Rave : 2002 : The Saga of the Lost Spidey Super Stories

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Date: Aug 2, 2002
Next: Joe Wants to Know!
Prev: Unfinished Business

It all started with an editorial caption in Spidey Super Stories #57, the last issue. I had just finished reading the entire series (you should try that sometime if you have nothing to do for 8 hours and sanity has become passe), and on the back cover of that issue, there was this mysterious note: "Follow the adventures of Spidey and the Electric Company every month in The Electric Company Magazine". There was never any kind of letters page in Spidey Super Stories, so this was the first I'd ever heard of it. I assumed that the Electric Company Magazine had, for a few issues, reprinted some of the stories from the Spidey Super Stories comic book. I thought I'd keep a lookout for issues of this "Electric Company Magazine" in case I ever stumbled across any, to see if they had any Spidey in them.

Flash forward a few months. A dealer sent our Spider-Man webpage a scan of a piece of unknown original Spider-Man art. It had the "Spidey Super Stories" logo on the top of it, so I thought I would kindly identify it. The problem was, I had just read all the issues, even created my own index for the series, and I was positive that this particular art was in none of them. I told him that it may have never been published art, or maybe, it could have come from this Electric Company Magazine. Only thing was, that would mean that the EC Magazine had some original Spidey Super Stories. I asked Peter Kroon, (who writes for this page and whose wonderful website can be found at here), the most knowledgeable Spidey person I know, if he had any idea exactly what the Electric Company Magazine contained. He did not have any of them himself, but after checking with a few other Spidey friends, said he believed that Marvel had originally printed all the Spidey Super Stories in the EC Mag, which were later collected and printed in the 57 issues of the comic book. Just from reading the comics, it was obvious that not all stories could have come from the EC Mag. (There were a few 20-32 page stories that would have to be printed whole to make any sense, and there were 170+ different stories overall, which seemed like too many.) So at this point I thought maybe the SSS comic had reprinted some of the EC Mag stories, and had some original stories as well. The existence of the unidentified page led me to believe that maybe not ALL the stories from the EC Mag had been reprinted in the comic. Cool! This still meant that there may be some Spidey Super Stories I had never seen. Since I am the self-proclaimed world authority on Spidey Super Stories, this needed to be corrected immediately.

I then hit upon the idea of using the library. And I lucked out, because the University I attend has the third-largest university library in the country. And in the Education library, they had bound collections of the Electric Company Magazine that no one had looked at since 1987. And guess what terribly exciting thing I discovered? Every single issue of the Electric Company Magazine has an original Spidey Super Stories story. The comic didn't reprint the magazine, and the magazine didn't reprint the comic, they were two completely independent series set in the same "Spidey Super Stories Universe". There were at least 80 new Spidey Super Stories I had never seen! Needless to say, I felt like my pet pig had just won the blue ribbon at the Nebraska State Fair! Here were all-new Spider-Man stories almost no one had read in 25 years, and they were part of the same series I was reviewing! How cool is that? So I spent 3 days (and $45) to make high quality grayscale photocopies of all the stories (the pile of papers ended up about three inches thick).

So here's a summary of the facts I discovered. Spider-Man was appearing at least as early as issue 22 of the EC Mag in February, 1976. The last issue he appeared in was issue 138, October, 1987. All the stories were either 4 or 5 pages long and in full color. Spidey appeared on the cover of the magazine at least 6 times. Issues 22-84, 86-91, 93-106, 108, 110, and 113 each contained an all-new story. Issues 85, 92, 111, 112, 114-132, and 138 were reprints of earlier stories from this same magazine (not reprints of the SSS comic). Issues 107, 109, and 133-137 contained no Spider-Man stories at all. The earliest stories were written by Len Wein and drawn by Sal Buscema. Later, Marv Wolfman and Jim Mooney took over, and later still, Steven Grant and Alan Kupperberg. The exact stories these different creators worked on is hard to pin down, because the EC Mag didn't start printing credits until issue 64 in 1980.

The stories themselves are just great, in every cheesy 70s sense of the word. Some story examples: Tarantula robs the NY pet fair, and Lockjaw sniffs him out. Professor X helps Spidey battle the Green Goblin and teaches handicapped kids they can accomplish anything. Spider-Man and a brainwashed Mr. Fantastic compete in track and field events. The Fly wrecks the Spider-Man Movie premiere back in 1980. The Mad Thinker sends robot Santa Claus out to steal presents from under people's trees. The Plantman gives up villainy so he can become a gardener, but the Grey Gargoyle pulls him back in with the present of a garden gnome. Kang the Conqueror goes back in time to 1620 to ruin the first Thanksgiving but Spidey and Lockjaw stop him. But Dr. Doom always had the best plots, from animating the statue of Abraham Lincoln to terrorize members of Congress, to filling the New Year's Apple in NYC with knockout gas so he can kidnap Ronald Reagan, to an Avengers/Dr. Doom battle royale in issue 68 that starred 14 different Avengers. There's also a Spider-Man origin story adapted from Amazing Fantasy 15 with all-new art, published in August 1977, that makes it the fifth (sixth?) Marvel retelling of Spider-Man's origin.

They also used some fairly obscure Marvel characters, from Ant-Man foes the Hijacker, Egghead, and Madame X, to the Grandmaster, Water Wizard, and Mesmero. There are also some new villains and one new hero. The new hero is Captain Truth, who later becomes Captain Mighty, and he is ever-so-slightly more interesting than he sounds. New villains include: the Star Warrior, ERG, Sportsman, Trapmaster, Mr. Sleep, Kid Video, Power Men/Trainer, seven kinds of aliens, and the immortal "Bad Dog". Rare Spidey villains who make an appearance include the Living Brain, Stegron, and the Human Fly. MJ, Aunt May and JJJ show up all the time, Flash and Robbie Robertson appear a few times each, and Kathy Kline, who is a graduate student at ESU always doing dangerous science experiments, shows up several times. Strangely enough, Rita the director shows up three times, but no other supporting Electric Company characters ever show up, even though this is their own magazine.

HELP! So now I need your help, because my index is incomplete. If you have ANY issues of the Electric Company Magazine from before March, 1981 could you email me (engelhrd@uiuc.edu) and tell me what they contain? Please? I'm trying to put together a complete index to all of Spidey's appearances in the EC Mag, but I've exhausted all the local libraries (and almost all the major university libraries as well). Specifically, the issues I have no information for are issues 1-21, 23-26, 28, 30, 42-62, 70 and 72. The issue number is always on the contents page in the indicia. ANY help would be greatly appreciated by Spider-Man fans the world round, and I'd give credit in any finished index to anyone who helped. But without further ado, let's do a review of the earliest Spidey Super Stories from the Electric Company Magazine that I possess. It's time for some "TV Terror" from issue 22, February, 1976!