MJ has taken a job, touring with Kraven the Hunter (December 27, 1977). When Peter reacts badly to this, she tells him, “If that’s all my career means to you, see ya around – maybe!” As our story begins on December 29, Peter, going to the library, laments in panel #1 that “Not only does my girl take a job a thousand miles away - - but her boss is one of my deadliest enemies!” In panel #2, he spies a beautiful woman and tries, unsuccessfully to have her join him at his table. By panel #4, his friend Carole (whom we’ve never seen before) tells him, “If you want to meet ‘Miss Exotic,’ just say so, She’s my classmate!”
And away we go!
Carole tells Peter that Miss Exotic, AKA Tana will be at the New Year’s Eve costume party at Empire State University. Peter doesn’t have a costume so he arrives in his Spidey suit. He finds Tana, dressed as a pirate, and Carole, dressed as Uncle Sam, standing next to each other and asks Carole to introduce them. Carole does, Peter unmasks, and he and Tana dance. But meanwhile, “at a nearby bank,” a shadowy figure leaves a time bomb set to go off at midnight. (There’s a cool transition from January1, panel #6 to #7. Number 6 shows the clock on the bomb. Number 7 shows the clock at the New Year’s party.) Peter and Tana have become very close very quickly. Peter says, “As the old year ends, everyone puckers up and - - Hey! You’re a fast learner!” and Tana says, “Perhaps you’re just a good teacher!” But as midnight strikes, Peter hears an explosion. “Perhaps,” Tana says, “someone has chosen to celebrate your New Year - - in a different way.” (Your New Year? They don’t have New Year where Tana’s from?)
Peter takes Tana home, sharing her coat since all he has is his Spidey suit. (Which, come to think of it, is a little suspicious.) They also share a kiss at her door. (“Are all American men so full of passion?” “They would be – if all the women were like you.”) As he leaves, Peter gives a brief thought to MJ but all he’s thinking is, “Okay, MJ, run off with Kraven! Somehow I think I’ll survive!”
Inside the house, Tana’s father carps at her for being late. He’s immediately suspicious to us because he is shown in shadow just as the Terrorist was and because he tells Tana “to avoid strangers until my work is finished!” He also looks out the window at Peter walking away and scoffs, “A Spider-Man suit! How ill it becomes the witless imposter!” (“Thanks, Dad! For mocking the one I just called ‘the most wonderful man’ when I came through the door,” Tana should say…but doesn’t.) Peter, meanwhile, goes wall-crawling, still maskless, and gushes, “Wow-eee! Tana’s beautiful, brainy, and built!” No one ever said the 1970s Peter Parker wasn’t a chauvinist but at least he did call her “brainy.”
The next day, Peter visits the Daily Bugle and learns that the Terrorist left a note at the scene of the bomb (which didn’t get obliterated in the explosion, apparently) that read, “Freedom for Boravia! One bomb for each day Boravia is enslaved!” and signed “The Liberation Front.” Either J. Jonah Jameson or Joe Robertson, off-panel, explains to him that Boravia is “a small state in the Middle East” but we don’t learn anything else about it such as who has enslaved it.
Back at school, Peter wants to forget the bomb threat but Tana passes by, reading the Bugle. The headline (on January 5, panel #3) is “Bomber Terrorizes City and Tana seems upset by it. By January 6, panel #1, the headline turns into “Terrorist Issues New Bomb Threat.” Is it the next day for our characters? Maybe, but it doesn’t seem like it. Especially since the Terrorist threatened a bomb every day and it seems like there has only been one. Peter tells Tana not to worry since “nobody’ll waste a bomb on this campus!” Tana is shocked that Peter thinks she is only concerned about her own safety. When Peter starts to probe deeper, she says, “I have said too much already! I must go now!” and she cancels their date, claiming, “a sudden headache.” Oh, why not come out with it? It’s not like the clues are subtle. Tana’s father is the Terrorist!
With his date cancelled, Spidey goes in search of the Terrorist but doesn’t have much hope that he can find the bomb in “the world’s biggest city.” In the shadows, the Terrorist talks to himself. “I warned them – but still they dare oppose the Liberation Front! Never again will they try to turn the people against me – or against the cause of Boravia!” (Is anybody else in the Liberation Front besides the Terrorist?) And holding a detonator in his hand, he looks across the street at the Daily Bugle (January 7).
