Marvel’s mid-80’s Secret Wars introduced us to a couple of interesting new villains by way of the Denver, Colorado suburb that got pulled onto the Beyonder’s Battle World: Titania (Mary “Skeeter” MacPherran) and her best friend Volcana (Marsha Rosenberg).
Created by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck, Volcana and Titania were meant to stir the pot on the villain-side of the war and were given their powers by Doctor Doom himself. The two had varying experiences in the Secret Wars but both returned to Earth with new boyfriends. While Volcana became the girlfriend of the Molecule Man, Titania found common interests with Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man.
Volcana and Owen’s relationship didn’t last too long after the Secret Wars but Titania and Absorbing Man are a different story. And in the winter of ’86 the lovebirds would come into conflict with Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #283 (‘With Foes Like These’ by Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz).
To truly understand this fight and why Titania is so terrified of Spider-Man we must start our fight in Secret Wars #8. That’s really where Round One begins and ends.
Quickly, chums! To the SpideyFridayNightFights-Mobile! Let’s light this candle – read on!
Our Story: The Absorbing Man and Titania are trying to kick their evil up a notch. They’ve joined the newly reformed Masters of Evil (check out the classic Avengers ‘Under Siege’ storyline in Avengers #270-#277 – also in trade form) and Absorbing Man’s trying to convince Titania that they need to focus on the big picture criminal plans and stop doing penny ante things like knocking over jewelry stores. So of course, in Amazing Spider-Man #283, Titania runs out to knock over a jewelry store.
Peter Benjamin Parker, aka ‘The Spider-Man’
Height & Weight: 5′10″ / 165 lbs.
Powers: Proportionate strength, speed and agility of a spider.
Spider-Sense. Webshooters. Webbed armpits – sometimes.
And in the right corner…
Mary “Skeeter” McPherran & Crusher Creel,
aka Titania & the Absorbing Man
Height & Weight: Her – 6′6″ / 545 lbs. Him – 6’4 / 265 lbs.
Powers: She’s as strong as She-Hulk.
He absorbs the properties of stuff he touches.
She has powerful fists. He has a wrecking ball.
ROUND ONE – DING!
So why do I say that this fight really starts in Secret Wars #8? Well that’s the first time Titania faced off against our intrepid hero and it didn’t go so well for her. See, before the Secret Wars Titania was Mary McPherran, cruelly nicknamed “Skeeter” because of how scrawny and skinny she was. So when Doctor Doom offered her a new life with power she’d never dreamed of before she jumped at the chance. “Skeeter” became Titania and Mary was suddenly ready to get back at the world for the years she spent in misery being picked on. And boy did she go out of her way to prove how tough she was. Immediately after getting her powers she started picking fights with the Wrecking Crew and Absorbing Man.
At one point during the Secret Wars the Wasp gets killed by the Wrecker and the villains dump her body on the ground like so much garbage in the small alien village where the heroes are living. When Captain America won’t order a retaliatory strike on Doom’s forces, She-Hulk goes rogue and sets off to avenge the death of one of her best friends. When the heroes realize where she’s gone they finally go after her – resulting in one of the more brutal fights of the Secret Wars between Cap & Doom’s forces.
During this fight, Titania is planning to flatten some of the heroes with a sneak attack from above using a massive girder. Until Spider-Man stops her, that is, and slams the brakes on her Murder Train . Now in Titania’s mind, she’s now one of the “strongest ones there is” and figures she should be able to turn Spidey into paste “toot sweet.” When quite the opposite happens her mind’s broken by the fact that Spidey wiped the floor with her. She actually develops a complex because of it and gains a fear of Spider-Man.
That fear of Spidey sets the stage for what happens between Titania, her boyfriend Crusher Creel and Spidey in Amazing Spider-Man #283. And that’s where we head next for the start of Round Two…
ROUND TWO – DING!
