Monday, June 23, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: Denys Cowan
Inkers: Jim Mooney, Dave Humphreys, Josef Rubenstein
Letterers: Joe Rosen, Jim Novak | Colorists: Ed Hannigan, Christie Scheele
Editor: Dennis O'Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Nathaniel Alexander Byrd, a private detective called Blackbyrd, speaks with a stool pigeon named Lou Gunther. He tells Gunther the history of the Hector Ayala, a.k.a. the White Tiger, his tale culminating with the murder of the Tiger's family one night before. Blackbyrd wants to know who did it, as does the White Tiger -- who arrives moments after the story has been told.

Gunther tells the Tiger that it was "out of town muscle" who murdered his parents and sister, and the Tiger vows to track them down. He heads for the abandoned candy shop Gunther says they have been using as a headquarters, where he finds the men -- a highly trianed military unit led by Colonel Gideon Mace -- holed up.

Mace's soldiers battle the Tiger until he is forced to retreat, but he finds his attempted point of egress -- a window -- to be painted onto the wall by Mace as a trap. With his back literally against the wall, the White Tiger is gunned down by Mace, who proclaims him the first victim of a crusade to rid New York City of all its superhuman residents.

The Sub-Plots: None.

Continuity Notes: The entire first chapter is devoted to Blackbyrd's recap of White Tiger's origin and backstory. The Tiger was a young man named Hector Ayala, who stumbled upon the discarded amulets of the Sons of the Tiger (stars of Marvel's DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG-FU magazine series from the seventies). When Ayala donned all three mystical amulets, he was transformed into the costumed, martial arts savvy White Tiger.
White Tiger proceeded into a seris of adventures that saw him battling Jack of Hearts and Spider-Man, before befriending the web-slinger. The villainous Lightmaster revealed Hector's secret identity on television in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #20, but Hector was relatively unfazed. He fell for an art student named Holly Gillis, and the couple bought a van which they drove around the inner city, teaching children to read, which was his status quo up to the start of this story. The murder of his family is a new development created by Roger Stern.
To my knowledge, all of the White Tiger's previous appearances were written by Bill Mantlo, meaning that the Tiger and Blackbyrd were both created by Mantlo. Also notable is that the Tiger's first appearance was illustrated by the great George Perez. Gideon Mace, meanwhile, was created by Archie Goodwin and George Tuska as an enemy for Luke Cage almost a decade prior to this story.

Aside from the issue #20 reference, which is footnoted twice across the three chapters of the serial, there are no other notes to be found in this story.

Uncle Rog Speaks: “Since Frank was often around the Bullpen, he was on hand to pick up cover assignments to supplement his early work on DAREDEVIL. The first issue of mine with a Frank Miller cover would have been #46. Frank drew about ten covers for the book while I was writing it. That cover with Spider-Man fighting the Samurai was really sweet [issue 54]. And I loved the one where Frank had Spider-Man punching the globe off Mysterio’s head [issue 51]." -- "Not Amazing, But Spectacular", BACK ISSUE Magazine #44, 2010

It's not a comment on this particular story, but readers will recall that we just covered the Mysterio issue last week, while the samurai cover will show up on Monday.

My Thoughts: Read by itself, there's barely anything to this story -- and the second chapter is entirely superflous, merely depicting White Tiger's arrival at Mace's HQ, with our hero laid out by the villain at the installment's climax. This could easily have been a two-parter, especially since the middle segment includes a filler scene where the Tiger bursts into the wrong building and accosts a vagrant before realizing his mistake. I suppose the purpose of the encounter is to show us how shaken up the Tiger is over the deaths of his parents and sister, but Stern had accomplished that already in part one when the Tiger nearly beat up his stool pigeon for information.
But while the story has a bit too much extraneous fluff, it does serve as a fine lead-in to next issue's battle between Spider-Man and Gideon Mace. Putting a minor supporting character through hell would become a common trope in superhero comics by the close of the eighties, but at this point it's a novel idea. And the savagery of Mace's tactics -- killing the White Tiger's innocent family, including his teenage sister, just to draw the Tiger into his trap, is particularly moving. After seeing what he's done to the Ayalas, you want the Tiger to really clean Mace's clock, and maybe to kill him as well. Stern even sets things up with the Tiger initially winning against Mace's men before dropping the hammer with the shocking final scene that features our hero gunned down and, for all we can tell, dead at the feet of Gideon Mace.

It's all very senseless and brutal within the story -- but the real point of the fall of the White Tiger is to give Spider-Man a very personal stake in his showdown with Mace, as we will soon see.

Next Issue: The White Tiger storyline becomes the lead feature as Spider-Man avenges his friend's assault.

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