Cobwebs #20: Unmasked at Last!


asm87coverSpider-Man unmasked!  Not a hoax!  Not a dream sequence!  Not a What if?!  That’s right, readers – this isn’t the story you demanded – this is the tale you dreaded, the story you feared, the yarn that may indeed unravel the hero we all love and hold dear.  Is this the end of Spider-Man?  And who is the mysterious stranger in the Spider suit next to our favorite Daily Bugle photog?

All these questions will be answer, dear readers – and more!  For it is a tale that we tread into most hesitantly – a tale that could only be called…

UNMASKED AT LAST!

 

I always did want to be a Marvel hype man.  Keep reading to see how Amazing Spider-Man #87 wasn’t only a fun read then, but has lasting impact in the webbed titles today.

 

 

 

 

A bit of the basics: this issue is dated August 1970 (I’ll still have a few months before I burst on the scene) and is written by Stan Lee and art is by both John Romita Sr. and Jim Mooney.  Mooney used to work for DC, but had at this point recently joined Marvel.  In his words, his early work on Spider-Man was just “finalizing” Romita’s layouts.  He will soon go on to be an artist on the secondary titles.

I guess first of all we need to take Stan to task for the title – “Unmasked at Last”.  Why? Because this isn’t the first time Spidey has had his identity revealed.  In fact it is not the second.  Or the third.  Yep – Spider-Man’s identity has been discovered four times by this point.  Let’s run it down:

brainASM – 8 – The Living Brain figures it out, but due to his inability to write in English, nobody else knew.  The Brain goes crazy because a few thugs think they can make easy money by having it predict sporting event outcomes.  Peter just trashes the printout and tells everyone he lost it in the big kerfuffle*.

 

niaveASM – 12  – Doctor Octopus unmasks him, but decides that it couldn’t really be a teenager.  In reality, Peter Parker has the flu and it made him lose all his powers.  Since Ock had Betty hostage, he dressed up as Spider-Man and went to save her anyway.  He got his butt handed to him.  Click the link to read an older Cobwebs post about it.  I still love that policeman, don’t you?

 

greengoblinASM – 39 – The Green Goblin learns of Peter’s identity, but luckily nobody thinks it is odd that there is a masked man tormenting a high school kid in their neighborhood, so nobody bothers to look out their windows.  Well, Aunt May does, but she assumes all the smoke she sees is just fog.  Then, since he has the advantage of knowing Spidey’s identity, the Green Goblin plays nice and shares his secret identity too.

 

So what is different about this time?  This time Peter unmasks himself.  Why?  Well, let’s break down the comic.

It starts with a full splash page showing a sick Peter Parker reminding the reader that he has been getting weaker lately.  His thought is that he is losing the radiation that gives him his powers.  The only problem that he is so weak, that he cannot focus his eyesight on the blood sample he has in the microscope.

POP QUIZ TIME!

Who does Peter Parker trust enough to take his blood sample to?

a. Dr. Reed Richards

b. Dr. Curt Connors

c. Dr. Bromwell

d. Dr. Miles Warren

Click the image below to see the answer:

Spider-Man Question

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O.K., since the good doctor is not around, Peter is left on his own, getting weaker by the moment.  He realizes that he is about to lose all of his spider strength and abilities, so he decides to do one last thing as Spider-Man.

POP QUIZ TIME!

What does Peter do as his last act as a super powered person?

a. save an old man (to redeem himself at last for not saving Uncle Ben)

b. swings by the Daily Bugle (to harass JJJ one last time)

c. fights the vulture (who was robbing a bank near by)

d. break in and rob a jewelry store (to get a gift for Gwen Stacy)

Click the image below to see the answer:

Spider-Man Question

 

 

Meanwhile, at the Stacy house, the gang’s all there and Gwen is pouting because Peter hasn’t shown up for her birthday.  Harry remarks that Peter would be late for his own funeral.  MJ tells Gwen that Peter isn’t worth it (wow! Maybe Slott’s portrayal isn’t so off after all).  The party goes on and Gwen puts on a brave face until finally everybody is gone except Harry, MJ, and Captain Stacy.  At this point she begins to cry and in walks Peter!

unmasked

 

 In the next panel, Captain Stacy utters, “That’s just crazy town banana pants!” which some people theorize is where Peter learned it.  No need to go back and check your copy.  You can trust me on that one.

