Bill Mantlo was once one of the busiest scripters at Marvel. Known, at one time, for breathing life into toy-derived comic books (Rom, The Micronauts), Bill also had long runs on The Incredible Hulk, Alpha Flight, Iron Man, Marvel Team-Up, and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. Although Bill was never considered a scripter with the star quality of a Stan Lee or Roy Thomas (or more recently, Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman), he was always a reliable source of good, solid comic book stories. Sure, he wrote his share of clunkers (in the Spider-verse, Bill was the culprit behind Razorback and the Hypno-Hustler) but, for the most part, a book with Bill's name in the credits assured the reader of a very good time. Frequently taken for granted at the time (Fred Hembeck once drew a page in praise of him because he felt that Bill was lost in the crowd.), Bill's work has aged very well.
So, whatever happened to Mantlo? Why isn't he writing comics today? Well, it was no secret that Bill was studying to be a lawyer while he was working for Marvel. Presumably, he passed the bar and became a full-time attorney, leaving behind a large contribution to the Marvel Universe, much of it with Spider-Man. What is Bill's best addition to the Spider-verse? Some may argue for Cloak and Dagger but, for me, there's no contest. Carrion.
Carrion first appeared in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #25. The title of the story ("Carrion, My Wayward Son", named after the rock group Kansas' song "Carry On, My Wayward Son", of course. Did Bill get the idea for the character by mis-hearing the lyric of the song?) seemed to imply that he would be the major villain but that was not the case. For #25 and the two succeeding issues, Carrion lurked in the background while Spidey and Daredevil tackled the Masked Marauder. It is not until halfway through #28 that the spotlight truly falls on Carrion. Rather, than detail all seven issues, here are thumbnail sketches of issues #25 to #28.
In Spectacular Spider-Man #25, Carrion attends the secret session of the executive council of the Maggia (led by Big M: The Masked Marauder) and submits a proposal to eliminate Spider-Man. He reveals that he knows "more about the wall-crawler than he knows about himself" and that he despises Spidey. The Maggia, however, rejects his proposal and tries to kill him. During this tussle, Carrion uses the lethal dust he calls the red death, shrugs off a bullet that goes right through him, levitates, and teleports, leaving behind a stench of brimstone. In the rest of the issue, the Latino hero known as the White Tiger dukes it out with a South Bronx street gang and Spidey stumbles upon the Masked Marauder's plan to rob the Citibank building. While battling the Tri-Man (the Marauder's android) in a bank vault, Spidey is blasted by the Masked Marauder's opti-blasts, rendering the web-slinger blind.
In Spectacular Spider-Man #26, Spidey is saved from total defeat at the hands of the Marauder and the Tri-Man only by the intervention of the police. All of the Maggia people escape the dragnet. Peter, still blind, somehow also manages to get away but is once again hunted by the police for his participation. He is tracked down by Daredevil who saves Pete from plunging to his death. Spidey reveals to DD that he is now blind. Back at Peter's pad, Mary Jane and Betty both show up at the same time. Hidden inside the apartment (revealing that he knows Pete's identity) is Carrion.
In Spectacular Spider-Man #27 (famously featuring pencils by Frank Miller) Daredevil has teamed up with a blind Spidey and he helps Pete get through his feelings of panic, helplessness, and rage. He also takes our hero to a top opthamologist who examines Pete's eyes and determines that the blindness is probably not permanent. The twosome follow a Spider-tracer previously planted on the Masked Marauder to an unfinished skyscraper on 47th Street. Inside the Marauder is blackmailing New York's mayor by revealing that his Tri-Man can be turned into a flying bomb (a "Bombdroid") armed with a nuclear warhead. Daredevil crashes in but the Marauder manages to launch his bomb out a window, past a blind Spidey. As the bomb threatens Manhattan, Pete begins a plunge to his doom. And in the Carrion segment, Mrs. Muggins enters Pete's apartment to find it a shambles. Written on the wall... "The Dead Walk Parker". (Yeah, but where do they walk him to? Just kidding.)
