Comics : Spider-Man Newspaper Strip 24 August 2015 - 21 February 2016

Staff Only
Edit Review
Edit Title

This review was first published on: Feb 2016.

Background...

The daily Spider-Man newspaper strip began on January 3, 1977, over 38 years ago. Stan Lee has ostensibly written it this whole time. (I haven’t a shred of proof but I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a ghostwriter in there somewhere.) John Romita Sr. provided strong pencils for just a few months shy of four years, then Stan’s brother Larry Leiber took over. There have been a sequence of lesser-known pencilers since then, including Fred Kida, Floro Dery, and whomever it was doing the art when only Stan was credited. Today, Larry is back penciling his brother’s scripts from Monday through Saturday and former Web of Spider-Man penciler Alex Saviuk is providing Sundays.

In recent years, Stan (if it is Stan) has established a pattern. He has dispensed with mainstream comic continuity altogether choosing to keep Peter and Mary Jane married, after reader backlash when he tried to tell flashback stories of an unmarried Peter to conform with the “One More Day” changes in Amazing Spider-Man. (There’s no way he was going to try to introduce a bargain with Mephisto into the newspaper comics.) Peter, MJ, JJJ and the rest have paper-thin characterization. You know it. Peter is worried and conflicted. MJ is loyal and jocular about Peter’s worries. JJJ is an idiot and a grouch. Peter still works at the Daily Bugle. MJ is a model and movie actress. The usual cast of villains turns up but is not in the continuity you’re used to. An occasional usually ridiculous new villain will show up. (Clown-9, anyone?) And sometimes plots and ideas from the comic books are cobbled together in new ways. Each story is torturously slow, taking three or four months to complete the simplest plotline. This is long enough to keep you from remembering whether the continuity remains the same within the one story, never mind the entire 38-year history of the strip. With the success of the Marvel Studio movies, there is just as good a chance that a member of the Avengers will show up as a member of Spidey’s supporting cast, which, generally, is the comics cast from about 30 years ago. On a day-to-day basis, the strips come across as campy and easy to make fun of (which I plan to do) but there is also an eccentric vitality to them that keeps you coming back for more.

I have long wanted to review stories from the newspaper strip but haven’t been able to get to it. With a new storyline beginning this week, I am going to try something different. Instead of reviewing a completed sequence, I am going to comment on the ongoing story day by day until we come to the finish sometime in the distant future, whereupon I will give a concluding assessment and attach a web rating. This requires daily input. Wish me luck. (Oh, and you can ignore the "five web" rating. The system requires I enter something and five webs was more likely to attract your attention than 0.5 webs.)

In Detail...

"Sub-Mariner Rising!"
Spider-Man Newspaper Strip 24 August 2015 - 21 February 2016
Aug 2015 : SM Title
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Alex Saviuk (Sunday Strip), Larry Leiber (Daily Strips)
Inker:  Joe Sinnott
Staff Only
Issue
Review

If we can believe the final panel of the Sunday August 23rd strip (shown above), the new story is entitled “Sub-Mariner Rising!” Before we begin, here is a recap of the preceding story, as far as I can remember: Mary Jane is appearing as the eponymous super-heroine in the cheesy “Marvella 2” film but Mysterio and Hobgoblin attack her. Mysterio turns out to be Quentin Beck, hired by another actress who wanted the Marvella role. (Or maybe he’s not Beck and maybe the actress is not behind it…I can’t recall for the life of me.) Spider-Man protects MJ as best he can but gets help from the Black Widow, who looks like Scarlett Johansson. MJ gets jealous of Spidey and the Widow hanging out together. The Hobgoblin, in this continuity, is Harry Osborn, seeking revenge on Spider-Man for the death of his father, who was the Green Goblin. But it turns out that Harry is being manipulated by his psychiatrist. Unlike Bart Hamilton, Harry’s shrink from the comics who became the Green Goblin, Dr. Stone turns out to be “spy-slash-assassin” (as Spidey puts it) Dmitri Gregorin whom the Widow has been hunting. (Which is why Gregorin has brainwashed Harry to attack the Widow as well as Spidey.) Spidey webs Gregorin up and Harry, who seemed to know Spidey’s identity throughout the story, now seems clueless. He has also shaken off Gregorin’s hypnosis and declares that he has seen the light and no longer blames Spidey for his father’s death.

“Marvella 2” wraps, the Widow reveals that she has figured out that Peter is Spidey, and MJ admits that it was silly to be jealous.

Now, let’s begin.

August 24, 2015

MJ and Peter cozy up to each other on their sofa back at their apartment. “Well, the movie’s in the can – and my Broadway show doesn’t reopen for two weeks,” MJ says. “Wow!” Peter jokes, “Barely time enough to go on a cruise to the Caribbean!” MJ snuggles up real close, a big smile on her face. (And a nice profile drawing of her by Larry.) “The Caribbean!?” she says, “What a great idea!” Peter looks like he tilted his head and got a crick in his neck. “Hey,” he says, “I was just kidding.” (In case the reader didn’t figure that out from before.) But he thinks, “Face it Peter – you’re tropics-bound!” Which is a really fast realization considering how glacial things usually are in this series. I don’t profess to be an expert on this continuity but aren’t the Parkers usually hurting for money? They can decide to go on a cruise just like that? Maybe MJ has made a bundle on Marvella and Broadway.

So, the stage is set. If the story is “Sub-Mariner Rising!” we have to get to the place where the Sub-Mariner is.

August 25, 2015

So, you thought Peter’s realization that he was “tropics-bound” was fast? Here we are a day later and the Parkers are already on the cruise! They appear to be by a pool that is on the cruise ship. (There are three people in the pool behind them.) Peter, who is wearing a flowery Hawaiian shirt, is applying sunblock to MJ’s back. MJ’s swimsuit looks like it is made out of spandex.

Now, Stan is as aware as we are that this is an abrupt transition for a strip that usually runs at a snail’s pace so he gives us some expository dialogue. “I’m amazed we could book a cruise at such short notice,” Pete says. “Like they say,” replies MJ, “my producer knows a guy.” MJ asks, “Did Jonah Jameson give you any static about taking a vacation?” "Not after I told him I had inside info,” says Pete with a smug smile, “that Spider-Man was gonna be lying low for a couple of weeks!” Hmmm. Spidey is lying low for the same amount of time that Peter will be gone and Pete knows this because he has “inside info.” How dense does JJJ have to be to not figure this out?

August 26, 2015

Now Peter and MJ are sitting on something that could as easily be the back seat from a 1950s Buick as anything else. There are five people hob-nobbing behind them. Pete looks pensive in the first panel and wide-eyed in the second panel. MJ just smiles, which is what she’s been doing since this story started. “I do feel kinda guilty leaving New York on its own while we’re cruisin’,” says Pete. “Yeah, you’re right, Tiger,” says MJ, “It’s got nothing to protect it but a dedicated police force – not to mention the Avengers!” “Well, yeah,” says Pete, “if you wanna count them!” Next to MJ’s head is a thought balloon with the Avengers inside. Is it MJ’s thought? Peter’s thought? The reader’s thought? It doesn’t matter. It’s just a cheap way to get the Avengers into the strip to attract some idle reader’s attention. And just in case that reader is only familiar with the Avengers from the movies, the Black Widow looks like Scarlett Johansson and Thor looks like Chris Hemsworth. Captain America doesn’t look all that much like Chris Evans but, then again, he’s got a mask on. And Iron Man just looks like Iron Man.

August 27, 2015

Still on the boat, MJ and Peter relax. It looks like Pete is on an inflatable raft or a reclining chaise longue while MJ is in front of him, sitting in some sort of cushioned chair. She looks back at him, still smiling, and says, “Aren’t you excited? Tomorrow we’ll be in the Virgin Islands!” So, now we know their intended destination, though I have this feeling they won’t really be there tomorrow. Pete, his eyes closed, his hands clasped over his chest, replies, “Yeah…but I’m already missing all the action in the big city.” In the next panel, MJ finally loses her smile. Her eyes grow wide and her mouth forms an “O.” “I – I wish you hadn’t said that,” she says. “Why?” asks Pete, his eyes still closed. “That’s why!,” says MJ from a very odd third panel in which MJ and Peter are off-panel, except for MJ’s right hand. (Her word balloon points off-panel just above her hand.) She is pointing her finger at what appears to be a large tentacle emerging from the water and heading for the deck. It seems to be dragging a cocoon of water in its wake and it has a very unfortunate phallic look to it. There are two people reacting to its appearance but their backs are to us and the only reason we know they are reacting is because their hands are upraised. Peter is apparently also reacting, but off-panel. How do we know? There is a word balloon pointing off-panel containing “!?” which I interpret to mean, “Wow! Huh?”

So, we’re four days in and we have gone from Pete and MJ on their couch to a big tentacle attacking their cruise ship on its way to the Virgin Islands. Things are moving right along! What’s next?

August 28, 2015

Now, our point of view shifts in a panel that takes up two-thirds of the strip. MJ and Peter are in the background, standing up on a raised deck of which there was no sign before. Their rafts and/or chaise longues have disappeared. Yesterday, it looked like the tentacle was rising up over the railing across the ship from MJ and Pete. Now it is right next to them. (The perspective is very odd in both cases.) The tentacle looks less phallic but still doesn’t look like a tentacle. It is segmented like a desk lamp. So, from left to right, foreground to background, we see a head (in profile) and two fingers of a surprised vacationer dropping his drink (I think, but with only two fingers showing it’s hard to tell what that drink is doing), a woman in a ponytail, tiger stripe bikini and sunglasses recoiling and saying, “Help! It’s some kind of giant sea monster!”, the tentacle with lots of water flowing off of it, MJ in her spandex bikini saying, “Peter – could it be part of the ship’s entertainment?” (a fairly stupid thing to suggest) and Pete in his Hawaiian shirt and shorts (no bathing suit for Pete) replying, “They wouldn’t risk passengers having a heart attack!” which is the polite way of saying to MJ, “Did you really suggest that stupid thing that I heard you suggest?”

The second and final panel is a close-up of Peter with that half-Spidey mask over half of his face like Ditko used to draw. “It’s real,” he says, “Which means Spider-Man’s gotta weigh in, even if his showing up blows my secret identity.” Which it certainly should. Note how Pete’s sentence goes from referring to Spidey in the third person to referring to the secret identity in the first person. (Spider-Man’s gotta weigh in, even if his showing up blows my secret identity.) Being a super-hero with a secret identity must really scramble your sense of self.

August 29, 2015

And yet a different perspective with another double-size panel. This time MJ and Peter are in the foreground on the right, their faces in profile. The tentacle, still surrounded in a water sheath, rises up over the railing to the left of them. To the left of the tentacle are three people we haven’t seen before. One is a ship’s officer who pushes the other two men out of the way. “Everybody – keep away from that tentacle!” he yells. A good, but obvious, piece of advice. “C’mon, honey!” says Peter, “We’ve gotta get to our stateroom!” He grabs MJ by the wrist and starts dragging her away. As she looks back, MJ says, “We can’t hide while people are in danger!” “No,” Peter replies, “but that’s where my Spidey outfit’s stashed!” So much for “Spider-Man was gonna be lying low for a couple of weeks” from August 25. He brought the outfit along with him! And note how we’ve slowed to a crawl. In the first two days we went from MJ and Pete’s apartment to a cruise ship on the way to the Virgin Islands. Now the last three days it’s been tentacle, tentacle, and tentacle.

August 30, 2015

Our first Sunday! Our first omniscient narrator caption, the kind you never see in comics these days. Our first exposure to the Alex Saviuk/Joe Sinnott art team including our first disconnect between the daily and Sunday artwork. And our first look at the Sub-Mariner.

Let’s begin with that caption, which is a bit of a recap to get Sunday-only readers up to speed. Years ago, newspaper cartoonists used to work very hard to fill in the readers who only read the Sunday strip and the daily readers who missed Sundays. Milton Caniff was particularly adept at this in Steve Canyon. Stan has never paid much attention to this, giving vital information in Sunday strips that daily readers have to figure out for themselves and thoroughly confusing Sunday readers by not filling them in on the daily events. But this transition is not too bad. In the August 23rd strip, Peter and MJ are on their couch, tidying up the Black Widow/Hobgoblin storyline. A week later they’re on a cruise ship but at least Stan provides this caption: “The passengers of a Caribbean cruise ship find themselves living a daytime nightmare…” In the panel below the caption, the water-drenched tentacle is rising out of the water. Three sunbathers look up at it and one of them asks, “Wh-where’d that huge tentacle come from?” It’s not much but it will have to do. By the end of today’s strip, Stan gets the Sunday reader pretty much up to speed except for explaining what Pete and MJ are doing on a cruise ship…which, come to think of it, didn’t have much of an explanation to begin with.

The second panel puts us by the pool, where, apparently, Peter and MJ were the whole time. Alex draws thirteen people, besides Pete and MJ. More than Larry drew for the entire week. Half of them are in the pool flailing about with one guy climbing out. A second tentacle rises out of the water, with someone off-panel obligingly saying, “Look! There’s another one!” All of which makes me wonder why, with thirteen people in panel, the word balloon points off-panel to someone unseen. Maybe so there won’t be screw-ups like this: the second word balloon in the panel points directly down at Peter but I doubt this is the sort of thing Pete would yell: “Help! They’ll pull the whole ship down!” Also, note in this panel, how the bottom piece of MJ’s spandex bathing suit has raised from mid-thigh to a bikini. This week’s example of artistic disconnect.

Now, our “camera” moves in on Peter and MJ, as one of the tentacles, looming large in the foreground, brushes by. Peter pushes MJ out of the way. (Behind them is an older couple where the man is mirroring Peter’s actions, pushing his presumed wife out of the way, with the man on the right of his wife while Peter is on the left of his. A nice touch.) “Hurry, honey!” says Pete for those he didn’t read the daily strips, “I’ve got to get my costume!” MJ, looking stunned, says, “How can even Spider-Man handle something that big?”

The fourth panel zooms in even closer. The only people in frame are Peter and MJ. Peter looks off-panel to the right, seeing something. “Come to think of it,” he says, “that may not be my main problem.” MJ, looking to the left, starts to ask, “What do you mea - -“ but is cut off my someone off-panel declaring, “Surface-dwellers –,” followed by the fifth panel with Pete and MJ’s heads at the bottom looking up at the full figure of the Sub-Mariner leaping down from a higher deck. “Do not seek to offer resistance!” he announces, bringing us to our sixth and last panel, which is a close-up of Subby (sort of) paralleling the last panel from last week seen above. Someone off-panel, presumably Pete, lets those of us who need to know just who this is. “It’s Prince Namor,” he says, “the Sub-Mariner!” Below Subby is a caption panel reading, “Next: Up From the Oceanfloor!”

So, the story is moving right along and it only took us a week to get to the Sub-Mariner who is carrying his trident and wearing his blue-black outfit from the 70s, rather than his swim trunks. I am not familiar enough with the current Subby to know if this is what he is wearing now. I do know that he doesn’t really get called “the Sub-Mariner” much these days. Mostly he is just “Namor.” But child of the sixties as I am, I much prefer Stan’s Silver Age approach. Namor will always be the Sub-Mariner to me.

There is a nice panel progression here. Panel one is much like the first panels of the last two strips, with cruisers pointing at the giant tentacle. We’re used to this panel by now. It’s comfortable. But panel two pulls way back to show us two tentacles, the pool, all those people, and nearly full figures of Pete and MJ. From there the “camera” moves relentlessly forward. Panel three shows only a piece of one tentacle, two unnamed bystanders and Pete and MJ from the waist up. By panel four, the bystanders and the tentacles are no longer shown while Pete is shown from the torso up and MJ’s face and shoulder are shown. Panel five moves closer but pans up so we only see Pete and MJ’s heads but now see the Sub-Mariner’s full figure. Panel six moves in from there, showing a stoic Subby like a stone bust. Alex Saviuk isn’t the flashiest artist but this is pretty nice stuff for one little newspaper strip. Plus, he bothered to put gulls in the sky in all but one panel, which I think is pretty cool.

August 31, 2015

This week’s dailies begin with…another caption panel, as Stan actually tries to get readers up to speed. “Huge tentacles have gripped the cruise ship - ,” it says. This is the first time we’ve heard that the tentacles have gripped the ship. All we saw before were two tentacles rising up out of the sea. The Sub-Mariner stands in profile. He is on the left side of the panel, in the foreground, up on a higher deck than his audience. Nine people, including Peter and MJ, are standing below, looking up at him. (One poor woman only gets half of her face shown.) Subby says, “People of the surface – I am Namor, Prince of Atlantis - - whom some call the Sub-Mariner!” This announcement enrages Peter, for some reason. In our second and last panel, he clenches his fist and grimaces with all his teeth showing like some sort of a child’s idea of a sneer. “I’m gonna trash that guy for terrifying a shipful of passengers!” he says. MJ, peering over and with one hand on his shoulder, cries out, “Peter – wait!” Which is what we have to do…until tomorrow’s strip to see what happens next.

September 1, 2015

Here’s another odd panel. Pete and MJ are in the foreground, in profile. Pete’s head fills up the left side (look at that Superman spit curl and that Elvis-length sideburn) while MJ’s head fills up the right side. But there is a gap between them, through which we can see three other passengers. These three all have their backs to us and are mostly obscured so you have to wonder why Larry bothered to show them at all. Pete turns to MJ and says, “You don’t want me to tackle the Sub-Mariner?” “You’ll give away your Spider-Man identity when you may not need to!” replies MJ, which is certainly true.

The second panel shifts position, as if the “cameraman” moved from behind Pete and MJ to the right side of the couple. We still see MJ and Peter up close but now they only fill the left side of the panel. There is a woman with blonde hair and sunglasses and a guy with a mustache, neither of whom is among the three from the first panel. They are looking up at Subby who fills up the right half of the panel. “At least wait until he stops talking!” says MJ, as Subby is droning on with, “For years I have warned you surface-dwellers about polluting the seas…” Peter says, “I’m not sure we’ll live that long.” I’m worried about the same thing, Pete!

September 2, 2015

Having made up his mind between yesterday’s final panel and today’s first panel, Peter turns to his wife and whispers, “Okay, MJ – I’ll hear Namor out a little longer…” We know he’s whispering because his word balloon is segmented into little lines. Peter is on the left side of the panel, just his head shown, and he crooks his neck over in what looks like a very uncomfortable position but, hey, he does whatever a spider can. Only the back of MJ’s head is shown, which is probably Larry taking it easy. Namor is still standing on the upper deck, holding his trident in his right hand and propping his left fist on his waist. He continues, “I first clashed with you humans in the year you call 1940…”

The second panel is a flashback showing Subby, and a woman in a bathing suit, who is sitting on a buoy. Namor’s narration caption reads, “But a brave young policewoman named Betty Dean persuaded me not to decimate your New York City!”

Now, this panel is a re-creation of an actual panel from the Golden Age; specifically panel 8 of page 4 of the Sub-Mariner story in Marvel Mystery Comics #3, January 1940. Now that’s a flashback! In that story, Subby has been terrorizing New York City and the police note that “This lunatic seemed to be attracted to the Drayson girl, and kidnapped her,” which took place in Marvel Mystery Comics #2, December 1939.. (Don’t worry. They rescued her.) They decide that Subby is susceptible to a pretty face and set a trap for him using policewoman Betty Dean. Patrolling the Battery in plain clothes, Betty waits until she spots Subby offshore, then strips to her bathing suit, dives in the water, and pretends to be drowning. Subby swims to her, saying, “You are too lovely to die. Even though you are an American.” Betty pulls a gun on him and holds it to his head. “All right, Mr. Maniac!” she says, “Will you come peacefully, or do I have to let you have it?” But Namor disarms her easily and drags her out to sea. There he notices a Nazi plane and U-Boat attacking a freighter. That brings us to the panel re-done in today’s strip. A caption reads, “Namor lifts Betty up onto the buoy –“ She says, “Y-you’re not going to l-leave me here alone?” He says, “Sorry, young lady. But this looks like war! When you’re rested you can swim to that little island – I’ve got to find out what’s going on in these waters!” In the rest of the story, Namor defeats the plane and U-Boat, bringing the crippled freighter to the island to which Betty has swum. There she talks him into fighting on the Allies’ side and becomes a lifelong friend of the Sub-Mariner. But we won’t go into that. This panel is the same in composition as the original panel with Subby, half-submerged, on the left and Betty in her one-piece suit perched above him on the buoy and looking down on him but the buoy is arrowhead-like on the top rather than lantern-like and the “little island” is not in the background. So, a flashback from 75 years ago. Pretty cool.

MJ is impressed too. In our third and last panel (in which only she and Peter are shown, in profile, again from the necks up), she says, “Did he say – he attacked the surface world 75 years ago?” (MJ clearly isn’t a history buff but shouldn’t she know this? An amphibious man causing death and destruction in New York? I think we’d be familiar with that if it happened in our timeline. On the other hand, there are people around today who have never heard of Pearl Harbor.) Responding to MJ’s surprised question, Peter says, “His people age verrry slowly, honey.” Those of us who age faster than Namor are hoping that the story’s pace will pick up.

September 3, 2015

Still impressed, MJ gazes at Subby and says, “Prince Namor seems…so noble, somehow.” (Actually she and Peter are gazing out at us, as Larry gives us a shot of the couple looking straight out of the panel.) Peter, looking sleepy and dubious, replies, “Try ‘arrogant’.” Panel two is an odd one with Namor’s left profile filling up the entire right half. His eye looks closed and his teeth look clenched. There are four people watching him, positioned so low in the bottom left of the panel that two of them are only seen from the brow up. The other two are just above, looking like disembodied heads perched above the brows, like those cocoanuts that artists paint up to look like people. The only woman of the foursome has blonde hair and sunglasses and may be the same one we saw on September 1. Not that it matters one way or the other. Meanwhile, Subby is still talking. “Humans!” he says, as if he’s only starting his speech right now, “My undersea race is in peril – because of the depletion of the ocean’s oxygen – due to your untreated pollutants!” The second part of this speech appears in the third panel, but Namor does not. Only Peter appears, so close up we don’t even see his chin. He has this spacey “staring straight ahead” look on his face and his mouth is closed up tight. But that doesn’t stop him from muttering (his speech balloon has those little segmented lines again), “I’m afraid I know where he’s going with this spiel!” So do I, Pete, but I have this feeling we’re going to take a long time to get there.

September 4, 2015

How many other angles can we find for this one scene? This time Namor is positioned in the center of the panel, at about center stage. There is nothing but blue sky behind him. Downstage, are three people but we only see the backs of their heads or slight profiles. One is a woman with a bun and an earring but that’s the best we can do. MJ and Peter are in the lower right foreground. MJ is in profile, listening attentively. Peter leans back, closed eyes, smoothed lips. He slaps his forehead with his hand but since the hand comes from off-panel, it doesn’t look like it’s a part of him. Instead, it looks like someone off-panel is yanking him back, tugging on his hair.

Subby’s speech continues. “The recklessness you surface-men show towards the oceans,” he says, “and toward us who live beneath them – compels me to announce that, from this moment forward -.” Here, Peter slaps his forehead and mutters, with those segmented lines around his word balloon, “He’d better not say what I think he’s about to say…!”

Panel two shows only Peter in a close-up profile with his hand clenched in a fist and coming from off-panel so that it could belong to anyone. A word balloon points off-panel as Subby concludes, “- I am taking command of the seas, in the name of sunken Atlantis!” Peter, gritting his teeth, and shaking that disembodied fist blurts out, “He said it!” Yes, at last he said it. Now can we move on?

Before we do, you’ve got to wonder why Subby is making this big announcement on the deck of a single cruise ship. Why not broadcast it to the world? Is he planning to go from cruise ship to cruise ship making this same announcement? It reminds me of an old joke. A guy walks into a confessional and tells the priest, “I’m 75 years old and I have two 21 year old lovers, twins! Beautiful women! And we spend all day in bed, the three of us, every single day, and we make passionate love and I…” The priest cuts him off and says, “That’s all well and good but you’re not even Catholic. Why are you telling me this?” And the guy says, “I’m telling everybody!”

September 5, 2015

Now, Peter and MJ mutter to each other. All of the dialogue is in word balloons composed of little segmented lines, so we know they’re muttering. The background…well, there is no background. Just sky, apparently. The other people…well, there are no other people in the first panel. Looks like Larry was taking short-cuts and playing catch-up. And not a single seagull from Larry all week! Come on, Larry! Don’t let Alex show you up!

Peter starts toward Namor (we can only assume, since Namor is not shown) but the camera has swung around to the other side because Peter is now in right profile and is heading towards the right side of the panel. This would have been great if it led us to a panel of Namor but the second panel actually looks backwards, behind Peter (and not showing Peter) so that momentum is wasted. Muttering, Pete tells MJ something we all already know. “Namor plans to seize control of the oceans!” he says, “You see I’ve gotta rush him – right now?” Is that a question, Pete? Is it rhetorical? MJ grabs him by the right arm, holding him back as she looks behind her. “Before you blow your Spider-Man cover…” she mutters, as we move on to panel #2, “Why not let the Captain have a go at him?” MJ, in the right foreground, looks over her shoulder at three officers who are approaching from the left background. The one in the lead is clearly the Captain and he looks “no-nonsense” enough but, seriously, “let the Captain have a go at him?” Against the Sub-Mariner? We know how that will go. Still, I look forward to a week of the Captain sparring with Namor with Peter raring to go in each panel, leaving us back where we started.

September 6, 2015

Alex Saviuk is back and so are the seagulls. Looks like there are whole flocks of them in every panel but #2. In panel #1, they are over Namor’s right shoulder as we once again get that scene of Subby standing on the upper deck while Peter and MJ (and two other bystanders) look on. Stan recaps, “The Sub-Mariner has announced to a captured cruise ship that he’s taking command of Earth’s oceans…” and Subby says, “I demand you sail at once for the nearest port…” but someone off-panel calls out, “Hold it right there, Mister!” That remark comes from the trio of officers we saw yesterday but they were behind MJ then and now they have circled around to the upper deck and come up behind the Sub-Mariner. Subby on the left foreground, shown from the chest up, looks back disdainfully as the officer in the lead points his finger at him and says, “I’m Captain of this ship! I want to know by what right you’ve seized it on the high seas!” We switch, in panel #3, to a shot of Peter and MJ (and two other bystanders) from the front at about chin-level so that it feels like we’re about to look up MJ’s nose. “That Captain’s a brave man!” she says, perhaps figuring out that it may not be the best idea to have the Captain “have a go at him.” Peter replies, “I just hope it doesn’t cost him!”

Down we go to the second tier of panels. Now we are behind Subby along with the Captain, who looks much older than before, with gray hair and a lined face. Perhaps the prospect of facing Sub-Mariner has aged him already. Subby turns to look at him and says, “You humans paddle about on the surface of the world’s waters – and you endanger those us who dwell underneath.” Panel #5 is close in on Namor’s face, on his Dracula widow’s peak, on his Golden Arches eyebrows, on his flared nostrils, on his gritted teeth. He has one of those disembodied fists emerging from the lower left of the panel, the kind Peter has had in previous strips. “It’s past time that we took control of the seas – for your safety as well as ours!” (Say what you will about Stan but he has always been able to fill the most innocuous panel with dialogue that keeps the story moving…even when the story is standing still.) The final panel moves the camera again as we are belt-level with Subby on the left as he faces the three men on the right. The Captain has drawn a gun and his two officers clench fists and look belligerent. “Not on my ship, you don’t!” he tells Subby and orders the belligerent officers to “Grab him, men!” I don’t think that’s going to go so well but it will probably take us a week to find out. The bottom caption reads, “Next: Skirmish at Sea!”

