Spidey Super Stories #8 (Story 1)

Background

Oh, the Mole Man! Wow, wotta villain. Let me just refresh your memory about all the amazing powers he has: 1) Near-Sightedness. 2) Smells like sewage. 3) Wields a Extra-Normal stick with the abilities of someone who has just picked up a stick. 4) Controls literally tens of Moloid people, who are jaundiced little gnomes who also can't see past their noses and also smell like sewage. Although the Moloids don't have his frightening stick.

Ok. I just can't stand the suspense any longer. I'm going to have to give away the ending right now.
***SPOILER ALERT***

Spidey kicks his ass.

Story Details

  Spidey Super Stories #8 (Story 1)
Summary: Electro, The Wall, Mole Man
Editor: A.J. Hays
Plot: Tom Whedon (Story 2)
Writer: Jean Thomas
Pencils: Winslow Mortimer
Inker: Mike Esposito, Tony Mortellaro

Joy! It's the return of Pedro the Plant-Guy and the introduction of the rockin' Short Circus. Could I be any more delighted?

So Pedro the Balding Plant Guy and his googly-eyed sentient cannibal plant Maurice (see Issue 4, story 3) are on some kind of "PLANT FACTS" public information show. He's merrily explaining all about his plant and what a genius he is in creating his plant etc., to whatever overweight desperately bored housewives would actually watch this. Meanwhile... Spider-Man foils a bank robbery! Ha. Got ya there, you thought this would be exciting, didn't you? FOOLS! Now say it with me, you know the words, (everybody now) "SPIDEY'S SLEEPING IN A WEB HAMMOCK" That's right, once again, he has decided to let crime go fight itself for an afternoon and is taking a nap. For some reason, he decides to hang his web hammock directly above the set where Pedro is filming. You know, I propose if he keeps this up, we change the title to "Spidey Sleepy Stories" or "Spidey Super Snorings" or "The Astounding Adventures of Somnolence-Man and his sidekick Garth".

Anyway, some of the Electric Company kids (who are also members of the Short Circus band) storm right into the studio, while they're still filming "PLANT FACTS", because the mail has arrived! I don't know about your country, but over here in America, I usually don't go interrupting television broadcasts just because the damn mailman showed up. Maybe in your village the arrival of the mailman or "Mtembe-Mtu'ngo" as he is known in your language is a cause for a great feast of wild pig in the village square that proceeds late into the night and then the tribal elder carefully reads each treasured piece of junk mail to the assembled village. ("Sears would like to offer you a credit card with 12 percent APR and no annual fee! Hosah!") If this is your village, then maybe you can understand why these idiot kids get so excited about the mail. For me, mail sorta happens every day. There was one time I went five weeks without checking my mail, not because I wasn't home but I just never bothered, until the mailman actually got so fed up he took all my old mail and just dumped it in front of my door. And then it took me a day or two to bother bending over to pick it up. (True Story)

So they open the mail, and find out that the Short Circus band is invited to play at a "fancy garden party" Now, I don't know what your idea of entertainment at a fancy garden party is, but I usually think of something like a string quartet in a little circle in the grass that plays Chopin while very old wrinkly English ladies wearing monocles sip haughty tea and ignore them and discuss what's happening on "the Continent". What I distinctly do not envision is a bunch of rambunctious twelve year olds with electric guitars and a mostly functional tambourine who know exactly one song to keep this kind of party entertained for very long.

So they ask the still sleeping in his hammock Spidey if he wants to come to the fancy garden party, and he just snaps, "No THANKS, kids. I'll take a little nap" in his best crotchety old man voice. Then they ask Pedro the Plant-Guy, who as near as I can tell is still being filmed, and he's only too happy to come along. After all, he can brag about his amazing horticultural abilities to ancient wizened mummies of English women. He may get lucky, you never know. Plus, his pet Maurice the cannibal talking plant can eat his fill of expensive purebred flowers with no one the wiser. So a garden party trip it is!