Captain Stacy covers a bit for Peter by pointing out that “the boy is ill – feverish!  There’s something wrong with him!” which lends some thought that maybe Captain Stacy already knows or at least suspects Peter’s true identity.  We do know that for some time now, George Stacy and Joe Robertson have been trying to solve the mystery of Spider-Man’s identity as a hobby.  With Peter in his street clothes and only carrying the mask, Stacy gives Peter an out.  However Peter is currently not in his right mind and it is only Gwen’s hysterical cries that forces him to run out of the house.  Harry remembers when Peter was unmasked by Doctor Octopus way back in ASM #12 (that’s called a flashback, kids), even though Harry didn’t know Peter at the time (having only been in the comics since issue #31).

Luckily for Gwen, she was surrounded by friends full of sympathy and good will.

sympatheticMJ

 

Meanwhile, the web head checks into a street clinic and gets a doctor who could care less about how he is dressed, although the nurse gives him a rough go of it.  He doesn’t even want to hear anything Spider-Man has to say about radioactivity or anything he may have come contact with.  Why? Because this man is evidently a master with the stethoscope.  Peter either passes out or falls asleep.  Either way, when he comes to, we find out the source of the loss of his powers.

What could it have been that took away his powers? Green Goblin gas?

No.

What could have turned Spider-Man into a jewelry store robber?  Flash backs from when he was working with Doctor Octopus to get the nullifier? Webbed kryptonite?

No and no.

What was so awful that Spider-Man thought he was going to die and so told his dearest friends and captain of the police force his secret?  They caught him in a lie? A persuasive Iron Man? Martin Goodman telling Stan Lee that people can’t identify with a masked hero, so he should unmask as often as possible?

No, no, and no.

It was . . .

Flu

 

That’s right.  The flu.  He was sick – just like the last time he lost his powers.  Too bad he didn’t remember that last time he got sick and lost his powers back in ASM #12.  I mean, Harry remembered it and he wasn’t even there!  This doctor is a pretty cool cat (getting into my ‘7s lingo).  When Spidey says, “I’ll never forget you,” the do just walks out saying, “Forget me! Forget me!  I have enough friends already!”

So now he has a problem.  He is completely healed and he has revealed his identity to his girlfriend, captain of the police force, best friend, and future wife committed partner.  What does one do in that sort of situation?

Obviously you go to Dr. Strange and get him to do some psychic blind spot one everyone.  However, as Marvel was still the house of ideas at this point, they decided to go with something else.

That’s where the Dreaded Stalker comes in:

the-stalker

 

Well, it would have been the Stalker.  That was the original name for the character.  They changed it later to the Prowler.  A good thing too.  I don’t see the name Stalker going over too well in today’s climate.  John Romita Jr. actually came up with the idea for this character when he was only twelve.  He sent it to Stan Lee who used it in ASM #78.  That must have been pretty cool for John Romita Sr. to get to draw his son’s creation.

Anyway, in ASM #79, Spidey gives Hobie Brown (a.k.a. the Stalker, a.k.a. the Prowler) a second chance to be a guy on the straight and narrow.  He figures this means Brown owes him a favor.  In a sequence that takes way too long, Spider-Man swings over to enlist his help.  Luckily, Harry and MJ are over at the Stacy’s.  It seems that MJ was hoping for more Peter/Gwen drama (man, MJ is a punk!).  Then we get this sequence:

HBSM

 

 

And there you have, it folks.  Hobie Brown’s first time impersonating Spider-Man which leads to his current role in the comic today – a role that I personally would love to see more of.  Which would you rather spend money on – a point one series about some voodoo wannabes or a point one series of Hobie Brown trying to be Spider-Man while Peter is jet setting?  I know which one I’d rather be reviewing.

