Spidey Friday Night Fights: The Rage On Cage


“It’s all about the Benjamins…”

Ah, another Friday means another fight.  Spidey Friday Night Fights, that is!  Welcome back Spider-sports fans and please join us ringside for Spider-Man vs. Luke Cage in a fisticuffs version of “First Contact.”

This one takes us back to the August of 1973.  I was 13 months old (sleeping and pooping myself a lot) and living in a nice, modest home in Irving, Texas.  Secretariat had won the Triple Crown, the U.S. Senate was conducting hearings on the Watergate scandal and the Commies were launching probes at Mars.

And in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man Gwen Stacy had just met her doom on the George Washington Bridge, courtesy of Norman “Redefining Crazy” Osborn.  In fact our featured issue tonight (Amazing Spider-Man #123, ‘Just A Man Called Cage!’ by Gerry Conway, Gil Kane & “Jazzy” Johnny Romita) even shows with Gwen’s funeral.

So as if it’s not enough that Peter Parker just had to bury his girlfriend J. Jonah Jameson decides to pay Luke “Hero for Hire” Cage $5,000 to capture or kill Spider-Man.  Tempest in a Teapot?  Try Train in a Tornado, bud.

At this point in time Luke Cage had been in his own Marvel book for about a year and hadn’t yet run into the Wallcrawler.  But all that was about to change in a two-fisted opera of pain.  What follows isn’t pretty.  It’s two strong, determined men that never quit going at it in a pugilistic Clash of the Titans.  So what better way to celebrate the start of summer than with a bout where Spidey gets fought to standstill?

This one’s got it all so read on, Crawl Spacers!

Our Story:  Gwen Stacy is dead, and J. Jonah Jameson blames Spider-Man for it – along with the Crusades, the extinction of the dinosaurs and everything else bad that ever happened in the history of all things ever.  Determined to have Spider-Man brought in dead or alive Jonah hires a new kid in town named Luke Cage to get the job done.  But Peter Parker just lost the woman he loved and he’s more than ready to give as good as he gets.


TONIGHT’S CARD


In the left corner…

Peter Benjamin Parker, aka ‘The Spider-Man’


Height & Weight: 5′10″ / 165 lbs.
Powers: Proportionate strength, speed and agility of a spider.
Spider-Sense.  Webshooters.  Loves the wheatcake.


And in the right corner…

Luke Cage, aka ‘Hero for Hire’ & ‘Power Man’

Height & Weight: 6′8″ / 300 lbs.
Powers: Hits really, really hard.
Bulletproof.
Infinite street cred despite wearing a tiara.
Might be badder than John Shaft.


ROUND ONE – DING!


As Spidey decides it’s finally time to hang up the webs for like the zillionth time in the wake of Gwen Stacy’s death, Cage hurls himself through the air at our hero like a human cannonball with its phasers set on “Murder He Wrote.”  It’s so awesome that… Spidey’s spider-sense doesn’t even go off.  *ahem*  We’ll overlook that for now because this is such an awesome fight, so we’ll just… uh… pretend Spidey was too caught up in the recent tragedy in his life.  Or it’s an after-effect of his fight with the Green Goblin.  Or… something.

Anyway, Cage intercepts Spidey mid-air and proceeds to serve up heaping helpings from the All You Can Eat Concussion Buffet.  But don’t bet against Don Shula at home, and never count the Web Swinger out when he’s A.) in his element and B.) already mad at the world.  One quick “Up & Away!” with the legs and Spidey’s back in business.

Now it’s Spidey-at-the-Bat after having interrupted Cage the way a Hostess snack thwarts a lame villain.  Cage is dazed as the tables turn and he finds out what it’s like to be on the business end of a Spider-fist fueled by grief, rage and radioactive blood.

Pause for a moment and enjoy the artwork here.  This is mayhem in the old school Mighty Marvel Manner, the likes of which we don’t see as much anymore since more often than not we get people being torn in half or something.  This is a classic Marvel hero throw down and we’re lucky to have an up close & personal view of the action.

And that last panel on the right, with Spidey really letting loose on Cage… that really explains it all.  Nobody puts Spidey in a corner, Luke!  We’ve already established that when Spider-Man’s mad there’s not much that can stand up to him.  But tonight Spidey’s rage may have just met its match in the Hero for Hire!  God Almighty I’m so giddy from this fight that I almost yelled out “EXCELSIOR!” just now.


ROUND TWO – DING!


It’s Fractured Jaw Night at Club Marvel and Spidey keeps handing out the hurt for free at the door.  Meanwhile the random rooftop they’re fighting on probably feels like Ego the Living Planet has been sunbathing on it all day.  I really love all the insane close-ups of fists connecting to face in this fight.  My jaw aches just looking at this stuff.

Cage plays the “Foot Like A Fist” card on Spidey and manages to stop the Wallcrawler’s assault.  Off balance, Spider-Man becomes an easy target and Cage lays into him like a mule drivin’ a semi full of gold bricks.