September 7, 2015

“The Captain is determined the Sub-Mariner won’t take over his cruise ship…,” says Stan in a caption, introducing us to a panel with a couple of disconnects between the Sunday and the daily strips. Here, the Captain is young again, his hair no longer gray, his face more rugged. He no longer carries a gun. Even his Captain’s cap is different, now looking like a French Foreign Legion kepi. The panel is all heads and torsos. The Captain is on the left, in right profile. He says, “Grab that pointy-eared so-and-so!” On the panel’s right side, the Sub-Mariner looks straight ahead, bracketed by the two officers. There are no seagulls but there are clouds, which is more than Larry bothered with last week.

“And what of passenger Peter Parker?” asks a caption in the second panel, in case you forgot that Peter is standing around, wondering if he should change into his Spidey suit. So here he is again, wondering if he should change into his Spidey suit. With MJ and three bystanders behind him, Peter thinks, “If I change to Spider-Man – I’ll blow my secret identity.” Like I said. By the way, the three bystanders way in the back include that same blonde-haired woman with the sunglasses. One of these times, she might actually get a line.

September 8, 2015

Here’s something different. Two long, narrow panels stacked one on top of the other. In the top panel, the two officers each grab one of Subby’s arms. In the second panel, Namor thrusts them away and they go flying. The effect is marred only in that, while the Sub-Mariner is in the approximate center in each panel, the first panel is more of a close-up than the second panel so his panel #1 figure is not directly above his panel #2 figure. After designing this sequence, it seems a shame to not get it exactly right. In panel #1, the officer on the left, hanging onto Subby’s right arm, looks off-panel left and says, “We’ve got him Cap’n!” There are all sorts of motion lines to show how much the men are struggling. Namor looks at this officer and says, “You dare lay hands on a Prince of Atlantis?” In the second panel, the motion lines all emanate from Namor. The two officers are shown in mid-air. “Away, surface-crawling rabble!” says Subby.

In the third and final panel, which is back to the usual panel composition, one officer lands on the Captain. This is interesting because this officer is the one on the right, the one who did not speak. The panel composition works wonderfully as he flies off to the right in panel #2, only to land on the Captain in panel #3, falling left to right. But, wasn’t the other officer looking toward the Captain in the other direction when he spoke to him? The Captain again has a gun. It’s flies out of his hand as the officer lands on him. Behind them both, on the same level, Peter watches, even though they were on an upper deck before and Peter was below. No other bystanders are shown. No clouds. No birds. No railing. No boat. Just these five characters on their own private stage. As he watches, Peter thinks, “That tears it! Spider-Man’s got to make an entrance!” Should be any day now.

September 9, 2015

Now that gun, that had previously disappeared only to show up again yesterday, falling out of the Captain’s hand, is in Subby’s hand. He holds it upside down and the little wiggle lines indicate that he is shaking it up and down. He is in the foreground on the left, only his head, shoulders, and hand showing. Yes, another of those disembodied hands. The Captain is on the deck to the right, in front of him, looking wide-eyed and terrified. But where is the officer who landed on him? Nowhere to be found. What did he do? Get up and run for it? Peter is between the two, compositionally, but behind the Captain in full figure except for his left foot. (Insert your own Christy Brown or Daniel Day-Lewis joke here.) He crouches, ready to leap. “As this vessel’s Captain, you will be the first to feel my wrath!” says Namor, shaking that gun. Peter thinks, “I’ve no choice! I’ve got to –.” But before he can finish that thought, someone off-panel yells, “Stop!” Is it one of the officers? A cameo appearance by one of the Avengers? The woman with the blonde hair and the sunglasses? No. It is MJ who, in panel #2, crouches between the Sub-Mariner and the fallen Captain, yelling, “Leave him alone!” Subby and Peter both say “question mark.” That is, they both have word balloons with “?” in them, which is comic strip shorthand for Subby saying “Huh?” and Peter saying “Whu?” Oh, and it could be that someone is reaching out from behind Peter ready to grab him but I think it’s actually another one of Peter’s disembodied hands.

September 10, 2015

Subby’s head fills the first third of the panel, in profile, facing right. It seems to emerge from the bottom left corner where we see his shoulder and a little piece of his arm, pointing diagonal right. On the other side, emerging from the bottom right and pointing diagonal left is the Captain. He is much smaller as he lies on the deck and he looks frightened. In between, holding the two diagonals apart, as it were, is MJ in nearly-full figure crouching beside the Captain. A surprised Subby says, “A mere woman dares to defy Prince Namor?” MJ replies, “Maybe women are ‘mere’ where you come from, mister!”

She continues in the second panel where she is still in the center but now in left profile facing the Sub-Mariner and pointing a finger at him (from a disembodied hand). This finger guides our eyes to Subby who is open-mouthed and baffled by all this. He has motion lines around his head that make it look like he’s wiggling his ears. MJ continues, “But above the waterline, a guy who strikes an older guy is a coward!” Perhaps we should remind MJ that Namor did not strike the Captain. He shook off one of the younger officers and that officer fell on the Captain. The officer has since mysteriously disappeared allowing this claim of Subby striking the Captain to gain traction. Peter is on the right in the background. (And there are two bystanders in sunglasses very small behind him. Is one of them our co-star, the blonde woman in sunglasses? I won’t say no.) Peter slaps himself in the forehead, his eyes pointing upward in a “why me?” expression. He thinks, “Oboy! Now I’m gonna have to jump in and save both the Captain and MJ!” Such lack of faith in your wife, Peter! You should be ashamed!

September 11, 2015

Now, MJ takes slightly off-center stage. Her bangs stick down in distinct spikes and her mouth is puckered up like she just ate a lemon. The Sub-Mariner is on the right, facing her, his face in profile. Behind MJ are the ship’s railing, the ocean, and even an island, but no gulls. “Well?” says MJ, “Are you going to hit me too, Sub-Mariner?” Remember that Subby did not hit the Captain but shrugged off the officer who attacked him so that the officer collided with the Captain. But now that it’s gone “viral,” it appears to be too late to get the truth out. Even Subby seems to have bought into it. He doesn’t object to MJ’s accusation but only answers her question of, “Are you going to hit me too, Sub-Mariner?” “No,” he replies, “because you remind me – of her -.” And we move on to a very strange panel where Subby finishes his thought with, “Of Betty Dean, the surface woman I cared for many decades ago!” So, Subby seems to be saying that he would have hit MJ if she didn’t remind him of Betty…but forget about that part. Let’s look at the panel. Subby is on the left, in full-face, looking toward the right, as if looking at the rest of the panel which is filled with a cloud balloon showing Sub-Mariner looking lasciviously at Betty Dean. (The highly-arched eyebrows contribute to the effect.) Betty is dressed in her police uniform and she looks back at Subby out of the corners of her eyes with a sly grin. There is clearly a mutual attraction. Now, this could be construed as a mere flashback but since it is in a cloud balloon and placed next to Subby’s head so that he seems to be looking at it, it appears to be his memory. So, when he remembers Betty, he remembers it as if he is a third person watching himself watching Betty? Even if you want to cut him some slack, it is still an odd panel since it gives us a shoulder-and-up view of three characters, two of which are Sub-Mariner. It presents us with a strange double-vision effect. From left to right: Subby, Subby, Betty. Wouldn’t this have worked better if the Subby of the present was not shown and his dialogue used to illustrate a flashback panel? Yes, but then it wouldn’t be the wackiness that is the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip.

September 12, 2015

A three-shot, with just heads and shoulders. Peter is on the left in the background. We can see a bit of his hand so that we get the idea that he is looking on, pensive, his arms crossed. MJ is in the middle, wide-eyed, her bangs less spikey than before. Sub-Mariner is on the right, his face turned in MJ’s direction but his eyes looking away. There is no one else around. No fallen Captain. No officers. No cruise bystanders. It is as if our three main characters have teleported away to an empty ship, though we still see the railing, the sea, and a little piece of the island behind them. “I remind you of a woman you knew decades ago?!” asks MJ, responding to Subby’s comment from yesterday. “Yes,” says Namor, “When we both were young,” as if this is the first we have heard of this, but since it’s been 10 days since Subby mentioned it (in the September 2nd strip), maybe everyone has forgotten. (Stan hopes you have so he can fill another strip…this strip…mentioning it again.) “She, like you, was outspoken – and brave,” continues Subby, leading us to the second panel, showing Namor up close as he closes his eyes, puts a (disembodied) hand on his forehead and gives way to his pain. “Foolishly, I let her out of my life,” he says, “and I have regretted it ever since.” Now, that's a plot point if I've ever seen one.

September 13, 2015

The birds are back so that means Alex Saviuk and the Sunday strip are too. Also back is the Captain, not seen since he was flat on his back on September 10th. Stan begins today’s episode with a caption telling us all what we should already know: “The Sub-Mariner has commandeered an American cruise ship…” The Captain is finally back on his feet and raring to face Namor again, but Peter holds him back. MJ and Subby are also in the panel, staring into each other’s eyes. MJ has her hands on her hips looking defiant. And way in the background but in the center of the panel is a woman peeking around a bulkhead. Looks like the bystanders are back, too.

The Captain says, “Let me at that fish-faced pirate!” In panel #2, the camera swings around to face Peter and the Captain. There are two other bystanders over the Captain’s right shoulder but what is the machine over Peter’s left shoulder? And what’s going on above that? Is the panel sagging? Peter, looking worried, grabs the Captain’s left arm tightly. “Please, Captain,” he says, “Don’t anger him! He might hurt my wife!” The Captain, looking scared, replies, “All right, I’ll say put – for the moment!” The camera swings around to the Captain’s right profile in panel #3. “You’ve got a strong grip, you know that, son?” says the Captain to Peter. (We know it’s strong because little yellow lines radiate out from where Peter was grabbing the Captain’s arm.) Peter lets go and says, “Uh…I work out a little.” I love how Peter always feels compelled to come up with some cheesy explanation for observations like this. Can’t he say, “Thank you” and leave it at that?

Now the action (such as it is) swings around to MJ and Namor with the camera situated behind Subby’s left shoulder. MJ and her disembodied hand, lets Namor have it. “Am I supposed to feel flattered, Namor, that I remind you of an old flame…with the emphasis on the old?” She may sound put upon but note how she’s gone from calling him “mister” and “Sub-Mariner” on September 10th and 11th respectively to calling him “Namor” today. Behind MJ, Peter and the Captain look on. Oh, and birds.

Panel #5 is a close-up of Namor and his disembodied hand (his fingernails have cuticles!). Oh, and birds. “Three-quarters of a century mean very little to my people,” he says, “But mere flattery is not my purpose.” He takes MJ’s hand in panel #6. We know he has a strong grip because little yellow lines radiate out from MJ’s head. As Peter looks on, open-mouthed, Subby tells MJ, “I wish to wed you – to make you queen of Atlantis!” Whoa! Slow down, son! Aren’t you already married? Or weren’t you married? I can’t keep up. MJ says, “!,” which is comic strip shorthand for “What the f--- did you just say?”

The closing caption gets all Swiftian on us. “Next: A Modest Proposal?” it reads.

September 14, 2015

Now let’s waste one of our two panels by repeating what was said in yesterday’s last panel. (Okay, I get it. It’s for the people who don’t get the Sunday strip.) As we look straight on at MJ and Namor, with Peter in the background, Subby put his disembodied hands on MJ’s shoulders and says, “I wish to wed you, flame-hair – and make you queen of Atlantis.” This so surprises MJ that her mouth opens in an “O” and two motion lines appear by her head on the left side. Peter is even more surprised. He has two motion lines are each side of his head!

MJ turns to look at a grinning Sub-Mariner. Her two disembodied hands make shadow puppets…or something. “You’ve got to be kidding!” she tells Subby, “I’m already married! And you don’t even know my name – just my hair color!” Which I think is what the “!” meant last time. Oh, and Larry has not only drawn birds in this last panel, he has drawn nine birds! Game on, Alex!

September 15, 2015

Once again, there appear to be only three people on the ship. Panel #1 shows us two of them. Namor and MJ face off against each other, in profile, like an old Point-Counterpoint routine. Namor says, “What is your name, courageous one?” MJ, looking defiantly up at him, cocks a thumb from her disembodied hand at her chin and declares, “I’m Mary Jane Parker – Mrs. Parker to you!”

In panel #2, we return to a full-face straight-on look. The Sub-Mariner peers over MJ’s shoulder, a sly grin on his face and his chin cupped in his disembodied hand. “If you are indeed married, where is your mate?” says Subby, thinking himself too clever. MJ looks worried, her eyes swerving left in Peter’s approximate direction. “He’s – kind of busy just now,” she says. Peter, smaller in the background and looking as emotional as an android, thinks, “She’s afraid if she identifies me – I’ll have to fight Namor!” Which is just stupid enough to be true. Maybe, if Namor wants to find out to whom MJ is married, he should look around to see who is currently the only other person on deck. That’s sort of a tip-off. By the way, no birds from Larry this time. It’s almost as if he proved he could do it with the nine birds last time and doesn’t feel he needs to prove himself again.

September 16, 2015

Namor grabs MJ by her left wrist as she tries to pull away. (Namor’s head looks very Karloff-monster-like here.) The camera has moved farther back, showing the two from the waist up…perhaps to provide space for all the text; space that isn’t there with all those big heads. “If your husband is content to have you sail the seas without him,” says Subby, “Then I will make you a far better mate than he does!” MJ yells, “Let go of me - !” From off-panel, Peter says, “You heard her, Namor!” We know it’s Peter because, at this point, there appear to be only three people on the boat. Plus he continues in the second panel.

In that second panel, Peter has pulled MJ our of Namor’s grip. I assume Namor let go or else MJ’s wrist probably would have been pulped. Peter has somehow turned MJ around so that he is behind her, holding onto her shoulders. They both recoil, tilting sideways, as little motion lines move them to their right. It almost looks like Peter is using MJ as a defensive shield. MJ looks like something out of a silent movie, all eyes and open mouth and waving arms; a dumbshow of shock and fear. “Let her go!” says Peter, when, clearly, Namor has already let her go. Subby casually leans back, his hand outstretched, looking like it is protruding from out of his chest. “Hah!” he says, “I knew my actions would bring even the most craven spouse out of hiding!” Looks like that ridiculous notion that Peter will have to fight Namor, as suggested in yesterday’s strip, is inching towards reality. Because if Stan wasn’t planning to do it, he wouldn’t have suggested it.

September 17, 2015

Now we’re getting somewhere! We even need three panels today! In the first, our three main characters are front, back, and sideways. From left to right, Namor faces forward, turned just enough to his left to look at Peter who has his back to us but confronts Subby, his head turned just far enough to his left so we can see his profile while MJ’s head is turned sideways, looking at the both of them. The Sub-Mariner, who has read too much William Goldman, declares, “Stand aside! I claim this woman as my Princess Bride!” (Is anyone out there buying that Namor sees a resemblance in MJ to Betty Dean, admires her spunk, and decides to make her his bride just like that? I didn’t think so.) Peter replies, “She’s my wife, pointy-ears! Take a running jump back into the briny deep!” (Peter tends to make brash comments like this to super-powered people, which is a tip-off that he is more than he appears, it seems to me. By the time we get through today’s strip, we’ll have more evidence of that.)

In panel #2, the camera has swung around so that Peter is on the left and Subby is on the right. Peter is now in right profile while Namor still faces forward, more or less. The Sub-Mariner reaches his hand out as if to touch Peter’s shoulder. (And it’s not disembodied! We see the whole arm and everything!) “Do you truly think you can resist -,” he begins, but he doesn’t get any further because, in panel #3, Peter gives him a big two-handed shove which knocks him flying and colliding, with a THWAMM, into…something. The side of the panel, perhaps?

So, Peter has really blown his secret identity, right? Well, maybe not. We haven’t seen anyone else on board since last Sunday. Maybe they all abandoned ship.

September 18, 2015

Subby gets back up and it does look like he collided with the panel’s edge yesterday because there is nothing behind him but the ship’s railing. He doesn’t look happy; crouching with one arm forward and one back and with his left leg lifted like he is running in place. Peter looks even stranger. He is close-up in the right fore-panel and his head is twisted sideways with his eyes looking away from Namor, as if he just spotted a quarter on the deck. “You are – stronger than you look, surface-dweller,” says Subby. Peter, in another of those hilarious excuses for his abilities (see “Uh…I work out a little,” on September 13th), replies, “The deck’s just slippery. That’s why you…fell.”

Now, the camera swings around behind the Sub-Mariner so that we see Peter full on. MJ is behind Peter’s right shoulder. Behind Peter’s left shoulder are…two other people! So, Subby, Pete and MJ are not the only people left on the ship after all. This looks like the two officers whom we haven’t seen since Subby shrugged them off on September 8th. They’re back, after apparently running and hiding and leaving the now-missing Captain to his fate. So, Peter stands, proudly, protecting MJ, and following up his “deck’s just slippery” speech, he says, “But if you try to take my wife – you’ll have to go through me!” One of the officers, wide-eyed, says, “Is he crazy? The Sub-Mariner’ll tear him apart!” Now that he’s said his line, will he stick around in future strips? Will the Captain return? Will the other passengers? The suspense is killing me.

September 19, 2015

A double-wide panel…with birds! From left to right, from distant background to close-up foreground are the two officers (I think, but they have retreated so far back as to be a little bit sketchy), MJ standing behind Peter, Peter who points at Namor with a disembodied arm that looks like a cobra ready to strike, and Subby, in profile, open-mouthed, his left shoulder more accentuated than any other part of him. Peter, pointing, says, “You’re not dragging my wife back to Atlantis!” (Good call, since she would probably drown.) Namor replies, “And how does a puny air-breather like you mean to stop me?”

In the second and last panel, we have a Spidey appearance! Well, sort of. It’s a head shot of Peter but his left half is covered with the left half of his Spidey mask, with spider-sense lines radiating off of it, a la Ditko. I think this is to remind us that Peter is Spidey since it’s been so long since we’ve seen him. Just kidding. That half mask is to demonstrate to us about whom Peter is talking when he says, “I may not be much myself, Namor…but I’ve got powerful friends!”

I know this strip’s stories move like molasses. I know it will probably take months to get through this very simple tale. But even knowing that…get on with it!

September 20, 2015

Ever get the feeling that the Sunday strip is just a rehash of what you’ve been reading all week? That’s because it is…except for MJ’s point that she can’t breathe underwater. We’ll get to that. First we have a long shot of the ship’s deck with Subby, Peter, and MJ, as well as four other passengers. The first appearance by civilians since Alex’s last effort on September 13th. There is a bird in the background and a couple of dotted lines on deck that look like two columns of ants. I get this feeling that the whole deck configuration has completely changed but I’m not going to bother to look back to see. Which is what Stan, Larry, and Alex are counting on.

Stan begins with a caption: “The Sub-Mariner attempts to explain his position…” which is such a civilized way to put it. “It is a lonely thing to be the Prince of Atlantis,” he says. The camera zooms in to MJ, Peter, and Namor. “Thus, as a wife to stand beside me,” he continues, “I have chosen the surface-woman Mary Jane Parker!” (Chosen really quickly, I might add.) “You haven’t thought this through, Namor,” says MJ. No kidding!

Panel #3 is a thighs-up look at our threesome (with clouds and birds behind) as MJ continues, pushing Peter out of the way…to make her point, I guess. “Besides already being married – and wanting nothing to do with you – I can’t breathe underwater!” All good points, I think. Panel #4 is a nostril shot of Subby with some weird shading on his face…sort of an ill-conceived attempt at a 1970s Kirby effect. He is alone in the shot, except that bird in the background, and he responds to MJ’s points. Well, actually he ignores the first two points, and only responds to the third. Just like a man. “Atlantean science can adapt you to life there,” he says, “including the crushing sub-oceanic pressure.” Perhaps Atlantean science can also annul your marriage and make you start to like me a little bit.

Now the camera swings around to give us a nice close-up of Subby’s left arm. MJ and Peter are behind that arm, which is, perhaps, Alex symbolically demonstrating how Namor has them in his grasp. Naw, I didn’t think so either. There is a bystander in the background, along with the Captain! We haven’t seem him in a while. And, hey, the trident's back! We haven't seen it in a week, either! And there’s a bird by Peter’s head, which is, perhaps, Alex symbolically demonstrating…naw, I didn’t think so either. Peter cups his hand up to his mouth as he speaks to MJ, so I suppose that means that only she hears him. “There’s no reasoning with him, honey,” he says, “Guess I’m gonna have to introduce him and everybody else on board – to my backup!” These last three words appear in the sixth and last panel, as Peter grits his teeth and holds up a disembodied fist while the Spidey mask appears on the left side of his face again (though, interestingly, it stops at his hairline) and the spider-sense spikes jolt out. “Afraid it’s starting to look that way, Tiger!” MJ says, as if she can see the half-mask and spider-sense lines. She can’t, can she? You never know in the newspaper strip.

Our final caption reads, “Next: Spider-Man Revealed?” with that annoying question mark which means, “oh, probably not.” Actually, I’m curious about how accurate these “Next” boxes are. Last week, it read, “A Modest Proposal?” again with the question mark. There’s no proposal here, not anything we didn’t already know. So, maybe the “Next” box includes the whole week and not just the following Sunday? Even if this is true, Namor already proposed on September 13th. There’s nothing really new in that vein for the whole following week. Which is kind of indicative of how the series slithers along.

September 21, 2015

As Peter and MJ’s summer cruise moves into Autumn, we begin with our occasional tradition of starting the week of dailies with a recap caption. This one reads, “The Sub-Mariner has proposed to MJ Parker…” which is not very informative since he’s proposed about four times by now. Subby is on the right side of the panel facing forward and MJ is to the left of him, in profile. There are three sketchy bystanders peeking over Subby’s shoulders. He says, “Our Atlantean scientists can adapt you to life underwater…” and MJ replies, “Even if I weren’t already married, the answer would be no!”

In our second panel, MJ is on the left, looking straight ahead, but her expression is so lifeless and her head is so round, it looks like someone put a wig and some make-up on a volleyball. Maybe we should start calling her “Wilson.” Peter is to the right and behind and he has the half-Spidey mask and jolting spider-sense lines for the third straight day. He whispers to his volleyball wife (and we know it’s a whisper because of the dotted line word balloon), “He’s not gonna take no for an answer, honey. Looks like I’ll have no choice but to play the Spider-Man card – minus costume!” Minus costume? Didn’t Pete say on August 29th that he had his Spidey-suit stashed in his stateroom? I’m sure he has time to go and get it. No one seems to be in any rush.

And speaking of not being in a rush, remember when I said “Each story is torturously slow, taking three or four months to complete the simplest plotline,” back in the introduction? What an optimist I was! I just looked over the previous Marvella 2 storyline and it actually lasted nine months! We could be in for some deep hurting.

September 22, 2015

Plenty of text this time saying the same old thing. The artwork is much the same day by day, too, with Peter, MJ, and Namor facing off from various angles, though Larry has remembered the trident and passengers again, at least. There are three bystanders this time in background-left. From left to right, they are a woman wearing earrings, a kid, and a guy in a cap and sunglasses. None of them look like anyone we’ve seen before. MJ and Peter are in midground-center, with Peter still lecturing and pointing at Namor. Subby is in foreground-right, in close-up profile. There is a very flat ocean behind them.

Peter says, “My wife just said no to your nutty proposal, fish-man. Now why don’t you go back to Davy Jones’ Locker before I…” Namor interrupts him, saying, “Your courage is as admirable as it is rash, surface-man…” which leads to panel #2, showing Namor full-forward at bust range and finishing his thought. “But I’ll not beg any woman to become Princess of Atlantis!” There is one of those word balloons with nothing but an “!” in it pointing off-panel to, presumably, either Peter or MJ. In this case, I think the “!” means, “What in the hell does that mean?” It sounds like it means he is withdrawing his proposal but I suspect it means he plans to kidnap her. A great start to the marriage.

But let’s go back to Peter’s reasoning that Subby should leave because MJ has rejected his proposal. There is a strange intentional amnesia that runs through these strips. The two-to-three panel design and disposability of the daily newspaper format encourages forgetfulness in the reader. Yesterday, Peter implied that he didn’t have his Spidey suit with him and why would we think otherwise? It’s been about 23 days since he mentioned he had it. Today it appears that Subby’s sole reason for being on the cruise ship is to take Mary Jane as his wife. Only the real reason he’s there is to announce, as he did back on September 4th, that, “The recklessness you surface-men show towards the oceans and toward us who live beneath them – compels me to announce that, from this moment forward I am taking command of the seas, in the name of sunken Atlantis!” Anybody remember that? Stan is hoping you don’t.

Finally, I love how this confrontation has devolved into name-calling. “Fish-man,” says Peter. “Surface-man,” says Namor. Those barbs gotta hurt.

September 23, 2015

I apologize for everything I said yesterday. Apparently, there will be no kidnapping and apparently Stan does remember the reason Namor showed up on the ship. But it all seems so anti-climactic, unless Stan has another card up his sleeve.

We’re back to a three-shot with, left to right, Peter in profile, MJ in slightly-turned-away profile, and Subby facing us but really facing MJ. He is looking directly at her. Peter may as well be a lamppost. There is a railing and plenty of ocean behind. (The ocean almost fills up the whole panel.) MJ, who understood Namor’s confusing remark from yesterday, says, “I’m glad you accept my rejection of your proposal, Prince Namor.” Subby replies, “My offer of marriage remains open, Mary Jane Parker.” Note how formal they are with each other, as befitting a rejection of marriage.

Panel #2 gives us a full shot of Namor as he dives off the deck towards the water. Peter and MJ are small in the background, standing on the deck and watching him leave. (But apparently his departure was not interesting enough for others to come to the railing and watch. And how did Peter and MJ get up on the upper deck anyway?) “But the seas will not,” Subby says. (Huh? But the seas will not…what? Well, his marriage offer remains open…but the seas will not remain open. Get it? Yeah, it’s a bad seque.) “Return this ship to port at once – or be sunk!”

So, if you were hoping that this was all over after only one month, you can forget it. Subby is still threatening all shipping. And we can’t leave it there. At least, I hope we can’t leave it there. You never know.

September 24, 2015

And, suddenly, there are passengers with speaking parts! An older couple whom we’ve not seen before take the foreground with Peter and MJ in the background listening in. “The Captain’s sailing this ship back to New York?” says the woman. “You heard the Sub-Mariner,” says the man, “It’s that, or he’ll sink us!” So, this happened between strips? Why did we miss the action? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to hear the Captain’s announcement rather than hear about the Captain’s announcement? Where is the Captain, anyway? And we’re going back to New York? I’m no expert on cruise ships but, when traveling to the Virgin Islands, you don’t depart from New York, do you? You fly to someplace like Miami and catch the ship there.

In panel #2, the two passengers are forgotten. MJ stares off into space, looking vaguely “Wilson-ish.” “Namor seems…a tormented soul,” she says. Peter’s not sympathetic. He sneers while a disembodied oversized fist of doom (it’s almost as big as his head) floats in front of him. “I wouldn’t mind tormenting him with a little spider-strength,” he says. Peter keeps talking big about becoming Spidey and clobbering Namor. Surely, he realizes that Namor is stronger than he is?

So, we are now a month in. Let’s recap. Peter and MJ go on a cruise. Giant tentacles attack the ship. Sub-Mariner appears and orders just this one ship off the ocean because of the mess the surface-people have made of it. MJ protects the Captain from harm, which so impresses Subby that he goes way off-script and proposes marriage to her. She says “no.” He says, “Okay” and leaves. The ship heads back to New York. That took a month to accomplish. The question is, “is there any more to the story?” It seems like there must be but I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t. It may take us another month to be sure.

September 25, 2015

So the action is over (if you want to call it “action”) but the story (if you want to call it “story”) remains. MJ and Peter are leaning on one of the ship’s railings. MJ is pensive, her chin propped up by her left hand. “Namor may be a menace to the world’s shipping, but he seemed to like me,” she says. “That’s putting it mildly, honey,” says Peter.

Now a close-up of MJ and Peter with two passengers…a woman in sunglasses and a guy in a hat…behind. MJ turns to Peter and says, “Maybe if I went to him – I could talk him out of declaring naval war on the surface world.” Peter’s head recoils (as seen by the motion lines), his mouth and eyes open in shock and he says, “What??” Exactly my reaction, Pete. Don’t tell me that’s the direction we’re going to take! God, give me strength!

