Ho! Ho! Ho! Crawlspacers! It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Time to get ready for all of your Christmas traditions – putting lights on everything, welcoming your elf on a shelf back, eating homemade baked goods, picking out which trade paper backs to ask for Santa to bring, and spending time with family. Of course it is also time for the annual reading of the Christmas classics: “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and every Spider-Man’s favorite, Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #112.
My gift to you, my friends, is a single issue story Peter David story with good art and good writing. It has absolutely no impact on the Spiderverse. It has no major crossovers. It is not a setup for a multi-title summer event. It is just a one and done story about Peter Parker. Not a brain swapped Spock Peter. Not a mega-global tech mogul Peter Parker, but a poor, misunderstood Peter Parker who feels the world is against him. A classic Parker luck story. Shield makes no appearance in this issue. But Santa does. And he has a gun.
Oh, and we have Candi, Randi, and Bambi. Merry Christmas.
The comic starts with a Christmas poem from which we derive the title of the issue from one of the lines, “You Never Make a Sound.” It seems like this must be a traditional Christmas poem, but I’ve never seen it anywhere other than this comic. I did some digging and was determined to present the poem in its entirety to you guys (not because I think every Spider-Man fan boy is out there craving fine literature, but because I’m an English teacher and I feel compelled to do so). However, this poem does not seem to exist on the Internet. It is written by John Morris-Jones, a Welsh poet. I found that poem was printed in an old Childcraft (and you are an old geezer indeed if you remember having a set of those in your house). I actually found a newer set in a used bookstore (no, I wasn’t there looking for them), but the poem must have been removed from the newer editions. My best guess is that PAD is using a translated version which is why it doesn’t seem to exist according to Google. Sure the people in Wales speak English, but you can’t understand it. They can use ‘w’ as a vowel. W! To give you an idea, this is the title of one of his books: Cerdd Dafod: Sef Celfyddyd Barddoniaeth Gymraeg. So if anyone wants to show off their research skills, feel free to include the poem in the comments section.
But since this isn’t poetry corner with Spidey (and because I hate poetry), it is time to move on to the actual comic!
Mark Beachum is the artist and he has one thing on his mind – girls. Every girl is in a pose of some sort. Often we get panels butt first. We have MJ in a bath with some barely placed bubbles:
By the way, that SEE MARVEL TALES #182 reference is to the current issue of Marvel Tales that has the famous “Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!” line.
Peter David even has a crook make a reference to the art when he goes back and puts in the dialogue:
In fact, there is an interesting story behind the crook.
Joe Krolik owns and operates Comics America (located in Canada). When you look up his name, you find A LOT of references to him. People who like him praise him. He praises himself quite a bit. People who hate him REALLY hate him. There are several forums that get into long threads about how they felt they have been screwed over by either Krolik or his comic store. Add to that a story that Marvel and Krolik had some problems that he was hoarding incentive books meant to be given away to comic shops across Canada and it seems likely that PAD was making a jab at Krolik. I asked PAD about this, but he was off his site for several weeks and when he came back on, he didn’t respond. Maybe PAD was thumbing his nose and immortalizing Krolik as a lying thief. Maybe it was meant as a friendly reference like PAD with the name of one of the Kingpin’s assassins in an issue. Unless Krolik or PAD read my posts and reply, I guess we’ll never know.
This was obviously printed before 2001 since Santa can be seen on the cover smoking a cigarette. You younger readers didn’t know that tobacco even existed in the 616 universe. It may have something to do with the mind wipe or Mephisto deal, but more likely it had to do with Joe Quesada’s father. He died of lung cancer, so Quesada believed it was best to remove smoking from comics to not glorify the act. Top characters like the Thing, Wolverine, and Nick Fury all were forced to give up the habit. Even villains and background characters had to stop eventually. Many reprints are being altered to remove smoking images. Disney has a smoking ban on all movies (with some historical exceptions), so don’t count on Iron Man lighting up anytime soon. In fact, the only place to see Marvel characters smoking is in the X-Men movies by Fox.
The old Parker luck is a standard that must be gotten right by a writer if they want it to feel like a genuine Spider-Man tale. Despite this being one of PAD’s early stories, he nails it. The Parker luck doesn’t mean that he is a loser. It doesn’t mean that everything goes wrong. It doesn’t mean that he swings around town in a web diaper. Here is the Parker luck primer as set down by Peter David in 1986:
Thing go wrong in life. When it does, Peter assumes it is because life is dumping on him again. He misunderstands what others are thinking and assumes it is against him.
