Oct 15, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #47

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #47
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

At Flash Thompson's going-away party before he's sent abroad by the military, Kraven the Hunter attacks!


POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • Green Goblin: 7
  • Doctor Octopus: 5
  • Sandman: 4
  • Kraven the Hunter: 4
  • The Vulture: 3
  • Mysterio: 3
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • The Lizard: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
BEN: This issue was later parodied in a Deadpool comic, with Deadpool being inserted into the story as part of the gang.

Parody from Deadpool. The original panel shows up down below.


DUY: That's Deadpool #11, back in 1997. This is also the main issue flashbacked and homaged in Spider-Man Blue. There's something special about this series of issues, this supporting cast, right when Flash leaves, that they did a whole retrospective about it twice (Deadpool and Blue).

BEN: Surprisingly, Blue shows the party, but not the dancing. We are probably both remembering this, which is a completely new scene.



WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN: One of the most memorable panels from the Romita era is Gwen Stacy dancing at Flash’s going away party. It’s as ridiculous as it is enduring.


DUY: It's something Romita 100% has over Ditko, making the whole dancing thing endearing. Romita's romance background is so big, but it's most widely felt so far in this issue, and it's just.... a really nice change of pace from all the 46 issues that have come before.

BEN: I wonder why they decided to put Flash away for a little while? Was it simply wanting to address the war in some capacity, or to give more room to Harry, or both?

DUY: I think addressing the war was a good move, and Flash if I remember right is back sooner rather than later, so maybe it's to give his character some growth. He and Peter had already been evolving to friends, so maybe this was a more natural way to justify that eventual endgame.

BEN: I think they were clearly trying to transition Peter into being less of an outcast, so that’s easier without Flash around insulting him all the time.

WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

BEN: Deadpool does a far better job of mocking the dialogue and characterizations then I could ever do.

DUY: Additionally, Kraven's nipple blasts ... do not age well.


NITPICKS

DUY: Peter Parker hangs out with Ned Leeds and Betty Brant, and chilling out with your ex-girlfriend and her fiance isn't normal, right? I mean, I'm sure it happens, but it's weird. And why would Ned and Betty even go to Flash's going-away party? Do they even know him? They're working people and he's a student. And why would Betty be all playfully "OooOooOoh, which one between Gwen and MJ are you more into, Peter?" It's not like they're Jerry and Elaine. And seriously, no one could find Liz Allen?

BEN: It’s weird how fast they dropped her. We have another blonde now, one with less emotional problems..

FAVORITE PANEL

DUY: Gwen playfully being catty with Peter about MJ is really entertaining. All the words are vile, but all the facial expressions say to come right at her.


DUY: But no, it's the sequence of Peter and Harry picking up MJ and Gwen for me, the one so effectively parodied by Deadpool if you scroll up. and how Peter is so enamored with Gwen. It's so charming.



WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY: There actually is a dancing contest here. And I think judging by the reactions of everyone watching, Gwen Stacy won. Gwen Stacy wins this issue.

BEN: Gwen wins every issue. The sooner you realize that, the happier you’ll be.

DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!


Oct 9, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #46

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #46
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

The debut of The Shocker!


POINTLESS TRIVIA

DUY: First appearance of the Shocker.

BEN: Peter moves in with Harry.

DUY: I wonder if the move has something to do with Ditko leaving. It feels like this would be something the fans would want, and Stan would want, because it's partly growth and it partly gets May out of the way, but it feels like Ditko would have fought it. Also, I'm confused. Is Harry supposed to be the cool guy?

BEN:  I think he is.

DUY: Do you think they succeeded in making him the cool guy to readers in the 60s?

BEN: The Fonz was cool right? Harry asking Peter to move in with him was a pretty sly strategic move on his part. They’re not very close at all yet, but Harry can see that for some reason Peter is a chick magnet, and makes the right call

DUY: He's also the smartest kid on campus, so there's the idea that Harry will look cool next to him. But again, is Harry supposed to be cool? He's got the car and the money. That's usually the makings of the cool character in a college movie, right?

BEN: I think he’s supposed to be cool, because every other rendition of him in movies or cartoons makes him the cool one, they’re just doing a terrible job of it here.

DUY: I asked this because I was watching Spectacular Spider-Man, and he's basically Milhouse in it. But Gwen is not traditionally "pretty" in it either.

BEN: Sure, find the one version that contradicts me. I feel like, at minimum, Harry is rich and rich kids always have friends, even if they’re a Milhouse.