September 26, 2015

I’m discerning a pattern here. In one strip, a character will come out with a statement that makes another character go, “What?” In the following strip, the character who goes “What?” pretty much repeats what the first character said the day before and they fill up the ensuing strip with some sort of conversation about it. So yesterday MJ thought she could talk Namor out of “declaring naval war on the surface world” and Peter said “What??” Today, Peter says, “You can’t seriously consider going to Namor!” and MJ blurts out, “Why not? You put yourself in danger all the time as Spider-Man!” Peter leans in and puts his finger to his lips, saying, “Shh, honey! Somebody might hear you…” MJ puts a disembodied hand to her chin and her head wobbles with motion lines, so we know she’s startled by her outburst. She tries to correct it by saying, “Uh – I meant – you can’t put yourself in danger – like Spider-Man does.!”

Now, to be fair to MJ, there really did seem to be no one other than her, Peter, and Namor on the ship for a very long time. Also, this stumbling is no different than Peter telling the Captain he works out (September 13th) or pretending Namor slipped after Pete used his spider-strength to push him (September 18th). Suddenly, though, there are bystanders milling around. In panel #1, the blonde woman with sunglasses is back. She is happily chatting with one of the guys in a hat. (These are not the same people as yesterday, unless the guy has suddenly changed his hat.) They look far too cheerful for people who have just discovered that their vacation is cancelled and far too into each other to pay any attention to Mary Jane. In panel #2, two ship officers are conferring and we see the back of the blonde with sunglasses. She has apparently just walked by. No one is paying attention to the Parkers. If they noticed anything, they’d probably notice MJ’s clumsy “save” rather than the initial indiscretion. Best to leave well enough alone, MJ!

September 27, 2015

You have to admire the way Stan can fill an entire Sunday strip and tell you nothing new…except, perhaps, in the final panel. We begin with Peter and MJ, still on the cruise ship. They are leaning up against a railing. There is an older couple in the foreground-left, still looking traumatized by Subby’s ultimatum. Behind Peter and MJ is the ocean, a big rocky island, clouds, and (since it’s Alex) plenty of birds.

The panel #1 opening caption reads, “The cruise ship is returning to New York, as ordered by the Sub-Mariner…” MJ, her arms crossed, and now wearing a pair of shorts instead of her spandex says, “Our vacation is totally ruined!” “Thanks to your pointy-eared admirer,” replies Pete. In panel #2, with even more birds in the background, MJ cups her face in her hand and gets a dreamy look. “He did kind of like me, didn’t he?” she says. “Like you? He proposed to you!” says Pete. This is a close-up two-shot that gets even closer in panel #3, showing MJ alone (except for birds). She is in profile and her face looks so two-dimensional, especially her eye, that she looks like A Square from the 2007 animated film version of Edwin Abbott’s “Flatland.” “I did feel a bit like Marilyn Monroe in that old movie with Sir Laurence Olivier,” she says, “you know – The Prince and the Showgirl.” All those of you who ever thought you’d get a “Prince and the Showgirl” reference in the Spidey strip, raise your hands. How many of you are even familiar with it?

Peter is familiar with it. In panel #4, he replies, “Yeah – only in that movie, the lady wasn’t married!” He is in a strange stance with his head turned, looking back at MJ, while he points with his right hand out to sea to…I have no idea. MJ looks more three-dimensional again. And there are birds, of course. “It doesn’t matter anyway…” says MJ as we move to panel #5 and a shift of the camera so that we are on the other side of the railing, pointing toward the ship (so, no birds). Peter and MJ are now leaning forward on the railing rather than leaning back on it and there are two happy-looking passengers in the background. One looks like the blonde-haired woman with sunglasses who is with yet another man with a hat. The lady loves hats! MJ, now with her chin in her left hand, finishes her thought. “Chances are, neither of us will ever lay eyes on Prince Namor again,” she says. (So, no more talk of going to Namor to try to stop his war.) Contrary to her expectations, I’m sure MJ will see Namor soon enough. The rest of us get to see him in the very next panel as we move, presumably, to Atlantis. Subby is sitting on a big shell-like throne that has armrests that are made of blowfish or Creatures from the Black Lagoon or Nien Nunb from Star Wars or something. Behind him is a window with three fish swimming past and some coral and some bubbles to prove it is under water. But is Subby underwater? His throne room looks surprisingly dry. Panel #6 begins with another Stan caption. “While, somewhere beneath the ocean’s waves…” In other words, Atlantis. Subby, on his throne, clenches his fist and declares, “Mary Jane Parker must become Princess of Atlantis!” Here we go again! “Next,” reads the closing caption, “Namor Goes to War!” And what was last week’s closing caption? “Next: Spider-Man Revealed?” Answer: Uh…no.

September 28, 2015

And so, “The cruise ship has docked in New York” according to a caption and MJ, Peter, and a guy in a hat are disembarking. MJ is looking smug, Peter is looking incredulous, and the guy in the hat is looking vacant. MJ says, “Well, that was the shortest vacation on record!” (Yeah, it only took a month and 4 days.) Peter replies, “Hey, if the Captain hadn’t agreed to return to port…” as we move to panel #2 showing only Pete and MJ with Pete continuing, “…Namor would’ve sunk his vessel.” “Oh, I’m sure he wouldn’t have,” says MJ, as we move to panel #3 with MJ gazing off into the distance, Peter behind her with his noggin shaking like a bobblehead, and two passengers in the background with MJ continuing, “…At least, not as long as I was on it!” Which explains MJ’s gaze and Peter’s bobblehead.

September 29, 2015

So, we’re back in New York and the caption tells us, “The cruise ship’s Captain is besieged by the press.” A pretty unnecessary statement since the panel shows us the Captain at the center with five reporters surrounding him. Two hold microphones that they thrust toward him, the rest have cameras. Don’t ask me how they got there so fast. It’s not like the press is there to “besiege” every cruise ship that pulls into port. Perhaps the ship radioed again. The Captain tells them, “The Sub-Mariner has seized control of the oceans…”

“To force mankind to cease polluting them,” he finishes off-panel in panel #2. It’s not a bad effect. There are two more members of the press in panel #2, both facing left, as if they are part of the group that is facing the Captain in panel #1. But it falls apart a little bit because the rest of the panel shows the heads of Peter and MJ, wedged, in the right foreground, below all the text. MJ is looking back at Peter with motion lines by her head to show she is startled by what Pete is saying. Peter’s head is tilted at a strange angle as if he was decapitated and someone set his head on the bottom line of the panel and propped it up on the rightside line of the panel. “Maybe Spider-Man could stop him – but how could I get at Namor – underwater?” he whispers. Maybe wait until he comes up out of the water, Pete? Just a thought.

September 30, 2015

They spent weeks listening to Namor spout off but it only takes Peter and MJ two days to get home. In panel #1, they are back in their apartment. Peter carries a suitcase under each arm like they are portfolios. MJ has the remote in her hand and has turned on the TV. (MJ has changed out of her bathing suit but Peter still has his flowered shirt on.) Namor is shown on the TV, looking defiant, his hands on hips, like he posed for the shot. The TV announcer says, “…could mean war between Atlantis and the human race.” MJ, her chin raised in disdain, says, “Why do they always exaggerate?” “What do you mean?” asks Pete.

Panel #2, a small panel, shows MJ’s head only in the lower third because her word balloon takes up the rest of the space. “Namor hasn’t sunk any ships yet…and I’m betting he won’t!” she says.

“While…” says the caption beginning panel #3, which is Stan’s way of saying, “I’ll take that bet, MJ!” Namor is sitting on his shell throne which doesn’t look like it has the Nien Nunb armrests anymore. Now the window with fish swimming by is on his right when before it was on his left. Unless there is a window on each side. An Atlantean, wearing a very awkward-looking metal helmet and breastplate affair (which would probably rust quickly in water) speaks to Namor. “The cargo ship refuses to halt, my Prince,” he says. (What cargo ship?) “Then send it to the bottom of the sea!” orders Namor. Sorry, MJ!

October 1, 2015

Suddenly things are moving fast. (But, don’t worry. They’ll slow down again, I’m sure.) In just a few days we’ve gone from the cruise ship to the Captain being interviewed at the port to Peter and MJ at home to Namor authorizing the sinking of a cargo ship. An action that MJ predicted would never occur. (I think Stan enjoys making MJ look like a fool.)

In today’s strip, the sinking is already done. Namor and one of his soldiers stand on the fin of a fish-shaped submarine-type craft. The fish looks very threatening with a grill that makes it look like it’s snarling. Namor is again carrying his trident while the soldier (who does not appear to be the same one that reported to him yesterday) wears a helmet, cape, boots, and a Speedo. “The air-breathers’ ship is sinking, Prince Namor,” the soldier says, “without loss of life, as you commanded.” Though how you can sink a ship and make sure there is no loss of life is beyond me. “Good!” replies Namor, “Now humankind will learn the price of defiling the seas…”

“And I can prepare my next course of action!” he continues in panel #2, which shows the ship, already half sunk with people rowing away from it in lifeboats. It’s like a scene out of “Titanic,” only we have Subby’s profiled face filling up a chunk of the panel.

So, now things are getting serious! Beyond anything Spidey could do to help! Surely, the air-breathers will retaliate! And Subby has a “next course of action!” So, why do I have this feeling that, after months and months of this, we’re going to get some silly resolution, like MJ convincing Subby to peacefully return to the sea and let the surface-dwellers pollute the oceans as much as they want.

October 2, 2015

A couple of cramped and poorly designed panels today. You can’t really blame Larry because Stan has shoved in a lot of text. In panel #1, on the right, we have Peter and MJ’s heads. There is a picture frame on the wall above them with nothing in it. Very modern. There is a TV on the left but it is pushed so far down that we only see the top half of the screen. On the TV is a shot from one of the lifeboats, showing the sinking cargo ship in the distance. There is a hand rowing an oar in the foreground and it’s right about the place where the person making the video should be except the view is from the right of the rower’s right hand, so it can’t be the rower making the video (and besides, he’s rowing). Looks like the videographer is standing up right behind the rower or maybe sitting on the side of the boat. Anything for a good shot. The TV reporter says, “After the crew took to the lifeboats, the cargo freighter was sunk by Atlantean gunfire.” So, how exactly does that work? Subby approaches the ship and says, “Everybody off before we sink you?” We’ll never know.

MJ turns to Peter and says, “At least Namor isn’t letting people get hurt.” Pete replies, “It’s only a matter of time, honey, especially if…” and the TV reporter interrupts him in panel #2; a panel in which the TV is no longer shown but we see more of that big empty frame (plus it looks like Peter has finally switched to a different shirt). The TV says, “Congress is passing legislation to arm shipping vessels…” Congress is passing legislation! Now I know this isn’t our Earth! MJ is so shocked that Congress is immediately acting on something, she tilts her head back, opens her eyes wide, and makes an “O” with her mouth. Peter, shoved into the right side of both panels, working hard just to not be squeezed out, says, “See? That’s what I was afraid of!” Really, Pete? That’s what you were going to say? “It’s only a matter of time, honey, especially if Congress passes legislation to arm shipping vessels?” If you say so!

October 3, 2015

And, meanwhile, “In the underwater flagship of the Sub-Mariner…,” according to the caption. This is the same ship that looks like a snarling fish on whose fin/wing Namor and his soldier stood on October 1st, I presume. In it, Subby sits with his chin propped on his fist and with his legs crossed as he stares mournfully ahead. Behind him is a porthole showing a shark and a fish swimming by. Beside him is an attendant who looks like Nosferatu, reaching for a big blob of weeds. “You didn’t finish your seaweed royale, my Prince” (and who can blame him), says Nosferatu. “How could mere food interest me?” says the sulky Namor. (Especially food like seaweed royale!)

Panel #2 zooms in on Namor, now in real anguish, tiliting to his left, wincing, his hand to his forehead. “I have met the woman I want to make my Princess…and she has spurned my offer of marriage!” he says. Aw, poor Namor! “She doesn’t love me, she’s married to somebody else, she’s an air-breather who doesn’t want to live underwater, and she spurned me!” Life is so unfair!

October 4, 2015

Peter and MJ are walking through Times Square. At least, I think it’s Times Square since it has big video boards advertising Yahoo and Panasonic, a news ticker reading, “War or Peace Between Mankind & Atlantis,” and the TKTS booth (or maybe that’s a subway entrance). Pete and MJ are full-color in the foreground while a bunch of bystanders are monochrome in the background (including a guy up on one of the video screens). Pete, reading the news ticker, says, “If only the Sub-Mariner would come to his senses…!” MJ, looking soulful, replies, “Don’t call him that, Peter!” Panel #2 is a close-up of Pete and MJ, alone except for a gray-haired guy behind them. That guy is laughing uproariously, although I’m not sure why since he’s wearing a Cincinnati Reds cap. (Maybe it’s a mis-colored Chicago Cubs cap.) Peter is almost center panel, his face pointing straight on but his eyes looking at MJ. “Don’t call him what?” he asks. “The Sub-Mariner!” she replies, “He’s got a name, you know...” MJ’s head is tilted up at an odd angle. She has a cleft in her chin and shadows (or blush) on her cheeks as she gazes up at Pete.

The panel #3 camera swings around so that Pete’s face is in profile on the left. MJ has taken Pete’s place full-faced in the center. “It’s Prince Namor!” she declares, as five bystanders walk behind her, including a guy with a Spidey t-shirt. The panel #4 camera swings back behind MJ, putting her in profile. Pete shakes his fist at her. “Oh yeah?” Pete says, “Well it’ll be mud if Spider-Man ever gets hold of him!” (Behind Pete are two smiling women talking to each other. I’d rather be listening to that conversation.)

Now, the camera pulls back as MJ stalks off in anger. Peter looks crestfallen as he thinks, “I’m not worried about MJ being smitten with that undersea Caesar…but, being an actress, she has a love for the dramatic gesture.” So, he’s not worried about her being smitten but he’s worried about the dramatic gesture? Is that what he’s saying? (By the way, Kelly’s Pub is right behind Peter. So, suddenly they’re in the East Village? There is a woman walking into the Pub and a couple of nasty-looking old metal garbage cans overflowing with trash in the alley next door. Not the sort of advertisement that Kelly’s would like.)

In our last panel, Peter watches MJ leave. She is walking across a narrow street, so they have teleported from Times Square. There are four bystanders: a blonde woman, a guy with a briefcase, a guy getting out of a car, and a guy in a cap. Peter thinks, “What if she decides that, in the interest of peace between our two races, she has to seek him out?” So, that’s what he means by a dramatic gesture. Oh, and, MJ…Sub-Mariner, Sub-Mariner, Sub-Mariner!

Our “Next” caption reads, “Stranger Things Have Happened…!” which is just what I’m afraid of. And last week’s? It was “Namor Goes to War!” which, okay, yeah, that happened.

October 5, 2015

I think we just moved back in time from the argument in Times Square/East Village to the moment that Pete and MJ watched the news report of the sinking of the cargo ship. Only now, they’re eating corn on the cob, of all things. But the TV again has the same shot from October 2nd, with the hand on the oar and the ship sinking in the background. Only now the TV is in the background as Pete and MJ chow down in the foreground. There is a lamp next to the television and a vase of flowers on a cabinet and two frames on the wall that actually have something in them. The TV reporter says, “…The cargo vessel was sunk at the Sub-Mariner’s command!” Peter, with a disembodied hand holding his corncob (and get your mind out of the gutter), says, “And you thought Namor wouldn’t sink any ships!” More of Stan rubbing it into MJ. “At least he let everyone reach a lifeboat,” she says.

In panel #2, MJ turns to look back at the TV. Another one of those cleft chin, blush/smudge, face looking forward but eyes peering off-panel shots. “If only I could talk to him -!” she muses. Pete, talking even as he has the cob up to his face (it’s like a ventriloquist trick), says, “Hey, just because he proposed to you doesn’t mean you could change his mind!” But I bet she tries and I bet she does.

October 6, 2015

Remember back in the first strip of this storyline (August 24th) when MJ said, “Well, the movie’s in the can – and my Broadway show doesn’t reopen for two weeks.” It took about a month and a half but those two weeks have finally passed. In panel #1, MJ is onstage with a fellow actor, doing the Broadway show. But what’s weird is they seem to be doing it to the upstage wall. We are apparently sitting on that wall so they are facing us but the footlights and the audience are behind them. This is some bad stage-blocking, having both actors facing away from the audience. There is a chair onstage but it is in front of the curtain from our point of view, meaning it is behind the curtain for the audience so that I don’t think they can see it. This is some bad set design. And there is a rope hanging down but since it is also behind the curtain, maybe the audience can’t see that. Still, it looks dangerous for the actors. This is some bad stage crew work. MJ’s fellow actor, a man with a full head of hair, points his finger upstage at MJ and says, “What if I told you that you stole my youth?” MJ, upstage and facing upstage, with her arms crossed and a great nasty look on her face that the audience can’t possibly see, replies, “I’d say that…that was petit larceny!” This, I think, is Stan showing off his Noel Coward chops but, unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work. Stealing his youth is petit larceny? Is that supposed to mean he didn’t have much of a youth? Or that he’s old? Or what? How about “stole my heart,” “stole my soul,” “stole my mind” instead?

Panel #2 reveals Peter’s head in the audience surrounded by six other heads. All the others seem happy enough, even though the actors are facing away from them. But Peter is looking worn, tired, and sad. “I’ve heard MJ speak that dialogue much better lots of times,” he thinks, “She must be worried the Sub-Mariner may start a war on the surface world!” That must be it, Pete! I know that every time I’ve questioned an actor about a bad line reading, they’ve said, “I’m sorry but I was worried that Sub-Mariner may start a war on the surface world!”

October 7, 2015

Now, after the play, and apparently back in Times Square (there is a partially-obscured storefront behind them that may say “Calvin Times,” as in “Calvin Klein at Times Square?”), MJ and Peter, in profile, walk the street with one bystander behind them. MJ says, “I know I was just phoning in my lines at today’s matinee.” “I’ve gotta admit,” replies Pete, “I’ve seen you do better.” (How many times do you think Pete has had to sit through this play, anyway?)

The camera swings around in panel #2 so that Pete and MJ are in profile, facing the other way. A strange effect that makes it look like their panel #1 and panel #2 selves are walking toward each other. There are two bystanders behind them. Pete continues, “You were just distracted – wishing you could convince the Sub-Mariner not to attack the world’s shipping…” “I know I could,” says MJ, “if I could reach him.”

Panel #3 is cut into the side of panel #2. It is smaller so that Pete’s speech from panel #2 hangs over the top of it and it is a close-up of MJ’s face as she looks imploringly at Peter, who is off-panel. “Can’t you help me as Spider-Man?” she asks. Next to her is a word balloon with “!” in it and pointing off-panel to Pete. Which is probably a shorthand way of having Pete say, “Oh boy, here it comes!”

October 8, 2015

Panel #1 picks up seconds after yesterday’s panel #3. Peter, on the right, smaller in the background, cups his hand around his mouth to whisper to MJ, “Shhh, honey. You want someone to hear you call me Spider-Man?” (I don’t know what Pete is worried about because there is clearly no one else around. They’ve gone from being in Times Square to an empty soundstage, I think.) MJ, on the left, larger in the foreground says, “Sorry, but you could help me contact Namor if you wanted to!”

Panel #2 looks equally empty except that a police car drives through right to left, from nothing to nothing. The car’s red lights are lit like they are rushing off to somewhere but the two cops in the car look pretty laid back. It’s not entirely clear since the car is so low in the panel that we can’t see much. We only see the driver from the nose up. Behind the car and to the left, Peter remonstrates with MJ. “In all the world’s oceans,” he says, “how could I possibly find…” but he is cut off by the police car’s radio, which says, “Calling all cars in vicinity of East River docks! An Atlantean vessel has just surfaced there…”

And continues in panel #3 (showing only Peter and his surprised expression), “…And it’s bristling with weapons!” Well, so much for the car moving at any speed whatsoever, if Peter could listen to all of that. I think they stopped dead to allow the Parkers to eavesdrop.

Next stop: The East River docks. I think.

October 9, 2015

And, sure enough, here we are at the docks! Subby is here, too. He’s docked his sneering fish ship (although it doesn’t look like he’s tied it up) and jumped from the fin right onto the pier. (It's the same vessel we've seen before and there isn't a weapon in sight in spite of the "bristling with weapons" warning yesterday.) Two cops are there to meet him, which doesn’t seem like much of a reception what with that “calling all cars” bulletin yesterday and with Namor having declared war on the surface world and having sunk a cargo ship and all. “Hold it right there, Sub-MaREENer!” says one cop and “You’ve got no permit to dock your ship here,” says the other. (Got no permit? The man has declared war and sunk a ship and that’s the best you can do?)

Panel #2 is a close-up of Namor’s head. He looks contemptuous and says, “A Prince of Atlantis docks – and walks – where he will…” (Stan must have chuckled as he wrote that line.) “Nor may any man prevent him!” he finishes in panel #3, as he pushes one of the cops who falls back into the other cop, sending both of them sprawling. “UHNFF,” says the pushed cop.

Okay, here’s how I fear this will go. Peter and MJ have heard the police bulletin. They will go down to the docks. Namor is there to find MJ. He will insist that she get through the police and/or military lines (unless there’s only these two cops). They will talk. MJ will ask him to stand down. He will do so, out of love for her. There will be no further repercussions. The story ends with a thud. Spidey never goes into action. (Unless there’s an endless fight first.) MJ goes back to Broadway, saying, “I’d say that…that was petit larceny!” like she means it. Am I right? Let’s hope not!

October 10, 2015

Back in Times Square or wherever again. (There are storefronts in the background plus three bystanders.) MJ confronts Peter, saying, “If Namor’s in that warship on the East River, Spider-Man could easily take me to him.” (Actually, he’s already out of the warship, MJ!) “Define ‘easily’!” says Peter. Two musical notes emerge from Peter’s shirt in a burst of light, which means that his phone is ringing.

In panel #2, Pete checks his phone and grouses, “Oh great! It’s Jonah Jameson!” MJ, facing Peter so that we get a view of the back of her head, says, “I’ll bet he wants to see Spidey face Namor, too…with you taking pictures of them!”

If they ever stop talking about it, maybe we’ll actually see it.

October 11, 2015

It’s a one-two punch of caption panels, beginning with “The Sub-Mariner has docked his flagship on Manhattan’s East River,” accompanying a panel showing Namor on the dock in front of his ship, holding onto the shirt of a collapsed, unconscious cop while another cop looks on. (These are, presumably, the cops from October 9th.) Namor raises a fist like he’s about to smack the unconscious cop again and says, “No surface-dweller tells Prince Namor where he may walk!” (You may recall that the cop didn’t tell Namor “where he may walk.” He told him he didn’t have a permit to dock his boat.

On to panel #2 and our second caption, which continues from the first: “And J. Jonah Jameson has taken due notice…” As you’ll recall from yesterday, JJJ has called Peter and told him he wants Spidey/Subby fight pix. Here we have Jameson on the left, holding his phone out in front of him and screaming into it. To the right, Editor Joe “Robbie” Robertson looks on with resigned patience. (The first appearance for both in this storyline.) “Parker? Where are you?” JJJ screams, “Taking a walk with your wife? What am I paying you for?”

Panel #3 is juxtaposed with #2. Instead of JJJ and Robbie, it is Peter and MJ. While JJJ leans forward and screams with the phone in front of him, Peter leans back and smiles with the phone at his ear. While Robbie tilts left, closemouthed, MJ tilts right, openmouthed. Panel #2 is inside, panel #3 is outside. I could go on but maybe I’m pushing it here. Peter replies, “Actually you don’t pay me, Mr. J…Except when you buy my photos for the Bugle!”

Panel #4 is JJJ again, but at a very odd angle, facing left, the phone still in front of him, a TV behind him showing the exact same image as panel #1 with Subby and the two cops. Which means that someone is filming it and getting it on the air but there still aren’t any more than those two cops on the scene. Jonah says to Pete, “You better believe it! And I want photos of Spider-Man and the Sub-Mariner battling it out!” Panel #5 is back to Peter and MJ, out in public with a bus and four bystanders behind them. Peter is facing left with his head tilted down so that it looks like JJJ and he are conversing face-to-face in an inter-panel thing. MJ looks on with her hand cupping her chin. “How am I supposed to find Spider-Man on short notice?” says Pete, “And what if the two of them don’t want to fight?” (But I bet they will.)

In our final panel, Jonah is so peeved at Peter that he whacks himself in the side of his head. Robbie has maneuvered himself around JJJ so that he comes into the panel on the left. “Trouble with the troops, Jonah?” he asks (and you know that he’s loving it). “Parker expects me to do everything but take the picture myself!” bellows JJ.

Our “Next” caption reads, “Confrontation on the East River!” which has a decent chance of taking place. Last week’s “Stranger Things Have Happened…!” was too vague and cutesy to accurately assess.

October 12, 2015

Panel #1 begins with an establishing shot of Peter and MJ, showing some building façade behind, along with about 12 people. Once Larry gets that out of the way, he can go back to blank backgrounds and only show our two main characters. “That was Jonah Jameson,” says Peter, hanging up his phone. MJ, head tilted, arms crossed, says, “I could tell by your clenched fist.” In panel #2, Peter walks away from Mary Jane. He looks back and tells her and us something we already know from yesterday. “He wants me to get a photo of Spider-Man and Namor…preferably slugging it out!” In panel #3, MJ grabs Pete’s arm, which startles him. Either that or her words startle him. “Whether they fight or play a game of mah-jongg,” she says, “You’re taking me along!” Yeah, yeah, we know. They fight, MJ intervenes, convinces Subby to back off. Get on with it!

October 13, 2015

There are a few bystanders walking behind Peter and MJ, as Pete, in profile, leans right and again cups his mouth with his hand to whisper (with dotted lines), “Honey, if Spider-Man shows up to face the Sub-Mariner with you in tow – it’d just drive a nail in the coffin of my secret identity.” MJ looks up at him, clearly thinking this over and then, in panel #2, she acts. “Okay, so I’ll race you! Taxi!” she says. Her back is to us as she hails the cab, which is driving right towards us and, apparently, is available, in Times Square!

And, suddenly, Peter is Spidey and is swinging over Times Square with bystanders looking like ants. “Web-swinging vs. crosstown traffic,” he says, picking up from MJ’s challenge in panel #2 as if it just happened, even though it must have taken him time to find a place to change without being seen and to start on his way, “No contest!”

October 14, 2015

And we’re back to the docks where one cop looks unconscious while the other points a gun at the Sub-Mariner. (Neither one of these guys looks much like he did the last time we saw him.) “You pack a mean wallop, Sub-Mariner,” he says, “but I wonder if you’re bulletproof.”

In panel #2, Namor swipes the gun out of the cop’s hand (which is the only part of the cop that is shown) with a big arc of motion lines. “You surface-men are quick to turn to violence,” says Subby, “What have I done besides dock my flagship?” Didn’t you listen to the cop in panel #1, Namor? You packed a mean wallop! Because you may not remember October 9th, but I do, and you did more than dock your flagship. You shoved the cops when they told you that you had no permit. Strangely enough, one of the cops actually agrees with him. He’s the one who was unconscious, so maybe he’s still a little bit out of it. He wakes up and grabs his partner by the shoulder, even as Namor drops the gun (more motion lines) after having crushed it. “He’s right, Sal,” says the awakening cop, “We’ve got no reason to use lethal force!” Well, that much is true, anyway.

October 15, 2015

In panel #1, we have a “crane shot” showing Namor, hands on hips facing the two cops who have both gotten to their feet. Namor also faces us while the cops have their backs to us. There is still no one else in the area. Namor says, “Move aside, I have business in this city,” even though, with the water and a piling behind him, it looks like is facing the side of the pier. Just turn left, Namor and you’ll probably reach shore! “We won’t shoot,” says the cop who is not Sal, “But that doesn’t mean we’re lettin’ you by us!” (Again, Namor, just turn left!) A word balloon pointing off-panel says, “You heard the man, Namor…” It’s Spidey talking but the balloon pointer makes it look like the speaker is ground-level or hovering above the water.

