Spider-Man: 1981

Spider-Man in the 1980s, pt. 2 of 12.

1981: The year of MTV, Reagan and Raiders, Dynasty and the Direct Market, the first of Dan Goodwin's "I'm-just-raising-awareness" Spider-climbs, the longest professional baseball game ever played, and most importantly of all the debut of:

I seriously considered sitting down and watching all three seasons of this cartoon, following in the footsteps of the James Bond, Jr. overview at You Only Blog Twice. But I don't think I'm up to the task.

I did watch a few, though, before coming to this decision. Took me back.

Lots of ground to cover this year, so let's dive right in.


Written by Jim Shooter. Pencils by John Buscema.

A sequel to the first DC/Marvel cross-over book 1976's Superman vs. Spider-Man. Not the first joint publishing venture between The Big Two, but should we really count the first one, MGM's Marvelous World of Oz? It featured no Marvel or DC characters. Ask anyone what the first Marvel/DC project was and likely they'll say Superman vs. Spider-Man, if they have an answer at all. I say so it goes - sorry, Dorothy.

(We live in an age where multiple versions of events can be had with some dedicated googling, but for more on these stories from Jim Shooter's POV, read on, friend.)

The plot's rather complicated, but not overly so. Doctor Doom enlists the Parasite's aid in something called Project Omega with a Zero Hour and world domination and super-breeding.. 

You stopped at Project Omega, I hope. I sure did.
It hits all the beats it's supposed to.

It's a good story, and Shooter's got a good handle on all the characters. For the most part. At the end, Doom makes his escape and flies back to his Latverian embassy. I'm not sure how exactly Doom was able to out-fly Superman, who of course can fly at super-speed. Maybe Superman was weakened from his time in the reactor - he's always in the damn reactor. Or Doom had too much of a head start. Or maybe there's a line in there I missed. I'm going to vote for the last one.

I wish I could pull off "Farewell, cretins!" as a catchphrase. But there's only one Von Doom.

All in all, this is a great little story. Buscema's art is great; when is he not? Do people praise Big John enough? I hope so. The guy was the best. We won't be seeing much of him in this series, unfortunately, so it's an extra treat to look through this one and marvel at how at ease he is in the Spiderverse, not to mention the Superverse. (Readers with an aversion to author's-verse-type writing, my apologies, we'll certainly be seeing plenty of that.)


No more Daily Globe, so it's back to the Bugle and Robbie and JJJ and the gang for Peter. Lance Bannon, his freelance photographer rival, follows him. Peter's still at ESU for the time being, so that means we see him getting lots of "You've been missing a lot of class, Pete" pep talks from Dr. Sloan (with Peter answering "How do I tell him that web-slinging and trying to scrounge up this month's rent are what's keeping me out all night?" in thought-balloons).

There's also this bizarre prank that Steve Hopkins (one of Peter's fellow TAs at Empire State) plays on Marcy Kane (the girl who's always so mean to Peter.)

Apparently, it was her shame at not being a natural blonde that made her so uptight? What?
Peter tries to make her feel better. But no luck. Later they make up.
Steve's punishment / mock trial is treated with all the seriousness of a nuclear scenario. Granted, they're just teasing him, but good lord this whole subplot goes on for way too many issues.

The Debbie Whitman drama continues. 

Peter still can't quite figure out what to do with his feelings.
He really talks her up, doesn't he?
Eventually, inevitably, some other dude moves in on her:

Which starts a new round of "Gee, do I really like her?" thought-balloons. (Like like-like?) It goes on like this. Things get more interesting when a flirty neighbor moves in and starts putting the moves on Peter.

But achtung!
A storyline that culminates in ASM 215.
I'm leaving a lot out.

That's the Trapster up there on the left beside the Sandman and The Wizard. When Stan Lee first created the character, he was known as Paste Pot Pete. As Allen Gamble would say, look, they're not all first round picks, all right?


Written by Roger Stern (50 – 52, 54 - 61) and Bill Mantlo (53). Pencils by JRJR (50), Marie Severin (51, 54), Rick Leonardi (52), Jim Mooney (53, with Jim Shooter 56-57), Luke McDonnell (55), and John Byrne (58).

