Monday, July 27, 2020


MARCH 18TH, 1985 - DECEMBER 21ST, 1985
By Stan Lee w/Floro Dery & Friends

Spider-Man leaps from his seven-month-long Dar Harat adventure into an unprecedented nine-month long soap opera storyline as we begin this week's installment. Peter returns from Dar Harat's island to find that the bills have piled up while he was away, and he has no cash with which to pay them. This brings to mind an odd question about the timeline, as the Dar Harat story, while running for seven months in real time, felt like it only lasted a few days in the strip's continuity. And certainly, Spidey was only out of the country on Dar Harat's island for no more than a day or two! But hey, maybe the bills were accumulating prior to Dar Harat (Spidey did spend some time suffering from amnesia and then working for the mob, after all).

Anyway, in order to earn some quick cash, Peter decides to leverage his "friendship" with Spider-Man by offering Robbie Robertson an exclusive, in-depth interview with the web-slinger to tell his life's story. In a nice (and rare) touch if inter-storyline continuity, Robbie reminds Peter that the Daily Bugle got burned once with their interview series on the Spider-Man imposter, but he's willing to give it another go. However, Jameson refuses to let Peter write the story himself (which seems reasonable to me since he's a photographer, not a writer), and assigns one J.S. Saxon, the Bugle's top feature writer, to the story.

It turns out "J.S." is actually Jenny Sue Saxon, a beautiful woman with whom Peter is instantly smitten. But Jenny has a daughter, Jody, who is terrified at the mere mention of Spider-Man. When Peter describes Jody's behavior to Aunt May, May says that the girl is exhibiting all the signs of a molested child.

Friday, July 24, 2020


After a couple months off, The Unboxing returns with two books and a few digital items. First, from Marvel, it's the SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK BY JOHN BYRNE OMNIBUS. I own this run in four formats now -- original comic books, two trade paperbacks, digital versions of those trades, and now this Omnibus. I can't help it; I love Byrne's She-Hulk! Heck, if IDW was ever to offer an Artist's Edition of pages from this run, I'd buy that, too!

Which turns out to be a nice segue to our next book, from IDW: DAVE COCKRUM'S X-MEN ARTIFACT EDITION. Prior to buying this, I owned exactly one Artist/Artifact Edition, which hit The Unboxing just about two years ago, and that was the JOHN BYRNE'S X-MEN ARTIFACT EDITION... so you can see where my tastes lie. Further, since I don't buy these things very often, I went ahead and splurged on the signed and numbered limited edition, which has a "virgin" wraparound cover, as well as a Chris Claremont autograph. I did the same thing with the Byrne book a couple years ago -- it was a Comic-Con exclusive, signed and numbered by Byrne.

Monday, July 20, 2020


AUGUST 12TH, 1984 - MARCH 17TH, 1985
By Stan Lee w/Floro Dery & Friends

Spider-Man's 1984 continues with another epic-length storyline -- the start of his second seven-monther in a year! This time, rather than gangsters, the villains are terrorists: a group from the Middle East called Dar Harat, led by the sinister Doctor Mondo. The U.S. government gets wind that Dar Harat is out to kidnap Spider-Man, and a government think tank called the Cerebrum Institute realizes that Mondo plans to duplicate the Web-Slinger's powers for his own agents. In order to warn Spidey, Cerebrum's top thinker, Alana Lamond, enlists the Department of Analysis and Remedial Expedients, a clandestine agency (a.k.a. DARE or "The Department", to lure him out of hiding.

The Department sends its top operative, Simon "Smitty" Smith, to help Alana. Smitty lures Spider-Man into rescuing him from a staged accident, then he and Alana explain the situation to the web-slinger. Spidey and Smitty devise a plan to let Dar Harat capture him so that they can bust the organization up from inside. But when Alana returns to Washington to report to her superiors, Peter Parker follows. He's smitten with her, and wants to meet her without his mask -- so he propses a story about the Cerebrum Institute to Jonah Jameson, and uses that as his cover to meet Alana. Alana, however, is just as uninterested in Peter as she is in Spider-Man.

