There's a whole other Spider-verse out there. In it, Peter is happily married to Mary Jane but the poor guy seems a little bit denser than what we're used to. As Spidey, he keeps busy fighting car thieves and mummies and guys in gorilla suits rather than the big-time super-villains that plague him in the comics. He spends a lot of time watching TV with his beautiful wife. There's no Ben Reilly, no Mattie Franklin, no aborted pregnancy, no plane crash. And, what's more, you can check in on this universe 365 days a year and have been able to do so for over twenty years.
This Spider-Man lives in the syndicated newspaper strip. Written by Stan Lee, the strip has appeared daily in hundreds of newspapers since 1977. Recently, Stan's words have been teamed with the artwork of his brother, Larry Leiber.
The strip has been simplified for continuity-clueless newspaper readers, the stories are fairly dopey, and Spidey is often infuriatingly gullible but it's usually a fun read all the same. Here's an example from 1995.
This review is, of course, filed under "Comics Revue Magazine" which collected reprints of the Spider-Man newspaper strip. The story starts in CRM #115 and goes through to #120.
Writer is Stan Lee, Pencils by Larry Leiber.
Peter and Mary Jane snuggle up, watching TV. (See? What did I tell you?) Feeling amorous, Pete offers to shut off the set but a news bulletin comes on and MJ wants to hear it. The news is that "another victim has been found with teeth marks on his neck". On top of that, "two more blood banks have been broken into". MJ thinks it sounds like the work of a vampire but Pete scoffs that "next you'll be believing in tooth fairies!"
Later Pete and MJ are out on the town. They decide to take in a movie. ("Now playing: Eternal Love.") But once inside they discover they are practically the only customers. An usher tells them that "people are afraid to go out.... because of the vampire!" And, sure enough, as they leave the theatre, Pete and MJ notice that the street is practically deserted. But, Pete protests, there is no such thing as vampires. If that's the case, MJ replies, how do you explain the teeth marks in the victims' necks?
In subsequent days, Jonah Jameson writes an editorial imploring the police to stop the "vampire crimes". This gets Peter thinking about investigating as Spidey ("Why didn't I marry a dentist?", MJ asks.) But he decides to go rent a video instead. He drags MJ with him to the store and zeros in on a display promoting the rental of "an old classic". The film is "The Vampire's Venom" starring Lugo Belogi and Pete knows he has to rent it. ("I was hoping for Meryl Streep", says MJ, "but okay".)
As they take the video home, Pete wonders what ever happened to Lugo Belogi. ("Maybe he carelessly went out in the sun", replies MJ.) At home, Pete munches popcorn and revels in Belogi's performance as a vampire. MJ yawns, combs her hair, and generally ignores the film. (When Pete says, "They just don't make vampire movies like that anymore", MJ replies, "Thank goodness!") But when police sirens echo through the neighborhood, even Pete loses interest in the film. "Be sure to tell me how it ends", he says to his wife as he puts on the Spidey suit.
Spidey arrives at the scene of the crime. It is another body, another victim with teeth marks on his neck. Once again, there are no witnesses, as if the killer just vanished... "like a vampire!" But Spidey gets careless in his investigation and lets the police see him. Now the word is out that Spider-Man himself might be the vampire!
At the Daily Bugle, Joe Robertson asks Betty Brant to contact Peter Parker. When Pete arrives, Robbie gives him an assignment. In the wake of the crimes, Robbie wants an interview with the vampire. Not the actual killer, of course, but with Lugo Belogi whose "videos are top sellers since the vampire crimes". Pete's job is to find Belogi first, then do a story on him. At home, he is in the process of telling all this to Mary Jane when they hear a cry for help right outside. Pete dons his Spidey suit and web-slings to the rescue. He comes upon a woman, threatened by a man in the shadows; a man wearing a vampire cape.
The woman flees as Spidey confronts the vampire. The cape does not impress him. ("Those threads went out with mustache wax.") But the vampire's strength does impress him. The mystery man pulls a parking meter out of the sidewalk with his bare hands. ("Anyone that strong", thinks Spidey, "can wear what he wants!")
The vampire swings the parking meter at him like a club. Spidey leaps high in the air to avoid it but is kept off-balance by the vampire's continual swings. Up in their apartment, a worried MJ calls the police. Good thing she does. Because, after the vampire snaps the parking meter in half by hand and Spidey kicks him in the chest to no effect, the bad guy grabs Spidey and lifts him over his head. It is only the arrival of the police that breaks it up. Two cops get out of their squad car and the vampire bowls them over by flinging the web-slinger at them. Then he vanishes. "Even in the dark", thinks the webhead, "it looked like a bat flying away!"
