Friday, Friday, Friday! An end to another week and that means it’s time once again for Spidey Friday Night Fights!
We turn this week to September & October, 1984. Spidey had been back from the first Secret Wars for awhile, black symbiote costume in tow, and things were heating up in New York.
The Hobgoblin was still out there somewhere, Jack O’Lantern had recently surfaced and the Rose was the new criminal mastermind in town, working for the Kingpin but with bigger ambitions. Over in the pages of Spectacular Spider-Man, the Kingpin was hatching his own plans against Spider-Man – and Spidey’s girlfriend Black Cat fit into those plans.
But the Rose was getting antsy and he’d set his sights on Spidey. And he turned to an outside contractor for the hit. Enter Native American businessman, Thomas Fireheart – the Puma!
Puma was a mercenary with the ability to transform into a humanoid mountain lion, complete with heightened senses, claws and fangs. And he was every bit as strong as the Webslinger, and almost as quick!
The story unfolded over two issues, Amazing Spider-Man #256 (‘Introducing… Puma!’) and Amazing Spider-Man #257 (‘Beware the Claws of Puma!’) by Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz.
Ready for a battle you can sink your claws into? Hehe… read on!
Our Story: Puma’s accepted the Rose’s challenge to tackle Spider-Man, raising the Kingpin’s wrath. But when Puma ambushes Spidey he suddenly realizes he’s bitton off more than he can chew!
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. Chutzpah.
And in the right corner…
Thomas Fireheart, aka ‘Puma’
Height & Weight: 6’2″ / 240 lbs.
Powers: Very Strong.
ROUND ONE – DING!
He throws a pipe at Spidey from a rooftop, forcing Spidey to adjust to the attack in the middle of web-swinging. To save himself, Spidey has to cling to the side of a building and immediately dislocates his arm in the process.
You have to give it to Puma – he knows how to make an entrance! Getting off an ambush on Spidey isn’t easy, but doing it at the right time and managing to get him to wound himself? Now that takes prowess!
What Spidey doesn’t know, what he can’t yet know, and what the readers didn’t know was that Puma had been trained by his Native American tribe to take on the Beyonder. So it makes sense that he’d be a handful for Spidey!
So round one easily goes to Puma, and in a big, dramatic way. Spidey’s wounded, dazed, disoriented and confused – and he doesn’t even know who the Hell’s gunning for him yet! Action in the OLD SCHOOL Mighty Marvel Manner!
You know what Spidey’s probably thinking he needs about now? A sidekick, or something close to it!
ROUND TWO – DING!
What was that we were just saying about a sidekick? As if on queue in swings Spidey’s girlfriend, Black Cat, to pull Puma off her current boy toy. Despite his heightened senses, Puma wasn’t expecting that.
Nor was he expecting to suddenly fall through a weakened part of the roof all of a sudden, out of nowhere, as if it were *ahem* ‘bad luck.’ Strange how things happen when Felicia is around, huh?
With the advantage gone, Puma briefly retreats to figure out his next strategy – which is to basically wait outside Spidey’s apartment until Black Cat’s gone. And that doesn’t take too long.
Felicia’s all gung-ho to help her man out, but then he takes his mask off and she quickly cools. Seeing that dull Peter Parker is on the mend in his apartment, she bolts – happy to be back outside of her boyfriend’s digs, which she doesn’t much like.
And as the Puma springs into action, cornering Spidey inside his own apartment, Mary Jane comes a’ calling. Peter manages to get her back outside into the hallway in time for the symbiote to slip over him and commence with the slugfest.
Spidey does more dodging than hitting, but he does manage one good hit against his new enemy. Still, the round has to go to Puma on account of Spidey having to get saved by his chick and for having his apartment torn up in the fight.
ROUND THREE – DING!
Spidey’s finally looking more like his old self this round. Even with his arm in a sling once he starts pouring it on against Puma it’s a case of the predator becoming prey. But first on his mind is to get Puma out of his apartment. Hey it might not be much, but it’s his!
