Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: John Romita Jr. & Bob Wiacek

This a 16-page UK reprint from 1982 of a story that, despite the cover's claim above to have "a complete story inside", was presumably a bit longer in its original US publication.

It's also got a really asking-for-it title:

A title like that is just inviting criticism of course, especially when the same panel even includes a credit for "COLO RIST" (look at the bottom) because someone at Marvel UK only got half-way through anglicising the word. Oh yes, those of us who find joy in poking fun at comics' editorial shortcomings are indeed well catered-for by this issue.

First up, the plot. In this rather post-modern pantomime, a villain calling himself "The Foolkiller" is terrorising New York by, heck no, I'll let him explain it to you.

Alas, we never clearly find out whether the Foolkiller's definition of 'fool' is 'thick' or 'morally deficient'. But his special power? It's that gun he's holding.

I've made much in recent Spider-posts of the way in which Marvel UK used to adapt and change these comic-strips for the British audience. Sometimes they could be quite... err... enthusiastic about it. And yet here, they seem to have become quite lethargic. On page 7, they've even left-in the references to the American back-issue numbers:

Later, the US-spelt words 'colorful' and 'honor' make it through unscathed, as well as a host of verbs ending in 'ize'.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. If it was deliberate then I applaud the decision to expose British kids to a culture outside of their own. However, in other places this story clearly has been pulled-about and adapted.

For instance, when Spidey bursts in on the Foolkiller, his dialogue just doesn't flow from one panel to the next.

Panel(s) missing?

It gets more fun. After the Foolkiller has escaped and Peter Parker has dropped-off his roll of film of the encounter to the Daily Bugle, he exits from the newspaper offices...

"Where..."? Don't they mean "Whu...?"

Parker changes back into his civvies, and for the second time this issue encounters student Greg Sallinger, who seems to have a lot of anger brewing under the surface about the missing paperwork for his scholarship grant. Parker makes fun of the mailroom employees, quipping "If you ever saw the fools that work there, you wouldn't be surprised!"

Well, Sallinger takes great interest in that comment, leaving the reader honestly wondering if the twist at the end will be that the Foolkiller isn't Sallinger.

Only one problem with that theory of course – there just isn't anyone else.

So – on the last page – after Spidey has battled the Foolkiller again and defeated him, even Spidey has joined the dots and come to the same conclusion. It's just too obviously Sallinger, isn't it? I ain't gonna give it away.

But here's my nitpicky jibe – were Marvel UK ironically acting like a bunch of fools when they published this issue? I choose to believe not. I'm not here to whinge and complain about a 26-year-old comic, I'm here to celebrate how fascinating all these little foibles are in retrospect. As a fan, it's great fun over-analysing these old publications and taking them far too seriously. What's the alternative – taking serious things seriously? Boring.

Bearing that in mind then, the centre-pages of this issue are pure foolish joy – a challenge to help Spider-Man find his way through the maze to save Mary Jane:

Only two problems there:

1. That's not Mary Jane, I think it's Betty Brant.

2. That maze is - literally - impossible!

What was the title of the strip again?

(STOP PRESS: After writing this post, I was later given a copy of the original Marvel US issue Amazing Spider-Man #225 which contained the strip in full. Review of that issue here.)


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