Titania is feeling a little antsy-in-the-pantsy while laying low with her boyfriend. Sure, she understands why he’s telling her that they need to leave their days of low-level robbery crimes behind for the whole world domination thing Baron Zemo’s trying to lay out for them with his new Masters of Evil. But a big dose of stir-crazy will make some folks do stupid things, and Titania’s no exception. What she hadn’t counted on, however, was Spider-Man swinging by. So what does she do?
See Titania. See Spider-Man. See Titania Run. Run, Titania! Run!
Why is she running? Because to this point Spidey is the only hero who has handed her butt to her on a platter. And she’s freaking terrified of him pounding her into the ground once more. To cover her tracks, she pauses long enough to pick up a van and throw it – hard – at Spidey. How hard? So hard that it becomes stuck in the side of the building. On the fifteenth floor.
The whole “picking heavy stuff up and throwing it” thing is nothing new for the bruising brawler types in the Marvel Universe, but in this issue Titania’s going to take it to new extremes. Mary’s not through throwing cars. This woman would be a killing word to the Autobots but to Spidey her name’s mud.
What’s even funnier here is Spidey’s reaction in the issue when he sees Titania. He’s wary of fighting her because he’d always figured him kicking her butt in the Secret Wars was “dumb luck.” I’ve pointed this out before – deep down Spidey is always humble. If he kicks someone in the teeth he often figures he “got lucky” or “caught a break” or some such. Now that won’t stop him from using it as a taunt, mind you. I’m half-surprised he didn’t throw out a “Do you need a reminder of how easy I beat you last time, lady?’ when this fight kicks off. But deep down? Modest and humble.
This guy’s beaten the Avengers, the X-Men, the Hulk, , the Sinister Six, Juggernaut, Firelord – a former herald of Galactus imbued with the Power Cosmic… and yet deep down he always thinks “Man, did I get lucky or what?”
ROUND THREE – DING!
Titania runs all the way home but Spidey manages to follow her. Back at her apartment, Absorbing Man reiterates to Titania that they’ve got to move into the big leagues and knock off all the small time stuff – like jewelry store robberies. And while listening to the lovebirds outside their apartment, Spidey overhears them discussing a job they’ve got to do for Baron Zemo at La Guardia Airport. Thus the stage for the remainder of our fight is set!
So what’s that job Titania and Absorbing Man are set to do at La Guardia? It sounds so mysterious, doesn’t it? “The LaGuardia Job.” Like something out of a movie where Steve McQueen’s a cop and he’s got to stop some international terrorists, or something awesome. Unfortunately “The LaGuardia Job” isn’t all that interesting. They’re supposed to meet some other villain at the airport and give him a lift to Zemo’s. They even show up with a limo, dressed as chauffeurs. I guess these are the types of jobs Creel was talking about with the whole “join up with the Masters of Evil” thing.
Unfortunately they can’t even pull off such an elaborate operation as “get evil guy at airport and give him a ride.” Because as soon as Titania spots Spidey it’s Get-It-On-Bang-A-Gong time. The lovebirds’ cover is blown in spectacular fashion as Titania hurls yet another car at the Wallcrawler. Again – this tactic might be key against seven-time NASCAR champ Richard Petty but not so much Spider-Man. And Spidey finally throws in a taunt about their first fight for good measure!
Absorbing Man jumps into the fight, which is secretly what Little Miss Mary Mary Why Ya Buggin’ has wanted this whole time – for her boyfriend to come along and smash Spider-Man for her. Spidey hits her just one time and suddenly it’s “Crusher! Crusher help, he’s KILLING me!” Gah, she’s such a baby! This is someone who goes toe-to-toe with She-Hulk but one baby-slap from the Web Swinger and she goes into thumb-sucking mode. Cripes, Titania! Cower much?!
Note Spidey’s panicked reaction as the Absorbing Man enters the fray – “Where are the Avengers?! No one’s tough enough to go against these two?” Again – he’s humble. He’s *exactly* tough enough to go up against these two but he’s too nice to admit it.
ROUND FOUR – DING!