I really love Frenz’s work here. I always love Frenz’s work. My top three Spidey artists have always been the two Romitas and Frenz. Why?
John Romita Sr. did much towards building Spidey’s iconic image and conveying his strength. Ron Frenz, in my mind, always showed Spidey’s agility off better than most other artists and was always so imaginative in the way he moved the Webslinger about through years of fights. John Romita Jr. – he’s the best of both worlds, a little bit of Column A & a little of Column B.
Frenz turns in fantastic work here and it’s art like this and the strength of DeFalco’s writing back in the day that had me reading Amazing Spider-Man first each time I got my new comics. Usually twice before even looking at another book!
So Spidey tackles Puma and the fight gets taken outside. During this round Puma starts leading with his chin a lot more and it costs him the round, which Spidey clearly takes.
Despite that we have to give brownie points to Puma for being so relentless! Especially for a villain that doesn’t have a personal beef against Spidey!
ROUND FOUR – DING!
Are these two getting some good cardio in during this fight? Apparently not, since the fight spills over into a gym. Here Spidey takes a different approach and seems more intent on letting Puma wear himself out through swings & misses – all the while cranking the taunt machine up to 11.
And when Puma decides to make bench pressing a personal attack Spidey’s one move ahead. I love the shocked, dumbfounded look on Puma’s face when Spidey webs the weights out of his hands. It’s a lot like the X-Men’s clueless expressions when Spidey kicked them around in the Secret Wars which we covered two weeks ago as a Hall of Fame fight. “Amazing!” gasps Puma as he witnesses the power of this fully (half) armed and operational Spidey.
But Puma’s nothing if not a quick thinker. So when Spidey stops a barbell he throws a whole stationary set. He adapts well and Spidey’s webbed tush is now in the corner. I would throw out “No one puts Spidey in the corner” but that’s pretty much what Puma does here.
I really like Puma as a Spidey opponent. He’s almost a match for Spidey on many levels but it’s more than that. He does it with flair. And fur-lined leather & tights.
Regardless, who takes the round? This one’s a draw.
ROUND FIVE – DING!
And now we’re into the finale. The weight machine Puma threw proves to be too much for the wall of the gym and the machine goes hurtling down towards the streets of New York and the terrified passersby who refuse to move out of its way. And, as always (or at least the way it always used to be) Spidey turns his attention from the fight towards saving innocent lives – all the while realizing he’s leaving himself open to another Puma surprise attack.
But he doesn’t have any choice. Someone’s Uncle Ben might be down on that street about to be crushed by a couple of tons of workout equipment.
Our hero manages to stop the weight machine from crushing anyone but the cost is high. Luckily his wounded arm doesn’t fail him here, but he’s off balance and weary and falls onto a city bus the hard way.
Puma, rather than jump down to finish Spidey off, heads out so he can kill Spider-Man another day – honorably. Which is pretty anti-climactic since that’s what he set out to do and is choosing not to do it here. Maybe deep down Puma’s heart just isn’t in the whole mercenary thing after all? Hmm.
And somewhere across town the Rose is crying into his petals.
So that’s the end of tonight’s fight, with Round Five going to Spidey for saving New Yorkers. What then is the final decision of our judges?
DECISION – DRAW
That’s fair. Puma’s early successes gimped Spider-Man throughout the fight, though he still got some hits in and saved lives. Conversely, Puma set out to kill Spider-Man and didn’t do it, though Spidey’s girlfriend had to bail him out at one point. But even with a draw Spidey Fans usually come out with a good fight.
Let’s return now to our Spidey Friday Night Fights studio where Ben Grimm and Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, are standing by for analysis and commentary. Ben, Puma seems to be taking a page out of your playbook by using anything he can get his hands on as a weapon.
