If you've been reading my reviews of Spidey Super Stories at all, you know what to expect from the Electric Company villains that appear in the second story in each issue. And with a name like "the Kangaroo" for this story's villain, you'd expect those crazy writers for the Electric Company had been out all night at fabulous Hollywood nude beach parties smoking peyote, and phoned in the plot for this story from the 7-11 payphone when they woke up at 3 pm, in-between gulping down their kiwi-flavored slurpees. Near as I can tell, that's what usually happens.
But I'm afraid that the blame cannot be laid at their enormous feet for this story's villain. No, the Kangaroo is a Smilin' Stan Lee and Jazzy John Romita original, first in appearing in Amazing Spider-Man 81 (1970). Kangaroo's not really one of Stan's proudest creations, right down there with Ravage 2099, Solarman and Communism. But if you do want to blame someone for this, it has to be laid squarely at the master's doorstep.
But you don't have to blame anyone. Because the really, really strange thing is that the Kangaroo is the only villain who actually comes off much saner and considerably less lame here than he does in the main Marvel Universe. He actually benefits from being adapted into Spidey Super Stories, and doesn't turn into a too-stupid-even-to-drool-grade moron. In fact, he actually starts rocking the house. Now, the writers of SSS have already completely ruined all the menace of Doc Ock, the majesty of Dr. Doom, and the nobility of Kraven the Hunter. But the Kangaroo actually has his one, brief, shining moment of glory right here in these sacred pages.
I used to agree that the Kangaroo was one of the lamest of the lame, but I now have a profound and total respect for the guy. His plan is something reasonable and badly needed that I myself was considering, he kicks Spidey's ass three times in five pages, and at the end he gets all the free lovin' he can handle for the rest of his life. (From kangaroos, yes, but to each his own, I say). Well, ok, maybe I lose a little respect for that last bit... but he's still the bomb, and I cheer him on every time I read this story. Go Kangaroo!
It's summer in the city, and the Short Circus, everyone's favorite band composed of snotty junior high dropouts, is throwing a free outdoor concert. Now, I've seen some ridiculous clothes in this comic. I thought by now I had seen every conceivable combination of clashing colors. But they still manage to surprise me - because this time, they've decided to wear purple suits with orange dress shirts and green bow ties. Though they're all like 14, apparently none of them still live with their mothers, because I know my mother would rather see me decapitated than to set one foot in public wearing something like that. In a case this extreme, I hope that anyone's mother would. The judge would understand.
The Short Circus roster for this concert consists of:
1) Two near-identical white guys with big black afros and guitars
2) Someone's six-year old brother banging randomly on the drums
3) Some kind of pre-goth lead singer (I'll call her... Angst-Girl) who is the only one to realize how terrible the band and her life is, and looks so depressed I'm afraid any moment she's going to decide to end it all and impale herself on the microphone stand
4) and Julie, whose entire purpose in life is to wear something form-fitting and perkily wiggle about while she pretends that she knows how to play the pair of tambourines they super-glued to her hands.
Apart from cloning Jimi Hendrix and painting the results, where the hell do you find TWO white guys with big black afros who can play guitar? And wouldn't it help to have a drummer who has more experience than just practicing on his Fisher-Price "My First Drum" set? And does the lamentable, off-key wailing that comes out of Angst-Girl's mouth really fit the slap-happy tone of the one and only song you know how to perform? ("We're Going to Turn. It. On.") All they've got going for them is Julie in the spandex, but I don't think there's enough wiggling in the universe to even legally qualify this as 'entertainment'.
While some bystanders stare slack-jawed at the abomination that is the
Short Circus, Peter is there at the park taking pictures of them, probably
for Rolling Stone's cover. Yeah, in an alternate universe ten times more
insane than this one. Hell, I don't even think an alternate universe would
Peter: They may be called the Short Circus... but they're not short on talent!
Yeah, if that talent is getting random people in the park to have eye-seizures when they see their outfits, and then to run away screaming when they hear their 'music', yeah, I would agree.
Peter: Everyone likes the Short Circus!
If by 'everyone' you mean their mothers and some kid they know who was raised by wolves, I would agree with that too. Meanwhile, the Kangaroo is lurking in the background, wearing a green checkered waistcoat and brown bowler hat. He looks just like an Australian Sherlock Holmes minus the pipe, which still makes him better dressed than anyone else in this story.
Kangaroo: *in response to Peter's statement* Not me!
*super-obnoxious looking-up-his-nostrils close-up on the Kangaroo's pissed-off face*
Kangaroo: I hate them!
THANK GOD. I was beginning to think I was the only one could see that the combined Short Circus possesses the musical ability of a hollowed-out squash. I hate them too! Hallelughiah! I thought maybe soon I personally was going to have to step in and, uh, show them the folly of continuing to play their music. Hopefully in some method involving very poisonous scorpions. You GO Kangaroo!
