Spidey Super Stories #4 (Story 3)

Background

The splash page tell us, "The Beetle can crawl on a wall and fly through the sky! Can Spider-Man beat the Beetle?" Gee, I don't know. Can Spider-Man tie his shoelaces? Can Spider-Man find his sock drawer? Can Spider-Man write his name in cursive? Because that's on the same difficulty level as beating the Beetle.

Story Details

As we open, we get to meet another of our illustrious supporting cast from the Electric Company, one I'd forgotten about. It's Pedro the Plant-Guy and his googly-eyed cannibal plant, Maurice! I'll take an opportunity right here at the beginning to remind you that I don't make this stuff up. Pedro, who is the only person in Spidey Super Stories to have a bad comb-over rather than a bad afro, owns and runs, "Pedro's Plant Place", where he spends his time growing plants and such. And one morning when he comes in, he discovers something amazing!

Mr. Caption: One of Pedro's plants had strange new flowers!

Pedro: Look, Maurice! I've never seen flowers like this before!

Maurice the Plant: Grrr! *leans over a little and tries to eat the pretty flower, because all sentient plants are jealous cannibals, apparently*

Dr. Pedro: *valiantly throws himself between the new flower and Maurice's grasping fronds* Back, Maurice, Back! Or I'll put you in a dark corner!

Tough words from a guy that has less hair than the plant he's talking to. Yes, Maurice the friendly cannibal plant also has a huge mess of long stringy red hair, while our esteemed Dr. Pedro has these seven spindly hairs he combs over his gleaming big brain scientist head. I'd give Dr. Pedro a flamethrower and a some industrial strength weed-killer and I'd still pick Maurice in a fight. I'm sure only the fact that he can't actually move prevented Maurice from slicing right through Dr. Pedro like an electric knife through honeyed ham.

But we're wasting valuable time when there are amazing advances in botany waiting just around the corner!

Dr. Pedro: (talking about the new flower thing) Its flowers are every color of the rainbow. I'll name it the rainbow rose!

Dr. Pedro: Maurice, your job is to watch the rainbow.

First of all, you'd think this would be the one part of the story the colorist would put just a smidgen of effort into. But sadly, no. These rainbow roses consist of exactly two colors, red and white. Maybe if you're blind, that would be a rainbow to you, but so would an ostrich for all you can see. Even stranger, all the flowers in the background in this very panel have four colors each, twice as many as this supposed 'rainbow' rose. Not to mention that the two whole colors the colorist did use on the 'rainbow' rose are haphazardly strewn in random splotches of red and white. No one in the credits actually takes credit for coloring this monstrosity, so I'm not surprised that it looks like a spastic five year old missing most of his Crayolas tried to color the roses while on a sugar high. Basically, it's the damn ugliest rose I've ever seen. I would slap the person that gave this to me.

Now comes one of the many good moments in this story.

Pedro: *picks up the phone* City Science Lab, please. I'd like to report a new plant.

I can just imagine the scene at City Science Lab:

The two emergency plant technicians are relaxing.

Emergency Plant Guy: So... plants in general are doing all right, then?

Emergency Plant Girl: I think so. No one's told me otherwise.

Emergency Plant Guy: Cool. *starts napping in easy chair*

*Suddenly, a green phone on the wall starts blinking*

Plant Lab Guy: *sits bolt upright in seat* Holy Petunias! It's the Plant Phone! That means someone has discovered a new plant!

Plant Girl: Holy Crap-ass! You're right!

Plant Guy: *as he's going for the phone* Get the mayor on the phone, ASAP. Then talk to the press, tell them we have a new plant but can't reveal any details until the press conference later this morning. I'll handle the call, and then inform the military.

Plant Girl: Yes sir, I'm on it!

Plant Guy: *picks up phone* Hello, City Science Labs, Plant Response Team. It's Pedro, my god, I never dreamed I'd be talking to a man of your stature. You make me proud to be an American, sir. A new rose, my god, I never dreamed I'd be the one to take this call. Yes sir, it's already taken care of, sir. *hangs up, eyes start tearing*

Plant Guy (yelling to Plant Girl): Get the Commissioner on the phone, stat. I want the three blocks around Pedro's place cordoned off, we've got a new plant here, MOVE!

I'm assuming something like this has to happen, because of the next panel.

