Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #74

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This story is part of an Arc: "Octopus and Owl"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

A gang war has broken out between Doctor Octopus and the Owl. Debra Whitman believes Peter Parker is really Spider-Man, but her psychiatrist thinks she's delusional, and wants Peter to pretend he's Spider-Man to make Debra realise how absurd her fantasies are.

In Detail...

"Fantasia!"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #74
Jan 1983 : SM Title
Summary: Debbie Insane?
Arc: Part 2 of "Octopus and Owl"
Editor:  Tom DeFalco
Writer:  Bill Mantlo
Pencils:  Bob Hall
Inker:  Jim Mooney
Cover Art:  Bob Hall
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #3
Articles: Black Cat, Deborah Whitman, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), Kingpin, Owl

This issue opens with a splash page of Debra watching Peter as Spider-Man beating up a bunch of gun toting thugs. Debra says "No Peter! Go back. Don't try to save me. You'll only get hurt". To which Peter replies "Hurt Deb?? No one can hurt the Spectacular Spider-Man!". Then we see Debra in her psychiatrist's office explaining to him that this is what she dreams every night, before she wakes up screaming in worry because the boy she loves is endangering himself as Spider-Man. Dr Kulkin explains to Debra that it's all in her head. Just a fantasy. Debra says that doesn't help her, she needs to know how to deal with it. But she reaffirms that she truly believes Peter is Spider-Man, citing examples of the incredible strength he's occasionally shown, and the amazing pictures he always takes of Spider-Man.

After Debra leaves, Dr Kulkin goes and opens the bathroom door where Peter is waiting. Peter overheard the entire session and is stunned. He thinks that he's to blame for Debra's problems because he carelessly let her discover he's Spider-Man. Peter asks Dr Kulkin what can he do to help. Dr Kulkin repeats that he wants Peter to pretend he's Spider-Man by dressing up as him, thereby showing Debra the absurdity of her fantasies. Peter refuses again, saying he'll help Debra in his own way.

Outside on a rooftop Peter changes into Spider-Man. As he swings thru the city he thinks of the bad timing of Deb's problems, what with his final exams coming, Aunt May needs money, and the gang war developing between Doc Ock and the Owl. As he swings thru the city, Spidey doesn't notice a mysterious female figure watching him. Moments later his spider sense goes off. Something is happening in the Oppenheimer Atomic research lab. Spidey spots a helicopter on the roof with a bunch of men breaking in thru the sky lite. Inside the lab the intruders find another set of intruders. It's Doc Ock's gang. The Owl's gang have walked in on their robbery. The gangs recognise eachother and begin to open fire. Spider-Man intervenes and begins battling the thugs, taking them out swiftly. As he takes out the last of the thugs he notices a small metallic device which both gangs were trying to steal. Suddenly his spider sense goes off, as he manages to dodge a swooping attack from the Owl, who snatches the device off the ground and escapes thru the sky lite to a waiting helicopter. As the Police arrive and take away the Owl/Octopus thugs, Spider-Man heads toward the Empire State University campus. Changing back to Peter Parker, he enters the office of Dr Sloan in the Biophysics building. Sloan immediately chides Peter about his lack of exam preparation. Peter explains that he's not here about his exams, he's here about Debra Whitman. He wants to know as much about Debra as possible. Dr Sloan explains Debra has some severe emotional problems. Though he can't breach that confidence, he suggests to Peter that he talks to her boy friend Biff Rifkin, as he and Debra went to college together. Peter thanks Dr Sloan and leaves. However although Dr Sloan admires Peter's concern, he is very worried about Peter passing his exams.

Meanwhile in the Kingpin's headquarters we see a meeting between him and Doctor Octopus. Kingpin wants to know why he should ally himself with Ock. Ock tells him he has no choice because when he's through the world will bow before Doctor Octopus. Ock smacks Kingpin's cigarette holder out of his hand with a tentacle and tells him that New York is about to be turned into a battlefield. Kingpin says he's well aware of the clash between Ock and the Owl, and that he's looking forward to picking up the pieces after they have destroyed eachother. However Ock says that there won't be any pieces as Kingpin will perish will all the rest. Ock declares he doesn't need Kingpin, as he rips the door of Kingpin's wall safe and pulls out a small green device. He only needs the small device. Ock mocks the Kingpin as he leaves thru the window. But Kingpin tricked Ock. He opens his file cabinet and pulls out a similar green device, saying he switched the real one for a fake before Ock arrived. Suddenly the lights go out, and a voice says "I'll take that tubby". When the lights come back on, Kingpin sees the device has been snatched right from his hands.

