Overlooked Gems #7: “24 Hours to Doomsday”

Today we will be taking a look at 24 Hours to Doomsday in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #191-192 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Poland from 1979.

Marv Wolfman’s stint on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (vol. 1 #182-204) is one of the more…underappreciated eras in the character’s history. While not on par with the likes of Gerry Conway, Roger Stern, J.M. DeMatties, etc. Wolfman did turn in some solid material during his tenure; the creation of The Black Cat and the return of Uncle Ben’s killer being his most notable accomplishments. I wouldn’t quite call him one of the all-time greats to have ever worked on Spider-Man, but he is a very good writer (just look at some of his top-notch work over on DC titles like BATMAN, THE NEW TEEN TITANS and DEATHSTROKE).

That being said, Wolfman has crafted what I consider to be one of the best J. Jonah Jameson tales ever told, 24 Hours to Doomsday. As we will discuss, few comics have explored the Spidey/Jonah conflict better than this one.

The story begins with Jolly Jonah on a bloody warpath, more determined to bring Spider-Man in than ever before.

Long story short, Jonah’s son John has gone missing after his latest Man-Wolf transformation and he holds Spider-Man responsible because…well that’s just what Jonah does best: blame Spider-Man for all of his problems.

Desiring nothing more than the wall-crawler’s head on a silver platter, Jonah goes to his old ally Spencer Smythe a.k.a. the Spider-Slayer designer for help. However, helping Jonah turns out to be the very last thing on Spencer’s mind.

Blaming both Spider-Man and Jonah for his terminal radiation poisoning, Spencer wants nothing more than to see the two men dead at his feet. So naturally, things don’t quite end up going Jonah’s way.

Now only requiring the web-slinger to complete his vengeance, Spencer sends his newest Spider-Slayer after our hero.

Although Spidey manages to destroy the Spider-Slayer during their ensuing battle, he is rendered unconscious in the process.

After regaining consciousness, Spidey begins to immediately regret getting out of bed this morning.

How will Spidey manage to remove the bomb from their wrists without setting it off? And more importantly, will Spidey and Jonah be able to put their many, many differences aside in order to save their own lives? Questions, questions…

J. Jonah Jameson is one of Spider-Man’s oldest and most prominent supporting characters, first appearing in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #1 from 1963. Since the beginning, his defining characteristics have been his explosive temper and his irrational, seething hatred for Spider-Man. His entire newspaper basically became a tool for him to slander the wall-crawler’s name and turn the public against him. As a result of this, Jonah quickly became one of Spidey’s most ruthless and prominent enemies, despite not actually being a super villain or even a criminal.

Interestingly though, Jonah’s reasons for loathing the arachnid as much as he does have only been explored a select few times in the character’s publication history (the first being in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #10). 24 Hours to Doomsday arguably explores his hatred more thoroughly and interestingly than any story has before or since (with the exception of the recent SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN vol. 3 #6). Jonah’s contempt for Spider-Man stems more from personal insecurities and self-loathing rather than outright disdain for the man himself. Being shackled to Spidey offers for some great interactions between the two, both humorous and serious. Their ever cantankerous, yet always entertaining relationship is on full display in this tale and it’s a real treat to see.

Also of interest in this story is Peter Parker’s relationship with Mary Jane Watson. Due to his predicament with Spencer and Jonah, Peter ends up missing his date with Mary Jane and leaves her in the pouring rain.

The two had already been having numerous issues in their relationship (most notably Peter’s failed proposal), but this ends up being the final straw for Mary Jane and she angrily dumps Peter in the following issue. Outside of two small cameos in SPECTACULAR vol. 1 #38 and AMAZING vol. 1 #201, Mary Jane would be absent from the titles for the next four years; not returning until 1983 during Roger Stern’s tenure on AMAZING.

You can track down the individual issues, or look for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Essentials vol. 9 collection (though be warned that the issues aren’t in color).

24 Hours to Doomsday truly represents the Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson rivalry at its best and no fan of the two should miss out on it.

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(4) Comments

  1. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @Thomas Mets -- I would tend to agree. Wolfman's run wasn't anything too remarkable before this point (not that it was bad), but it definitely kicked into high gear with this story.

  2. Thomas Mets

    This story was when Wolfman's run got good, and kicked off one of the best stretches of the title, especially at that point.

  3. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @hornacek -- The second part is definitely what makes this story. Spidey's and Jonah's interactions are great and the ending offers a lot of strong insight into Jonah's character.Funnily enough, Alistair is never once mentioned by Spencer. I suppose that's fitting when you consider Alistair's big rant in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 Annual #19 about how Spencer completely neglected him due to his obsession with destroying Spider-Man.

  4. hornacek

    My memories of reading the pre-ASM#200 issues when they came out is hazy at best, but I specifically remember this 2-parter. It's such a great story, the second part being the stand-out with Spidey and Jonah together the entire issue.Although it's funny to read this with the later retcon that Smythe has a son whom he never mentions even though he's dying (although I haven't read these issues in years so it's possible he mentions a son and that's what Micheline (?) picked up on years later to create Alistair).And it's also funny to see Smythe shoo Marla out the door - didn't she help create spider slayers? (lol)

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