Cobwebs #43: Love Is in the Air – Why Did It Have to Be You, Debra Whitman?


Just ask any Spider-Man fan who Spidey’s number one love is and they’ll be sure to tell you – Deb Whitman.  So I think it is high time that we here at the Crawlspace give this girl her rightful due and dedicate a whole post to the wonder that is Deb.

Over the years, Peter has had a number of loves.  Some of those we’ve already discussed, some we will later, and some I’ll just let your imagination deal with.  Here is our list so far:

Betty Brant – Bertone has already completed an exhaustive review of her.
Mary Jane – JR’s “Why Did It Have to Be You, Mary Jane?” says all that needs to be said
Gwen Stacy – not a full review, but you can look at her many deaths from this previous Cobwebs post.
Marcy Kane
Deb Whitman
Lisa Skye – This Hostess dream girl is my favorite (and she may be the “Skye” that Peter dated in Tangled Webs #1, so she counts on this list.)
Cissy Ironwood
Black Cat – here, at least, is the inspiration behind the character
Lynn – OK, this was in a projected never completed, but Peter loved her so much that he proposed to her, so I’m including her on the list.
Captain Marvel
Sarah Rushman
Sara Bailey
Carly Cooper
Cindy Moon
Mockingbird
Rebecca London

Contenders (but disputed as being actual loves)
Liz Allan
Silver Sable
Captain Jean DeWolff
Michelle Gonzales
Anna Maria Marconi

Of all these names, perhaps the most tragic is the story of Debra Whitman.

Debra Whitman was created by Marv Wolfman, but it was Bill Mantlo’s stories about her that made her who she is.  And, as you can see, she rocked the round glasses rims before Harry Potter made them cool.  Double And I want to say that that panel above is just an awesome bit of coloring.

Most of her appearances are short, one to two page deals.  Here is a quick break down of her and Peter’s relationship:

  • Almost forgets date due to a pretty new neighbor – 1
  • Ignores her – 3
  • Ends date early – 3
  • Blows her off so he can be Spider-Man – 5
  • Dates gone bad – 3 (once he took her to see the Purple Man in concert, another time he took her to a Renaissance fair but he talked to Alicia Masters the whole time, and the best one was the double date he took her on with Aunt May and Nathan Labinsky – to make matters worse, that double date gets crashed by aliens and Deb gets kidnapped by Mysterio)

On top of that, during her run in the comics, she drinks bad beer and goes crazy (along with everyone else in the bar where Lonesome Pinky was performing), her uncle was having problems with Namor and Peter told her it wasn’t any of his business (he later relents), got turned into a gold statue, and she starts to see a psychic named Madam Web.

It was like every author was told that Peter had a girlfriend and when they show Peter Parker, they should show him treating her awfully.  The few dates they do actually get through are rather dull and boring.  Once she asked him up to her apartment, but he said no that he wanted to keep this relationship more of a friendship.

She’s also rather clingy and a bit desperate to get his attention.  A big victim in all of this is Biff Rifkin, her old boyfriend that she starts dating again to make Peter jealous.  He seems to really care for her, but Deb seems strangely drawn to this awful relationship.  Bill Mantlo noticed how this was playing out in all of her appearances, and decided to write a story that would make her memorable.

This all goes down in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man starting with #68 when Peter and Biff Rifkin start to get into it.  At this point, Debra is starting to show that she suspects something is odd about Peter (ya think?).



She tries to confront him on this the next day, but Peter is frustrated due to issues he is having with Dr. Sloan, his professor, and having just quit his teaching assistant job, so he is quite rude to her.  He says she made up some story about how he made her cry, so he then makes her cry and runs off, so she doesn’t get to confront him on his secret.  In the next issue she tries again to broach the subject, but is blown off once more.  It is that issue that she starts to doubt her sanity.

And she quickly goes to find help.

Dr. Kuklin, however, is a bit odd and completely lacking in patient/doctor confidentiality ethics.  But her visit to him brings us to the big (semi) finale of her existence in the Spider-Man mythos with Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #74.

That is just an awesome cover.  I don’t know if I would call this a saga, though…

So we start off with Deb at the doctor telling him that she knows Peter is Spider-Man and him telling her that she is delusional.  Finally, we get this example of fine psychiatric help:

But it gets even better.  Not only is he completely disregarding doctor/patient confidentiality, but his “solution” is, as Disney’s Maui would put it, “straight up kooky-dukes”!

