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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

Off The Rack

One Man's Views — The Amazing Spider-Man #248 (Marvel Comics) - January 1984, $.075 (Rating: *****)

There are two stories in this issue. For the purpose of this review, I'm not interested in the first story (Spidey Vs. Thunderball). Instead, I want to concentrate on the second story which we at Comicopia Central have been discussing for years. I figured that after all this time, I may as well review it. The story? The very famous, "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man". Written by Roger Stern, pencilled by Ron Frenz, and inked by Terry Austin. Yeah, the artwork's not that great overall, but the power of the story is such that you don't even have time to register it.

Anyone who's read this story remembers it. Remembers it more vividly, probably, than any other Spider-Man story they've read. Why is that? I believe it's the impact, the powerful, moving, and heartfelt script Roger Stern put together. During a time of comic book slugfests and non-stop action, a reflective piece like this simply stands out all the more. These days, this type of story does not seem alien. In fact, in mainstream super-hero comics, Kurt Busiek is one of the best to craft stories which touch our hearts. But back in the early 80's, they were something of an oddity. (If I'm wrong, please bring forth examples so we may all discuss them!)

Ok, enough pussy-footing around. If you've never read this story, I'm sorry but I'll be spoiling it for you, so you may as well skip over this review. For those who have, you'll recall that the whole thing takes place in the bedroom of a 9 year old boy. Spider-Man visits him one night, supposedly because he read in the paper that the kid was a big fan. The excitement of the boy, Tim, is offset by the darkness of the art (as it is nighttime) and the strangely foreboding visuals of Spider-Man who seems, even under the mask, to be somewhat pained by something. And it's not just the retelling of his origin to this little boy. When Spidey pauses at the window, after having shared some Spidey history with Tim (who really *does* collect Spider-Man in the form of news clippings, tv clips, and even bullets from the wall of a bank where he stopped a robbery), you can see the pain on Spidey's face even through the mask. Tim wanted to know Spidey's true identity and after a long silence, Peter does tell him.

Some more bonding happens with Peter looking really sad, and when they hug good-night, a tear is seen streaking down Peter's face. He puts on his mask and rushes out, swinging away from the room only to land on a wall. He puts his head in his hand and we focus on his feet to see the plaque on the wall: "Slocum-Brewer Cancer Clinic". And as Spidey swings away, we see the final paragraph in the newspaper article which started this story, telling us: "When I asked him what he wanted more than anything else, he looked me square in the eye and said, 'Mr. Conover, I'd like to meet Spider-Man and talk to him... just for a few minutes.' Well, I hope Tim gets his wish. I hope that somewhere out there Spider-Man reads these words. I hope that my publisher is wrong about him, and that he takes the time to visit a very brave young man named Tim Harrison. And I hope he does it soon. You see, Tim Harrison has leukemia, and the doctors only give him a few more weeks to live."

BANG. Just like that it hits you. BANG. You feel your heart go out to this little, fictional, boy. BANG. You feel Spidey's despair over the fact that here's this little kid who worships him and he can't do a thing to save him. BANG. And you remember the story forever.

(Off The Rack (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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