Spidey Super Stories #3

Background

The Circus of Crime. This'll be a fast one. Despite the fact that's its thirteen pages, it's so dull and ordinary even I was (almost) at a loss to make fun of it. Only by using my super-sarcasm powers was I able to drag any amusement out of it at all.

Story Details

  Spidey Super Stories #3 (Story 1)
Summary: Circus of Crime, Dr. Fly, Mysterio
Editor: Roy Thomas
Plot: Thaddeus Mumford (Story 2)
Writer: Jean Thomas
Pencils: Winslow Mortimer
Inker: Mike Esposito

The story opens with Peter Parker, suave as he is, trying to drag Aunt May out for a "night on the town". He's just gotten a bonus for selling photos to JJJ, and rather than trying to find a friend to have fun with, he wants to take out his Aunt. Not that there's anything wrong with that, we all should be so respectful of our elders as that good old Peter. But Aunt May will have none of this tomfoolery, or possibly shenanigans.

Aunt May: You must save your money for school. You're going to be a great scientist someday!

Peter: But I can earn a lot more (taking photos)! Mr. Jameson says my photos are super!

Great dedication there, Peter. It's nice for a children's comic to show the importance of professions in science. "Screw science! I'm all about the cold hard cash!" I myself am occasionally tempted by the evil dollar, but then I remember how researching solar dust nebulas increases general world happiness. Yeah...

And so Mr. Jameson says your photos are super, huh Peter? That's nice. My first grade teacher once told me my drawing of the sun and a pretty flower was super too, but you don't see me running off to become a professional crayon artist, now do you?

So Peter, turned down *snicker* by his own Aunt for a date, goes back up to his room and starts studying, heh. He then has a two-page flashback. He explains how he sets the timer on his camera, becomes Spidey, gets photos of himself in action, and then sells them to JJJ. JJJ says, "I hate that web-head. I don't trust anyone who wears a mask. But people want to read about Spider-Man. So I'll buy every Spider-Man picture you get!" He says this as he rips up the Spider-Man photos he just bought, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But whatever, he gives Peter five five dollar bills (paying him under the counter!) and sends him on his way. The irony of Peter working for the man who hates him and earning money taking pictures of himself (the dream of photo majors everywhere) is cleverly illustrated by a devious "wink" to the audience.

I just realized what a scam Peter has here. I mean, anytime he needs some cash, he just dresses up and starts snapping photos of himself. Then he gets money. That rocks. Since Jameson says he would buy every photo, I'd put cameras everywhere. "Here's a shot of Spider-Man in bed, here he is on the can, here he is eating a low-fat yogurt product for breakfast. And I've got ten other rolls. At twenty-five dollars a photo, you owe me six thousand dollars. I'll accept tax-free cash." Man, that would be sweet.

Peter finally stops flashbacking, and his Aunt comes up to his room, saying she's changed her mind about doing something with loser Peter and would like to go to the circus that night. She shows Peter the flyer, which consists of a picture of each member of the circus and their names. So you can see the Ringmaster, with his Spirally-Hypno Top Hat(tm) and Evil Villain Thin French Mustache(tm). Also there's a picture of "The Crafty Clown" on his unicycle, holding what appears to be a giant scythe. First of all, I prefer my clowns more "Funny" than "Crafty", but at least he's not the "Intolerably Annoying Clown". And secondly, he looks like he just ran over his dog with his unicycle or something. He seems to be weeping and has a giant sorrowful frown on, in his ridiculous (even for a clown) outfit. I almost started crying just looking at this mass-produced newsprint reproduction of a drawing someone did of someone looking at a newspaper advertising supplement print of his photograph. He looks THAT sad. And let's not forget he's still holding a giant scythe. As for the others in the Circus (of Crime!), there's the Great Gambinos, midget acrobats who stand on each other's heads, and the Human Cannonball, who looks like a normal guy in work-out clothes with the giant tip of Crayola Crayon 218: Battleship Grey strapped to his head. And last but not least, let us not forget the charming Princess Python, who always gets my vote for, "Super-chick in green fishnet that I would most like to sleep with," beating Poison Ivy by a landslide, because I don't handle skin rashes well. Plus, she's Princess Python.

"It looks like such a nice circus!" says Aunt May. Well, ok, we'll chalk this one up to your vision not being what it used to be.

We then get one page of the Circus of Crime setting up for the big night. The Clown still looks like someone just shot his best friend, but trooper that he is, he's practicing on his unicycle all the same. Oh, and apparently it was not a scythe he was holding after all, but rather a miscolored eight-foot tall walking cane. Really. Princess Python is running around with her snake, which is about fifty feet long and four feet across. Human Cannonball is climbing in and out of his cannon to make sure that all-you-can-eat Ponderosa bar hasn't hampered his ability to fit in the cannon. The Gambinos are doing gay acrobat stuff in tights, and the Ringmaster's yelling at them all about how this will be "their greatest show AND their most daring crime." And then Mr. Caption promises the next chapter will be, "More fun than a barrel of monkeys!" What's Spidey Super Stories obsession with monkeys, anyway? Every issue, they have to sneak in gorillas or monkeys or apes in somewhere. We're three for three issues so far. What's up with that?