It’s Spidey vs. Absorbing Man time, and we get another fantastic “Ron Frenz draws multiple Spideys to show how freaking fast he is” panel. I can never get enough of these, and Frenz really loved giving them to us back in the day.
Crusher goes down for the count(or *does* he, Spider-Sense?!) and Spidey re-focuses back on Titania, whose Spider-Fear is screaming at her to run again.
But she doesn’t. She’s conflicted; does she run from another certain defeat at the hands of Spider-Man or does she stand by her man and jump back into the fight?
Love conquers all (well, sometimes) and Titania decides to stand her ground and go “all in” to help out Crusher. And if he wasn’t unconscious (or *is* he?!) his criminal heart would surely be swelling with pride to learn that Titania does truly have his back when the chips are down.
And yep – once again she uses a car as a weapon. It leads me to ponder the Autobots once more, and takes our minds to a fight-that-never-was, where Titania tries to hit Spider-Man with Optimus Prime, who then transforms and helps Spidey stomp her. Cause then she’d be afraid of Spider-Man *and* cars. Huzzah!
Spidey and Titania throw down in a deadly game of “MERCY!” while Crusher comes back to his senses – all sudden, as if he was *gasp* pretending to be hurt worse than he was.
*GASP!* You mean the whole thing might’ve been a clever ploy, Berryman?!
ROUND FIVE – DING!
That’s exactly what I mean, Crawl Spacers. By letting Spidey think he was down for the count and pretending to worse off than he really was (remember the Spidey-Sense warning right after?) the Absorbing Man puts himself into position to end this fight once and for all, in true villain style: he picks up a plane full of people parked on the runway and threatens to smash it on Spidey. Which, of course, would greatly imperil all of the people on said plane.
So why did Creel take the dive early on? Don’t be fooled – Spider-Man *did* ring his bell. But Absorbing Man could’ve kept right on fighting. Here’s the thing, kids. When your criminal career starts off routinely fighting Thor, you learn a thing or two about tactics.
So Crusher Creel might not be the sharpest crayon in the box but he definitely has a trick or two up his sleeve and he knows what most superheroes will do given certain situations. He might know karate but he knows crrrazy!
Even more importantly for the Absorbing Man, doing so forced Titania to get over her fear of Spider-Man – something else that Creel was counting on.
Now the ball’s in Spidey’s court. He could keep fighting and risk a plane load of people, or he could cede the fight (Crusher’s calls it a draw) and duck out to protect the people on the plane. Spidey, ever the hero, swallows his pride and heads off into the sunset.
Creel keeps his word, puts the plane down, and gets some nuzzly=smoochy time with his chick – and some villainous cretin is left stuck at the airport without a ride. Zemo can expect a very snooty call soon.
Spidey went from this fight right into the five-part Gang War storyline, featuring the Kingpin, Hobgoblin, Jack O’ Lantern, Hammerhead, the Rose, Punisher, Daredevil and Black Cat. Titania and the Absorbing Man went almost immediately to have their butts kicked by… wait for it… Janet Van Dyne and Scott Lang, aka the Wasp and Ant-Man. Oh, the humanity–!
DECISION – DRAW
Creel himself calls it a “draw” despite Spidey exclaiming “you win!” as he departs the scene. Why is it a draw? Spidey *did* stop Absorbing Man and Titania from their nefarious plan (i.e. giving some other villain a ride) but Absorbing Man’s ploy robbed the Wallcrawler of a total victory. The real winner here? Titania, who overcomes her fear of spiders. Though I suspect she might have gained a new fear of wasps and ants after Avengers #275.
Let’s throw it back to our Spidey Friday Night Fights studio where Ben Grimm and Shang-Chi are standing by with post-fight analysis on this Ladies Night edition. Ben, Creel didn’t leave Spider-Man much of a choice in this fight, did he?
“Ya called it there, George. Now if this’d been just a straight–up Spidey vs. Titania fight she’d have wound up with a one way ticket to da Vault. But having th’ Absorbing Man there saved her, in more ways than one.