Peter throws the costume back in his face and walks out because, as he so eloquently put it, “The last thing Deb Whitman needs is someone she trusts playing games on her.”

At this point I feel the need to point out that I am not a licensed psychiatrist nor do I have a doctorate in psychology.  Maybe I’m being a bit hard on the good doctor.  So, if any of you have any medical background and would like to validate or refute my assessment of Dr. Kuklin, please do so in the comments section.

As he swings off, the writers put a shadow of the Black Cat watching him swing by.  She is to be his next love interest (he will actually reveal his identity to her soon) and it seems the writers can’t get Deb out of the way soon enough!

So after taking care of a little Doc OCk, Owl, and Kingpin business, Peter goes to see Biff Rifkin and we get a backstory out of nowhere about Deb.  Apparently, she had an abusive husband and Biff rescued her from it, but she refused to believe that the man she loves is abusive.  Biff reveals that he loves her and wants to marry her, but she doesn’t see it.  Somehow, hearing about her troubled past makes Peter think that the only way to help her is to reveal his identity to her. So, we get this scene:

Oh wait, that is the more interesting story line that is playing out in between the Deb story.  Take two:

And I can talk to fish!

Which gives him and the reader the most unexpected reaction:

So that’s it!  The next day she gets on a bus and leaves New York for good and we never see her again.  The comic ends with the Black Cat entering back into Peter’s life shwing us that Peter Parker just seems to attract the crazy ones.

As an added bonus, the comic features this ad for the first Spider-Man video game (or should I say, video action game?):

 

 

But wait!  There’s more!

The best thing to come from Marvel’s Civil War was Peter David’s take on the fall-out from Spider-Man revealing his secret identity.  In Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #14-16, we see the fall out this event has had on Debra.  She writes a book titled, How Peter Parker Ruined My Life.

The three issues deals with how Peter feels betrayed and Betty Brant and Flash Thompson (who at this time has reverted back to his tough jock bully status) feel the need to take up for Peter (well, Spider-Man in Flash’s case).  They all go to a book signing to confront her when the Vulture shows up (he was expecting Spider-Man to come and harass Deb).

Since this isn’t the Michael Keaton Vulture, he is easily dispatched.  It is then that we learn that Deb never wanted this book to be this way.  She needed money to pay her mother’s doctor bills.  The Daily Bugle was funding it, so they had a ghost writer to make a few changes to the title and story.

 

That is the last we’ve seen of her.

So you can plainly see why I am petitioning Sony to create a stand-alone Deb Whitman movie.

Deb also got a spot in the ‘90s animated series.  This time, she wasn’t Peter Parker’s girlfriend, but just friend at school.  She develops a crush on Morbius, gets into partying too much, goes out with Flash, and settles down.

Just in case you are wanting the full Debra Whitman story, here are all her appearances in order.  Why would you want this?  I don’t know.  I put together the info, so I figure I’d share it.

1979
ASM 196 (Sept) – First Appearance
PPTSSM 36 (Nov)
ASM Annual #13 (Dec)

1980
Fantastic Four 218 (May)
PPTSSM 42 (May)
PPTSSM 43 (June)
ASM 207 (Aug)
PPTSSM 46 (Sept)
PPTSSM 47 (Oct)
ASM 209 (Oct)
ASM Annual #14 (oct)
ASM 210 (Nov)
PPTSSM 48 (Nov)
ASM 211 (Dec)

1981
ASM 212 (Jan)
PPTSSM 50 (Jan)
PPTSSM 51 (Feb)
ASM 213 (Feb)
ASM 215 (Apr)
ASM 216 (May) – First Biff Rifkin
PPTSSM 55 (May)
PPTSSM 56 (June)
ASM 217 (June)
Marvel Team-Up 106 (June)
ASM 218 (July)
MTU Annual #4 (Aug)
PPTSSM 58 (Sep)
PPTSSM Annual 3 (Oct)
ASM 221 (Oct)
PPTSSM 60 (Nov)
PPTSSM 61 (Dec)

1982
ASM 225 (Feb)
ASM 227 (Apr)
PPTSSM 65 (Apr)
ASM 228 (May)
PPTSSM 66 (May)
PPTSSM 67 (June)
PPTSSM 68 (July)
PPTSSM 69 (Aug)
ASM 231 (Aug)
Marvel Two-in-One 90 (Aug)
ASM 232 (Sept)
PPTSSM 70 (Sept)
PPTSSM 72 (Nov)

1983
PPTSSM 74 (Jan)

2007
FNS 14 (Jan)
FNS 15 (Feb)
FNS 16 (Mar)

 

Sources:

“Debra Whitman.” Marvel Animated Universe Wikia, Fandom, marvelanimated.wikia.com/wiki/Debra_Whitman. Accessed on 27 July 2017.

