It was July 1976. The nation was busy celebrating its bicentennial, a gallon of gas cost 60 cents, and the Yankees were heading for their first postseason in 12 years, but the real action was at Brookhaven National Laboratory, scene of a life-and-death battle between Spiderman, Doctor Octopus, and the Ghost of Hammerhead.
That’s right, The Amazing Spider-Man #158 was set at Brookhaven, as the reader is informed, “on Long Island’s thriving North Shore: Usually these quiet buildings are merely devoted to extensive research in the field of atomic energy, but today they are an arena, a burgeoning battlefield destined to witness combat of a most unlikely nature!”
The plot: After surviving a near-fatal fall from a helicopter at the hands of Doctor Octopus, Spiderman learns that the villain is “holding some old lady hostage out at Brookhaven Labs.” Spidey speeds to the scene, where Octopus has taken Aunt May and is keeping the Suffolk County SWAT team at bay while he builds an atomic device to destroy his arch nemesis Hammerhead. Hammerhead had become a ghost following an atomic explosion in an earlier issue and vowed revenge on the Doctor.
Spiderman initially fights with Octopus inside the reactor-like structure where he’s holed up, freeing May and knocking the equipment around. Then, after the Doctor explains his intentions, Spidey helps reassemble the machinery and they lure Hammerhead’s ghost inside. The plan backfires when, instead of vaporizing the ghost, the machinery brings Hammerhead back to human form. The issue ends with Hammerhead, named for his steel-alloy skull, seizing Aunt May and preparing his escape.
Some key panels from the issue are reproduced below.*
*Copyright Marvel Comics