Spidey Super Stories #1

Background

What to say about Spidey Super Stories? For those of you "not in the know", it was actually the third regular Spider-man title, starting in Oct 1974, and going through issue 57 in 1982. It was aimed at younger readers, which this comic often took to mean, "readers who are so dumb they can't possibly be intelligent enough to read this yet." It featured a whole host of the absolute lamest Spider-Man villains you've never heard of (and hope for your sanity never to hear about again). It also pitted Spidey against many regular Spider-Man villains like Doc Ock and the Green Goblin in schemes so ridiculous you'll feel tainted just reading them. Virtually every marvel hero guest-starred in Spidey Super Stories at one time or another, every issue had at least one guest star. Of course, none of it's in official continuity, but my oh my, are they funny to read.

Each comic contained at least three (sometimes four) stories, and an origin on the inside cover and sometimes an origin or introduction on an interior page. The back interior cover was for jokes sent in by readers, and on the back cover Spidey was always trying to get you to subscribe by doing all sorts of horribly embarrassing things. It was a 36 page comic that never had any ads, I think most companies were too frightened to advertise. It was produced jointly by Marvel and the Electric Company/Children's Television Workshop.

Spidey's supporting cast was almost exclusively members of the Electric Company, who apparently were:

  1. A bunch of street kids whose names we only sorta learn
  2. The "Short Circus", a kids musical rock group/escapees from the idiot farm
  3. Fargo North, Decoder, the dumbest honky you'll ever meet
  4. J. Arthur Crank, some guy who was constantly falling into manholes and such
  5. Jennifer of the Jungle and Paul the thinking Gorilla - no more need be said
  6. Some cutesie robot thing...

[Ummm... can we say "Honky" on the page? Let me check... - Ed]

Mary Jane shows up pretty often, Aunt May is around, and JJJ appears a few times, but that's about it for the normal supporting cast. Flash shows up for three panels in the origin.

Spidey Super Stories is notable for a few things, Marvel historians. It featured the first ever Spider-Woman (she's referred to as such several times), Valerie of the Electric Company, her first appearance beating Jessica Drew by about a year. In other interesting stories, it features Thanos and the Cosmic Cube, two Doctor Doom and Silver Surfer clashes, an early Shanna appearance, several early Cat appearances, a Thor/Loki battle, at least five Green Goblin stories, the Collector, Ms. Marvel, two Kang stories, and more Schemer versus Spider-Man stories than ever happened in the main Marvel universe. Also, in this particular issue, we get the third-ever!! retelling by Marvel of Spider-man's origin. (Do you Spider-philes know the first two off the top of your head?)

Alright, that's the background. (Whew!) I hope to review at least one Spidey Super Story each and every month. On to issue 1!

NOTE: Blue text is a direct quote from the issue. Just so you don't think I'm making this dialogue up.

Story 'SPIDERMAN is Born!'

  Spidey Super Stories #1 (Story 1)
Summary: Origin Spider-Man - All issues 'easy to read' short stories

Ch.1: Meet Peter Parker (5 pages)
Ch.2: Super-Powers! (6 pages)

This is the extremely lame version of the origin of Spider-Man. The one you'll probably wish you never heard of by the time its done.

The immortal origin of Spider-Man opens with Peter examining a shrub in front of the high school with a magnifying glass. Flash and a girl walk up. Peter ignores them, intent on his botanical discovery.

Girl: Peter! - Rats, he doesn't even hear me!

Flash: He's too busy with those plants.

Ouch! Especially since the next caption is:

Peter liked the other kids. But sometimes he liked science better.

Not exactly the John Travolta type, is he? Heck, I knew fat kids in grade school who didn't speak English who had better social skills than this. I mean, he's supposed to be a geek, but this just made me cringe.

This opening scene would also establish a unique Spidey Super Story addition to the origin, Peter's super-gardening skills. In a taunting scene on the next page, one of the kids would call him "leaf-lover". (Ohh, what a burn. And you, you're a Hiking Enthusiast, you.) But even the lameness of this insult does not explain why exactly Peter is made out to be some kind of botany geek. At the very end, after he gets his Spider powers and outfit and is climbing out the window, he STILL can't get over the leaf thing. "The kids laughed and called me leaf-lover! Watch out, world! Here comes Spider-man!" Maybe they were originally going to tie Plantman's origin in somehow, I don't know. Heck, makes more sense than tying in Doc Ock's origin, if you ask me.

