With San Diego Comic Con coming up in a couple of weeks, I thought it only appropriate to relive one of Marvel’s finest SDCC moments – that’s right, true believers – we’re going back to 1984 for Assistant Editor’s Month (arguably one of the finest months in Marvel publication history)! Excelsior!
The whole idea behind this event was that all the editors went off to San Diego for Comic Con and left all the assistant editors behind to be in charge. The assistant editors, giddy with this new power, went crazy and things that would never happen in a regular book happened this month. It was anywhere from “firing” the current talent to crazy stories to having the Marvel heroes interact with the editing staff to one page “behind the scenes” looks at the assistant editor’s office. Virtually all of the titles bought into the event in some way, form, or fashion. It was fun. It was crazy. It was good that it lasted only one month. In usual Spider-Man fashion, his titles for this month are better remembered for their contribution to the event than others.
Since we have San Diego Comic Con right around the corner, I figured a look back at this spectacular event is warranted.
Prior to the month of January in the year 1984 (actually it would be September 1983 when the comics hit the stands – we’ve talked before about the difference in publication date and cover date) and comic book readers began to see things like this appear in their comic book:
It was coming during a time when you still believed that all the writers, artists, editors, publishers, inkers, colorists, etc. all were friends and worked together as one big happy family. I miss those days. Sure, I know it was just an image that Stan Lee started in the ’60s and Sean Howe’s book Marvel: the Untold Story really blows that image out of the water, but I miss the image all the same.
Titles this month (links take you to the Marvel Unlimited copy – if it is not linked, then it has not been scanned into MU as of this article’s posting):
Alpha Flight #6 (Snow Blind – six pages are all white with word balloons)
Amazing Spider-Man #248 (The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man)
Avengers #239 (Avengers on David Letterman)
Captain America #289 (Made to look like a DC book – Captain America’s girlfriend is the Captain)
Conan #154 (DC style copy)
Daredevil #202 (Pop Art Productions (an allusion to a brief name change for Marvel in the ‘60s )– features Dirk McGirk, a character from Crazy, a knock off of Mad Magazine Marvel tried back in the day)
Dazzler #30 (Dazzler goes to San Diego to return $20 she borrowed from the book’s editor and stops a crisis there)
Defenders #127 (Has a silly two page story of the assistant editor going wild)
Fantastic Four #262 (John Byrne gets transported to space to watch the Trial of Reed Richards)
G.I.Joe #19 (Has a Snake Eyes pin up in the back – ewww!)
Incredible Hulk #291 (Bruce visit Assistant Editor Nocenti to talk about Ross)
Iron Man #178 (Has an opening story of kids pretending to be Avengers and Iron Man drinking too much (soft drink))
Indiana Jones #13 (One page story of Asst. Editor Massachusetts Brown)
Marvel Age #10 (Forbush Man is on the cover wearing a C3P0 mask (even more touching now that he’s met a grim fate in the recent Deadpool comic *sniff*))
Marvel Fanfare #12 (Ann Nocenti and Roger Stern star in the second story)
Marvel Tales #159 (Reprint mag – changes some words and pictures from original)
Marvel Team-Up #137 (Aunt May and Franklin Richards team up to fight Galactus)
Micronauts #56 (two stories involving editors on the inside of the covers)
Moon Knight #35 (Just a letter on the back over with the Asst. Ed. Whining about not going to Comic Con)
New Mutants #11 (Asst. Editor reveals a contest to win his socks on last page)
Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #86 (Milgrom is fired for this issue and Hembeck is hired to draw the story)
Power Man and Iron Fist #101 (Just a text box at the end by the Asst. Ed. saying that this was her favorite story)
Rom #50 (A one page story in the back of the book about Rom the Space Toaster and his wife Starshine)
Saga of Crystar #5 (The Marvel people are posing in it and the whole story is a funny one)
Star Wars #79 (One page gag on how to make a Darth Vader costume. George Lucas shows up and says he is disappointed)
Thing #7 (The Thing fights Goody Two-Shoes, reads his own comic, is not impressed and pays a visit to the Marvel offices)
Thor #339 (Asst. Ed. and Writer do a song and dance on the last page)
Uncanny X-Men #177 (Asst. Ed. tries to take measurements of the blackbird but gets kicked out of the X-Men mansion for taking too long)
Uncanny X-Men Annual #7 (The X-Men are doing a scavenger hunt because the Impossible Man is making them. They go to the Marvel office and attack Jim Shooter thinking he is the Impossible Man)
But who cares about all of those titles? This isn’t the Marvel Crawlspace – it’s the SPIDER-MAN Crawlspace (just look at the title banner)! So let’s jump right on in to the Spidey issues this month!
