Appearing in "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Lunatik!"
- Dollar Bill
- Professor Turk
- The Presence
- Red Guardian (Only in flashback)
- Daily Bugle
- Unnamed horses of the Richmond Riding Academy.
- Devil-Slayer (Mentioned)
- Doctor Strange (Mentioned)
- Doug Henning (Mentioned)
- Frigga (Mentioned)
- Ledge (Mentioned)
- Avengers (Mentioned)
- Giant Amoeba (Mentioned)
- John Travolta (Mentioned)
- Cat (Mentioned)
- Sam Peckinpah (Mentioned)
- Hela (Mentioned)
Races and Species:
- New York City
- Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Topical reference)
- Valhalla (Mentioned)
- Cat Suit
- Shadow Cloak. A teleportation cloak used by Hellcat.
- Spider-Man's Suit
- Spider-Man's Spider-Signal
- Spider-Man's Webshooters
- Spider-Man statue.
Synopsis for "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Lunatik!"
The story begins at the Richmond Riding Academy. Hellcat performs tricks with her Shadow Cloak, demonstrating its uses in front of her friends Hulk, Nighthawk, Valkyrie, and Dollar Bill. Most of them seem to be enjoying the show and smile, but Hulk disagrees. He voices concern over Hellcat using the magical item. He explains that he has seen what the Cloak can do, and that he does not trust it.
Nighthawk serves hot chocolate beverages to the team, though he claims that he has had some trouble while using the coffee pot to prepare them. As everyone enjoys their chocolate, Valkyrie laments that Devil-Slayer and Doctor Strange have left the team and can not share this moment of fellowship. Hellcat replies that the two missing men are "quiet types" and feel uncomfortable when part of crowds. Dollar Bill offers to book a theatrical show for Hellcat, where she could perform her act. Nighthawk prepares to read his copy of Daily Bugle, but Hellcat prefers to continue her performance.
Trying to entertain the Hulk, Hellcat tries pulling something out of the teleportation cloak. She accidentally pulls out the head of the Ort-Beast, an extradimensional foe of the Hulk. Hulk goes into attack mode and assaults the Shadow Cloak, accidentally hurting Hellcat in the process. Nighthawk and Valkyrie intervene and stop the Hulk's rampage, though the Hulk blames Hellcat for showing off. Hellcat decides to quit practicing for the day, though Valkyrie encourages her friend to learn how to use the cloak wisely. Hulk apologizes for getting Hellcat in trouble.
Dollar Bill has picked up the Daily Bugle issue and calls Valkyrie's attention to the headline in the front page: "Campus Killings: Lunatik still at large". It seems that their old foe Lunatik has kept on roughing up and outright killing people at the Empire State University. And there seems to be no motive behind the crimes. Valkyrie is enraged, since she once spared the Lunatik out of mercy while her foe is seemingly merciless. She wishes she could lay hands on him again. Hellcat suggests setting up a trap of Lunatik. She reasons that super-villains set up traps for heroes all the time, so they could learn from them and turn the tables. Dollar Bill agrees with the plan and volunteers to film this expedition.
The following day, Hellcat drives the Hellcatmobile towards the Empire State University, with Valkyrie and Dollar Bill as passengers. Valkyrie realizes that Hellcat is a reckless driver and fears that she is endangering the lives of innocents. Hellcat replies that she is a whiz at the wheel, even though she has yet to renew her expired driving license. Val is not pleased with the idea that Hellcat is violating the law, but Hellcat replies that she is using her Avengers' priority status to avoid getting stopped by traffic cops.
After arriving at the University, Dollar Bill suggests convincing Professor Turk to work with them in setting this trap. Turk is the University's dean of drama. The three of them soon enter Turk's office and attempt to convince the Professor to join their group of conspirators. They are counting on his "wacky" ideas to lure the Lunatik into a trap. They are pointing out that while Lunatik is a vigilante who seems eager to punish criminals, he can not tell the difference between drug dealers and litterbugs. He assaults and punishes anyone who breaks rules equally harshly, motivated by his own irrational ethics. Turk notes that Valkyrie has tried interfering with Lunatik's plans before, and he suggests that she has been provoking his attacks. Valkyrie angrily claims that she is not responsible for Lunatik's brutal bludgeonings of his targets.