As Spidey searches, a bomb goes off in a harbor area. He arrives to discover an abandoned pier on fire and deduces that it was “a decoy.” But now he figures out that the Liberation Front’s “greatest enemy” may be the press. He races to the Daily Bugle, arriving just as Joe Robertson is leaving the building and just as the Terrorist triggers the bomb. Spidey swings down and rescues Robbie but the blast has knocked Robbie unconscious. Spidey takes Robbie to the hospital, allowing the Terrorist to get away. (So, the Terrorist wastes a bomb on an abandoned pier to distract from his real objective which he could have just blown up without the decoy? Well, why not?)
Back at ESU, Peter tracks down Tana who has been avoiding him. She tells him that her “father does not approve of my dating Americans” (January 14) but that she loves Peter. They arrive at Tana’s house where her father greets them at the door. He ushers Tana inside and brushes Peter off. Pete tells himself, “It’s incredible! In his presence, she’s a different person! Someone tragic – withdrawn –unreachable! Something’s wrong – terribly wrong! It’s her father! Though she loves him, she fears him!” He decides to wall-crawl up to the second floor to eavesdrop but changes his mind. (“If anyone should respect another’s privacy – another’s secrets – it should be me!”) And since he doesn’t peek, he misses Tana talking to her father while he works on a load of dynamite (January 15).
If we still had any doubts, Tana’s father tells her, “Now the world will see there must be justice for Boravia” and brushes her off when she tells him that innocent people will die. He also demands that Tana give Peter up. Back at school, Peter finds out that Dean Foster has a teaching job he can take. “It doesn’t pay all that much,” but Peter imagines it is enough to buy Tana an engagement ring. When Tana goes to meet Peter, her father follows her. As Peter tells Tana that he'll “be able to afford to ask a very important question,” Tana’s father realizes “He becomes an obstacle – that must be removed” (January 19). But Tana doesn’t react to Peter’s hint. Instead, she remains “distant” and “worried.” She tells Peter she will see him tomorrow and she leaves. But her father doesn’t follow her. He follows Peter, who notices that someone has tailed him all the way home. Looking out his window, Peter sees the follower “watching and waiting.” He can’t understand why someone would tail him unless they have learned that he is Spider-Man. When the man leaves, Peter becomes Spidey and follows him in turn until the man meets up with Tana and Spidey realizes that it is Tana’s father. Spidey lets them walk away, not knowing that her father tells Tana, “Because of you I will not harm the boy! But I do not trust him!”
The next day at school, Peter confronts Tana. “Aren’t you and your father keeping something from me?” he says. With that, Tana breaks down and admits that her father is the Terrorist and that his next target is the Ammoil Building. Realizing that the bomb will kill dozens of workers, Peter rushes off to become Spider-Man. But Tana thinks he is abandoning her after learning of her father. In tears, she calls out, “No! Don’t desert me now – when I need you most! He’s gone! What else could I expect? What else had I the right to hope for?”
As Peter becomes Spidey, the Terrorist sneaks into a Storage Room at Ammoil with his bomb (January 27, panel #3). He activates it (January 28, panel #1) and has seven minutes before it goes off. While Spidey uses his webs to get there, Tana takes a taxi. She asks the driver if he can go faster and he replies, “If I could, you’da seen me in Star Wars” (which had come out just about 8 months before). Spidey arrives while the Terrorist is still in the building. He crashes through a window and yells “Everybody out! There’s a bomb here!” (January 29) No one doubts the wall-crawler’s word. They all rush to the exit but the door is jammed. People in the crowd are about to be crushed, so Spidey sticks to the wall above the door and uses his spider-strength to force it open. The crowd spills out, leaving one man who starts shooting at Spidey. It’s Tana’s father, the Terrorist.
Even as everyone piles out of the Ammoil Industries building, Tana arrives and rushes in. Inside, the Terrorist fires all six of his bullets at Spidey, missing him with each one. But he has kept the wall-crawler busy long enough so that only eleven seconds remain until the bomb deetonates. Tana enters and Spidey yells at her to “Go back!” but she tells him that her father can defuse the bomb. Except there are only five seconds left; “too late for anything.” With time running out, Spidey knows he can “only save one!!” He leaps and grabs Tana taking her out of the building just as the bomb explodes (February 5).
