Welcome to the first post in Cobwebs. Since cobwebs are the history of where a spider has been, this is what we are calling our exploration into Spider-Man’s past. Thanks to T. Rob Brown for that suggestion.
The cover release for the All New All Different Amazing Spider-Man # 1 has a lot of people speculating on pretty much every aspect of what is crammed into it. There is a suave and dashing Peter Parker, glowing green arm pit webs, and curiously a Spider-Mobile racing across the side of a building. The car is a design by artist Giuseppe Camuncoli and, to many new readers, may seem like a totally new idea. However, since you are a Crawlspace reader, you are most likely a savvy and clever person and have at this point deducted that since this post is about the Spider-Past, it falls under the saying, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Get ready for some Merry Marvel Mayhem and be prepared to learn that the good old days were not always so good.
So where do we turn to find the original Spidey-Mobile story arc? You’ll have to go way back and find Amazing Spider-Man #126 -127, 130, 141-142, 157, 159-160 in your local comic book store’s back issue bin. These are available on Marvel Unlimited and in Essential Amazing Spider-Man Volume 7.
O.K., where to begin? Let’s address the second most obvious question* that pops up in everyone’s mind when they first hear that a Spider-Mobile actually exists: “Why does a guy who swings through the air need a car?” This question was originally asked by the creator of this fiasco (to use Spider-Man’s own words). The first obvious answer is that it was the 1970s. The second answer is money, for both Marvel and our favorite often-short-on-rent hero. (*The first obvious question is, “What were they drinking when they thought that was a good idea?”)
In 2013, the San Diego Comic Con had a Spotlight on Gerry Conway panel, where he addressed all of comicdom’s most pressing concerns, such as Gwen Stacy’s death, the creation of the Punisher, and most pressing of all, where did the idea of the Spider-Mobile come from?
This was a notion that Stan had. Stan was put in an odd position because he moved up from being an editor/writer to being the publisher of Marvel Comics in 1970-71, and as a result of that, his priorities towards how to find revenues for the company changed. He was approached by, I think it was Hasbro, or it might have been Tonka Toys or something, who said, “Listen, we found that what really works for toy characters, in addition to the figures, is if they had a lot of cool stuff with them. Could you maybe give each of your characters a cool car?” And so Stan said, “Sure!” He didn’t have to do it. He told me, “You know, Spider-Man needs to have a car.” And I’m like, “You do realize that Spider-Man swings on a web between buildings and the car would really slow him down doing that?” and he said, “I don’t’ care what you do with it, just do it.” So we played it for laughs and we sank it in, I think, the same issue. It was just crazy town banana pants.
O.K., I may have added the crazy town banana pants part. You can read his whole discussion at http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=47030, but you’ll want to do it later because Gerry was slightly off in his recollection and we are about to give you what really happened. So before we go behind the scenes, let’s look at in front of the scenes and cover Amazing Spider-Man # 126, 127, and 130.
The opening splash page of 126 shows Spidey swinging along, minding his own business when two guys who are standing on a roof yell out to him. They’re advertising guys who look a lot like Stan Lee and Roy Thomas (or at least are supposed to) and they want Spider-Man to build a Spider-Mobile using a brand new non-polluting engine (because Marvel was green before being green was cool) made by Corona Motors. I’ve looked, and I cannot find another reference to Corona Motors in the Marvel Universe other than these issues of ASM. It seems that pairing with Spidey did not do wonders for their business. When they ask him to drive around in a Spider-Mobile to advertise, he tells them, “I think the idea of a Spider-Mobile is first class dumb.” I take this as Conway channeling himself through our web slinger.
However, due to not being able to pay the rent (and because even Spider-Man doesn’t go against Stan the Man), he later tracks them down (in their office, not the roof) to accept their offer of a thousand dollars cash. That’s when they let him know that he’ll have to build the car from scratch and they are just supplying the motor. Off Spidey goes to enlist the Human Torch’s help. The rest of the issue is Spidey fighting the Kangaroo and some build up for an upcoming Harry as Green Goblin story.
In the next issue, Spidey swings by the Torch’s place to say some more bad things about his new car and to help Johnny put it together. We get that Spider-Man himself designed it, but the Torch has to figure out how to make it work. The rest of the issue is standard comic fare. Mary Jane acts crazy, Harry is crazy, Peter’s grades are bad, and the Vulture loses yet again.
Two whole issues go by with no mention of the car. But then comes the issue that everyone was waiting for, the spectacular debut of the Spider-Mobile.
The book has everything – the Jackal, Hammerhead, and MJ coming on to Peter Parker like nobody’s business. Most importantly, it has this panel:
It has its own web shooters and Spidey signal per Spider-Man’s design and a little bonus from the Torch – an ejector seat, because, as he sees it, all hero cars need an ejector seat. Spider-Man takes it out for a spin and drives all over the place – the wrong side of the road, the sidewalk – until the Human Torch puts a stop to this nonsense and teaches him how to drive (a lesson Spidey will forget later in Marvel Team Up #88 when the Invisible Girl asks him to take the wheel of her car and he freaks out). Spidey takes down a couple of goons with the car’s web shooters before getting it knocked on its side by an angry Hammerhead.
