There are quite a few times when I read an old Marvel comic, and think that it’s quite similar to something that happened in a classic Spider-Man book. The thing is that in some cases that Spider-Man comic was published years later. Here are some prominent cases of that happening in some of the most acclaimed Spider-Man stories.
It ould be an imitation of someone else’s story, or a writer and artist reusing characters from an earlier run. One acclaimed Spider-Man writer brought back villains from his stint on Captain America. Lee and Ditko reused characters who first appeared in an anthology title for significant members of Peter Parker’s supporting cast. Spider-Man’s greatest battle had some similarities with a Daredevil classic. But first…
When Iron Man’s Girlfriend Died Several Years Before Gwen Stacy
The Night Gwen Stacy Died is considered by many to be the end of the silver age of comics. When Gwen Stacy died in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121 it marked the end of an era of innocence. Because it was unprecedented for a superhero’s girlfriend to be killed off.
Except it happened in the pages of Iron Man. IRON MAN #22 to be exact. It’s part of a storyline that made CBR’s list of the best Iron Man stories, as well as IGN’s Top 25. It was also referenced in IRON MAN #95-100, a story with a similar reputation. So it’s not that obscure, even if it isn’t nearly as well as known as the counterpart in Spider-Man.
The cover of the story promised that someone would die. In the previous issue, Tony Stark had allowed Eddie March, a retired boxer and friend of Happy Hogan, to take over as Iron Man. But then Tony learned from March’s doctor that the man had a medical condition that could kill him if he exerted himself. So when I first read the comic, I figured that March would be the one making the heroic sacrifice. It’s kind of like how AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121’s cover promised that a major character would die, and the issue began with Harry Osborn experiencing a severe drug overdose.
Instead, Iron Man’s girlfriend Janice Cord died in the crossfire of a fight between Iron Man, the Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man. It also had something in common with the death of Captain Stacy, which was published nine months later. A supporting character died in the hero’s arms, of injuries sustained as an innocent bystander in a superhero battle, aware of the hero’s secret identity.
Earlier scenes in the story featured Iron Man chasing a flying villain who was carrying his girlfriend, so there are other commonalities.
Janice Kord had been introduced in IRON MAN #2, which may be why she hasn’t been referenced as often. Her appearances were limited to a two year period during Archie Goodwin’s run. Iron Man was popular enough to not go out of print, but not popular enough for Marvel to reprint adventures from this era, meaning it would go uncollected until fairly recently. ESSENTIAL IRON MAN VOLUME 3 came out in April 2008, while the Marvel Masterworks collections caught up to this storyline in September 2009.
As a side note, this arc marked the first time someone else wore the Iron Man suit, and that individual happened to be African-American. While most Marvel fans are aware that Jim Rhodes preceded Miles Morales, Eddie March was introduced about a hundred issues earlier. It predated the introduction of the John Stewart Green Lantern in the pages of Dennis O’Neil/ Neal Adam’s GREEN ARROW/ GREEN LANTERN by over an year, so if this is not the first instance of a black man taking over for a white hero in the Marvel Universe, it was one of the earliest.
When Aunt May and Uncle Ben Raised a Strange Teenage Girl
STRANGE TALES #97, published in June 1962, two months before AMAZING FANTASY #15 came out, included a story by Stan Lee and Steve Dirko about an old couple that looked a lot like Aunt May and Uncle Ben. They were even named Aunt May and Uncle Ben.
Given that Lee and Ditko were working on several comics a month, it made sense that they would reuse earlier character designs and concepts. At the time, the Marvel Universe didn’t exist as a concept. This storyline and the first appearance of Spider-Man in AMAZING FANTASY #15 were standalone stories in anthologies. An issue of the Fantastic Four had Johnny Storm reading The Hulk, and making fun of Ben Grimm. But it wouldn’t be until an year later with the release of THE FANTASTIC FOUR #12, pitting the Fantastic Four against the Hulk, and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, as Spider-Man encountered Marvel’s first family, that it became clear that these books are all set in the same world.
