The Amazing Spider-Man #123: "...Just A Man Called Cage!"

The Amazing Spider-Man #123
"...Just A Man Called Cage!"
August, 1973

Gerry Conway: Scripter
Gil Kane and Johnny Romita: Artist
J. Romita and T. Mortellaro: Inkers
Artie Simek: Letterer
Dave Hunt: Colorist
Roy Thomas: Editor

When Joe Robertson asks his boss who he thinks was the murderer of Norman
Osborn, he is not surprised when J. Jonah Jameson mentions the name of

When a policeman admits that there is a lot of webbing at the murder
scene, and tries to mention the Green Goblin's pumpkin bombs, the
publisher of the Daily Bugle will hear none of it.  He is convinced that
the web-slinger is the killer, and he will pay for the crime.  The city
editor tries to explain that there are still other things to be
considered, but Jameson is in no mood for arguments.  As the chauffeur
opens the door for him, the police officer asks Robbie how he is able to
stand working for this particular publisher.  He has had more than his
share of publishers during the course of his career, but he's convinced
that Jonah will not do anything rash.

With the case far from solved, the last thing the law needs is for the
publisher to take the law into his own hands.  The body of Norman Osborn
had been moved before they arrived on the scene, and the question remains
about the extent of Spider-Man's involvement in the crime.  The shadowy
figure watches them from an adjacent rooftop, and knows that the
wall-crawler was the one who killed off the Green Goblin.  No one would
cry over the death of one more costumed criminal, but the death of a
businessman is a different matter, indeed.  With the Goblin's costume in
his possession, this is only the beginning, and the end of Spider-Man is
just around the corner.  As the chauffeur-driven vehicle continues on its
way, J. Jonah Jameson smokes a cigar, and tries to come up with a way to
get rid of the web-headed menace.  The front page of the Daily Bugle
offers him the solution he's been looking for.

Phil Fox had told him about Luke Cage, Hero For Hire.  In order to catch
a thief, you need to use a thief, with Jameson pausing only to think
things through.  Three days pass, with the dawn arriving over a cemetery
in Long Island.  The service for Gwen Stacy has ended, with those who
loved the girl by her side.

May Parker weeps and wonders why an old woman like her is allowed to go
on, while a young girl with her whole life ahead of her is not allowed
to.  Her nephew understands that there are things beyond anyone's
control, and there is nothing they can do to change them.  Aunt May is
escorted by Anna Watson and a bodyguard to meet Gwen's grandparents.  As
he watches the man in Otto Octavius's employ walk behind his aunt, Peter
feels a hand touching his shoulder, and sees Flash Thompson standing
behind him.  There had never been anything between Flash and Gwen, and he
wants Peter to know that.  Having said his piece, the former high school
football player takes his leave.  Three mourners are left now, with Joe
Robertson apologizing for an absent Jonah, who had other business to take
care of.  The freelance photographer knows all too well how his boss had
treated Gwen when she was alive, but Robbie is aware how Peter feels
about Jameson.

Without Gwen, the young man's world has come undone, and he feels lost
without her.  Seeing this, Mary Jane offers to buy him a cup of coffee,
and keep him company.  At this moment, J. Jonah Jameson is making his way
up the stairs of a rundown theater, but the sounds he hears are not
coming from a feature film --  SMACK!  These sounds are all too real!
WHUMP!  CRAASSHH!  He crouches behind a corner, and watches as a man
comes crashing through the door of Luke Cage's office.  When asked by the
Hero For Hire if he also has a gripe, the publisher is at a loss for

He had told the other fellow that the weekends were his time off, but the
guy wouldn't listen.  When the dude tries to use a gun on him, Cage got
mad, and showed him the way out.  When asked if he absolutely won't work
on a Saturday, Luke is about to give his answer, and sees the color of
Jonah's money.  The Hero For Hire will take any job, as long as it's not
against the law.  For this particular job, he will receive five thousand
dollars for bringing in Spider-Man -- dead or alive!