Deciding to join their group, Turk starts searching for something to lure Lunatik's attention. He theorizes that Lunatik is violently opposed to "scoff-laws" (people who scoff at laws). Statues are frequently erected to honor heroes. Erecting a statue to lionize a lawbreaker would certainly annoy Lunatik. He suggests erecting a statue to honor another costumed crime-fighter, who happens to hang around the University campus and is also a super "scoff-law". Hellcat gets the point, that Turk is hinting towards Spider-Man. Val is not certain what would be the point in using Spidey, so Dollar Bill explains it to her. The Defenders are not wanted by the police, but Spider-Man is a wanted man. Lunatik would love to lay his hands on Spidey. Erecting a statue to Spider-Man would attract the attention of both Spidey and Lunatik, and they would both come out of the woodwork. The Defenders would get their bad guy, and Dollar Bill would get to film the whole event. Dollar Bill calls Turk a genius, and the Professor thanks him for the compliment. Turk's smile seems sinister.
The scene shifts to Soviet Union, where a military meteorological airplane has a close encounter with the Presence. The Soviet officers aboard the plane mistake Sergei for an unidentified flying object (UFO) but decide against reporting the encounter to the authorities. They do not want to get ridiculed by their superiors. They note, however, that they are flying over an area known for strange apparitions.
Meanwhile, the Presence is lost in his own thoughts. He has been wandering aimlessly. He no longer has any goals in his life, and feels that he has no future either. His beloved Red Guardian has rejected him, and he has since been overcome by his own melancholy. He spend a lifetime striving after ultimate power. Now he has achieved power, but he lacks what he actually needs in his life. His chosen mate has denied him. He has been denied her love, her companionship, and her acceptance. Which is all he really sought in the first place.
The Presence enters Khystym, the Forbidden Area, in search of solitude. For many years, Sergei was the power behind the politicians of the Soviet Union. He consequently knows many of the Union's darkest secrets. As he hovers above the wrecked buildings and vehicles of the Zone, he contemplates that he knows what truly happened here in the 1950s. A secret kept hidden from the world, in order to prevent a worldwide reaction of panic. Sergei encounters giant mushrooms and what seems to be a human skeleton. He claims that here lurks the greatest threat to human life. The scene ends.
The scene shifts to the Richmond Riding Academy, where Hellcat practices stunts while riding two black horses. She is being filmed by Dollar Bill. Valkyrie rides on a flying Aragorn, and alerts Hellcat that the Spider-Man statue has arrived. Dollar Bill films the scene where the two women appear to be racing against each other. In his opinion, this is more exciting that the chariot-racing scene in "Ben-Hur". Hellcat quits practicing her horsemanship, in order to head for the barn where Nighthawk has called a meeting.
Nearby, the Hulk has found a place in the grass, besides a mare and her foal. He enjoys the peaceful solitude of the location, as there are no "puny people" around to fear him. The Hulk's contemplations are interrupted by Nighthawk who wants his to come to the meeting. The Hulk finds him annoying and tells him to "bug off". Nighthawk convinces him to enter the barn, by claiming he has a surprise for the Hulk. Hellcat, Valkyrie, and Dollar Bill discuss that Nighthawk plans for the Hulk to serve as the Defenders' secret weapon.
Hulk is disappointed to learn that the "stupid" statue is the surprise. Nighthawk keeps it covered under wraps, while only the statue's base is visible. He claims there is no time for them to examine the statue, as it has to be delivered to Empire State University by this night and being placed by the following dawn. Dollar Bill wants to know how did Nighthawk manage to acquire a statue so soon. Nighthawk replies that he has an artist friend, who happened to owe him a big favor.
Then Nighthawk explains his plan for the capture of Lunatik, which happens to be a variation of the Trojan Horse scheme from Greek mythology. The base of the statue is hollow and can hide a person. He wants the Hulk to enter it. The Hulk figures out what the plan is on his own. He is expected to hide himself in this small place, get transported to New York City within the statue, and stay hidden until Lunatik appears. The Hulk objects to the plan, which he finds to be stupid. He refuses to do it and tells Nighthawk to trap Lunatik on his own. He is actually tempted to smash the statue, but decides against it. He does not want to make his friends angry. So he just wants to leave. He leaps away, through the roof of the barn, and disappears. The other Defenders are disappointed. Dollar Bill actually volunteers to replace the Hulk and hide in the statue's base, but Valkyrie turns down the offer.