DUY: James Franco isn't cool, he just looks cool compared to Tobey Maguire.

BEN: Wait, did Franco Harry actually date Mary Jane in that movie?

DUY: I don't think so?

BEN: I think it seems like he didn’t because it was a massive betrayal, but he totally did.

WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN: The Shocker’s costume is somehow both bad and cool.

DUY: Gwen Stacy dancing when Peter isn't looking, and getting his attention without her knowing it, always feels realistic to me. Like you notice your crushes more in the casual moments.



BEN: Everything they do is fascinating.

WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

BEN: The dialogue is really quite awful.

DUY: It's so dated, in a way I don't think I've ever seen anything from the 60s so dated. The ending where he mopes about how he possibly lost the capacity for happiness, makes me want to strangle his emo teenage self.

BEN: I love you Stan, but this is hard to read. Romita has a much more appealing style to me, but it’s marred by this nonsense.

DUY: I don't like how Romita made him bulkier. I guess I do prefer Ditko's weird-looking Spidey to Romita's more classic-looking Spidey, but a bulky Spider-Man is just weird to me.

NITPICKS

DUY: This is the second issue in a row where Harry just runs into Peter on the street while he's driving. This is impossible, I don't care what era of New York it is.

BEN: Let’s assume he was stalking him.



DUY: That adds a whole new layer to this whole run.

FAVORITE PANEL

DUY: There's a scene where Harry is driving Peter away, and in the foreground there's a black cop. We're only a few issues away from Robbie Robertson's introduction.



BEN: That is prominent. And for mine, Mary Jane is too easy:



WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY: It's hard to pick a winner for these generic issues, but the fans, because Aunt May is going away for a while.

BEN: We need a spinoff miniseries of May and Anna. But it's not hard to pick, because it's Gwen.

MEMORABLE AND RIDICULOUS

BEN: Peter's acting job to fool Patch has always stuck with me.

DUY: It's a nice touch, but... really contrived.

BEN:  It’s ridiculous, which is maybe why I never forgot it.




DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!

Oct 2, 2019

Amazing Spider-Man #45

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #45
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

The Lizard and his reptile army invade New York City, and Spider-Man has to defend the city with a broken arm!


POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • Green Goblin: 7
  • Doctor Octopus: 5
  • Sandman: 4
  • The Vulture: 3
  • Mysterio: 3
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • Kraven the Hunter: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • The Lizard: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2

BEN: The first date between Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson?

DUY: Speaking of, how and when did Harry and MJ get each other's number? Did she just stake out ESU until she saw someone she knows?

BEN: She went to Oscorp and the front desk gave her.

WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?


BEN: Since we as the reader know the full picture, it always seems like it would be easy to guess Peter is Spider-Man, but without that full view we get, there is no reason for any character inside the comic to suspect that Spider-Man is even a regular person at all.

DUY: You would need to first observe that Peter is never around whenever Spider-Man is, then you'd have to observe that Spider-Man is about the same size as Peter. And in Flash's case, having seen Peter unmasked as Spider-Man once before and then not believing it, he really has no additional reason to do so.

BEN: So even with a busted arm, Flash and Harry make fun of him for copying Spider-Man, because that’s what real people would do.

DUY: It's actually pretty realistic.

BEN: Speaking of realistic, reptile armies age like a fine wine.


WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

BEN: They were clearly building up to Peter quitting in #50, which was good that one time. Unfortunately, it’s been copied 100 times since.

DUY: Lizard having a semi-human brain and not knowing he's Curt Connors is a bit too Hulk-y for me. I prefer him knowing he's Connors and then losing control, and then the next step is just full-on Lizard.

BEN: Full-on Lizard was my stripper name in college.

NITPICKS

BEN: Spider-Man beats the Lizard and then makes the antidote to cure him. Why not make the antidote first and have it ready?

DUY: Aunt May is so annoying. She's in this comic for two panels, and she's so annoying.

BEN: She’s as annoying as she is necessary.

FAVORITE PANEL

DUY: The panel with Peter swinging away while there is no dialogue among the Connors family, for the reader to fill out themselves, is equal parts charming and lazy.



BEN: A peek at my brain:



WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY: You can't go wrong with Spider-Man whenever he's fighting injured.

BEN: You can go wrong, because the winner is Gwen.

DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!

Sep 30, 2019

First Appearance Flashback: She-Hulk

It’s always interesting to look at a character’s first appearance and see what aspects of that character were in place from the very beginning.  Batman was famously machine-gunning vampires and executing criminals in his early appearances, while Spider-Man debuted basically as the same character we know and love today.