In panel #2, Spidey finishes his thought. “You’ve come as far as you’re gonna go,” he tells Namor as he swings in from above. (To what is his webbing attached? A passing blimp? He’s at a dock over the river. Namor is so surprised to look up and see Spidey that he twists like Gumby. “You!?” he blurts out.

Almost eight weeks in and we finally have Spidey and Subby appearing together.

October 16, 2015

Now, we’re looking at this scene from behind Namor. Spidey swings in, his web attached to nothing, and drops between Subby and the cops, who have apparently backed up about 10 yards from where they were standing yesterday. The Manhattan skyline is behind all of them and there seems to be no sign of the pier, as if they all agreed to move west about a block or so. Subby says, “So Spider-Man still seeks to protect this city with his ineffectual webs!” “Glad to see you remember me,” replies Spidey. Does this mean Spidey and Subby have met before in the newspaper continuity or is Stan merely riffing off the Marvel Universe continuity?

Panel #2 zooms in on Spidey and Subby. Spidey hikes his thumb at Namor, saying, “Just say what you’ve got to say – then beat it!” “I did not come to talk to you, wall climber…” says Namor (uh, it’s wall crawler, Namor), “…but to your United Nations!” he adds in panel #3, which shows only his hand with his finger pointing at the United Nations building itself.

Hold it! The East River pier at which Namor docked his flagship is right next to the United Nations? And nobody has seen fit to mention this? And no one else has bothered to show up except two cops and Spidey? What a strange little place newspaper-continuity Spidey world is.

October 17, 2015

With the United Nations in the background, Spidey leans in and points at Namor who glares back at him. They appear to be the only two people there. So not only hasn’t anyone else shown up but the two cops now seem to be gone as well. Spidey asks, “You want to address the U.N.?” “It is the governing body of the surface world, is it not?” asks Namor in return.

“Not!” says Spidey in panel #2, all alone in a spotlight and shrugging, with his hands out. “It’s just where countries meet to discuss things.” Panel #3 shows us Namor, looking like he’s built out of blocks with Spidey in profile only just in the picture. “Then let them discuss the way to immediately cease their pollution of my oceans!” says Namor. Hell, yes!

October 18, 2015

How can you have a Sunday strip and not advance the story at all? Put Mary Jane in a cab and have her talk to the cabbie about Subby and Spidey. Panel #1 is “shot” through the cab’s windshield. MJ is in the back on the left. The cab driver is in the foreground on the right. He is a gray-haired fellow with a long chin and wearing a cap. MJ says, “Driver – why aren’t we moving?” (If she looked outside she’d see that she is in the middle of a traffic jam.) “I’ve got to reach the East River Docks!”

Panel #2 shows the traffic jam with parts of 8 vehicles visible. There is a “Honk” and a “Honk” and a very serious “Honnnkk.” One car up close has a legible license plate. It reads, “CJL-680.” I have no idea if this means anything. A word balloon points at the cab. It is the driver speaking. “You and the rest of Manhattan, lady!” he says. (So, if everyone is going to the docks to see Subby and Spidey, how come no one has shown up yet?) “Didn’t you hear?” the cabbie continues, “Spider-Man’s there – facin’ off with that Sunk-Mariner guy!” (For those in the know, “Sunk-Mariner” is what Namor is called in the “Not Brand Ecch” issues from the 1960s.)

Panel #3 shows us Mary Jane alone in the back seat. She points her finger at the cabbie and says, “His name’s Sub-Mariner – or more accurately, Prince Namor of Atlantis.” MJ’s self-righteous defense of Namor is getting real tiresome.

In panel #4, the camera shoots through the back window. The cabbie is in the background left now, turning back to look at MJ who is in the foreground right. This is the reverse of panel #1, which is positioned right above it. A nice effect. The guy who has the car that goes “Honnnkk” lets loose with it again. MJ keeps her finger up and pointing at the cabbie who says, “Well, I hope the wall-crawler knocks ‘im back where he came from!” “You’d better hope he doesn’t, cabbie…” says MJ and continues in panel #5 where we have a close-up of her face with long lashes and very blue eyes. “…Because that might mean an all-out war between Atlantis and the surface world!”

“While not many blocks away…” says the caption in panel #6, as Subby and Spidey face off near the United Nations (no cops around anymore, no nobody around…except birds…Alex loves his birds). “Stand aside and let me pass!” says Subby. “Sure I will, pointy ears,” says Spidey, “when the Sahara freezes over!”

And that’s it this time…except for the “Next” blurb. It reads, “Immovable vs. irresistible!” Last week’s blurb said, “MJ lectures to a cabbie,” right? Well, no. It said, “Confrontation on the East River!” which works if you only count the last panel.

October 19, 2015

It’s a two panel strip with the first panel about four times the size of the second panel. That first panel shows a vista of Subby, Spidey, the UN, a tree, and some clouds. Subby faces us (and Spidey) as he points at the UN building. Spidey has his back to us, with his hands on his hips. “I am here to address your United Nations,” says Namor, “and demand they stop polluting the seas!” “You know what, Namor?” says Spidey as we move to panel #2 showing the web-slinger with his chin cupped in his hand, “That might not be the worst idea you ever had!” Namor, off-panel, gets a word balloon. It says “?” which we know is Spidey-strip for “Huh?”

October 20, 2015

Now, the camera swings around to the north so we see the New York skyline. Subby is on the left, shown from the shoulder up, leaning in and pointing at Spidey who leans back and puts a hand over his heart. (There are birds behind.) “You admit you are poisoning the world’s oceans?” asks Namor. “Wellll,” replies Spidey, “Not…me personally, exactly…though I might’ve accidentally dropped a plastic baggie into the East River…once.”

Now, the camera swings around to the west and rises up for a crane shot, showing only Namor gesturing toward the river. The dock and the water are behind him. (Yes, they are still on the dock and, still, no one has shown up…and, still, the two cops are gone.) “And the river’s currents carried that waste into the sea – where my people dwell,” says Subby who doesn’t get that Spidey is joking. Unless Spidey isn’t joking.

October 21, 2015

Now the camera swings around yet again…or maybe Spidey and Subby exchange positions. Because now the pier, the piling and the river are behind Spidey. If you look back at yesterday’s panel #1, you’ll see the New York skyline behind and to Spidey’s right. So, if he is still in the same position, Manhattan should be behind Spidey, not the river. So what did they do? Do-se-do? Anyway, Spidey puts his right hand behind his head while his other hand is on his hip (presumably…the panel cuts off at his elbow), like he’s posing for Playgirl magazine. Namor’s face, in profile, looms large on the right side, looking like a Mount Rushmore sculpture. “Okay, Namor,” says Spidey, “I think it’s great that you want to address the U.N. about pollution of the oceans. But you should’ve done that before your ships blocked the shipping lanes.”

Panel #2 swings around so Namor is on the left. Behind is one of those Loony Tunes “Th-th-th-that’s all folks” spotlights so that Larry doesn’t have to worry about who’s facing the river anymore. Namor shakes his fist at Spidey and says, “You humans listen to nothing but force.” Spidey replies, “And you are different precisely how?”

October 22, 2015

Okay, now I’m really confused. The cabbie drops MJ off on some non-descript street with a Kelly’s Shoes store behind her. I have no idea if such a store really exists in Manhattan but, if it does, I doubt it’s right next to the docks and the UN building. There are three people staring at something, looking surprised. This seems to be the extent of the crowd that has gathered to watch Spidey and Subby, except that they can’t possibly see anything from where they are standing as we’ll see in panel #2. No one else has shown up and the two cops who were there really do seem to have taken a powder. MJ runs toward the docks, thinking, “Peter had no trouble beating my taxi to this pier. Web-swingers don’t have to sweat the crosstown traffic!” Did MJ seriously think she could beat Spidey there in a taxi?

In panel #2, we see MJ from behind and now, all of a sudden, there are a bunch of big wooden crates on the pier so she can’t see anything. (So, the three people in panel #1 are just staring at the crates? And, if she can’t see anything, then how does she know that Spidey has beaten her there?) These crates seem to have come from nowhere. Perhaps they were beamed in as the cops were beamed out. As MJ maneuvers through the crates, she wonders, “So why don’t I hear him and Namor going at it hammer and tongs?”

She finds her answer in panel #3 as she peeks out from behind a crate and sees Spidey and Subby. These crates are about two feet away from Namor and the web-slinger so why haven’t we seen them before? Surprised, MJ thinks, “Huh? They’re just standing there – talking!” Which we sort of all knew since they’ve been doing it all week.

Now, I realize that the nature of the daily strip is such that you can change things along the way with the idea that the reader won’t remember all the specifics from one day to the next. It’s also possible that Stan doesn’t remember. Or Larry. But come on! First they are apparently on some Lower East Side pier, then they’re next to the UN building. First two cops are there, then they disappear. Someone was filming Subby at the pier because he was on TV but no cameraman is in evidence. Also no police, no military, no reporters, no nothing. Then all these crates appear. No, no, there’s no excuse here. The whole thing has lost what little coherence and logic that it had.

October 23, 2015

Ulp! The crates are gone again… and MJ too! In fact, it looks like we’re back to the world of October 20th, with the Manhattan skyline to Spidey’s right and the river behind Namor. In panel #1, Subby tells Spidey, “Stand aside! I must proceed to your ‘United Nations’.” In panel #2, Spidey turns and stands side-by-side with Namor so that the skyline is to their left and says, “Instead of stepping aside, Namor – I’ll go with you. But only if you promise – no violence!” In panel #3, Namor replies, “I do not start battles, Spider-Man. I finish them!” Actually, you could argue that Namor started this battle, but, never mind. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

October 24, 2015

Two months in and fresh as a daisy! Bring it on! I can handle another two months! (Well, maybe not two months.)

Look! MJ is back and so are the crates! Oh, and Namor’s ship is back too! Yesterday, it looked like Spidey and Subby were walking over to the UN building but now they’re just standing around again. They are in the left background while MJ is in profile, filling the right side of the panel with her head. Unless that strip that runs down that crate is a panel border, in which case she’s in a separate panel. “I’d go nearer but Namor might spot me…” she thinks, then continues in panel #2 (or is it #3?), where she looks like a cross-eyed volleyball again, “And since he has ideas about marrying me – even though I’m already married to Peter – things might get awkward.” So, this is a place-holder of a strip, telling us nothing new. Perhaps this is intended as a recap for those who came in late. Maybe we all should have come in late.

October 25, 2015

Oh, Lord. Now there are a couple of very large ships behind MJ. And a vehicle (looks like a van). And birds. And oil barrels next to the crates. Where did all this stuff come from? And where is she exactly? (The water is now behind her as well.) How did she get there without Spidey or Subby seeing her? What happened to the cops? Why isn’t anyone else there? (Like, maybe, the people from those ships?) We face MJ in panel #1 as she thinks, “I can’t resist any longer. I’ve got to edge closer...”

In panel #2 we move behind MJ to see her spying on Spidey and Subby. There is now a coiled rope at their feet and some litter. The piling behind them is twice the size it was before and Subby’s vessel is in full view. (And there’s some birds behind.) MJ finishes her thought. “…And find out what Peter and Namor are saying to each other!” Peter is saying, “Do I have your word, Sub-Mariner…”

And finishes his words in panel #3. “…That you’ll just talk at the U.N. – not tear up the place?” The camera has swung around behind Spidey and behind Namor is another huge ship that was not there before. (And birds.) This pier has gotten awful crowded all of a sudden. Except for bystanders, reporters, police, the military, the sailors from the ships, anyone else at all except for Spidey, Subby, and MJ (and birds). That’s about to change but not the way you think.

Panel #4 shows a close-up of Spidey and Subby with the fin of Subby’s ship behind. (And birds.) Namor says, “I will vow only that I’ll not make the first hostile move. After all, why would I want violence to break out…”

He finishes in panel #5. “…For I shall have someone with me when I address your people! Warriors! Bring out Pharus!” And, suddenly, there’s an Atlantean in armor and wearing a space helmet opening up a hatch in Subby’s ship. (And birds.)

Our last panel shows Spidey in the left foreground and MJ peeking out from the crates in the right background. They bracket two Atlantean warriors carrying a stretcher that looks like it is made out of a giant shell. On the stretcher is, apparently, Pharus, a blue-skinned Atlantean boy, who says, “Is this – where they can make me well, my Prince?” Spidey and MJ not only bracket Pharus with themselves but with identical word balloons that say, “?” I also have a “?” word balloon coming out of my mouth. Huh? What is this? Who is Pharus? Why doesn’t he wear a water-filled space helmet like the warriors do? Why were all these Atlanteans hanging around in the ship as Subby sparred with the now-vanished cops and with Spidey? Why didn’t he bring them out immediately? And where did all these ships and crates (and birds) come from?

“Next: Suffer the Children…” though I suspect it is we who will suffer. (Last week’s was “Immovable vs. irresistible!” which implied a Blob vs. Juggernaut type battle, not the civil conversation we got. Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather have the conversation rather than another super-hero vs. super-hero battle. But…truth in advertising and all that.

October 26, 2015

The Sub-Mariner’s ship has disappeared again, unless his warriors are walking in the wrong direction and carrying Pharus off the pier and into the river. Pharus has changed from blue-skinned to Caucasian in the colorized online version of the strip. (Something to do with his illness?) The guards carry him right between Spidey and Subby, who says, “Spider-Man – behold young Pharus!” Pharus turns to Subby and says, “Can the surface man make me well, Prince Namor?” (Is he referring to Spidey? Does he think Spidey will cure him?) Spidey says, “Is this some kind of stunt?” The panel #2 camera zooms in on Subby and Pharus, who seems to have fallen asleep. I hope he has, otherwise he’s hearing Namor say, “This boy suffers because of the pollution you humans have caused. And sadly – he will never recover!” Spidey, off-panel, gives off one of those word balloons that has an “!” in it. I think that means, “Dang! The poor kid was just asking if I would make him well and now Namor is telling him he’s incurable, right to his face! I sure hope he’s asleep!”

October 27, 2015

And they continue to hang out on the dock. From left to right, we see an Atlantean’s hand (he’s holding the stretcher), Pharus, still sleeping, Spidey, and Namor. Spidey says, “If this boy’s ill, aren’t you endangering him by bringing him here? I thought you’re the only Atlantean who can breathe out of water.” Namor replies, “Our scientists devised pills enabling our race to breathe air for 24 hours…” This explains why Pharus isn’t wearing a water-filled helmet and, perhaps, his white skin in the colorized online version. But, why do the guards wear water-filled helmets? If these pills exist, why don’t they get to use them? Not good enough? Too low on the social ladder?

Panel #2 moves in on Pharus and Namor. Putting his hand on Pharus’ shoulder, Namor says, “But this lad will not survive that long – on land or under sea!” In which case, why rush? Let’s not get him to the UN building. Let’s hang around the dock and talk to Spidey some more!

By the way, missing for the last two days (besides Pharus’ blue skin)…Namor’s flagship, other ships, crates, cops, and MJ! (And birds.)

October 28, 2015

They are still on that pier. From left to right, it’s Spidey, Subby, Pharus (looking asleep but in pain) and the hand of the guy holding the front end of the stretcher. Spidey says to Namor, “Did you bring this boy here hoping our doctors can cure him? (With our health care system? If he wanted to cure him, Spidey, he’d take him somewhere else!) Namor says to Spidey, “No! The physicians of Atlantis are second to none. And they have said his condition is hopeless.” Subby continues to blurt this out. No wonder Pharus looks pained.

Panel #2 is a bust shot of Namor, sneering as he looks at us. (There is a path across his hair that makes it look like he got a little too enthusiastic with a clipper.) “I merely wish your leaders to see this poor child,” he says, “so they will understand why I have taken control of the sea lanes!” So, maybe you should get “this poor child” to the UN and stop hanging around on the docks!

October 29, 2015

I was full of spunk a few days ago but this storyline is starting to defeat me. It finally defeats Spidey, too. He points off into the blankness of the panel (presumably toward the UN) and says to Namor, “You want to drag that poor kid before the U.N. – for show-and-tell?” Subby, his back to us (what little we see of his back…mostly it’s the back of his head), says, “Your race must see how they endanger those who live beneath the waves!”

For no reason that I can see (unless he’s tired of hanging around on the dock and wants the plot to get moving again), Spidey leans down and grabs Pharus in panel #2. This wakes Pharus up (and doesn’t seem to faze the guy holding the front of the stretcher). (Is there anyone still holding the back of the stretcher?) Spidey, while grabbing, says, “And you should find out if our hospitals can help him!” (Help him? I suspect they won’t even look at him.) Pharus, while being grabbed, says, “Prince – what is he - ?” (Prince? As opposed to “my Prince” or “Prince Namor?” What’s up with that? Did he bring his dog?)

Which brings us to panel #3. Namor is understandably perturbed that Spidey is molesting his subject but he overreacts just a bit. With Pharus and the guy holding the front of the stretcher looking on, he yells, “Unhand him!” and slaps Spidey away with a “Kthow.” Spidey goes flying, on his way out of the panel, saying, “Oooph!”

Okay, that should do it. Mission accomplished, Stan. Game on.

October 30, 2015

Spidey gets up on one knee and clenches a fist at Namor. Both guards show up this time although it appears that both are lifting the top of Pharus’ stretcher. Pharus lies diagonally with the bottom of the stretcher apparently dragging on the dock. Spidey says, “You’re gonna regret that punch, Sub-Mariner!” (I don’t think it was a punch, Spidey. More like a slap.) Subby, looking quite casual, replies, “I merely kept you from harming the boy.” And he’s got a point because Spidey just grabbed Pharus for no reason.

Panel #2 gives us that Loony Tunes spotlight effect. Spidey is alone in the spotlight and he tells Namor, “Harm him? I’m trying to help him. And I will…”

Which brings us to panel #3 with Spidey finishing his sentence with, “…Once I take care of you!” and throwing a punch that knocks Subby back with a “thwakk.” Now, let’s see. Spidey molests Pharus, then punches Namor who has merely slapped him away from the boy to protect him. I know who I think is in the right in this battle.

October 31, 2015

MJ and the crates are back for Halloween. The crates are huge and piled a couple stories high. There is a building with a window behind them that we’ve never seen before. Where is all this positioned on the dock? Who knows? It will probably all disappear again tomorrow anyway.

So, MJ watches Spidey and Subby face off, looking at each other, arms out, like two WWE wrestlers. She thinks, “I knew this would happen! Putting Spider-Man and Prince Namor together was a sure recipe for – collateral damage!” These last two words are in panel #2 with a close-up on the right of MJ’s profile while Spidey and Subby rush towards each other on the left. I’m not sure what collateral damage she is referring to. Will Pharus and the Atlanteans be injured in the battle? They appear to have disappeared. The crates? The building with a window? MJ herself? All the bystanders and police and reporters and military personnel? Oh, that’s right. None of those guys ever arrived.

November 1, 2015

The panel #1 caption tells us, “As MJ watches, the battle between Spider-Man and the Sub-Mariner begins…” We see MJ behind the crates. She is watching Spidey and Subby grapple, hand-to-hand. Pharus is on his stretcher (and is blue-skinned again). The two Atlanteans stand by and watch. And there are birds. (There are also birds in panel #2 and panel #6.) MJ thinks, “If only there was something I could do to stop this madness…!” (I’m sure you’ll think of something, MJ.)

Panel #2 moves to a close-up of Spidey and Subby, their hands intertwined. “Guess it’s true that some tales grow with the telling, merman,” says Spidey. (Merman? Is Subby going to start singing, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses?”) “What are you trying to say?” asks Subby. (I’m wondering the same thing.)

The panel #3 camera swings around to face Spidey head-on. Somewhere between the panels, the two combatants stopped holding each other’s hands. Subby, whose hands are all we see of him, now has Spidey by the wrists. “I hear you’ve gone toe-to-toe with the Thing – and even the Hulk!” says Spidey and there’s a little thought balloon beside Spidey’s head showing the heads of the Thing and the Hulk, just in case you don’t know who they are. “So how come you can’t even handle your Friendly Neighborhood Wall-Crawler?” asks Spidey.

The panel #4 camera swings around to face Namor. Somewhere between the panels, Namor and Spidey have gone back to holding each other’s hands. (At least on one side. We can’t see the hands on the other side.) “It’s beneath my royal dignity to engage in personal combat,” says Subby (Since when? Tell that to the crew of the cruise ship and the two cops who have conveniently disappeared.) “But before I was reigning Prince -” he begins in this panel...

“I was a warrior of Atlantis!” he ends in the next panel, flinging Spidey away from him as one of the Atlantean looks on. (Now it appears that no one is holding Pharus and his stretcher up but they remain suspended in air.)

Panel #6 moves us back to MJ looking on. “It’s too late to stop them now!” she thinks, “They’ll destroy each other!” That’s the spirit, MJ! Don’t bother to come up with anything! It’s too late!

The “Next” caption at the bottom of the panel says, “When Titans Clash!” which I think is a required caption at some point in every storyline. Last week’s was “Suffer the Children…” of which we saw very little suffering during the week. But it was a nice pun, Stan.

November 2, 2015

Now, sometime between yesterday’s panel #5 and today’s panel #1, Spidey picks himself up and rushes at Subby who rushes right back at Spidey and they collide in a loud “Slamm.” MJ, whose head can be seen in profile on the bottom right, behind the crates, holds her hand up to her cheek and winces. “I – I can’t bear to watch this!” she thinks, “Peter and Namor – are killing each other!”

Her thoughts continue into panel #2, which shows Pharus still passed out on his stretcher (and looking Caucasian again in the online version) and one of the Atlanteans, now back to holding the stretcher. “And what’s the boy on the stretcher got to do with it?” MJ thinks, off-panel. Weren’t you listening, MJ? He’s Pharus! He’s got an incurable disease! He’s going to be Namor’s Show-And-Tell at the United Nations!

November 3, 2015

The grappling continues, now within a Loony Tunes spotlight. Spidey grabs Namor’s left wrist with his right hand. Namor brings his right arm back as if ready to throw a punch, while Spidey’s left arm is nowhere to be seen. Their heads seem to be touching. “Hnnh!” says Spidey, “Looks like we’re evenly matched, Sub-Mariner!” “While we are on land,” replies Subby, “Your strength nearly equals mine. But let us see what happens…” (as we move to panel #2) “…when we are in my element!” And having said that, Subby yanks Spidey off of the dock and into the water where they hit with a “Splaassh.”

November 4, 2015

And the grappling continues in the water. Subby has his left arm around Spidey and his right hand looks like it is grabbing Spidey’s chin. Since he’s an Atlantean, he can talk in the water. The question is, can Spider-Man hear him? And does it matter? It seems like he’s just talking to talk, as he says, “I could not defeat you up above – but we are in my domain now – the realm of the sea! Here – your strength is far inferior to mine!” Yadda, yadda. Okay, Subby.

Panel #2 moves in closer to show that Namor now has his hand over Spidey’s face. The web-slinger apparently did hear Subby’s blather because he thinks, “He’s right! How can I fight him – when I can’t breathe?” I would think you would fight harder when you can’t breathe so that you can get up to the surface to breathe. But that’s just me.

November 5, 2015

So, does Spidey figure out how to breathe? You won’t find out today. We’re back up to the surface with MJ, still just a head in profile behind the crates, looking at a bubbling froth where Spidey and Subby landed in the drink. It looks more like an eruption of laundry detergent than a spot in the water where two people dove in. MJ thinks, “Peter and Namor both disappeared – underwater. But even in Namor’s element, I know Peter won’t give up!

Panel #2 still shows that churning water. I guess that’s supposed to signify that there’s a fight going on down there. The two Atlantean guards look at it, as if they can learn anything from the froth. They seem to have set the stretcher on its side with Pharus somehow still in it. Did they strap him in? MJ continues her thoughts, this time off-panel, “He was trying to rescue that Atlantean boy from his guards. So the way I can help him most now…”

“…is to finish what he started!” MJ finishes in panel #3 as she tiptoes past the crates, heading from left to right which seems to be the wrong direction.

So MJ is going to do…what? Push the Atlanteans in the water and run off with Pharus? (Once she heads in the right direction.) We’ll soon find out. Or maybe we won’t. You never can tell with this strip.

November 6, 2015

Turns out MJ was not running in the wrong direction. As the two Atlanteans look down into the water to watch the Spidey-Subby fight, MJ sneaks up to Pharus, thinking, “The guards are distracted by their Prince’s fight with Spider-Man. This is my chance to scoop up that sick boy…” So, why don’t the guards jump in to get a closer look? They are water-breathers after all. And why isn’t Pharus’ stretcher lying flat on the dock? There’s a coil of rope behind it but it doesn’t look like it’s resting on that. And, while we’re at it, now that MJ has been given more than a profiled head close-up, I realize that she has been wearing a pullover in the daily strip but she is wearing a purple jacket with a white top in the Sunday strip.

Pharus has his eyes closed in panel #1 but he opens them up in #2 when MJ finishes her thought (“…and get him the help he obviously needs!”) and grabs him by the shoulders. What is with the Parkers and their grabbing of Pharus’ shoulders? MJ witnessed Subby attacking Spidey after he did it on October 29th. Her grabbing is just as effective. Pharus wakes up and cries out “Help! Help me!” (Tip to Pharus: if you’re going to quote, do it right. It’s “Help me, Spock! Help me, Spock!”)

November 7, 2015

Whoop! My mistake! MJ’s shoulder grabbing is effective. And she is a lot stronger than I gave her credit for. Pharus looks like a pretty big kid and he’s putting up a fight, but MJ scoops him up and runs for it. “Let me go, surface woman!” yells Pharus as MJ thinks, “The boy’s resisting – and his guards will hear him!” Why haven’t they heard him already? They were only standing about five feet away. Maybe those helmets filled with water block out his cries. Or maybe they’ve disappeared (like the cops, like the TV cameraman, like everyone else). The only other thing in sight is a pile of crates.

“And what about Peter battling Namor underwater?” MJ wonders way off-panel in panel #2, which shows Namor still holding Spidey tight underwater. So, Spidey hasn’t taken a breath since November 3rd. Is he ever going to breathe again? And what is MJ going to do with Pharus? Hand him over to one of those people in authority who are not there? Will the guards hear Pharus’ cries? Will the guards reappear? Will the cops? Will anyone? Time will tell.

November 8, 2015

And we’re back underwater. Or, as Stan puts it in the opening caption, “The Sub-Mariner has taken his beef with Spider-Man underwater…” Now Subby has his left hand on Spidey’s throat as he raises his right fist for a mighty blow (that would have to be slowed down by water-resistance). “Surrender – and I will spare you!” he says. Spidey thinks, “My vocal cords aren’t made for talking in H2O like yours, Subby…” Not to mention that hand clamped around his throat.

“So I’ll have to let this be my answer!” thinks Spidey in panel #2 as he lands a mighty blow of his own, knocking Namor back with a “Kthow.” All Subby had to do was maintain the hold he had on Spidey yesterday but then, you know, Spidey would have been defeated. And we can’t have that.

Of course, all Spidey’s punch really does is get Subby mad. Panel #3 is a close-up of Namor, tilted at a 45 degree angle. He sneers, balls his hands into fists, and says, “Your courage, air-breather, far exceeds your common sense. You just sealed your doom!”