Tana breaks free and returns to her father who is, surprisingly, in one piece but dying. Spidey watches her return and wonders, “Is she really a terrorist at heart?” Her father tells her that it is his “dying wish that you carry on my work” and then he dies (February 8). Spidey looks on, figuring that Tana will always blame him. He watches her walk away, thinking, “Will she turn to Peter Parker now? Or is she her father’s daughter?”
Will she turn to Peter Parker? No. Spidey watches her vanish into the crowd. He doesn’t try to stop her. He doesn’t change into his Parker duds and go to her. Instead, he already assumes he’s “lost the girl.” Back at his apartment, he notes that “Tana hasn’t answered her phone all day.” So, I think we can assume this is the day after the bombing. Did he go to see her? No. He called on the phone. Finally, he visits and a woman there tells him “The lady moved this morning! No forwardin’ address!” I really don’t think it would be that simple. I assume the police have figured out that her father was the Terrorist. I don’t think she’d be allowed to move out and leave. Anyway, Peter stops at a park with a gazebo that Stan claims is “the same site where they had once talked of love” but that doesn’t look like anyplace we’ve seen before. He mopes, telling himself, “She thinks Spider-Man caused her father’s death – and Peter Parker deserted her when she needed him most! Once again, my super power – my secret lifestyle – have turned my dreams to ashes.” But the next day, it all seems to be forgotten. At the Daily Bugle, Robbie shows him a notice that “Wide-World Studios is doing a big-budget movie about the web-swinger! They’re combing the country for the best man to play the title role!” Peter replies, “They’ll never find anyone as good as the original.”
In the Sunday strip of February 12, Peter has one more mention of Tana but doesn’t even use her name or mention the circumstances. “I fall head over heels for a dynamite lady, and she takes off for parts unknown,” he says, as if she simply dumped him. “I’m finally offered a great teaching job at school and, if I take it, I blow my chance to cop the Spider-Man role in a Hollywood movie.” And then it’s all about the Hollywood thing from that point on. Peter was going to propose to Tana but he seems to have mostly forgotten her. He could get a boost in his education by taking the teaching job but he decides he’d rather go to Hollywood and be a star, even though he wouldn’t be a star as Peter Parker. So, what’s the point? Well, starting up a new storyline is the point as Stan introduces the strip-verse version of Mysterio.
On February 13, Peter calls Dean Foster and turns down the teaching assignment. He’s off to Hollywood soon after.
As for Tana, the answer to Spidey’s question of “Is she really a terrorist at heart?” is, unfortunately, yes, as she returns more than four years later, on September 21, 1982 in “Tana Returns,” Spider-Man Newspaper Strip: 21 September 1982 - 1 January 1983
Now, here are this story's "First appearances in the Strip-Verse"
I like the doomed nature, the Romeo-and-Juliet-tinted nature of the romance here, with the moment when Peter leaves Tana, who he plans to marry, to save the Ammoil workers even though he knows this looks like he has abandoned her upon learning her father is the Terrorist. I like that Spidey can only save one, even knowing that allowing Tana’s father to die will set her against Spider-Man so that he cannot explain himself by revealing his identity, making the moment (on January 1) when he wears his Spidey costume to the party and unmasks for Tana particularly bittersweet, In both cases, Spidey sacrifices his happiness like Spock sacrifices his life in The Wrath of Khan because, as Spock paraphrases Jeremy Bentham, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.”
There’s also some great Jazzy Johnny artwork with some beautiful Romita women. You can see how Peter is so quickly dazzled by Tana (even though he seems sort of sleezy about it) and you can’t understand how, at this point, he doesn’t seem to notice Carole at all. I love the moment on January 13, when Tana takes Peter away and Carole thinks, “Poor little me! I always miss the good parts!”
Now, I realize it’s comics and that the romantic tragedy is the point here but I’m still not fond of how obvious it is that Tana’s father is the Terrorist nor of the coincidence that the one man in New York who plans to propose marriage to the Terrorist’s daughter is Spider-Man. And I know that when it’s time to get on to the next storyline, it’s time to get on to the next storyline, but that doesn’t stop me from disliking what a lame job Peter does in trying to locate Tana, the girl he wanted to marry, and how fast he seems to forget about her.
All in all, it’s much better than a lot of the stories that will follow over the years but it’s the worst story in the series so far. Three and a half webs.
Next: Peter continues to forget Tana as he heads for Hollywood and meets Mysterio.