Overlooked Gems #9: “The Longest Hundred Yards”


Today we will be taking a look at “The Longest Hundred Yards” in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #153 by Len Wein (may he rest in peace) and Ross Andru from 1976.

Writer Len Wein’s run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN took place in issues 151-180 and lasted from 1975 to 1978. Despite being a very prolific comic writer, most of his work on the title during this time wasn’t very good, leading to it often being overlooked when discussing the various eras of the character. While certainly not an awful run overall, most of Wein’s scripts tended to be really forgettable (‘Twas the Season from issues 165-166), boring (the Spider-Man/Nova crossover from issue 171) or just plain asinine (The Ghost that Haunted Octopus from issues 157-159).

Now to Mr. Wein’s credit, he was often quite good at character driven B-plots. Throughout the course of his stint, he introduced J. Jonah Jameson’s future wife Marla Madison, placed Harry Osborn and Liz Allen into a serious romantic relationship with one another, finally married off Ned Leeds and Betty Brant (who were engaged for what felt like a decade) and gave us some good character moments in Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s relationship. Unfortunately, Wein’s A-plots with villains and action often tended to be the weak links in his writing, making his run on AMAZING one of the more forgettable periods in Spidey’s history.

All that being said, if there was one issue where Wein absolutely nailed the villains, action and character drama, it would be The Longest Hundred Yards from #153. Easily one of my favorite single issues of Spider-Man, this story is a prime example on how to do a one-off correctly.

Our tale beings with our friendly neighborhood web-slinger helping a hapless cab driver from a couple of hoodlums.

But in typical Parker luck (and not the forced kind from Brand New Day)

Now that is funny.

We then transition to the E.S.U. campus where the old Parker luck continues in the form of a very angry Mary Jane Watson.

Peter recently ditched Mary Jane at a party due to a Spider-Man related situation (which MJ is not aware of yet) and as you might imagine, she isn’t very happy with him. Peter attempts to talk things out with the fuming redhead, which ends up going like this:

By the way, their “Gwen Stacy” discussion actually occurred in issue #148. Come on, Len!

That is also pretty funny. Len Wein perfectly encapsulates the humorous scenarios our main character so often finds himself in as both Spider-Man and Peter Parker.

Shortly afterward, Ned Leeds approaches our now-happy couple to enlist Peter’s help in interviewing a Dr. Bradley Bolton whom they later meet on the football field.

Dr. Bolton proceeds to inform our two reporters (as well as the readers) that he used to be big-time football player on those very grounds.

But…

Without spoiling anything, these events are going to play a very important role later.

After recounting his failed football feats, Bolton is suddenly called away by what appears to be a very important message.

The message in question:

Uh-oh. This can only lead to bad things. Very bad things.

Later that night, Peter returns to E.S.U. for the homecoming dance where things quickly go astray for him yet again.

With that discussion out of the way, Peter must mend fences with Mary Jane once more.

Fearing for Bolton’s safety, Peter decides to ditch Mary Jane yet again and follow the good doctor. But as you might expect, Peter does it in perhaps the clumsiest manner imaginable.

How exactly will this exchange go down? Will Bolton get his daughter back? Will bullets start flying? Will the wall-crawler arrive in the nick of time to defuse the situation? Well I’m certainly not about to spoil the big game.

Everything about this issue hits all the right notes. The characterizations are great, the humor is very effective, the story is interesting and the action is immensely satisfying (especially the final punch). The ending is very sad, yet surprisingly poetic for the characters. If Len Wein wrote more issues such as this, his Spider-Man run would probably be much more commonly lauded and remembered than it is.

You can track down the individual issue, or go for the black and white version in Essential Spider-Man vol. 7.

After all, what better way for a comic fan to begin the New Year than with an issue about football?

 

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(13) Comments

  1. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @ryan3178 Wein's B-plots tended to be more engaging than his A-plots most of the time.@John Andru is one of my favorite Spidey artists as well.

