7.13.2015

Spider-Man: 1986 pt. 1

SPIDER-MAN in the 1980s, pt. 8 of 12


I had so much material this time around that I split the year into two parts. Part the second will cover the ongoing Peter Parker Soap Opera, Amazing Spider-Man, and a few other things. 

Part the first? Anchors aweigh!

1. MARVEL TALES #186
Reprinting AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #46 written by Stan Lee and penciled by John Romita, Sr.

For reasons I can no longer recall, I wasn't reading Marvel Tales much after 1984 or so. But I must have occasionally gotten one or two, as I associate this one quite a bit with 6th grade. 


The Sinister Shocker was, at the time, hardly an A-lister. He popped up in a good issue of Web of Spider-Man in '86 - 

I didn't cover it below, but here it is. The Shocker didn't even make the cover!

but he was a bench-pick at best for Spidey's rogue's gallery. As with everyone else in Spidey's life - or even Spider-Man himself - I don't know what happened to him after the 80s. Feel free to catch me up in the comments. 

I like this 60s version well enough, though.
Design flaw. Corrected elsewhere.

This issue is interesting for what hadn't happened in Peter Parker's life yet. For example: 

Mary Jane - his future wife - is still way too cool for him.
Gwen Stacy, i.e. the future Emma Stone and the one who got away (literally), is still alive.
As is the Green Goblin. (That's Harry, obviously, above, but re: "I finally convinced Dad...")

I love stuff like that. YMMV. Carry on.

2. HOOKY
Written by Susan K. Putney with art by Berni Wrightson.
Here's an oddity.

Hooky (aka Marvel Graphic Novel #22) began life as an unsolicited submission from one Susan Putney, an unprofessional writer who had a neat idea: what if the newspaper delivery girl from Peter Parker's neighborhood when he was 5 years old ("Marandi") was actually a forever-child from Norwegian folklore? Her father was an evil sorcerer whose enemies vowed to kill her when she achieved adulthood, so Dad's dying act was to freeze her forever at a young age. 

She's back in Earth-dimension to enlist aid to combat a tordenkakerlakk ("Thunder Cockroach" in Norwegian). She was hoping for Doctor Strange; she gets Spider-Man. He does what he can, but each time he defeats it, the thunder cockroach returns bigger and badder.

As rendered by Berni Wrightson.

Eventually they realize the tordenkakerlakk is actually a mystical catalyst for Marandi's growing up, set to appear (sort of a delayed spell within a spell) when it was safe for her to finally shed her childhood.

Lots to unpack up there if you want to get your hands dirty. (Think Let the Right One In.) Me? Not at all. Next up:


3. SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN 110 - 121
Written by Peter David (110, 112 -113, 115 - 119, 121), Jim Owsley (111), Len Kaminski (114), and Bill Mantlo (120). Penciled by Rich Buckler (110 - 111, 116 -117, 119), Mark Beachum (112, 115), Bob McLeod (113), Joe Brozowksy (114), Mike Zeck (118), Keith Giffen (120) and 
numerous (121).
Annual #6 written by Peter David and penciled by Mark Beachum. Ace's return! Great. (To my knowledge, the character never appeared after this, though he has an entry at the Marvel wiki.)

The Owsley era continues... for now. There's an awful lot of Break-Worf's-Arm syndrome going on in these issues. Particularly with the Foreigner, who just sort of shows up and is instantly the best at everything and richer and badder than everyone everywhere.



This is hardly unique to Owsley's Spider-titles, of course; it's a lazy default of the genre itself, to be sure. But it's all the more noticeable because while Spidey is getting trounced by Ace or the Puma or the Foreigner in SSM and Web, he's going toe-to-toe with the likes of Firelord, the Absorbing Man, and Titania in ASM

The Black Cat gets a costume change, then hooks up with the Foreigner. Oh, just sing it with me: "Head-GA-AMES! / Yeah, always you and me, baby / Head-GA-AMES! / 'til I can't take it anymore!" 

Another Foreigner-related subplot involves Sabretooth volunteering to kill the Black Cat, failing, then vowing revenge against Spider-Man for the injuries he sustained in the attempt.

Must've been before Claremont retconned him as a mutant with a healing factor. (Marvel Massacre? I think? Also 1986. We can assume there was little coordination between Claremont's people and Owsley's.)
Also, Randi, Candi, and Bambi continue to look different issue to issue, panel to panel.