Panel #4 switches back to MJ on the pier. (“While, above…,” as Stan puts it in a caption.) So the top row is underwater while the bottom row is on the dock, which is a nice effect when looked at as a whole. MJ has a hold on Pharus but now she is back, right next to his stretcher, having not gotten anywhere at all. “If only I can get this Atlantean boy to a hospital…” she thinks, even though Pharus is yelling, “Let me go - !” A shouted “Halt!” comes from off-panel, revealed in panel #5 to be one of the Atlantean guards, both of whom are right there (since MJ apparently decided to run back to the stretcher after creating some space yesterday). Both hold futuristic-looking rifles, which neither of them had before. They also again have fins on the sides of their helmets, something only Alex draws. Alex is pretty much the only one who draws birds, too, and there are some in the distance. (On the plus side, it looks like Alex finally got the word that MJ is wearing a pullover sweater and not a jacket.) They have puddles of water beneath them as if they went for a swim while MJ snatched Pharus. (Or perhaps they’re incontinent.) One of them points his rifle at MJ and says, “Do not force us to fire!”

In panel #6, MJ holds Pharus tight, as she stares, terrified, at the guards (and us). Pharus has stopped struggling and gone back to grimacing and keeping his eyes closed. He is blue-skinned in the face but his hand is white, in contrast to panel #4 where his hand was yellow, like his outfit, so that it appeared he is wearing gloves. A little snafu by the colorist. (Who is the colorist, anyway?) There is a halo of terror lines coming off of MJ’s head and one strand of her hair forms a halo around Pharus’ head in such a strange way that you have to think that Alex is up to something. A skewed Madonna and child? Could be.

Anyway, MJ thinks, “The guards’ rifles will tear me in two!” which is our cue for the “Next Issue” caption, which is “In the Crosshairs!” Since MJ is already in the crosshairs, this doesn’t tell us much. But then, neither did last week’s “When Titans Clash!” because the Titans were already clashing.

November 9, 2015

Panel #1 is essentially a repeat of yesterday’s panel #5 only with Pharus looking at MJ and with no birds. The guard who is pointing his gun again says, “Halt or we open fire!” MJ leaning back away from the guards, protests, “Please – I’m trying to save this boy!” (With no information about him at all. Good one, MJ!) Pharus, still struggling, again cries, “Let me go!”

Panel #2 is a close-up of the guard aiming his gun. His partner, off-panel, says, “Namor ordered us to guard the lad.” (Better late than never, guys.) The on-panel guard says, “You leave us no choice…”

And, suddenly, in panel #3, someone shows up, says, “There’s always a choice, little boy blue!” and bashes the guard’s helmet with a baseball bat (?), causing him to drop his rifle as his helmet shatters with a “Smassh” spilling its water out. “What in Neptune’s name…?” yells the guard, because he (like the rest of us) didn’t think anyone else was on the dock. So, who is it that clobbers him? One of the cops from before? The cameraman who sent video to the TV stations? Someone else in authority? No. A woman with glasses and a ponytail and wearing what looks to be a lab coat. “What in Neptune’s name?” indeed.

November 10, 2015

That guard’s helmet looked pretty smashed yesterday. Today it looks intact but the guard runs toward the water anyway, yelling, “You – smashed my helmet! Water – rushing out!” (Yep, I see some water on his shirt but I wouldn’t call it “rushing.”) “Can’t – breathe up here -!” His buddy runs after him, instead of attacking the mystery woman who stands by with her hands on her hips. This proves to be the wrong thing to do because, apparently, he puts himself right behind his partner, allowing the woman to kick him in the rear, causing both guards to fall in the water with a “splash.” “Then, go where you can breathe, Fish-Sticks!” she says in panel #2. Meanwhile, in panel #3, MJ is still hanging onto a flailing Pharus. “Who is that woman?” she thinks, “And where’d she come from?” I have another question, MJ. What happened to Spidey and did he ever manage to get another breath?

November 11, 2015

Pharus seems to have worn himself out. He looks decidedly sleepy in MJ’s arms as she talks to the woman in the lab coat. “You stopped those Atlanteans from shooting me,” she says, “Who are you?” “Dr. Liz Bellman,” the woman answers, “from Metro General Hospital.” In panel #2, Dr. Bellman holds Pharus, who now looks comatose. “We’ll rush this boy there,” Liz says, “find out what’s wrong with him.” (Well, for one thing, he’s an Atlantean and he’s been out of the water a long time.) “No,” says MJ, “You’ll have to take over from here!” and she rushes, apparently, over to the water in panel #3. “I’ve got to reach Spider-Man!” she says. Because, you know, Spidey hasn’t breathed in a long time. Though I don’t know what MJ is going to do about it what with Subby and the two guards being down there…and being water-breathers. But back to Dr. Bellman for a moment. The question isn’t “where’d she come from?” as MJ asked yesterday but “where is everybody else?”

November 12, 2015

Back to the fight underwater. Just Spidey and Subby. No Atlantean guards in sight. At this point, Subby has his hands all over Spidey’s face and the web-spinner is looking very limp. “Surrender!” says Namor, “Do not force me to drown you!” Spidey thinks, “A couple more seconds – and I’ll pass out! Got to put everything I’ve got - into one last punch.” But it’s Namor who gets a punch in in panel #2. (Or an elbow. It’s hard to tell.) “This fight is finished, human!” he says.

November 13, 2015

So Spidey never does take a breath but Namor bails him out by bringing him back to the surface. He throws the wall-crawler down on the dock with a “Slamm.” Spidey let out an “Unnh” when he hits. “You fought bravely, Spider-Man,” he says. (Did he? Mostly it seemed like he just floated there like a dead fish.) Panel #2 takes a view behind Namor who stands over Spidey who tries to get up. “But against the Sub-Mariner in his watery realm, you could never prevail,” says Namor. From off-panel, MJ yells, “No!” and panel #3 shows us Mary Jane rushing up to Namor. Spidey looks like he’s given up trying to rise and has flopped over onto his back. “Don’t you dare lay a hand on him!” MJ says. And Namor, who has been mooning about MJ since the cruise ship (Remember the cruise ship? That was in this same storyline!) recognizes her immediately, blurting out a surprised, “Mary Jane Parker?!”

November 14, 2015

Mary Jane straddles Spidey. (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter!) She leans over him at his waist, on her knees on his left side while putting her hands down on his right side. Spidey is surprised enough by this that he has a couple of wiggle lines around his head. Subby is even more surprised. He has wiggle lines around his head and his chest. MJ almost snarls at Subby as she says, “Get away from him, Namor!” “What is Spider-Man to you, Mary Jane Parker?” asks Namor amidst all his wiggles. Panel #2 is only MJ’s head in profile…a strange little illustration where it seems like she is staring at the “Stan Lee – Larry Leiber 11/14” credit box. (Or trying to bite it.) She answers Namor’s question with, “A man who fought you courageously – to save a little boy’s life!” Sounds noble. Too bad it’s wrong.

November 15, 2015

If there are birds in the panel (and there are), it must be Sunday and Alex Saviuk. Sunday usually starts with a caption, too. This one says, “Over the fallen Spider-Man, MJ defies Namor…” There are three levels from left to right. Namor is standing on the left, full in the panel, MJ is in the middle, crouching, about halfway up the panel, and Spidey is to the right, a little lower than MJ. He looks completely out of it, so MJ must be holding him up by gripping his shoulders, which is an impressive feat. She looks up at Namor and says, “Don’t you touch him!” Panel #2 gives us a different left to right view, from behind Namor’s right shoulder. (And birds.) From this angle, Namor dominates the left third of the panel, while MJ and Spidey appear to be at about the same height on the right. “I have no intention of harming him further, Mary Jane Parker,” says Subby, “He fought valiantly – but I am supreme beneath the water’s surface, so…”

He never finishes his thought because, in panel #3, he turns and sees the empty shell-stretcher. It fills the foreground and the left side of the panel with Namor standing, full-figure, behind and to the right, with MJ and Spidey behind and to the right of him. (And birds.) “Hold! Where is the boy I brought from sunken Atlantis?” he asks.

Panel #4 is similar to #3 only the two Atlanteans take the place of the stretcher and Namor is in a different position. MJ and Spidey look almost the same behind. (And birds.) The Atlantean with the intact helmet drags up the other one with the smashed helmet, who looks pained and unconscious. I’m not sure why the guard is dragging his injured colleague onto the dock since he can breathe underwater and not in the air. The healthy one answers Namor’s question about Pharus. “That one – and another woman –spirited him away, my Prince,” he says.

In panel #5 MJ lets go of Spidey and stands up to Namor. (And birds.) She pokes a finger into his chest. This so surprises him that his head gets some wiggle lines. “And right now, that woman – a doctor – is trying to save his life!” says MJ, “How could I ever thought you noble, even for a moment?”

“Whether under the sea or on land – you spread nothing but death!” she finishes off-panel in #6, which gives us a close-up of Namor’s head. (And birds.) This remark has so gotten to Namor that he not only has wiggle lines but golden rays shining off of him as well.

The “Next” caption is, “And the Sub-Mariner’s Next Move is…!?” Let’s hope it doesn’t take him long to figure out what it is. We’re going on 3 months with this storyline.

Last week’s caption was, “In the Crosshairs!” which became moot in one day.

November 16, 2015

Welcome to that strange blip that often occurs between the Sunday and the Monday strip. We’re back to Larry as artist so…no birds. The guard with the intact helmet stands in the background as if he never dragged his friend onto the dock at all. And MJ is back to cradling an unconscious Spidey as if her “you spread nothing but death” speech and Namor’s golden rays and wiggle lines never occurred. “Leave Britney alone!” she yells. (Oops. Sorry. “Leave Spider-Man alone!”) “Having defeated him, Mary Jane Parker, I’ve no more quarrel with him,” says Subby. Panel #2 shows us more dock than any of the characters. They are mostly pushed down to the bottom half of the panel. “My guards say your friend took the lad I brought with me,” Namor says, which isn’t exactly what was said but…never mind. “I barely met Dr. Liz Bellman, Namor,” says MJ, “but the boy’s seriously ill so she took him to the hospital.” That’s right, Namor! I don’t know Liz Bellman from Adam but it made perfect sense that she would show up with a baseball bat and clobber your guard, then kick them both into the river so of course I let her kidnap your kid!

November 17, 2015

Another odd angle, from behind Subby’s right shoulder, that seems to focus on his right ear. His uninjured Atlantean guard is to his left, looking like Robot Monster. His headgear seems to have been switched to a diving helmet. MJ is on the right, looking up at Subby. Her head blocks most of Spidey’s head. Not that it matters. The web-slinger is still completely knocked out. “Who is the woman who carried off young Pharus?” asks Subby. “She said she was a doctor,” replies MJ (in other words, Mary Jane really doesn’t have a clue), “So I figured he’s better off in her hands than in yours!” In panel #2, Subby flies away. (He does have those little wings on his feet, you know.) He leaves a startled MJ (who has a wiggle line on the side of her head) and the unconscious Spidey behind. The guard seems to have left again, along with the injured guard and the ship and the crates and everything else. The dock now looks expansive and empty. “I doubt she can cure the boy,” says Namor, “but now I must attend to the reason I came to this city!” So, yeah, hung out forever on the dock, brought Pharus to demonstrate to the United Nations that pollution is harming his people, fought with Spider-Man, jawed with Mary Jane. But now, has to run, not worried about his injured guard, not worried about Pharus kidnapped by some strange woman, not worried that his show-and-tell won’t work without Pharus. Time to fly!

November 18, 2015

And now we’re at the entrance to the United Nations. Supposedly. It sort of looks right but I think there should be a fountain right where the two cops are. Are these the same two guys who apparently ran off when they encountered Subby on the dock? They might as well be. They look up into the sky. One says, “Are my eyes playin’ tricks on me?” The other says, “If they are, whatever you got is catchin’…” He continues in panel #2, which shows the cop in profile while Subby flies down out of the sky. “…Cause I see the same thing,” he says. “The Sub-Mariner has no time to waste on lackeys,” says Namor diplomatically. Then, in panel #3, he tosses the cops aside. “I am here to address the United Nations!” he bellows.

November 19, 2015

And now we’re inside the UN building with a guy who looks enough like Ban Ki-Moon to qualify, standing behind a podium in the General Assembly room. “As Secretary-General, I hereby declare this session of the United Nations…” begins Ban but he is interrupted by an off-panel Subby who says, “…still in session!” Panel #2 shows Subby flying over the assemblage (there are 24 or 25 figures in the panel below him) and carrying his trident, which hasn’t been seen since October 1st. He sure didn’t have it on the dock when he flew away or at the UN when he attacked the cops. “…Until Prince Namor of Atlantis says it is adjourned!” he declares. Maybe this is why Subby took so long with Pharus and Spidey and MJ. He was preparing for a dramatic entrance. With his previously-stashed trident!

November 20, 2015

“The Sub-Mariner has barged into the U.N…” according to Stan’s caption. He steps onto the podium, still holding his long-missing trident. Ban Ki-Moon looks back at him and says, “How dare you force your way into the General Assembly!” “What I came to say is far more important than mere protocol,” says Subby, who pushes Ban aside in panel #2 and takes the podium. There are six other people in the panel, all watching him, including what looks like a guy in a hoodie. Don’t know what that’s all about. Subby begins. “You surface-dwellers have polluted the oceans long enough. From this day, Atlantis will assume stewardship of the seas!” he says.

November 21, 2015

Ban has not backed down. He remains on the podium with Namor and confronts him. It is the battle of the close-up heads in a Loony Tunes spotlight. “You can’t just announce you’re taking command of the seas!” says Ban. Namor counters with “I can – and I have!” Good point. Then, in panel #2, the camera swings behind Namor showing him looking back at Ban and pointing at the delegates with a disembodied arm that doesn’t look like it should fit properly onto his shoulder. There are 13 delegates in view and they all have the same shocked, open-mouthed expression on their faces, as Namor says, “If control over the oceans remained in the hands of you air-breathers – the Earth would soon be a dead world!”

November 22, 2015

Brace yourself. It’s going to get wordy. “The Sub-Mariner addresses the U.N. General Assembly…” in panel #1. Namor stands in front of the podium with Ban Ki-Moon recoiling from him from behind that podium. There are two people on a higher podium behind and nine people (plus someone’s knee) in the audience. Namor says, “You surface-dwellers have emptied your industrial and agricultural wastes into the sea.” Panel #2 shows Namor’s heavily-shadowed (heavily-inked) head with a symbolic view of a sinking oil tanker and sinking oil rig behind him. “Besides this intentional pollution, there have been countless accidents such as oil spills,” Namor continues. Panel #3 shows us Namor’s profile and seven of the people in the audience. They all look extremely PO’ed. “The ‘international laws’ you have enacted to counter such crimes are a grim joke,” he says, “The very existence of my sub-sea kingdom is threatened by your actions.” In panel #3, we get another head shot with a disembodied fist as Namor continues. “Therefore, effective at once, Atlantis will regulate all shipping and my warships will begin policing the world’s oceans!” Whew! Go, Stan! Er, I mean, Namor! You didn’t need Pharus as a show-and-tell for that!

But it doesn’t go over well with those in attendance. We see four of the audience reacting. One points a finger, one shakes a fist. (And there are now three guys behind the Sub-Mariner.) “Do you think you can come in here and dictate to us?” says the finger-pointer, “Guards! Arrest the intruder!” Well, there’s one guard who looks like a rent-a-cop. He doesn’t seem too happy about it but he reaches out to Namor, trying to do his job.

And, on to panel #6 with a “Meanwhile…,” taking us back to the dock with MJ still kneeling over a still-unconscious Spidey (with birds!). “You’ve got to wake up, Peter,” MJ implores, “before Namor plunges the whole planet into war!” And our “Next” panel? “Chaos at the U.N.!” which I think may already be going on. Last week’s? “And the Sub-Mariner’s Next Move is…!?” I think we got the answer to that, too!

November 23, 2015

It’s “Namor at the U.N…” as mentioned in an opening caption with an ornate “N” in “Namor” that made me first think it said, “Tiamor at the U.N…” Namor is now on the podium alone. Ban has disappeared, as have the guys on the podium behind him. He continues his speech. “To prevent further pollution,” he says, “Atlantis’ warships will begin policing the seas!” Remember that guard who was up on the podium, reaching toward Namor yesterday? He’s gone. Instead there are two guards running up the aisle from the audience. There are 12 delegates in the panel, including a guy in a fez who calls out, “Guards! Seize him!” (I know that old joke. “Yeah, I sees him. What do you want me to do with him?”)

“While, not far away…” in panel #2, MJ places her hands on both sides of the unconscious Spidey’s head. “Please wake up, Peter,” she says, “for my sake – and for the world’s!” In other words, nothing new happened today.

November 24, 2015

Three months into this story and no end in sight!

Let’s flip-flip the panels this time. Panel #1 is on the dock and panel #2 is at the U.N. And, hey, something actually happens! Spidey regains consciousness! “What – happened -?” he asks MJ, then answers his own question. “Wait – I remember!” he says, “I fought Namor – underwater – nearly drowned!” MJ responds. Her answer begins in panel #1, then becomes a caption in panel #2. “He left you here,” she says in panel #1, “…while he headed for the U.N!” she finishes in the panel #2 caption, where there are now three guards approaching Namor. The delegate layout looks different than it’s been and none of the delegates look the same. These five guys in this panel look decidedly generic. Namor, in the left foreground, addresses the three guards. “Do you humans dare challenge a Prince of Atlantis?” he asks.

November 25, 2015

“At the U.N…” is our caption and the two guards have finally gotten up to where Namor is. He shoves them aside rather easily. “Your uniformed minions are no match for the Sub-Mariner!” he says. “Oooph,” says one of the guards. Panel #2 shows three very angry-looking delegates, looking like they are standing in line. “Then we’ll throw you out ourselves!” says one. Tough talk but…seriously? This confrontation is interrupted by a “Tzap tzap” sound and some jagged lightning-like lines that make it look like the panel is coming apart in the lower right corner. Panel #3 shows the source. As the Sub-Mariner points from bottom left to upper right, and the three delegates gape from the bottom of the panel, two Atlanteans, armed with rifles, fly in on a hovercraft. “Fools!” says Namor, “You think I came here alone?”

Actually, we know he came here alone because we all saw him do it. So, who are these guys? Not the same two guards from the dock because one of those guys has a smashed helmet and is not in great shape. So, are these more guys from the docked ship that seems to appear and disappear at will? And, if so, when did they exit the ship? Didn’t we see almost every moment on that dock from the time Namor arrived to the time he flew to the U.N.? It sure feels like it. And, if they exited later, wouldn’t Spidey and MJ have seen them? And where did the hovercraft come from? Could it fit in the ship? Was it towed along behind? Questions, questions. None of which will be answered, I’m sure.

November 26, 2015

Now Namor flies off of the podium, his two armed guards on their hoverboard flying along behind him. Six delegates look up at him as he flies by and says, “You have one day to devise a plan to end your pollution of the seas – before my warships attack this city!” Wait, wait. I thought he was just going to patrol the oceans. Now he’s going to attack Manhattan? When did this change happen?

In panel #2, Namor is already back at the dock, flying toward his ship, which is again moored there. Spidey, just his head and shoulder popping up from the bottom left corner, sees him and says, “Namor’s returning! Now’s my chance to snag him – if I’m strong enough!” Which I suspect he isn’t.

November 27, 2015

Spidey stands up, preparing to tackle Subby. MJ grabs him, trying to stop him. Namor has landed on the fin (wing) of his ship, which is not tied up to the dock at all and is starting to drift. “I’ve got to stop the Sub-Mariner before he can escape!” says Spidey. “No!” says MJ, “You’re still not recovered..”

Panel #2 is a close-up of Subby, standing on the wing. “Your chance to face me anew will come soon enough, web-spinner,” he says. Then, with Spidey watching from the lower left in panel #3, the ship flies off into the sky with Namor saying “I will return!” So…the ship is an airplane and not a sub-marine? Or is it both? And where were all these weapons it was supposed to be “brisling” with? And did Namor just leave behind the two guards on the hoverboard? What about the two guards who were on the dock? Or are those guards the same as the hoverboard guards? And what about Pharus? And who the heck is Dr. Liz Bellman and what did she do with Pharus? And since when did Namor go from “let’s show Pharus to the U.N.” to “I’m going to attack you guys tomorrow?” And whatever became of those two cops on the dock? And why didn’t anyone other than MJ and Liz Bellman ever show up on the dock? And can Spidey really hear Subby yell “I will return!” from the inside of his airship as it is already flying away? And how did that ship sit by the dock without drifting when it looks like it was never tied up to begin with? And when is all of this going to end?

November 28, 2015

So, Spidey looks up at Namor’s departing ship and shakes his fists. “Couldn’t reach Namor – before he took off!” he says. MJ, who looks like she is ducking down so that Spidey can get a view of the ship, says, “You’re in no condition to oppose him, anyway.” Panel #2 looks straight at Spidey with MJ in profile to the right. “But if I’m not,” says Spidey, “then who is?” Well, Spidey, how about the Fantastic Four? Or the Avengers? Or the X-Men? Just suggesting.

November 29, 2015

What we have here with this strip is a place-holder. It’s all pretty much recap except for the part about the photos.

Spidey is still on the dock with MJ and Namor’s ship is still departing. Spidey has found a piling with some rope on it and he is hanging on to it. And, because it’s Sunday and Alex Saviuk, there are birds. “Well, there goes Namor!” says MJ. “But like he said – he’ll be back,” says Spidey. (Namor said that on Friday, remember?) Panel #2 is still Spidey and MJ (and birds) but now the camera has moved so we see the U.N. building behind and Spidey now has a big puddle of water on his head. Did he duck his head into the water to see if the Atlantean guards were still there? Or did the birds target him? Or what? The wet-head says to MJ, “I gotta find out exactly what he told the U.N…then figure out how to redeem myself for letting him crush me!” So, does MJ say, “You don’t have to redeem anything. You’re the one who started it by trying to snatch a helpless Atlantean boy who, by the way, I managed to kidnap with the help of some unknown woman who claimed to be a doctor so mission accomplished?” No. She doesn’t even say, “Hey, where did this snow come from?” because now, in panel #3, there is snow on the dock. No. She says, “I suppose the only silver lining would be if you’d got pics of your fight with him!” To which, Spidey replies, “Funny, you should mention that, honey…” as he walks over to some of the crates.

And, in panel #4, he grabs his camera, which is webbed up on one of the crates. “At least I had the foresight to set up my camera before I confronted him,” says Spidey as MJ looks on admiringly. But did he? Well, on October 15th, Spidey swung in to step in between Namor and the two cops who have since disappeared. There’s no sign that he set up anything but he may have between panels. You’d think that Namor would have seen him putting a camera on the crates before web-slinging in, though. On the other hand, back on October 15, there weren’t any crates, so why not? They didn’t show up until October 22nd.

Panel #5 parallels panel #2 above it, with MJ looking right toward Spidey and Spidey looking left and back at MJ. But now the camera has moved 180 degrees so we are looking out at the river again and can see Namor’s ship flying away in the distance. And birds. Now it is MJ who is leaning up against the piling as Spidey did in panel #1. She says, “That’s my photographer hubby – always thinking ahead!” “Yeah,” Spidey says, holding his camera, “I just hope the next photos I take…”

“…Aren’t of the Sub-Mariner’s aerial armada attacking New York!” he finishes in panel #6, a creepy illustration with MJ and Spidey’s heads only. MJ looks, frightened, at Spidey as Spidey looks out at us, his eye lenses reflecting the U.N. building so that it looks like there are two U.N. buildings, making it eerily reminiscent of the World Trade Center twin towers. Or is that just me?

The “Next” panel promises, “Another Confrontation – This Time With J. Jonah Jameson!” which doesn’t seem like much of a promise. Last week’s “Next,” you’ll recall, was Chaos at the U.N.!” It wasn’t much in the way of “chaos” but, okay, I’ll give you that, Stan.

November 30, 2015

And, speaking of J. Jonah Jameson, the scene shifts to the Daily Bugle. Jameson, smoking a cigar (something I don’t think he can do in the comics anymore) and City Editor Joe “Robbie” Robertson are watching a news report in JJJ’s office. There is a woman reporter on the TV, her head filling up the entire screen. She is saying, “…having hurled his challenge to the U.N., Prince Namor swiftly departed for Atlantis!” (How does she know he departed for Atlantis? All he said was “I will return.”) “Robbie,” says Jonah, “Tell me we had a reporter there when Namor made his spiel!” “We did, Jonah,” says Robbie. And, in panel #2, in bursts Peter Parker holding photos in his hand. “So, the question is, gents,” says Peter, “would you like some photos with that?” A word balloon with “!” in it points off-panel with two stems, which I assume means both JJJ and Robbie are thinking, “Yeah!”

December 1, 2015

In JJJ’s office, Jonah is on the left, leaning back in his chair, sitting by the window. He is exhaling smoke with his stogie still in his mouth which is not really a very pleasant way to smoke a cigar. Robbie is to the right, his body pointed toward Jonah but his head turned to look at Peter who is wedged into the bottom right corner of the panel. “You got pictures of the Sub-Mariner at the U.N.?” asks Robbie. “So what?” says JJJ, “So did the A.P. and Reuters…” “No, not in the General Assembly” says Pete from his cramped panel #1 position. “On the docks,” he continues in panel #2, “Where he and Spider-Man locked horns!” And he holds up a perfect picture of Spidey and Namor clashing. So, how does this automatic camera thing work? Clearly, it doesn’t start clicking away from the moment Spidey sets it up. Otherwise all the pictures would be of Spidey and Namor talking or of Pharus and the two guards. Is it motion sensitive? Well, there was plenty of motion before the fight. So, how did Peter get this perfect photo? Well, to paraphrase the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme song, “Just repeat to yourself, it’s just a strip. I should really just relax.”

December 2, 2015

Today’s strip is still in JJJ’s office but Jonah doesn’t make the cut. In panel #1, Robbie holds one of Peter’s photos. “Peter, these pics are terrific,” he says. The photo at which Robbie is looking is different than the one we say yesterday. Either he’s holding it upside down or it shows Subby and Spidey falling into the water, just inches above the drink. Since this is below the pier, I very much doubt that the camera could have caught this shot but see the MST3K paraphrase from yesterday “How can you always be in just the right spots to get shots like these?” Robbie continues. Peter puts his hand on the back of his neck as he replies, “Just…some sixth sense, I guess.” “Oh?” Robbie says in panel #2 with a big grin, “Is that like a spider sense?” Peter pinches up his face and tilts both eyes to the right to peer at Robbie. “Uh-oh,” he thinks, “I got careless – ‘cause I’m still groggy from that fight. Does Robbie suspect?” Peter, you get careless so often, I really don’t think you can blame it on the fight. Besides, I think Robbie figured it out a long time ago.

December 3, 2015

Robbie points at the photos and says, “How did you get such great photos when no one else did?” (There is a filing cabinet behind Robbie with the top drawer marked “A-C” and three books on top of it. JJJ has such an interesting office.) Peter holds his head like he has the granddaddy of all headaches. (It’s like the old Excedrin ads: “I’ve got a headache this big and it has Robbie Robertson written all over it.”) “I…heard the commotion when Namor landed at the pier, so I…” he lamely lies. But it would be nice to think that someone heard that commotion! JJJ swipes the photos out of Robbie’s hand in panel #2. “Who cares how he got them?” he bellows, “The point is he got ‘em – and now we have them…” He continues in panel #3 which is all his alone. “These prove Spider-Man and the Sub-Mariner are in cahoots!” JJJ says. There is another of those two-stemmed word balloons pointing off-panel. This one has a “?” in it. In other words, Pete and Robbie are both saying, “Wha?” which is short for “Oh, not this again!”

December 4, 2015

Robbie can’t believe it, though you’d think he’d be used to it by now. He gets wide-eyed and open-mouthed and says, “How can you think Spider-Man’s in league with Namor – when Peter’s photos show the Atlantean dragging him in the water?” JJJ looks back at him smugly (oh, and that file cabinet is still behind them but it only has one book on it now) and says, “Pictures can lie, Robbie…” In panel #2, he turns and thrusts the photos so suddenly at Robbie that Robbie recoils back. We can see Spidey and Subby on the top photo in JJJ’s hand. “I say the two of them headed underwater to avoid witnesses while they plotted strategy!”