So the Short Circus arrives at some fancy house and sets up in the garden, to the horrified looks of the fancy party people, who are all wearing suits and expensive dresses.
Short Circus: *random guitar noise with the dopey seven year-old Asian girl singing* We're going to Turn. It. On.
Mr. Caption: A little later, the Short Circus is the hit of the party.

Riiiiight. I'd believe that, except not a single person in the audience is even smiling, and several of them look like they'd rather chew their own thumbs off than sit through another second of this. I think Mr. Caption was just trying not to hurt the dumb kids' feelings.

Meanwhile, Mole Man has dug a giant tunnel underneath the garden party. You'd think that 'tunnels' would be a subject that the Mole Man would know something about. After all, he eats, lives, and breathes in them 24 hours a day. But no. He decides to construct a 20 foot wide tunnel parallel to the ground and exactly 4 inches below it. Now, I'm no Engineer, not even the whoop-whoop train kind, but I think the odds of something, possibly a bunny rabbit, hopping on top of this underground tunnel and collapsing it onto his head are pretty good.

Even more ridiculous is why the Moleman wanted to make this tunnel. He employed all his little Moloid slave guys to dig for weeks and why? He wants to collect pretty flowers from the garden above, by pulling them out by the roots. This amazingly does not start the tunnel collapsing right on his head, and he amazingly manages to pull the flowers out by the roots through their stem-holes without ruining them. Have you ever tried to pull a flower through a hole the size of a soda straw? Yeah, well somehow I don't think it's going to have many petals or look very pretty. But that's Spidey Super Stories physics for ya.

Man, why can't he do something believable like burst out of the ground in a giant Mole robot with a big diamond drill nose and then wreak some sensible super-villain havoc? You know, like then hold the world hostage with an earthquake machine or something. His plan is to steal flowers. And it's not even like he goes up to a flower vendor and punches him in the jaw and takes whatever roses he wants. No, no this is just pathetic.

So, while everyone at the party is hold-my-eyelids-open-with-tweezers fascinated by the Short Circus, flowers start disappearing out of the garden behind them. Meanwhile, would be conqueror Moleman has decided to throw himself a party (for his birthday), and that he also needs music. Since no one else at the fancy garden party is making a damn sound (except perhaps the old English ladies muttering quiet prayers that a meteorite will strike and end their misery), Moleman decides that the noise the Short Circus makes must be what they call "music", and that he should kidnap them too. So he has a Moloid claw out a one foot diameter hole in the roof of the tunnel and then they pull the Short Circus drummer and his drum set through the hole. Apparently in kindergarten Moleman never played that game where you have to fit the different size and shape pegs into the little holes. Cause he just he has no frickin' idea whether objects like flowers or drummers need a hole six inches big or 600 yards across to fit through. But somehow it works, and then they rapidly kidnap the other three members of the Short Circus. The greatest part is that NO ONE at the party, not even Pedro, utters a word of protest that the band they were just watching has suddenly vanished beneath the ground. I think they're all too busy thanking God that their terrible ordeal is over.

So the Moleman is about to leave and carry the Short Circus to his "kingdom below the Earth!" But before he goes, he smells one more flower aboveground. "I must pick it for my party!" he thinks. And of course it's Maurice the cannibal plant he smells with his super Mole nose. So then this next panel is a cutaway side view, with Moleman in the tunnel, then four inches of dirt (the tunnel ceiling) above him, then Maurice in his flower pot on the ground. And rather than dig up to where Maurice is and grab him, Moleman just reaches around the dirt and grabs Maurice. He steps outside the two-dimensional panel and just reaches across the part of the panel with the impassable roof of dirt, moving his hand magically through the solid ground. It's hard to describe, but trust me, comic book characters normally can't do this sort of thing, unless it's Grant Morrison writing Animal Man.

Suddenly Pedro shouts, "Oh no! A giant Mole stole Maurice!" And suddenly all the people at the party look worried. Notice how no one even mentions the fact that 4 adolescents have also been kidnapped from right in front of them. That's how much they hate the damn Short Circus. "Please, Mr. Sewer-Dwelling deviant person, please God, take these brats away from us and never let them come back." So Pedro, who's terrified something has happened to his plant, calls up Spider-Man on a rotary dial phone, which for some reason is just standing in the middle of the garden.