Back at the apartment, Pete tells MJ about the bat. He must have been imagining it, he decides. But, just in case, there's "an expert on vampirism on the ESU campus" who he can go and see.
In the meantime, he has to interview Lugo Belogi (who, it now appears, is not missing at all, since Pete seems to have his home address). He gets up bright and early the next morning and sets out, walking past an comic book shop which has the poster of Lugo Belogi's film "Fangs of the Vampire" prominently displayed.
Pete realizes that he left his wallet at home and that Belogi lives too far away to walk. Since he can't take the bus, it looks like he's going to have to web-sling. (But, for some reason, he webs his clothes to the side of a building to pick up when he returns. So, what was he planning on wearing when he got to Belogi's place?) It's not long before he arrives at the address but the place is boarded up. Just what a vampire might do, thinks Spidey, "to keep the sun out!" He tries to shake such silly thoughts away and heads back to get his clothes. On the way, he swings by the video store. The place is mobbed with customers all wanting Lugo Belogi movies. Spidey briefly wonders if this sort of reaction is just what the criminal was looking for, then dismisses the notion as "too far out".
Next step for Spidey is to visit "Professor Warren, ESU's authority on vampires!" (Does Stan think all teachers have to be named "Warren" or what?) He stops at the spot at which he left his clothes but they're gone. Standing next to a dumpster is a pony-tailed man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He has the webbing and the clothing in hand. "Not my size", he thinks, "but who's complainin'?" (And, hey, if he was able to pry Spidey's webbing off the wall to get to the clothes, I wouldn't mess with him, either!)
Spidey confronts the man, telling him that those are his clothes. The man doesn't back down at all. "You'd stoop to stealing a man's clothes?", he asks, "S'matter? Business is slow, so you turn to mugging?" At that moment, a policeman gets in on the act. He tells Spidey to identify the clothes if they are his. The wall-crawler realizes it's not worth it. There might be something on the clothes that would reveal his identity. He swings away, bestowing the clothes on the other man.
Spidey heads home to get more clothing (where it seems that MJ does nothing more than just hang out around the house). Once back in his Peter Parker mode, he goes to the ESU campus to visit Prof. Leland Warren. But when he knocks on the Prof's door, he is told to "Go away! I'm not in! I can't see anyone!" Peter pushes, telling the Professor who he is and that he attended Warren's class last year. Fearfully, Warren lets him in and locks the door behind him.
Inside, surrounded by all sorts of vampire memorabilia, Prof. Warren tells Pete that he believes in the existence of the bloodsuckers and that he is afraid for his life. "I know more about them than anyone", he explains, "They can't afford to let me live!" Peter asks the Prof if he knows of any actual vampires and Warren says there is one that he has suspected for years. "Him!", he says, holding up a Lugo Belosi movie poster. ("Fangs in the Night"). "He'd be old by now", Warren says, "but age is meaningless to vampires!"
After leaving the professor, Peter still can't believe that Warren thinks Lugo Belogi is a vampire. But he knows one thing for certain. "It's time for Belogi and Spider-Man to meet!"
At the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson scoffs at the whole notion of vampires. "I wouldn't waste a reporter's time on such hogwash", he says. When Joe Robertson tells him he already put Peter on the story, Jonah replies, "That wimp? Who cares how much time he wastes?"
Back at the Parker place, MJ takes a bubble bath, secure in the thought that Pete is doing something safe this evening ("interviewing people") instead of doing the town as Spider-Man. But, unknown to her, Pete has decided to tackle the Belogi house again. Spidey swings to an upper-story window and pulls the boards off. After he enters, he notices that there is a light on downstairs. It is coming from the basement. A single bare bulb hangs from the ceiling. Also in the basement is a cabinet with books and a skull on top of it. A candle. A Belogi poster. And, oh yeah, an open and empty coffin!
Spidey takes a closer look at the casket and notices a piece of paper. Written on the sheet is the address of the West Side Blood Bank. "If Belogi's heading there, so am I!", he decides, and swings out into the night once more. But when he gets there, he is already too late. The police surround the blood bank. One cop tells him that "someone's already stolen the blood supply", then wonders why Spidey always shows up "at times like this". The wall-crawler doesn't stick around long enough to arouse more suspicions. He returns to Belogi's house to "catch him red-handed".