  2. ryan3178

    I've only read a handful of Weirnt's run, but yes he was very good with B-plots and supporting cast stories. In fact, he knew how to bring them together by the end too. Funny how his run ended when I was born in 78.

  3. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @AndrewC Thank you for the kind words, Andrew.I agree that the 1970s aren't that great of a decade for Spider-Man overall. While I loved Gerry Conway's run on AMAZING, the other writers of this period were lacking in many respects. Len Wein's was pretty forgettable, Bill Mantlo's was unremarkable and Wolfman's took awhile to get interesting. I don't outright dislike the '70s like I do the 2010s and parts of the 1990s, but there are definitely better eras for the character.And yes, I'm always open to suggestions. I can't promise I'll do them soon since I have quite a few stories I already plan on covering, but recommendations are very welcome.

  4. AndrewC

    Another great column from you and another great pick, Joshua. I think overall the 70s were a very forgettable decade for Spidey (I wouldn't say "bad" in the same way the 2010s are, because there isn't any lasting damage... just forgettable and plain, besides the obviously memorable stuff like death of Gwen Stacy and the original Clone Saga). So I think that makes this gem stand out all the more. Good timing too, since Wein recently passed. Overall I think his run is pretty forgettable as you said (along with Wolfman's who followed him), but his stories were sometimes fun fluff. He really tried to create his own villains and add to the Spidey mythos. Unfortunately most of his new villains, like Stegron, sucked or were only good for a gag (Of course there's no shortage of bad, totally forgotten villains from the 70s like the Gibbon, Big Wheel, Hypno-Hustler, Mindworm, etc., so this trend can't all be laid at his feet). Overall, I'd give his run a C+ or if I'm feeling generous a B-.... but this issue is definitely a solid A. Looking forward to your next pick! (If you never need a suggestion, just ask. I can think of 100 great, but forgotten Spidey stories that should be talked about more than they are ;)

  5. hornacek

    @Joshua Nelson - Any story that has Peter, Aunt May, and Doc Ock sharing a bucket of Colonel Chicken must be given its due!http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-_JoexGAPpNQ/VYCeHSD0pgI/AAAAAAAAfkE/pwRTI5qPssI/s1600/Screen%2BShot%2B2015-06-16%2Bat%2B3.03.31%2BPM.png

  6. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @hornacek A fan of "The Ghost that Haunted Octopus", I take it? I suppose I was bound to encounter one eventually.I think that is ultimately what makes "The Longest Hundred Yards" so effective: it's simplicity. Comics (Spider-Man especially) are sorely lacking in strong done-in-one issues these days.

  7. hornacek

    "or just plain asinine (The Ghost that Haunted Octopus from issues 157-159)." HOW DARE YOU!!!I'm glad Wein included the panel of the cab doors falling off when Spidey closed the trunk. When I saw him "snap" them back on I was thinking "Car doors don't work like that. This isn't a Lego car."I heard JR says this on the podcast once, but this is the type of story that could have been easily done on the live-action TV show. There are villains, but no villains with super-powers that are hard to show on a network TV show. For all of the super-villains Spidey goes up against, he can work extremely well when going up against regular guys.

  8. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @William Agreed. You certainly won't see any strong done-in-one issues like this from Dan Slott.

  9. William

    This is the kind of down to earth story I miss from ASM, these days it feels like every story is some big event or a juvenile comedy written to humiliate Peter. The ending is seriously tragic, and Spider-Man's reaction just feels so human and real. I honestly think this is up there with some of the greats, the ending packs almost as much of a punch to me as the likes of 'The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man', or 'Kraven's Last Hunt'.

  10. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @Arnie Yeah, this is definitely one of my favorite Spider-Man covers. The action looks great and creates immediate intrigue for the story itself.

  11. Arnie

    A classic issue! One thing that has always jumped out at me is on the front cover. When you compare the size of Spidey to the width of the end zone goal posts, Spidey has to be like twenty feet tall (or the goal posts are really small!). :-)

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