So he sheds his overcoat and hat, and kangaroo-jumps (that's his power, BTW) onto the stage with the Short Circus and starts stomping on their drum set. THAT'S HIS WHOLE PLAN, to beat the ever-livin' crap out of the Short Circus and their instruments to insure this never happens again. I love it! Meanwhile, the 'audience', who I imagine were on the verge of swallowing their own tongues if the Short Circus didn't stop soon, were so disturbed that some guy has just jumped up and smashed the band they were listening to, they shout out: "Wow! Look at that guy jump!" Yup, none of their alleged 'fans' gives a half-damn if someone jumps up and whales on the Short Circus kids. They find 'watching some guy jump' way more entertaining.
Kangaroo: I hate music! I hate happy people!
Damn straight! I know what you mean. Nothing's worse than having a happy, chipper girlfriend over in the mornings when you don't have to get up for another six hours, and she wants to talk or something, I don't know, I'm holding the pillow over my head. It's times like that that make me think the world would be a lot happier if everyone was depressed all the time.
Peter runs behind a tree and changes into Spider-Man. Spidey jumps on stage and gives the Kangaroo his best shot in a punch right to the face (Mr. Sound Effect: POW!), but the Kangaroo almost instantly recovers (!) and does something so wonderful I don't know if the English language is worthy enough to describe it. He picks up a bass drum and smashes it down over Spidey's head and entire body so his arms are trapped against his sides, like a fish caught in a paper towel roll. Kangaroo tells Spidey to "Bug Off, Skinny!", and then ignores him, leaving Spidey to roll uselessly around stage while trapped in a drum. Hahahahaha! And that's just ass-kickin' number ONE, Spidey!
So as Spidey slowly worms his way out this drum set, the Kangaroo goes on with his awesome primary mission, and smashes another Short Circus guitar and amplifier. He says, "I hate everything! Nice guys finish last! Go away! Leave me alone!" The more he says, the cooler he gets. He's got the cajones to tell everyone to stop bothering him when he just rushed them and destroyed all of their musical instruments. And that hate thing, yeah, I dig it. He sounds like all my friends at the goth club. Maybe he and Angst-Girl should get together so they can have drearily dispassionate love affair that ends in a childless marriage - also, like many of my friends. Plus, he already hates Angst-Girl's music, and that's an important start in a modern relationship.
Now Spidey finally recovers, and shoots some webs at the Kangaroo. With most Spidey Super villains, it's pretty much all over from there. But not the Kangaroo! He dodges out of the way of the first volley of webbing, and when Spider-Man tries again, he leaps away so fast the webs fizzle out behind him. Aw, MAN, he just schooled you twice in as many panels. Could you possibly be any MORE useless, Spidey? I've seen albino chameleons who can hide better than you can fight, dumb-ass.
Kangaroo: Your webs can't catch the Kangaroo!
So the Kangaroo leaps away, does a mid-air backflip, lands with perfect accuracy on the top of a bench, and leaps right back at Spidey with double the force. He then lands RIGHT ON SPIDEY'S PELVIS (Mr. Sound Effect: POW!) and Spidey goes down like a hernia-patient in a mosh pit. Jesus Spidey, ow ow, that looks really painful. Maybe next time you can try NOT BEING SUCH A WUSS...
Or maybe not! Because following right on the heels of the groin-crunching righteous ass-kicking above, comes ass-kicking number three! The Kangaroo grabs all the broken musical instruments and amplifiers and speakers lying around, and SMASHES THEM ON SPIDEY'S HEAD. That's right, just to make sure they're extra broken, he clobbers Spidey with ALL OF THEM, one at a time, leaving Spidey half-buried in a pile of broken drums and broken dreams.
Spidey just lies there and takes all this, ye gods, have pity on him, and thinks "I need time to rest..." That's just pathetic. Actually, what you need is one incredible PR firm to stop this from getting out, or muggers are going to start carrying ukuleles for the express purpose of beating you senseless, Spidey. I don't care if his movie made $200 million and rocked - at this exact moment, it's an agony of embarrassment to be a Spider-man fan. Somehow, I don't think this scene is going to make it into the sequel.
His mission accomplished (How many Spidey Super villains can say that?), the Kangaroo sits down to tell everyone about his life. It's flashbackin' time!
The Most Ex-cellent Origin of the Kangaroo
Now Kangaroo: Back in Australia I didn't have any friends.
His Not-Friends Back in Australia: He's weird!
*This assessment is coming from some guy who wears sweater vests in the middle of the outback and whose girlfriend has gone gray at the age of fourteen*
Now Kangaroo: During my vacations I lived in Kangaroo country.
*By which he must mean "I jumped around naked with a bunch of wild Kangaroos", cause that's what the panel shows*
Then Kangaroo: This is fun!
*He then learns to super-leap from a herd of kangaroos - this time, wearing pants*
Now Kangaroo: I ate what they ate, and went where they went.
Then Kangaroo: Now I'm one of the family!
*flash to the Aussie boxing circuit*
Now Kangaroo: I became a fighter to make money. It was easy!
*he ignores his boxing gloves and kicks his opponent in the face*
Then Kangaroo: Take this!
*boxing promoter guy comes over and tells him to leave*
Now Kangaroo: They kicked me out for cheating!