Hindsight also makes MJ more interesting in this issue.  We know now, thanks to Parallel Lives, that MJ knew Peter was Spider-Man during this whole issue (ugh! I hate that retcon).  Think about that as you re-read her lines:

mjerk

 

She gives Betty Brant a run for her money.  MJ KNOWS Peter really is Spider-Man and, instead of being concerned for what he is going through, she is revealing in the drama of it all.  

The cover tells us that if you only read one mag this month, it has to be this one.  So what else was Marvel putting out with the August 1970 date?

We had:

  • Black Widow and the Inhumans sharing a comic (apparently that is what readers were demanding back then)
  • Kazar and Dr. Doom sharing a comic (going by the cover, nobody was demanding that one)
  • The Avengers fighting the Lethal Legion
  • Captain America Satan’s Angels
  • The Hulk trying to kill some college kids while Captain Marvel tries to stop him
  • Some horror comic, but since it was approved by the CCA, it couldn’t have been that good
  • Three (count ‘em – THREE) comics centering on Milie the Model plus a fourth one about Chili (Millie’s red headed rival – I’m NOT making that up)
  • Daredevil facing off against the Stilt Man
  • The Fantastic Four apparently die at the hands of the Skrulls
  • The Hulk tries to kill Bruce Banner (what?)
  • Iron Man fighting both the Titanium Man and Submariner
  • Iron Man fighting the Controller (you mean Iron Man gets more titles than Spider-Man?)
  • Kazar in his first issue (seems rather poor planning to put his first issue in a month that he is already starring in another issue)
  • Kid Colt Outlaw getting bushwhacked by the Bellows Mob (I’m just presenting the material folks, not creating it)
  • Reed Richards and Sue Storm hold off the Frightful Four by themselves
  • A romance comic featuring a story titled “He’s Hers, But I Want Him”
  • The Outlaw Kid shooting some bad guys
  • The Rawhide Kid facing off against the Lost Legion (a lot of kids running around with guns in the wild west)
  • Fury and the Howling Commandos in their greatest mission (it says so, right on the cover – plus Fury has two eyes!)
  • The Submariner fights Brutivac (nope – didn’t make that one up either)
  • Loki creates a hell on earth for Thor
  • A cowboy collection featuring all of the non-outlaw kids including Ghost Rider (cowboy version – not motorcycle version), the Renegades, the Man from Port Rango, and Gunhawk.

You can see them all by clicking here.

That’s a lot of comics in one month!  However, after looking at the covers, I might have to agree with Stan.

Comic Vine ranked this story as 67th in Spider-Man’s all-time 100 best stories.  It’s a good story, but I’m not positive that I would rank it so high.  Then again, there were several stories on that list that I don’t think I would have included at all.

All in all, I suggest you go back and read it.  I think all who remembered this issue liked the inclusion of Hobie Brown as a Spidey stand in in the comics today. I could be wrong, though.  I was once as a freshman in college.  It is likely to happen again.

 

* – Hey! It’s a legitimate word!  Bonus points for anyone who uses it in the comments section for somebody else’s post.

 

credible hulkSources:

“1970, August.” Marvel Database. Wikia, n.d. Web. 15 May 2016. <http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Category:1970,_August>.

“Jim Mooney.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia, 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 May 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Mooney>.

Lee, Stan. “Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #87.” Marvel Unlimited. Marvel, 13 Nov. 2007. Web. 14 May 2016. <http://read.marvel.com/#/book/1429>.

The Poet. “Comic Vine’s Top 100 Spider-man [sic] Universe Stories.” Comic Vine. CBS Interactive, Aug. 2013. Web. 15 May 2016. <http://comicvine.gamespot.com/forums/spider-man-167/comic-vine-s-top-100-spider-man-universe-stories-1477170/>.

Saffel, Steve. Spider-Man the Icon: The Life and Times of a Pop Culture Phenomenon. London: Titan, 2007.

“Spider-Man Revealed! And Other Times Spider-Man Is Unmasked.” Comics Back Issues. n.p., 29 July 2011. Web. 13 May 2016.  <http://www.comicsbackissues.com/spider-man-revealed-and-other-times-spider-man-is-unmasked/>.