And yeah Spidey didn’t really have a choice. If he heads out he can always plan on findin’ Creel an’ Titania again for another dose o’ Clobberin’ Time – no harm, no foul. But if he’d kept on fightin’ then the people on da plane Creel wuz holdin’, well they might not come out so lucky, right? Look, I’d have done da same, Thor woulda done da same, Captain America woulda done da same. Spidey made da right call.
I can empathize a bit with Titania. This might shock yaz but I can. When I wuz startin’ off with the Fantastic Four, right after da cosmic rays had turned me into da Ever Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing, I was a real hothead. Sometimes, I still can be. And back then I wuz always ready ta throw down wit anyone what gimme grief, for whatever reason.
Example? Paste Pot Pete says somethin’ ’bout my Ma? Then yeah it’s go time. Some dweeb cuts in front of me n’ Alicia for da picture show? Same thing – it wuz always go time. It took me awhile to… well not lose it but at least hone it into somethin’ positive.
My empathy ends there. I never got scared o’ fightin’ nobody da way Titania feared Spidey. If someone whooped me it just made me look more forward to da time I’d see ’em next, so Aunt Petunia’s nephew could get his dainty mitts on whatever mook had shown me up ‘fore.
Her goin’ all crazy with da whole “bein’ scared o’ Spidey” thing? Well I ain’t no headshrink but I’d chalk that up to her bein’ nuts, or somethin’. Or whatever th’ psycho-ologists call it these days. I mean it’s science. Explain it to da folks out there watchin’ tonight, Shang…”
“Abject fear is a powerful emotion, Ben Grimm. This is why the Batman is so effective at what he does against canon fodder street thugs. He shows up looking like one man horror show and already half his battle is won. It is making Shang Chi think that maybe he too should put on an outfit to help fight the dirty hippies who accost him in the park?
What would you say I would look prettiest as, Ben? A tiger? RAWR! Or maybe a baboon? EEK-EEK! Or a fierce, determined dragon of questionable lineage? MROOOAR!!
But what is even more powerful than fear? Oh it is love – this Shang Chi knows beyond all doubt! Was it Plato or the Captain & Tennille who told us that “Love Will Keep Us Together?” I cannot remember but it is as true now as it was in ages past. But we have no further to look than Spider-Man’s foes, Titania and the Absorbing Man. Why, his very name alone says “Sensible Understanding Male Companionship.”
What can he absorb? Relationship “baggage?” The peril of self-doubt? A 3:30 AM scream session for not lowering the toilet lid back down for your lady fair? All these and more can be “absorbed” by an “Absorbing Man.”
And so must we all strive to be “Absorbing Men.” Of course by that I mean men who absorb and not that we must absorb men – though there is nothing wrong with that if that is how your compass points, friends! But by being “Absorbing Men” we will surely find a woman who will take us and mold us into whatever she wants, through relations and frequent chastisement, like so much wet clay.
Not that Shang Chi has any trouble meeting the ladies, mind you! They do not call me the “Chinatown Casanova” for nothing. Hey, if Shang Chi is in town, farmers lock up your daughters! Don’t hate the playah, hate the game!”
Alriiiighty then! Hey Crawl Spacers, on a quick side note – we’re adding a new supplemental side feature to our regular Spidey Friday Night Fights. You can find details on Marvel Fight Club at the Crawl Space Forum! Our first round will start Tuesday so keep your eyes peeled, and thanks to FunnyKay for the Inspiration!
Thanks once again for stopping by Spidey Friday Night Fights, Crawl Spacers! For Ben Grimm, Shang Chi and all the Spidey FNF crew this is George Berryman saying have a fantabulous weekend!
NEXT WEEK: Strap On The Shock Value!
If you have a suggestion or feedback for the ‘Spidey Friday Night Fight’ segment then drop into the Crawl Space’s ‘Spidey Friday Night Fights’ thread and let me know!