ROGUE’S GALLERY: Mysterio, Gideon Mace, The Tinkerer, Nitro - the villain that explodes, kids! -

Jack O’Lantern, Killer Shrike, The Ringer, The Gibbon, The Beetle, and Moonstone.
GUEST STARS: White Tiger, Will O’the Wisp. 

I seem to have enjoyed this year's crop of stories, as I wrote "Not a bad year" in my notes. But I barely remember them, looking at the covers again. The Mysterio two-parter that starts things off is a fun enough homage to the character's first appearance.

Which I only knew from this Marvel Tales reprint, which was reprinted in 1983, when I read it, which was before I ever had this back issue of SSM. Update your McChrono-cards!

I think my favorite ish was this one:

Jack O'Lantern's first appearance.
I always liked Jack O'Lantern. He was never an A-lister Spidey villain. His visual, especially, was polarizing. I remember a friend of mine ranting about his "flaming basketball head," which I think of everytime I see him.

Me, I always thought it was kind of cool. I don't know how it worked, exactly - the only other flame-headed heroes and villains were superhuman (or demons) whereas Jack O'Lantern was just some guy with body armor - but c'est la comics. I never had any antipathy towards the character.

The annual (#3) has a perfectly acceptable Man-Wolf story written by David Kraft and penciled by Jim Sherman. But the real gold is the supplemental stuff written by Roger Stern and illustrated by Marie Severin. Like this:


The only one of these I remember reading at the time was this:

Which I must have really liked as I read the thing over and over. Enough to memorize it at an age where doing so means I can still more or less call it to mind in 2015. (See: The Amazing McMolo and His Useless Memory Tricks!) It's a reprint of Amazing #155, written by Len Wein and penciled by Sal Buscema. This was the first locked-room-murder-mystery I ever came across, actually.

Who did it? Well, the computer, there, was built to house a database of Worldwide Habitual Offenders. It gives Spidey three leads, all of which prove to be false. Why is the computer sending him down the wrong trail?

The machine eventually short-circuits itself (of course) and Spidey ties it all together for us:

Might not seem like much, but 7 year old Bryan was very impressed. ("WHO-done-it!?? Where do they come up with this stuff??") And while we're here:

I'll never tire of panels like this. Or the ones where half of Peter's face has half of Spider-Man's mask super-imposed on it, with spider-sense a'tinglin'. Actually, this issue has another Spider-trope I like. From the title page:
I guess it's more or less the same as the one above - spectral Spidey looking in on Peter and shaking his head. "Oh the places we go, old buddy!"

5. MARVEL TEAM-UP 101 - 112

104 and 105 were the last to not star Spider-Man. Hulk hosts the team-up for those two.

OMFG, Hulk.

Written by J.M. DeMatteis (101, 111-112), Mike Barr (102), David Michelinie (103, 108, 110), Roger McKenzie (104), Mike Barr (105), Tom DeFalco (106-), Jim Shooter (107), and Dave Kraft (109). Pencils by Jerry Bingham (101- 104), Carmine Infantino (105), and Herb Trimpe (106 - 112).

ROGUE’S GALLERY: Killgrave the Purple Man, Delia -

I demand a Netflix series!

The Rhino, The Taskmaster - 

Always liked the Taskmaster, but he more or less just explains his powers (photographic reflexes) over and over, doesn't he?

Modok, The Scorpion, The Man-Killer, Thermo, and Magma.
GUEST STARS: Power Man, Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Daredevil, Nightcrawler, Doc Samson, Ant-Man, Ka-Zar, Captain America, She-Hulk, The Paladin, Dazzler, Iron Man, The Defenders, and King Kull.

Title for issue 108. I don't know if I've ever seen this variation of the Shakespeare line before - I love it.
In this two-parter near the end of the year, things get a little cosmic. (And Doctor Strange makes the universal gesture for "Yeah, keep smoking, buddy.")

Things start off in 112 when Spidey teams up with the Defenders via Devil-Slayer. This is written by J.M. DeMatteis and is a fun recapitulation of the sort of demonic mayhem we saw in the Defenders Go to Hell saga.

It's another gem from this era of J.M.'s long career.
Tricked by serpent-devils from beyond!

When they show up and pretend to be the Defenders, Spidey uses the demon-exposing phrase Devil-Slayer taught him:

I don't think anyone ever used this spider-lizard-cult again, but it's a plot with legs. And scales. (Sorry.)