Nothing Can Stop the Sub-Mariner
In interviews, Roger Stern has said that “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut” (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #229-230) was his version of the iconic scene in the Master Planner Saga where Spider-Man is trapped under tons of rubble. As he explained in COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN…
Spider-Man has to save Madame Web’s life and then go after Juggernaut, who is like that giant weight that fell on Spider-Man during the Master Planner story in AMAZING #31-33. There’s no way that Spidey can lift the weight, just like there’s no way he can defeat the Juggernaut, but he still finds a way to do it.
A Stan Lee/ Wally Wood Daredevil story that pit him against Namor was the epitome of the hopelessly outclassed superhero never surrending prior to “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut.” It included a lot of property damage, with a clash at a construction site, just like with Spidey and Juggernaut.
The story was reprinted in the 1991 collection THE VERY BEST OF MARVEL COMICS, and marked the first appearance of Daredevil’s red costume, so it’s relatively well-known. Daredevil is hopelessly outclassed, but that’s part of the point. Just as it is when Spider-Man fights the Juggernaut. It reflects an interesting aspect of the ethos of the Marvel Universe: characters aren’t always equally matched, and the writer and artist aren’t going to pretend this is the case.
In “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut” Madame Web gives Spider-Man a prophecy that he has to protect her from a villain coming from the water. His initial concern is that he’s facing the Sub-Mariner, something that’s on his mind later in the issue.
From the Pages of Captain America!
JM DeMatteis had a lengthy run of Captain America in the 1980s, leading up to the series’ 300th issue. Some of the characters would pop up again in his later Spider-Man issues. Artist Mike Zeck would also reunite with DeMatteis for a well-regarded TPB length storyline.
The most significant Captain America transplant was Vermin, who become a member of the Spider-Man’s rogues gallery after a pivotal appearance in Kraven’s Last Hunt. That story included a reference to his earlier appearance in MARVEL TEAM-UP #128, in which Spider-Man and Captain America first fought him.
Vermin had been introduced in DeMatteis’ CAPTAIN AMERICA #272, as a hooded figure with a mysterious boss and an ability to control rats.
The issue also featured one of the things that made Vermin unique as a villain. He’s so repulsive that he brings out the worst in the the superheroes he fights, even Captain America.
Vermin would return in CAPTAIN AMERICA #276-278, which reveal his origins: He was an ordinary man transformed by Arnim Zola and Baron Zemo II. Zemo would return in DeMatteis and Buscema’s “Death of Vermin” saga from SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #194-196, in which Vermin was finally cured, a decade after his first appearance.
Vermin wasn’t the only villain from Dematteis’ CAPTAIN AMERICA run to appear in his SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. There’s also the Black Crow from #191-193. was also a transplant from the series. He seemed such a natural addition to a story involving the Puma, the Native American Spider-Man rogue, that it seems like he was created just for that storyline. But he seemed just as natural in the pages of Captain America, as a reminder of a population that had been in the United States before Steve Rogers’ ancestors.
The Black Crow three-parter was followed by the Vermin and Baron Zemo three-parter, so DeMatteis devoted half an year of his Spider-Man run to villains who had popped up first in CAPTAIN AMERICA.
Since Kraven’s Last Hunt is considered one of the best Spider-Man arcs ever, and since the Harry Osborn saga is similarly well-regarded, DeMatteis probably made the right call with the incorporation of Vermin to those storylines. Conway and Stern also made the right decisions to use elements of earlier Marvel comics for some of their most acclaimed Spider-Man comics, pulling the trick of surpassing the original. But it did happen first elsewhere.
The IRON MAN #22 panel, and CAPTAIN AMERICA scenes were scanned in Supermegamonkey’s Marvel Comics Chronology.
Brian Cronin covered the Uncle Ben and Aunt May and Uncle Ben prototypes for his Comic Book Urban Legends series, and Daredevil #7 as part of a Silver Age retrospective.