Amazing Spider-Man #248
Probably the best know title from this month, yet most people would not associate it with this particular event. The main story is an O.K. fight between Spider-Man and Thunderball (from the Wrecking Crew, not the James Bond movie), but as a backup story we get the famous “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man”. Nothing funny. No “Beware” stamp on the cover. And since this backup story deserves a Cobwebs posting of its own, we’ll leave it there and move on to the funny issues.
If you need something on this issue to tide you over, read J.R.’s take on it.
Assistant Editor’s Month finds this comic in a rough spot. They are really pursuing a Black Cat storyline which will have a major impact on Spider-Man and they are pushed for time since in just a few months, Spidey has to disappear for another Marvel-wide event – Secret Wars. So, devoting a whole issue to this was out of place. However, they wanted to do something more than just a one page side story to make this memorable, so the premise is that Assistant Editor Bob DeNatale decides to keep the original story, but to replace artist Al Milgrom with, well, you read it:
So we have a very serious Spider-Man versus Fly story told with cartoony art. It is an odd experience being both distracting and fun at the same time. Not familiar with Hembeck’s art? Check out these panels:
Hembeck, best known for his cartoony eyes and swirly joints, actually got his start in letter pages, of all places. He drew a letter to Iron Man and the editors remarked on how it was nicely done but they were unable to make it suitable for printing (for whatever reason). Undeterred, he drew them another one. This one did get published (in IIM #112), and it got him a lot of attention.
Once the actual editor returns from San Diego (early due to suffering writer’s cramp from having to sign so many autographs for his adoring fans), he quickly sets things to right and removes Hembeck from the rest of the issue and reinstates Milgrom. He then proceeds to mess up by allowing a grammar mistake to infiltrate the comic:
By the way, if you are fairly new to the character and wonder why people were griping about the Black Cat being written out of character, go back and read these old PPTSSM issues (especially issues with the 70s or 80s in the issue number) and you’ll see what people expect Black Cat to be like.
Marvel Team Up #137
Hats off to Assistant Editor Bob DeNatale because when people think of Assistant Editors Month, this is the issue they think of. The cover boldly states that this is NOT A HOAX! NOT A WHAT IF! NOT AN IMAGINARY STORY! This is not a Spider-Man team up (although there is that going on as well), but rather an Aunt May team up! You heard me right. Aunt May and Franklin Richards team up to take on Galactus!
The story starts with a no-name planet blowing itself up to avoid being eaten by Galactus in the hopes that he will starve before he can find another suitable planet. In the process, Galactus’s herald, Nova, is tragically killed. Galactus sets off to find Reed Richards to help him.
Meanwhile, at the circus, we get one of those amazing coinky-dinks that define Marvel Team Up and Peter, Aunt May, and Mary Jane are at the circus in the same row as the Fantastic Four who are trying to treat Franklin to a normal family activity.
Reed spots a disturbance going on in San Diego (with all of the editors – same one as in Dazzler’s comic) and wants to go help out. Peter, desperate to get away from MJ who is just trolling him at this point, pops up as Spidey and vouches for Aunt May’s babysitting skills. Reluctantly Sue agrees to let May babysit and off they go with Spidey in tow.
That is unfortunate, because just then, Galactus shows up looking for Reed, but only finds his trace…and Franklin. He decides Franklin will make a good herald and zaps him, but he didn’t reckon on May’s super protective powers. She jumps in the way (or rather, shuffles in the way) and the result is this:
Well, Galactus is getting right hangry about this time, so Franklin gives him a Twinkie and true to form, Galactus got a huge delight in that little bite, but it wasn’t enough.