Back at the house, Spidey rips more boards off yet another window (just showing off, I guess) and, this time, hears someone down in the basement. He finds Belogi down there, dressed as a vampire (and looking very much like Bela Lugosi, of course), apparently about to climb into his coffin. Belogi threatens to call the police but Spidey shoots webbing over the phone before Lugo can get to it. Belogi is surprised that Spidey thinks he is responsible for the vampire attacks. He tells the web-slinger that all of this is an act. "I'm just an actor rehearsing for a role!", he says. Spidey doesn't believe him. He asks why Lugo had the address of the blood bank. "It's for my new vampire movie", is the reply, "to keep it authentic". (Huh?) Then, Spidey thinks of the real test. On the wall is a broken shard of mirror. Vampires don't cast reflections, Spidey knows, so he removes the mirror and forces Belogi to look in it. Lugo recoils from it, as if guilty, but Spidey thrusts the mirror in his face. And to the wall-crawler's surprise, Lugo's reflection is clearly seen.
But, Spidey still believes Belogi is a vampire. The fact that he casts a reflection "just means the legends are wrong". (Ah, that sharp scientific mind at work!) Lugo tells him that all the trappings in the basement are just momentos from his movies and asks Spidey to leave before he charges him with breaking and entering. The wall-crawler goes but still thinks Belogi is guilty and still plans to be there when the vampire slips up.
Spidey swings home only to find MJ gone. There's a note propped up on the toaster. It tell him that MJ has gone out to the corner grocery for some dog food. (Dog food? Yes, apparently in this particular Spider-Man universe, Peter and Mary Jane have a dog.) Pete runs to the grocery but the grocer hasn't seen MJ all night. "We've had no customers because of the vampire scare", he says. Outside, it has begun to rain. Pete stands out in it, wondering where to turn. No one is out on the streets because of the killer. Frustrated, Pete pounds a lamp post with his fist. Where can MJ be? Then he notices a figure standing at the window, inside his apartment. He runs up the outside wall and climbs through the window. Inside is Mary Jane holding and petting the family dog.
Pete is soaking wet but he holds MJ tight. He tells her he was worried, that he got the note but that the grocer hadn't seen her. MJ tells Pete that she didn't go out. She went next door and borrowed dog food from Mrs. White, then stayed for a while to visit. (And, outside, a man who looks like a vampire walks by, stalking the rainy night.)
MJ offers to run a hot bath for Peter but he tells her to wait. His spider-sense is picking something up that is just outside. He assumes his Spidey identity again and checks it out. But it's too late. Whatever he sensed is now gone.
Pete returns to MJ and they go to bed. But Pete can't sleep. He can't stop thinking of the vampire. He gets up, dresses as Spidey and heads to the ESU campus. His intent is to talk to Prof. Leland Warren again (apparently, the professor lives at his office) but when he arrives, he notices the door to Warren's place is ajar. Soon after, a shadowy figure in a cape exits. Spidey now fears for Warren's life since it looks like "the vampire got to him first".
At first, Spidey trails the shadowy figure but then decides to jump him. Somehow, though, without appearing to move, the figure slides out of the way and Spidey grabs only dirt. "No one could move that fast!", says the web-slinger. "No one human, you mean", is the reply.
As the wall-crawler and the mystery man face off behind some bushes, two ESU security guards walk by. One thinks he hears something but the other tries to talk him out of it. The vampire comes closer. Spider-Man tries to use his web-shooters. Unfortunately, the poor sap finds himself out of web fluid. He resorts to his fists but, somehow, his opponent snags Spidey's right arm in his cloak. The webster cannot break free.
The vampire fells the web-slinger and moves in for the kill. But the security guard is now sure he heard something. The two guards approach the bushes, shining flashlights. Now, in one of those lovely lapses that can take place when the story stretches out slowly in a daily newspaper, the location of the fight becomes Central Park and the ESU guards morph into Park Guards. The vampire decides that the guards must not see him so, rather than finish Spidey off, he departs. The guards come upon a shaken wall-crawler and they hear another sound. This sound comes from a fleeing bat.
The web-slinger knows he cannot let that bat get away so, putting in new web cartridges, he takes to the air in pursuit. One of the guards tries to stop him. "Okay, okay so I walked on the grass!", says Spidey as he leaves. The guard turns to his partner. "I just wanted his autograph", he says.