The scene shifts to the Daily Bugle Building, where J. Jonah Jameson shouts his demand to see Peter Parker. Jonah has already found out about the Spider-Man statue intended to be erected at the Empire State University. He is not happy to have learned it by reading an issue of a rival newspaper, the New York Post. Jonah wants to know why the Daily Bugle did not publish anything in relation to this story. Robbie Robertson explains that the news broke too late for them to be included in the Bugle's morning edition. The Bugle instead covered a story about the Lunatik's latest assault. Lunatik apprehended a 14-year-old girl who was shoplifting, and then proceeded to kill her. Jonah is at least somewhat pleased that they published real news.
Jonah instructs Parker to head towards the Empire State University to cover the statue's unveiling. He also wants him to find out the story behind the statue. Robbie explains that Jonah expects both Spider-Man and Lunatik to be present at the morning ceremony. Jonah himself explains that he wants photos of Spider-Man and Lunatik. He suspects them to be working together behind the scenes. Parker is still puzzled about the idea of Spider-Man statue. Later, as Spider-Man, Parker decides that this statue unveiling ceremony is a trap of some kind. He admits it is his own cynicism which informs this idea. A genuine ceremony in his honor sounds too good to be true.
Spidey decides to investigate at the Empire State University before the erection of the statue. He finds the haulers who transported the statue, and accuses them of violating union rules by working on a Sunday night. He suspects that they are criminals in disguise and challenges them to a fist-fight. The workers try to explain that they are not crooks. Spidey's Spider-Sense is suddenly tingling, alerting him that someone is sneaking around on a nearby roof. He decides to investigate, expecting combat with a real foe.
Spider-Man decides to attack first and ask questions later, as he can not predict hat powers his opponent may have. A blind attack with his Web-Shooters results in him capturing Hellcat, who is left stuck on a wall. He recognizes the Cat Suit and initially believes her to be the Cat (Greer Grant), though he recognizes that her voice is different. Hellcat identifies herself and explains that she is a member of the Defenders. Spidey questions her about the statue. Before answering, she wants to know how long will his web stay around her. He replies that it will dissolve in an hour. She decides to tell him that he is the Defenders' bait in a plan to capture Lunatik, and to explain the whole plan to him. She even flirts with him.
An hour later, Hellcat is free and Spidey has details about the Defenders' plan. He considers the plan hair-brained, but decides to play along. The two heroes see a crowd of college kids approaching the statue. The kids are angry that the University is erecting a statue to honor Spider-Man, who they consider to be a "no-class loser", a "jerk", and a "sell out". Spidey decides to warn them to leave, before Lunatik arrives at the scene. When he approaches the statue, he receives a surprise attack by Lunatik himself.
Lunatik next kick Spidey in the head. He tries to attack again, but Spidey predicts and evades his next move. Nearby, Nighthawk and Valkyrie arrive, but are too slow to help. When Spidey attempts to web Lunatik, the vigilante simply grabs a college student and uses him as a human shield. Hellcat attacks Lunatik next and uses a dropkick to cause him to fall. The college students take the opportunity to escape. Nighthawk challenges Lunatik next, while the vigilante is still down on the ground. Lunatik is unimpressed, and uses his staff to knock out Nighthawk. Nearby, Dollar Bill has arrived and prepares to start filming the fight.
Valkyrie and Aragorn lift up the unconscious Nighthawk. Meanwhile, Hellcat and Spider-Man cooperate to corner Lunatik. The vigilante is trapped between them, with seemingly no way to escape. But he seems defiant and refuses to back down. He slips free of Hellcat, seems about to attack Spider-Man, and then throws his staff to the air. He was actually aiming at Aragorn. The injured horse drops Valkyrie and Nighthawk from a great height. Spidey uses all his webbing to cushion their fall and prevent their deaths. Spider-Man, Hellcat, and Dollar Bill then prepare to jointly attack Lunatik. Lunatik simply uncovers the statue, uses the wrapping to cover Hellcat, Spider-Man, and Dollar Bill, and then disappears.