The web-headed hero is swinging through the city, but it isn't helping
him.  His mind is on Gwen Stacy, and how much he feels alone now.  Mary
Jane has been kind to him... trying to get him to open up, but it's not
working.  He should be thinking about who removed the Green Goblin's
costume from Norman Osborn, but all he can do now is feel sorry for
himself.  After losing so many friends and loved ones, maybe it's time
for him to hang up the webs.  Let someone else be the hero, because
Spidey's finished!

The wall-crawler is in for a surprise when Luke Cage tackles him in
mid-swing.  He had known that the web-slinger would turn up in the
neighborhood, and after checking out the newspapers about the reported
sightings, it was a simple process of elimination.  Since the Daily Bugle
publisher had hired him, he wouldn't be caught dead at the Bugle -- and
since it's the weekend, he wouldn't be at the state university.  KRAK!
As the Hero For Hire delivers a left hook to a surprised Spider-Man, he
is confident that this fight will be over before it has begun.  Now it is
Luke Cage who finds himself thrown for a loss, as two legs with the
proportionate strength of a spider send him sailing overhead.

He had heard about Cage, the guy who sells himself in the papers like a
cheap hood.  WHAK!  From his point of view, the Hero For Hire is just
asking for trouble, and an angry Spidey's next punch sends him through a
chimney.  KLOUT!  To him, there is nothing lower than a mercenary, but
this is welcome news for Luke Cage.  Until this moment, this was just
another job, but now it's become personal.  SCRUNCH!  The web-slinger is
not one to hold a grudge, and is determined to end things before it
becomes a grudge match.  SMAK!

The man in the spider-mask is all talk, because if this were a grudge
match, Luke might do something like this.  SWOK!  When the Hero For Hire
gets his kicks, Spider-Man is trying to regain his balance, and web his
way back up to the roof in time.  He gets his wish, then sees that Luke
Cage is ready for him with another serving of punch.  SPLAK!

Of the two of them, the web-head has the softer landing, and Cage has
lost control of his momentum.  WHUMP!  By now, he can tell that his
opponent tips the scales at three hundred pounds of solid muscle.  Things
may be all fun and games for the costumed superhero, but for the Hero For
Hire, it's been a lifetime of fighting.  It is a part of him, not for the
money, and not for the fame.  He tries to slam Spidey through the wall,
but Cage goes down through a skylight, and down for the count.  KRINCH!

The way he sees it, this is a way to make a living.  Not all of them live
in a rich mansion like Bruce Wayne, and it seems to him that the masked
man might think of this as being low.  The next time they meet, the Hero
For Hire will get him.  For the money -- and for him.  The day is far
from over when our hero swings his way to the apartment shared by Peter
Parker and Harry Osborn.  His roommate has been through a lot, what with
the drugs, and the death of his father.  This was why Norman Osborn had
become the Green Goblin for the last time -- and cause the death of Gwen
Stacy.  When Peter turns on the light, he is in for a surprise.

Harry Osborn is seated in the living room, his attention straying from
his roommate, and onto the Daily Bugle.  Peter Parker gets the silent
treatment from Harry, then takes his leave from their humble abode.  The
night finds him pouring some punch for himself and Mary Jane at a school
concert.  He knows what she wants him to do, but he needs some time to
get his head together.

It can't happen soon enough for the lovely redhead, but a familiar
tingling tells him that there's about to be an uninvited guest.  KRUMP!
After smashing his way through a door, the Hero For Hire claims that the
man in the spider-mask is in the house, but admits to himself that this
might not be the case.  As the startled students wonder what to make of
this particular surprise appearance, Peter Parker heads for the men's
room, only to reappear a minute later as the Amazing Spider-Man!  CRASH!
Since Luke Cage didn't heed his warning, he is about to get an earful.