Meanwhile, Spidey trails the bat right back to Lugo Belogi's house. He follows the bat inside and goes down to the basement. From the shadows, Belogi steps out, training a gun on the wall-crawler. Spidey accuses him of being the vampire but Belogi denies ever leaving the house. Then, with a cry of "you won't hound me any longer!", Belogi fires his gun. Spidey grabs his chest but he is not wounded. "You shot me but I'm still standing", says the poor dense clod. The reason? Belogi was aiming at someone else. But that person isn't hurt either. Another figure steps from the shadows with a cry of "Fool! You know bullets cannot harm me!"
Belogi tells the mystery man that he suspected he was around once Spider-Man mentioned that he followed a bat into the house. Spidey is completely confused. "If Belogi isn't the vampire", he says, "then who...?" The vampire steps out from the shadows, saying "It's time for you to know" and reveals himself to be.... Professor Leland Warren! (Did everybody guess?) Warren reveals that he is indeed a vampire and that he planned his reign of terror so that Belogi would be the logical suspect. (How he did this exactly, when all he ever did was go around killing people, is not very clear.) Now that Spider-Man has foiled his plan, Warren declares that the webhead must die!
The vampire attacks but Spidey picks Belogi up and swings him to safety. He avoids Warren's punches by clinging high up on the wall. But he doesn't account for the vampire's powers. Warren levitates himself up to Spidey's level. Then, Belogi steps in. He has a hand mirror and he throws it to Spider-Man. If the webhead can reflect the candlelight back at Warren, it will cause the vampire pain. (Don't worry about whether this makes sense or not. Don't worry about how that candle, shown unlit four strips back, got lit either. Believe me, it's not worth it.) At first the plan works. Warren is kept at bay by the reflected light. But soon, with a swish of his cape, he snuffs out the candle. Now "with no accursed light" to trouble him, Warren reveals his full powers. He transforms right before Spidey's eyes into a human-size bat. This doesn't faze our hero one bit. He wades right in and tries to connect with a hard righthand punch. It doesn't work, however. The vampire parries his punch with his powerful wing. Then, with a sweep of his arm, Warren knocks Spidey across the room. He gloats, standing over an unconscious web-slinger. And, in his careless confidence, the vampire forgets about Lugo Belosi who is searching in his old boxes for the "one thing [that] can save him"... if he can find it in time!
Spider-Man regains consciousness and tries to stand but Warren knocks him down to the ground again. "It'll be your final resting place", he tells Spidey, then leans down, jaw open, intending to bite the wall-crawler in the neck. Spidey is helpless. Warren tells him to "prepare to join the living dead". But Belogi finds what he is looking for. And it is.... a flashlight?
Warren is terrified at the sight of the lightmaker. He forgets about Spidey, leaps over to Belogi and swats the flashlight out of his hands. But Spidey is on top of things. He grabs the flashlight with his webbing, turns it on, and shines it directly at the vampire. It is not long before the light affects him. He swiftly morphs back to his regular human form. In desperation, Warren grabs Belogi and threatens to kill him unless the light is turned off. But Belogi tells Spidey not to listen. He can tell that the light is weakening Warren and he is able to easily pull away.
After centuries of undead mayhem, Warren is defeated. But he is also determined that the world never know that vampires are real. He leaps to the lone basement window and pulls away the curtain. Outside the sun is fairly high in the sky (which means this battle must have taken a long time) and the light shines in. Warren is saturated with the sunshine and since "no vampire can survive in a room flooded with sunlight", he perishes. But in death, he reverts to normal. "No fangs, no bat wings, nothing!" There is no proof at all now that Warren was a vampire. Belogi theorises that Warren sacrificed himself so that other vampires can continue to thrive in a world that does not believe in them. "Do you think there might be others?", Spidey asks. "Let us hope", Belogi says, "we never find out!"
An ambulance comes to take Warren's body away. Spidey and Belogi have decided to report that the professor died of a heart attack. The next day, Peter Parker visits Lugo Belogi and asks him if he can photograph him for the Daily Bugle. Lugo is happy to oblige. He wants the publicity now, since he has decided to do horror films again. As Pete takes his photos, he asks Lugo why he decided to return to acting. "It started with Spider-Man", Belogi says, "But I cannot tell the story! The world would think me mad!" "Right!", Pete thinks, "I was there and I still can't believe it!"
Now I know what you're thinking. If light could kill Professor Warren, then how did he teach all his classes? And how could he let Peter into his room when it was daylight? And didn't he have the blinds open in his room, only closing them once it got dark? And didn't Belogi tell Spidey that he was hanging out in a coffin to prepare for a movie role? Then why does he tell Peter that he only decided to go back to acting after his experience with Spider-Man? And, finally... a flashlight? Are you kidding me? To which I can only reply... Hey, don't ask me! Ask Stan!