Spider-Man arrives at the Health Spa where Biff Rifkin works. Biff is less than pleased to see Peter. Peter apologises for hitting him the other day, and says he needs his assistance in helping Deb. Biff says it's about time Peter noticed Deb's problems, that she's crazy about him but all he does is hurt her, just like her husband did. Peter is stunned to hear Deb is married. Biff says she's seperated now. Biff explains that he went to college with Deb, and that she was always so bright and cheerful, and that he had a huge crush on her. But Deb always had the problem of falling for men who treated her like dirt. She eventually married the big man on campus who was so full of himself that he all but ignored Deb. After the wedding Deb dropped out of school, one day Biff saw her with a huge black eye. That night Biff burst into their apartment where he found Debra's husband beating her. Biff knocked him out with a punch and took Deb to hospital. Debra was still in denial about her abusive husband, saying he's really a good and gentle husband. Biff said that Deb had a problem facing reality. He said he'd marry her in a second if only she'd straighten herself out. Peter leaves quickly saying he's going to try some shock therapy, and hopefully change Biff's opinion about him. Swinging thru the city, Peter decides he's going to show Debra she's not crazy, even if it costs him his secret identity.

Meanwhile in a dark warehouse, Doc Ock seeks out the Owl. The Owl has the device stolen from the science center, and Ock has the activator. "I want both, or I shall have your life" Ock exclaims. The Owl swoops down at Ock and knocks him against some crates, snatching the activator off Ock. The Owl tries to escape with it, but Ock ensnares him in his tentacles. In the process the Owl drops the activator, which smashes on the floor. Ock picks it up and sees that it's nothing more than hollow glass tubing. Ock realises the Kingpin tricked him. The Owl laughs at the fact that Ock fell for the trick. "No one laughs at Doctor Octopus, Owl. NO ONE!!!" Ock shouts as he tosses the Owl against some crates. Ock leaves the warehouse saying that he and the Owl shall meet again. The Owl agrees they shall meet again, at his secret aerie where he's anticipating Ock's arrival, because he still has the device Ock needs to carry out his insane scheme.

Spider-Man swings thru the city to Deb's apartment, where he sees her lying on her bed talking to her stuffed animals. Peter thinks of other people who he let down in his life like Uncle Ben, Aunt May, Gwen and Captain Stacy. He refuses to let Debra down too. He steps onto her balcony and walks into her room saying "Deb?? I'm here". He then says that he is Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Deb steps towards him and says "Y-You're real aren't you?? This isn't another of my fantasies??". Peter assures her that he's real, and tells her to take off his mask to see. Debra takes off the mask and sees the face of Peter Parker. Peter tells her she's not crazy, and that she was right all along about him. Debra looks shocked, and then turns her back on him for a moment. Suddenly she starts smiling and turns back to face Peter and says "Oh Peter, Peter thank you". Peter asks why is she thanking him. She says it's because he put on that silly costume and shocked her back to her senses. He made her realise that she let her fantasies run away with her. She says Peter is the best friend she's ever had. Peter realises the Doctor was right, shock therapy was what she needed.

The next day at the port authority bus terminal, Peter says his good byes to Debra, as she's going back to the midwest to resolve her past by divorcing her husband. As her bus leaves, a thought occurs to Peter, what if Debra wonders how he got onto her balcony. Later Spider-Man swings thru the city thinking about his exam finals, and how nothing must distract him now. Suddenly a voice behind him says "Hi Lover! Did you miss me??". It's the Black Cat, alive and well. And she's holding the real activator she stole from the Kingpin.

In General...

A solid issue this one. The Ock/Owl war is heating up nicely. Whatever Ock is planning it's big. And he's not letting anyone stand in his way.

It was nice to see the Debra Whitman situation finally resolved. With the harsh past she has, it was good to see that she has so many people who care for her. A happy ending for Deb, just what she deserved.

As for Black Cat's return, well this spells trouble, for her that is. She has the activator that Ock wants. And you better believe he's going to get it.

Overall Rating...

Four webs. A great issue. Another perfect balance of drama and action. With a neat little cliffhanger.