So Spidey instantly arrives. (The magic of comic books at work.)
Pedro: Maurice is gone! Stolen by a giant Mole!
Spider-Man: *looks intently at the empty hole* That was no giant Mole! That was the Mole Man!

Obviously. Unless that hole was made by tectonic plate shifting, or vents of lava gas bubbling up to the surface, or rampaging golf-course gophers. How the hell do you know, Spidey?

So Spidey jumps in the tunnels, and suddenly runs into an actual giant Attack Mole, who looks very much like an incontinent Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street. Here's the big battle:
Panel Number 1: Spidey runs into the giant Mole. Attack Mole: ROAR!
Panel Number 2: Spidey shoots webbing onto the Mole's nose.

That's it, he never appears again. For all the time we wasted in this story with public access television about plants, you'd think a battle against a 12 foot Attack Mole would rate more than 2 panels. But I think the writers secretly just hate entertaining children. And so a hulking, 12 foot Attack Mole is somehow defeated because he got some webbing on his nose. The Abomination doesn't stop beating on the Hulk every time he breaks a nail, now does he? Sheesh, even the monsters are pansies down in Mole Man's "kingdom." And before you get your hopes up, let me tell you now that this is the most exciting this story gets.

So Spidey continues following the tunnel, and oh my god, horror of horrors, comes to a fork in the tunnel. Will this completely befuddle our hero? Sadly, yes.
Spidey: Two tunnels! That Mole Man is tricky! Oh, which way should I go?
Mr. Sound Effect in the right tunnel: GRRRR! GRRRR!
Spidey: I hear a growl! That can only be Maurice the Plant!

OR MAYBE ANOTHER ATTACK MOLE? Huh? Or anything underground that makes a vaguely grunting sound? I mean, when I hear a grunting noise, "flower" is not the first thing that pops into my head. Of course, I'm the one who usually ends up rescuing the cast of Baywatch from a reclusive Swedish billionaire's mad plan of world conquest using only my wits and dental floss bikinis. Unlike Spidey, I rarely find myself chasing after talking plants, so what do I know about what they sound like?

So Mole Man and the Short Circus have arrived at Mole Man's "kingdom", which is actually just a wider part of the tunnel where he set up a big canary yellow chair and declared himself Lord and Master. That's like me going to the laundry room in my apartment building (or my flat-lorry-cornish-hen, as all ya Limeys would say) and declaring the laundry room to be my kingdom. No, Mole Man's even more sad than that, because no one even knows that his kingdom is there. That's like me going into the forest and carving my name on a tree and then living in its branches for four years as my vast kingdom. No one knows, no one cares. I doubt any life form higher than a burrowing ant or dung beetle even realizes Moleman has some kind of 'kingdom', and they're just pissed because the dirt stopped.

So the so-far-useless Moloid guys are hanging the stolen flowers all around the tunnel. Strangely enough, the one skill they actually do seem to possess is making flower chains. The chains turn out pretty damn good considering they were made by almost blind gnomes who've never seen a flower before in their short lives.
Moleman: That's right, my monster mob. Make everything nice for my party!
Moleman: Music! I want music! What's taking so long?
Short Circus Afro Dude: Cool it, mister! We'll play just as soon as we find the electric outlet. *searches tunnel wall for electric outlet*
Dopey Asian Girl: If we can't plug in... we can't play!
Moleman: If you do not mind me now, my monsters will mash you!
*Moleman menacingly points in a direction totally opposite from where the kids are. He really is blind as a bat*

I swear to God, the next panel then shows Spider-Man still confused by the whole fork in the tunnel thing. How hard is it, Spidey? Just pick the direction with the grunting sound, or the one without grunting, and check the damn thing out. Normally, people are able to overcome the terrible existential angst of the hallway pretty easily, but not our hero. Maybe he's been reading too much Robert Frost. *sigh* I'd also like to point out that it has taken twice as long for Spidey to defeat the spectre of left or right tunnel indecision than it did for him to beat the damn giant Attack Mole.