(This may have something to do with the fact that both in and out of costume, Peter hits on the woman relentlessly. Like, I know I've applauded the outgoing nature of comic strip Peter before, and noted several times how comfortable he is around women, but his behavior here is beyond the pale. He obnoxiously badgers Alana nonstop with comments about her looks. It's way beyond anything similar I've ever seen Stan do, and I'm not sure what was going through his head at this point!)

Monday, July 13, 2020


MARCH 22ND, 1984 - AUGUST 11TH, 1984
By Stan Lee & Fred Kida w/Floro Dery & Friends

Our next storyline is the final one that was collected in that old BEST OF SPIDER-MAN book I've mentioned here so many times. It was also the most then-recent arc in the book. Most of the strips therein were from the Lee/Romita heydey, with only the Muffy Ainsworth story and this one from the post-Romita period. And this storyline, from 1984, was only two years old when the book saw print. However, its presentation in that volume was unique. All the other story arcs in the book were printed in black-and-white -- even the Sunday pages. But this one was printed in a special color section, which included only the Sunday strips, with brief summaries of the dailies that ran in between. So while I have sort of read this one before, I've never read it in its entirety.

The arc, which the old book titled "The Imposter Must Die!", picks up a thread from our previous storyline. I didn't mention it last week because it was incidental to the plot, but throughout the Eliminator/Braxton story, there was a sub-plot about the Daily Bugle running a "Who is Spider-Man" contest, with a grand prize of $50,000 for the person who could prove the Wall-Crawler's secret identity. That plot now takes center stage in this arc. And by the way, I think this is the first time I can remember the strip doing something like this. Aside from the more "window-dressing" type stuff, like whether or not Peter and Mary Jane are an item at any given time, the strip has rarely, if ever, carried continuity through its story arcs in this fashion. Usually every arc is a "done in one" deal, with most plot threads resolved in time for the next story to begin. So kudos to Stan and/or his ghost plotter (more on that in a few weeks) for going a bit more sophisticated with his writing at this point.

Monday, July 6, 2020


AUGUST 1ST, 1983 - MARCH 21ST, 1984
By Stan Lee & Fred Kida w/Floro Dery

At the end of the previous storyline, Mary Jane tried to give Spider-Man a kiss for saving her life, but he bolted, worried she would realize he was actually Peter Parker. Knowing Stan Lee, I doubt he remembered that he had already trod this ground before, a year or so earlier, and that MJ did briefly wonder after a kiss with the Web-Slinger if he might be her boyfriend. But in any case, it does make for a nice callback. But the problem for Peter is, he's tired of hiding his secret from everyone, which means -- yes, it's time for another installment of the classic "Peter wrestles with the burden of his secret identity" story. (In fact, we were probably overdue for one at this point.)

This leads us into the next storyline, and it's a doozy, running seven months long! It begins with Peter deciding that rather than giving up his identity or going bad or whatever else, he's simply going to announce to the world that he's Spider-Man, so he won't have to keep juggling his personal life and his costumed one. But first, he wants to propose to MJ. Indeed, his main reason for planning this revelation seems to be so he can be with her and not have his secret between them, but at no point does he consider that maybe he could just tell her and no one else!

But Peter gets cold feet the first time he intends to reveal himself and propose. This delay allows time for an assassin called the Eliminator to arrive in town, on a mission to kill Jonah Jameson at the request of crime boss "Big John" Braxton. Meanwhile, Peter buys a motorcyle with which he intends to impress MJ. Then, on a rainy night, Peter and the Eliminator are involved in a crash. Peter is stricken with amnesia, finds the Eliminator's wallet and staggers away, now believing that he is the Eliminator. He finds his way to Braxton, where he learns his "profession" and his mission to kill Jameson. Eventually he winds up in his apartment, where he argues with Mary Jane, and then heads to the Daily Bugle to fulfill his contract.