 

“List of Spider-Man Supporting Characters.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia, 11 July 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Spider-Man_supporting_characters. Accessed 14 July 2017.

 

Images:

All scans are from Marvel Unlimited and Read Comics Online (because Marvel Unlimited has some limits in its PPTSSM run but I still can’t see enough that you really should get this service if you love comics) and my copies of the comics are stored in the attic right now (I know – bad place for them!).

Spidey-Heart

Animated Deb

Credible Hulk

 

 

 

‘Nuff Said!

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(13) Comments

  1. ac

    So wait, if the identity reveal is erased, isn't it impossible for Deb's book to exist? Does that mean that her mom never got the money for her medical treatment? So the deal with Mephisto killed Deb's mother? I think there is a story here...

  2. Mark Alford

    @ Spider-Dad - I'm losing hope that Slott will bring back Lisa Skye before his run is over! You're right, my basis for counting as a "love" is that they actually went on a date. That may be a stretch of the word, but well... It always felt like they threw Deb in there because they felt he needed to be dating someone, but nobody ever knew how to use her, so she just got dumped all the time. Then they decided they wanted a Spider-Man/Black Cat relationship, so they dumped her and moved her out of the state! At least she had a good going out story.

  3. Spider-Dad

    Nicely researched! Not sure if Deb Whitman deserves this type of coverage...but hey a slow Spider-Man news day! My only issue with this article is the loose use of the word "loves". A date, (or in this case repeatedly dumping Deb on dates) is a bit of a stretch on stating Deb is a love or even a "love interest". Deb was mostly a plot device by Marv and Bill to show how hard it would be for Peter to have a normal dating relationship while trying to be Spidey. IMO, most of the list above should be under "Contenders" including Deb Whitman. Only Betty, Gwen, MJ and Black Cat deserve the "loves" label. Major points for finding the Lisa Skye reference though!

  4. hornacek

    @Al - Yes, but it was described as stories that took place in the Spider-Universe but where Spidey was often a supporting (or not seen at all) character. Never saw of heard anything saying that these stories were out of continuity.

  5. Al

    @ Hornacek Its an anthology title not released as part of the core monthly series that dictate the the character

  6. Al

    Anyone else think Peter was out of character during all this Deb stuff? Also Tangled Webs isn’t canon.

  7. hornacek

    @Mark Lonesome Pinky is awesome if only for the time CrazyChris did a Bertone's Bio of him and sang all of his songs from the issues. And Sara Bailey was a Final Jeopardy answer in Spider-Jeopardy, which is the only reason I remember her.

  8. Mark Alford - Post author

    @ Spideydude - I thought you'd get a kick out of that. George, however, may end up hating me like herpes (as he puts it). @ Crime Master - What are you talking about? This is a masterpiece right up there with Lonesome Pinkie! A treasure for all Spideyphiles! @ Hornacek - Sara Bailey? What ? There's no Sara Bailey! (Quickly checks Google) - Oh, Sara Bailey! (quickly edits post) Of course she's on this list. Read carefullier, er, more carefully next time, Hornacek! I guess there could be some quibbling over if this counts as Deb figuring out his identity like MJ or if it is a reveal. She had him dead to rights, but the reveal actually went the other way. Wouldn't it be great if before Slott bows out, he manages to bring these two love birds back together?

  9. hornacek

    "So, if any of you have any medical background and would like to validate or refute my assessment of Dr. Kuklin, please do so in the comments section." According to Dr. Fettinger M.D., Kulkin is a quack. Wait, I remember a Spider-Jeopardy question asking who was the first person Spider-Man intentionally revealed his secret identity to (not counting retcons), and I think the answer was The Black Cat. But is the answer actually Deb Whitman??? You left out one of the few good points of the Deb Whitman scenes from PPtSSM#74 - after Deb leaves, Peter wonders if she'll ever ask herself "How did Peter get onto my balcony dressed as Spider-Man?"

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