So the Short Circus, who remember are prisoners in the Moleman's underground kingdom, give Moleman an ultimatum.
Short Circus: No Power, No Music! And that's that!
Moleman: Then MASH them, my monsters!

I can't decide whether I'm thankful they refuse to spout out any more of the noise pollution they refer to as music or I'm annoyed that they suck so bad even as hostages. I mean, he's just threatened to kill them with his near-sighted hordes of rampaging gnomes cause they won't play a song, and they insist on using electric guitars. You can still play acoustic, you still have a drum set! Hello? I just don't know whether they're too stupid to realize they could be killed, or smart enough to realize that even they could probably take out Moleman's entire "horde" with a rowdy game of Marco Polo.

We never find out if they could take the Moloids, because Spider-Man finally overcomes his two-and-a-half page epic left or right tunnel crisis and arrives on scene. Just as the Moloids rush forward, he webs them all up with one big web ball. Then he webs up the others. Then he looks over at Moleman.

Moleman: Please don't hurt me!

Man, is this guy a wussy. Spidey hasn't even laid a hand on his bloated, sewer-soaked body yet and he's already begging for mercy. But he goes on and on with his sob story for Spidey's benefit, in the hopes of avoiding the mega-ass-kicking to come.

Moleman: I just wanted to have a birthday party! All I have in my underground world is my monster mob. They don't talk and they don't sing! It gets very dull down here!

Not that it would help if they did talk or sing. This is not a mute English and Music majors support group, this are the blind Moloid people we're talking about here. I can't really see holding down involved discussions about literature, or them performing Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, or them discussing pretty much anything except how the dirt and rocks are doing that day. Maybe you need to find yourself better friends than mute sewer dwellers. Then again, I sure as heck wouldn't want to be your friend, Mole boy.

Dopey Asian Girl: Oh! If music is all you want, we'll make it somehow!

ARGH! Look, didn't he just say that a few pages ago? "Play some music, or I'll be forced to mash you!" Couldn't we have avoided all this if you'd just played your damn instruments for him then instead of now? You just love dragging these damn stories out. ARGH! So stupid they are...

You in the audience may be sitting there thinking to yourself, "While this is a fine example of a Spidey Super Story, it lacks that special pizzazz. That certain something that just makes you sit back and go, 'What the hell?!?' " Well, never fear, we've got a page left to go.

So to help their kidnapper Moleman not be bored anymore, Spidey and the Short Circus start making musical instruments. Out of rocks. How? By carving them with other rocks. Spidey chisels a drum out of a big round rock using a little round rock, then carves a bloody HARP out of some stalagmites, then carves a flute out of one giant perfectly cylindrical rock by shoving a smaller perfectly cylindrical rock into it. Seriously, this is exactly what happens.

I would like to think that the authors of this tale had some experience with rocks. At the very least, they probably learned about them when the other kids in grade school pelted them with said rocks. Rocks are a little different from Play-Doh, you see. They don't start out all soft and squishy and then get hard and crusty over time. And you can't really carve a rock with another rock of the same type. And you can't really carve six random shaped rocks into functional musical instruments in one afternoon all by yourself. And see, there's a reason that concert harpists don't have a choice of harp strings like: horsehair, synthetic horsehair, quartz, granite. It just doesn't work like that.

So the Short Circus forces Moleman to take all the flowers out of the flower chains and replant them before they'll play. Much to my surprise, Moleman doesn't just go and shove them back up through the stem-holes, he goes above ground and actually plants them. While the horrified fancy party guests begin vomiting at the stench of him and his Moloids.

So the story ends on a happy note, as the Moleman returns to his "kingdom" and teaches his Moloids to play the "ROCK" instruments. (I knew I'd work that pun in here somewhere.) While they were gone planting, Spidey even had time to carve a fully-tunable six-string guitar out of solid bedrock for them. Nice guy, that Spidey. So Moleman teaches his Moloids to play these, Ahem, musical instruments.

