiliated with the Maggia; at least that's what his OHOTMU profile states. Why would he be at this meeting at all?
Posted by: mikrolik | June 23, 2015 7:16 PM
Regarding Knight and Fogg's names, they might have been named after the DC villians Night and Fog or after the Nazi "Night and Fog" decree.
Posted by: Michael | June 23, 2015 8:27 PM
Fnord, Fogg doesn't kill Knight's brother- he tries to kill him, Knight thinks he succeeded and attacks Fogg and at the end it turns out Knight's brother survived.
Posted by: Michael | June 23, 2015 11:28 PM
I was going to mention that they didn't 'sound' like they were from Liverpooool. Not a single 'la', 'sound', 'Calm down, calm down' uttered. Terrible. Um, only people from England will understand what I just wrote...
Posted by: JSfan | June 24, 2015 4:30 AM
Good point, JSfan. Liverpool in 1990 was not a 19th century fishing village, it was a city, full of perms and shellsuits. :) yes, Knight + Fogg were awful. I think Conway was pretty poor at coming up with new villains. A lot of cheesy concepts, from Hammerhead to Bannjo.
Posted by: Jonathan | June 24, 2015 6:52 AM
@Michael, ah, who cares!
Posted by: fnord12 | June 24, 2015 8:04 AM
Michael, I'll disagree completely on the MJ thing. If MJ were single, he'd probably be doing the same thing. It's up to the married person (MJ) to draw the line. She went on a date with him, met him multiple times, kissed him multiple times. All she had to do was resist him firmly and threaten to tell her husband and Jason would be gone. At least she is honest enough with herself to admit that she liked it.
And who knows what went on between panels? I think the implication might be more than a few kisses in the mighty marvel tradition of between panel hanky panky.
As fnord points out, its clear the writers were trying to inject a bit of drama into their very boring marriage.
Posted by: kveto | June 24, 2015 8:15 AM
Strange thing is, they shouldn't really have had to try to put drama in the marriage. It was already established MJ had family problems (with a new family problem, Kristy, recently introduced), that she had some crazy model friends (presumably not all of them were serial killers, drug addicts, tried to chat Peter up, or tried to persuade MJ to pose naked, though we did meet all those friends in Web), and she was temperamentally opposite to Peter in a lot of ways. They could have had more of her dragging Pete to parties or giving her female friends or colleagues to talk to when Peter's not there, but instead they gave her subplots of various stalkers, a possible affair, and that she takes up smoking.
Posted by: Jonathan | June 24, 2015 9:48 AM
The Arranger was omnipresent when I collected comics, so it's amazing the character only existed from 1984-1990. His main function was to represent the Kingpin when it didn't make sense for the Kingpin to actually be there himself. As such, it is a little surprising he ever became a "real" character with his own motivations.
One of the fun things in comics was seeing the same minor characters consistently show up. The Arranger was like DA Blake Tower or Jean DeWolf who could very well show up anywhere, but who almost never drove the plots themselves. They were just there to add some consistency to the setting. As such, when they die I think it diminishes the setting. After all, someone still needs to perform that role - so why not keep them?
Conway as a writer has strengths and weaknesses. He has excellent craft and can write some powerful scenes. His dialogue is good too. However, some of his plots are weak, and he is poor at character creation. He's at the level where I can still enjoy his comics, but I don't want to see any writers worse than him be published. He's safe to allow in the sandbox - so I am not surprised he's been an extremely successful TV screenwriter. So I'd put him at around the same level of a Bill Mantlo (before his Alpha Flight years) or Mark Gruenwald who usually produced average work but had some stellar stories. If Conway has a strong editor who can compensate for his weaknesses, I'd actually place him in the next tier up.
I think one of the problems Conway may have had was writing two Spider-Man titles at the same time. Coming up good plots for the same character twice a month is probably too much. If you combined the two titles, kept the better half and excised the worst half, you'd probably have a very strong run.
Posted by: Chris | April 3, 2016 2:43 PM
No offence, but most American comics make all England, anywhere in England, look like a 19th-century fishing village. (That said, US locations in flyover States hardly fare better.)
Posted by: Oliver_C | May 10, 2016 6:08 PM
Knight and Fogg aren't that different from the lousier of the villains Conway created at DC for titles like Firestorm; many of those, like Bug and Byte, only turned up for a single storyline as well.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | April 13, 2018 5:22 PM
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