 

Images:

All scans are from Marvel Unlimited

The Stalker

Credible Hulk

 

(36) Comments

  1. Bill

    The thing is, MJ didn't know Peter Parker was Spider-Man when that issue was written. As we all know that is a filthy ret-con, and as far as Stan Lee was concerned then she had no idea about Peter's alter ego. So to attribute her actions in that issue to the "fact" that she already knew that Peter was Spidey is just ridiculous and inaccurate. Just another reason that I absolutely cannot stand stinking ret-cons in any form. UHHHG! Also, for someone with super strength and an enhanced metabolism Peter sure got sick a lot with common colds and flu, etc. You'd think he'd actually be pretty much immune to that kind of thing.

  2. hornacek

    @34 - Even if she was, she was saying it out loud in front of Flash, Gwen, Harry, the rest of the gang, and others. Assuming she knew his identity then, all she was was calling attention to Peter's absence for anyone within the sound of her voice.

  3. hornacek

    @32 - This is not the only ASM story where the "MJ knows" doesn't work. There are quite a few times in the Lee/Romita era where Peter runs out on the gang to become Spider-Man, and when Spidey shows up MJ says to everyone "Hey, it's Spider-Man! Gee, I wonder where Peter went off to, he's always disappearing when Spider-Man is around ..." In these cases the retcon doesn't work because MJ is is calling attention to the fact that Peter is never around when Spider-Man is there - not very helpful if she knows Peter's secret identity.

  4. Xander_VJ

    I honestly think we shouldn't think too hard about the MJ's behaviour in this story. She wasn't being written as if she knew Peter's secret identity. Case close. That having been said, the Tom DeFalco's retcon* was still brilliant. I reread all of ASM up until the 90s in the last year and a half (My intention is to reread all of it up to "Superior". Thanks, Marvel Unlimited!), and something that strikes me is how surprisingly well it fits! I don't know about other series like "Spectacular" or "Web of Spider-Man", but at least in AMS, the only time when the retcon just doesn't add up is... this story. There were other times where it's a stretch, sure, but that's an inherent trait of retcons in general. And even with that, it never gets to a point of breaking down the concept, since most of the time it could be explained through plot, character or both in a relatively reasonable manner (again, with the exception of this story, where you can take MJ's character traits to their absolute extreme, and even then it doesn't add up). As far at rectons go, this is close to a damn miracle! * No, it wasn't Gerry Conway. I know before "Parallel Lives" we didn't know the when exactly did MJ learn Peter's secret, but given how comic book time works, I don't see much of a difference between MJ "knowing for years" and "knowing from the start". Plus, "Parallel Lives" rules.

  5. Al

    @#28: Read PL and Untold Tales #16 which canonized it. Whatever one says about Conway's run circa 1989, I have n qualms saying PL as a story is 100% his best work of the era. Granted he was weaving together stuff Lee, Ditko, Romita, DeFalco and Frenz had done but his own embellishments ignited the story. It is also one of the first places to claim Peter was 15 when he got his powers, a fact previously fuzzy.

  6. Mark Alford - Post author

    @#27 - No insult taken, and I was only being lighthearted. I understand where you are coming and I wholeheartedly agree that words have power. @#16 - If I can get my hands on it, I will go back and read _Parallel Lives_. I hated it at the time and, having never gone back to it, just kept that negative image of it. I am willing to admit that my dislike of it may be not JUST from not liking the idea of MJ knowing all along, but it may also stem from the fact that I was really not enjoying Conway's writing at the time (many reasons for that at the time). If you are not enjoying most things a writer is doing, it is hard to enjoy it when that writer does something great. So, I may be wrong. Like I've said before, I was wrong once and I understand it could happen again.

  7. Chase The Blues Away

    #25 &amp; #26: the point is that strumpet, ho, slut, etc., are gendered insults simply because there are no male equivalents. It's not a statement on character, whether a real person's or a fictional character's, and it was not meant to insult Mark in turn. I thought his use of the word was lighthearted. And that Larsen illustration makes eyeballs bleed. But language is a powerful thing. Words have weight. And casually throwing around words that denigrate one gender for the same actions that tend to be praised in a second gender is something I hope the 21st century will eventually grow out of. But probably not in my lifetime.