Far and away my favorite Spider-story from this year at the time was the Annual:

Written by Frank Miller and penciled by Herb Trimpe.

It wasn't quite as great, revisiting in 2015, but I read this one over and over as a kid. The Purple Man can bend almost everyone to his will simply by speaking to them.

Sort of the inverse of Spidey's mantra: with great power comes great responsibility. Maybe not the inverse. Someone better-suited for math metaphors, let me know what the relationship between the two creeds is, please. Be prepared to show your work.

Remember that  split-face spider-sense thing I mentioned? Here it is, below, but from the back and you can't really tell. I'll get a better one for next time - it happened often enough. Also, Elvis Costello was mentioned an awful lot in 1980 and 1981 issues; guess he was popular in the Bullpen. I quite like how it was used here. Spidey's blocked out the memory of being under the Purple Man's suggestive power ("Go climb a pole and sing") but every time the song comes on the radio, his spider-sense goes off.


Written by Denny O’Neil (212 – 219, 221, with J.M. DeMatteis 223), Michael Fleischer (220), and Bill Mantlo (222).

I love how crazy everyone looks on this cover.

Pencils by JRJR (212, 218, 223, with Jim Mooney 213 - 217), Luke McDonnell (219), Bob McLeod (220), Alan Kupperberg (221), and Bob Hall (222).

ROGUE’S GALLERY: This guy - 

Doctor Octopus, Hydro-Man (first appearance – I need to look up whatever happened to this guy), The Frightful Four, random political assassin, Grey Gargoyle, Dr. Jonas Harrow -

as played by David Mamet.

Ramrod, Red Ghost and Super-Apes.

Let's start with the annual, written by Denny O'Neil and penciled by Frank Miller. 

What a great story. Yet another blockbuster-of-the-year from 80s Marvel waiting to be realized on the silver screen, just sitting there, fully storyboarded, on the same shelf with Fantastic Four 236 and Captain America 264. This version I'm screencapping here is the re-colorized version. Which is too bad, as the original coloring is better. Alas I do not have the original scanned in, despite having two copies somewhere in my effing closet.

Great story, though - the Punisher is set up so perfectly for his mini-series and beyond.
The Punisher was so bad-ass back in the day. He probably still is - I'm just saying.
Not to mention Doc Ock - this is all Marvel Super-Villain Master Class, here.

GUEST STARS: The Punisher, Sub-Mariner, Madame Webb, Matt Murdock, and Moon Knight,

And see this right here?

That's where I joined the party. I can look at this cover and conjure the scene: vacation 1981: my granddad's place in Astro, FL, air conditioning whirling, ads for Archie Bunker's Place on the TV later that night, Juice Newton's Queen of Hearts on the radio, and this: my precise entrypoint into the Spideyverse. 

Long-time readers know I get a special kick out of this sort of comic book Palantir. So, I don't trust myself to evaluate the story properly as your host. So, here are some screencaps for you to be your own judge.

There's a multi-issue mystery about one of Peter Parker's neighbors, who sings in an awful off-key way.

It's pretty fun and wraps up in kind of a heartbreaking way,
but it's too much to get into, I'm afraid. I was invested in this, though.


And is this another Trek reference?

There's an end-of-episode wink-to-the-crowd joke from "The Infinite Vulcan" from The Animated Series where Sulu mentions he's inscrutable and Kirk responds that Sulu's one of the most scrutable men he's ever met. Is there some common ancestor to these two references? Or is this SSM Annual Archies homage referencing the Giant Spock episode? If so, this is a fun Easter Egg that sure bided its time being recognized.



  1. (1) There was a Superman/Spider-Man crossover?!? AND a sequel?!? This was news to me. How cool!

    (2) Biff Rifkin! That might be one of the best names I've ever seen.

    (3) "I'll never tire of panels like this. Or the ones where half of Peter's face has half of Spider-Man's mask super-imposed on it, with spider-sense a'tinglin'." Amen.

    (4) I wish the guy whose voice used to appear in all the old exploitation-movie trailers had been tasked at some point with delivering the line "Something wicked this way KILLS!!!" He'd crush that.

