Synopsis for “Something Wicked This Way Kills!”
Two muggers—”Digger” and his partner—attack a prospective victim in a New York alleyway. Much to their surprise, the man grabs their hands and quite painfully drains away their body heat, and they quickly fall to the ground, unconscious. Then he continues slowly on his way. Sometime later, Lance Bannon and a police captain watch a paramedic team haul the hypothermic hoodlums away in an ambulance. After Bannon takes some pictures, the captain says that the muggers are almost certainly victims of the “Street Stalker.” The medics should be able to help them, he continues, but someday the Stalker is going to kill someone. In his cubicle at Empire State University, Peter Parker reads with some annoyance the Daily Bugle account of the two thugs. Not only does the Bugle take Spider-Man to task for not having captured the Street Stalker, but Lance Bannon’s photographs have replaced Peter’s on the front page. Suddenly the door swings open and Coach Barnstorm barges in with his star basketball center, Bill Berkowski. The coach is incensed that Peter flunked Berkowski out of Chemistry 101, making him ineligible to play on the team. Peter protests that Borkowski answered only three questions out of fifty, but the coach insists that Berkowski be given a passing grade anyway. After slamming Peter’s desk with his fist, Barnstorm departs, glad that Peter “sees it his way.” Peter shakes his head in dismay, and Steve Hopkins and Phillip Chang enter to console him. They’ve had run-ins with the coach before, they say. As night falls, Peter works off tensions by donning his Spider-Man costume and web-swinging out over the city. Suddenly he feels his spider-sense tingle, and when he looks down he sees a costumed gunman advancing into Central Park. After quickly setting up his camera, Spider-Man follows him in and challenges him to battle. The gunman calls himself Paladin and says he is not a criminal, but Spider-Man does not believe him. Paladin takes a few shots; but Spider-Man dodges them easily and kicks the gun out of Paladin’s hand. But then, overconfident, he takes a punch to the jaw that leaves him stunned. Paladin dives for his gun but just as he picks it up, a scream pierces the air. He quickly explains that he was on the trail of the Street Stalker until Spider-Man interrupted him, and Spider-Man sheepishly apologizes. Then the crimefighters leave to investigate the scream together, and Paladin reminds Spider-Man that the street is his. Unknown to them, Lance happens to be nearby and also hears the scream. He heads into the park eager to get the Stalker on film. Paladin and Spider-Man, meanwhile, find the Stalker’s victim lying cold and inert on the ground. Then Paladin looks at his watch and says he regrets that he cannot stay to make further observations because he has a date with a young lady. Spider-Man is flabbergasted that Paladin would leave the scene of a violent crime to go on a date, but Paladin replies that he never lets business interfere with pleasure. As the crimefighter departs, Spider-Man sticks a spider tracer to his costume. Then Spider-Man carries the victim away. But by this time, Bannon has arrived, and he takes a picture of Spider-Man with the body from a hidden vantage point. Spider-Man’s spider-sense tingles briefly, but he disregards the sensation. Afterward, Paladin congratulates Spider-Man for having had the wisdom to hold out for a fee. At first, he has no idea what Paladin is talking about, but then it becomes apparent that Paladin charges for his services, where-as Spider-Man does not. Paladin chuckles about how Spider-Man puts his life on the line for nothing, but Spider-Man is disgusted by Paladin’s mercenary attitude and web-swings away. Spider-Man soon enters his apartment through the skylight and hangs up his costume, pondering Paladin’s words. Perhaps, he thinks, he is angry at having been reminded that when he first received his spider-powers, he, too, used them to make money. Then he recalls how he tried to become a television star, and how for selfish reasons he failed to apprehend the criminal who later killed his beloved uncle Ben. Thus he decides that he will, after all, help Paladin and Mrs. Michaels. The next day, a Saturday, Peter brings his photographs of the last night’s battle to the Daily Bugle. Gloria Grant lets him in to see Jameson, and Peter is surprised to see Lance Bannon in the office ahead of him. When Peter hands Jameson the pictures, Jameson takes one look at them and throws them away. Then he tells the chagrined Peter to look at a “real picture,” taken by Bannon. It is the first authentic photograph of the Street Stalker, says Jameson proudly. Sure enough, it is the picture Bannon took of Spider-Man carrying away the Street Stalker’s victim. Jameson declares that he has been warning the public for years about that “web-swinging menace,” and now he has the proof that he was right. He and Lance were just discussing the expanded photo spread on the Spider-Man menace for the Bugle’s Sunday edition, he continues. Then he ascribing it to overwork. Soon Spider-Man drops the man off at City General Hospital. Then he tracks the spider tracer and Paladin to the posh Gold Star Restaurant. As he watches, a man, a young woman, and Paladin disembark from a horse-drawn carriage. Spider-Man drops down in front of them and tells Paladin he wants answers. Paladin, however, is irritated that Spider-Man is interrupting his engagement. But before he and Spider-Man can get into a brawl, the woman