Mr. Caption: Things were never dull for Moleman again!
Moleman: *singing. And no, don't try and imagine it* We're going to Turn. It. On.

Oh God, not another band that can't play their instruments and only knows the Electric Company theme song. If I'm this sick of it now, by issue 30 it's going to induce homicidal rage every time it appears, I can tell.

*sigh* Just let me out of this story... quick-like.

General Comments

Eric's Post-Fight Interview with the Moleman:
Eric: So, uh. Hmm. You know, I think you're the biggest pansy I've ever met. I should just tell you that right now.
Moleman: Hey now. *sniff* I fought pretty well.
Eric: Actually, you sort of cowered in terror and then begged for mercy.
Moleman: Hmph. Well then, my Moloid people put up a good fight, anyway.
Eric: Oh, realllllly?
Moleman: Well, no. Ok, they just ran around until they got webbed up. But what about my Attack Mole?
Eric: You mean the wussy one that ran away when it got a little bit of webbing on the tip of its nose? Cause that's the only one I saw.
Moleman: Ok, ok. I... *sniffle* suck as a super-villain, you don't have to rub it in.
Eric: And what about those Short Circus people mouthing off to you in your own kingdom? That looked really bad. You ordered them to play, and they refused unless you provided some electricity so they sounded "better". And couldn't you kidnap a better band? Isn't Kiss touring now?
Moleman: Well... ah... I thought I could intimidate the twelve year olds. But... ah... obviously not.
Eric: Heh. Yeah, you're right. If you can't even command a bunch of, trust me, really stupid kids, Kiss would be running your kingdom within a day and you'd be their slave in Kabuki makeup.
Moleman: Yeah, probably.
Eric: Heh. Anyway, I have a question. Who would win in a battle, you or a little kitten?
Moleman: *defensive* Shut up! I could take a kitten. Well, definitely if I had my Moloid people.
Eric: Uh-huh... So how exactly did you get into the super-villain business, since you're obviously so pathetic at it? Wouldn't it be less humiliating to sell insurance or something?
Moleman: Would you buy insurance from a guy like me?
Eric: No, I'd punch you in the face and slam your hand in the door. Hmm, I see your point.
Moleman: Anyway, I wandered down into these caves. I was ugly. Met the Moloids. I developed Mole senses. That's pretty much it.
Eric: Even your origin sucks. Is there anything cool about you?
Moleman: *tiny voice* My stick.
Eric: That piece of wood you carry around everywhere like your first-born child? That is really sad.
Moleman: I like my stick... *hurt* you, you don't pick on my stick, now, you're not nice.
Eric: Oh, what're you going to do about it? *steals glasses off Moleman's nose* Huh?
Moleman: Hey! Give those back! I need those! *starts jumping up and trying to grab them from my hand above his head* They're *sniff* my only pair!
Eric: Oh, too bad. *backs away form the Moleman, starts running around him in circles* Oh look, I'm over here! Now I'm here!
Moleman: *desperately grasping after the sound of my voice* Now stop it. Real mature there. That's not funny, you know. Aren't you a journalist?
Eric: Yeah, but I'm a comic-cook journalist, so I can do this kind of stuff. *extends hand with glasses out to Moleman* Here you go.
Moleman: *reaches for them* Hmph.
Eric: *drops them on ground* Oh, so sorry! Hahahaha... whew, well, this is just too easy, I should go. See ya later, Mole boy.
Moleman: *trying to sound angry* It's Moleman! Moleman! I'm going back to my kingdom where I'm adored.
Eric: Yeah, go back to your dirt tunnel and your sightless gnomes who make fun of you behind your back. I'm sure you'll feel better. Heh.
Moleman: *leaves*
Eric: What a wanker.

Overall Rating

Webs 1.5. I want a 12-foot Attack Mole. I'm not sure why. Just to have.