Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: John Romita, Jr. | Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editors: Tom DeFalco & Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Still recovering in the hospital, the Black Cat daydreams that she is healthy and going into action alongside Spider-Man to liberate important documents from an embassy in Manhattan. The couple then turns the papers over to a government contact, who pays $500,000 for them. Afterward, Spider-Man takes the Cat for a spin in his yacht and unmasks himself as Cary Grant. She comes back to her senses after falling out of her hospital bed during the fantasy.

Elsewhere, Jonah Jameson wanders through the Daily Bugle printing press room, lost in thought. He imagines that Spider-Man arrives to taunt him. Jameson beats the wall-crawler senseless while Lance Bannon and Peter Parker photograph the entire incident. Marla Madison arrives to embrace Jameson as the latest edition of the Bugle comes off the presses. Jameson, reverted to a younger, heartier age, proudly reads the headline praising him for his defeat of Spider-Man. He then drifts wistfully back to reality.

Meanwhile, Mary Jane is on a date in the theater district when she imagines herself as the star of a Broadway show based upon her own life. But when her sister, Gayle, appears with her two children and declares that she had always wanted to be an actress, Mary Jane snaps out of her daydream and returns to her date.

Not far away, Spider-Man is gazing at Avengers Mansion and dreaming about a world where he rescues Jonah Jameson from his entire rogues gallery, then Peter Parker is awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his subsequent photo of Jameson kissing Spider-Man's boot. The dream continues as Peter is awarded an honorary doctorate from Empire State University, as well as a Nobel Prize for creating a cure for everything. When the attention becomes too much for Peter, he changes to Spider-Man to receive an award from the mayor. The Avengers and Fantastic Four fight over the wall-crawler's potential membership, but when they realize he is actually just a "skinny kid", both groups wash their hands of him and leave.

Spider-Man is pulled out of his reverie when he notices a group of bullies picking on a bespectacled teen. The web-slinger comes to the boy's aid, gives him a pep talk and departs, and the kid begins to fantasize that he is Spider-Man.

The Sub-Plots: Jonah Jameson's gym bag plot from last issue is furthered, as he walks through the Bugle in a track suit, then Spider-Man later sees him out jogging in the same attire.

Mary Jane's past is explored, ever so briefly, for the very first time here. It would not be visited again until the Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz run following Roger Stern's departure. Additionally, MJ's date is with an indescribably sleazy-looking fellow named Greg (left). It's not just the moustache. It's the perm too, and just generally that look on his face. Plus the fact that he tells Mary Jane she's "delicious." Wow.

Also, as he looks at Avengers Mansion, Spider-Man weighs the pros and cons of possibly becoming a member of that team.

Continuity Notes: This issue is introduced by the Watcher, longtime FANTASTIC FOUR character and host of Marvel's WHAT IF...? series. He is drawn here in his normally proportioned "chubby man" look, as opposed to the much more alien, huge-headed visage which is known to most readers.

A footnote just before Spider-Man's daydream urges readers to see AVENGERS issues 236 and 237 for more on Spider-Man's desire to become one of Earth's mightiest heroes. We will do just that next week.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "I never got to write that many stories featuring [Mary Jane Watson] during my first run on AMAZING, though I did outline her past life. Back when I was a regular Spider-writer, I realized that we knew almost nothing about Mary Jane's family. So I figured out her early family life, and wrote out an outline of what it was like and why she had become a party girl. I had just started setting her background up [in ASM #246] prior to my leaving the book. Tom [DeFalco] and Ron [Frenz] later used my outline -– with my blessings -– to finish establishing M.J.'s youth during their run, and did a magnificent job." -- "Stern Can't Stop on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN", Comic Book Resources, 2010

The Spider's Web: Incoming editor Danny Fingeroth introduces himself. Editorial also confirms the deliberate change, which I pointed out in my review of issue 241, to spot more black into Spider-Man's costume. There is also a plug for the OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE when a reader asks for benchmarks on Spider-Man's abilities.

Otherwise, readers weigh in on the Vulture's origin, one fan wants Peter Parker's life to have more problems in it, and, of course, there are guesses as to the Hobgoblin's identity. Too many to list here, though one reader humorously suggests Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko is behind the mask.

My Thoughts: I've always had mixed feelings about this issue. First off, I like the story -- it's cute and it gives us insight into several characters we might otherwise not have received. I love the Jameson segment in particular. Plus, this is a fleeting chance for Stern to write his Black Cat again, as the character has been completely co-opted (and, I might say, corrupted) by Bill Mantlo by this point. So definite kudos to Stern on a whimsical, well-conceived little diversion.
But my problem with the issue is just that -- it's a diversion. At the time it was published, I probably wouldn't have minded. It's a nice change of pace. But I first read this issue years later, and in hindsight I'm bothered by it simply because, at this point, I know we only have six more Stern issues left. If this were one random issue with another two dozen to follow, I'd love it. But as it is, it feels like a waste when we could've instead seen more sub-plots, another interesting villain, or even some Hobgoblin identity clues.

Maybe I'm an idiot for holding an issue's very existence against it years after the fact. Stern might not have known at this point that he was going to leave Spider-Man in the near future. If he had, would he have felt a need to write something different, something more relevant to the continuing stories at hand? Probably not. I'm sure this is exactly what he wanted to write at this point in time. Heck, like I said, it's a story I really enjoy. Maybe I should just suck it up and appreciate the thing for its offbeat nature. But instead I feel cheated out of one more "real" Stern/Romita Spider-Man adventure.

Next Issue: We jump out of the SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN OMNIBUS and into a 2013 trade paperback collection titled AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION, BOOK ONE, for the first installment of a Stern-scripted two-parter guest-starring our wondrous web-slinger.


  1. Interesting that Black Cat would fantasize of Spidey unmasking himself, considering how badly it went in the end when he finally did. Of course, that occasion could as well have been subtly built on her fantasy here of a superstar actor on a yacht versus the reality of a broke photographer in a not-Fortress-of-Spidertude.

    1. Just realized I never replied to this! I have to admit, as much as I disparage Bill Mantlo's Spider-Man around here, I will give him kudos for the unmasking bit. Black Cat reacted pretty much as I would expect her to. She was in love (or more likely, lust) with the mask and the life, not the man.

  2. One would want to speak of lust, regarding, but damn if the poor girl wasn't done badly in Spectacular #100, where she would have broken up with Spidey for to save him from the effects of her powers and then was robbed of the chance by Mister Parker.

    They don't really hold back for Spidey, screwing him over where he can see it and then screwing him even more in ways he won't ever even know.