  8. Mark Alford - Post author

    Xonathan, you can blame me all you want to. I'll never shy away from teaching vocabulary! Now Al wants me to use British idioms earlier in this list and now he doesn't want me to use a good Shakespeare word (I had recently taught _Othello_ before that post). No pleasing some people. :) Oh, you'll need a better defense than just blaming theft on comics. I suggest you load one of those Wertham videos on your phone to help explain why you went astray. And anyone who thought my comment was a gendered insult misread me completely. It wasn't skin tight clothing and I could care less which gender she is. Just go back and look at the image and I'll let the art speak for itself. It doesn't matter what word you want to use, it will mean the same thing. I'm fine with moving on. I guess you could say that I could care less. :)

  9. Frontier

    @19 - Not that there should be anything wrong with being a "sweet nice good girl," nor does that preclude someone from still being a complex character.

  10. xonathan

    @18 I blame Mark for enriching my lexicon with those filthy words. How dare he! I should have known better than to follow his example. Next, I 'be stealing jewelry and blaming it on comic books like he did.

  11. Al

    Orrrrrrrr....we could just refer to her as a lady and Larsen's rendition as '90s fashion disaster MJ'. Personally I never quite understood the artistic rendition being referred to in a sexual context anyway. She was just wearing normal insanely coloured clothes.

  12. hornacek

    @21 - Back in 1995, our province's capital city (here in Canada) opened a casino. They advertised that it was going to be pirate-themed and said it would create many local jobs, including the waitresses who would be dressed as "buxom wenches". For some reason, their PR department thought saying this would not be a problem.

  13. Chase The Blues Away

    #18 - yeah, I can do without the gendered insults. Why is it only women get called names for using their sexual agency? And what's wrong with dressing in tight clothes that show off physical assets? Peter wears a skintight outfit that shows off every bump, and no one calls him an oversexed prostitute who will sleep with anything (hard to find words for it since most of them, like slut and whore, are gendered)!

  14. Al

    With kindness, could we please stop saying strumpet. It's not very nice in reference to MJ or anyone else outside of certain contexts (like pre-20th century stage plays)

  15. xonathan

    @15 " I know most of you disagree with me, but then again, most of you sided with Mohammed on the whole Larsen/Camuncoli MJ debate, so I question your judgment. " Hey, I voted strumpet, and I love the PL retcon. So what do you make of that? But I understand that retcons, albeit good ones, can be annoying by their inherent revisionist nature.