And now we see the potential downside of a rage-induced beat down.  It’s making Spidey sloppy and allowing Cage to get in that kick that he might not otherwise have gotten in.  Spidey’s anger has turned into a liability as Power Man starts to lead in this demolition dance-off of damage.

I’ll also point out that, as usual, there’s stuff that’s in the issue that we’re still not seeing because of space constraints here on the page and because if you’ve never read this issue than you need to run out and find it somewhere for yourself.  You might have to break the piggy bank for it; a decent copy of this one will probably go for over $40 or more.  Or if you’re on a Spider-Budget and want the same fight for way, way less you can pick up Marvel Tales #100 which reprints this fight.  But yes, it’s worth it because it really and truly is *that* good.


ROUND THREE – DING!


Rage-liability aside Peter still has the proportional strength, speed and agility of a spider.  He manages to jump out of the way as Cage inexplicably begins hurling himself around like the Human Bullet or a suicidal dolphin at Sea World.  We all know Power Man likes to throw himself in the face of danger – for a price – but this is taking it a step too far!

Look out, Spidey!  It’s Rainin’ Men!!

Luke’s aerial body ballet doesn’t do much to stop Spidey from regaining the upper hand.  In fact it sets Spidey up to deliver one more crashing blow to Cage’s brain pan.  As the Hero for Hire crashes down through a well-placed skylight our hero takes a moment to gloat with one word:  “Dig.”

That one word says oh so much.  It’s not Spidey trying to be funny.  It’s Spider-Man telling Luke Cage that as bad as he thinks he is Spidey is still better than him at what they do – only he’s telling Luke in what passed for 1970’s street jargon.  The message is crystal clear, triumphant and succinct.

This actually ended Phase One of the fight.  Luke had to peel his dignity off the glass-covered carpet and Spidey had to split to make an Empire State University school concert that he was attending with his future wife, Mary Jane Watson.  This was in those days where Mary Jane became Peter’s rock and the two went pretty much everywhere together.  But Cage isn’t a dummy.  He knew enough about Spidey to know that the Webbed One could often be found around ESU.  So what does he do?  Hire a sky-writer to call Spidey out over the school?  Stand in the middle of the Quad, challenging him?  Bust up enough college keggers until he found his man?

No – Luke heads to the band concert and starts smashing the place up.  Cause that’s just how he rolls.  As subtle as an asteroid slamming into an active volcano.


ROUND FOUR – DING!


Knock Knock!  Who’s There?  A guy wearing a disco shirt, chain belt and tiara and pulling that look off well.  And he really hates doors.

Cage arrives to chat-up the ESU music lovers and requests the pleasure of Spidey’s company in typical Power Man fashion: loud and all up in your business like the tax man.  His plan pays off, too – probably a little bit quicker than he had anticipated.

Look there!  Launching himself over the punch bowl — it’s a Sixty Second Spider-Man and his Amazing Fist Friends!

But once again Cage proves he’s no easy win.  Spidey’s hurt his feelings by calling him a mercenary and now Luke’s inner child is crying so hard he has to connect his fist to Spider-Man’s face before he freaks right out.

Give credit where credit is due, Crawl Spacers.  Cage is a lot faster than he looks.  He has to be to get in some of these hits on Spidey.  Our favorite arachnid’s got the super-powered fighting style on his side but Cage went to the school of Hard Knocks, where if someone didn’t like your face they’d hit it with a crowbar and then punch your mom for giving birth to you.

The give and take is nice here.  The last couple of fights we’ve had they’ve all been one-sided Spidey whoopin’s.  Here we see someone matching him blow by blow and it goes a long way towards building the tension between these two men.

At this point they’re forgetting why they’re even fighting and they’re just going at it like King Kong vs. Godzilla… basically just hitting each other cause they’re both in the same spot at the same time after having taken a strong mutual dislike towards one another.


ROUND FIVE – DING!


Our concert of calamity’s crescendo is climbing closer to climax as Spidey quickly realizes what you and I have already figured out: these two could go on fighting for days with neither gaining the upper hand for long.  And that could lead to someone getting killed – either one of them or, worse, innocent bystanders.

So while Spidey is pummeling Cage into brief submission he makes his pitch:

“Listen up, Disco Jim.  This isn’t doing either of us any good and it’s probably going to end up with one of us taking a dirt nap.  And when I say “one of us” I mean you cause let’s face it – you’re a rookie and I have single-handedly beaten up the X-Men, the Avengers and the Hulk.  Hell Cage I could probably whip them all at the same time as mad as I am right now.  So let’s take five, calm down and you can go home and polish your pretty tiara.”

Gotta love the diplomatic Spidey!  His words don’t fall on deaf ears, and Cage accepts Spidey’s gracious offer of truce.  This allows both men to save face, to stop wrecking the ESU campus and maybe, just maybe, learn a thing or two about sharing and respecting other people’s feelings.

