Rave : 1998 : A Word From Al
Have you ever browsed the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and come upon this notation for Strange Tales #97?
"1st app. Aunt May & Uncle Ben by Ditko (6/62), before Amazing Fantasy #15."
Have you ever wondered what the deal was with that?
It refers to a five page Lee/Ditko tale entitled, "Goodbye to Linda Brown".
The story opens with Linda Brown, a young woman in a wheelchair (a wrap covering any view of the lower half of her body... figured this out already?) who bears a resemblance to Liz Allan, out on the beach looking out to sea. Linda has a great love for the ocean and often hangs out near the surf, watching the waves. She is accompanied by her Uncle Ben and he soon pushes Linda back up to their oceanfront home, where awaits Aunt May. (One of the improbabilites in this impossible tale is the idea of pushing anyone in any wheelchair anywhere while the chair is sitting on soft beach sand. Pushing the chair yourself on sand while sitting in it is more improbable yet.)
That night, Linda falls out of bed. Ben is there to put her back and Linda reports to him that she had a strange dream. Ben goes back to his own room to see May sleepwalking. He patiently leads her back to bed. "Strange!", he says, "For a while I had been walking in my sleep, and then May started doing it! And now even Linda has been having nightmares, and tonight I found her out of bed! I wonder...?" May tells Ben, "Perhaps... perhaps she's been with us too long! Perhaps we should send her... back!" But Ben loves her too much to comply.
The next night, Linda, still sleeping, has a strange compulsion. "I... must... leave... my bed... " She gets into her wheelchair and rolls out onto the beach.
At dawn, Ben and May find her gone. There are wheelchair tracks in the sand leading right into the sea. Both Ben and May are saddened but May bears up by realizing, "She had to leave us some day to go home!" And, sure enough, Linda, a mermaid, is happily swimming toward some underwater domicile.
So, what makes Overstreet refer to this story as the first appearance of Aunt May and Uncle Ben? Anything other than the names? Well, both characters look very much like Ditko's later renditions of Peter Parker's relatives... only younger. Ben's hair is brown and he sports a mustache. May is a little less sere. Now, seeing as Marvel has opened the gates of connecting their early fantasy comics to the Marvel universe, can we speculate that May and Ben took care of Linda Brown in the days before they took care of Peter? Perhaps it was their sadness over Linda's return to the sea that made them move from their beach house to a home in Forest Hills. Could Linda Brown be Peter's half (and I do mean HALF) sister?
Way too far-fetched for Spidey, right? No writer would ever want to touch this,right? Isn't that what they said about clones?