EP0079: Essential Amazing Spider-man, Volume 11

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It’s the 1980s which means the Vulture, Peter making a big decision about college, and the kid who collected Spider-man.

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Transcript below:

Spidey battles Cobra, Mr. Hyde and the Vulture, while making a tough decision about whether to continue on in grad school. We’ll tell you all about it as we look at Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Volume Eleven, straight ahead.

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here’s your host, Adam Graham. Volume Eleven was the last of the black and white reprint Marvel Essential lines for The Amazing Spider-Man, so we’ll cover most of the issues in that book and I’ll tell you about those that we won’t but will be covering on a future program. This book collects Amazing Spider-Man Issues 232 to 248 and Annual 16 and 17. The book begins with Cobra and Mr. Hyde appearing as the villains in issues 232 to 233. They were originally two Thor villains but they really work well here in Spider-Man. And the way that they are introduced is that the first issue is just all Spider-Man dealing with Cobra and then Mr. Hyde appears determined to get at Cobra because he has a grudge against his ex-partner. It’s just a pretty solid super villain battle featuring two villains from another character that works pretty well.
Then we get into the Brand Corporations saga which happens over Issues 234 to 236 and involves the super powerful Will O’ the Wisp, and you also get the Tarantula into the mix. The stakes are not particularly high but it’s a good story where there is just enough ingredients used with Mad Science, the question of justice versus revenge, and a guest villain and character in Will of the Wisp whose morality is a little bit more grey than Spider-Man. So it’s a really well-balanced tale and it’s a nice reading. I believe that there were several Issues that kind of set the groundwork for this as well.

Issue number 237 is all about Stilt Man, in this case Wilbur Day, a character who is been a bit of a joke in the comics and certainly in comic fandom, as he’s just really upset about how his life has gone, and tries to make yet another comeback and of course he runs into Spider-Man. This is a pretty good character piece, taking a character who hadn’t gotten much play over the years and really making him interesting. This type of thing is done a lot today. You see it like with Tom King’s take on Kite Man, but wasn’t as common back then and so this was pretty innovative and it worked out fairly well.

Now we come to the Annual which served to introduce a new Captain Marvel. And it reminds me of…if you’ve ever seen a TV show say from the 1960s and ’70s, oftentimes the TV show will air an episode that’s billed as an episode of this particular show, but is actually a backdoor pilot for another show. And I can think of examples of that with Star Trek in Season Two airing the episode of Assignment Earth which was a backdoor pilot for that series, and the series Green Acres ended with an episode which was actually a backdoor pilot for another entire, completely different type of series. And so this book feels very much like this.

The story is about Monica Rambeau and how she got her powers, and I, you know, fairly unlikely why but certainly not for the Marvel Universe, and as she’s actually come to New York to get help controlling her powers, and she goes to the Fantastic Four, and unfortunately for her Reed and Sue Richards are out at Martha’s Vineyard and then goes over to the Avengers. Spider-Man sees her and assumes that she’s up to no good and actually intervenes and nearly blows up the Avengers headquarters, if not for some fast thinking by Iron Man and some later fast thinking by him. This is an OK story. I think Monica Rambeau was a perfectly fine character. I think her character really did not catch on as well even though she was in a lot of comics, and I think it may just have been that it was too soon since the death of the original Captain Marvel to be introducing a new character. Of course Carolo Danvers would carry that banner on, and it may have helped too of Monica Rambeau had had some previous status in the Marvel Universe before putting her on the Avengers and giving her that title.

After that we get to Issues 238 and 239, and I won’t be covering those or 244 to 245 because those are the Hobgoblin issues and I’m not discussing them because I don’t like them. In fact, I think they’re probably the best issues in the book. However, the book really did end on a bit of an awkward state where it ends with Issue 248. I really think it should have ended with Issue 251. It was just a shade over 500 pages, so I think it could have managed that, and if it ended on 251 you would have gotten the next three Issues which were further Hobgoblin stories, and also ended with the lead up to Secret Wars. And that, I think, would have been the perfect place to end on.
But they didn’t end there so I’m going to discuss 238 to 239 and 244 to 245, along with those other three Issues when we talk about Hobgoblin Origins in probably about a week. So, we’ll hold off on those for now and come back to them.

