Plot: Roger Stern
Script: Tom DeFalco
Pencil breakdowns: Ron Frenz
Although Marvel US' Amazing Spider-Man #252 has since become quite an iconic issue, the events inside are rather mundane.
After all, there was so much to fit in that giving the webslinger an exciting adventure too might have really cramped things.
Sorry, did I just use the phrase "there was so much to fit in"? In fact there are really only two items on the agenda here, but at the time of publication they were both so important to Marvel that it's easy to understand why an entire 22-page issue was cleared to focus on them.
1. To unveil Spider-Man's super-duper new black costume
This was the first issue in 20 years to do away with Spider-Man's familiar red and blue outfit, potentially forever. Such a major change to such an iconic image must have been a really tough sell, and the pressure was really on this issue to convince readers what a great idea this new thought-controlled chamelionic colourless alien costume that gets into all the nooks and crannies was.
Today, thanks to the miracle of time-travel, we can actually nip forward in time 7 months to the letters page of ASM #259 to find out what ASM #252's original readers had made of his new black-and-white facelift...
Spider-Man's new costume stinks!! Get rid of it!!
- B Zimbinski, Duluth, MN
Come on, guys, the thing is ludicrous. He just "thinks" himself back and forth between costume and street clothes. It has an inter-spatial hole where he stores his camera. Next, I guess, Spidey will store his lunch and a six-pack in there. (Will it stay cold?) It filters the air he breathes and it fits better and it's practically indestructible and it never runs out of web fluid and it just makes me wanna puke!
- T Starks, Evansville, IN
Over 20 years ago a strange fellow with a red and blue costume came on the comicbook scene. The costume was dynamic, yet hand-made without any science-fiction features.
Now you've changed the costume, and as far as I'm concerned he's not the same Spider-Man anymore. I'll never read your magazines again.
Today, you left a deep void in my heart.
- V Oss, Trento, Italy
If this costume can respond to mental commands, why not have Peter command it to look like the old one?
E Rigney, NSW, Australia
All right, so I've only quoted the negative letters (come on – we both knew they would be the funnier ones) but all in all, public opinion on the new outfit seemed to be about 50/50.
Dear Marvel Comics Group,
How does it feel to know that instead of the traditional definition of the word "genius," all that now has to appear in dictionaries from now on are the words: "See AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #252"?
- S Darner, Bronx, NY
And there were plenty more positive letters like that.
Me? The new costume's guest-appearance in the UK Transformers comic was one of the reasons why I started to buy Spider-Man comics!
2. To advertise issue #1 of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.
This was a twelve-issue limited series that had taken place immediately prior to this story, but which was to be published following it over the course of the next year.
That's right, although I've just read ASM#252 where it chronologically comes, Tom DeFalco's script is quite definitely aimed at readers who have no knowledge of recent events for our hero. And he wasn't giving anything away, either. Maybe DeFalco himself didn't know what was going to have happened.
As a result, no-one refers to any specific recent event out in space, but their generalisations must surely have made readers want to know. The shortage of references to specific events in Spidey's informed thoughts on the subject feels a bit odd, straight after having read the whole adventure, but nonetheless acceptable.
However my feelings on the original storytelling aren’t the, um, issue here.
Y'see, regular readers of this blog will recall that I quite enjoy comparing the original US and later UK versions of these tales, and pointing at Marvel UK's cuts as though I had some sort of a right to see the missing material when I was 14.
But in this instance, in 1985, (a year after the US printing) Marvel UK's weekly Spider-Man reprint comic really came into its own for one final redaction to end all redactions, before the title died a horrible living-death a fortnight later under a new editor. (that long story's here)
Planning to launch their own British Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars reprint title, Marvel UK chose to follow the same strategy as the US. One way or another, they were determined to get British Spider-Man Weekly readers to buy the UK reprint of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars too. So, they first reprinted this tale in issue #631 of their ongoing Spider-Man title... but accentuated by a heap of new material that the Americans never saw.
For comparison, here are two consecutive panels of Peter Parker from the original US publication:
Pretty straightforward, huh? Now here's those same two panels again, only as they were presented in the UK:
Wow. In there we had the original panels, relettered captions, two new narration-boxes, borrowed artwork, new artwork, two whole pages from a different comic, and even a brand new cover in the middle! (To say nothing of all the rewriting that had gone on in the rest of the strip...)
Reading these new pages where they come, as I did today, they seem like a very odd trip into Peter Parker's stream-of-consciousness, as his thoughts wander back and forth without any care for chronology. (much the way real people's minds wander) He has the same flashback of entering the flying saucer twice from two different perspectives! Even the new UK cliffhanger doesn’t run-on into the following panel the next week!
Still, those pages are the highlight of the story for me now, especially since today I was able to read them together with the US panels that had been cut to free-up room for them, creating one gigantic omnibus version. (As far as I'm concerned, it's all canon)
And I don't think I can really blame Marvel UK for cutting stuff out of this one. After all, they were only following Peter Parker's own example. Having just been through what was clearly the most amazing spectacular team-up adventure of his career, and even been lucky enough to take his camera along with him, I don't think I'll ever be able to come to terms with what this professional photog then did with his priceless master negs of it.
With that much respect for image-preservation, maybe he should have taken that job in London...
(With thanks to Herschel)