December 5, 2015

Now Peter moves back into the scene. He is on the left of the panel pointing at a photo of Spidey and Subby fighting that Robbie, who is in the center, holds up. JJJ is on the right. “If these guys are co-conspirators, Mr. J,” says Peter, “How come my earlier shots show them fighting?” Robbie joins in with “And later, Namor’s about to strike a nearly drowned Spider-Man!” In panel #2, JJJ holds up Spidey/Subby photos (what, are they just passing them around amongst themselves?) and says, “Don’t you see? They want us to think they’re enemies – when they’re really allies!”

Yes, an entire week of this JJJ and the photos business. In other words, a completely wasted week when we’re more than three months into the story already.

December 6, 2015

We’re still stuck in Daily Bugle limbo. Or as Stan puts it in his opening caption: “It’s near press time at the Daily Bugle…” JJJ is still riffing through Peter’s photos. He seems to be the only one with any in his hands at this point. Peter looks on nervously, holding his camera out in front of him. Robbie is on the right, in profile, still open-mouthed. There is a big computer monitor behind Pete and the file cabinet is behind Jonah only it no longer has the “A-C” label or the books on top. “All right, Robbie,” says Jonah, “Parker’s given us the pictures…Now I’ll provide the headline…” Panel #2 is a straight-on view of Jameson, his cigar tilted out, stage right, from his mouth. He holds up a photo of Spidey and Subby grappling. “Sub-Mariner and Spider-Man join forces against humanity!” declares JJJ. In panel #3, the camera moves behind Jonah. Peter looks forlorn after JJJ’s pronouncement and Robbie actually recoils. (The file cabinet is now behind Robbie. Okay, there’s probably more than one in the room.) “You’ve got to be kidding, J.J.!” says Robbie. “I’m dead serious!” replies Jonah, “Namor and the wall-crawler want us to believe they were duking it out…” On to panel #4, with a close-up of Jonah’s face on the left side. He holds up a photo of Subby and Spidey falling into the water. The file cabinet is behind it. “But the truth is the web-head’s working hand-in-glove with that fish-faced pirate!” he says. In panel #5, the camera swings around behind Peter with Robbie and Jonah looking at him. The monitor is still behind Pete. Jonah brandishes the photos and says, “You took the photos, Peter! What do you think?” All Pete can say is, “I…” before, in panel #6, he passes out, hitting his head on the monitor. Jonah is open-mouthed with surprise. Robbie reaches a hand out as if to help and yells, “Peter!” (Oh, and there’s a picture of Spidey on a Bugle front page that is displayed up on the wall for those of you who haven’t gotten enough of the wall-crawler over the past week.) The “Next” caption is, “Delayed Reaction?” Yeah, I’d say so. Last week’s was “Another Confrontation – This Time With J. Jonah Jameson!” and that turned out to be true.

December 7, 2015

We move from Saviuk world to Leiber world. Stan begins it with a caption: “As Jameson outlines his theory of a Spidey-Sub-Mariner conspiracy…” and the panel shows us Peter getting woozy and saying “Unnnhh…” In Saviuk world, he actually collapsed and hit his head on a big computer monitor. In Leiber world, JJJ grabs Pete by the arm before he collapses. And the monitor is so much smaller; Pete would never fall into it. Robbie, looking on, says, “Peter’s passing out!” and Jonah says, “I’ve got him!” In panel #2, Pete has already recovered but he puts a hand up to his forehead to indicate his wooziness. Robbie, hands on hips, says, “That was a quick save, Jonah” and Jameson says, “He was going to break the TV!” Okay, so it’s a TV, not a computer monitor. Unless it’s a monitor in Saviuk world and a TV in Leiber world.

December 8, 2015

The threesome. From left to right: JJJ, Peter, Robbie. Peter puts a hand to his head. “I’m – okay,” he says, “Just a bit groggy.” Robbie says, “Are you ill, or…?” He never finishes. (Assuming there was more to that sentence.) In panel #2, Peter replies, making up another whopper, “I, uh, got struck earlier – debris from Spider-Man’s fight with Namor.” (I think it’s the “uh” that gives it away.) “From their fake fight, you mean,” says JJJ. It looks like Jonah is crawling under a rug but he’s actually putting his coat on. There’s a disembodied hand that makes it look like Peter is grabbing JJ but it’s actually Jameson’s own hand putting on his coat except that it’s in a weird position so that it’s hard to see how that hand goes through a sleeve. There is a Daily Bugle front page on the wall behind them, with a headline that says “Spider-Man…” something and a bit of a picture of Spidey. Why in the world would this generic page be posted on the wall? Does Jonah hang up every single newspaper? In panel #3, Jonah puts his arm around Peter and ushers him out of the office. They walk past some windows with two very sketchy Bugle employees in the background. Jameson says, “Anyway, we’re taking you to the hospital. Can’t risk the Bugle being legally liable for anything!” The hospital? Good Grief, what’s next!

December 9, 2015

So, we’re off to the hospital! Outside of the Bugle building (with the “Daily Bugle” sign and a guy getting out of his car behind them) Robbie and Peter stand on the sidewalk. With his arm up, Robbie hails a “Taxi!” “Really, Robbie, there’s no need for a hospital…” says Peter who doesn’t seem surprised that Robbie is with him even though he and JJJ left Robbie behind in Jonah’s office in panel #3 yesterday. In today’s panel #2, Robbie puts his arm around Peter, as a cabbie pulls up. “Sorry, Peter,” says Robbie, “Jonah insists.” Peter protests, “But – my photos of Namor and Spider-Man…” In panel #3, Jonah interrupts. “They’re already being splashed onto page one!” he says, as he leans his head into the open back window of the cab. This is an odd panel and not just because the cab is driving around with its back window open. The camera is inside the cab pointing out. At first glance it looks like Jonah is climbing out of a hole. I mean, who even knew he was out on the sidewalk with Pete and Robbie, anyway? But we can see Peter and part of Robbie (his tie and lapel) behind Jonah and that helps to dope the panel out. Jonah sticks his head all the way into the cab and says “Metro General, driver and make it snappy!” But maybe you guys ought to get in the cab first.

December 10, 2015

And now we’re in the back seat of the cab, crammed in with Robbie, Peter, and Jonah. (In panel #1, we see a building, a car, and two people through the cab’s window but then Larry gives it up and we only see blue out the windows in panels #2 and #3.) Peter turns to Jameson and says, “You’re taking me to Metro General?” “Don’t argue, Parker!” says JJJ, “We’ve got to get you checked out.” In panel #2, Peter leans back in his seat and says, slyly, “Oh – then it’s just a coincidence?” Robbie turns to him and asks “What are you talking about, Peter?” (Jonah scowls.) In panel #3, Peter turns to Robbie (who is not seen) and replies, “That’s where my wife said a doctor took a very sick boy – a very sick Atlantean boy!” Jonah gets those surprise wiggle lines around his head as he takes this in. And you can almost hear Stan chuckle and say, “You see what I did there?” It’s been about three and a half months. Are we finally heading toward the home stretch?

December 11, 2015

At the hospital, JJJ accosts a nurse, while Pete and Robbie (and two other nurses) stand in the background. “Nurse,” says Jonah, “I’m here to see that Kid from Atlantis!” (Wasn’t that a TV show? No, sorry, that was “Man From Atlantis.”) “He’s far too ill to receive visitors, sir,” says the Nurse. (She’s got an arrow over her head pointing at Jonah, like a stage instruction to “look this way” but, actually, it’s supposed to be an arrow on the hospital wall.) Panel #2 is just Jonah and the nurse in one of those Loony Tunes spotlights. “I’m no ‘visitor’!” grumps Jonah, “I’m J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the Daily Bugle.” “That’s good to know,” says the nurse. She walks off in panel #3, saying, “If and when he’s well enough to read, I’ll give him a copy of your paper!” Jonah profiled head wiggles (with wiggle lines) in shock at this disrespect.

December 12, 2015

Jonah rejoins Peter and Robbie. He puts his hand to his chin and gets a wild look in his eyes. Robbie and Pete look on in surprise. “I’ve got to find that sick Atlantean boy,” says Jonah, “Apparently, no other media know he’s here in this very hospital.” (That’s because no one bothered to go to the dock to cover the story when Subby and Spidey were there. I’m surprised anyone even knows that Pharus exists.) In panel #2, JJJ really gets maniacal. His eyes grow wide, his eyebrows arch in a Mephistolphilian way, he bares his teeth, and his disembodied fists rattle with wiggle lines. “This could be the scoop of the century!” he says. Robbie smiles at this emergence of JJJ’s evil side. “Jonah, you’re all heart,” he says. Peter, way in the background, rolls his eyes and says, “Yeah, if they carved ‘em outta stone!”

December 13, 2015

We’re back with Alex Saviuk but this whole strip takes place inside so, sorry, no birds. But it does take place in a hospital so, instead of birds, we get doctors and nurses! In panel #1, the doctors and nurses (two of each) even get the foreground as they look at charts and computer monitors. JJJ, Robbie, and Peter stand in the background. Above them is Stan’s Sunday morning caption. This one reads, “Metro General Hospital, Manhattan…” with Jonah’s word balloon right below it. “That youngster from Atlantis is somewhere in this very hospital,” he says.

In panel #2, Jonah puts his hand to his chin, gets wide-eyed, and bares his teeth again but this is a more benevolent look with the bared teeth accompanying a bit of a smile. Robbie, behind him, is wide-eyed with surprise (as opposed to his smile when Jonah looked evil yesterday) and Peter is barely in the panel, his profile shoved into the right side, almost as an after-thought. “And there’s no other media nosing around!” says Jonah, “The Bugle can get an exclusive!” For panel #3, the camera swings around, eliminating Jonah. Robbie is in profile on the left and Peter gets the center square, finally back to a position of prominence. (And there are two doctors behind and to the right.) “Peter – you look like you’re feeling better,” says Robbie. (Peter passed out a week ago, remember?) “I just got dizzy for a moment,” says Peter, “It wasn’t my idea to drag me here!”

Panel #4 features JJJ, Robbie, Peter and two doctors. Pete is in the foreground, in profile. Now’s he’s the one with his hand on his chin. “Parker, what’s the name of that doctor who brought the boy here?” JJJ asks. Peter replies, “MJ said she ID’d herself as Dr. Liz Bellman…” and then finishes the sentence in panel #5 as he looks back at a doctor and a nurse. (Robbie looks at them, too. JJJ isn’t shown.) “…though she couldn’t be certain the woman really was a doctor,” Pete concludes. (And yet she let the woman run off with a sick Atlantean boy. Brilliant.) But an off-panel voice butts in, saying, “Oh, she’s a doctor, all right, Peter…” and panel #6 reveals the speaker to be Mary Jane who takes the prominent position with Pete’s close-up profile on the left (and a doctor on the right). “…and way too busy right now saving her patient’s life to pose for a snapshot!” MJ finishes. “MJ! What’re you doing here?” Peter asks but we’ll have to wait for the answer. That’s all there is, except for the “Next” caption. It reads, “Calling Dr. Bellman!” And last week’s caption? That was “Delayed Reaction?” Note the question mark that allows for an answer of “no.” It’s supposed to refer to Peter passing out hours after being thumped by the Sub-Mariner but then it’s sort of forgotten all week and the “delayed reaction” could be how long it’s taking to tell this story as easily as anything else. Sigh. Three months two weeks five days and counting.

December 14, 2015

So Peter turns to MJ (with two doctors behind them) and says, “MJ!? What’re you doing at this hospital?” MJ, hands on hips (I presume, but we can’t see her hands or her hips), replies, “I came to learn if Dr. Bellman managed to save that poor Atlantean boy…” Panel #2 shows us MJ in profile, looking at J. Jonah Jameson so we know about whom she’s talking when she finishes with, “…and I find the media vultures already circling!” Panel #3 shows MJ with wiggle lines by her head to show that she’s just noticed (or just acted like she’s noticed) Robbie, who tilts back like someone has shoved him. “Oh…hi, Robbie,” she says, “Didn’t see you there. No offense.” “None taken, MJ,” says Robbie.

December 15, 2015

More hospital hijinks, but no doctors in view this time. It’s all about our principals (except Robbie). Jonah, tilted at a 45-degree angle and with a finger pointed in the air (that is, pointed at a 45-degree angle) says, “You’ve no call to disparage a journalist doing his job!” MJ, only slightly tilted, scoffs, “’Journalism?’ Looks more like ambulance-chasing!” Panel #2 moves in on Peter and MJ. We know they are whispering to each other because Peter has his hand up to his mouth. Also because their word balloons have little segmented lines around them. “Honey, you’re insulting the ambulance-chaser I work for!” says Pete. “That boy may be dying,” says MJ, “and Jameson’s just after a story!” Panel #3 pulls back so we can see Peter’s camera hanging around his neck. MJ points at him and whispers (with the segmented lines), “Which reminds me – why’re you here, camera in hand?” Peter looks down at the camera in his hands like he’s never seen it before. He has wiggle shock lines around his head and his word balloon has an “!” in it, as if to say, “Camera? Crap! There it is!”

December 16, 2015

Panel #1 here is pretty much yesterday’s panel #2, complete with Pete putting his hand up to his mouth and the segmented line word balloon whispers of Pete and MJ. Only, this time, JJJ is in the background. “I was woozy,” explains Pete to MJ, answering yesterday’s panel #3 question, “so Jameson dragged me here – and I let slip that Namor’s little pal is here.” MJ says, “We’ve got to steer that headline-hound out of here before…” but Dr. Bellman enters in panel #2 (in profile with only MJ also in the panel) and says, “MJ Parker, I believe? I recognized you earlier from your Broadway show.” And panel #3 shows Dr. Bellman looking over her shoulder as JJJ moves in. “Ah…Dr. Bellman, I presume?” he says.

December 17, 2015

It’s a nice cozy strip today. Just Jonah and Dr. Bellman. Jonah looks smug and secure in panel #1, placing his hand on his chest as he says, “I’m J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the Daily Bugle.” Dr. Bellman puts her hand to her chin (a lot of that going around) and says, “Your head looked smaller on TV.” (I’m not even sure what that means.) In panel #2, JJJ eyes her seductively and says, “I hear you’re the doctor treating the Atlantean lad…” Dr. Bellman, in profile, replies, “I’ve managed to get the toxins out of his body. Now he needs rest.” Wait. A. Minute! She got the toxins out of his body? Didn’t Subby say, back on October 28th (yes, it was that long ago) that, “The physicians of Atlantis are second to none. And they have said his condition is hopeless.”? And Dr. Bellman cured him in…what?...a half an hour? So are the Atlantean physicians just a bunch of quacks or what? Oh, there’s one more panel. JJJ thrusts a finger up in the air and says, “And I need an exclusive interview with him!” This seems to so startle Dr. Bellman that she tilts to a 45-degree angle and almost falls out of the panel. “!” she says.

December 18, 2015

A few more people join the party today. Dr. Bellman takes almost-center stage. With her unseen hands presumably on her hips, she confronts Jonah, saying, “I’m not letting you harass that boy, Mr. Jameson. When he’s rested, I’m sending him back to Prince Namor.” Jonah looks suitably contrite and MJ, Pete, and Robbie watch from behind. But it is an off-panel person who answers the doctor. “Afraid that’s not going to happen, doctor…” that person says and panel #2 reveals that person to be some guy in fatigues with two armed soldiers behind him. “We’ve got orders to put this hospital under lockdown!” he says. Peter is in the foreground looking at the soldiers. (Two nurses watch from behind.) Pete thinks, “Soldiers!?” Yes, Pete, soldiers. We can see that. But thanks for clarifying it for us.

December 19, 2015

Okay. From left to right, we have, Dr. Bellman facing the main soldier and pointing at a hand that is holding an automatic weapon, the main soldier looking at Dr. Bellman, MJ and Peter looking at the both of them, and the hand that holds the weapon. “What are armed soldiers doing in this hospital?” asks Dr. Bellman. The main soldier replies, “The Sub-Mariner’s speech at the U.N. threatened the whole world…” This speech becomes so important that it continues in panel #2 showing only the soldier backlit by a Loony Tunes spotlight. “…We’ve got to find out what that kid from Atlantis knows about it!” he says. Funny how Spidey and Subby spent ages on the dock with Pharus and no one bothered to check it out except MJ and Dr. Bellman. Now the whole city seems to know about “that kid from Atlantis.”

December 20, 2015

Ah, Sunday! In which the main soldier goes from having a shaved head in panel #2 to having blond hair in panel #4. But first, in panel #1, “Armed troops have flooded Metro General…” The no-show this time is JJJ but Robbie, Peter, MJ, and two nurses watch as the main soldier and his two armed men approach Dr. Bellman. The main soldier says, “Dr. Bellman, take me to that young Atlantean!” Panel #2 moves in on only Dr. Bellman and the main shaved-head soldier. “You’ve no business in here, waving those guns around,” she says. “The Sub-Mariner has declared war on the surface world, Doctor,” he replies. He gets real forceful in panel #3, grabbing center stage, and pointing a finger at Bellman, who is relegated to a profile just poking into the panel. The two armed soldiers behind add to the intimidation. “For all we know,” the main guy says, “that boy may be the key to defeating him! So either you take me to him – right now…” A dramatic pause as he have to move our eyes back to the beginning and down one tier to get to panel #4.

And when we get there, the now-blond soldier finishes with, “…or else we fan out and search every room in this hospital!” Kind of a letdown, right? Considering what you thought he might say? He holds a pistol in one hand while pointing off in some nebulous direction (to “every room in this hospital?”) with the other hand. This and the two armed soldiers behind seem to turn Dr. Bellman into jelly. Even her face looks malleable. Peter and MJ watch from behind, Robbie having apparently joined JJJ. And speaking of MJ and Peter, they are the stars of panel #5 as they do that “segmented-line-word-balloon-whisper” thing with Peter putting his hand up to his mouth. “Peter – this is even worse than Jameson’s interfering!” MJ says. Yeah, where is Jameson, anyway? Soldiers in the hospital? Isn’t this news? “Time for still another person to stick his nose in, honey!” Pete replies. And in case you don’t know whom he means, panel #6 makes it abundantly clear. The illustration is of Peter alone, his disembodied fist by his side. He grits his teeth but we only see the right side of his head because the left side is covered with one of those symbolic Ditkoesque half-Spidey masks. There are five large jagged purple bolts emanating from the Spidey side of his head. And, in case that isn’t enough to clue you in, Peter says, “…A webbed one!” And, in case that isn’t enough, the “Next” caption reads, “Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man!” You know. Like the '60s TV theme song. What did it say last week? “Calling Dr. Bellman!” Yeah. Okay. I’ll go along with that.

December 21, 2015

It’s impossible to tell what kind of hair the main soldier has this time but he’s still talking to Dr. Bellman, with one of his armed men standing behind him looking off into panel #2 as if he’s about to fire a shot across panels and gun down Peter and MJ. Dr. Bellman says, “I just got all the toxins out of that young Atlantean’s system, Captain.” Well, that was easy! All the toxins, eh? Can you do that with the rest of us? “He needs time to recuperate,” she continues. “We don’t have time,” says the Captain, “not with the Sub-Mariner on the loose!” In panel #2, with a doctor behind who is looking at a chart, completely oblivious to the soldiers in the hospital, MJ and Peter confer. They still have the segmented line word balloons but this time, it is MJ who puts a hand up to her mouth. “Dr. Bellman can’t stall the military for long,” she says. Peter, in his Ditkoesque half-Spidey mask look, replies, “Hopefully long enough for me to slip off and do my spider-thing!” Well, then, maybe you ought to quit whispering and get to it!

December 22, 2015

Now, JJJ steps in. He approaches the Captain, who holds his gun up in the air pointed off at JJJ in panel #2. One of the armed soldiers faces away from Jonah, which seems strange. Can anyone approach the Captain and the soldiers will just let him by? “Captain,” says Jameson, “I’m J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the Daily Bugle…” The Captain interrupts. “Are you gonna try to block my access to that boy too?” he asks. In panel #2, JJ gets wiggly, with those lines on either side of his head. (Perhaps he sees the Captain pointing a gun at him from panel #1.) He tells the Captain (who is also in the panel but just barely, down in the lower left corner), “Heaven forfend! I’d just like to be there when you question him…along with my ace photographer here.” He cocks his thumb toward panel #3 but, by the time we get there, only JJJ and MJ appear. “Huh? Where’d that useless goldbrick go?” asks Jonah.

December 23, 2015

First I’d like to point out that this strip completes FOUR MONTHS of this furshlugginer storyline! Heaven help me!

Now, our story. Peter races into a custodian’s closet (complete with a mop in a bucket). As he goes, he thinks, “Namor has a grudge against the human race…but I can’t let the boy he brought with him become a hostage!” In panel #2, Pete is now in his Spidey togs. He wanders aimlessly through some hospital hallway that seems to only have two rooms. “Dr. Bellman must’ve come out of one of these rooms…” he thinks. Fifty-fifty chance, Spidey! In panel #3, Spidey enters a room, finding Pharus there. “Bingo!” says Spidey. Pharus, though an Atlantean, seems to have no trouble breathing air at all. In fact, he looks very comfortable in his hospital bed but looks up as Spidey enters. “Are – are you going to hurt me?” he asks.

December 24, 2015

Spidey faces Pharus who, frightened, tries to pull up his covers. “I’m not here to harm you, son,” says Spidey. “Son?” Is Spidey as old as Stan Lee? “My name is Pharus,” says the Atlantean boy. But in panel #2, one of the soldiers comes in. He aims his gun at Spidey who looks back with some motion lines on the side of his head. Pharus is relegated to his face poking up from the bottom right of the panel. “Hands up, Spider-Man!” says the soldier.

December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas! No mention of Christmas in today’s episode though or else Stan might have to explain how Peter and MJ could have been on a summer cruise at the start of this adventure.

In panel #1, the soldier (only his head, his hands, and his big gun) aims at Spidey who stands in a Loony Tunes spotlight. “You gonna put your hands up, or…?” he says. “How far up, soldier,” asks Spidey. He then does his old hands-up-and-shoot-webbing routine in panel #2. From the lower left corner (just his face and hands) Spidey fires so much webbing that the soldier is thrown back against the wall. “Is this high enough?” says the witty webhead. “Hey!” says the recoiling soldier. In panel #3, Spidey picks Pharus up (what happened to his covers?) and says, “Want to go for a ride, kid?” (“Kid.” Much better.) “Anywhere away from here!” says Pharus.

December 26, 2015

Now, this is a weird panel. There are two windows but Spidey is apparently outside, web-swinging. He is holding Pharus who has his arms around Spidey’s neck. Pharus is half in and half out of the window on the left but he is coming out at such an odd angle that it doesn’t look like Spidey could be swinging and still be hanging onto Pharus, unless he’s going to webswing into the wall. It’s a bit like an Escher drawing. If you look at it too long, you’ll get dizzy. (Must be an old hospital, too. Windows that open and look like they were designed in 1950.) So, Pharus says, “Thank you for rescuing me from those soldiers!” Panel #2 dispenses with the wall and the windows and that pesky perspective problem and delivers a close-up of Pharus and Spidey. “But – Namor told me all surface-men were our enemies!” says Pharus. “Even the Prince of Atlantis isn’t right all the time,” replies Spidey.

December 27, 2015

“Spider-Man has removed a young lad of Atlantis from the hospital…” As if you didn’t know. In panel #1, he webswings along with Pharus hanging on for dear life. The angle of the panel is such that it looks like the hospital is tipping over and there is a big sign conveniently placed that reads, “Metro General” in case the opening narration wasn’t enough. There are also birds because, you know, it’s Alex Saviuk. “Where are you taking me?” asks Pharus. “Now that you mention it, Pharus – I’m not 100% certain,” says Spidey.

In panel #2, Spidey tells Pharus, “I can’t take you back to the Sub-Mariner – ‘cause his flagship’s long gone!” Nevertheless, it appears that Spidey has taken Pharus right back to the dock. This time there is a warehouse, a truck, and a big ship at dock. And some birds.

“Meanwhile…” in panel #3, the soldier who appeared to be webbed to the wall by Spidey on December 25th, comes out into the hallway to speak to his captain. The captain and the other soldier are in the foreground but in silhouette. JJJ is to the right in living color. The soldier’s arms and gun are covered in webbing. So, apparently, Spidey hit him so hard with the webbing that it knocked him backwards but his aim was really precise. “Captain!” yells the soldier, “Spider-Man took off with the kid!” It is JJJ who replies, perhaps because he’s the only other one not in silhouette. “The wall-crawler was here?” he asks.

The captain returns to full color in panel #4 but he still has nothing to say. He gets relegated to the background as JJJ, MJ, and Robbie fill up the foreground. Jonah points his finger at MJ and says, “And your useless layabout of a husband wasn’t around to snap a photo of him!” A furious MJ, in panel #5, slaps Jonah in the face so hard it gets an extra “P.” “Slapp,” says the sound effect. Jonah’s right eye bugs open and his left eye loses its pupil altogether. MJ stalks off in panel #6, with clenched fists. Jonah rubs his cheek (but not the one MJ slapped). “Why did she do that, Robbie?” he asks. “Would you like a list?” says Robbie.

The “Next” caption is “Down to the Sea…!” which raises interesting possibilities, but perhaps the caption should be “Yes, we’re heading into a whole new year with this storyline!” Last week’s was “Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man!” which, yes, actually happened.

December 28, 2015

We’re back at the docks. “Spidey has liberated the Atlantean lad…” says the caption. Spidey swings over the water (don’t ask to what his webbing is attached; just go with it) but Pharus struggles to pull free. “Despite what Namor said, Pharus,” says Spidey, “Surface-men are not your people’s enemies.” “Just the same,” says Pharus, “it’s time I returned to Atlantis!” Pharus breaks free in panel #2. Spidey swings down after him, calling, “Stop! You’re still not well enough to …” But it’s too late. Pharus is entering the water, not with a splash but with a “Splussh.”

Oh, and, hey! Stan's birthday! Ninety-three years old today! Happy Birthday, Stan!

December 29, 2015

Remember when Spidey went into the water in his fight with the Sub-Mariner? Not this time. He simply settles down onto the pier, making no effort to retrieve Pharus at all. As he swings down, in panel #1, he thinks, “No sign of that boy since he dived into the river! And now he’s headed back to Atlantis – thousands of miles away!” Since you made such a grand effort to stop him, Spidey. In panel #2, the web-slinger looks out over the water (his back to us) and thinks, “But can he possibly have the strength to reach it?” So, yeah, a big effort was made to cure Pharus and then Spidey lets him drop into the drink with no idea whether he has the strength to survive. And he just stands there and wonders instead of doing something about it. Just another day in the life of the Spidey newspaper strip.

December 30, 2015

And…suddenly, Spidey is leaping down into a trash-filled alley and MJ is waiting for him there. “I hoped you’d find me here,” she says. “You’re wearing your Spidey tracer, MJ, remember?” says Spidey. And, yeah, she probably remembers which is why she hoped he’d find her there. (But what did she tell JJJ, Robbie, Dr. Bellman, and the soldiers? “Excuse me but I have to meet Spider-Man in a trash-filled alley. Oh, and, by the way my useless layabout of a husband has left the hospital too.”) In panel #2, MJ gives him a hug. “Where’s the Atlantean boy?” she asks. “He wriggled out of my grasp – and swam off!” says Spidey. In panel #3, MJ goes from a hug to pushing Spidey away. “And you didn’t go after him?” she says. Just what I said, MJ! “In case you’ve forgotten, honey,” says Spidey, “I can’t breathe underwater.” Excuses, excuses.

December 31, 2015

We’re still in the alley with close-ups of MJ and Spidey. Both look straight ahead as if they are looking at us. “I pray that young Atlantean manages to reach safety,” says MJ. “Me, too,” says Spidey, “but save a little concern for humanity, too.” In panel #2, he wags his finger at MJ, which surprises her so much she gets four wiggle lines around her head. “Remember,” says Spidey, “Namor gave the surface world one day to stop polluting the seas – then his warships will attack!” One day? That was, like, over a month ago, wasn’t it? Let me check. Yes! He said that on November 26th!