Anyway, Peter and his Aunt get to the circus, sit down, the Ringmaster introduces everybody, and the show begins. Meanwhile Aunt May begins to "feel a little tired", and even though its only issue 3 of Spidey Super Stories, Peter knows as well as we do what that means (once again). More heart attacks for Aunt May! Peter offers to get her something to drink, thinking, "I know Aunt May has heart trouble, and doesn't want to scare me." But unfortunately, it's a children's book, so we don't get to see Aunt May's heart exploding or whatever and the plot point is dropped.

Ringmaster then starts his hypnotizing thing (chanting, "Your Will is My Will! Your Will is My Will!") and the Circus begins to collect the valuables. You know, I just realized, since this is clearly a circular big top, what are the people in the other half of the tent doing while the Circus robs this half? Maybe they think mock-robbery is an amusing circus thing. Oh, those silly circus people!

Peter uses his God-like Spider-sense to immediately know something is wrong in the tent, even though no one is in danger, especially him, since he is outside of the tent and can't even see the robbery. I don't think that's how it's supposed to work, but whatever. Peter decides the only thing to do is to climb up the ropes holding up the circus tent to the very top, still dressed as Peter Parker. This is in full view of everyone walking around outside the tent. He then flings off his clothes on top of the tent, and changes into his Spidey outfit. On top of the tent. At least you could've found a Porta-Potty or something, and then you could have crawled up the side of the tent without you know, giving away your secret identity or something. Or for that matter, you could've just wandered right in the main entrance, it's only the Circus of Crime here.

But he drops in on the criminal circus through the little hole at the top of the tent.

Ringmaster: Spider-Man!

Spider-Man: Well, it isn't Dumbo the Flying Elephant!

Well said. We then get to the embarrassing hand-to-hand combat parts. Mostly embarrassing for the Circus of Crime, but also embarrassing for Spider-Man, the penciller, the writer, and even the reader. The Great Gambinos try to tackle Spider-Man from opposite directions, and he ducks and they knock themselves out. The Clown (still looking miserable) throws some red rubber balls at Spider-Man's head. That's his big attack. Spidey webs up his unicycle, which apparently stops him because all that unicycle riding has atrophied his legs. Princess Python then has her enormous snake try and crush Spider-Man, but Spidey gets out of it and ties the snake in a giant knot. He then uses the snake's tail to tie up Princess Python, yes, with her own giant snake. Mmmm... Princess Python bondage scene...

*Ahem* Anyway, Spidey then decides the best way to handle the Human Cannonball is to get on a trapeze and swing directly over the cannon that the Cannonball has just climbed into. I might have, oh, I don't know, walked over to where the cannon was, and taunted the Human Cannonball from out there. He's not really threatening unless you stay directly in front of the cannon, which of course Spidey did. But Spidey puts his Super-Agility to good use for a change, twists out of the way, grabs the Human Cannonball by the ankles, and throws him back at the Ringmaster. Though I think it would have been easier to just walk over to the Ringmaster and then stuff him in the cannon with the Cannonball. Ah well, lost opportunities. Then all the members of the Circus of Crime conveiniently become conscious/untied/figure out how their legs work and stand right next to each other, allowing Spidey to web them all up in a single big web ball.

Spidey then uses the Ringmaster's hat to hypnotize everyone into believing that it was a wonderful show and they can all wake up now. He doesn't even need the stupid chant to do it. Man, if it was that easy to hypnotize people I would have learned it long ago. But everyone wakes up, Peter changes back to his street clothes and finds Aunt May, and still has time for the Story Ending Pun.

Aunt May: You missed the show, and you didn't take one picture!

Peter: It really doesn't matter, Aunt May. My camera is out of film anyway!

Aunt May: Sigh!

Ha. Was that a joke? "My camera is out of film anyway!" Where did that come from? It makes no sense, it's not funny, and it relates to nothing in the story. *Argh* BAD WRITING MAKE ERIC KILL....

General Comments

I just went and looked Princess Python's entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Master Edition (abbreviated: Bill) So Bill says her real name is Zelda, her only special combat skills are feminine wiles and her only equipment is a hand-held electric prod, capable of discharging 1,000 volts. I think I'm in love.

Did you know the Circus of Crime once called themselves the Masters of Menace? That's like me calling my goldfish "The Super Destructor" or naming my cottage cheese "The Wrecking Ball." I just thought you'd like to know.

As long as Peter was hypnotizing the whole crowd, he could have put in a good word for Spider-Man while he was at it. "Only believe that Spider-Man helps people and is good. And uh, you should buy all his action figures, comics, and lunchboxes. And the breakfast cereal, too." But no, Spidey was more concerned with letting everyone think they had a good time at the circus that tried to rob them. Speaking of which, what about all the sacks of valuables that had already been collected? We never see them again. Maybe Peter stashed them away for a rainy day, that sly dog. Probably not though, being Peter he just left them there. So at the very least I think people might wonder why all their valuables are suddenly in a big pile in the middle of the ring at this very wonderful circus they can't remember, so why even bother convincing them it's so wonderful?

Overall Rating

One Web. Yawn. Give me something I can work with here, people. I know from experience that the team supreme of Jean Thomas and Winslow Mortimer can do so much worse than this. Fails utterly to be funny on its own, no matter how drunk you get. I give it one web solely for my own ability to make anything amusing at all out of this crapola.