“Good observation, Georgie, and I’ll get ta that in a sec. But right up front I gotta say somethin’ about Spidey gettin’ his fat pulled outta th’ fryer by his chick. Man I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, it’s a save and it’s better than th’ alternative, which is gettin’ killed. But still, havin’ yer girlfriend come in and save ya? In front of an audience? Sheesh, I’d never hear th’ end of it on Yancy Street.
Gettin’ back ta Puma usin’ objects in his fight… what’s puzzlin’ ta me is why he doesn’t let loose with those claws more. But then maybe he gives that up when he realizes just how hard it is ta land a punch on Spidey. How hard?? It’s tricky. And believe me, I speak from experience here!
So I certainly give him credit for utilizin’ his environs as a weapon. A lead pipe off a roof top here, a set of weights there… it ain’t much different than when I grab a streetlight and go ta town on some mook like I wuz Babe Ruth.
But if yer gonna play the “pcik ’em up” game it helps to be way more strong. Puma does it pretty effectively here, don’t get me wrong or nothin’, but if yer really intent on yer bread bein’ buttered by throwing stuff… well ya need to make sure ya can pick up really heavy stuff.
I mean a weight station’s cute n’ all, I guess for the kids, but it ain’t nothin’ like bein’ able ta pick up a city bus and hit someone with it. Or heck, even a whole tank!
What about you, Shang? You’re into all that kung fu hocus pocus stuff. How much do ya rely on the environment around ya in a fight and usin’ whatever ya can get yer hands on?”
“I am glad you asked Shang Chi that. For when Shang Chi was learning from the old masters, before Shang Chi became a master who was not as old, they taught him that a man does not have just his body and its weapons.
Or sorry, I suppose Shang Chi should say “that a combatant does not have just their body and its weapons” instead of just a man, since we’re in the 1970’s now. Yay feminism! Actually, Shang Chi has run into some women who have almost killed him – but he defeated them and then performed love to them. Never underestimate the romantic power of beating the opposite sex in battle.
Wait… Shang Chi meant to say “Yay, Feminism!”
When facing an opponent, rest assured that if there is a nearby object he (or she! or she!) will at some point try to throw it you, either in desperation or through calculating tactics. It could be something as light as dirt or soil from a potted plant. When thrown into the eyes they can temporarily blind your opponent until he has cried enough to remove the debris. And then you get the added bonus of making your opponent cry, and you can mock them for it. That is always fun. Err… not that Shang Chi does that, mind you.
But pretty much anything… a golf bag full of clubs, a hanging fern, a glazed ham, a Duraflame log… all are weapons to the skilled warrior and even deadlier in the hands of a Master. Like Shang Chi. Or… or Mistress! Mistress, too! Yay, Feminism!”
Well… wow. There you have it. Thanks Ben. Thanks, Shang. I think! Wonder what secrets our teaser line has for us regarding next week’s fight…
NEXT WEEK: It’s Kraven and the Vulture.
Jeez. Not even trying anymore, are you teaser line?
NEXT WEEK: Sorry. I’ve got a cold and hey, YOU try coming up with something involving those two when your head feels like a submarine, your eyes are watery and you’re sneezing repeatedly.
Fair enough! Forget I mentioned it.
Last Friday we reported to you that Ronan the Accuser had put a Kree-sized hurt on MODOK, the Head That Lives, on Duckworld.
So what’s the story this week?
This week saw action in Hell of all places, under the watchful eyes of “his Satanic Majesty” Mephisto (hey, that’s how Marvel described him!) as Maria “I’ve got a grudge the size of Jupiter” Hill faced off against Jason Macendale, the Jack O’Lantern.
We called the fight Marvel Fight Club #5 – ‘Snowball’s Chance.’ 63% of you picked Jason Macendale as the winner, leaving Maria Hill with 37% as well as a loss and an all expenses paid extended stay in Hades.
Hopefully you packed some shorts, Maria!