January 1, 2016

New Year! Same old storyline. But at least we’re getting out of that alley. We’re not even on land as “Aboard the Sub-Mariner’s flagship…” Namor and one of his men see Pharus floating outside their porthole. (It looks like he’s in a washing machine’s rinse cycle.) “My Prince, look!” says the soldier, pointing at Pharus. “It’s Pharus!” says Namor. “Bring him aboard quickly!” And they do it so quickly that Pharus is inside with Namor and the soldier in panel #2. (I don’t get why it always looks like the inside of the flagship has an artificial atmosphere. Wouldn’t Atlanteans have a ship filled with water?) “Are you all right, lad?” asks Namor. Pharus holds his head and says, “So tired – swimming for hours.” And he caught the flagship. They must have cut the engines and decided to drift. Or Pharus was really swimming! “The air-breathers will pay for what they did to you!” says the soldier. Yeah! Those darn air-breathers cured Pharus! How dare they?

January 2, 2016

More hijinks inside the flagship. There is definitely no water inside the vessel but there is a fish outside the porthole. Namor leans over Pharus who starts to sit up. “Where did Mary Jane Parker take you after she abducted you?” asks Namor. “She handed me over to a doctor – who treated me at a hospital,” says Pharus, who smiles widely in panel #2, saying, “And now – I feel better than I have in weeks!” Namor, his profile filling the right side of the panel says, “!” which means, “But…but…I thought you were incurable, Pharus! What the heck’s the deal, huh?

January 3, 2016

“Near dawn…as mankind awaits the Sub-Mariner’s next move…” It’s back to the alley where Spidey holds MJ close, appearing to have a vise-grip on her left forearm. (Near dawn? They’ve been hanging out in that alley all night?) “Namor said he’d attack tomorrow,” says Spidey, “unless we stop polluting the oceans!” MJ says, “Ow! Let go of my forearm!” Not really. She says, “There’s not enough time for the world to comply with his demands!” Panel #2 moves to outside Metro General hospital where the Captain and six of his men arm up with jeeps and tanks and all sort of weaponry. The Captain is looking through his binoculars, though what he can be looking at outside the hospital is beyond me. “Move it, men!” he bellows, making it look good, “Make preparations to resist an Atlantean assault!” Panel #3 takes us to the Daily Bugle where JJJ and Robbie are hanging out “near dawn.” Jonah has a coffee mug that reads, “I luv JJJ” with a little smiling caricature of him. I love it. “Is the morning edition on the trucks, Robbie?” asks JJ. “Yes,” replies Robbie, his right hand on the back of his neck, “but who’ll dare venture outside to buy one?”

And on to the lower tier, to panel #4, and to a hallway in Metro General. A nurse pokes her head out of room #221 (apparently, Pharus’ room) and says, “Dr. Bellman, about this patient…” Dr. Bellman, who is standing out in the hallway for no particular reason, has her right hand in a very strange position. Her forefinger is up on her cheek and her middle finger is across her chin. “Sorry, nurse,” says Dr. Bellman, “but I’ve got – other things on my mind!”

We’re jumping around so much, that Stan gives us a second caption. Panel #5 begins with “While on Namor’s flagship…” (So, everybody is gearing up for Atlantis attacking but Namor hasn’t even gotten back to Atlantis to round up the troops.) Again, it looks like there is air inside the ship and water outside the porthole (with a fish out there). Pharus puts a hand to his head and tells Namor, “But that doctor saved me – by removing the toxins from my system…!” Does Namor say, “How did she do that? Our doctors said you were incurable!” No. He crosses his arms, takes it in stride and says, “She is only one surface-dweller, lad.” Panel #6 zooms in on Namor clenching his teeth and brandishing a disembodied fist. He says, “Atlantis is about to go to war with the entire surface world!” Uh, as soon as I get to Atlantis and get the troops.

Our “Next” caption is “The Battle Lines are Drawn!” As soon as Namor gets his troops. Last week was “Down to the Sea…!” which referred to, um, well, I’m not entirely sure to what it referred.

Best thing in today’s strip? The “I Luv JJJ” mug!

January 4, 2016

In case you forgot… “War with Atlantis May Come with the Dawn…” Spidey and MJ have been spending the entire night in a trash-filled alley. Spidey wraps his arms around MJ from behind. She turns back to look at him, her hand on his arm. “Can even you stop Namor’s whole army, Peter?” she asks. “Probably not,” says Spidey, “but I’ve got to try!” “While below the waves…” in panel #2, Pharus has gotten quite peppy. He converses with Namor. (Let’s not forget the fish outside the porthole since the flagship is filled with air.) “My Prince – you’d attack those who saved my life?” Pharus asks. Namor puts his hand to his chin and replies, “That was one doctor, Pharus. The surface-dwellers are our enemies!” Namor has a point! But, I bet Pharus convinces him. Pharus… world saver!

January 5, 2016

The interior of the flagship has gotten bigger, the porthole seems to have moved, but the ship is still filled with air instead of water. There is a submarine outside of the porthole, easily catching up to the flagship since it seems to be drifting. Pharus still lies on the gurney, looking small. Namor stands over him, his back to us. Namor’s man also has his back to us. Is this the same warrior we saw before? He looks like he’s wearing a different outfit. Namor tells Pharus, “We will attack just as the sun begins to light the city – so the air-breathers can see the might of Atlantis!” (He might want to tell this to somebody other than Pharus. Like maybe the soldiers of Atlantis.) The warrior says, “My Prince – an American submarine moves toward our flagship!” In panel #2, Pharus is pushed into the lower right corner as Namor snarls at him, “You see, Pharus? It is the surface-men who begin this war…But we will end it!”

January 6, 2016

The flagship interior gets bigger and bigger. Now we’re in some KIrbyesque control room with Namor and two of his men. One says, “Shall we fire upon the approaching submarine, O Prince?” “Why waste our weaponry on one vessel,” says Namor as we move to panel #2 showing the flagship taking flight right by Manhattan. “…When our flagship can simply take to the air,” continues Namor, “and carry the war directly to the surface world’s greatest city!” I suppose I should be concerned about how much thrust is needed to get an underwater ship airborne but I’m more concerned about the fact that the flagship is still right by Manhattan. Namor and his crew didn’t go anywhere (just like the story!) after leaving the dock. No wonder Pharus caught them! And now only one ship is going into action because, as far as I can tell, Namor never informed any of his people of his plans. Should be quite a war.

January 7, 2016

In the flagship, Namor has his hands on some switches on a wall, acting like he knows what he’s doing. One of his men approaches and asks, “Should we not wait for our Navy to arrive from Atlantis, Prince Namor?” “They will be here within the hour,” replies Namor, even though it sure seems like he never contacted them at all. Panel #2 shows us a shocked Pharus; eyes wide, mouth open, looking somewhat bloated like he is a Pharus balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. He is reacting to an off-panel Namor’s comment that, “Meanwhile, we will attack the pier where we docked earlier – as our declaration of war!” I’m not sure if Pharus is shocked by the impending war or if he’s shocked by Namor’s stupidity. Sure, let’s go back to the pier where almost no one showed up last time. If we attack the pier we’re sure to insult Spidey, MJ, Dr. Bellman, and two cops; the only people who seem to know where that pier is. And speaking of Spidey, he’s hip to Namor’s stupidity because, in panel #3, he shows up at the pier, just as the flagship flies in. “I kinda figured the criminal might return to the scene of the crime!” he says. Namor, inside the ship, bellows, “Spider-Man!?” as if surprised that someone could figure out his stupid plan. Or maybe it is the ship itself yelling “Spider-Man!?” That wouldn’t be any stupider than the rest of it.

January 8, 2016

Well, even though they see Spider-Man, they stupidly decide to land at the pier…I guess. We never get a clear view of where the ship is. Panel #1 is back inside the flagship with Namor and one of his men. That man says, “My Prince – Spider-Man has landed upon our prow!” The second word balloon is linked to the first balloon, which implies that the same person is speaking. That is clearly an error since it is certainly Namor saying, “Ignore him! Fire at the city!” Unless the man is so annoyed at Namor’s stupidity that he is answering himself and mocking Namor. Panel #2 shows the man and a viewscreen that shows nothing but webbing. “We would be firing blind!” he says, “Our viewports are blocked!” Because Namor’s stupid plan involved landing at the pier even after seeing Spider-Man there. Couldn’t they have flown over the city and fired at it from there? Ah, but then Spider-Man couldn’t web up all their viewports. In panel #3, he puts the finishing touches on one. “That took a lot of webbing – but it was worth it!” he says, “Now, gotta get inside – before they shoot using instrument sightings!” Something Namor’s stupid plan doesn’t take into account.

January 9, 2016

So, Spidey starts tearing chunks of metal off the flagship with a “SKRAK.” “I’m coming for you, Subby,” he says, “If I have to tear my way into your little toy boat!” In panel #2, inside the flagship, Namor’s man says, “I will lead some troops outside to…” but Subby puts his hand on the guy’s shoulder and stops him. “No!” he says, “I will deal with Spider-Man – alone!” Troops! There are troops on that flagship! Who knew? All we’ve seen are two guys, Pharus, and Subby. But Subby doesn’t use the troops. Oh no. He’s going to deal with Spidey himself because it’s his stupid plan and he’s going to do the stupid thing all by himself.

January 10, 2016

So, now it’s “Daybreak on Manhattan Island…” according to Stan’s caption and panel #1 returns us to the Captain and four of his men, highly weaponized with a tank backing them up. The Captain is still using his binoculars even though he’s probably not seeing more than the other side of the street. One of his men approaches and says, “Captain – Namor’s flagship just emerged from the East River!” (Where I suspect it was the entire time without going anywhere.) “Then why don’t I hear our guns firing at it?” asks the Captain. Now, the real answer to this, I suspect, is that no one seems to know where that pier is. Or maybe that all of the guns are behind the Captain. But, in a close-up of the two men in panel #2, the soldier holds up an iPad with a picture of Spidey ripping up the flagship and says, “This is why, sir!” “Huh?” replies the Captain, “After he sprung the Atlantean kid, I thought that wall-crawler had taken their side!” This Spidey picture seems to indicate that there is at least one person on the dock with a phone or camera but don’t be fooled! We had network coverage way back on October 11th when Namor tangled with the two cops who later disappeared and yet no one but MJ and Dr. Bellman ever showed up.

Panel #3 expands the iPad shot (sort of) and shows us Spidey ripping apart the flagship with a “THRAKK.” (Which rhymes with yesterday’s “SKRAK.”) He tosses aside what looks like an entire section. And because this is Sunday and Saviuk, there are birds behind him. “One more spider-strength tug, and…” says Spidey as he tosses. A voice from off-panel says, “There is no need, web-spinner…” bringing us to panel #4 as Spidey, in the foreground, looks over his shoulder to see a fist-clenched Namor, his head radiating 13 anger lines, approaching. (And birds.) “As of this moment,” says Namor, “This fight is between you and myself!” Panel #5 gives us a low-angle shot of Spidey and Namor, all clench fisted and ready to fight. (And birds.) “I thought a frontal assault might draw you outta your shell!” says Spidey. (By “shell,” I think Spidey is referring to the flagship rather than that Namor is shy and introverted.) Panel #6 takes the same moment (but from a different angle) and puts it on MJ’s TV screen. (Again, network coverage and nobody home. Maybe one of those birds is a drone.) As MJ watches, she thinks, “Oh, Peter – even you don’t stand a chance against Prince Namor!” Way to go, MJ! Stand by your man!

The “Next” caption reads, “Spidey vs. Sub-Mariner – the Rematch!” If it’s anywhere near as long as the “match” (October 29th to November 13th), we’ve still got a long way to go.

Last week’s caption, by the way, was “The Battle Lines are Drawn!” which is fine, except the battle lines were drawn a very long time ago.

January 11, 2016

For those who didn’t know, “Spider-Man has assaulted the Atlantean flagship…” He faces off against Namor, who cocks a thumb at himself and declares, “This fight is between the two of us!” Spidey is holding up a chunk of the ship that actually looks like a big piece of shale, and replies, “I wouldn’t have it any other way, fish-face!” In panel #2, we’re back to Mary Jane watching on TV, where Spidey has just thrown the big piece of shale aside after brandishing it like a weapon. Stan finally figures out that no one has been in the vicinity so he adds a helpful caption, reading, “…Which, as it happens, is being televised by zoom lens!” Zoom lens! That explains everything! Some guy in Connecticut is filming this! “Run, Peter!” says the supportive MJ, “Even your spider-strength’s no match for Namor!”

January 12, 2016

The battle begins again. In panel #1, Spidey shoots webbing with a “FWIPP.” (Both hands are in the web-shooting position but only one has actual webbing coming out.) “This time, Sub-Mariner, we’re not in your element – the Sea!” he says, adding that last part in case we forgot what Subby’s element is. “Have you forgotten I can also fly?” says Subby, in panel #2, as he flies. In this way he avoids Spidey’s webbing, which is looking like the spray from a hose after the water is turned off. “Some time you gotta fill me in on how those tiny wings on your ankles work!” says Spidey. (It’s because it’s comics, Spidey.) In panel #3, Subby has somehow managed to fly behind Spidey and grab him. (What, did Spidey not turn around when Subby got behind him?) “I shall explain it,” says Namor, “to your heirs!”

January 13, 2016

Between yesterday’s panel #3 and today’s panel #1, Subby picks Spidey up and flies him toward the water between the flagship and the dock. (Actually, it was pretty clear in yesterdays’ strip that Spidey was standing on the dock when before he was standing on the flagship. Now it looks like he was probably on the flagship when Namor grabbed him. I think Larry had a lapse.) “Once we submerge, you will be at my mercy,” says Subby, “But this time, I’ll show no mercy – for this is war!” Spidey thinks, “Once we’re underwater – I’ve had it!” So, in panel #2, he shoots his webbing, with another “FWIPP,” to the side of the dock. “Okay with you if we postpone our little swim-along?” says Spidey. I don’t see how the webbing on the side of the dock is going to keep Spidey out of the water but, hey, who am I to argue with Spider-Man?

January 14, 2016

Now, we have a side view of Spidey and Subby heading for the dock. Spidey’s webbing is attached to it but it sure looks like Namor is flying him right into it. “Managed – to keep Namor – from forcing me underwater,” Spidey thinks, “But – we’re gonna hit the dock – hard!” And they do, in panel #2, as we get a full head-on view of it. Spidey takes the brunt of it and the whole dock seems to collapse with a “SKRAASSH.”

January 15, 2016

So, we’re back to where we were on November 13th with Spidey unconscious on the dock and Subby hovering over him, only now the dock is a pile of rubble. “You are – far stronger – than I thought, Spider-Man,” says Subby, “but you took the full brunt of our fall…” Panel #2 shows Namor only, now standing up, and brandishing a fist. “And now you will feel my final fury!” he says. Except in panel #3, Pharus appears and places himself between Subby and Spidey, just as MJ did on November 14th. (And he must have really rushed in, too, because he has four motion lines next to his head.) “Stop!” says Pharus. A surprised Subby says, “?” which means, “Pharus, what in the world are you doing?!”

January 16, 2016

Here’s an interesting view. With some anonymous buildings behind, we look from low down. We look up at Pharus who looks up at Namor. Spidey is just barely in the panel. His masked face pokes up between Pharus and Namor. “Even in defeat, Spider-Man has his champions,” says Subby, “I was not so surprised when Mary Jane Parker pleaded for his life…” (See? Subby is having that déjà vu too.) Panel #2 moves in high as we look down on Namor’s profile as he looks down at Pharus. “But you, Pharus, are an Atlantean!” says Subby. “An Atlantean he rescued from his own people’s military!” Uh, what? I’ll give you a moment to deconstruct that awful sentence. You see, the “he” and the “his” in the sentence refer to Spidey. So Pharus is pointing out that Spidey rescued him from the US military. Where’s one of those word balloons with a “?” in it when you need it?

January 17, 2016

The dock looks like it has concrete under the boards, which are spread out all over the place. Pharus straddles Spidey like MJ did as Namor leans in. And there are birds behind. Stan’s caption says, “Young Pharus begs Namor to spare Spider-Man…” “Never have I faced so valiant a foe,” says Namor. Yeah! He’s unconscious again! Valiant!

Panel #2 moves in on a close-up of Subby but still has room for birds in the background. “But I cannot spare him,” says Namor, “Lest he fight us another day!” Which shouldn’t be a problem since Subby would probably just knock Spidey unconscious again. From off-panel, Pharus says, “Is this what our people have come to, my Prince?”

The camera swings around in panel #3 to show Pharus in close-up with Spidey’s head in the lower right corner. “We came to protest the accidental harm the surface-men have done to Atlantis,” says Pharus, “And now we deliberately slay one who opposes us?”

But that’s enough of that because, in panel #4, as we move our eyes back across and down, the scene shifts. Or, as Stan puts it, “While at the Daily Bugle…” (Note how the two rows of the strip essentially become two strips, one at the dock and the other at the Bugle, one on top of the other. Note, too, how the TV shot of the docks is the same scene as panel #1 from the same angle, even though it is not the exact moment. In this way, Alex seques to the “second strip” by putting the panel right above this one into the smaller box of the TV screen.) So, with Pharus protecting the unconscious Spidey with Namor standing over them showing on the TV, J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson discuss the situation. Robbie says, “Now will you admit you misjudged Spider-Man, Jonah?” (It’s quaint how Robbie keeps trying to get JJJ to admit such things.)

Just as panel #2 moves to a close-up of Namor, panel #5 moves to a close-up of Robbie and Jonah. “If he’s on the Sub-Mariner’s side – why does it look like Namor’s about to total him?” asks Robbie. Note that Robbie does not seem particularly concerned that Subby is about to kill Spidey, except in that it bolsters his argument.

Now the TV in panel #6 moves to a close-up of Namor, somewhat paralleling the shot from panel #2. (But no birds.) Jonah stares at the TV while Robbie looks at JJJ with stunned shock. Why does Robbie look stunned? Because JJJ’s response to Robbie’s question is “Didn’t you ever hear of thieves falling out, Robbie?” Wah wah. Robbie, will you never learn?

The “Next” caption is, “Moment of Truth!” Dare we hope this also means “Moment of the End of this Storyline?” Last week’s was “Spidey vs. Sub-Mariner – the Re-Match!” which happened but did not last very long.

January 18, 2016

The camera moves in on Namor and Pharus with an unconscious Spidey and a pile of lumber in the background. “You’d prevent my slaying Spider-Man?” Namor asks Pharus. “He saved my life,” says Pharus, “and this is how you repay him?” In panel #2, the camera swings around so the Manhattan skyline is in the background. No Spidey. Just Pharus and Namor who clenches his fists and says, “His people devastate the seas with their mindless pollution, boy!” Pharus replies, “Yes, ‘mindless’ – thoughtless – but not on purpose!” And panel #3 is all Pharus as he finishes with, “Give them a chance to alter their actions – and this brave man can be the one who leads the way!” Suddenly, it’s a William F. Buckley – Gore Vidal debate!

January 19, 2016

It’s Pharus, Namor, and an unconscious Spidey, part 5! Again, Pharus leans protectively over the still knocked-out Spidey. Namor looks down at them, saying, “As Warrior-Prince of Atlantis, Pharus – I cannot spare this fallen foe. No, not even for your sake!” “Well, then –“ says an off-panel voice. And in panel #2, MJ makes her way through the lumber and says, “How about for mine?” Namor, only his head and shoulder shown, looks over that shoulder and says, “Mary Jane Parker!?” in case you didn’t recognize her. And I didn’t know Namor was Warrior-Prince of Atlantis Pharus. (Sorry, couldn’t leave that one alone.)

January 20, 2016

Hey! Here’s something new! Spidey is unconscious on a pile of lumber. Pharus leans down to tend to him. Okay, that’s not new but at least it’s in the background as Namor and MJ face each other (left to right) in the foreground. “I spared Spider-Man once at your pleading, Mary Jane Parker,” says Namor, “Why should I stay my hand yet again?” “Because, Namor, if you do,” says MJ. And the clincher comes in panel #2 where MJ is now on the left and Namor on the right. “I’ll return to Atlantis with you,” says MJ, “Just as you asked me to do!” Whoa! Didn’t see that coming! Neither did Namor because he has motion lines in front of his face, meaning, “Wha???”

January 21, 2016

Oh yeah, Spidey’s still unconscious. He’s in the background with Pharus looking over him. Subby and MJ are in the foreground as Namor says, “Why would you agree to become my bride – to save the life of one who is not even your mate?” Well, I guess MJ can’t say, “He is my mate,” so instead, in a panel #2 close-up, she says, “Because he - he’s a brave man – a good man, who doesn’t deserve to die!” Panel #3 is a Loony Tunes spotlight with Namor and MJ facing each other in profile. “So choose, Namor!” says MJ, “The death of Spider-Man – or a princess beside you on the throne of Atlantis!”

January 22, 2016

Hey, guess what? It’s MJ and Namor in the foreground, Pharus and an unconscious Spidey in the background! “This is no trick,” MJ says to Namor, “Spare Spider-Man’s life, and I’ll become your princess forever.” Pharus sticks his two cents in with, “I know this is what you want most, my Prince!” (How does Pharus know? Did Namor confide in him?) “It is,” Namor confirms, then finishes (in a panel #2 close-up) with, “But – it is an offer I must refuse!” A word balloon with “?” and two stems pointing off-panel means that Pharus and MJ both think, “Huh?” We know it is Pharus and MJ thinking “?” because Spidey is still unconscious.

January 23, 2016

An intimate moment between MJ and Namor. They stare into each other’s eyes. Namor has his hands on MJ’s shoulders. In the background, Pharus looks back at them, ignoring Spidey’s unconscious head. “You’re spurning my offer to return to Atlantis with you?” a stunned MJ asks. “What kind of ruler would I be to put my own desires ahead of the good of the realm,” says Namor. In a Loony Tunes spotlight in panel #2, Namor goes from loving to warlike. He clenches his fists and declares, “Spider-Man – enemy of our people – must die by my hand!”

Yes, if you’re keeping score, Spidey was unconscious for the whole week. And, yes, this story has now gone on for five grueling months.

January 24, 2016

Oh, you’re all going to love this one. Six panels and nothing gets done. Our scene shifts to JJJ’s office where Jonah and Robbie are watching Subby standing over Pharus who is protecting an unconscious Spidey. (So, this scene apparently takes place a week ago when JJJ and Robbie were watching the exact same scene in panels #4-6 of the January 17th strip.) Jameson points at the TV and says, “I don’t get it, Robbie! Why isn’t the Army moving in on the Sub-Mariner?” Yeah, what about that, Army? How come the only person who can move in is MJ? Panel #2 closes in on Jonah as he grits his teeth and says, “Heaven knows I’m no fan of Spider-Man – but that doesn’t mean I want that water-logged warmonger to kill him!” Now the camera angle of the TV changes…because, you know, there are cameramen all over that dock. Oh no, wait, I forgot, they’re using telephoto lenses. Now the TV shows MJ approaching Namor, Pharus, and the unconscious Spidey. And now it is Robbie who points at the TV. “Don’t you see Mary Jane Parker there, Jonah – and that boy?” asks Robbie, “If the Army acts – they’ll be caught in the crossfire!” Panel #4 doesn’t bother with the TV. It moves in on Jonah and Robbie. Jonah asks, “Isn’t there anybody who can intervene?” “The President reached out to some folks who’re on a mission out of the country…” says Robbie. Panel #5 sticks Robbie’s face in the upper left corner and puts the rest of his statement in a yellow caption box so that we know the panel’s full picture is representing his words. So, Robbie says, “But it doesn’t look like the Avengers will arrive in time to save their fellow masked man!” And the panel shows Hawkeye, the Black Widow, and Captain America flying in a quinjet in the foreground while Thor and Iron Man fly and the Hulk jumps behind… along with some clouds and, because it is Alex Saviuk, birds. Back to a close-up of JJJ for panel #6 as he says, “Then, whether I like it or not –and I don’t – the wall-crawler is history!”

The wall-crawler may be history but this story goes on and on. The “Next” caption box asks, “The Fatal Factor?” whatever that may mean. Last week’s said, “Moment of Truth!” which still hasn’t happened. What it should have said was, “Spider-Man: Unconscious.”

January 25, 2016

Okay, we all made it through yesterday’s six panel time-waster. Is anything going to happen today? Well, MJ now has a jacket on over her turtleneck. Don’t ask me where that came from. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same. Spidey is still unconscious, Pharus still kneels beside him, and Subby and MJ take the foreground (although this panel is constructed so it’s left to right in the above order). Stan begins today’s strip with a caption, reading, “The Sub-Mariner has spurned Mary Jane’s offer…” Then Subby says, “I cannot spare Spider-Man’s life – not even to gain a princess!” confirming Stan’s now-unnecessary caption. MJ, looking up at Suby, says, “Isn’t there anyone who could change your mind?” MJ is looking for a loophole, since Spidey still hasn’t come to, even though Subby has given him about 10 days to do so. Fortunately for MJ she asks if there isn’t “anyone” as opposed to “anything” that could change Namor’s mind and she finds her loophole…it seems. For, in panel #2, we move in to a close-up of Subby’s head as he says, “There was such a one…long ago. But she is no more.” (A “?” word balloon points off-panel…presumably MJ’s surprised reaction.) Tell me more, Subby! But, please, don’t take two weeks to do it!

January 26, 2016

Namor leans down, putting his left hand around Spider-Man’s throat and using his right hand to push Pharus away. His right leg straddles Spidey strangely; making it look like the lower half of Spidey’s body is missing. (Unless that’s Spidey’s leg, in which case he has a serious fracture.) “The only person who might have stayed my hand…is dead,” says Namor, “And now Spider-Man must join her…!” In panel #2, Spidey finally comes to (he has been out since January 15th). “Not…so fast…fish-man,” he says, feebly trying to fight back. “You’re awake but still too weak to save yourself,” says Namor, stating the obvious. But an off-panel voice says, “Then spare him Namor – for my sake!” Panel #3 shows us the off-panel speaker. It is Dr. Bellman (the only other air-breather besides MJ who is capable of walking on this pier, it seems) and Namor, looking at her, seems to know her. “You!?” he cries.

January 27, 2016

Forget about who was standing where. At this point, with the Manhattan skyline behind, it looks like MJ was even farther up the dock than Dr. Bellman as she runs up behind the doctor and says, “Dr. Bellman – What are you doing here?” The doctor, who is face-to-face with Namor, turns back to look at MJ and replies, “I came to see if I can talk some sense into Prince Namor.” In panel #2, Spidey, finally conscious but still lying on the dock, looks up at Dr. Bellman and says, “Are you saying…you know the Sub-Mariner?” Dr. Bellman looks down at him (he seems to be to her right while MJ was behind and…oh, never mind, I give up) and says, “No, I’ve never met him before…” Panel #3 shows us Namor looking grim and MJ looking at him as Dr. Bellman finishes her sentence off-panel. “But my grandmother knew him well!” she says. Grandmother! Aha! Are we really going back to something set up on September 2nd? Stan, you sly dog, you!

January 28, 2016

MJ, Dr. Bellman, and Namor are featured in a Loony Tunes spotlight. MJ and Dr. Bellman look at each other, eye-to-eye. Namor stands behind Dr. Bellman, looking stern. “Did you say…your Grandmother knew Namor?” asks MJ. “They were very close, Mrs. Parker,” says Dr. Bellman, “When they both were young.” For panel #2, the camera swings around to…well, I’m not sure what angle this is, assuming our three players haven’t moved. Now Dr. Bellman is on the left, MJ is in the middle, and Namor’s head is on the right. (He looks like the Face of Boe, for all you Whovians.) MJ can’t believe what Dr. Bellman is saying. She leans in with her hands out in supplication. “But – Namor’s not old enough to…” she says. “I am half-Atlantean,” says Namor, “and Atlanteans age very slowly.” Take that, MJ! Still willing to elope with him?