Mr. Caption: By noon, Pedro and his plant were famous.
The panel shows a newsboy carrying a stack of the Daily Bugle to a newsstand. In a font approximately as big as that used to announce World War II, the headline says: "STRANGE NEW PLANT! Pedro Finds Rainbow Rose". At first I thought maybe there was a mix-up and they heard Pedro had discovered a new planet or something. But no, they have an accompanying black and white *snicker* picture of the 'rainbow' rose, so they must have known it was a new plant. And furthermore, it couldn't wait for the evening edition, so they had to print a special noontime extra, just to announce this remarkable plant discovery. That's how hot a story this is. I don't think atomic war would get a special extra edition these days.

And I find it odd they mention Pedro by his first name in the headline, "Pedro finds Rainbow Rose." Sure, you could maybe get away with using first names in headlines with Bill Clinton or Mayor Rudy "Police Smackdown" Guliani, but Pedro? Does everyone in NYC know who Pedro is? Shouldn't the headline say something like, "Scientists have discovered new plant, blah blah" ? I just can't imagine that all the crack dens pick up their special news edition and go, "Man, dat cracker Pedro done it again! Whass he gon' do next, dat crazy jitterbug?" Now just forget everybody in NYC knowing Pedro the botanist by name for a second. You try and name even one famous botanist anywhere who is not dead and in textbooks. I thought not. But somehow Pedro's famous across New York City two hours after he finds this rose, says so right there in the caption.

We now turn our attention to Spider-Man, who for the first time in the history of Spidey Super Stories, does not immediately have his Spider-sense alert him to some kind of not-at-all-threatening imminent danger. No, he decides to buy one of these newspapers, so he puts a dime on the end of his web-shooters and shoots its so it lands on the newsstand counter, and then webs himself up a paper. Am I the only one who sees problems with webbing only the front page of the paper and hauling it to the roof? Like all the middle pages? Also, I'm sure the newspaperman appreciates the fact that his counter is now covered in sticky goop and he can't even move the dime or his hands for the next hour until the webbing dissolves. So then Spidey whips up a web-hammock and reads the somehow intact paper.

Spidey: (reads the headline, and proves me wrong about the everybody knowing Pedro thing) It's Pedro from the Electric Company! I really want to see his plant! I think Peter Parker, science student should check this out.

We then flash over to the Beetle, who's wearing his original Beetle costume. This is the costume with 3 giant sucker fingers on each hand and a helmet that looks like a cake pan with two eyeholes cut out. He's demonstrating his AWESOME COSMIC POWERS for us.

Beetle: With these Beetle Feet, I can climb like Spider-Man!

Beetle: These metal wings give me a power even Spider-Man doesn't have!

*starts flapping his metal wings real fast (Mr. Sound Effect: FLAP! FLAP!) and jumps off a building*

Beetle: I can fly! So look out world, the Beetle wants to make his fortune.

Now, I'm not an Aeronautical Engineer. However, lucky for you, I know people who are. I'm going to let you in on a secret before you all go kill yourselves jumping off of buildings with sheet metal strapped to your arms. My friend assures me, no matter how fast you flap, you cannot use solid metal wings to fly like a bird. Not even glide around a bit. Just drop like a rock. It's one of those pesky laws of physics that you know, ancient Greek people knew all about, but comic-book writers always have the darndest time remembering.

So the Beetle decides to begin his crime wave by, "stealing a free newspaper." I heard Al Capone started out the same way. The Beetle decides to steal it from the very same vendor who Spider-Man bought his paper from. Apparently this guy's managed to work one hand free becuase he shakes it at the "creepy crawly" Beetle as he flies off. So where's Spidey in all this? Nowhere to be seen, despite the fact that he set up a hammock on the building right next to the newsstand. Not only does Spidey not see the Beetle, but the Beetle actually does commit an actual crime of sorts, and Spidey's Spider-Sense doesn't so much as blip. Last issue, he got a warning when a girl lost her cat on the other side of frickin' New York City, and here he ignores crimes right next to him.

So the Beetle reads the paper he stole, which is The Star, not The Daily Bugle. Interestingly enough, they also must have printed a special noon extra, (the whole city's hungry for Botany facts, I guess!) because they have the exact same headline as the Bugle with the exact same picture. Is that legal? Could I just make a newspaper that consists of my name pasted over "Chicago Tribune" and sell it across the city? Sounds like these "Star" people have got a good scam going.

So after reading the article, the Beetle decides to "steal this rare plant and sell it for plenty." Unfortunately for him, he doesn't know that the little black and white photo of the 'rainbow' rose in the newspaper looks about fifty times more attractive than the real puke-mess flower. So I think the Beetle's heading down Disappointment Drive, but if people collect different colored saran wrap for fun (I knew someone who did this), then maybe someone collects hideously ugly flowers, too.