The only way to end this is by knocking the man senseless, but the Hero
For Hire isn't about to take any bull from a costumed clown.  SPOCK!  He
has had enough with that wisecracking mouth, and after being called a
cheap hood, it's time for them to settle things -- on his terms.  SPLAK!

Jameson had paid him to bring the wall-crawler in... like it or not.  It
is then that our hero realizes that the Hero For Hire is just trying to
do his job, but they are too closely matched for there to be a winner.
He must figure out why he is upset with Luke Cage, before the man gets a
chance to really connect.  BUNT!  When he strikes back at Cage, it's to
keep either one of them from getting killed.  SWAK!  He will not have
that happen.  KRUNCH!  Not at all.

There will be a halt to the proceedings, while they have their little
talk, and Luke falls to earth.  WHUNT!  In order to make sure that he
will have the Hero For Hire's undivided attention, Spidey will web him
into place, and have his say.  When asked if he believes everything his
client has told him, Cage admits that the wall-crawler had angered him --
by calling him a mercenary.  The web-slinger is man enough to admit when
he has made a mistake, and remembers a time when he was asking for money,
too.  The time has come for both of them to talk things over.

Time passes, with Joe Robertson asking Betty Brant what's going on in
Jonah's office.  She starts to tell him about the man called Cage, and
how the publisher told her to send him in.  MMRMPF!  It is a smiling Hero
For Hire who opens the door, and wipes his hands with satisfaction.  He
had come to return some money on a job that he couldn't accept.  Robbie
lowers his pipe and Betty gazes in surprise at the sight of Jameson's
money placed where his mouth is.  MRMMMRPPF!  GGMMRRPPFFMMFF!
GRRGAMRMPFFMPF!  It is a quite Peter Parker who almost walks right past
Mary Jane Watson, his mind on other things, and the memory of a talk
which made him realize that he wasn't alone at all.

A very striking cover by Johnny Romita and Tony Mortellaro.

I first read this story when it was reprinted in Marvel Tales #100
(February, 1979).

I remember this particular cover layout being reused on "The Electric
Company" in the 1970's.

Despite what readers witnessed on the splash page, it would be about two
decades before Norman manages to finally get something off his chest.

Joe Robertson has got the patience of a saint, manages to see the good in
everyone, but I wonder what's in that pipe he's smoking when it comes to
J. Jonah Jameson?

Gwen would later return as a clone, and much later be the bearer of bad
tidings for Peter Parker in the present.

The sequence on the stairway reminds me of the Little Richard song, "Keep
A'Knockin', But You Can't Come In."

This is one of the few times I've seen Luke Cage smoking a cigar.

When it comes to rooftop soliloquies, the web-slinger has got it down

I'd like to ask Gerry Conway why our hero's spider-sense didn't alert him
to the presence of the Hero For Hire, and their subsequent midair

This was one of the few times I was actually worried about Spider-Man,
and wondered how he would get out of this one.

You have your Ali and your Foreman, while comic book readers got their
Spidey and their Cage.

An artful series of sound effects by Artie Simek

I dug the mention of Bruce Wayne by Luke Cage.

When Spider-Man met Superman in their first team-up, I wonder if they got
a chance to compare notes on their various friends in the crimefighting

Two of the sound effects were "KRUMP!" and "SPOCK!"  I guess that Gerry
was a fan of Andy Griffith and of Star Trek, too.

The wall-crawler and the Hero For Hire have much in common.

Both of them received their powers by accident, and both have had trouble
with the law.

These similarities were at the heart of their battle and subsequent topic
for discussion.

After having a talk with Spidey about the line of bull that Jameson had
fed him, Luke Cage decided it was time for the man to eat his words.

After seeing how the Hero For Hire's sense of justice played itself out
against the Daily Bugle publisher, I realized that this was why I love
the character of Luke Cage.

These past few reviews were inspired by The PULSE's Essential Luke Cage
Interview with Steve Englehart, Tony Isabella, and Len Wein by Jennifer

Steve Chung
"...Just A Review Called Cage!"