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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

Off The Rack

One Man's Views — Spidey Super Summaries Issues 31 - 40 (Marvel Comics). Once, again, here are my Spidey-Super-Summaries :)

Issue 31 promised us that "A New Era in the life of Spider-Man is about to begin, and you shall live it with him!" in a story entitled "If This Be My Destiny". Did this have something to do with the bad guys? Nah. They were run-of-the-mill goons who used gas during their heists in order to knock people out while they made their getaways. Nope, this issue focused more on the life of Peter Parker. He registered for College!!! A fun day for Peter, but when he gets home, Aunt May collapses and has to be rushed to the hospital. Pete's quite upset (especially since he knows they can't afford the bills!) and doesn't sleep well that night. The next day is the beginning of classes. Flash Thompson meets Harry Osborne and Gwen Stacy for the first time. Peter, being so distraught about his Aunt, hardly notices anyone around him. In fact, everyone seems to think him quite the snob including Harry! But Gwen, alas, thinks to herself, "He's not as husky as Flash... but he's brighter... and very attractive!". Still, the gang decides to play a gag on him and caused one of his experiments to explode, getting him in trouble with the teacher. Tsk tsk. "Still, I can't help feeling attracted to him" thought Gwen. Ah, love doomed from the start... such a simple beginning... Pete's worried big time about money and goes out to stop the crooks, snap some pictures, and get some dough from skinflint. (Now here's where we get to enjoy the hilarity of slang once it's outdated. Gwen, not understanding why Peter won't talk to her, thinks to herself before trying for the last time, "Peter Parker is the only boy I've met who hasn't given me a tumble" ROTFLOL!!!) Wait! What's this the doctor's say? Aunt May won't last much longer?! Oh no! It's no wonder he turns into a "Man on a Rampage!" in issue 32!

We find out that those silly goons were really working for Doctor Octopus who's holed himself up in an underwater lab where he's trying to learn to control radiation! And boy is he pissed at Spidey for his interference! On the personal side, Betty Brant tries once again to talk to Peter but he feels he's not good enough for her and tries to push her into Ned Leeds' hands. We do find out that Aunt May has some kind of radioactivity in her blood, and Peter again blames himself. He smashes a desk at home and steals a blood sample and takes it to Doc Connors. Doc knows of a serum and orders it, but before it can get to them, Doc Ock's goons grab it! Woo-hoo! Pissed off Spidey here we come! He runs amok in every hood hang-out he can find and tears the places apart in order to find the serum! Sure enough, he makes his way to Ock's but loses his battle with him and ends up getting trapped under a ton of machinery. We sit back in horror, witnessing what could be the end of Spider-Man as he lays there, trapped, and says,, "I've failed!! Just now-- when it counted the most-- I've FAILED!!" One other interesting thing about this issue, Steve Ditko gets listed as Plotter and Artist from here on in!

But, Fear Not! 33 brings us "The Final Chapter!" as Spidey thinks back on his life and how people are depending on him, and how he still blames himself for Uncle Ben's death and how Aunt May will die if he doesn't get to her in time and how "The two people in all the world who've been kindest to me! I can't fail again! It can't happen a second time! I won't LET it -- I WON'T!" He screws up his courage and his strength and his balls and slowly begins to stand. "ANYONE can win a fight-- when the odds are easy! It's when the going's tough-- when there seems to be no chance-- THAT'S when --it counts!" Finally, as the commentator states: "And then --as the agonizing ache in his limbs seems unendurable-- as his superbly muscled body suffers the torment of a virtually indescribable ordeal-- from out of the pain --from out of the agony-- comes TRIUMPH!" (And we all know about this most famous scene which I'm sure you can picture in your mind's eye) He makes it out and right into the hands of more henchmen. They outnumber him, but by this point he's running strictly on adrenaline and just keeps swinging and swinging and connecting as they all fall down. He gets to Doc Connors and they find a cure. He takes it to the hospital and they inject it in Aunt May. He leaves 'cause she needs her rest and goes to the Bugle to give in some pictures of his fight. Betty sees him, his face all banged up, and she completely freaks out stating how she already lost someone that she loved because he wanted to live dangerously and she couldn't handle having to do it again. This time, she's the one that runs away from Peter. Pete gets his money and heads to the hospital to hear see Aunt May come out of her coma. Alls well that ends well...

34 gives us "The Thrill of the Hunt" as Kraven returns to once again pit his strength against Spider-Man's. But before that happens, we join Peter at school where he tries to interact with everyone (now that he's no longer worried about his Aunt) only to find that everyone dislikes him because HE had been snubbing THEM since school started! Ah, the life of a student. Back to Kraven. He's gotta flush Spidey out, and the best way to do that is to pretend to be him in order to scare the local yokels! And sure enough, Spidey does meet up with him, and fists do fly, and, of course, Spidey mops the floor with him *and* his henchmen.