Peter then has the usual loved by Aunt May/wheaty pancakes scene, and then is rejected when he asks a girl to go to the science fair with him. (Gee, I don't know, science fair with horrendous geek, dancing with Flash... uh, maybe when I'm dead, loser. What was Peter thinking?) He then goes alone to the science fair, which features the best sign ever:

-Science Fair-

RADIOACTIVITY

DANGER!!!

Room 30, this way -->

If only my high school had hosted something like that.

Then the usual spider drops from ceiling, goes in between two big glowing bulb thingies, irradiated, drops on hand, bites, dies. As Peter runs out of the fair, the scientists all snicker and say, "our experiment must have scared the poor boy." You know your social life is in the pits when a gang of lab-coat wearing geeks thinks that you're a big wussy and makes fun of you.

Peter then does the jump-out-of-the-speeding-car's way thing (Peter: Wow! I could have been as flat as Aunt May's pancakes! Is he making fun of Aunt May's pancakes here? What's up with that?), then the pipe-crushing thing, and the tightrope thing.

Now we come to the scenes that were deleted in the original release of the origin tale. Note that these scenes will NOT be restored in the Director's cut, or hopefully anywhere ever. Peter's walking down the street with his new Spider-powers, and spies a car parked next to a fire hydrant, and thinks,

Peter: Hmm! This car doesn't belong here. Since I feel super strong, maybe I can do a super deed.

He then lifts up the car and shoves it down the street.

I imagine Peter's next thought was, "Gosh, maybe I can help the world by curing it of the plague of illegal parking! Why, I could be, the AMAZING PARKING-MAN! No, wait, SPECTACULAR PARKING-GUY, or how about the SENSATIONAL MASTER PARKER! I like that last one..."

We pick up the story as a big safe is falling on Peter's head. This is also not in the original version, I believe. Apparently, someone was lifting a safe onto a roof for no apparent reason, since there are no windows on that building. Probably part of some nefarious villain's plan. ("If I drop safes on people's heads, I can steal their money! I can never be caught! Ha! That is, unless the police decide to look on the roof. Hmmm...") Peter discovers that, "something warns me of danger. I'll call it my Spider-Sense," as he leaps out of the way. At this point, I would call it my no-safe-on-head-sense, but hey, that's just me.

We then go to Peter's room, where he sits in quiet contemplation for one panel. Then the next panel has a violent red background and he pounds his fist and shouts, "Now I know! I'll use my powers to help others!" (Instead of using them to annoy others as a parking attendant, apparently.)

He designs web shooters, sews his costume, puts it on, and jumps out the window, and Spider-man is born. Though exactly how a big botany geek could make a pair of web shooters isn't really clear.

General Comments

Hmmm... we missing anything... Gee, I don't know, could it be.... SATAN!?!? No actually, it's Uncle Ben, who gets nary a mention in this wondrous tale. Not to mention that it's missing the burglar, the TV studio, the wrestling match, the warehouse, Max the agent, Crusher Hogan, the secret plot of the burglar, an X-Men cameo, the lacy undergarments, Bono of U2 and all the horrible things John Byrne did to the origin. The fact it's missing that last one almost makes up for all the others. But geez, no Uncle Ben? I mean, he's sorta important to the whole Spider-Man mythos. Instead, here we get Peter's righteous anger over the treatment of plants and the state of the public parking system to substitute for his Uncle's death.

Pay attention to the name Winslow Mortimer. That may be difficult to do without snickering a bit, but near as I can tell, this guy drew EVERY single issue of Spidey Super Stories, and yet no one's ever heard of him. I assume he went insane after the last issue. I mean, it takes a real bizarre dedication to draw 36 pages of total inanity month after month after month for eight years. His figures are actually drawn pretty well, but his backgrounds are usually non-existent and his characters are so stiff you'll think they're cardboard cut-outs. But hey, its Spidey Super Stories, so no one really cared.

Overall Rating

I'm not going to rate these stories on their quality. That would be ludicrous. Rather, I'm going to adopt the, "How much would I want to read this if I were drunk" scale of rating. That's what you really want to know, right? This one is lame, but not nearly as lame as some of the other gems later in the series. I was going to give it two webs, but it gets a bonus for being Spidey's origin, pathetic as it is.