Forgotten Masterpiece: EL SORPRENDENTE HOMBRE ARANA #150 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8

At this point, I expect that most of you know the drill here. But to hastily recap for those who do not: in the early 1970s, demand for Spider-Man stories was so strong in Mexico that the Mexican publisher of Spidey’s translated adventures, La Prensa, got permission from Marvel to produce all-new adventures of the web-slinger to fill out their publishing schedule. None of these Mexican Spider-Man stories have ever ben translated or reprinted in America, so they’re relatively rare. But I’ve got a number of them, and so I’m sharing them with all of you.

This particular issue, EL SORPRENDENTE HOMBRE ARANA #150 is set between the events in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #114 and #115 as published in the United States. The artist on most all of these new stories was Jose Luis Duran. Duran would often swipe from other American comics in order to make the finished product feel more like the genuine article. In this instance, he used the cover of CAPTAIN MARVEL #18 by Gil Kane as the source of his composition and the big robot. There is a similar robot on the interior, but it uses a different design. And if you’re going to swipe, stealing from Gil Kane (who himself would occasionally swipe from Jack Kirby and others) is a pretty good choice, especially in that timeframe.

What’s interesting about this particular issue is that the plot seems to be an expanded and modernized version of the story “The Living Brain” from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. I’m assuming that the earlier story was skipped over in the Mexican run of the strip, possibly because it doesn’t fill a whole issue. But I’m just guessing about that–if any Mexican readers know for certain, please let me know!

Of course, some changes needed to be made in order to fit this story into the later continuity. Flash Thompson and Liz Allen are out, replaced by Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson. And the whole thing is now taking place while Peter is in College rather than High School–which makes it a bit tougher to believe that the teacher sets up a boxing match in which Harry and Peter can work out their differences. In High School, sure, but a bit implausible for College kids. And of course, the inciting incident of the original story–Flash accidentally breaking Peter’s no-longer-needed glasses is excised as well, since Peter hadn’t worn them since.

But the rest of the story is pretty much on point. The class is the host to a scientist who has developed a powerful Living Brain in the form of a robot (The “Cerebro Electronico”of the title.) And as a test of its capabilities, the class challenges it to work out the true identity of Spider-Man, much to Peter’s mounting horror.

There are also a pair of no-goodniks in attendance who get dollar signs in their eyes and who move to try to steal the robot, inadvertently causing it to run wild and endanger everybody. But fortunately, Spidey comes to the rescue!

Because he’s such an excellent student, Peter is roped into operating the Living Brain, entering all of the facts about Spider-Man into it and programming its response. You would think this might give him an opportunity to kibosh the thing in some way, but apparently not.

Fortunately for the wall-crawler, the Brain’s deduction is printed out in some manner of machine code, which needs to be translated. So Peter still has time to get his hands on the paper and destroy it (this is all assuming that the Brain even got the right answer, of course!) But in the meantime, Peter’s going to have to face Harry in the boxing ring, and is worried about killing him accidentally with his spider-strength.

I’m not sure why Harry is colored with African-American skin tone on this page. Possibly somebody mistook him for Randy Robertson.

Fortunately for La Prensa, the original Ditko story packed a lot more material into each page–Ditko was typically knocking out 7-9 panel pages on this job. So even where events needed to be expanded in order to cover a much greater page count, there was ample material to draw upon, and not a whole lot of original incidents needed to be invented.

Spidey is spared the indignity of being run over by the Brain on the underside of a door in the Mexican version of the story…

And just as in the original story, Harry comes to in time to accidentally waylay the two no-goodniks, making the class suspect him of really being Spider-Man.

4 thoughts on “Forgotten Masterpiece: EL SORPRENDENTE HOMBRE ARANA #150 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8

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