With that in mind, this ongoing series will be taking a look at the first appearances of notable comic book characters, to see how they hold up with the modern day depictions.  Next is the future star of a Disney Plus television show, She-Hulk.

First Appearance Flashback: She-Hulk
Ben Smith



She-Hulk was created by the legendary team of Stan Lee and John Buscema, and was the last significant character created by Stan for Marvel. The genesis of the character actually came from the television show The Bionic WomanThe Incredible Hulk was having a successful run as a television show at the same time as The Six Million Dollar Man, and Marvel was worried the network would create a female version of the Hulk the same way they did The Bionic Woman.  Marvel wanted to create the She-Hulk so they would own the rights. And so The Savage She-Hulk #1 was published in February of 1980, written by Lee with art by Buscema.



The story begins with Bruce Banner tired of being on the run.  He decides to visit his cousin Jennifer Walters, an attorney in Los Angeles.



Bruce reveals to Jen that he is the Hulk, retelling his origin in the process. Jen convinces Bruce to come home with her.  Unfortunately, the client she’s currently representing has a powerful enemy, and he sends two of his goons to kill her.



She’s shot in the back, but Bruce is able to fend them off before they can do any worse.  Bruce is desperately trying to remain calm, but Jen has lost too much blood. So Bruce finds a residential doctor’s office, and performs a blood transfusion, using himself as the donor.



Bruce disappears after calling the police, feeling it’s safe enough for him to leave town after reading that Jen will be okay in the newspaper. But when Jen is recovering in bed, Trask’s goons arrive to try and finish the job again.


It was a bad idea, as Jennifer Walters becomes the She-Hulk for the first time.



She chases the goons out of the building and into the streets.


She finally catches one, and he subsequently confesses to Trask paying them to murder Jennifer Walters, as well as swearing knowledge of Trask’s original murder, all in front of some nearby policemen.


She-Hulk runs backs to the hospital, returning to her bed just in time for her to revert back into Jennifer Walters.  The nurse comes by to check on her, and she comes up with an excuse for why she changed rooms, keeping her new identity intact.


What’s aged the best?

Jennifer Walters is a lawyer who gets Hulk-like powers after her cousin Bruce gives her a blood transfusion.  Those facts never change in later incarnations.  Her general appearance would remain consistent with Buscema’s original design as depicted here.  She’s more intelligent and self-aware than her male counterpart traditionally is as well.  Overall, considering this comic only exists for copyright purposes, it was much better than it had any right to be.

What’s aged the worst?

It’s later changed so that Jennifer can fully control her transformations into She-Hulk. They aren’t solely triggered by anger or stress like they were in this story.  She also prefers to stay She-Hulk, as she feels much more confident and comfortable as such (especially sexually).  Many of her later comics would give her more of a humorous tone, in contrast to her tortured cousin.  John Byrne’s beloved run on the character had her repeatedly break the fourth wall, a trick Deadpool would steal years later.

Not all characters get to debut in their own series with a fully formed origin story, but it would take a little while longer before She-Hulk became more than a clone of her famous cousin.  Her preference for being green and her sense of humor are what make her so interesting.  Combine that with the story opportunities that being an attorney provide, and frankly you get a far more interesting character than the male Hulk.


Sep 25, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #44

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #44
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

The Lizard returns!


POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • Green Goblin: 7
  • Doctor Octopus: 5
  • Sandman: 4
  • The Vulture: 3
  • Mysterio: 3
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • Kraven the Hunter: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
  • The Lizard: 2
BEN: With 38 issues since, the Lizard easily holds the record at this point for biggest gap between appearances for a major Spider-Man villain. And Mary Jane meets Flash, Gwen, and Harry.

DUY: So I guess this is obvious, but MJ didn't go to college, did she?

BEN: She was already on the model/actress path. This is the first time I remember Peter wishing he could quit being Spider-Man. Am I wrong on that?

DUY: He did throw his costume into the trash when Aunt May was sick.

BEN: That was more of thinking he had to quit.

WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN:  “An invincible army of super strong giant lizards.”

DUY: It's pretty cool that Connors being the Lizard again was built up on and off over several issues. That's just standard now, but I don't think it's a stretch to say it was weird for the 60s.

BEN: I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the matter, but it seems like having a girl like Mary Jane hit on you in front of the girl you really like (Gwen) is a good way to make that girl take notice of you even more.