As the defeated heroes eventually recover, they take their first look at the Spider-Man statue. It is a rather hideous modernist sculpture of the web-slinger, which looks ridiculous. Spidey wants it taken down. Valkyrie criticizes Nighthawk for the result of his efforts. Nighthawk admits defeat and the story ends.
- Nel Yomtov is credited as Nellie.
- Lunatik last appeared in Defenders #56.
- The issue mentions the running gag that the Defenders continue to have problems when using their coffee machine.
- Devil-Slayer and Doctor Strange were seen with the Defenders in issue #60, but have apparently left the team in the intervening time between the two issues.
- When Dollar Bill offers to book a theatrical show for Hellcat and her magical cloak, he comments that she would be a bigger success than the magic show of Doug Henning (1947-2000). Henning was a Canadian stage magician, illusionist, and escape artist. He became famous as the star of "The Magic Show" (1974-1978), a one-man musical performance in Broadway. His theatrical show lasted for 1,920 performances. He also successfully appeared in a number of television productions.
- The Ort-Beast faced the Hulk in combat in Defenders Vol 1 59 (May, 1978). Their conflict was inconclusive, with the two opponents having matching strength. The creature can not speak, its only vocalization being "Ort".
- Hellcat mentally controls the Shadow Cloak. When the Hulk attacks the Cloak, Hellcat starts feeling a headache due to the attack. It is a clue that her mental powers work in unexpected ways, a plot point which would be further explored in Dollar Bill's Documentary Disaster.
- The Hulk attacks and hurts Hellcat due to a misunderstanding, but apologizes to Nighthawk for his outburst. It is unclear why he does not apologize to Hellcat herself.
- Ben-Hur (1959) is a 1959 American feature film, and an adaptation of the novel "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" (1880). The film was set in the 1st-century Roman Empire and included chariot-racing scenes which used actual horses. The film was the greatest box-office hit of the 1950s and won 11 Academy Awards.
- J. Jonah Jameson complains in this issue that there are Spider-Man comics, toys, and television shows. For an outlaw vigilante, Spider-Man appears to be very popular in Earth-616.
- When the haulers recognize Spider-Man and shout his codename, he replies with the phrase "I sure ain't John Travolta". John Travolta (1954-) was a young actor who achieved major fame in the 1970s. He had a co-starring role in the sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter" (1975-1979), he played the protagonist in the film "Saturday Night Fever" (1977), and played the male lead in the film "Grease" (1978). At the time of the issue's publication, Travolta was 24-years-old and still at the beginning of a relatively long career.
- Spider-Man initially mistakes Hellcat (Patsy Walker) for the Cat (Greer Grant). Both women have used the Cat Suit, though they have different hair colors. Spidey claims that their voices are different, though he does not explain the difference.
- Hellcat is depicted as flirtatious in her Defenders appearances, though her flirting with Spider-Man is a bit odd. He is wearing a uniform which covers his entire body and face, but she deduces that there is a cute guy beneath the mask.
- While preparing to film the fight, Dollar Bill compares himself to film director Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984). Peckinpah was known for directing violent films, often Westerns. A typical plot of his films was depicting loners or losers who are forced into fighting, in order to survive in a brutal world.
- How Lunatik escaped was explained in a flashback scene in Defenders Vol 1 62 (August, 1978). There was a secret passage at the base of the statue and he escaped through it. How Lunatik found out about the passage was never explained. There was also a continuity problem involving the flashback scene. The scene was supposedly filmed by Dollar Bill, who was at the time trapped with the others.
- The Marvel Chronology Project, which covers character appearances, has the following information about the characters of the issue:
- Hulk previously appeared in Incredible Hulk Vol 1 226 (August, 1978). He next appears in Hulk! Vol 1 10 (August, 1978).
- J. Jonah Jameson previously appeared in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol 1 19 (June, 1978). His next appearance is in Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 182 (July, 1978).
- The Presence previously appeared in Defenders Vol 1 55 (January, 1978).
- Joseph Robertson previously appeared in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol 1 19 (June, 1978). His next appearance is in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol 1 21 (August, 1978).
- Spider-Man previously appeared in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol 1 20 (July, 1978). His next appearance is in Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 182 (July, 1978).