Truncate: to shorten by, or as if by cutting off; to replace.
Bet you thought you’d see a pic of an edge or corner of a crystal replaced by an intersecting plane, huh? Nope! Whatever the original intent of this post was going to be, it was cut off by the interjection of the sinister Shocker! Just like he did in March 1967 <as pictured above> this Marvel Comics supervillain barged onto the scene today, at least in my mind anyway, and refused to be ignored.
Well, mostly because i’d planned to share the handful of comics i got as a Valentine’s Day gift and kinda review them. See, there’s a store a couple of blocks away called Big Fun. It’s probably one of the coolest shops i’ve ever been to. In addition to all the kitschy brik-a-brak and novelties they carry, the place is packed with old toys and action figures (more than a few i once possessed). On top of all that, they have comic books too. Basically it’s flea market style when it comes to comics though – no smartly displayed new book section every Wednesday. You never know what you’ll come across. But if you’re my girlfriend, you’d smartly choose a handful of random books like Batman #186, The Incredible Hulk #164, and The Amazing Spider-Man #72. Because you know Batman is my all-around favorite; i have renewed interest in the Hulk since engaging in one of the Great Debates; and because The Shocker is awesome.
If that’s not love, i don’t know what is.
Fun reads, all.
Something about that Shocker…i just can’t put my finger on it. What’s the appeal? He’s always been one of my favorite bad guys, but if i’m honest, i never had many books featuring him and i couldn’t regale you with tales of his exploits. At the end of the day though, literally, the character demands my attention. i’ve had an entirely too frustrating day, and i imagine if Herman Schultz would have been in my shoes, by this point he’d be vibro-blastin’ the hell out of the car wash down the street and the eyeglass store in the mall. So i figured he deserves a post all his own, and maybe i’ll figure out what’s so darn interesting about this relatively low-key super criminal.
A good place to start is probably the earliest memory i can conjure of my exposure to the character. More than likely, it was this early 80’s episode of the classic Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends program.
Like most of trappings of youth, nostalgic memory trumps the real thing. On the other hand, the audio effect for the Shocker’s voice is top notch. That braggadocio will forever carry the hollow, metallic pitch in my imagination.
Barring the obvious continuity issues and overall campiness, excusable in a cartoon aimed at single-digit youngsters, i have to say the portrayal of the Shocker encapsulates the character fairly well. The basics that i understood going in were decently covered: career criminal who builds his vibro-gauntlets while in the clink, uses them to escape and embarks on a spree of heists. Capturing his frequent homicidal outbursts of anger comes across clearly, too. A smattering of Stan Lee and Len Wein penned tales from the late 60’s and mid-70’s showcase Shocker as violently aggressive and shockingly arrogant. Since his power involves essentially concentrated blasts of air (not electricity), i have no choice to but conclude he chose his villainous moniker to send a message – if you assume he’s your average crook perpetrating your average heist, you’re in for a shock.
That being said, at this point i’m feeling kind of on the fence about the guy. On the one hand, his origin is always something i admired about the character. In a nutshell, Herman Schultz was a run-of-the-mill burglar. At the same time, he’s a brilliant engineer. You put a guy like that in prison enough times and the man known for breaking into things puts his genius to work and builds a device to break out.
What puts me on the fence is the age-old question i’ve often pondered in regards to comic book larceny of the hi-tech kind. Why risk exposure and physical punishment at the hands of your heroic counterparts when you could instead just patent that stuff and get rich that way? Shockie’s vibro-gauntlets are pretty freakin’ powerful. Aside from the obvious military application, there’s dozens of other uses for the things. But i guess that’s part of the psyche of these characters – big egos. Why sell your invention when you can get the thrill of using it yourself?! And besides, judging by the staying power of Shocker’s 45 year career he’s done pretty well for himself. When you’re a comic book supervillain, you really can’t judge by triumphs and defeats because, let’s face it – the bad guy always loses. For my money, i’d say a guy with some nifty gloves going toe-to-toe with Spider-Man and giving ol’ webhead a run for his money is a check in the win column.
Reading up on the character today, i noticed a trend about the character. He is the consummate shit-talker, brimming with bravado and never backing down. That yellow quilted body suit gives Herman Schultz whatever confidence he needs to take crap from no one. He goes from self-described “two-time loser” to telling off Spidey as his inferior. Which you’ll notice follows the financial statement, letting you know where the Shocker’s true passion lies. It’s all about the money.
i really dig the fact that his suit is neither too colorful or even all that cool looking, which of course makes it cooler for that simple fact alone. It’s just straight-up functional. Why yellow and brown, i couldn’t tell you. In fact, just typing that out there made me think ewwww. The clothes make the man. And in Shocker’s case, when he first put that get-up together, everything gelled for him.