    (5) I know nothing about the Purple Man, but he's appearing in the "Jessica Jones" series, and will be played by David Tennant. Cool!

    (6) Elvis Costello -- never have gotten the appeal. But I'm basing that on an extremely limited sampling.

    (7) My guess on the "inscrutable/scrutable" thing is that it's unintentional. In both cases, it feels like the writers are hard-core trying to go into post-racial, but racially aware, territory by calling out something which once would have been used in a derogatory fashion. Both writers probably came up with the idea of calling their characters "scrutable" independently, for no better reason than that they thought it was funny to have someone say the word "scrutable." Which makes me realize that I'd really like to refer to somebody better than me as being ferior. Is that a thing? Beats me. It also beats me as to whether this actually WAS a Trek reference; might well have been, for all I know.

    (8) The idea of having to sit through an 11-hour baseball game makes me want to rip my own face off.

    (9) That link to the James Bond Jr. recaps looks promising. Whatever brave soul took on that task deserves our thanks and our pity, in equal measure. Bless his heart...

    (10) Not only have I never seen an episode of that Spider-Man cartoon, I don't think I'd ever heard of it. How weird!

    1. 5. I didn't know that! That is cool. Maybe someone can get around to Doc Samson and Delia. (That would have to be on USA in the mid-90s or so, though.)

      6. Me neither, I'm afraid. I worked with a guy who played his stuff a lot, and none of it ever took with me.

      7. I have no idea, myself. I'm not picking up on any post-racial sort of thing, but who knows, could be. I'm definitely on the lookout for Trek references, so perhaps I'm seeing connections that don't exist. And will undoubtedly and happily continue to do so! HEAR ME, X-MEN!

      8. ha - would you believe I was actually at this game? We didn't stay much past the 10th or 11th inning, but it was a big event of my childhood. Which is all I ever seem to talk about at this blog, wtf! Even unintentionally in the comments. I should reboot this blog as a gritty, dark exploration of life in the 21st century. No 80s/ childhood memories alive. Nah.

      9. Indeed!

      10. Which Saturday morning cartoons do you recall watching? I got a strong urge / association to watch The Gary Coleman Show, the cartoon where he was an angel helping people, from watching the Amazing Friends ones.

    2. * (re: 8) No 80s/ childhood memories allowed, not alive. Obviously. But edited just the same.

    3. (6) I've been on a bit of a Burt Bacharach kick lately -- oh, for the time to be able to blog about this stuff -- and apparently he and Costello collaborated on an album -- maybe two -- in the late nineties. Some of that stuff is quite good, and there's one song in particular that I found to be just flat-out exquisite. Here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3NnUDvPt54 But other than that, Costello leaves me cold.

      (8) "I should reboot this blog as a gritty, dark exploration of life in the 21st century."

      Can you be played by Jared Leto?

      Also, you have my eternal pity for having to be at that game.

      (10) What I mostly remember watching on Saturday mornings is Super-Friends, Loony Toons, and -- god knows why -- The Get-Along Gang. Weekdays, it was Masters of the Universe. I wasn't huge into cartoons, for whatever reason.

    4. Thanks for the link. My friend Mike tells me his 70s work is great and the rest is erratic. I'll check it all out eventually.

      Super-Friends and Looney Tunes are hopefully in my immediate future, as I try and steer Evelyn and Lauren to the cartoons of my own childhood alongside the cartoons of today. I've got some of those already on DVD, so that helps. Just so long as they don't phase DVDs out altogether and I find myself holding the cinematic equivalent of a bag full of floppy discs, I'll be okay.

  2. I neglected to mention how awesome it is that you can pinpoint your entry into Spider-awareness down to a single issue. I can't quite manage that; I've got an issue that seems like a good candidate, but I think it's just as likely that it was a late-seventies Power Records that did the trick.

    I especially like that you even have a theme song for your first Spidey experience: "Queen of Hearts." Ah, the early eighties...!

    1. Burned on my memory forever, that song/ ASM 222/ Florida-and-Georgia-summertime-heat. I remember some guy wrestling an alligator, too, or at least trying to make my brother and I believe he was. He was probably just messing around with a water hose underwater, my Dad said.

      Playing with the Queen of Hearts...! Where did you go, Juice Newton, oh where did you go?