intervenes. Spider-Man could be useful, she says, because they need “all the help they can get.” Paladin introduces the woman as Mrs. Christine Michaels and the man as Dr. Bradshaw, and he invites Spider-Man to join them for a light dinner. This Spider-Man does, but Marcel, the maitre Chorel, insists that Spider-Man wear a tie. Being a friend of the owner, Paladin is exempt from this restaurant policy, but Spider-Man, alas, is not. So he quickly spins a bow tie from his webbing, puts it around his neck, and takes a seat. As they wait to be served, Christine explains that the Street Stalker is actually her husband, Walter. He and she were nutritionists who had developed a process to transmit synthetic vitamins directly into the body with microwaves. Against the advice of Bradshaw, Walter’s best friend and assistant, Walter insisted on trying out the experimental syntho-bombardment chamber himself. But the special radiation-absorbing suit that he wore during the experiment “worked too well,” so that he absorbed an extreme dosage of synthetic vitamins. When Bradshaw and Christine removed him from the chamber, he was weak and dazed but seemed otherwise unaffected. Yet, a few days later, when a male nurse tried to take his temperature, Wafter absorbed his body heat on contact, much as he had absorbed the nutrients in the radiation chamber. Then he discovered that he could use the absorbed energy to increase his strength and speed, or he could focus it into highly destructive bursts of force. Unfortunately, he became overly fascinated with the power at his command, and he soon ran away from the laboratory. When Christine read about the Street Stalker in the newspapers, she realized that he must be her husband, so she contacted Paladin and they arranged this meeting. Christine bursts into tears as she concludes her story, and tells Peter to come back when he really has something. Dejected, Peter walks out of the office. Joe Robertson, standing by Gloria’s desk as Peter leaves, worries that Bannon seems to be pushing for Peter’s job. As evening falls, Spider-Man web-swings out over the city to track down his spider tracer and Paladin. He soon finds the crimefighter on a rooftop, but as he tries to sneak up on him, Paladin asks what kept him. Then Paladin tosses him the tracer and says that he followed the Street Stalker to the abandoned Sperry Printing building across the street. However, he continues, he does not know just where in the structure Michaels is hidden. Spider-Man promises to find him and swings over to the roof for a look around. Meanwhile, inside the building, the Street Stalker, wearing a purple-and-yellow costume, exercises his powers by destroying an old printing press with a force blast. The news media have dubbed him the “Street Stalker,” he says indignantly, but he deserves a more noble title—such as Thermo, the Thermatronic Man. But then it strikes him that his newly acquired powers are taking control of him, that he needs help. These thoughts are driven away when Spider-Man suddenly crashes down through the skylight and Paladin runs in through the door. Thermo fends off his attackers with a force blast, and Paladin tells Spider-Man to get out of the way so he can get off a good shot with his pistol. This Spider-Man does, but the shot has no effect. Thermo then hurls Spider-Man into Paladin and blasts a hole in the floor beneath them. They fall, smashing through each rotted floor in turn until they come to rest in the basement. Paladin is thankful that his body armor protected him, but Spider-Man is covered with bruises. Dusting themselves off, they leave in pursuit of Thermo. Across town, at the scientific laboratories of Michaels & Michaels, Paul Bradshaw finds Christine Michaels weeping near the machine that transformed her husband. As he puts his arms around her shoulders to comfort her, Walter Michaels enters and sees them embracing. He immediately accuses his wife of sabotaging the experiment so she could be together with Bradshaw. Christine denies this, saying that Paul was only comforting her, but Thermo slaps her aside, grabs Bradshaw’s throat, and sucks up his body heat, killing him. Then he runs from the building, vowing to pursue his “destiny” at all costs. Paladin and Spider-Man arrive moments later and find Christine utterly despondent. She explains what her husband did to Bradshaw and concludes that he has gone mad. Then Paladin affixes the nullifier to his pistol, Spider-Man puts a fresh cartridge in his web-shooter, and they set out after Thermo. When they overtake him a few blocks away, he hurls a lamppost at Spider-Man. As Paladin dodges Thermo’s bioelectric blasts, Spider-Man slams his feet into Thermo’s head. Thermo falls, but not before destroying a parked car with an energy bolt. Then Paladin takes aim with the nullifier, but unfortunately, its ray proves quite ineffective. Ridiculing their “ultimate weapon,” Thermo force-blasts Paladin into a plate glass store window across the street from a theater where, by coincidence, Dazzler happens to be preparing for a show. Spider-Man tries to web up Thermo’s hands, but Thermo tears the webbing apart and smashes Spider-Man into the theater wall. The impact startles Alison in her dressing room, but before she can go out to investigate, she has to finish putting her makeup on (it is part of her costume). Meanwhile, another force blast pounds Spider-Man into the wall hard enough to break a hole in it. Then Thermo grabs Spider-Man around the throat. Barely conscious, Spider-Man feels his body heat start to drain away.