Re-discovering this old gem was such a relief. A few weeks ago, a friend and i were talking about the Shocker, and neither of us had a solid idea what he looked like under his mask. In my mind, i had a vague picture of a hard-faced fella with red hair. But after viewing that Spidey episode i see where that came from. Then there’s this issue where he narrates his origin and he’s a pretty pug-ugly sonofabitch. You’ll notice, however, that from the moment he dons his super suit, all that skulking-in-the-shadows business is kaput. Herman Schultz? That guy’s a loser.
The Shocker kicked Schultz to the curb and never looked back. In fact, i’d be willing to wager his real name has barely been used since. In some ways, he’s a little Batman-ish himself. The Shocker is the real personality. Herman Schultz is just some guy he pretends to be.
By the time he shows up again 26 issues later to lift a priceless clay tablet, Shocker amps up the aggression by blasting his way right into a police captain’s home where the object of his desire is being held in a safe. Boy, the temper on this guy! One minute, you’re thinking he’s not so bad. True, he K.O.’s the silver-haired top cop, but just enough to leave him with a headache. Thankfully for Peter Parker’s squeeze Gwen Stacy, by the time she arrives to help her dad, Shocker’s already got what he wants and leaves her unharmed.
Flip the page and he dismantles a fence’s pawnshop in a show of strength. Seems the small-potatoes smuggler can’t unload the goods because word is Spider-Man was involved. And no body wants to tangle with the web-slinger. No body but the Shocker! He blasts the seedy shop to smithereens, and just for good measure starts a little solo riot in the streets.
The remainder of the issue, we’re treated to a canned, cliched version of just about every over-the-top antagonist. Shocker reasons that if he can’t sell the tablet because everyone’s afraid Spider-Man will come after it, he’ll just lay the smack down on the wall-crawler instead. And if you ask me, that’s where he went awry. Up until that point, Shockie had a good thing going. He was smart, enough to not only build the powerful vibro-gauntlets but also stick to what he knows – smash and grab. A less passionate perp might have just sat on the tablet until the heat died, maybe pull a few other jobs in the meantime. If he had, a spider-tracer planted in the scuffle wouldn’t have led to Spidey thwarting what would otherwise have been a clean armored car heist just a few pages later. Despite an excellent showing in the second encounter of his second comic appearance, he is roundly beaten by his arachnoid foe’s quick wit and even quicker adaptability.
80 issues later, Shocker returns to his alliterative roots, after a fling with rhyme.
This time around, Shocker’s gotten really ambitious and threatens to blackout the entirety of New York City unless he’s paid the exorbitant sum of one million dollars! Eat your heart out, Dr. Evil. Just to show how darkly serious he is, Shocker sends a message to the Big Apple by killing the power on a series of buildings in order to spell out his nom de guerre. Thankfully for Manhattanites, Spidey (see here hanging from a web connected to…what? A cloud?) spots the problem and using his vast intellect deduces that Shocker must be holed up in a power plant. In what is probably an off-panel stop to check public records and see which plant powers those blocks, the wall-crawler arrives at the correct plant and yadda yadda yadda webs Shocker’s vibro-gauntlet triggers so he can’t shut them off, and the out-of-control blasts bounce the villain around the room until he’s knocked out. To his credit though, he did almost kill Spidey again, throwing him towards the whirling blades of a deadly dynamo.
You know, at this point if i’m honest the steam is running out. The piss and vinegar that began this examination kinda dried up in the several weeks i’ve been procrastinating on wrapping this up. So, at the risk of cheesing out, i’m going to truncate this post and just call it a day.
* * * * *
Yeah…kinda lost the thread on this one. At the time it was a perfect storm of a frustrating day, opportune comic book gifts, and salient conversation with a friend. Then a bunch of pesky “real life” stuff took precedence and here i am quite a few weeks later wondering “where was i going with this?”
Anywoo, at the very least i hope you enjoyed the cartoon and pages of Shockie’s origin. Looking down the pike i’ve got a busy summer school schedule starting relatively soon and an even busier fall looming ahead. i’m still working on getting a high-profile interview that is much trickier to secure, so in the meantime i’ll be scheming to snag a few other ones to share with ya’ll.
As always, thanks for visiting!