One thing I like to do in the little spare time I have is to reread my Spidey back-issues. It's good not only because it helps me keep up with my duties here at PPP and keeps my memory fresh, but also, Pete is like an old friend that I've known since I was four-years-old.
Some issues it's always a pleasure to open, like any Lee/Romita, or Roger Stern issue. Some issues I open with a bit of a sigh, like the "Maximum Carnage" issues. But when it came time to reread the Spidey books from the Mackie/Byrne era, I almost let out a sob.
Yes, it's been roughly three years now since they've been gone, but that particular era, from "The Gathering of Five" to the volume 2 # 18 issues are considered by me (and many other Spidey-fans I know of) to be the WORST era ever for SPIDER-MAN.
The good news, though, is that while rereading them, I can take some comfort in knowing that it's over; that the titles today, while not perfect, are still better by leaps and bounds. And mostly by the fact that, as they say: "Time heals all wounds". Those stories that made me irritated and even angry a few years ago, have become very amusing now that the events in them have all but been swept away. To share my amusement, I'd like to present what I call "The Average Mackie/Byrne Spidey Story". Read it and maybe you can work through any nausea that recalling that era brings you. (P.S. For any element in the following story that might make you say: "That's ridiculous!", there's a direct parallel in a Mackie/Byrne era Spidey book.)
Any building penthouse, New York City...
HAWKEYE: "Better stay close to me, Senator! There are some nasty people out there. It's a good thing I'm here to protect you!"
SENATOR WARD: "Yes, I greatly appreciate it!" [But just wait, Avenger! Soon I shall show you, and all the world, just how dangerous and threatening *I* can be!]
Suddenly a wall explodes and in comes DR. OCTOPUS wearing his CO get-up of cybernetic parts and no pants.
DR. OCTOPUS: "At last I've found you, Ward! Prepare to taste my wrath!"
Spider-Man suddenly swings into frame.
SPIDER-MAN: "Careful Senator! That's a bittersweet taste he's talking about! Hawkeye! Fancy meeting you here!"
HAWKEYE: "Huh? Uh... yes it..it most... certainly is."
SPIDER-MAN: "I'll take Octopus hi, you take him low!"
Next frame shows Spider-Man plummeting from the window with an arrow in his shoulder, falling towards the street.
Back in the building...
HAWKEYE: :::firing arrows at Octopus::: "You blew my cover!! How dare you destroy that wall! Now all the world will know I was faking being a good guy for years!"
DR. OCTOPUS: "None of that matters now! I must destroy Ward! He's so unbelievably and deviously eeeeevil! It's just impossible to describe to you how unspeakably eeeeevil he really is!"
Meanwhile, Spidey has fallen into a waiting AVENGERS quinjet.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: "Easy, Wall-Crawler, you're safe now!"
SPIDER-MAN: "C- Cap? What happened? Why did Hawkeye attack me? He's been a good guy since the Stan-and-Jack days!"
CAPTAIN AMERICA: "I never did trust that bum! That's why I've had him under constant surveillance all these years, waiting for him to make a move like this!"
DR. OCTOPUS: :::tearing the roof off the quinjet::: "How do you like THIS move, Captain?"
IRON MAN: "He's upon us!"
DR. OCTOPUS: "The bowman fled with Ward in tow! Now somebody else will get to pontificate on how eeeeevil he is! But at least I will get satisfaction by destroying you all!"
SPIDER-MAN: "I wouldn't count on that, Doc!" :::reaches into the quinjet's glovebox::: "Look what I've got! A flashlight!"
DR. OCTOPUS: "AAARRRRR! No! NOOO!!! Curse you, web-slinger! You may have won the battle, but I'll soon be back!" :::leaves:::
CAPTAIN AMERICA: "That was fast thinking, son."
IRON MAN: "It sure was. Now we better get back to the mansion. Cap, I'll have to give you a body-cavity search once we get there." :::whispers to Spider-Man::: "Pssst. I don't really HAVE to give him one, but it's alot of fun. You should come watch."
Later that day...
PETER: [That lunch I had at Hardee's was just great! Oh, there's MJ!] "Hi Mary Jane."
MJ: "Peter! Did you just come from Hardee's?!?"
PETER: :::with an aw-shucks grin::: "No, of course I didn't, honey! I absolutely, did NOT just come here from eating lunch at Hardee's!"
MJ: "Then why do I see a receipt from Hardee's sticking out from your pocket! I just can't trust you anymore! We're falling apart!" :::runs away:::
PETER: "MJ! Wait!!!" [Blast it! Next time I see her I'll put things right! I'll do whatever it takes. We're just too young to have this happening to us!]
JILL STACY: :::approaching Peter::: "Peter! I just coincidentally happened to be walking by and I saw MJ running away from you! Whatever she's upset about, she'll get over it! She's bound to see what she has in you."
PETER: "Thanks Jill."
JILL: "Once she comes around, she'll-- Whoops!" :::slips on a banana peel, starts to fall over backwards:::
PETER: [Oh, no! What do I do in a situation like this? How do I save Jill from falling on her butt without revealing myself as Spider-Man? I'll just have think of something!] :::dives on the ground so that Jill falls on him directly:::
JILL: "*giggle* Oh Peter, that was so silly of me! I hope I didn't hurt you!"