35 is a different kind of Molten Man story, somewhat slower-paced than normal. These must be the changes Steve wanted to bring to the characters. Still, Moltie gets trashed, and Peter finally learns that Betty has left for good. He gets back a picture he had given her (and which she left behind when she skipped town) and he reads his dedication: "To Betty --Forever!" to which he asks himself "Forever! I wonder when I wrote THAT? Must have been a lifetime ago" and throws it out into the trash. More of Steve's getting rid of the whiney past?

In 36 some goofball finds a meteorite which struck earth and hopes to cash in on it for big bucks. Everyone scoffs him so he decides to investigate the meteor himself. He hits an air pocket and is doused with some kind of gas which gives him all kinds of powers. He decides, of course, that "The WORLD can eventually belong to Norton G. Fester --If I plan Carefully!" So what does he call himself? The Looter. What a maroon. Anyhow, Peter is once again scorned by his fellow students and heads out to a science exhibit to check out some meteors (gee, where do they GET these ideas?! :) ) Gwen sees him and tries to get him to notice her. But, before he does, the Looter crashes the place and Peter rushes out to battle him as Spidey. Of course, Gwen sees him run and decides that he's a coward. Looter battles Spidey, flashes him with a glare gun, and gets away. Peter changes back and sees Gwen who cold-shoulders him again, leaving Peter to ask himself, "How can anyone so pretty be such a Nut?" (giggle) Do I have to tell you that Spidey eventually tracks down the goofball and captures him? :)

Ya want robots? Ya got robots! 37 introduces Professor Stromm but we'll get to him soon enough. First, we get to live through another day at E.S.U. with Peter as he uses his charm and savvy to get to Gwen who once again begins to get turned onto Peter and starts defending him! Some funny moments from Peter's brash and sarcastic comments which show how much more confident he'd grown! Way to go Mr. Ditko! All right, so what's the scoop with the robots you all want to know? Well, you see, Stromm was cheated out of his inventions by Harry Osborn and now he wants revenge. Spidey finds himself in the middle (of course) and battles said robots. Do I have to mention that Spidey trashes the robots? Didn't think so :)

38 introduces us to "Just a Guy Named Joe!", a boxer who's all but washed up. No one wants him in the ring, but he gets a job as an actor (does that mean that he can eventually run for congress? (grin)). He gets dressed up in some strange costume and the film rolls. But, as is wont to happen in comics, some freak accident happens which ends up granting him powers! Meanwhile, back at the Bugle, we see Ned Leeds and learn that Betty *didn't* leave town with him! They almost scrap it out but Peter walks away from it, telling Ned to "shuddup" Back to the studio. Joe, feeling a little dizzy, somehow starts to get really mad at the way people had been treating him up until then. In fact, he laces into the other actors and starts to rampage on the streets, his strength helping in that department. Along came a spider and sat down beside 'im... :) Anyway, to make a short story shorter, Norman Osborn puts up a large chunk of dough on Spidey's head and all manner of clowns go after him. When he finds Joe at the gym trying to smash his old sparring partners, they all gang up on Spidey but (you know the rest). In fact, he literally knocks some sense back into Joe! Still, it's the personal touches that always made this book for me. In the aftermath of another fight, Spidey gets mad at a manakin because he reminds him of Ned Leeds. He even punches that and states: "Know why I hate you, Leeds? Because YOU have the right to propose to Betty. The shadow of Spider-Man isn't standing between you". *sigh*. And Mary Jane once again misses meeting Peter...

39 and 40 bring us one of the really great storylines (in fact, I have a copy of 39 which I've always treasured). These were actually drawn by John Romita, btw. Strange things are happening. Peter offers Harry a sympathetic ear when he notices that Harry's really down (mainly because his dad Norman has turned into a complete stranger). The ESU crowd is somewhat shocked and surprised by Peter's generosity (and Gwen even thinks to herself, "If Peter Parker becomes one of our crowd, it'll be just WONDERFUL --for ME!"). On an afternoon sling, Spidey stumbles across a robbery and stops them, but not before some kind of bomb gets thrown at him which disables his spider-sense! A nice trick by the Green Goblin to follow him! And it works! Greenie sees Spidey change into Parker! He follows him home and attacks, taking him completely off-guard! Bringing him to his lair, Goblin brags how he's going to kill him and then unmasks! It's Norman Osborn! Gasp! Spidey tries to get him to babble on, in order to learn more about what made him do this as well as give Spidey time to get free. Greenie tells him his origin and we get to re-hash their old meetings. Of course, by that time, Spidey gets free and another battle ensues! Spidey does get the upper hand and Osborn gets knocked around so hard he loses his memory! Spidey doesn't want anything happening to him, "Perhaps I've no right to be judge and jury --but why should he be punished for something that happened when he wasn't really himself" and takes the suit off of him and lets it burn. Harry's happy to get his dad back, but Peter wants to kick himself for having Aunt May worry so much during his absence (while kidnapped) that she had to get the doctor in to help her out. Ah, the life of a web-swinger... :)

(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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