J. Jonah Jackal takes photographer Peter Porker (and three junior trainees) to the Caribbean to investigate mysterious airplane disappearances over the St. Croix Trapezoid in this debut issue of Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham.
The story by Steve Skeates and Mark Armstrong (The Mysterious Island of Ducktor Doom!, May 1985) introduces the menacing Ducktor Doom, which is the Spider-Ham universe equivalent of the monarch of Latveria, Victor Von Doom. Doom has built an island lair, complete with an army of duck minions and native island kangaroos, and has been picking planes right out of the sky with a colossal magnet in order to capture the passengers for his experiments.
This story is also the first time we’ll see three recurring characters who feature prominently in many of Peter Porker’s tales: Bunsen Bunny, Upton Adam Stray (a black cat with 1980’s sunglasses) and J. Jeremiah Jackal, Jr., Jonah Jackal’s nephew. In truth, I’ve always felt that the three characters really could’ve been combined into just the one. While Bunsen and Upton have distinct personalities, Jeremiah is often just sort of “there” in any given scene. Still, the three often serve as clutter more than anything else, though Bunsen does prove to be useful. Especially at the end of this debut issue.
Ducktor Doom’s plan is pretty pedestrian, even for cartoon animal victory. While he does have lofty goals of world domination the means to his end include creating rock videos using the plane passengers he’s kidnapped and imprisoned on his island. Like any decent villain he does kick around his minions like a kid kicking a rock, which does afford some enjoyable beats.
The puns fly fast and furious, as you’d expect in a cartoon animal comic. When Doom puts Jonah, Peter and the others on trial for trespassing on his tropical volcanic isle he finds them instantly guilty. When Jonah objects, Doom – who is surrounded by his kangaroo army – points out that they’re in a ‘kangaroo court.’
While Peter does manage to escape and Spider-Ham shows up to single-handedly defeat Ducktor Doom’s army of duck minions, it is Bunsen Bunny who ultimately saves the day. When a tired Spider-Ham is defeated by Doom’s kangaroo islanders it’s Bunsen who flips the plane magnet to disarm a kangaroo executioner and winds up also trapping Doom by his armor. But Doom has the last laugh; video of his defeat winds up making him a global rock star.
The debut issue of Spider-Ham is mildly disappointing. It could’ve used a lot more Spider-Ham and a lot less of Bunsen, Upton and Jeremiah. Though the art by Mark Armstrong is quite strong, Steve Skeates doesn’t live up to the awesome cover. While there are funny moments to be found all over you feel a bit robbed that you don’t get to see Spider-Ham go up against Ducktor Doom himself, toe to toe.
Fun Fact: In flashbacks we get our first glimpse of Doom’s archenemies ‘the Fantastic Fur.’ We see them in two panels of this issue and by the time we see them again in Peter Porker #12 (fighting Galactypus) three of them appear to be completely different animals.