  16. Al

    @#13: When he’s had the flu before he’s not been in a position to break the law, including the potential loss of his powers and the complications his young hotheaded love for Gwen engender. At the same time, flu or other illnesses need not manifest themselves the precise same way each and every time. Plus he didn’t go through with it in the end. Just because the flu doesn’t affect your thinking one time doesn’t mean it won’t affect it on another. After all, Peter was more worried and stressed in ASM #87 than ASM #12 as well and for all we know his powers might’ve been weakened to some extent too. But ultimately it boils down to this. Would Spider-Man break the law like that? No. We know this because we know who Spider-Man is. So, we must then presume to look for an explanation for him being out of character and if there is direct enough evidence to give us one. The flu is the one provided and Peter’s change in lifestyle/emotional state coupled with that could support it further. One could even argue that the doctor misdiagnosed or misspoke when he said what he did and it wasn’t the flu but some other ailment. MJ ‘obviously being on drugs’ has never seemed a plausible explanation. Stan Lee is on record as admitted he had no clue that ‘Mary Jane’ was slang for marijuana. MJ’s name was established over 3 years before her first appearance during Ditko’s tenure and it’s extremely unlikely therefore that Stan (having not seen or decided upon who MJ was going to be) or Ditko (who might have but was very conservative) would’ve intended any kind of drug associations with the character. Stan was likely basing her personality upon the hippies or fab rock n’ roll teens as he saw them through the media, indeed one early letter from ASM suggested a love interest with traits similar to Mary Jane’s in the silver age. Her dingbat comments were also hardly confined to Mary Jane in the pages of Spider-Man or other Stan Lee penned comics of the time. Whilst MJ was certainly the furthest out there, in real life people can just be ditzy or carefree. It doesn’t have to mean you are on drugs. And frankly MJ’s comments through this issue don’t come off as obviously drug fuelled. Remember MJ and Gwen were often catty and competitive with one another, so here MJ is meanspirtedly taking a dig at Gwen, but earlier on she was actually comforting her. As for only caring about partying....yeah...that was her personality. Doesn’t = drugs. Really MJ wasn’t far off from Mike Murdock over in Daredevil. At the same time, MJ being on drugs really doesn’t make sense when you consider her character’s backstory in addition to her treatment of Harry when he was on drugs. @#15: Mark, does the fact that because of PL we now find cause to question and deepen MJ’s psychological layers not, by definition, enrich those same stories from a literary point of view? Arguably in fact invite more of an interactive experience on the part of the reader and open her character up to more examination, analysis and interpretation? In short does it not add more dimension to who she is, and is it therefore not more additive to the narrative than that which preceded it? In fact it is not dissimilar to Norman Osborn’s return nor Roderick Kingsley’s reveal as Hobgoblin. Peter’s poor memory is likely due to the illness. Legally Peter was wrong for doing what he did. Morally we know the character so well and know he’d honestly never do that that it means he had to have been doing it due to clear delirium. Remember Peter rejected the idea of stealing in ASM #1 even though it was (following his show biz career’s destruction) at the time the most viable option he had for cash and supporting Aunt May. In the 80s he took a discarded golden notebook which technically belonged to the government (who was on cahoots with the Kingpin and attempted to shoot at him whilst he was saving lives) and felt guilty about it, not using it for gain for a long while and finally using it altruistically. ‘Could care less’ exists in common language due to a massive mass misconception perpetuated over time by all people and media. It’s not just illogical, it downright has a meaning counter to the sentiment it’s intended to express. “I could care less about this comic” That means you do care and your caring could be lowered. Do you then like it? Adore it? Meh? Hate it but not yet despise it? When people employ the phrase what they actually mean is that their emotional investment in the subject matter is nonexistent or as small as it is possible to be. But if that’s the sentiment then the words chosen don’t express that, it expresses the opposite. Which is why ‘couldn’t care less’ is what they actually mean. It’s simply a case of a long standing frequently perpetuated misspelling/misunderstanding of something. Like how people with more than one personality are entirely incorrectly referred to as ‘schizophrenic’. The latter is an entirely different condition to the former. Then again you yanks do refer to the sport where you run around holding an oval object in your arms as ‘football’ so...

  17. Mark Alford - Post author

    I still hold to my _Parallel Lives_ assessment. I know most of you disagree with me, but then again, most of you sided with Mohammed on the whole Larsen/Camuncoli MJ debate, so I question your judgment. :) Plus, while I don't like the retcon, I do love looking at these older issues with that in mind It does raise a lot of what-is-she-really-thinking moments. @#13 - Yeah, I figured that Flash would have told Harry or that Harry would have heard about it on the news, but still - he has a better memory than Peter of what happened? Not a big deal, just one of those things that makes early comics early comics. @#14 - But these are kinder, gentler policemen... @ AL - I can't just shuffle the morally questionable stuff off on the flu. I tried that the last time I got caught robbing a jewelry store and the police didn't cut me any slack. I even showed them this issue and it just got taken away for processing. Plus, while I do agree couldn't care less is the more logical phrase and the only phrase of acceptance outside the US (and the one that I meant to use), could care less is an acceptable idiom in the good old US of A and has been for the last 50 years. Sure it is illogical, but English idioms don't need to be logical to be acceptable and Americans could care less about it. See what I did there? :) Go Uncle Sam! Of course, being an English teacher, I invite you to "be that person" any time I screw up.

  18. jack

    That panel of Doc Ock makes you think that Ock should've been shot full of holes by the NYPD a hundred times over!

