People sometimes wonder about the fact that it took me so long to become a fan of Spider-Man and a regular reader of his adventures. Considering that he was immensely popular and the flagship character of the Marvel line, to say nothing of one of the best characters ever conceptualized, it does seem strange. But the 1970s were not always a kind time for Spider-Man. And so it goes for this issue of PETER PARKER, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, which I picked up at my local 7-11. Once again, within its pages, the appeal of Spider-Man was lost on me.
For those who are unaware, PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN was the second ongoing Spider-Man title. (Spidey was also appearing regularly in MARVEL TEAM-UP, but that wasn’t quite on the same level. And SPIDEY SUPER STORIES was aimed at a much younger audience) It was created to satisfy the demand for more Spider-Man stories, a sure-fire seller. It was also created to give departing short-tern Editor In Chief Gerry Conway a Spider-Man title he could write and edit, as Len Wein was at that point camped out on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Conway didn’t stay on it for long, and it very quickly became a B-title. If anything important was really going to go on in the life of the wall-crawler, it was going to happen in AMAZING. PETER PARKER wound up much more akin to MARVEL TEAM-UP, just more inconsequential Spider-Man adventures.
This particular issue was the wrap-up of a four-part adventure whose plot is, frankly, nonsensical, and which feels a bit like the creators simply making stuff up as they went along. It also had the distinction of being the storyline that introduced Razorback to the Marvel Universe. Inspired by the short-lived Citizen Band Radio craze of the period, Razorback wore a gigantic pig-head and drove a souped-up 18-wheeler while spouting CB jargon. It’s baffling why the character never went on to greater success.
Okay, so the backstory to this tale is so convoluted that I don’t even think I can properly summarize it. Suffice it to say that Spider-Man and Flash Thompson got involved when Flash’s old Vietnamese girlfriend Sha Shan showed back up as Sister Sun, married to cult leader Brother Power (not to be confused with DC’s Geek). Razorback’s sister was also a part of the cult, which is what brought him out to New York from his native Texarcana, Arkansas, to find and rescue her. But the cult and Brother Power are all a part of a larger ploy on the part of the Hate-Monger, who this time turns out to be the Man-Beast of Counter-Earth and…aw, I can feel my brain cells dying even as I type this. Anyway, Spidey, Flash and RB wind up trapped in a room were the ceiling is collapsing, forcing Spidey to once again lift (on in this case, hold up) a big, heavy object.
Brother Power and Sister Sun have been holding a rally at a ballpark stadium, and the Man-Beast intends to use a gizmo to channel the negative emotional energies released there as the worshipers are all caught in the cave-in the Man-Beast has started to broadcast his hate rays all across the world via television. But Spidey is able to hold up the roof long enough for Razorback to recover and help him, and so they’re able to minimize the damage from the cave-in. But they’re targeted by Brother Power, who turns his followers on them.
Frustrated at the lack of casualties, the Man-Beast projects his mental image to the crowd, revving them all up into a fever pitch hate-filled state. As they emerge from the cave-in, Razorback stays back to hold the line in the opes that Spidey and Flash can break through and turn the tables on brother Power and the Man-Beast. Sister Sun breaks free of the control of the others, but that’s when the Man-Beast has Brother Power turn on her, so er offensive doesn’t amount to very much.
Fortunately, Spidey and Flash are on the case. The Web-Slinger is able to fight his way into the Man-Beast’s chamber, but he’s stymied by the Man-Beast’s hate-beams (!!!) But Razorback’s sister intervenes–the Man-Beast was using so much power against Spidey that she slipped free of his control, and she provides just the momentary diversion that the Wall-Crawler needs to get the drop on the Man-Beast, punching him into his own machines, which explode in pyrotechnics. And that’s pretty much the wrap-up.
And i think the reason why this issue failed to grab me or clue me in on Spider-man’s charms is pretty self-evident. For all that the book is titled PETER PARKER, there isn’t so much as a single panel of the web-slinger out of costume in this issue. He might as well have been a Spider-man action figure–and while he quipped just fine and did some basic heroic stuff, he didn’t really have any personality to him, any humanity save for the stock sort that all heroes possess. Heck, Razorback was more distinctive than he was, and that’s saying something! So I didn’t become a regular reader of the title and it would take a bit longer still for me to find my way to Spider-Man in a meaningful fashion.