So then, moving on we have Issues 240 to 241 which has The Vulture returning, and he actually was not of a mind to return after Spider-Man beat him in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man. But he’s returning because the man who is responsible for ruining his life is about to claim a great success and he wants to have his vengeance. And this also gives us the origin story of The Vultures which is a pretty decent origin, and a nice example of writer Roger Stern filling in the gaps in Spider-Man history.

Issues 242 and [2]43 are a lot more personally focused than they are focused on any battle. There is a battle with the Mad Thinker but this is really kind of secondary to what’s going on in Peter’s life. Amy Powell, the girlfriend of Lance Bannon, has set her sights on Peter even though she’s still with Lance, because they are agreed that they can see other people, and this is really an attempt to make her boyfriend Lance Bannon jealous. He invites Amy to his place, and unbeknownst to her also invites Lance so the two can talk things out. However, left alone with Peter, Amy kisses him and at that point Mary Jane Watson comes in, and that’s the end to Issue 242. Issue 243 picks up where Issue 243 left off which caught everybody kind of excusing themselves. Mary Jane had just come back in town; in the comics at this point Peter had proposed to her back about 60 Issues previously but she had declined. Actually, at this point, the major romance in Peter’s life was not actually being regularly covered in Amazing Spider-Man. It was the relationship with The Black Cat who had returned in the pages of Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man, and really she was just making cameos in this book.

But this is one of the issues that came up, and ‘Options’ is the title of the story in Issue 242, and Peter has to make a decision having past his first year of graduate school despite many warnings and people being upset about him skipping classes. However, he has to decide what he’s going to do with his life and whether he’s going to continue on with grad school, and how hard it’s going to be for him to be Spider-Man. And he goes back and forth, but he eventually ends up deciding to drop out – and it’s an understandable decision. It’s, in many ways, a loss for the character but it does show Roger Stern really taking seriously the circumstances of grad school and what that would mean for being Spider-Man if you’re going to portray that realistically. But it’s a solid character-based Issue.
Issue 246 – again skipping over 244 to 245 to discuss in another couple shows – is The Day Dreamers, and this one is kind of a fun one, a little weird, and a bit light as it takes a look at what people’s daydreams are. And most of them are what you would expect, and so not particularly interesting. It does a fairly good job of showing you these scenarios. Probably the one that was the most interesting was the Black Cat’s. Her particular fantasy involved Spider-Man and her going on an adventure. At this point she’d been in the hospital for quite a spell and she learned Spider-Man’s true identity and found out that Spider-Man was really a very young looking Cary Grant. And it does speak to the sort of expectation and sense of romance that she attaches to the relationship and would play into Lance I think later in her character journey.

Issues 247 and 248, you can kind of divide into two. The first is about an Issue and a half’s Paint by the Numbers crime story where Peter ends up battling a super villain, Thunderball. It’s not all that impressive, but what is impressive comes in the second half of Issue 248, and this one is the famous, The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man, where Spidey goes to a room where a kid is and answers all of his questions and tells him about being Spider-Man. In many ways it does feel like it’s just a recapping of the origin story at first, until you get to the twist reveal about the kid. I wouldn’t say that this was unpredictable but it definitely did have some emotional power even all these years later. Then we get to Annual Number 17 and this one is entitled, ‘Heroes and Villains’, and it’s essentially a very solid crime story in which a comedian who was in Peter’s graduating class is being blackmailed for having written for a smut peddler previously. This is a solId crime story for the most part. It involves Blackmail, the kingpin figures in there, and it’s also covers how people change. The ending in which it’s revealed that the comedian is really concerned that Peter was trying to sell a story to the paper, gets told off by Peter for being so cynical and for assuming that Peter was just out there for story. I think that Peter’s response does come off as a little bit self-righteous, and so that kind of undermines the ‘I’m just trying to be a kind person unlike a dirty, rotten, selfish person like you. It’s just an odd attitude, doesn’t work all that well.

Overall I think these are good books. I think they may be slightly overrated because many say that Roger Stern is in the same league as Stan Lee, and I don’t feel that the books are quite that good. But even if they’re overrated they’re still understandably fan favourites with good art by John Romita. And the writing works here for the most part. I think that Roger Stern does a lot of character-based writing. He does think about the consequences of some actions and what the ramifications would be for a character who had these sort of things going on. So, overall, I think that the book – particularly with the Hobgoblin Issues which we’re going to cover in about a week, really does deserve a rating of Classy.

Alright, well that’s all for now. If you do have a comment email it to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com; follow me on Twitter @classycomicsguy, and check out the website classycomicsguy.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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