3a. 

Betty Brant managed to leap out of harm's way at the last second ("Cock-a-doodie!") but putting her in danger at all is enough to make Spidey lose it. As he races to her house, he reflects on their long entangled history.

I always love 80s-homages to Silver Age art.
Particularly homages to Ditko.
Is it just me, though, or did someone pick the wrong "remember when?" panel to match the "I'm gonna get you, Sin Eater" panel next to it? These don't quite synch up, do they?

The story arc concludes with Spider-Man pushed over the edge, and Daredevil barely able to pummel him back to the super-hero side of it:


It was a pace or two ahead of its time, although other comics in 1986 (most notably The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, over at the Distinguished Competition) handled the media-snippets and man-on-the-street-opinions a tad more inventively. This is true also of the ultra-violence and attempt at grittiness. It's successful, just not as groundbreaking as elsewhere. Nevertheless, the aftermath of the Sin Eater's rampage has an effect on one supporting cast member:


Who's that, you ask? You don't recognize him? I don't blame you. 

It's one of Aunt May's boarders, Ernie. For some reason, Rich Buckler gave him different specs, above, than how he appears in literally every other appearance.

This develops into a whole story where the would-be-thieves, once they get out of the hospital, find out who Ernie is from the press publicity and storm Aunt May's house and take everyone hostage. Necessitating, naturally, Spidey's discrete intervention. 

3b. AUNT MAY

Raising the stakes! But still: no.

3c. SOME ARTISTS OF NOTE

Mike Zeck gets to draw Spidey's new costume again (he was the penciller on Secret Wars and credited with taking a fan's sketch and turning it into a costume) in 118.


Keith Giffen delivers a moody issue (as abetted-perhaps-overshadowed by Vince Coletta) in 120:

Doesn't look much like Giffen's normal work to me, but it's very distinctive to be sure.

But the guy Owsley tried to groom into SSM (and Web's) main artist was Mark Beachum. 


The above cover aside, he never quite gelled with the role - if you ask him, it's because comics weren't ready for his point of view; if you ask anyone else, probably, it was because he had anatomy issues and was obsessed with butts.

Like, really obsessed with butts.
I'll give these panels this, though - I totally remember people dressing like this.

You've got to handle "hot girl" art very delicately. I'm not sure that this does. I don't know where the line is; to paraphrase that ol' Supreme Court Justice, I just know it when I see it. 

Butts! Even Spidey wasn't safe.

Beachum eventually transitioned wholly into erotica comics. Overall, this stuff really jumped out to me at the time not for its butts and poses but because it was such a radical departure from the art in ASM. This time around, it just all felt wrong. Particularly going alongside this next section:

4. UGLY TURNS

While I'm complaining, you know what else happens way too many times in these issues? Way too much sexual assault and women getting beat up. It just didn't fit the Spider-verse. This isn't Westeros, for frak's sake. 

Spider-Man (or someone) always comes along to break it up, but still.
And we even get would-be child rapists! Lovely.

Part of it was just in the air at the time - comics were desperately trying to out-grit themselves during this stretch of the 80s. And rape-as-cheap-fictional-device is still a thing in stories, of course. Mainly it's just lazy writing. 

Anyway, Spider-Man: SVU is a terrible idea for a mash-up.


5. WEB OF SPIDER-MAN 10 - 21
Written by Danny Fingeroth (10 - 11), Bill Mantlo (11), Peter David (12 - 13), David Michelinie (14 - 20), and Larry Leiber (21). Penciled by Jim Mooney (10), Bob McLeod (11), Sal Buscema (12), Mike Harris and Kyle Baker (13 - 15), Marc Silvestri (17, 19 - 20), with Kyle Baker (16, 18), and Larry Leiber (21).

Add "firebombed" to the list of things that have happened to Peter's apartment.

This in retaliation to intervening with some would-be muggers while out of costume and becoming a minor take-the-streets-back sort of celebrity.

I almost wanted to include all of this in the Peter Parker Soap Opera section on account of how within an issue or two, MJ has the place good as new.

Perfect soap opera development and resolution.
She forgot one thing, though.

5a. ANNUAL #2
Written by Ann Nocenti with art by Arthur Adams and Mike Mignola.

