Cobwebs #9: Where’s My Schwinn?!

pptssm112coverHo! 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.


poem-panelThe 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:




krolikIn 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.


IronManSmokingThis 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.


parker-luckThe 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:


New_Coke_(advertisement)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.


KingsantaWell, 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?





credible hulkSources:

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 #112Blog 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

Iron Man Smoking

New Coke Ad

Kingpin Santa

Credible Hulk


*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.


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(9) Comments

  1. Mark Alford - Post author

    @#7 - That is awesome. My new desktop background. @#8 - I'm not a Wendigo fan, but I remember that one as being pretty good. Ill add it to my holiday reading list.

  2. Andrew C

    Good review. Thank you. Another classic 80's Spidey Xmas tale (okay, "winter tale" is a better description) is the Charles Vess drawn Wendigo story.

  3. Mark Alford - Post author

    @#1 - I love those panels that show Peter sleeping peacefully until the gun is aimed. Spider-sense and web strength are definitely two things that are different with every writer, but I like the idea that it doesn't kick in high gear until the danger is imminent. I think that cord panel stood out in my mind more because it was so silly rather than the sexual nature of it. My wife was looking over my shoulder when I put that panel in and she just rolled her eyes. We'll have to meet up to watch Die Hard this year. First Blood is another great Christmas movie! What could be better than Kingpin Santa? Give me a year to track down a store that has that issue... @#2 - I'm going to have to go back and read MTU#1 again. I have it in an Essentials somewhere in my classroom, but I can't remember it. I'll hop on that tomorrow. @#3 - You put into words exactly what I was thinking of about Parker luck. Cheesecake..... @#4 - After I find MTU#1, I'm pulling ASM #166 up on Marvel Unlimited. I have spotty memories of that one, but I'm a sucker for corny Bronze Age stories. @#5- Thanks for the lung cancer correction. The source I used said it was grandfather :( I corrected it in the post. Hope you all have a merry Christmas! Here's another Christmas image to tide you over:

  4. Thomas Mets

    Excellent research, finding a poem that doesn't exist on the internet, and linking a crook to a comic book store owner in the 1980s. Quesada's father died of lung cancer. I've heard the argument that New Coke might have been a marketting long game, since when Classic Coke came back, sales were at a higher level than before the Pepsi Challenge publicity campaign kicked off (that campaign was what convinced Coca Cola that they needed a change). I've read some interesting pieces on that. Offhand, I can't think of a better Spider-Man christmas comic. The best ever Christmas comics are probably Eisner's Christmas spirit, and some Carl Barks duck tales (given where Scrooge was introduced.)

  5. J.A. Morris

    Great post by Mark. This is a great Spider-Man Christmas story and it's one I read every December. I also read the Lizard-Stegron story from ASM #166, great Yuletide fun from the Bronze Age.

  6. Al

    Another highly recommended Spider Christmas tale is the one from Kaine’s Scarlet Spider book. In my view the Parker Luck is what you said it was but a little bit more. You focused upon how Peter perceives his luck, which was basically true. But in a more general sense the Parker Luck is just the regular good or bad luck normal people have to deal with, but accentuated both for dramatic effect (which isn’t something exclusive to Spider-Man) and more importantly as a consequence of his lifestyle. Peter isn’t innately cursed, the things that go wrong in his like 90% of the time have everything to do with his choice to be Spider-Man. Hence Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man No More that it was based upon showcasing that when not having to deal with life as Spider-Man, Peter’s life is at worst pretty swell. That was the idea. Being Spider-Man comes at a cost and that cost is the difficulties and inconveniences in his private life. Peter being Spider-Man is an act of heroism all its own because he sacrifices both purely chasing his personal desires and ambitions for the greater good. Or to put it another way he has to prioritize the responsibility of being Spider-Man against the other responsibilities in his life, including the responsibility to himself to make himself happy and fulfilled. Too often people (*coughwritersandeditorscough*) confuse the Parker Luck for genuine bad luck hounding him or a curse or a coda for ‘the point of Spider-Man is for him to suffer and lose’ (*coughMarvWolfmananDanJurgenscough*). Oh sorry, the weather has given me a touch of the flu. Anyway, that wasn’t the idea behind Spider-Man. It wasn’t that he was different to those idealistic DC heroes (for whom everything went right) because for him everything would go wrong. It was that things were CAPABLE of going wrong because that’s just life, things don’t always work out. In fact ASM #12 outright TELLS you that Spider-Man isn’t supposed to always be unhappy, but he’s just got ups and downs like real people. Sure, the 1960s stuff gives the impression everything is terrible but it’s being presented from the POV of both an angst ridden teenager and a writer who, though a genius, was rarely one for moderation or subtly. Stan and the Marvel staffers got a hold of this wacky new concept of heroes with problems and it interested both them and more importantly the audience who seemed all too happy to pay to see it. So by God they hammered that nail home and slathered on the ironic meta commentary about how you wouldn’t see this in DC. And yet even so, when you look at the Ditko run for all the stories end with Peter in a bad place an aweful lot of them end with him in a good place too and in fact an awful lot end with a mix between the two, or something that’s kind of neutral. In short if you think Parker Luck = Spider-Man is an unlucky loser and will suffer, you are wrong. @#1: This issue and others are a testament to the fact that cheesecake in Spider-Man wasn’t just a thing that appeared with McFarlane or Larsen. It was always there but as times changed and society became more easy about sexual imagery the comics reflected that. Couple that with the fact that MJ as Peter’s wife was inevitably going to appear both more often and in private domestic scenes (including ones set in their bedroom) and it was unsurprising that we got as many slices of cheesecake as we did. Would’ve probably happened with most artists or any love interest at the time, probably exempting old guard classy folks like Sal Buscema or Romita Senior. It wasn’t even MJ or McFarlane or Larsen that this was restricted to. Remember in Invasion of the Spider Slayers when Bagley debuted Felicia’s new costume which had a v-line literally down to her navel? But if you want further proof of what I am talking about look no further than ASM #190 where Keith Pollard and Marv Wolfman give us an entirely necessary scene where MJ is taking a bath. Or that certain Hobgoblin issue by Stern and JRJR where Amy Powell is posing nude for Lance Bannon. Or Hell, the first appearance of Storm in Giant Sized X-Men #1. Regardless of your opinions on whether it should be there or not, it has always been there throughout the decades.

  7. hornacek

    This is my favorite Spidey Christmas story, and not just because it's one of the few that I can remember (Peter and MJ inviting Nate Grey over for Christmas is the only other one that comes to mind). It's a very nice one-and-done that had been building up over the previous months (enough so that David had to include an explanation in The Death of Jean DeWolff trade paperback explaining who this Santa Claus robber was that kept showing up in those issues). Forget about that cigarette on the cover, you probably wouldn't get away with a Santa holding a gun nowadays. That cord wrapped around MJ's leg in the bathtub is so ridiculous you'd think this issue came out in the 90s drawn by McFarlane or Larsen. Peter's spider-sense going off in that panel can sort of be explained away in that when Santa raises his gun he is kinda pointing it at Peter (through the wall). The Kingpin dressed up as ... SANTA??? Next Christmas can't come soon enough! Die Hard - the classic Christmas movie.

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