DUY: So I'm reading the novel version of The Princess Bride, and that's pretty much how Buttercup realizes she's in love with Westley. Count Rugen's wife takes notice of him.

BEN: Why are you reading The Princess Bride?

WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

DUY:  I don't think we needed a page's worth of panels to recap the Lizard's previous appearance. And Romita draws everyone prettier than Ditko, which is great for everyone except JJJ, who now looks more like an ogre.

NITPICKS

BEN:  Why doesn’t Curt’s family live with him?

DUY: As I understood it, the Connors moved to Florida and then Curt went back to New York for his research. Their permanent residence is Florida.

FAVORITE PANEL

BEN: For some reason I was drawn to how perfect this Spidey face looks.



DUY: This one for me, the first complete shot of the greatest supporting cast he'd ever have.



WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY: The Flash/Peter rivalry, which takes an interesting turn here. They're still bantering, but they're smiling like each other as if they're happy to see each other. I wonder if Stan actually told John to draw the characters smiling at each other, to the point that no amount of bantering is going to make it look like they're still fighting, or if John did it himself.

BEN: It is a great touch that I didn’t even notice because I barely look at the art. Unless it’s Gwen, who wins this issue.

DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!

Sep 23, 2019

First Appearance Flashback: Blade

It’s always interesting to look at a character’s first appearance and see what aspects of that character were in place from the very beginning.  Batman was famously machine-gunning vampires and executing criminals in his early appearances, while Spider-Man debuted basically as the same character we know and love today.

With that in mind, this ongoing series will be taking a look at the first appearances of notable comic book characters, to see how they hold up with the modern day depictions.  Next is arguably the most obscure Marvel character to star in a movie, Blade.

First Appearance Flashback: Blade
Ben Smith


Once upon a time, horror comics were considered too violent for kids, and they were banned.  Thankfully, in the ‘70s comic companies learned that arbitrary bans on content were stupid and horror comics returned.  We’ve already looked at the debut of Moon Knight in Werewolf by Night, now comes a similar first appearance by Blade in the pages of The Tomb of Dracula, which was published in 1973, written by Marv Wolfman with art by the legendary Gene Colan.




The story begins when two teenagers are about to be attacked on the docks by three vampires.  Fortunately, a mysterious figure named Blade arrives, and kills all three vampires fairly easily.



Harker, noted enemy of Dracula, arrives immediately after to chastise Blade for killing them.  He had been hoping to use the vampires to track down Dracula.  Blade doesn’t care.



Dracula is causing mayhem aboard a cruise ship filled with the wealthy and famous.  He had been their invited guest, them not knowing that he truly is a vampire.


Somehow Blade caught wind of this, and uses a small boat to get close enough to swim the rest of the way toward the larger vessel.



Dracula has given the crowd an ultimatum, join him as a vampire or die.  Blade interrupts before anyone has to make that rough decision, and he and Dracula begin to fight.


Blade gives Dracula good battle, until Dracula gets the jump on him and moves in for the deadly neck bite.  Before he can finish the job, he is distracted by the aforementioned women he had attacked earlier.



Blade gets free, and Dracula decides to retreat, but not before boasting about the explosives he had planted inside the ship. Blade manages to get the innocent passengers overboard before the explosives ignite, saving them.  Blade vows to kill Dracula some day.



What aged the best?

Beyond the beautiful Colan art, not much.  His outfit is quite hideous, yet Colan is so good that he makes it work.  Blade is one of the earliest black superheroes on Marvel’s roster, but didn’t rise to prominence until much later.  I had never even heard of him by the time he was featured in his own movie, played by Wesley Snipes.

The first Blade movie was actually Marvel’s test case to prove that movies based on Marvel heroes could work.  It was successful, giving them the confidence to make X-Men.  It’s reasonable to say we don’t get Avengers: Endgame without Blade paving the way.

What’s aged the worst?

There is nothing in the story that leads us to believe Blade has any powers.  His backstory as a half-vampire with all of the powers, and none of the weaknesses (except a thirst for blood) was not established, which is his most compelling feature.  No back story, no obvious powers, and no all black leather outfit.  They pretty much only had the name and his mission.

The character was so generic, that when Marv Wolfman tried to sue Marvel over his rights in 1997, the jury ruled that the character had become sufficiently different enough in the years since Wolfman created him, that his claim of copyright ownership was denied.

Thus, that was the humble beginning of the character that would star in three major motion pictures, with a fourth on the way.  One of the most unlikely Marvel movie stars ever, but also one of the best.