  19. hornacek

    @10 "I explain away all of Peter’s morally questionable stuff in this issue on the flu really getting to him." But Peter's had the flu before and not decided that it's ok to break the law. In the aforementioned ASM #12, he had an even worse case of the flu (it took away his powers, which didn't happen in this issue) and he wasn't so out of it that he decided he could break the law. As for MJ's characterization, I can't remember if it was ASM Classics, or SpiderFan.org summaries, or that Deadpool issue where he Quantum Leaps into a Lee/Romita Peter Parker, but I remember hearing/reading somewhere that looked back on this era of MJ and they said she was obviously on some sort of drug because her actions and comments made her look like a dingbat. Even compared to Harry and Gwen's 60s/70s era slang she often sounds like she has no idea what's going on and only cares about partying. "I figure Harry’ knew about ASM #12 from the news or else that Peter told him." I assumed that Flash told Harry about this. Flash knew because he was making fun of Peter for dressing up as Spider-Man afterwards.

  20. Chase The Blues Away

    I agree with #11. Also, from a certain point of view, MJ isn't being catty to Gwen. Gwen is being Gwen, sobbing and falling apart. By needling her, MJ is giving her something else to focus on, plus she makes Gwen consider just how much she cares for Peter. She's actually NOT giving in to Gwen's drama because she's not indulging her. And how can MJ be publicly concerned for Peter without tipping her hand one way or another? Better to play the role she's always played: dizzy dame who isn't going to take anyone or anything seriously. Does MJ play the sweet nice good girl role in this issue (or any other until ASM 122)? No. That's what makes her interesting and three dimensional as opposed to Gwen, who is a two dimensional stereotype and does and says all the things society says good girls are supposed to. I love MJ knowing from the start.

  21. Al

    @#6: I really disagree. Conway having MJ know Peter was Spider-Man from day 1 gives back so much more than it takes away. It means unlike every other woman MJ knew who Peter was from day 1 so she never got to know and fell in love with just one side of him whilst being ignorant of the other,. Gwen loved Peter and in this issue fell apart learning he was Spider-Man. The reverse was true when Felicia learned Spider-Man was a normal guy named Pete. MJ knew from the start and accepted it deep down. Consequently it makes their relationship healthier, her character stronger and the stories involving her psychologically more layered, playing into the idea of her presenting a facade. Most of the times we get stuff like this it can be reconciled with PL and done so in ways which enrich the narrative (or occasionally fix problems). There are a tiny, tiny handful of times things don’t fit at all but the character development offered by the retcon outweighs that rossly.

  22. Al

    I explain away all of Peter’s morally questionable stuff in this issue on the flu really getting to him. As for MJ’s characterization, this is an MJ of a very different time and age. She was a teenager with serious issues who also had a push/pull set of feelings towards Peter in general and because he was Spider-Man. Honestly the PL retcon is neither as bad as people claim and indeed in providing explanations to reconcile with the original stories the original stories often become something deeper and more interesting. MJ becomes a ore multifaceted and sly character in this scene, and her statements in light of what she knows about Peter become loaded with double meaning. I also think it’s too harsh to criticize her akin to Betty Brant on this scene alone. Betty was much more unreasonable and mean both as a teen AND an adult, whereas MJ generally isn’t. She isn’t nice to Gwen in this one scene, but that doesn’t matter with or without the retcon. And making her not nice actually helps to make her flawed and more well rounded as a whole. Unlike Betty who didn’t have as many redeeming characteristics. Yes MJ seems revelling in the drama...on the surface. But remember MJ put up a facade whenever things got distressing for her. This is not only part of that but she is also somewhat angry/disparaging towards Gwen who’s become hysterical upon learning what she herself has had to privately deal with for years ever since she was in high school. And this is the person Peter wanted to be with instead of her? Also note she stuck around, seemingly to revel more in the drama but retroactively could it not also be to see the situation pan out out of concern? And again, MJ was revelling in the drama even before the PL retcon. Thanks to Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1996 we know for a FACT that George knew Peter was Spider-Man by this point. I figure Harry’ knew about ASM #12 from the news or else that Peter told him. P.S. I’m sorry to be ‘that guy’ Alfrod but you wrote ‘could care less’. I believe the correct phrase is ‘couldn’t care less’. Sidenote: Peter’s self-examination of his own blood is why I never bought Spider-Man: Reign’s idea of MJ dying via radiation. No way a guy like Peter would be so dumb as to know he’s got radioactive blood but not check stuff like this.