So Aunt May goes on a mission:
Eventually, she runs out of Twinkies and despite Galactus having met his minimum daily requirements, he needs more. So off Golden Oldie goes to search the cosmos to find the perfect planet. This is what she finds:
All is solved. The Creator will bake planets for Galactus, and May is no longer needed as a herald. She goes home and Franklin accidentally absorbs all of her energies right before FF and Spidey get back a la Phineas and Ferb style. It seems Dazzler took care of the problem before they got there.
If you are concerned about the death of Nova, never fear, she does not die… here. Nope, instead we get this ending to set things straight:
Now most people assume that this means it was just a dream (well, a dream within a dream (well, a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream within dream within multiple dreams – Inception eat your heart out)). But my theory is that someone, somewhere used the Cosmic Cube to alter something in history and as a side effect, this event was lost to memory, only thought of as a dream to the readers. Poor Creator is still out there, probably not baking planets anymore since he thinks Galatus hates him (either that or he got pulled into the Ghostbusters movie later that year as the Staypuff Marshmallow man). Just before the dream rewrite, Galactus, high on refined sugar and food coloring, was able to restore Nova to life because she was not completely dead, just mostly dead. Makes sense to me.
Marvel Tales # 159
This is a reprint book, so you wouldn’t think it would get in on the assistant editor’s event, but they did by making fun of the practice of “updating” the story to fit better. The main editor did this twice before – one from a reprint of a battle with Electro where Spidey says, “Good thing I grounded myself!” which in reality would have gotten himself shocked. The reprint has him saying, “Good thing I’m not grounded!” The other instance is when Aunt May is upset that she almost missed The Beverly Hillbillies which was updated to the more current show of Dukes of Hazzard.
So when the assistant editor (Bob DeNatale) gets his hands on this issue, he decides to upgrade the changes. Check out exercise enthusiast Aunt May and punk rock Liz and Flash in these before and after panels:
I believe this was the last time Marvel Tales updated anything from the original (except for the cover art).
To wrap it up, we have the Bullpen Bulletin for all this month of wackiness. It gives a shout out to all the unsung heroes of the Marvel office:
And this, friends, concludes the 24th Cobwebs posting which is significant only in that it finishes up a year of postings. I started with the Spider-Mobile and wrapped up the year with Assistant Editors Month. That should probably tell BD something (but hopefully he’s not paying too close attention). Last summer when he offered me the opportunity, I had no idea how much fun it would be, how brutal a two measly articles a month pace actually was, and how great all of you would be. Your comments on the posts are what keeps me going, and I would dare speak for my colleagues here that we all start writing for the love of Spider-Man and we continue writing for the interaction we get from the readers. So if you’ve ever thought about posting a reply, but didn’t feel that you really had anything major or important to say, say it anyway! (O.K., the comments AND access to the Crawlspace beach house (thanks again to BD for that!) keeps us writing.) It’s been a great ride so far. Thanks for coming along!
“Assistant Editor’s Month 1984.” Marvel Database. n.p., n.d. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Assistant_Editor%27s_Month_1984>.
“Beware: It’s Assistant Editors’ Month.” Cracked Comics. n.p., 2016. Web. 24 June 2016. <http://www.crackcomics.com/aem/>.
Cronin, Brian. “Comic Book Legends Revealed #418.” Comic Book Resources. n.p., 10 May 2013. Web. 9 July 2016. <http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2013/05/10/comic-book-legends-revealed-418/3/>.
Morris, J. A. “Marvel Tales #159.” Assistant Editors Month Online. Blogger, 1 May 2011. Web. 9 July 2016. <http://assistanteditorsmonth.blogspot.com/2011/06/marvel-tales-159.html>.
“Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #86.” Comics Chronology. Super Mega Monkey, n.d. Web. 7 July 2016.
Roll-Pickering, Tim. “Essential Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Volume 4.” The Essential Exploits of Spider-Man. Blogger, 14 July 2012. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://essentialexploitsspiderman.blogspot.com/2012/07/essential-peter-parker-spectacular_14.html>
All scans are from Marvel Unlimited
All MTU #137 scans are from my own copy
Hembeck Art (modified)
Black Cat Typo (modified)