This week’s assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers comes on the heels of Free Comic Book Day (Saturday, May 4th). In just two simple words… “Comic Books”. Well, this is a good time to explain how I became a comic book reader and relive some story arcs and covers from THE quintessential comic book superhero… Spider-Man! Brace yourselves, true believers… this is part one of a two-parter!
Comic books have always played a large role in my life. Ever since Pop used to buy me issues of Sgt. Rock and Warlord that I could barely understand at age 7, through all the years of comics being shared and traded throughout elementary and middle school years. X-Men, The Flash, Batman, G.I. Joe, The Transformers, The G.I. Joe and The Transformers limited series, Madballs, Captain America Goes to War Against Drugs… these were just some of the books I had read early on before becoming a collector. But comics to me were just another entertainment medium– I didn’t differentiate between Marvel and DC comic books and the comic strips they had in the newspaper. Shout-out to the funnies like Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, The Family Circus, Little Orphan Annie and of course, Spider-Man. Hostess had comic book ads featuring Marvel superheroes for their fruit pies and Twinkies. And heck… my favorite Saturday morning cartoon hands-down was Spider-man and His Amazing Friends (followed immediately by The Incredible Hulk).
But at such a young age, other than the underoos, the Mego toy and the occasional coloring book or repeat of the 1960’s cartoon, I didn’t know about Spider-Man. No, not until I started reading the comics. I mean, REALLY reading them. A lot of credit for the roots of my comic book collecting, reading and arguably addiction to this very day has to go to my older cousins. When I would visit their houses, I was always interested in seeing their comic books. I had one cousin who kept crates filled with Giant Size comics, like Conan The Barbarian, Defenders, X-Men and more. One comic that stood out to me that I know full well I wasn’t supposed to see at my age was Omaha The Cat Dancer. You could say it was my introduction to furries, but that’s a post for another blog….
Another cousin on the other side of town (hint: he’s in the cast of this 2004 movie) really got me started, however, and it was in no way intentional nor encouraged. When we’d go over to visit, other than the standard playtime with tag, toys, Nintendo games and re-enacting WWF wrestling (shout-out to the “finger four leg lock”, the atomic drop and the “Macho Man” flying elbow from the top rope), I’d find a way to sneak off to my cousin’s room. When no one was looking, I’d snoop around under his bed for two things: (a) National Lampoon magazine, which was basically a combination of Mad and Playboy. and his comic books. As I would find out years later and as any real collector would tell you, keeping comics under your bed is not the optimal storage location, but lo and behold, there were some awesome issues of Uncanny X-Men, The Avengers, West Coast Avengers, The New Teen Titans, Secret Wars, some of Marvel’s New Universe titles (shout-out to Star Brand, D.P.7 and Kickers, Inc.)…. and of course, Spider-Man.
It was during those many times I’d sneak off to peruse my cousin’s comics that I discovered that Spidey didn’t have just one comic book, but four titles. The flagship title Amazing Spider-Man, the equally intriguing Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man, the recently launched Web of Spider-Man and the monthly reprints title Marvel Tales featuring Spider-Man, which in many issues included the bonus Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham back-up story. I mean, it made sense– Spidey was Marvel’s mascot and most popular superhero… why not have him featured several times each month? It was from there that I started reading and eventually collecting my own Spidey stories– and boy were there many! From Doc Ock to Silver Sable to The Puma to Rocket Racer, The Prowler, The Big Wheel, The Spot, Electro, Hydro Man, Ringmaster, Will O’ The Wisp, Sandman, Silvermane and yes, even Stilt Man, Frog Man and The Trapster, I discovered all these crazy cool villains who gave Spider-Man headaches, keeping Peter Parker continually on his toes. I learned more about why Peter Parker is the most struggle-filled alter-ego in all of comics. Most superheroes were described as mild-mannered reporters or billionaire playboys by day, however Peter was a budding scientist, college student and freelance photographer…. who was constantly hurting for money to support his perpetually sick Aunt May (Seriously, what did she have? She was always in the hospital!) and challenged with balancing his many responsibilities with being a costumed crime fighter.