|Cover Art:||Keith Pollard|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #1|
|Reprinted In:||The Complete Frank Miller Spider-Man (Hardcover)|
|Reprinted In:||The Complete Frank Miller Spider-Man (TPB)|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man & Daredevil Greatest Team-Ups (TPB)|
Art by Frank Miller and Frank Springer and Carrion's first appearance on the cover. Peter uses his Spider-sense to guide his aim, as he snags the Bombdroid with his webbing. He manages to climb onto the flying bomb and starts trying to defuse it. Daredevil defeats the Maggia men, shrugs off an opti-blast from the Masked Marauder (which can't blind him since DD is already blind), but cannot prevent the Marauder from triggering the bomb. Fortunately for Manhattan, Spidey has defused the warhead. Unfortunately for Manhattan, he has cut the bomb's flight control, too. But Peter starts to notice new super-senses compensating for his blindness and he uses them to get the droid to crash harmlessly in Central Park... where the cops surround him, until he is rescued by the arriving Daredevil (who has defeated the Masked Marauder). Daredevil reaches out a hand to Pete and Pete sees it. His vision is returning and the thought of other senses disappears in his joy. This takes us two panels into page 19 where the story abruptly shifts... to Carrion.
Panel 3 of page 19 takes us to the trashed apartment of Peter Parker. Mary Jane has just shown up. Betty Brant Leeds, Flash Thompson, Hector Ayala (better known as the White Tiger), Mrs. Muggins, and the police are already there. Detective Jimmy D'Angelo tells MJ that all the furniture has been overturned but nothing is stolen or destroyed. Nobody knows where Peter is, but the cops assume that the perpetrator didn't know either... otherwise, why leave the message "The Dead Walk Parker" scrawled on the wall. MJ says she hasn't seen Pete since they broke up. (This story takes place at about the same time as the Rocket Racer story in May's Looking Back.) She also says, "But who could hate Peter enough to do this??" (You say MJ has always known Peter is Spidey? I say "Ha!")
Just outside the window, Spidey peeks in at his destroyed apartment. He sneaks some clothes out the window using his webbing, then stashes his Spidey suit in an alley while he switches to Peter Parker. Wearing dark glasses to protect his eyes, Pete shows up and tells his friends that he has been in the college infirmary for two days because he hurt his eyes in a chem lab experiment. (You'd think the cops would check into that story, wouldn't you?) Betty, recently estranged from Ned and hitting on Parker, offers to take care of Peter but Hector Ayala bails Pete out by offering to put him up for the night.
(An aside on Hector. He was the super-hero known as the White Tiger, who got his martial arts powers by wearing the three amulets formerly worn by the Sons of the Tiger. Hector was a student at Empire State University and one of Pete's friends. His dual identity was known to many, including Spider-Man.)
Pete and Hector agree to meet at the ESU library after classes. As Pete nears the building, his spider-sense goes haywire. He rushes in and finds a Security Guard out cold at the foot of some stairs. Not bothering to change to Spidey, (actually he can't... he left his costume in an alley, remember?) Pete leaps to the second floor where he finds Hector unconscious on the floor... red dust scrawled across him reading, "Ashes to Ashes Parker". While examining Hector, Pete senses danger, but too late, as Carrion comes up behind and strikes a powerful blow which sends both Parker and Hector off the landing to the floor below. Pete plans to play possum alongside his friend, but when Carrion calls out, "Don't make this too easy for me, Parker. Use your cursed spider-agility!", he knows there is no point in being coy. This mysterious villain knows his secret identity.
Carrion pursues Pete, saying, "You recover quickly, Parker. You are faster than I remembered!" But Pete doesn't recall ever having seen this creature before. (And you'd think he'd remember a jaundiced skeletal figure with a grinning rictus for a mouth, swaddled in grey rags and carrying a pouch with a shoulder strap. That was for all of you newcomers to Spidey.) Even though his foe is unfamiliar to him, Peter can tell by the way Carrion reaches with his hands that his touch should be avoided.
Outside the library, Holly Gillis, ESU Art Freshman and close acquaintance of Hector Ayala's, notices the disturbance going on. (Since a whole oak table comes crashing through a window, it would be awful hard to miss.) She comes inside to investigate.
Inside, in the dark, Peter and Carrion really go at it. The villain reveals that he commands "absolute dominion over all that lives or once lived! All organic matter turns to ash at my touch! To dust!" and proves it by disintegrating a table. He also tells Pete that he wants retribution for "all the months I have suffered because of you."
Even as Pete tries to figure that out, Holly arrives on the floor. She turns on the lights which so disturbs Peter's still sensitive optic nerves that he is momentarily blinded. Carrion takes advantage by grabbing Pete with a strangle hold around his throat. But he doesn't use his disintegrating powers. "I wish to prolong your agony, Parker, until you have paid for your heinous crimes... the death penalty is the proper punishment for murderers! Parker has killed but no court shall judge him! For vengeance belongs to Carrion!"
Don't stop now! Our Looking Back continues with Spectacular Spider-Man #29.