The Beetle flies right on over to Pedro's Plant Place, since everyone in New York also seems to know where Pedro lives. He climbs in through the greenhouse roof and finds the 'rainbow' rose, and "a funny looking thing next to it." That funny looking thing is of course, Maurice the googly-eyed-cannibal plant. It growls at the Beetle, so he feeds it some 'Plant Food' that consists of raw Chick Peas (more cannibalism!) to "shut it up." Now.... Hmm... Is it just me, or might a talking plant with eyeballs be worth something. Worth a little more, perhaps, than a rose so hideous that Bayou-folk wouldn't give it to their sisters/wives. No no, the Beetle decides the big bucks lie in the non-cognitive variety of plants, feeds Maurice to shut him up, and starts to fly away.

So Super-Botanist Peter Parker comes into Pedro's Plant Place, desperate for information about this new plant. I'm surprised he made it through the ravaging media frenzy that's probably right outside.

Peter: I'm Peter Parker, Science Student, and I'd like to study your rare plant.

Maurice (from back room): ZZZZZ!

Pedro: Excuse me, I hear my watch-plant snoring.

*Goes into back room*

Pedro: Maurice, you lazy plant! I told you to guard... RAINBOW!

What?! Hello? Does anyone else see a problem with him leaving a plant to guard another plant? Like the fact it can't move and stuff? Plus there's the fact that it's a cannibal plant and wants to eat the plant it's supposed to guard. Not to mention it snores so loud it can be heard fifty feet away. Great guardian. Why don't you try having beef jerky guard your valuables next time, you schmuck. I guarantee it won't do any worse.

So Pedro looks up and sees the Beetle flying away with the Rainbow Rose, and calls to Peter to get help. Peter takes off and changes into Spidey. Spider-Man swings into the Beetle. Let's review for a moment:

1)Beetle breaks in, grabs Rainbow Rose.

2)On his way out, Beetle feeds Chick Peas to growling plant.

3)Growling plant falls asleep.

4)Growling plant snores.

5)Pedro hears snores, goes to check it out with Peter.

6)They see the Beetle.

7)Peter dashes out, changes into Spidey.

8)Spider-Man shoots webs at roof, gets on top.

9)Spider-Man crashes into Beetle.

The Beetle at this point, is twenty feet above the ground. In the time it's taken for a plant to fall asleep and start snoring, and then for Peter to change into Spider-Man, he's flown twenty feet. I don't know how fast he can move in those wings, but if women pushing strollers can outrace you, it's not really something to build a criminal career around.

So Spider-Man knocks into the Beetle, loses his grip on the webline and they both go plummeting through the glass roof of Pedro's Plant Place. Nice job there, genius boy. He's the one in armor, maybe next time you can come up with a plan that doesn't involve giant glass shards shredding your legs.

But the best part of this is that in-between when Spider-Man crashes into the Beetle four feet above the roof and the time they crash through the roof, Spider-Man manages to get out no less than three separate sentences.

(4 feet above the roof) Spider-Man: We're going to crash through the glass!

(2 feet above the roof) Spider-Man: The rare plant will be crushed!

(Crashing through the glass roof) Spider-Man: Web-shooters, don't fail me now!

Something is majorly screwing with the time flow in this story. The Beetle moves slower than a Frisbee, and Peter gets out a freakin' paragraph while plummeting four feet in the air. Gravitational acceleration? 32 feet per second per second? Anyone associated with this book ever hear of it? Ok then.

And I didn't even mention that in-between crashing through the jagged glass and then hitting the ground ten feet below that, Spidey makes a ten foot wide, two foot deep web pillow underneath him and the Beetle and the stupid plant. Take that, laws of physics!

Then comes a nonsense panel I won't even bother trying to explain, and then comes the inevitable web-shoot at the villain. The Beetle flexes his wings, and instantly snaps the webbing. "You should know by now that Spider-Webs can't trap the Beetle!" Look, buddy, Spidey don't know you from Adam. And he always tries the web thing, be you a Norse God, an Alien, or a hobo, it's kind of his schtick, you know? So just deal with it.

