Monday, June 15, 2020


OCTOBER 5TH, 1981 - DECEMBER 6TH, 1981
DECEMBER 7TH, 1981, 1981 - MARCH 21ST, 1982
By Stan Lee & Fred Kida (w/Larry Lieber)

Stan Lee and Fred Kida continue the adventures of a more "grounded" Spider-Man in the first of this week's storylines, which quite honestly could've been ripped from today's headlines! It's about a shady oil tycoon who decides he wants to be president -- and he wants Jonah Jameson to be his Secretary of Information in exchange for the Daily Bugle's endorsement. Robbie is of course against this, but Jonah has stars in his eyes and goes along with the billionaire, Thurston Thurwell.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man has become a celebrity following the previous adventure, in which he thwarted the assassination of a visiting cosmonaut. Mary Jane is smitten with the Web-Slinger, but still won't give Peter the time of day since he skipped out on her play to stop the assassin. So, to get back into MJ's graces, Peter offers to get her a poster of Spidey autographed by the Web-Slinger himself -- and to have Spider-Man deliver it. Spidey eventually does, but he ducks out in a hurry to do some crime-fighting, and MJ immediately decides that he's a flake.

At the same time, a group of young vigilantes calling themselves the Spider-Brigade have become the toast of the town. (I think they're more like a neighborhood watch than actual vigilantes, but vigilantes is the way they're described in narration and dialogue.) Thurwell can't stand this, as he believes the young men are taking the law into their own hands, and forces Jameson to condemn them in the Bugle. At the same time, Thurwell also anonymously offers $50,000 to anyone who can scale the side of the Bugle building like Spider-Man, certain that whoever tries will fail and be killed, thus turning public opinion against the Wall-Crawler.

Naturally, someone tries -- dressed in a full Spider-Man costume -- and Spidey saves him. It turns out the mystery climber is Thurwell's son, Steven. This shock changes Thurwell's opinion of Spider-Man, and he promptly drops his political aspirations. The storyline ends with Spidey still a beloved hero, MJ and Peter back together, Jameson back to normal.

As with many of the comic strip's storylines, this one deals with New York being a crime-ridden cesspool of nonstop muggings, which from all accounts it actually was back in the day. Stan Lee certainly had a lot to say about the subject, as several of his stories have featured characters being mugged and/or robbed via home invasion - but at least he puts a different spin on it each time.

This story also sees the return of Flash and Harry, absent since at least mid-1980, according to my older posts on the strip. Here, there's no mention of their disco and both are simply students at ESU, propping up the Spider-Brigade (Flash even joins the group, though no plot developments come of it). Betty Brant shows up too in a few strips, even with a bit of dialogue, hanging around the Daily Bugle.

The next arc brings us back into super-hero terrority, as newspaper Spider-Man has his third go-round with Doctor Doom. This time, Doom has announced to the world that a flying saucer has crashed in Latveria. Press from everywhere swarm to the small country's border, looking for a story, but only Peter Parker and the Bugle's beautiful investigative reporter, Kitty Howell, are allowed in at Doom's invitation. Peter does some investigating, both in and out of costume, and eventually learns that the saucer is a fake, created by Doom as part of a plot to scare the world into setting aside its arms and making peace, with him as its absolute ruler.

Though he disagrees with Doom's methods and desire to set himself up as the world's monarch, Spider-Man does agree with the goal of world peace. After defeating Doom in battle, Spidey agrees to let the villain go, sparing him disgrace in front of his subjects, if he will modify his plan. Thus, Peter leaves Latveria with an announcement from Doom for the U.N. He has staged the departure of the saucer and wants the world to know that the aliens will return to destroy us if we don't set our differences aside.

It's an admirable message, if a bit ham-fisted, but even so, this is one of the lesser stories so far. Aside from some great visuals of Doom and his castle, and a retelling of his origin, there's not much to this one. It reads like Stan simply wanted to write a Doctor Doom story, and didn't have a great plot to go with it, but went ahead anyway.

Mary Jane is written out of the strip yet again at the start of this arc; this time her play is headed overseas. (And when she leaves, Peter recalls his other major love interest from the strip, Carole, comparing her departure to MJ's, which is an appreciated callback.) So Peter is single again and it looks like Stan is setting up Kitty as a possible new love interest -- she finds Peter cute and comes on to him once or twice during the story -- but she turns out to be another one-story-arc gal, as, while in Latveria she begins to fall for Doom, and winds up staying with him when Peter departs. Doom, as well, declares the reporter early on to be "beauteous", so maybe there's a future for these two crazy kids -- but I won't hold my breath for it!

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