Later a few police officers make fun of it before Spider-Man webs them up and drives off. The last thing we see of the car is Peter Parker parking it in an alley and hitting a button that disguises it as an ordinary car. Peter is so wrapped up in dealing with Aunt May’s wedding to Doc Ock, that he doesn’t even think of the car for another eleven months. Gerry Conway is moving off the title soon and decides that he must tie up all loose ends. That’s when he remembers that the Spider-Mobile has been sitting in an alleyway in disguise for the better part of a year. Also realizing that as long as that thing is out there, somebody might be stupid enough to bring it back. So he has Spider-Man accidentally drive it into the river in ASM #141. Just to make sure, in the next issue he dives down into the river and decides that it is too heavy for him to pull out by himself. The end.
Only, it’s not the end. Jump ahead fifteen issues later and Len Wein is the writer and he has the idea to bring back the story of the Spidey Mobile. Now, at this point, an editor should have stepped in and put the kibosh on it, but since Wein is the editor as well as writer, he greenlighted it. Spider-Man goes back down to the bottom of the river to check on his wheels only to find that they are not there. Why? Because of this man:
Now the Tinkerer’s status as an alien or not is a matter for another post. He is the one who stole the car and has modified it to go after Spider-Man (a plot later reused in the movie Batman 2 when the Danny DeVito Penguin modified the Batmobile). The issue is titled, and I kid you not, “My Killer, the Car!”
Now this is the issue that had Friday Night Fights written all over it. Spider-Mobile vs. Spider-Man! Thanks to a mysterious gas that not only clogs up Spider-Man’s web shooters, but also takes away most of his powers, and some new wall sticking powers, the Spider-Mobile completely kicks the crap out of our hero.
Fortunately for Spidey, the Tinkerer feels the need to gloat and has the car web him up and drive him back to his hideout on a roof somewhere. During the gloat, Spidey realizes how stupid it would be to get killed by the Tinkerer and decides to end this. He gets free, rips the web cannon off the car, and takes care of business.
In the end, Spidey, being a conscientious fellow, decides he ought to return the car (but not the money) to the ad agency and finally be done with the whole business.
Readers were spared more Spider-Mobile until ASM #600 where we see it in a museum suffering a humiliating fate of being laughed at everyday by museum patrons. It makes two more appearances in some back up stories, not as part of the story, but just in the art work. Once by Dan Slott in ASM #655 and again in ASM #1 Vol. 3.
Slott loves the Spider-Mobile. It appears twice in Spider-Man’s memories during Superior Spider-Man #30 and again as a sentient car (Peter Parked Car) in the infamous Spider Verse.
And because you demanded it, we’re getting a new one with our new Spidey after Secret Wars is over.
Which brings us back to the original idea for the thing in the first place. The toy. If you start looking for the Spider-Mobile toy, most sites will say that the Mego Toys 1976 car was the first one.
He also got a cool Spider Copter toy too. The story goes that Stan Lee is the one who approached Neal Kublan, the guy in charge of marketing for Mego, and got shot down. To add credibility to this story Kublan later said, “When you tell Stan Lee you don’t want to make a Spider Car, he takes it personally.” What Stan Lee did when he took it personally that caused the guy to reconsider is never revealed, but I’m imagining the horse head scene from The Godfather.
However, we here at the Crawlspace are not satisfied with the “official” story. There are holes in it, so we tracked down an old catalog that blows a hole in Kublan’s recollection. Apparently Mego was not the only one Stan approached. It seems that Azrak Hamway didn’t turn Lee down. Check out this page from the Azrak Hamway 1974 catalog:
I haven’t found much commentary on this toy’s origins, but since this one looks a lot like the one Conway created, my guess is that when Mego saw people buying up Spider-Man toys, that had a lot more to do with Kublan reconsidering the toy than Stan Lee taking things personally.
Well, we know that there is a new Spider-Mobile heading our way. What will the future hold for it? Will Parker Industries acquire Corona Motors? Will the Tinkerer return to make more mischief? Will Peter wreck this one too? Only time will tell.
So what are your thoughts on the Spider-Mobile (either past, future, or toy)?
“1974 Azrak-Hamway International (AHI) Toys Catalog.” Plaid Stallion. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2015.
Cronin, Brian. “Comic Book Legends Revealed #530.” Comic Book Resources. N.p., 3 July 2015. Web. 21 Aug. 2015.
Fischer, Travis. “SDCC: Spotlight on Gerry Conway.” Comic Book Resources. N. p. 31 July 2013. Web. 21 Aug. 2015.
Marvel Unlimited. Marvel. 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2015.
Saffel, Steve. Spider-Man the Icon: the Life and Times of a Pop Culture Phenomenon. London: Titan Books, 2007. Print.
Smith, Ben. “The Saga of the Spider-Mobile.” Comics Cube. N.p. 18 May 2015. Web. 19 Aug. 2015.
“Spider-Mobile.” Marvel Universe Wiki. Marvel. 2015. Web. 21 Aug. 2015.
Txapote and fesak. “Spider-Mobile.” Comic Vine. 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Aug. 2015.