I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
Like many a comic book reader in the nineteen-eighties, when the youthful exuberance of pure fandom and the burgeoning toxicity of a collector mentality were becoming hopeless snarled together, I was a sucker for first issues. I was supposed to be. They were promoted with a breathless urgency. Even the covers couldn’t help but trumpet the significance of the numeral one up in the corner. Sometimes the cover even offered the promise that this particular publication was bound to be a collector’s item. For many of those comic collecting years, I got my fix via a subscription service. One of the options they offered was “All Marvel Number Ones.” I was sorely tempted to check that box, but I never did. Instead, my limited budget necessitated greater selectivity. No matter how enticing, a comic had to be truly special to get me to plunk down my silver. Few things qualified more than the first issue of Web of Spider-Man.
First published in 1985, Web of Spider-Man promised the first debut issue for a series starring Marvel’s wildly popular wall-crawler since the launches of Marvel Team-Up and Spectacular Spider-Man (which I resolutely still think of by its longer name, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, despite the myriad of sources that suggest I’m wrong) in the first half of the seventies. If that didn’t make it seem significant enough, the premiere issue promised a final resolution to the Black Costume Saga, which began as a result of the terrible crossover limited series Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars. In the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, the web-slinger got the help of Dr. Reed Richards, the Fantastic Four’s resident genius, to determine that the pliable, chameleon-like costume was actually an alien being, a symbiote that had bonded with its host. That would be Peter Parker, who understandably got the heebie jeebies about the whole thing, asking Richards to lock it away. The wily creature escaped, though, eventually finding its way to Peter’s apartment. Web of Spider-Man gets underway as the symbiote cleverly disguises itself as a Spider-Man costume.
Once Peter changes into what he thinks is his normal, wash-and-wear superhero get-up, the symbiote wastes no time making its presence known.
And thus the bizarre battle is underway, with Spider-Man careening through New York City trying to rend the garment-link creature from his body, even as the symbiote is equally capable — sometimes maybe even more capable — of controlling their shared movements through the metropolis. It’s wild and goofy and exactly the sort of nutso plotline that sometimes made it a little difficult to explain to people that I felt comics storytelling could be as valid of a medium as any other. I mean, writer Louise Simonson clearly give it her all, but we’re not exactly in the territory of erudite fiction here.
Since he’s Spider-Man swinging through the skyscraper buttressed canyons of Manhattan, some super-villains naturally come swarming in to complicate matters. In this instance, the disruption is delivered by high-flying Vulturians, an evil collective employing the technology of one of Spider-Man’s oldest foes. They’re a mere nuisance, a delay on the way to the issue’s stirring conclusion.
Spider-Man remembers that the methodology used by Dr. Richards to get the symbiote off of him previously involved a well-aimed sonic blaster. With no such device handy, Spider-Man seeks out so other loud noise that might shake the beast off, heading straight for an exceedingly well-stocked bell tower.
In the shocking, emotional twist, the symbiote bursts off Peter’s body, scuttling down the stairs to leave its prone host lying unconscious as the thunderous noises threaten to do him in. Fully bonded with its host to the point of being protective, the alien goes to retrieve Parker, carrying him down to safety. The added exposure is enough to finish off the symbiote, which has effectively sacrificed itself for the man who tried to kill it. In the context of mid-eighties superhero fare, this is incredibly poignant stuff.
I only stuck with Web of Spider-Man for a few issues, as it quickly became apparent that this was a true also-ran title, a noncommittal attempt to extra extra cash from those dopey fans (like me) who would follow Spider-Man just about anywhere. Before long, I only bought the title when essentially forced to by multi-part storylines that spanned all three Spider-Man series. I always think of the series as sort of a dud, but it lasted a healthy number of issues. Though its time in the Marvel universe supposedly drew to a close when it turned to dust at the end of Web of Spider-Man #1, the symbiote also proved surprisingly resilient, reemerging in a surprising way, becoming one of the most grotesquely overused characters of the nineteen-nineties. Luckily, I knew better than to spend my youth reading most of those comics.
Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Marvel Premiere by David Kraft and George Perez
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
What If? by Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Thor by Walt Simonson
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Cerebus: Jaka’s Story by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Iron Man #150 by by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Man of Steel by John Byrne
Fantastic Four by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz
“Allien and How to Watch It” by John Severin
Fantastic Four Roast by Fred Hembeck and friends
The Amazing Spider-Man #25 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Marvel Two-in-One #7 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema
The New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod
Dark Horse Presents
Bizarre Adventures #27
Marvel Team-Up #48 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema
Metal Men #20 by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru
The Avengers by Roy Thomas and John Buscema
Fantastic Four by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
American Flagg by Howard Chaykin
Marvel and DC Present by Chris Claremont and Walter Simonson
Batman by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Marvel Two-in-One Annual #5 by Alan Kupperberg and Pablo Marcos