Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

(sheesh, why do they have to use so many exclamation marks in their titles?)

Writer: Al Milgrom
Pencils: Herb Trimpe (#97-99), Al Milgrom (#100)

Fans of fiction, including myself, tend to like a thing called 'continuity', purely because it makes a fake world operate more like the real one.

After all – that's the intention when making fiction, isn't it, to make everything as believable as possible.

The movie industry even employ people specifically to make sure that actors, often shooting scenes months apart, are consistently wearing the same clothes, for example.

Comicbook artists and inkers must have similar intentions. While the costume from the last issue obviously will never go missing, the artwork containing it might not be available to work from.

Unless of course you're drawing the hero's costume. That's always going to remain identical.

Unless you're drawing Spider-Man in the mid-1980s.

Here's Spidey battling Silvermane in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #96:

And here's Spider-Man's flashback of the same event the following issue:

Well obviously, even Peter Parker's memory is getting a bit confused by his dual-duds.

Anyway, these four issues go on to chronicle a fantastic new villain called The Spot.

Yes, The Spot. Even the webslinger himself has moments when he says he feels as though he's addressing a canine.

While investigating the radiation that had emanated from Cloak's cape in the preceding issues, mild-mannered scientist Dr Jonathon Ohnn enters a jet black portal to another dimension, emerging later to find his body is now covered with similarly inky splodges.

From that day forth he renamed himself... The Ruler Of Darkness! No, no he didn't. He called himself Spot. At least he didn't go for anything including the name 'Polkadot'.

Anyway, as with so many super-types of this genre, I'd be mildly interested to know just what became of his clothes in this whole transformation.

Not to whinge, but two issues later (in #100) he conceals his new appearance for the first time thus:

I conclude that his outer garments took the brunt of the radiation and became all those spots.

Anyhow, though the above is a bit facetious, I actually think The Spot is a great character, purely because of all the cool things those spots that he's covered with can do.

Each one is a movable portal to that other dimension, enabling him to surround Spider-Man with them and strike him with all four limbs simultaneously.

I was looking at the above image trying to work out how the Spot braced himself, and never noticed that he has three arms! In the letters-page of #105, the editor asserted that this "just illustrated the rapidity with which The Spot was delivering the blows", but I ain't convinced!

Anyway, each spot can also be stretched as big or small as he wants, and therefore hidden microscopically in any location that he wants to get to in a hurry.

As a fourteen-year-old when I first read this, this really got my imagination going in exactly the way that comics are meant to. No, I wasn't thinking of hiding one in the girls' locker-room or anything, but I did reflect upon the potential of using them to get to science-fiction and comic shops around London more easily, without having to spend pocket-money on expensive things like a One Day Travelcard. Today of course, I think of nipping back to Auckland. That's just the sort of kid I was and still am. Deal with it.

Finally, these issues also serve to tie-up several ongoing storylines from across the various Spider-titles. #99 sees Joe Robertson come to terms with the stresses of his new job as Editor of the Daily Bugle. The same issue sees the question-mark over the black costume-design's future resolved when the Black Cat knits Spidey a duplicate, so that he can continue to be drawn in both styles, even despite the defeat of the alien original in The Amazing Spider-Man #258.

The manner of Peter and Felicia's break-up in #100 is quite brilliantly plotted too.

The Kingpin reveals to Felicia (the Black Cat) that her bad luck powers will also bring evil tiding to "any who keep steady company" with her. Basically, the more time she spends with Spider-Man, the more that bad luck will befall him until he dies.

This is interesting for several reasons:

1. There's been no hard evidence so far that this is actually true. The Kingpin may well be lying.

2. If true, then if Felicia stays with Peter, he will die. If she leaves him, he will be heartbroken. Either way the Kingpin gets his revenge. Except that Peter escapes much of this lose-lose scenario by breaking-up with Felicia first.

3. Peter unintentionally transforms the comfort that Felicia would have drawn from her intended selfless act into the devastation of a Pyrrhic victory.

4. It's never stated, but Felicia can never have a close relationship with anyone ever again. Even her contact with family and friends must now be dramatically reduced for the rest of her life. And we can only wonder at how much guilt she will put herself through when bad things do just happen to befall her loved ones, for whatever reason.

5. Is she now a victim of her own powers?

Writer / Penciller Al Milgrom gets much of this angst into Felicia's face very well, and the final panel of page 38, in which they actually split, is nicely designed too.

There are also a couple of creepy nightmares being suffered in this last issue too, the creepier of which is the one we don't get to see happening to the Kingpin's wife. Again, the writer / artist knows what he's doing by not putting this one into pictures, but leaving the account as just words spoken in a dimly-lit room.

Vanessa: "I was in a dark place – a dank place!

Rats scurried across my feet – and the smell...

And there was a man. Like you... yet not like you and...

And he touched me. And there were others... touching, chanting: King... King... King!

And I tried to wake but I couldn't! I-IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!"

Kingpin: (to doctor with syringe) "DOCTOR! A sedative – quickly! It's happening AGAIN!"


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