During this comic Peter calls his Aunt May and since she is talking about seeing Anna Watson this year, he assumes that means she doesn’t have time for him this year when actually she is excited about him coming over as well. He calls Mary Jane and assumes that when she doesn’t pick up, she is out having fun with others when in reality she is in the bath (bubble bath, not milk – see above) getting ready to spend some quality time with Peter this Christmas. He walks away or hangs up before Robbie Robertson or Harry Osborn can invite him over. The other woman in his life, the Black Cat, evidently likes to spend Christmas Eve half-dressed calling up ex-boyfriends and then hanging up in a stalker-ish fashion when they answer. So Peter spends his holiday talking to his Spidey suit thinking that no one is thinking of him. That’s a great example of how the Parker luck works. At least in my opinion.
I may be wrong. It did happen once.
Whatever the case, it led to this sad and pitiful scene where Peter dumps on Christmas so much it makes pre-ghost of Christmas future Scrooge look merry and then shares a Coke with his suit:
You may remember that your can of Coke used to have the word “Classic” on it until recently. That’s because of a failed marketing ploy by Coca Cola. The Cola War was in full swing and Pepsi was winning. It was brutal. Michael Jackson even got set on fire. In the spring of 1985, Coca Cola dropped it’s formula and replaced it with a sweeter one. It was named New Coke and was supposed to be the killing blow for Pepsi. Pepsi, for their part, immediately gave all its employees the day off saying, “By today’s action, Coke has admitted that it’s not the real thing.”
For the rest of 1985 we saw references on TV about things being “old Coke” worthy as people were running out of the original stuff. Coke brought back the original formula and New Coke disappeared from shelves. I thought it disappeared everywhere, but evidently Coca Cola continued to sell New Coke under the name of Coke II until 2002.
The actual story of the comic is one that had been tease for a couple of issues now. A guy pretending to be Santa is listening to kids tell him what they want for Christmas. When he hears something that makes him think the family has stuff worth stealing, he asks the kid to remind him of the child’s address. He then sneaks in a takes all their stuff a la Grinch.
That woman and kid up there? That’s the kid of Bambi, one of Peter’s roof-top sun bathing neighbors. This Christmas, she and her son Jordan get visited by jolly old St. Nick. When she walks in on the thief, we get this great scene about how Peter’s spider-sense works:
That gets followed by the second best* Christmas story line (and thus the title of our post):
This is a Parker luck story, so of course the bad guy gets away, but not too far. He runs into a pissed off Santa (either the real one or some mind controlling mutant who is out for kicks on Christmas Eve) who says, “Last year it was slasher films, now this. I am not laughing.”
This is most certainly a reference to Silent Night, Deadly Night which came out in 1984. If you want to know why Santa is so pissed, just check out the awful trailer for this trailer:
Not exactly Krampus, but it worked for the 80s.
There is still so much packed into this issue that we just can’t cover all of it. We have the Black Cat starting her robbing from the rich and giving to the poor routine trying to compromise her lifestyle and Peter’s morals, we have Randy Robertson revealing that he is dating a white girl, we have a tease for an upcoming story line involving a child abusing dad and a teacher who is sticking his nose into the wrong place. We even have Madonna.
But best of all, we have humor. This is PAD at some of his best jokes. If you’re my age, you probably got one of these paddle ball things in your stocking each year:
And this scene where Kate Cushing tells him that if he wants to get assignments he should think about getting a beeper.
Well, folks, that’s it. There are lots of Christmas stories I could have chosen to look back on, but I like this one and it is referenced in the Sin Eater stories that we talked about earlier. I give it an A-. It’s a good read and a fun diversion. I nice break from the long story arcs, decompressed storytelling, and tie-in comics that we are experiencing right now. Maybe next year I’ll review the Kingpin dressed as Santa give away issue. What’s your favorite Christmas issue?
Arrant, Chris. “Disney CEO Says ‘No Smoking’ Ban To Extend to Marvel Movies.” Newsarama. Purch, 12 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
Jared. “Santa Claus is Back, and He Has a Gun. And Sunglasses. And Cigarettes. – The Spectacular Spider-Man #112” Blog into Mystery. WordPress, 8 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
Martin. “Smoking Ban – the Weird World of Comics.” Pixel Bedlam. N.p., 23 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
“Morris-Jones, John Sir, 1864-1929.” Trove. National Library of Australia, N.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
“New Coke.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia, 5 Dec. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
“Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #112.” Comics Chronology. Super Mega Monkey, N.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
Quicksilver Signs. “Re: Comics America…Stay Away???” Collectors Society. UBB Threads, 28 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
All scans are from my copy of PPTSSM #112
*The best line? Well, that would be in Die Hard when the helicopter crashes and the jerk police officers says, “I guess we’re going to need more FBI guys.“