PETER: "Only my pride. We must look silly with you lying right on top of me here!"
JILL: :::standing up::: "Yes, well, thanks again for saving my life! I'll run into you coincidentally again soon!" :::leaves:::
PETER: "I guess I handled that OK. Oh, look! Here comes my best friend Flash Thompson! Flash! Good to see you! Just the other day I was remembering about the good times like when you let me move into your apartment with you, and how you were the best man at my wedding!"
FLASH: "Can it, Parker! I just saw on the news that taxes are going up again, and you're just standing here letting it happen! You wimp! You're a no-good coward!"
PETER: "But Flash, if you'd just let me explain!"
FLASH: "Forget it! Just stay out of my way, Puny Parker!"
Before Peter can respond, he's startled when he sees THE SCORPION come around the corner, terrorizing the people on the streets. He's got John Jameson and Marla Madison-Jameson wrapped in his tail. Pete runs into an alley.
SCORPION: "Run, you puny insects! Fall before my power!" :::looks up and sees Spider-Man swinging toward him::: "Spider-Man! Finally, I'll get my revenge upon both you and also Jameson by killing his family!"
SPIDER-MAN: [This will be the toughest, most challenging battle of my life! But I must win! I MUST!
SCORPION: :::bundled helpless in a cocoon of webbing::: "Curse you, Spider-Man! I'll get you next time!"
SPIDER-MAN: [I barely survived! That was the greatest challenge I've ever faced!] "Here come the cops, Scorpy, I'll see you later!" :::swings off:::
Later, at the Daily Bugle...
PETER: "I can't wait to show Jameson these pics of the Scorpion that I got. Oh, there he is! Mr. Jameson, look at these pics!"
JJJ: "Let me see those Parker. HEY! It's that serial killer, murdering, raping-and-pillaging Spider-Freak!"
PETER: "But Mr. Jameson- Look at the pictures! He's saving your family from being murdered!"
JJJ: "He altered these pictures somehow! Exactly what one would expect of a mostronsity like Spider-Man! Now get out of here! Find me some pictures that show Spider-Man being responsible for the sinking of the Titanic, and don't come back until then!" :::stalks out, drooling:::
PETER: [What am I gonna do now? I needed the money these pics were going to bring in!]
AUNT MAY: "Peter dear! Yoohoo!"
PETER: "Aunt May? What are you doing here at the Bugle?"
AUNT MAY: "I was hoping I'd run into you! You left the apartment today without taking a sweater! You might catch cold! You know how fragile you are!"
PETER: [Good old Aunt May. If my life were a story she'd be the heart-and-soul of it. Hey! Her being here just reminded me of Uncle Ben and how I failed in my responsibility! It's a good thing she stopped by or I might have forgotten that stupid "responsibility" quote I'm always throwing out.] "Thanks, Aunt May. Is it any wonder you're my favorite gal?"
AUNT MAY: "Now Peter! I don't want you using that dreadful slang!"
AUNT MAY: "Oh, heavens, I almost forgot! Mary Jane said to tell you that the apartment is being fumigated and will have to be empty tonight. Since she's such a world-famous supermodel, she's busy jetsetting all over the world, but you'll need a place to stay tonight. You should come with me and spend the night in your old room back in Queens."
PETER: "That's ok, Aunt May. I've got a buddy who's letting me crash at his place tonight."
AUNT MAY: "Well, you remember I'm here if you need me!" :::leaves::::
PETER: [I wish I really DID have a friend who offered to let me stay at his place, but I just can't be a burden to poor Aunt May. I guess the alley out back might have an old mattress I can haul out of the dumpster.]
Suddenly a blinding light starts flashing in the halls of the Bugle
PETER: "Yow! What in the name of the Aurora borealis is that?" :::leaps to the ceiling and crawls between the tiles:::
A young woman appears where the light had been.
WOMAN: "What... what is this place? How I did get here?"
SPIDER-MAN: :::swinging down from the ceiling::: "That was going to be my question! Just who are you, anyway?"
WOMAN: "My name is Bethany, I was with some friends, we call ourselves "The Next Men". But I don't know how I got here!"
SPIDER-MAN: "I'll find some way to get you home."
BETHANY: :::starts to glow::: "Wait! I must be going back home now! I'm returning to my friends, of whom I told you call themselves 'The Next Men'! Farewell!" :::disappears:::
SPIDER-MAN: [That was one weird experience! I should would like to know more about that woman and those friends she mentioned! I bet they have some pretty wild adventures!]
A female voice screams behind Spider-Man.
SPIDER-MAN: "What's that?" [Oh no! It's Jill!]
JILL: "You! You're the one who murdered my cousin! She died because of you! :::covers her eyes::: Why must you torment my family this! Why can't you just leave us in peace?!"
PETER: "It's ok, Jill. He's gone."
JILL: :::uncovers her eyes::: "Peter!"
PETER: "I guess I scared him off. He took off through the window."
JILL: :::hugging Peter and crying::: "Thank you so much for being here! You're just always around when I need you!"
PETER: [How can I ever convince Jill... that I'm NOT the monster she thinks I am?!]
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT ISSUE...