Forgotten Masterpiece: EL SORPRENDENTE HOMBRE ARANA #154

Here’s another in our series on the new Spider-Man stories that were written and drawn by local talent in Mexico for publisher La Prensa. This one’s a real oddity for completely different reasons. To start with, Spidey himself is nowhere to be seen on this cover. The selling point is a positively scandalous image of Gwen Stacy, close to being topless. This was perfectly acceptable on the newsstands in Mexico but would have raised some eyebrows in the United States.

The cover, as it turns out, is no lie. While Peter Parker is present, Spider-Man doesn’t appear for a single panel in these twenty pages! Rather, it’s Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson who is the prime mover of this story. It was published between the Mexican localizations of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #115 and #116, so chronologically it falls therein. And it owes a lot to the two-part story Roy Thomas and Gil Kane created for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #103-104, in which Jonah took Gwen and Peter on an expedition into the Savage Land in search of a story to help the Bugle’s flagging sales. This adventure follows a similar pattern.

The primary artist on these Mexican Spider-Man stories was Jose Luis Duran, though I don’t know whether he was responsible for this one or not. Reliable credits for these lost Spidey adventures are difficult to locate. But in the absence of any better evidence, we’ll assume that his was the hand behind the pencil.

The longer that they went on, the more the Mexican Spider-Man adventures placed less emphasis on costumed super villains and more on aliens, weird dimensions, international intrigue and the regular human cast. In a lot of ways, it seems like the creators were taking their cues from the later seasons of the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon, the ones directed and overseen by Ralph Bakshi. This particular outing is nowhere near as wild as these would get in that regard. But it’s still relatively off-model for a 1973 Spider-Man story.

The characters tend to shift around as well, depending on whether the artist is swiping from John Romita or Gil Kane or some other American artists–Mike Sekowsky swipes show up from time to time, as do Neal Adams swipes–or whether they’re drawing the characters whole cloth. Peter Parker looks as though he’s in his 30s in that first panel here.

Romita swipe at the top, Gil Kane swipe at the bottom.

Gil Kane swipes in Panels 3 & 5, John Romita swipe in Panel 4. A lot of the Kane swipes are specifically coming from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #103-104, the two issues whose story this adventure is most closely patterned upon.

Gwen’s looking a lot older than a college student on this page.

Some unfortunate coloring on Joe Robertson in that third panel. And look–Nazis!

After all of this, Gwen’s encounter with the twenty foot beast-man was going to have to wait for another couple of weeks, as this story is To Be Continued, a two-parter. Sadly, I don’t have the second half, so we may never know whether Gwen comes out of things with her virtue intact.

3 thoughts on “Forgotten Masterpiece: EL SORPRENDENTE HOMBRE ARANA #154

  1. Tom, Spidey isn’t “nowhere” to be found on the cover. 😉 He’s in the masthead. Maybe that’s why el Editor thought he could just use Jameson and Gwen on it. Was this Gwen Stacey, or “Gwen Bootie”? Aye, carumba, Duran seemed to like to show the back of her pants a lot. Jonah DEFINETLY looks drawn from Spidey’s late1960’s animated cartoon. And it reaffirms J.K. Simmons’ perfect casting in the role. And what a difference a color change in hair highlights makes on Pedro, I mean, Peter. 😉

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  2. Was it even LEGAL to print a Spider-Man story with no Spider-Man in it? Not even he sticking on the wall saying “Oh well, they don’t need me this time!”? Were it “The Befuddling Investigations of J.J.J., Daily Bugle Publisher” I would understand, but…

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