  23. Mark Alford

    @#7- What? Did you think that Slott would just make something like that up???

  24. Mark Alford - Post author

    @#1 - I always did think it was stupid that he could do all these amazing things, but he couldn't make a rain-proof or a warm suit. @#3 - That doctor needs his own Netflix series! @#4 - I never liked the MJ knows from the beginning retcon. I think it is too much of a stretch for many of the titles. Scenes like this reread with the knowledge that she knows, to me anyway, really makes it feel awkward. I can live with it, but I think Conway was trying to solve a problem that didn't really exist. I love Conway's stories when he was 17. Not so much later in life. @#5 - I went back to check it before this article and I feel that the implication is that the Brain can figure it out even with the little bit of information. I mean he is one smart robot. We'll never know, because Peter destroys the print out before it is deciphered. But you're absolutely right - Peter is super paranoid. I forgot about that whole 'spiders' thing. Yep. I rewatched the clip! When I was reading the comic, I felt like the whole stealing the necklace because he is sick was a bit of a stretch. Then I thought, I could see it happening in today's run. :( In for a penny, in for a pound. Spidey can climb walls and his mask completely changes his voice. Anyone wearing that mask sounds like Spider-Man. Even Aunt May! ASM #15 - Chili comes to work for Parker Industries. Take that MJ and Tony! Let's make it canon now - The Lost Legion's sons grew up to be the Lethal Legion. Pop Quizzes - good! I was hoping people would like them. I have a Cobwebs Final Exam coming up soon, I figured I would use it there and I think I might use one for the ASM reviews from now on. Wordpress really restricts the amount of interactivity you can use, so when I thought of this, I figured I'd give it a shot.

  25. hornacek

    I don't think the Living Brain determined Spidey's secret identity. According to the episode review on SpiderFan.org, the info that the students feed into it is pretty generic (approx. height &amp; weight, "seen in Forest Hills", "heroic, glamorous man", and "neurotic nut"). It's highly unlikely that it would pop out Peter's name, but of course Peter thinks it will because at this point he thinks anything he does could reveal his identity (like showing an interest in spiders in class). "I still love that policeman, don’t you?" I do, and like the previous post I'll point out that he reminds me of this Naked Gun scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NNOrp_83RU (any excuse to rewatch that clip). Holy crap, I forgot all about Spidey deciding to steal some jewelry. Crazy! So the flu convinced Spidey that it was ok to steal. Does the issue explain how Hobie sounds like Peter as Spider-Man? I guess "it's comics" is the explanation the readers at the time were given (and probably accepted). Even though one's voice is muffled under the mask, I doubt that Hobie through the mask would sound like Peter through the mask. Millie vs Chili - the 70s version of Civil War. Are the Lethal Legion and the Lost Legion related? Really liked the pop quizzes. Hope these reoccur.

  26. Friendly Reminder

    MJ being that catty about Peter is par the course for her character covering up her emotions at the time, it doesn't make her look cruel, just keeping it together a bit more than crybaby Gwen there. What was wrong with the PL retcon in your opinion anyway? There's actually a great author's save to this in the strip canon, where she calls Peter a "nut case" just before she agrees to marry him, saying she's just as nuts as he is.

  27. Evan

    I wonder if the burglar who killed Uncle Ben just had the flu. If only that doctor had been around.

  28. Evan

    Wow, I never knew that Peter stole a necklace -- or would even consider doing so. That seems out-of-character to me. Very good article!

  29. Crime Master

    Spidey getting the flu or some other illness is a weird running thing in the early comics, if I recall he actually had one in The Night Gwen Stacy Died too... so I suppose we can infer that if he'd just invested in a warmer outfit whilst swinging about, Gwen would still be alive?

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