Thursday, November 26, 2015

A new idea grown from Amazing Spider-Man #90, or, if only Stan Lee thought of this...

Part One: A new idea grown from the ending of Amazing Spider-Man #90, or, How to Have a Dream Girlfriend and an even more Marvelous storyline!
I’m not in a position to return to the original issues themselves. Some background, courtesy my friend Nathan Adler: I finally had a chance to look at the actual issues in question, and it’s a bit more complicated than I had remembered. At the end of Amazing Spider-Man #88, Doctor Octopus is seemingly killed in an airplane crash & explosion. At the beginning of the next issue, Peter sees the headline of the Daily Bugle is “Dr. Octopus Killed in Airport Crash.” So, as of the next morning, people in NYC believe Doc Ock is dead. However, Peter notes that no trace of Doc Ock or his tentacles was found in the wreckage. Fearing that Ock is still alive, Peter decides he’d better search for him as Spider-Man. Over an hour later, Spidey comes across Doc Ock wrecking one of the smokestacks on the city’s main power plant. Rubble has fallen onto the roadway below and blocked traffic. Some crowds below can see Doc Ock up on the smokestack, but not clearly. Spidey then attacks him, and they fight across several rooftops. People on the street below catch glimpses of their battle. Doc Ock throws Spidey off a roof, but he swings through a window and hides inside a ventilation shaft until Ock gives up the search and leaves. As the tentacles are withdrawing, Spidey tags one with a spider-tracer. When he finally reaches the rooftop again, Spidey finds that Doc Ock is gone. This whole battle took not more than several minutes.   So some people spotted a figure that most likely was Doctor Octopus, but most of the city still thinks he died yesterday. Peter then spends the rest of the day at the Stacy’s townhouse, then returns home to create the web-formula that will cause Doc Ock’s tentacles to go haywire. When Peter leaves his apartment to search for Doc Ock, Harry is asleep. So you would think that it’s either late at night or shortly before dawn. Spider-Man finally locates Doc Ock 82.5 minutes later, according to a handy caption. The fact that there’s a little kid for Captain Stacy to save suggests that it’s now early morning. The battle again takes only a few minutes. Some people on the street do spot Doctor Octopus battling Spider-Man, including Captain Stacy. Doc Ock’s tentacles clearly destroy the chimney, sending the rubble falling to the street below. Captain Stacy pushes the little boy out of the way and is crushed by the falling bricks. Spidey swings down, digs Stacy out and carries him up to the rooftop. Somebody in the crowd says, “It was Spider-Man’s fault! He killed him!” Doc Ock slips away and disappears. In the next issue, ASM #91, the opening narration says, “Due to a weird quirk of fate, it seemed to those who witnessed the tragic event that the blame for Capt. Stacy’s death belonged to Spider-Man.” No one mentions Doc Ock again, they just keep saying Spidey was responsible for Stacy’s death. Doc Ock lays low until the end of ASM #112. So I interpret that to mean that everyone thought Doc Ock was dead, so the few people who saw him after that were not believed, and it was chaotic enough that they couldn’t be sure of what they saw. Especially since, at the beginning of ASM #88, the tentacles had gone on a rampage on their own, without Doc Ock. Most people accept the narrative that Spider-Man was fighting someone or something on that rooftop when the chimney collapsed, and there’s some wild rumors that it was Doc Ock, but the blame for Stacy’s death is placed squarely on Spidey’s shoulders. Gwen gives no indication that she thinks Doc Ock was involved. Thanks, Nathan! His writing and ideas about the Marvel Universe, explanations and even improvements on problematic portions of its shape, can be found here: So... #91 opens with Gwen going over her Dad's belongings.  She happens upon his journal. This would alarm Peter, because George revealed he knew who he was, right?  Otherwise, we keep Stan's Bullit villain and plot.  I know he's not very subtle, but General Hospital's doing the same premise right now, mob boss/ police chief.  You have to wonder how much better it might have been if he'd gotten in office...but in addition to his racist characterization, the Code probably wouldn't have been patient with a corrupt police chief, however good that story would be under Frank Miller in Batman: Year One. Bullitt's coalition is also tied to the escapades of the arms of Doctor Octopus in #88; his freedom depended upon activation of a deal and a plan from inside the system. I do like it that Ice Man and the Prowler both tried to bring Peter in.. I would've kept the heat up on that Spider-Man: Wanted! subplot.  That tension is what I feel is generally missing in the last fifth or so of Stan's run, but Captain Stacy's death was a true shocker.  There was reason for many characters to reflect on his passing.  First, a salient fact: no one but Spider-Man witnessed Doctor Octopus on the rooftop at the scene of Captain Stacy's death in ASM #90.  No one, except, as we'll find out in (our) ASM #105-107, Spencer Smythe. #92  Gwen evolves from thinking Bullitt and a change in the system towards law-and-order will get her satisfaction---very relatable and human---to more action based on her dad's notes, to accepting Jonah's Spider Slayer help in #94 and 95. (The Tinkerer  actually does some subcontracting for Smythe here; the villains have an acceptable open season on the wallcrawler, they can hunt with a veneer of right and decency---irksome!) #93: The Trapster AND the Prowler come after Spider-Man in unrelated but crossed-up fashion in that second Prowler encounter in the original issue. They are both kind of ersatz embodiments of similar ideas to Spider-Man. This does give him more of a challenge, but The Trapster's fall in this battle leads to a mysterious observer pillaging his gear!   MJ speaks her mind about Gwen's renewed coldness and her anti-Spider-Man crusade.  Harry takes the opportunity to say he doesn't know what he'd do if he lost his dad, and Norman's not been himself lately, for that matter.  The Stacy death has been in the news and in Norman's personal life through the loss of George and through Harry's friendship with Gwen.  Gwen, meanwhile, begins assembling allies, through her connections, a couple of police officers, an ex-soldier, and at least one professional mercenary, as we'll see over the next issue. In the original story, Gwen's role was more passive, confined to the "girlfriend" role. Our plot may depict Gwen hurting over Peter's distance, but she's developing a resolve that may have been unsettling to some readers of the time, and getting more attention and change when she's on-panel.
 Just once-somewhere in #93, perhaps, observing Spider-Man, the Trapster and the Prowler in battle, is an unidentified scavenger who here appears very mysterious.  As we will discover, she is the next neophyte level of experience below The Prowler, but she's methodical, a student.  I imagine she'll be able to fly (jet pack at this point; it's her getaway); she would at least be able to meet him in the air, before she would ever confront Spider-Man.    She wouldn't need a costume yet, but a costumed woman with no explanation is right for the era.  She sees Hobie's gadgets, the Trapster's, Spider-Man in action.  Trapster, she leaves in a cocoon, with his own fairly easy-to-operate paste gun. Great picture to sell the Bugle—but who did this? Next: The Black Widow! Daredevil! Betty Brant! An all-new take on Spider Slayers! A head-spinning alternative take on the classic Goblin Drug Issues! All building up to a very different Amazing Spider-Man #100! Who's in? Feel free to comment here or write me at I'm waiting until I hear back from Nathan, because with that mystery figure, we're crossing over to his ideas in unison with mine, and I want to make sure it's cool. Otherwise, I will probably leave you tantalized with #94 next and my best mock-up of a cover for #95!

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