Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #24 (November 1978–Marvel Comics)
It’s no secret that a major part of Batman’s longevity is the rogues’ gallery of foes he has faced over the years.
The list goes on and on.
Superman has Lex Luthor. The Fantastic Four have Dr. Doom. Captain Marvel has Black Adam. One doesn’t have to be Hank Pym to realize that the perfect foil is key to the success of our favorite heroes.
Enter the Hypno-Hustler.
Created in 1978 for an issue of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man by Marvel writer Bill Mantlo, and drawn by Frank Springer, the Hypno-Hustler is one of my favorite by-products of an overworked creative staff at a point in history when every idea has been done: a ridiculous, forgettable “villain-of-the-month.”
While on his way back home after visiting a convalescing Aunt May at the nearby New Hope Hospital, Peter decides to speed up the trip by taking the subway.
Ut-oh! Bad move, Parker. Turns out there are a gang of toughs on the same train as our hero. They are mugging an elderly couple. Though concerned about concealing his identity as Spider-Man, Peter can’t overlook what is unfolding in front of him.
Fortuitously for Spidey, the subway train enters a dark tunnel at just that moment, so he is able to unleash a righteous beating on the gang of punks—all while preserving his fabled public identity.
Peter arrives home only to find that his friends are waiting for him. Even though he won’t be graduating–due a missing credit for a pesky gym class (!)–they have decided to take him out for a night on the town at the local disco, Beyond Forever.
Since it’s a classy place, they even brought him a white suit to wear.
Meanwhile at the disco, we meet musician/baddie the Hypno-Hustler. He is in the midst of robbing the safe in the owner’s office when he is interrupted by said owner. The confrontation quickly is ended when HH uses his hypnotic goggles to mesmerize the owner, all while his backup singers (“The Mercy Killers”) reinforce that trance with melodic singing.
Booked as the headlining act that evening, the band then takes the stage.
It soon becomes clear that something is wrong. The nefarious musicians mesmerize the audience with their music intending to rob them, as well.
His Spidey Sense raging, Parker quickly deduces something about the music isn’t right. He shoots tiny balls of webbing into his ears to shield him from the noxious tunes.
After changing into his costume, Spider-Man confronts HH. Hypno, though, came ready for war, as spikes extend from the bottom of his boots. He attempts to stomp on Spidey with them, but our nimble hero easily evades the move.
Then Hypno shoots a green, poisonous gas out of the toes of his boots.
Spidey, uh, punches him in the face.
Things aren’t going well for Hypno.
In an act of desperation, HH swings his guitar at Spidey’s head, while attempting to gore him once again with the spiked boots.
Spidey just isn’t having it. He evades the clumsy attempt and deftly removes Hypno’s protective headphones. Once exposed, he and the Mercy Killers became mesmerized by their own music pumping through the house sound system.
Spidey binds him with webbing and hangs him from the club’s disco ball.
Check and mate.
Tough day to be a disco villain.
Apparently the Hypno-Hustler popped up years later as an inmate in mega-prison, The Cage, but it’s nothing worth exploring.
I, however, prefer to remember him as a plucky, young villain in the waning days of the 1970s, with dubious morals and an ill-conceived plan for glory.
Until next time comic book fans…
~Zep the Bear