Rave : 2000 : Pop References

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Date: May 3, 2000
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Prev: Organic Origins?

Spider-Man: Chapter One already feels like little more than a bad dream. It has been generally rejected by Spiderdom and only occasionally (and annoyingly) impinges on the present day continuity. Now, with the departure of John Byrne from Amazing Spider-Man, we are probably mercifully free of tales like that ridiculous "Captain Power" kill-everyone-who-was-in-the-explosion-that-created-Spider-Man plot that showed up about a year ago.

So, if the whole Chapter One mini-series can be so easily dismissed, why did they bother to do it to begin with? (It sure wasn't to give Electro a new costume.) The truth seems to be that comic creators these days are obsessed with the notion that their characters are suffering with new or young readers because they are from a previous generation with too much continuity baggage. If we boil it down to the essence, the sole reason for the Chapter One series, most likely, was to remake Peter Parker into a child of the 1980s. Gone were "all those nasty topical references which date the original (Spidey referring to himself as being "more unpopular than Kruschev")" as Peter David put it back in Comic Buyer's Guide #1303. As we all know by now, where in the original young Pete receives a microscope from Uncle Ben, in the John Byrne version, he gets a PC as a present!

At the time of the mini-series, I didn't have too many problems with that. But, I must admit, "those nasty topical references" have always been some of my favorite things about the old issues. And thinking about this recently has inspired me to present part one of an occasionally continuing feature: a listing of all the outdated pop references in Spidey. This first segment covers 1962-1963.

1962

  1. "That bookworm wouldn't know a cha-cha from a waltz." - Flash Thompson, Page 1 of Amazing Fantasy #15, August-September 1962. This is not quite in keeping with the specific pop references to which I refer but is included here to show that the time-frame is set right from the first page of the very first story.
  2. "You'd be a smash on the Ed Sullivan show!" - The TV Producer, later retconned into agent Maxie Schiffman, who approaches Peter after the wrestling match with Crusher Hogan, Page 6, Panel 1 of AF #15. Being a smash on Ed Sullivan was about as big as an act could get.
  3. "I'm from Life! We'll pay any price for a picture spread!" - A member of the crowd that approaches Spidey after his successful TV special. Page 8, Panel 1 of AF #15. When Life magazine ceased publication, this line became dated but with its reappearance, the line seems contemporary again.

1963

  1. "You came to the wrong place, pal! This isn't General Motors!" - The Human Torch to Spidey when the web-slinger comes to the Fantastic Four looking for a job. Second story, Page 4, Panel 7 of Amazing Spider-Man #1, March 1963. Still a reasonable statement but not current enough for John Byrne who, in Spider-Man: Chapter One #2 had the Torch say, "You came to the wrong place, pal! Reed ain't Bill Gates!"
  2. "End of the line for you, Commie!" - Spidey to the Chameleon. Second story, Page 8, Panel 9, ASM #1. In one later reprint of this story, the line was actually changed to "End of the line for you, buddy!" Doesn't have quite the same impact.
  3. "Take a bonus and go out and buy yourself some twist records!" - J. Jonah Jameson to Peter Parker after buying pictures of the Vulture. First story, Page 14, Panel 4, Amazing Spider-Man #2, May 1963. Actually, with Jonah's legendary squareness, this is something he might still say today.
  4. "Well, I sure ain't Albert Schweitzer!" - Spidey to Doctor Octopus at their first meeting, Page 7, Panel 6, Amazing Spider-Man #3, July 1963. Raise your hand if you can say who Albert Schweitzer actually was!
  5. "Well, it's not Dr. Kildare!" - Spidey to three thugs. Page 2, Panel 5, Amazing Spider-Man #4, September 1963. Spidey uses the "Well, it's not..." bit on a regular basis.
  6. "Well, well, look who's here! Mr. Bookworm of 1963!" - Anonymous classmate of Peter Parker (who could arguably be Kurt Busiek's Sally Avril). Page 20, Panel 2, ASM #4. First in a series of "Mr. Somebody of Some-year" bits.
  7. "The Ed Sullivan show, dear! I just saw the cleverest juggling act, and now he's going to have a chorus from some Midwestern college!" - Aunt May to Peter when he asks her what she is watching on television. Page 10, Panel 3, Amazing Spider-Man #5, October 1963. Yes, Ed Sullivan again. Didn't I say he was popular?
  8. "Oh, Peter, the lights went out! We must have blown a fuse! And there aren't any more in the house!" - Aunt May to Peter after he has pulled the fuse in order to get out of the house. Page 11, Panel 7, ASM #5. Not really a pop reference but still an example of changing times. With most residences having circuit breaker switches, Peter's little ruse would never work today.
  9. "I'm the real Spider-Man! You just captured yourself a phony Brand-X in there!" - Spider-Man to Dr. Doom. (Doc thought he captured Spidey but it was actually Flash Thompson in a Spider-Man costume.) Page 13, Panel 6, ASM #5. Brand X was the term used in television commercial comparison tests for the other guy's product. Stan riffed off this term when he referred to DC comics as Brand Echh.
  10. "So that's it! It's the FF... just like the cavalry in a T.V. Western". - Spider-Man realizing why Dr. Doom ran off. Page 20, Panel 3, ASM #5. Everybody knows that the cavalry used to show up in the nick of time so often in T.V. and movie westerns that it became a cliche, right?
  11. "Well, it's not Fats Domino!" - Spider-Man to J. Jonah Jameson responding to JJJ's query of "Who's that??" Page 5, Panel 6, Amazing Spider-Man #6, November 1963. Fats Domino is, of course, the rock and roller with hits like "Ain't that a Shame" and "Blueberry Hill".
  12. "Mister, I thrive on warnings! In fact, some day I'm going to write an article for the Readers' Digest titled: "the most unforgettable warning I've ever known". - Spider-Man to the Vulture, Page 15, Panel 4, Amazing Spider-Man #7, December 1963. The Readers' Digest was known for its "most unforgettable" articles and, for all I know, it still is.
  13. "Well, it sure isn't the Lone Ranger!" - Spider-Man to the Vulture, Page 16, Panel 4, ASM #7.
  14. "Are you sure you were never vaccinated with a phonograph needle?" - Spider-Man to the Vulture, Page 18, Panel 2, ASM #7. An old insult said to someone who talks too much. (You had to be there.)

So much for Spidey's first years. We'll do this again sometime (if there's interest in it) with 1964. Till then, see you on Ed Sullivan!

Notes: The use of "Brand X" in advertising was a legal requirement at the time. The change of Commie to Buddy was in a black and white reprint in the early 80's. Visually, it was a very clumbsy piece of editing. - Ed.

Personally, my favourite Pop Reference appeared in the number-40's of Amazing. A character is compared in macho appearance to Rock Hudson, who at the time was the living embodiment of masculinity. This was before he was out-ed as a closet homosexual, when he became one of the world's first celebrities to die of AIDS. - Ed.

Ummm... can we mention AIDS? This is a kid's page! - Ed in Chief.

Sure we can. Kids need to know about this stuff. Get a grip! - Ed.

OK, but, I'd like to make it clear that Rock Hudson's death was a tragic event. Regardless, our position at Peter Parker's Pad is that you as an adult, have every right to perform intimate acts with another consenting adult, if you so wish... subject to the laws of your State and/or country... however we recommend that you exercise safe practic...

Shut up Chief. You're just making it worse! - Ed.