Welcome to our "British History" lecture series. Our goal is to shed some light onto the murky history of one of Spidey's lesser known current titles... the alternate universe UK-only series Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine).
Started in 1995 as "reprints plus filler", it transmogrified itself a few years later and swapped that reprint content for 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators. It's still running today (in 2010).
Since I don't live in the UK, I've been dependent on the kindness of others to get my hands on a regular feed of this title. In the past four years, I've been able to review every issue starting with #152. Now thanks to the miracle of eBay, I've acquired most of the issues from #132 up to #151... so let's get on with the job of filling in the gaps in our Looking Back section... "British History".
In current issues, Norman Osborn is dead... at least for now. Nobody (except Spider-Man) knows that he died as the Green Goblin, and his son Harry believes Spider-Man to be responsible for the murder of an innocent man, and is mounting an increasingly aggressive campaign against our favorite web-head.
Our story opens as Spider-Man swings in to protect Manhattan from the rampage of "Dragon Man", a fire-breathing giant purple anthropomorphized winged lizard that is actually a sophisticated android. It doesn't take long for Spidey to identify the root cause of the problem. The "Mad Thinker" is directing the Dragon Man's attacks with a remote control unit, with the aim of luring the Fantastic Four into a trap.
Our web-headed hero quickly captures the Thinker and destroys the control unit, only to find himself facing the no-longer-controlled Dragon Man. Dragon Man immediately ceases his attack and approaches Spider-Man. He doesn't possess the gift of speech, but instead expresses his gratitude with a slurpy lick to Spidey's mask. And when Spider-Man swings off the scene, Dragon Man is left behind looking rather glum.
Later at college, Peter Parker is sitting in a rather dull lecture when a giant commotion arises. Swapping back to his red-and-blues, Spidey finds Dragon Man on the roof. It looks like our hero has acquired a 20-foot tall purple-scaled fire-breathing pet. Pete's Dragon. His first plan is to contact the Fantastic Four, but they're out of town and they've put their answering machine on. Press "1" for an Alien Invasion. Press "2" for Super-Villains. Heh, nice side-gag.
Things then get slightly odd as Spider-Man takes his Dragon to the park. They play fetch. Dragon Man fetches a lamp-post. Then we move beyond odd into downright surreal. Peter Parker takes his dragon back to Forest Hills for the night. Peter feeds the dragon pancakes, and let's him snuggle down for the night on top of the roof where he howls half the night and snores for the other half. Strangely, neither Aunt May nor the rest of the neighborhood seem to notice.
Things go from bad to worse the next day when MJ turns up at Pete's house - also clearly not having noticed the giant dragon on the roof. She wants to take Peter out on a date, but he has to decline "because he has to work", which is to say "has to babysit a giant dragon man". And indeed, Spidey and his reptilian sidekick head off for another day of fun and games in New York town. Dragon Man makes himself a little more useful today when he helps Spider-Man defeat Mr. Hyde's latest plan to hold the city to ransom. But the collateral damage is rather significant. Dragon's clearly aren't famous for subtlety.
Fortunately the Fantastic Four arrive to take the problem off his hands and take Dragon Man back to his owner. Whoever that is.
Honestly, I'm a bit uncomfortable with "Dragon Man" being treated like a pet. It's because of the "Man" in the name. If it was "Dragon Monster" or "Dragon Beast", it wouldn't be such a big deal. But the idea of any kind of "man" being owned by anybody is just rather unsettling.
As for the story itself, well, its major flaw is just that it happens to be entirely ridiculous. I know that New Yorkers tend to mind their own business. But seriously, I think even in the most private of suburbs, a 20-foot purple monster howling from your rooftop will have people pulling aside the curtains to take a peek at what is going on.
A sound enough script - but ludicrously impossible with an unsettling undertone of "owning people". Two webs.