Dude, this origin story's like all the good parts of Spider-Man's origin compressed into five panels. He's a nerdy, shunned teenager, he gets some agility powers from a weird animal, he goes into the boxing ring to make money, gets kicked out. None of that depressing stuff about Uncle Ben or the burglar. I'm starting to think the Kangaroo should just replace Spidey entirely. After this, I'd buy ten copies of Marsupial Super Stories, wouldn't you?
Kangaroo: Not even Spider-Man can stop me!
And for once, when a villain says that, it's really, actually true.
While he's telling us his origin, Julie (the 'wiggler') from the Short Circus grabs one of the broken guitars and "Konks the Kangaroo!" right over the head. Hey, the only reason he didn't beat you up was because you were a girl, and *sigh* this is the thanks he gets. Julie then goes over and has to dig the utterly shamed Spider-Man out of the mountain of musical instruments, and gets him on his feet long enough to shoot some webs at the already UNCONSCIOUS Kangaroo. Way to go, Spidey! Maybe you should take teenage girls along everywhere you go, so you can distract the villains by getting beat up while they actually do the fighting. *ack* I was hoping maybe, MAYBE, you'd bust out here at the end and prove you weren't as lame as this all indicates. Now I'm just amazed the audience hasn't started throwing rotten fruit at you yet.
Angst-Girl: *concerned* What do we do with him?
So Spider-Man, who understandably just wants the entire thing to disappear and never be spoken of again, suggests a novel solution. He gives the Kangaroo to the "city zoo" so he can go live in their kangaroo exhibit.
*Kangaroo is shown bouncing happily around the zoo's kangaroo habitat*
Spider-Man says, "Believe it or not, he's happy in there!"
What, just because a guy has a penchant for a little kangaroo lovin' on the side it's alright to lock him up like an animal and put him on display? And the zoo officials are ok with having a resident super-villain? Gee, I wonder if he's going to get one of those little plastic molding-machine statues you only ever see at zoos. Maybe it'll be a little plastic statue of him, oh, I don't know, SMASHING SPIDER-MAN'S FACE WITH A GUITAR. Hehehehehehe.
Eric's Post-Fight Interview With the Kangaroo (at the zoo's kangaroo exhibit)
Me: Hey, Kangaroo, I just wanted to say I was a big fan. I mean really, a huge fan.
Kangaroo: Thanks kid. I appreciate that.
Me: Your plan rocked. Beating the crap out of the Short Circus in public to make them stop playing - I wish I'd thought of it.
Kangaroo: Yeah, did they ever suck. I just couldn't take it anymore.
Me: And congratulations on a kick-ass awesome spider-man smackdown of total sweetness. You made it look so easy.
Kangaroo: Well, actually it was pretty easy. If only I'd been the type of villain who beats up the girls, I would've gotten away scot-free.
Me: Yeah, I'm always thinking that too. So how would you rank Spider-Man's performance here?
Kangaroo: Well, I lived in the Outback for a long time, and I had pet Kiwi bird that had more fight in it's left toenail than Spider-Man and all his descendants combined will ever posses. And I don't even know if birds have toenails.
Me: Yeah, speaking of the Outback, do you know where the sweater-vest guy who called you 'weird' lives now? 'Cause I'll go kick his ass for ya.
Kangaroo: Thanks for the kind offer, but I took care of him a long time ago. Do you know how many kangaroo pouches it takes to stuff a human body into?
Me: Cool. Hey if there's ever anything I can do for ya, anything at all...
Kangaroo: Well, actually, I am pretty happy here in the zoo, but I've been having problems with Rochelle over there, she's the big female with a joey in her pouch, she claims I'm the father but I don't think so, I think she's been cheating on me with Kevin over there, which is fine because a new fem named Laura just arrived from Canberra who I've been, uh, seeing a little on the side. So it's just a little tense here right now, I need a place to crash for a while, I was wondering if you could find me a good hotel...
Me: Screw that, man, come and stay with me in my swinging bachelor pad. I've got a spare bedroom.
Kangaroo: You mean that?
Me: Of course, you're like a personal hero of mine. Just a few ground rules - no smashing my stereo if you don't like the music, no jumping around naked, and no having female kangaroos spend the night.
Kangaroo: I can dig it, I'm tired of the kangaroo ladies anyway, I think I'll give Angst-Girl a call.
Me: Na, you can have the kangaroos over for a visit, but I'm just worried about what Zelda's pets would do in the morning.
Me: She used to go by 'Princess Python', though nowadays she's the one who calls me 'Prince Python', if you know what I mean.
Kangaroo: Oh yeah, I met her before, she's cool.
Me: She just won't come over without the fifty-foot snakes, though.
Kangaroo: Eh, I have to live with pouch rash, and I don't even have a pouch. There's always some catch. Here, let me go get my things and say goodbye to Rochelle and Laura.
Me: Hey, you still hate everything and stuff?
Kangaroo: You know it, though the Prozac makes me hate everything slightly less.
Me: Coolness, you'll fit right in, I'll go pull the car around.
4 webs. How many villains can say they beat Spider-Man at all? How many can say they beat him more than once in the same story? Now how many can say they beat him up three times using musical instruments and kicked the Short Circus' ass too in the span of two pages? Only my homie the Kangaroo!