The scariest panel in Marvel Comics history?

Plus: Who is the immortal being who has been pulling the strings of the Marvel Universe since its very beginning????

So I'm sitting there, reading The Amazing Spider-Man Essential Volume 9 (which finally came out; thanks, Marvel, for making me wait!), and I'm trying to enjoy the old-school Spidey goodness and the art of such luminaries as Jim Starlin, John Byrne, Frank Miller, John Romita Jr., with a good dose of Keith Pollard and a dash of Al Milgrom thrown in. However, I can't, because this volume contains what just might be the most terrifying panels in Marvel history, and now it haunts my dreams! It haunts my dreams!!!!!

But first, a clue to the person who has been secretly running the Marvel Universe for centuries! In issue #187 (written by Marv Wolfman, co-plotted and laid out by Jim Starlin, and finished by Bob McLeod), we find this panel:

Okay, so exactly how old is J. Jonah Jameson? This comic was published in 1978. I asked my wife how old she thinks JJJ is (based on J. K. Simmons' portrayal in the movies). She said 65. The owner of my comics shoppe also said 65. The other employee and I both think late 50s. Even if he's 65, he would have been 19 in 1932, when FDR defeated Hoover. Would he really be that angry about it at 19? I suppose, but if he's, say, 58, that means he was 12 in 1932. Why would a 12-year-old be that grumpy about a socialist beating an inept president? It makes no sense, man!

No, the only logical explanation, soon to be revealed by Brian Michael Bendis in the six-issue mini-series The Power Behind the Illuminati: J. Jonah Jameson's Life as an Immortal (with art by Bryan Hitch, which means the first issue will ship in October 2008 and the sixth in July 2017), is that JJJ is immortal. He's been secretly shaping events in the Marvel U. since caped apes came down from the trees. Apocalypse is pretty old, right? Hah! JJJ was his master in ancient Egypt! What better way for an immortal to influence events than as a newspaper publisher???? It all makes sense!!!

But that's not the most horrible thing in this collection of comics. Yes, the idea of an undying J. Jonah Jameson chills the very marrow of my bones, but in a later issue (#207 to be exact), Denny O'Neil, aided by James Mooney and Pablo Marcos, gives us this panel:

What the hell? WHAT THE FREAKIN' HELL?!?!?!?!?

That's Peter on a date with Debby Whitman, by the way. They've gone to see Mesmero, who's supposedly gone straight. As they leave the theater, that dude approaches them. Get a closer look:

I can't even imagine someone coming up to me and saying that. It would totally freak me out forever. I don't know what the hell O'Neil was trying to do, but if he was trying to scare the bejesus out of me, he succeeded. Later in the issue, a dude (presumably the same one) asks Debby if she wants to buy something "stinky," but that's just drugs, I suppose. What could he mean by this question? Exactly what would Peter and Debby see if they had listened to this strange, evil man?

This issue is near the end of the volume (issue #210 is the final one), so I don't know if O'Neil was setting something up that would show up down the line, where we learn more about this dude. I hope not, as it would diminish the absolute terror contained in that panel. Seriously - does anything come close in Marvel Comics history? I THINK NOT!!!!!!!

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