January 29, 2016

Now comes the tie-in to September 2nd. As Spidey tries to rise behind her, Dr. Bellman explains to MJ, “My Grandmother was Betty Dean – a policewoman. The first time Namor attacked New York – many years ago – she tried to stop him.” In panel #2, Namor sneaks up behind Dr. Bellman and says, “Yes, she convinced me surface-men were not my people’s enemies.” Dr. Bellman turns back to look at him and says, “And that’s still true even today!” In panel #3, Dr. Bellman and Namor talk in the background while a recovering Spidey is finally in the foreground again in his own strip. “You look – just like her,” says Namor to Dr. Bellman. (I hate to tell you, Namor, but Dr. Bellman looks like just about every woman in this strip. She looks like MJ!) Recovering wiggle lines around his head, Spidey thinks, “That’s it – keep him talking – till my strength returns.”

January 30, 2016

The foreground has Spidey stretched out on the ground like a bearskin rug. In the background, MJ, Dr. Bellman, and Subby chat. “Every fiber of my being tells me to get up – attack Namor!” thinks Spidey, “But if I do it before I’m fully recovered – he’ll just crush me again…” Panel #2 shows Subby and Bellman in a Loony Tunes spotlight gazing at each other like Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara. Spidey finishes his thought. “Then he’ll total the whole surface world!” he thinks, off-panel, as Namor tells Bellman, “In my youth, the air-breathers nearly destroyed Atlantis!”

January 31, 2016

Now we really get down to it! Just kidding. It’s the same stuff we’ve been dealing with for days. First, MJ, who seems to have had more than Spidey’s welfare at stake when she offered to marry Namor, still can’t get over how old he is. Panel #1 shows a long shot of the dock. Spidey is still lying there amidst the timber and nobody seems to care anymore. To the right, MJ, Dr. Bellman, and Namor stand around. Stan begins with a caption, reading, “Dr. Liz Bellman’s arrival has stunned both Namor – and Mary Jane…” (Liz! That’s Bellman’s first name. I’d forgotten.) “I’m sorry,” says MJ, “I can’t get my head around this. Namor is nearly a century old?” Panel #2 shows us MJ and Namor (and, because it is Alex Saviuk again, birds). “As I said,” says Namor, “I age very slowly because of Atlantean heritage!” (In other words, “we’ve already been over this! Get over it, MJ!”) MJ says, “And you were in love with Dr. Bellman’s – Grandmother?” Panel #3 is MJ, Liz, Namor, and birds. (And because it is Alex Saviuk, Liz now looks nothing at all like MJ.) “We were never lovers, Mary Jane Parker,” says Namor (so you can get that image out of your mind of Namor going at it with a ninety year old woman, MJ!), “Yet we were far more than mere friends.” Panel #4 is a close-up of Namor alone (and birds). “From that day we met, decades ago, there was a bond between us,” says Subby, “a bond nothing but death could sever.” Panel #5 is back to a three-shot of MJ, Liz and Namor as the Face of Boe (and birds!). “And that bond was finally severed – just a few years ago,” says Liz. And panel #6 brings us back to a recovering Spidey in the foreground, while MJ, Liz, Namor, and birds loiter behind. “Just another couple of minutes – and I’ll be ready to take Namor,” thinks Spidey, “I hope!”

The “Next” caption is, “The Moment of Truth!” which I don’t believe for a second. Last week’s was “The Fatal Factor?” which I don’t believe either.

February 1, 2016

We are into our 7th different month with this furshlugginer story. We plunge into February with a two-shot of Namor and Liz. Namor, his mouth hidden by his finger (did Larry not feel like drawing a mouth today?) says, “Yes, Liz Bellman…I recently learned of your Grandmother’s death. No day passes that I do not think of Betty Dean.” Liz, gazing at him, replies, “And she often thought of you, Namor.” Panel #2 takes us back to Spidey, still sprawled on those wooden planks. From off-panel, Liz says, “In fact – her last words to me were about you!” (Which I find a little hard to believe but…okay.) Spidey clenches his fists and thinks, “Almost strong enough…to make my move…!”

February 2, 2016

Groundhog Day! Do you get the feeling that you’re reading the same Spidey strip over and over and over again? We again have a two-shot of Namor and Liz but now the camera has moved back a bit and swung around so we can see the Manhattan skyline. Namor, hands on hips, responds to Liz’ last comment from yesterday. “Betty Dean spoke of me…before she died?” Liz, facing Namor, her back to us, says, “She said your father was a surface-dweller – a sea captain who fell in love with an Atlantean Princess.” (You get the feeling Stan suddenly thought, “Oop, I forgot to include Namor’s origin! I’d better wedge it in here where I can!”) In panel #2, a profile shot of her, Liz continues, “She said you were a good man – not just a good Atlantean.” That oughtta hit Namor where he lives!

February 3, 2016

Another two-shot of Namor and Liz, this one back to the close-up but with Liz on the left this time. She says, “Grandmother said you’d do the right thing, Namor – if only you could be made to see it.” In panel #2, she gazes into Namor’s eyes and puts her hand on his shoulder. “With her last breath, she begged me to remind you – that surface-dwellers and Atlanteans can learn to share the seas in peace!” With her last breath, Betty assumed Liz would meet Namor and wanted her to remind him? Is Liz just making this up? Panel #3 shows Liz with our useless hero, Spidey, behind her, still sprawled on the lumber. “Please don’t start a struggle that may doom both sides!” says Liz to an off-panel Namor. Behind her, Spidey, just chilling, listening in, thinks, “If he doesn’t see sense – I’ll have to try to take him!” Because those are really our only two options. “See sense” or “take him!”

February 4, 2016

More talking. This time in a Loony Tunes spotlight. I’m not sure if Namor has been this much taller than Liz before but now her head only comes up to his shoulders. She puts her hands on those shoulders and looks up at him. “Well, Namor?” she asks, “Which will you be? The agent for peace that my Grandmother hoped you’d be – ,” then on to panel #2 with a close-up of Namor’s “Face of Boe” head and Spidey, finally sitting up, in the background. Liz, off-panel, finishes with “-or an agent of destruction who will bring ruin to both sides?” Spidey listens in and thinks, “I want to hear the answer – before I risk everything in one last lunge!”

And for all of you wondering why Liz didn’t tell Subby all this back when she first grabbed Pharus and took him to the hospital, it’s because Namor and Spidey were fighting underwater at the time. Check November 9th to 11th if you don’t believe me. See? Sometimes Stan knows what he’s doing.

February 5, 2016

Now it gets wordy. Subby, who knows he’s about to give a big speech (in daily comic strip terms) settles in by putting his foot up on…something (it’s off-panel)…and resting his left arm on his knee. His right hand is on his hip. Liz looks on, a couple of anonymous buildings behind her. “I wanted only peace, Liz Bellman,” says Subby, “for both our peoples. But you’ve made me see that my way leads only to war.” Panel #2 is a closer shot as Subby looks back at Liz, more anonymous buildings behind him. “I will give humanity another chance to help Atlantis save our seas,” Subby continues, “and I pray they make more of this one than they have in the past!” In panel #3, Spidey finally stands up! (He hasn’t been on his feet since January 12th.) “Thank heavens!” he thinks from a Loony Tunes spotlight, “I was about to take my best shot – and I’m not sure it would’ve been good enough!”

February 6, 2016

So, Spidey walks up to Namor from behind. (I’ve given up trying to figure out where everybody is standing. I suspect Larry has, too.) “I’m glad you’ve seen sense, Namor,” Spidey says. Namor looks back at him and says, “Well, except I’m still going to kill you, Spider-Man.” No, no, just kidding! Namor says, “Only time will tell if I have made the right decision.” (Let me hazard a guess…um, no, Namor, you didn’t. Not if you expect us to help you keep the oceans clean.) In panel #2, Spidey and Namor face each other in a Loony Tunes spotlight. Namor is much taller than Spidey. Just like Liz did two days ago, Spidey reaches up to put his hand on Subby’s shoulder.” (It appears as if Spidey and Liz may be the same height.) Namor says, “Atlantis will help, in any way we can, to save the oceans that are vital to us all…” Spidey replies, “I’m not much on speeches…but that was a pretty fair one.”

February 7, 2016

It’s Sunday, which mean Alex Saviuk, which means birds, which means more than one or two characters show up at a time. (But no soldiers and no reporters and no police. Instead everybody stands around like they’re enjoying the beautiful day. The pier even looks like it’s in one piece.) Panel #1 gives us a tableau with Pharus talking to Namor (the Atlantean flagship behind them), Spidey hanging back with MJ, and Liz looking at the birds. “May I…thank Spider-Man before we leave, my Prince?” asks Pharus. Subby puts his hand on Pharus’ shoulder and tells him, “Yes…but be quick.” In panel #2, Pharus thanks Spidey in the background (with birds behind them). In the foreground, Subby talks to MJ. “I apologize, Mary Jane Parker, for trying to make you Princess of Atlantis against your will,” he says. (You don’t see that sentence very often!) “I’ve got to admit – I was a bit flattered,” says MJ. (Flattered! She was ready to ditch Peter in a New York minute!) Panel #3 has no birds (slacking off, Alex?) but does have some buildings behind a full head close-up of MJ. (Namor’s nose and chin are also there.) “But I already have a husband whom I love very much,” MJ says, “I hope one day, you find someone you love …who loves you just as much!” In panel #4, the camera swings around to show Namor’s head (with birds behind) and MJ in profile. “I hope the same,” says Namor, “Although such a love comes, perhaps, only once even in a long life. But then again…as we say in my realm, as in yours…” On to panel #5 as Namor looks at Liz and tells MJ, “You never know!” MJ smiles at this (with birds behind) but what is Namor reacting to? That Liz had the gumption to stand up to him and plead for peace? Or that she looks like her Grandmother Betty Dean? Remember Namor proposed to MJ because she looked like Betty Dean. So, is his attraction that shallow? He’ll fall for anyone who looks like Betty Dean? That would be just about every woman in the world when Larry is illustrating. What’s interesting is that Alex makes Liz look very different from MJ, as we can see in this panel. If this is so, does Namor see every human woman as Betty Dean even if they don’t even look like her? Have I taken this much farther than it has a right to go? Yeah, I think so. Let’s wrap it all up with panel #6, a silent panel. The flagship flies off (the birds scattering) with Namor and Pharus inside. Spidey, MJ, and Liz watch it go.

So…that’s it, right? It’s finally over? Maybe not, because the “Next” caption reads, “Aftermath…and Prologue!” We’ll stick around for the “Aftermath” part, anyway. Then, it’s on to the next review of the next storyline. I think. If I can hack it. (By the way, last weeks’s caption was “The Moment of Truth!” which I guess we got. Sort of.)

February 8, 2016

We begin with an odd panel. Up in the left corner is a caption that reads, “Namor and young Pharus have departed for Atlantis…” and Spidey has a big word balloon next to it that squeezes all of the characters to the right. But still, there is an awful lot of space showing clouds and sky or something. The upper right of the panel shows the Atlantean flagship flying away, with a big trail of exhaust… or something. Spidey, MJ, and Liz are shoved down in the lower right corner. They are all turned away from us, looking at the departing ship. All we see of MJ is the back of her head, looking like a miniature Cousin Itt. Spidey is not much better. We see him from the shoulders up, facing away from us, only a sliver of eye lens visible. Liz is, at least, in a bit of a profile, showing her ear, glasses, nose, mouth, and eyebrow. As they watch, Spidey says, “Subby gave us surface-dwellers another chance to stop polluting the oceans. If we don’t…he’ll be back.” Panel #2 swings the camera around. We still see the flagship but now Liz’ profile takes the left foreground. Spidey and MJ turn back to look at her so we see them in profile as well. And Liz says, “I hope he does return – not as a foe but as – a friend.”

Is that it? Is that the Aftermath part? Are we finally going to start a new storyline? Tune in tomorrow!

February 9, 2016

Not quite the end of the Aftermath part, after all. First we have to watch Liz walk away, a wistful smile on her face. Spidey starts to stop her by raising his hand and calling out, “Dr. Bellman – wait!” but MJ puts her hand on his shoulder and whispers, “Let her go, Peter.” Panel #2 is a close-up of MJ (doing her impersonation of the Face of Boe) as she whispers, “It’s gotta be weird, being attracted to a man who was once an item with your grandmother.” Panel #3 features head shots of Spidey and MJ as they whisper to each other. “Are you saying she and Namor -?” whispers Spidey. “Sometimes, Tiger, your webbing isn’t the only thing about you that’s dense!” MJ whispers back. And that, my friends, is the last we’re ever going to see of Liz Bellman, I suspect.

February 10, 2016

Now, all of a sudden, there are about 8 news photographers emerging from behind the boxes on the pier. (Not sure of the number because, with some, we can only see the flash attachment of their camera.) MJ turns to Spidey and says, “Where have these guys been all this time?” No, actually she says, “Uh-oh! Here comes a thundering herd of reporters!” The guy in the front of the herd says, “Spider-Man – What’s the story with the Sub-Mariner?” The guy behind him says, “I heard he planned to total this city!” Panel #2 shows Spidey surrounded by hands holding cameras and a microphone (with the CBS logo on it). The only guy who gets more than his hands shown has a “7” on the top of his camera, apparently catching video for a local station on his Canon L7 or something similar. Spidey answers the second guy from panel #1, saying, “Don’t you know? Weren’t you guys hiding behind the boxes filming everything all this time? Don’t tell me you just now showed up?!” No, unfortunately, he actually says, “He may yet – if we air-breathers don’t get our act together!”

February 11, 2016

Now the reporters disperse enough to allow Spidey to put up his arms and shoot his webbing with a FWIPP. There are four of them in the panel. The guy with the microphone and three guys with cameras. The mic guy says, “If Namor’s still a threat, shouldn’t you have nabbed him?” Spidey says, “Listen, Thor or the Hulk would’ve had a hard time stopping him.” And in panel #2, with five guys below taking his picture, Spidey web-swings away, saying, “What’s a poor guy to do who’s blessed with only the proportionate strength of a spider?”

Which brings up a few questions. Did Spidey just ditch MJ? She seems to have disappeared since panel #1 of February 10th. Or did MJ sneak away while the reporters surrounded Spidey? Also, what did Spidey’s webbing stick to so he can swing away? He’s on a freaking pier! And lastly, is this the end of the Aftermath? Probably not. With only two days left, I suspect Stan will milk it to the end of the week.

February 12, 2016

Spidey’s departure serves as a seque to JJJ and Robbie. (When you need to fill up a strip or two, just seque to JJJ and Robbie talking about Spider-Man.) In Jonah’s office, the TV is on and it shows Spidey now apparently sticking to the side of a building that is right next to the pier. There are six photographers far below still on the pier. The video is being taken from above Spidey. Who knows where that cameraman is? A TV announcer says, “Spider-Man has left the pier…” (After being there for weeks.) Robbie has been watching the TV but he turns back with a jerk (as seen by the wiggle lines next to his face) to look at JJJ in surprise after Jonah comes out with, “That wall-crawler sold out the human race to the Sub-Mariner!” (The sly look on Jonah’s face and the way he puffs his cigar gives the sense that he says stuff like this just to get a rise out of Robbie.) “What?” Robbie says, “He nearly got himself drowned fighting the Atlantean!” (Implying that the entire event was televised, possibly by the cameraman up in the clouds.) In panel #2, following the usual routine, Jonah gets angry at Robbie for defending Spidey. He really puffs on his cigar and barks, “They were conspiring, I tell you – and that’s our headline!” Robbie, according to form, gestures helplessly and says nothing.

February 13, 2016

Back to Spidey, swinging away. “I hate having to leave MJ alone on the pier,” he says, “surrounded by all those reporters.” (Aha! So, MJ is still on the pier. But where was she in panel #1 of yesterday’s strip?) Panel #2 plants MJ’s head right in the center with four photographers surrounding her. She smiles broadly. Spidey, swinging in the background (his webbing stuck to…what?) says, “Did I really say what I just said? My showbiz wife lives for that kind of close encounter!”

So, now is it over?

February 14, 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen, our narrator: “First Namor split…then Spider-Man…leaving headline hungry reporters with – “ “Mary Jane Parker!” yells one reporter running over to MJ. “Look over this way!” says another (or maybe it’s the same one). “No – over here!” says another. MJ looks as nine reporters/cameramen run over to her. In panel #2, they surround MJ. We see the hand of the guy holding the channel 7 microphone and the hand of a guy holding a camera, as well as the profile of the guy who first yelled at her (his mic is from channel 2) and the profile of a woman with glasses (her mic is from channel 3). “Can you tell us what Spider-Man and the Sub-Mariner were talking about?” says the guy who first called to her. “Does the Atlantean still plan to declare war on the human race?” asks the woman. Panel #3 is a close-up of MJ as she replies with, “I’m just a Broadway actor, guys – Still, as far as I could tell, Namor offered us one last chance –“ Panel #4 is a longshot of the pier with buildings and boxes and, because it is Alex, birds in the sky. All of the human figures are tiny but MJ looks like she has about 15 reporters around her. She finishes the thought about Namor offering one last chance with, “-To stop using the oceans as if they’re our own private garbage dump!” Panel #5 shifts scenes with a “While, not so far away…” caption. Spidey is still webslinging over the docks and says, “MJ was born to handle reporters. She’ll have them eating out of her hand.” Panel #6 shows Spidey retrieving his camera from so high up that I’m sure it didn’t do him much good. “And Peter Parker was born – to snap pix for the Daily Bugle,” he says.

So, now is it over?

With the “Next” caption saying, “Peter Parker learns all about Supply and Demand!” combined with last week’s (deceptive) caption of “Aftermath…and Prologue!” I’m going to assume it’s over. But, if it’s not, I’ll be back to add to this review.

In General...

So it’s finally over. (I think.) Not with a bang but a whimper. I rather liked that Spidey really didn’t solve anything. We can give him credit for getting Pharus away from the army (who disappeared and were completely forgotten) but otherwise he blustered as Peter on the cruise ship and was unconscious for the resolution. I also liked that Stan tied Liz Bellman in with Betty Dean, months after giving us that Subby/Betty flashback that was probably mostly forgotten. But really…almost six months of this? 175 days? I know that the newspaper strip is glacial but…you’ve got to be kidding me. My review took up almost 75 pages of a Word document. Stan, please, I can handle three or four months but taking six months to have Subby attack a cruise ship, bring Pharus to New York, have Liz kidnap Pharus and cure him (and how did she do that when he was supposed to be incurable?) have Subby and Spidey fight, then have Liz get Subby to leave, is just too much. Have mercy!

Oh, and what was the bit with Subby wanting MJ to be his Princess? Dr. Doom tried to make her a princess back in the 1991-1992 strip and there’s probably some other examples I’ve forgotten. Is this something you talk over with your analyst, Stan?

And what was with that pier that only a few people could walk on? Where were those reporters through all of this? Where was the army? And what happened to those two poor cops? We’ll never know.

Overall Rating...

If you read this entire review, please write me and let me know. Seriously! I will put your name here in the ratings section. But be honest about it!

(Mr. Knees reports that he read the whole review, even though he had some strange syncing problems. You get your "name" in the ratings section as promised, Mr. Knees! Thanks for reading!)

So, am I going to continue on with the next storyline? Maybe. I’m just crazy enough to do it. First, I want to make sure that this one is really over.

Footnote...

All right. It looks like I was wrong. The week of February 14th may be a bridge to the next story but it is clearly still referring to the last story, so I’m going to detail those strips here. It won’t change my rating but it may test my patience.

February 15, 2016

A smiling Peter Parker walks through the Daily Bugle offices. (It’s a pretty sparse office. There are two guys talking behind him. And one guy at a computer. And a clock on the wall.) He carries a folder of photos. “I’ll turn these photos into Jameson,” he says, “collect my check…and get home to MJ faster than you can say…” “Parker!” A verbal seque to panel #2 as Peter knocks at Jonah’s office door (“Nok Nok Nok”) and Jameson yells from inside. Peter recoils (with wiggle lines) at the sound of his name and says, “?” meaning “Now what?” I presume. In panel #3, Peter enters to find Jonah pointing at him and yelling at him. (There are lines coming out of Jonah’s mouth so he must really be bellowing.) Peter’s wiggle lines are above his head which must mean he’s really recoiling. “You’d better not try to palm off any more Spider-Man vs. Namor shots on me!” Jonah says. “Ulp!” Peter says. And look! A Spider-Man appearance. He is pictured on a Daily Bugle edition that is up on JJJ’s wall. The headline is “Spider-Man Menace!” and Spidey’s picture is a posed head shot like he is getting his driver’s license photo.

February 16, 2016

Peter holds a sheaf of photos with Namor pictured on the top one. He leans in toward Jonah who leans back in his chair. The smoke from JJ’s cigar rises between them, creating a barrier. “But you begged me for pics of Spider-Man fighting the Sub-Mariner, Mr. J,” says Pete. “There were photographers all over those docks!” says Jonah. (No, there weren’t. Not until after it all ended. There were no police or soldiers either.) “Now I’ve got enough pics of those two to fill a Sunday supplement!” In panel #2, all we need of JJJ is his fist with wiggle lines around it. He is so easily reduced to that. “Try to sell me another one, and you’ll regret the day you met me!” he says from off-panel. Peter smirks and rolls his eyes and thinks, “So what else is new?”

February 17, 2016

Now, the mentally-disturbed Jameson’s mood swings. He pouts, his cigar in his mouth, and puts his head in his hand. Peter is shown in profile. There are random Manhattan buildings seen through JJJ’s office window. “I’m up to my cigar in photos of the wall-crawler and the Sub-Mariner,” Jonah says. “You got any shots I might want to actually buy?” In panel #2, Peter looks at a photo of Liz Bellman. It looks like a posed portrait he took rather than something his automatic camera would snap from the top of a building. Pete thinks, “I’ll bet nobody snapped a pic of Dr. Liz Bellman.” (But why wouldn’t they if they were there all along? Liz certainly hung around long enough.) “But,” Pete continues thinking, “to sell it to Jameson, I’d have to explain her connection to Namor…” (No, he wouldn’t really have to explain her connection, since Liz is the doctor who came and got Pharus. Though I suppose any good reporter would find out she is Betty Dean’s grand-daughter. Not that there were any good reporters at the docks.) So, deciding not to “explain her connection,” Peter faces JJ in panel #3. (Of Jonah, only his head is shown…that and his hand holding his cigar…and he is tilted at a 45-degree angle so he looks like an Easter Island statue that was pushed over.) “Sorry, Mr. J,” says Pete, “I guess I came up empty this time.”

February 18, 2016

Peter walks the Manhattan streets, hands in pockets, talking to himself. There are seven other people visible in the panel including a very short man (or else a man far enough ahead of Peter to appear short) with a mustache and beard, carrying a grocery bag with “A” printed on it from which a big baguette sticks out. I think I’d rather see where he goes than where Peter goes. Peter says, “Struck out trying to sell Jameson my photos of Spidey and Namor. So did I get anything done today?” In panel #2, Peter walks past a storefront with a TV in the window. There is a reporter on the TV saying, “…U.N. in special session to discuss new sea pollution controls…” Peter looks at the TV and says, “Oh, yeah…I almost forgot…I watched Liz Bellman talk Namor out of attacking New York!” That you did, Pete! But, hey, it’s not about credit, it’s about results! Unless, you’re the star of the strip, I guess.

February 19, 2016

Peter enters his apartment, holding his camera out like he is offering it to MJ who is on the right side of the panel in close-up. “Hi, MJ. Finally escaped all those reporters?” he asks. “Oh, they weren’t interested in anything I had to say,” she replies. Panel #2 is an odd little number with everything smooshed into the lower third to accommodate a bunch of verbiage. It also mirrors MJ since she is on the left looking at herself on the TV on the right. Peter, a lampshade, and a rather vague picture on the wall are between the two MJs. The live MJ says, “They just asked about Spider-Man and…” and the TV MJ says, “…Namor offered us one last chance to stop using the oceans as our own private garbage dump!” (And we saw this occur live back on February 14th only, to be picky, MJ actually said “to stop using the oceans as if they’re our own private garbage dump” in that interview. Did the network edit her for time?) Panel #3 shows only Peter’s left profile (so he is looking back at panel #2, sort of doing his own mirroring). He says, “You’re a celebrity, honey. When you talk…people listen.”

If it wasn’t already apparent, the re-use of the quote from February 14th makes it clear that Stan is frittering the week away. Now that it’s Friday, I have come to peace with this…but we’d better get a new story starting Sunday or Monday!

February 20, 2016

So, in a Loony Tunes spotlight, Peter hugs MJ from behind and says, “Dr. Bellman talked the Sub-Mariner our of declaring war…and you wrapped it all up in a sound bite for the media!” Then, the thought of his uselessness becomes too much for Peter and panel #2 finds him collapsed on the couch with MJ looking on. “All I did today was lie around spitting out water through my Spidey-mask.” Yep. That’s about right, Peter. But MJ tries cheering him up, saying, “After you stopped Namor from attacking the city before Liz Bellman got there.”

February 21, 2016

This is finally, really, truly, the last strip in this storyline. Let’s revise our numbers. The story came up three days shy of six months with a total of 182 days. And 77+ pages of my Word document. Let’s wrap it up!

Peter and MJ are walking through Washington Square Park. There are five or six people in the background looking up at the arch, which fills most of the panel. “How’s it feel, honey, to have been proposed to by a Prince of Atlantis?” Peter asks. “You mean not counting the minor detail that I’m already married?” MJ replies. (Don’t you love that Pete and MJ are still married in the newspaper strip and that Pete still works at the Daily Bugle for Jonah and Robbie? But I digress.) Panel #2 is a close-up with Peter looking lovingly at MJ and MJ looking off into space. “Well, if truth be told,” says MJ, “I guess it was kind of flattering…for a moment.” MJ’s head fills up the left side of panel #3 with her thought-image of Namor and Liz Bellman in the lower right. Her word balloon fills up the upper right as she says, “But if he ever comes back to New York – I suspect it’ll be to take Dr. Liz Bellman out to dinner!” Peter and MJ are in the “center stage” area of panel #4. Two autograph hunters take up the foreground. A couple in the background looks back at the autograph encounter and smile. And way in the background is two more people, too sketchy to be much of anything. One autograph hound calls out, “Mary Jane Parker! Can we have your autograph?” Peter says to MJ, “Guess you’ll have to be content with just being a Broadway star.” “I’ll admit, I do like some of the perks…” says MJ, segueing into panel #5 where she says, “…even though the perks and pitfalls can get a bit intermingled at times!” (Which is, I think, a dig at people who ask for her autograph.) There are now three autograph hounds and they hand MJ notepads and pens that they just happened to have on them. Peter, just his head showing, watches from behind, smiling. And behind him is a shadowy figure in a hat. Panel #6 swings the camera around so that the figure in the hat is in the foreground. It is the same scene as panel #5 only there now appear to be four autograph hunters. The figure in the hat has grey hair and a mustache, what looks to be a monocle, and is clearly (for those of you familiar with Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, 1965, Marvel Team-Up #21, May 1974 and other stories) Xandu. “So that is MJ Parker – the actress,” he says, “She is precisely the person I need to get me – the Wand of Watoomb!” So, if you weren’t sure it was Xandu, the mention of the Wand of Watoomb clinches it. And that means we have definitely arrived at a new story. But…it was a Sunday strip drawn by Alex Saviuk, taking place outside, and there were no birds! What’s up with that, Alex?

The “Next” caption, which will serve as the title of the next story, reads, “A Strange Interlude Begins – As In Dr. Strange!” With a Dr. Strange film coming out in the Fall, I’m not surprised that Stan is using the character. But does that mean this storyline will go until the Fall? Yikes! (Oh, and last week’s “Next” was “Peter Parker Learns all About Supply and Demand!” which turned out to be a week of Peter trying to sell Namor photos that Jameson no longer needed…not the name of a new storyline as I surmised. Which is why all of these recaps ended up in the Footnote section.)