The Beetle then performs what I consider to be the most actually-threatening attack of any villain in Spidey Super Stories so far. He puts down the flower and grabs a table with some gardening implements on it, and swings it in Spidey's general direction. Not only does Spidey have to avoid the hedge trimmers and a rake, he must dodge the deadly destruction of the flower pot and the watering can. Well, Beetle's already got Doc Ock beat hands down in the offense department. But Spidey still manages to jump to the side of this tremendous display of power.

The Beetle grabs the 'rainbow' rose again, and tries to fly off, but Spidey shoots a webline at him and smashes him back into the ground. A page ago, he was so concerned about the plant he made a web-pillow so it wouldn't be crushed, and now he just smashes the Beetle and the rose into the ground, whatever. When Spidey comes over to the Beetle, the Beetle "clonks" him with one of his wings, picks up the plant, and flies out the window (for the third time). He lands on a nearby roof, Spidey follows him, and they begin fighting again.

Meanwhile, in the background of these panels, Pedro has been hiding under a table, then carrying cacti from one side of the room to the other, then hiding under a table again. He sees a spray bottle marked, "WATER", and he thinks to himself, "Spidey needs help! This sprayer should do the trick!" Hmmm.... so you believe Spider-Man needs the help of a balding botanist with a watergun to defeat a lame villain? How many lame villains has Spidey beaten over the years? You think he needs your help here? You can't even stop your damn cannibal plant from eating other plants. But Pedro, drunk with his own studliness, also picks up a garden rake and decides, "I'm going after the Beetle, too!"

So Captain Courageous here climbs to the neighboring roof, where Spider-Man and the Beetle are "grappling". Then using all of the botanical knowledge at his disposal, he hits the Beetle with the blunt end of the rake, not the end with sharp pointy bits, no no, the other end, screaming, "No, you buggy bully!"

The Beetle turns around, and Pedro sprays a fine mist of water in his face. This one spritz of water then becomes opaque and envelops the Beetle's entire body. I'm not even going to figure out how many laws of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics that one breaks.

Thanks to Pedro's distraction, Spider-Man is able to web the Beetle up again, and now 3 pages later the Beetle is suddenly not able to snap Spidey's webbing like used dental floss. I don't really know, that's hardly the worst violation of logic or common sense or physics in this story.

Epilogue: Spider-Man helps Pedro sweep up the broken glass. Pedro apparently believes that Peter Parker ran out without trying to get help or something.
Pedro: Thanks to you, my plant is safe. *Gets pissed-off look on his face* But if I ever see Peter Parker again, I'll throw him to Maurice!

*Maurice growls hungrily*
Jesus! So now he eats, people too? I've seen horror films with happier endings than this. So we have the cannibal-now-man-eating googly-eyed plant Maurice swearing vengeance on people. I can't imagine how many traumatized kids in the 70s went around smashing their Mom's houseplants after reading this story. "Take that, you plants! Mom, it was gonna eat you Mom, I had to kill your petunias before they got you." Heck, after writing this review I went and smashed some plants for old times sake.

General Comments

You know, and this is just a random thought, it would have been a lot cooler if Spider-Man had to "Beat the Beatles". Just imagine the Beatles as 70s Marvel super-villains. Ringo would have his Yellow Submarine Death Machine with tiny flapping metal wings to make it fly, George would have some kind of robotic battlesuit that transformed into his guitar and freeze-gun, Paul would have a better haircut and his boyish charm, and John would have the remarkable power to be convinced by anything any Asian chick says to him. I have no doubt they could conquer the Spidey-Superverse. If you're desperate for 70s musical guest stars, just wait until issue 21 featuring Elton John. I'm not kidding.

So how do you find a plant, anyway? Pedro "found" a new plant? Was it left on his doorstep in a bassinet in the middle of the night? You don't just find fully grown plants of a new species sittin' in your lab. Either you manipulate its DNA or something, or you go exploring in the Amazon rainforest. Either way, you'd probably remember. Even 17th century science knew that this "spontaneous generation of species" thing was a load of crap.

Speaking of which, what's with the science in this story anyway? Great examples for the kids. Is there a physical law that hasn't been broken in this story? Gee, let's see... *opening physics textbook*   Gravity, did that plenty. Buoyancy, did that. Fluid and Thermo, check. Time symmetry, smashed that one. Hmm. Well, I guess they didn't technically break the laws of electrodynamics. Or the Law of the Differential Coefficient of the Latent Heat of Vaporization! Yeah, there we go.

Overall Rating

4 webs. Hideous valuable flowers, flesh-eating cannibal guard plants, botanists more famous than the president, and a lame physics-defying villain. How could you not love it?