During Marvel’s Secret Wars limited series, Spider-Man adopted a new black costume by way of an alien symbiote he encountered on The Beyonder’s Battle Planet. Inspired by the newly debuted second Spider-Woman’s look, black suit Spidey returned to Earth in Amazing Spider-Man #252 with an all new look. This kept on for awhile with the costume starting to change Peter’s personality (as we saw in Sony’s Spider-Man 3 movie, sans the jazz dance number, of course), and culminated in the agonizing separation of Peter from the alien symbiote by way of church bells (soundwaves are one of the alien’s weaknesses) in Web of Spider-Man #1. From there, Spidey kept the black costume look and proceeded to endure some trying times. He faced off against The Sin Eater, who had murdered several people including Spidey’s friend, Capt. Jean DeWolff (Spectacular Spider-Man #107-110, #134-136).
Spidey was also challenged in trying to determine the identity of super-villain The Hobgoblin, who was revealed over several issues to be Flash Thompson, Ned Leeds, Jason Macendale and finally Roderick Kingsley, among others. Spidey was caught in the middle of a “Gang War” (Amazing #284-288) which introduced me to the characters of The Kingpin, Daredevil, Black Cat, The Punisher, Silvermane, Jack O’Lantern and The Rose. Spidey then has to deal with the death of Ned Leeds, fighting, then teaming up with Wolverine and actually killing a woman by his own hand (Amazing #289, Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1, Web of Spider-Man #29). Things take a momentary turn for the better when Peter asks Mary Jane to marry him (Amazing #290), MJ accepts (Amazing #292), they have a wedding issue (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21) and a honeymoon issue (Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #7). Then two back-to back cross-overs that should have been the end of Spider-Man…
Long-time Spidey enemy Kraven the Hunter goes off the deep end in a six-part story arc titled “Kraven’s Last Hunt” (Web #31-32, Amazing #293-294, Spectacular #131-132). Kraven’s Last Hunt did to Spider-Man what DC comics tried with Superman and Batman years later– it had a villain actually WIN. Fueled by seemingly mystic mojo (dude was eating spiders!) and driven by an obsession with defeating Spider-Man, Kraven captures, shoots and buries Spidey, then takes his place with his own black Spidey costume, brutalizing criminals and tormenting a man-rat hybrid sewer-dwelling creature known as Vermin. Peter, it turns out, was not dead but shot with a tranquilizer rifle. He comes to, digs himself out of the grave and confronts Kraven, who is now dressed as Spidey as well. Well past the edge of insanity, Kraven commits suicide, shooting himself in the head. Spidey tracks down Vermin in the sewers and captures him.
Immediately after this ordeal, Peter finds himself in another wild predicament in the three-part “Mad Dog Ward” story arc (Web #33, Amazing #295, Spectacular #133), as he is captured as Spider-Man and admitted to an asylum secretly run by The Kingpin. Here we see a drug-addled Peter Parker kept against his will trying to wean off of medication and convince other patients in the asylum to revolt, which they eventually do.
After all of this, you would think Peter Parker/Spider-Man would get some sort of rest, but just a few months later, the worst is yet to come…
This post is part of the League of Extraordinary Bloggers. For more info on The League, or to find out how to join, visit them here.
Also, check out some other comic book posts from around The League!
- Nerd Rage Machine
- Fortune and Glory (Days)
- Traveling Pics
- Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks
- My Vintage Toy Box
- Monster Cafe
- Canadian Cave of Cool
- The Man Who Stares at Toys
- Flashlights are Something to Eat
- Thirtyish Year Old Boy
- Erik Johnson
- Achievements in Gaming
- The Vault of 3D Sculpts
- Branded in the 80′s
- Cavalcade of Awesome
- Neato Coolville
- Cool & Collected
- Diary of a Dorkette
- The Mos Espa Collection
- AEIOU and Sometimes Why
- Stunt Zombie
- Combat Workshop
- Batcave Toyroom
- Team Hellions
- Sexy Geek’s House of Swag
- Cold Slither Podcast, Part Two