Wrapping up our look at Peter Park’s spectacular 1980s adventures in the pages of Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-man, Volume 3.
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If you want to view paradise, go to the suburbs? We’ll talk about that and more as we continue our look at Essential Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Volume Three.
Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.
Welcome back to our look at Essential Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Volume Three. There were not a ton of major villains who appeared in the book. I think more of the really heavy hitters tended to show up in Amazing Spider-Man; nevertheless you did have a few. Kraven and Electro were two major villains from Spiderman ‘s Silver Age; certainly Electro was not looked on as quite the big deal he had been back in the 1960s, although Kraven would have one of the best known Spider-Man story lines in just a few years. In The Spectacular Spider-Man appearance he’s notable for appearing besides Calypso, a voodoo priestess who tried to help Kraven do away with Spider-Man, but Kraven viewed her methods as dishonourable and I think in that way showed a greater sense of honor than he had in a lot of his appearances in the Silver Age.
Towards the end of the book we also get to see Doc Ock appear; however, his escape from prison is teased in Issue Seventy-Two but we don’t actually see him until Issue Seventy-Three. They do instead an Issue Seventy-Two, I think is pretty clever. They tease the release but instead we made a kid who is part of a group of kids who run around dressing up as super villains for fun, and he’s come up with the best Doc Ock costume ever complete with mechanical arms, and so he goes around town in it. Doc Ock is wanted – this leads to some confusion and introduction of a character who would be back about a dozen times or so.
Issue Seventy-Three and Seventy-Four feature The Owl and Darkhawk, as well as Kingpin. I like the inclusion of The Owl since he was always more of a daredevil villain than a Spider-Man villain, and they make some slight reinvention of the character after he had been in a very critically-wounded conditions in his last appearance in Daredevil. There’s some great action scenes as well as a battle over McGuffin with a very surprising resolution at the end of Issue Seventy-Four which closes out the book, which I won’t spoil for you even though it was published thirty-five years ago. You also have a lot of minor lesser-known villains show up. There’s The Smuggler who, in the book, makes a point of…used to be known as Power Man until Luke Cage cleaned his clock and won the right to use that title. Of course, now everybody knows Luke Cage is Luke Cage. Still he was never really a villain who was worthy of that name.
There was Nitro who could blow himself up; there was Jack O’Lantern who had a Jack O’Lantern on his head, but in other ways ripped off the Green Goblin design. To me, the character doesn’t look scary or intimidating – just looks kind of silly. There’s The Ringer, there’s The Beetle who I think they wanted to have as a major villain at one point, like back in the ’60s but never quite made it; and he also appeared in the series with The Gibbon – a guy who was a bit of a Spider-Man fan but ended up disillusioned, running around in a Gibbon costume. There’s The Ringer, Moonstone, Gold Bug, and probably one of the more interesting ones was Boomerang.
Boomerang was a former Major League pitcher who threw boomerangs as part of his attempts at being an assassin, and he decided he wanted to be the Kingpin’s point man to replace Bullseye. And so he decided to kill a witness who is rumored to be giving testimony that would be damaging to the Kingpin. Unfortunately, he later finds out that the Kingpin actually wanted the guy to testify and Spider-Man not only has to defeat him, he’s also got to save his life. That issue is really interesting – it’s a good character piece because the guy is a bit of a born loser and you’d almost feel sympathy for him if he wasn’t trying to be a Class A killer. It’s a good story and a strong highlight.
The book also does delve into a bit of propaganda, or if you prefer a P.S.A. for gun control. Issue Seventy-One begins with a robbery at a store and Peter disarming one of the robbers, but the owner not seeing it and shooting the robber who is a young kid. And the teenage boy dies and Peter returns to the Bugle where Robbie proceeds to give a lecture on gun control that goes on for several pages with Lance taking a mildly pro-gun viewpoint and being there to ask the perfect questions to give Robbie the chance to put up his own anti-gun arguments. It’s a bit pedantic but the long lecture is interrupted by news that there are gun runners who are bringing illegal guns into the city, and it’s up to Spider-Man to go and stop them. And there’s a pretty good scene – these aren’t obviously the great villains Spider-Man usually tangles with. He stops the gun runners but a police officer ends up killed with, of course, a gun in the course of the action. Well this is a propaganda comic and, to be honest, it’s not even Mantlo’s best attempt at political propaganda in comics. His Iron Man Number Seventy-Eight regarding the Vietnam War is probably a near classic of the art and does it better than anything here.
I will say that, whatever your views on gun control, I appreciate this more than a lot of modern attempts to introduce politics into comics. While the pages of arguments over gun control are a bit boring, they show respect for the audience. Mantlo is of the opinion, there are people in the audience who disagree with me. I can present reasoned arguments to them that can persuade it, as well as reinforced that with an emotional anecdote and even hints at a bit of nuance. Mantlo doesn’t argue 100% for certain we pass gun control laws, we’re going to solve all gun crime problems. It’s J. Jonah Jamieson of all people who delivers the nuance. He says, “But the story they tell isn’t over – not by a long shot. While the police, despite Spider-Man’s interference, were stopping one gun smuggling operation in Brooklyn, twelve more handgun shootings took place in New York City alone, and we have one of the toughest gun control laws in the country. What’s the answer? Can anyone tell me? Anyone?” And while Mantlo was undoubtedly using the comic to argue for his point of view, he also was willing to admit or show some uncertainty over whether gun control would actually be a panacea to fix the whole problem of gun crime. So, while it’s propaganda, I don’t think it’s hackish, and it’s certainly preferable to many attempts we have in modern day media to address these sort of issues.
So, now it’s time for final ratings and Essential Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Volume three is definitely Classy. The 1980s, particularly the early part of the decade, was a rich part of the Spider-Man history producing some great stories and that didn’t just apply to th;e main Spider-Man book – Amazing Spider-Man. Spectacular Spider-Man had some great stories where even if the villains were not usually the top of the line they still had great actions, some good character involvement and decent art – even though the artists that were used varied quite a bit from story to story.
Alright, well that will do it for today. Let me know what you think: e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my website: classycomicguy.com. In the meantime, from Boise, Idaho this is your host Adam Graham, signing off.