Thursday, January 19, 2006

And You Thought The Name "Spider-Man" Was Kind Of Hokey?

So, I recently acquired Marvel's Classic What If... TPB, Volume 2. As a kid, I remember loving What If stories (and to a large extent still do today).

In this volume, we get 5 stories of varying quality, mostly written by Don Glut, with a notable exception being a Jack Kirby written and drawn issue. Since I couldn't get my regular comic books today, I'll settle for reviewing one of the stories in this little gem. Apologies in advance to Dave's Long Box, which is the absolute apex of this particular kind of blog entry.

Anyway, on to the review!

What If...Someone Else Besides Spider-Man had been Bitten By The Radioactive Spider?

(Note: This is not the same thing as saying, "What If Someone Else Had Become The Amazing Spider-Man?". The reasons for me pointing this out will become clear.)

This leads off the book with Spidey doing his usual bitching and moaning about how nothing goes right for him, loneliness, et bloody cetera. He saves a Hispanic kid from falling to his death from leaning out a window, and said kid thanks "El Hombre Arana". Then the Watcher, looking like an irradiated baby, shows up to tell Parker to quit whining about how his life sucks, because if he hadn't become Spider-Man then...well...we'll get there. You'll see. It's a big cheat at the end.

Cue the What If... !

It's basically 3 vignettes theorizing about what might have happened if someone besides Peter Parker had been bitten by the Spider Heard Round The World, and it's impressive how freaking morbid the whole experience turns out to be.

First up is Flash Thompson, and Flash muscles Pete out of the way and gets chomped by the spider. So what does Flash do? First discovering his powers of spider strength, spider sense, and wall crawling, Flash proceeds to save his two girlfriends (who are cooing over him like vampire succubi) from being run over by an oncoming car.

Now there's out-of-the-box thinking! Instead of hurling the endangered Brides of Dracula out of the way, Flash chooses to throw an occupied automobile across the street.

Flash then decides that he's going to enter the wrestling contest against Crusher Hogan. While administering the sleeper hold, he breaks Hogan's neck and kills him. Whoopsie!

On the run from the police, Flash Thompson atones for his sins by using his powers to fight crime and do good as...Captain Spider! I am not making this up.

Two things about the panel above:

1. I seriously thought upon first glance that someone had lit Captain Spider's head on fire, until I realized that it was just a case of Flash's hair peeking out of the costume.

2. "...the cape makes it!" Yes, Flash. The cape makes it stupid.

Captain Spider enjoys a life of beating up the Chameleon, the Tinkerer, and other classic foes, until he decides that he's going after the Vulture.

Long story short: Captain Spider grabs on to the Vulture, Vulture takes flight, Vulture kicks Captain Spider off, Captain Spider falls 500 feet to his death.

For you see, True Believers...Flash Thompson was a spider without a web, never having been smart enough to develop webshooters or webbing of any kind. This particular vignette is notable for Peter Parker's man-crush on Captain Spider as he watches from afar, even crying like an angry, psychotic lover at discovering the corpse at the end:

Next up is Betty Brant, who gets the her mojo on as Spider-Girl after she's bitten. She confides in Pete, who helps her realize the nature of her powers and who, perhaps having had nightmares about the heartbreak of losing a certain Captain Spider, graciously develops webshooters for Betty to use.

Betty takes the next logical step, which is designing a trampy costume:

"He may even pay a few extra bucks for the 'leg-art' angle!"

Apparently the Daily Bugle, in addition to having a News, Sports, Life, and Money sections, has a Sunday Porn Supplement?!? Yes, sah! That's just wrong on so many levels.

And, Betty, hon? That costume is...bad. My God, it looks like something you'd buy in the "Superhero Fetish" section of Sneaky Pete's Porn Villa.

(Um....let's move on.)

Pete acts as her accomplice, snapping photos for the Bugle and making sure her secret identity is kept concealed, all the while keeping the negatives safe until he can offload them to a publisher in the Carribean who pays up front for....never mind.

It's all steaming along merrily until Betty runs out of web fluid when a robber runs by her.

(If you don't see where this story is going right now, hand over your long box and proceed to the exit.)

Unable to stop him, the two head back to Pete's for a roast beef dinner, where they find Uncle Ben murdered...BY THE SAME MAN SPIDER-GIRL COULDN'T STOP! DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNNNNNNN!

Unable to handle the responsibility, Betty throws the costume in the trash and vows never to get involved with superheroing again. Presumably she'll live out the rest of her days as a carnival performer or government assassin. I know I would.

Now comes the weirdest story --- John Jameson, JJ's son, gets the bite. JJ hounds him into using his powers for national glory and triumph, and so is born Spider-Jameson, The Super Astronaut! Sigh. No, that's not me, that's really what they call him.

JJ ends up becoming the foremost champion for superheroes, is very proud of his son, and ends up blaming himself when Spider-Jameson ends up being the meat in a space capsule-and-mountain sandwich:

Like I said, weird. He actually refers to his son as "Spider" in his moment of shock and grief, like it's his new first name! This particular episode revolves entirely around how JJ used his son to sell papers, then ends up a better, more understanding and caring person after John gets killed.

The Watcher wraps things up by explaining that in all three stories, Peter Parker goes on to replicate the spider-bite by concocting a formula and doing naked shuttle runs wearing only his peach-colored socks:

So Peter ends up being Spider-Man anyway! In EVERY SINGLE REALITY! Apparently, there is no reality that existed where Peter Parker didn't end up being Spider-Man, which is a statement with some fairly depressing Nietzchean consequences if you think about it.

But I guess the main point is that:

A) Flash Thompson didn't have the brains.
B) Betty Brant didn't have the courage.
C) John Jameson didn't have the ability to withstand being smushed by a space capsule into a mountain.
D) Peter Parker has all the necessary traits to do whatever a spider can, up to and including naked shuttle runs in peach-colored socks.


Anonymous Matthew Craig said...

Wait a does Betty even MEET Peter Parker without Peter being bitten, first? I mean, Manhattan's a big-ass place: des he leave a book on the subway, or something?

At least we know that the current trend for "Intelligent Design Theory" Spider-Man has a precedent.


4:18 PM  
Blogger Chris said...


Apparently Betty and JJJ are covering the big science exhibit for the Bugle because the "egghead scientist" in charge is a close personal friend of JJ's.

Apparently in the 10 minutes between "Crap! I've been bitten!" and Betty making a costume, Peter takes her out for coffee and she confides in him as a lifelong confidant.

No, I didn't believe it, either.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Grotesqueticle said...

I loves me some What If? posts.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said...

As a wee bairn, I loved this issue.


Spider-Jameson's jet-pack was way cool.

When you're five years old, that's all it takes. Spidey + Jet Pack = Woo-hoo!

6:26 AM  
Blogger Woody! said...

Yeah, I loved this when I was a kid. The "What if" concept was so new and intriguing that I had to grab up all these alternative endings. Even though they were bad, seeing these really opened up my mind.

11:26 AM  
Blogger redlib said...

You are now a charter member of the new Comic Blog Legion!
Spread the word!

7:26 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

If Spider-Jameson had survived, would he have found the gem on the moon and eventually become Spider-Man-Wolf?

Because that's a What If? I'd have loved to have seen...

10:36 PM  
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