Well okay maybe not that last part.  But Spidey does acknowledge that Luke could probably get out of the webbing and start the shenanigans up again.  The last thing Spidey wants is to have to face Cage coming out of those webs with the urgency of a pit bull wanting to mate with Paris Hilton’s purse dog.

Thankfully the two powerhouses go their separate ways.  Spidey goes to Disneyland (because that’s where winners go) and Cage goes back to Jonah to stuff that blood money down Jameson’s throat.  Yes, literally.

This was actually the start of a… well not a beautiful friendship but definitely a mutual respect and understanding.  And Marvel fans are better off for it.


DECISION – DRAW


Clearly the judges were moved by both combatants here and the power and skill they presented.  In a fight like this, no one really loses.  Especially not the fans.

For expert post-fight analysis let’s head over to Spidey FNF studios where Ben Grimm and Shang Chi are standing by live.  Ben, you’re a friend to both these fighters.  Any surprises tonight?


“Naw, not really.  I go way back with these two and ya gotta realize they just don’t ever let up, th’ two of ’em.  They both just keep comin’ at ya like the Borg, only they ain’t robots.  And ya just can’t measure th’ heart these two have.  They keep goin’ at it like Rocky n’ Apollo, almost to th’ point of no return.  Beautiful – just freakin’ beautiful!

Stick an’ move, stick an’ move… keep yer guard up!  Body blow, body blow… Knock Out!  Oh… hehe.  Sorry there George.  I got carried away in the moment.  Now as I wuz sayin’… wait, where wuz I?  Oh yeah – hearts of champions, both of ’em.

I wuz a lil’ surprised by all th’ human bullet stuff Cage threw down in round three.  I mean when ya get to that point someone’s done pushed yer last button an’ ya don’t even care if’n ya get hurt or not.  Ya just wanna put the other mook down.  Now some heroes out there do this kinda thing all the time – they either throw someone at somethin’ or they get thrown.  And I know throw-ers and throw-ees.  Sometimes it works.  The X-Men do it pretty well, what with their Fastball Special n’ all.  Ya’d think that in all the times Spidey’s beaten ’em they’d try that a time or two, but they never do.  Puzzlin’, huh?

Anyways, we don’t do that kinda thing much with the Fantastic Four.  Two reasons.  One – Sue starts gripin’ about all the damage that comes with it.  An’ frankly sometimes I’d rather be trapped at th’ bottom of the flippin’ sea than be around Sue when she “goes accountant.”  Th’ other reason we don’t do it much?  Well I ain’t so hot on throwin’ myself.  Reed’s th’ only one who’d really throw me, like slingshot style, but his aim sucks eggs.  Sue could do it, what with her force fields an’ all, but again we’re back to riskin’ her goin’ all Malice on me when we break a city bus.

Shang, you n’ Cage go way back.  What do ya figure he learned from all this?”


“Luke Cage has been my close friend for many years now.  His manner may be rough but his honesty is above reproach.  He is mighty, yes.  He is skilled, yes.  Yet at times he can be cocky and arrogant, like the lone bull in a sea of cows.

If anything Lucas learned a lesson about jumping to conclusions and to be more particular about who he accepted as a client.

And since we are discussing it let us talk more about this “human bullet” concept.  For the agile and quick this is truly a viable stratagem.  I cannot count the number of times I myself have launched myself through the air at an opponent with reckless abandon.  It is somewhat liberating but more importantly it can really turn the tide in a close fight.  It has a tendency to make your foes think you have lost your mind and in a tough fight that can work to your advantage.  If an opponent thinks you have nothing left to lose they can be rattled by that.  Throwing yourself through the air can give that impression.

Winning a fight is often as much a matter of mentality as it is physicality.  Unnerving your foe is sometimes half the battle.  Example?  Sometimes in the park, when I am accosted by dirty hippies, I will scream like a banshee while going through different displays of “kata.”  With the weaker, stupider hippies this often makes them run away like mewling kittens searching for their mother-cat.  Sometimes you can avoid a fight altogether by making your opponent think you are crazier than they are.

Unfortunately for Lucas this ploy did not work with Spider-Man.  But he should not abandon it altogether as a tactic.  George you call it “raining men.”  But more often than not it can mean “raining win.”  It is a viable attack.

But then again what do I know… I am only the Master of Kung Fu.”


And that wraps things up for us tonight!  For all of us here at Spidey Friday Night Fights have a great weekend, Crawl Spacers!


NEXT WEEK: It’s a Ladies Night edition of Spidey Friday Night Fights!


If you have a suggestion or feedback for the ‘Spidey Friday Night Fight’ segment then drop into the Crawl Space’s ‘Spidey Friday Night Fights’ thread and let me know!


–George Berryman!