Worth a mention on account of how bizarre it is. It's basically two dream sequences (the Mignola story is a back-up about Peter's guilt issues.) Which, I mean, they just did something like this in '85 with the "Nightmare" story, so it's a little repetitive. But it's fine for what it is, sure.


Arthur Adams was a hot property in the 80s - not sure if he's well-remembered, though, today? Anyway, this isn't his best work - nor is the above Mignola's. 

5b AND SPEAKING OF ARTISTS...

Future X-Men superstar Marc Silvestri gets an early try-out:

I was never a huge fan, but he became one of Marvel's most popular artists in the years to come.

Someone whose subsequent work I do enjoy is Kyle Baker. He got his start here in Web, as an inker. Which was probably a mistake - he has a very moody and ink-heavy style, which works well on his own layouts but not too well on other people's.

Such as here (above). Occasionally, though, comes a panel like this one:
Which looks pretty cool to me.

Kyle Baker went on to produce many other works of note, mainly in non-Big-Two graphic novels like Why I Hate Saturn. It's clear from his later work that he was ideally-suited for non-superheroes work. But it's Web that put him on my radar, and for what it's worth, when I reconnected with KB's work 10 or 11 years ago, I said "Hey it's that Web of Spider-Man guy," not "It's that Why I Hate Saturn guy." 

5c. WHERE IS SPIDER-MAN?

The cross-over craze that was taking hold in comics manifests itself in the "Missing in Action" storyline:


It stayed primarily in Web, but it was touched upon in the other titles, as well. Peter goes out of town with Joy Mercado from NOW Magazine (more on her next time) and disappears after a big fight with Magma. He shows up days later:


Peter Parker had to make it back to NYC from Virginia with no money and tattered clothes. Lands in jail, gets shot at by a UFO, yadda yadda. Then he tells MJ (and us) all about it. Oh - and the first (sort of ) appearance by Venom:


We're told later that the person who shoved him on the train tracks was Eddie Brock.

Not the most exciting (or well-illustrated - Silvestri was still finding his way, and Baker's inks don't really mesh with his style anyway) storyline. All in all it seemed a convoluted way to get rid of Spidey's costume yet again. I mean, enough with the laundry, guys! The Spider-bullpen must have been obsessed with the topic. Butts and costumes - what a bunch of fetishists, sheesh.
~
NEXT: The rest of 1986.

2 comments:

  1. (1) Given the naughty connotations that have sprung up around the word "shocker," I wonder if that villain is permanently sidelined by default at this point. If so, it's fine by me; he was never a favorite.

    (2) "Hooky" sounds nuts.

    (3) Man. I'd never seen that "new" Black Cat costume. Bryant gives that a big thumbs-down.

    (4) On the other hand, I give that subtle Annie Wilkes reference a big thumbs-up. Ol' Annie would unquestionably have had some sharp critiques for most eras of Marvel comics.

    (5) With the "remember when" panel, I guess maybe the idea in that flashback panel is that Peter is so angry about something that he's not even paying attention to Betty...? Beyond that, yeah, agreed; they fouled that one off the tip of the bat.

    (6) I appreciate the mention of Dark Knight and (especially) Watchmen -- I think those two masterpieces probably work well in any context, but I think they gain a lot if you put them side-by-side with "normal" comics of the day. Not that there was/is anything particularly wrong with that simpler, more innocent style of superhero tale; it's just that Miller and Moore certainly meant their stuff to be distinct from everything else, and remembering that is key.

    (7) To be fair, I remember most of the '80s being obsessed with butts. I guess Beachum's degree of interest in that subject DOES seem overboard. On the other hand, that view of Black Cat is absolutely okay by me. A little objectification seems fine; especially if it's balanced out by some Spider-Man butt. But yeah, the line surely exists even if its location is a bit indistinct.

    (8) I don't need my Marvel comics to ever feature stories including would-be pederasts. No thanks.

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    1. 7) I'd have to see the data. Sure it was the era of "Baby's Got Back," but I think butt-obsession has increased (or perhaps just come out of the closet) since the 80s - perhaps Beachum should be seen as a pioneer in butt worship. Who knows. I do know I left out a lot of straight-up ridiculous shots (upskirts of Mary Jane, etc.) that do obliterate my own personal line of excessive objectification. Sometimes the "camera placement" as it were made me feel a little icky. Not that I'm burning any books over here or anything. I support federal funds being released to study the phenomenon in greater detail.

      8) I could not agree more!

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