Comics : Spider-Man Newspaper Strip 1 May 2017 - 5 November 2017

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This review was first published on: 6 Nov 2017.

Background...

Part Two of "Westward Ho, the Parkers!" After spending five months dealing with Ronan the Accuser and teaming up with Rocket Raccoon, Peter and MJ have finally made it to California. Peter thinks things can't get any weirder than a furry space alien but Stan seems to think otherwise. Will things get weirder?

In Detail...

"Define "Weirder"! (Westward Ho, the Parkers! Part 2)"
Spider-Man Newspaper Strip 1 May 2017 - 5 November 2017
May 2017 : SM Title
Summary: With Mole Man, Tyrannus, and Kala
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Alex Saviuk (Sunday Strip), Larry Leiber (Daily Strips)
Inker:  Joe Sinnott
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Issue
Review

May 1, 2017

Today’s strip begins with a caption that is formal enough to feel like the start of a new story. “Peter and Mary Jane Parker complete their not-uneventful drive across the country…” it says. Now the Hollywood sign is on the other side of the road (from where it was on April 30th) but there is still no other traffic. From within the car, Peter says, “Well, honey – we’re here!” Panel #2 moves inside the car as MJ says, “Hope they haven’t scheduled me for too many interviews about the new ‘Marvella’ movie.” (Why would they? Didn’t the first go straight to video?) Peter says, “Me, I’m just gonna play tourist.”

May 2, 2017

The Parkers arrive at the Hotel Grand. There is a doorman at the hotel but still no other cars or people. Peter and MJ get out of their car. “At least the movie studio paid for first-class digs for us!” Peter says. “We may as well be comfortable - since we won’t know a soul here!” says MJ. Cue Aunt May who pops out in front of the doorman in panel #2. “Hello, my dears,” she says, “I thought you’d never get here!” (Yeah, Aunt May! It’s been five months!) Peter and MJ are so shocked, they get wiggle lines around their heads. “A-AUNT MAY!?” Peter says in big jagged all-caps as if she just caught him doing something really embarrassing.

May 3, 2017

The doorman disappears, as Peter, MJ, and May appear together in a Loony Tunes spotlight. “Aunt May – what’re you doing here in L.A.?” asks Peter. “I flew out last night, dear,” says May. (Note that this doesn’t answer the question.) “But – should you have taken a plane by yourself?” asks MJ. In panel #2, May gestures at her companion. “No, that why Anna came with me,” says May. MJ doesn’t react quite as panicked as Peter did yesterday but she still gets wiggle lines around her head and says, “AUNT ANNA?!” in all-caps. “Hello, children,” says Anna Watson, “It’s hard to keep up with your Aunt, Peter.” (To which, MJ replies, “I don’t have an Aunt Peter.” No, no, just kidding.)

May 4, 2017

Anna, May, Peter, and MJ are all shoved into one panel. Anna says, "May and I were talking about how little we see of you two these days..." May, wide-eyed, says, "So we decided to fly out here to surprise you when you arrived." Panel #2 belongs to Peter and MJ, both with dopey grins on their faces. "Surprise..." says Peter. "...achieved!" says MJ.

May 5, 2017

Back to all four of them in one panel. May says, "I hope you two lovebirds don't mind our showing up in Hollywood unannounced." "It's always great to see you, Aunt May," says Peter. "You too, Anna," says MJ. In panel #2, we finally get some background scenery (two palm trees and, I think, the front of the hotel) as Peter puts his arm around May and says, "At least now I know what I'll be doing while MJ's busy being interviewed. I'll be showing two new starlets the sights!" Everyone is all smiles.

May 6, 2017

Yep, that was the front of the hotel. Now there's a doorman standing there. Peter, Anna, and May are also in the panel as Peter asks, "Where are you two staying while you're in LA?" May points at the doorman and says, "Why, right here...at the same hotel as you and Mary Jane." Panel #2 belongs to MJ and Anna as MJ asks, "Wasn't that...sort of costly?" "I had to do something with that check you give me every month," says Anna. ("And, besides," she says, "didn't you just buy a truck so you could transport an alien?" No, she doesn't say that.)

May 7, 2017

The doorman prepares to open the door as MJ guides May and Anna toward the entrance. (There is also a bystander in the panel...one of the first people other than our cast that we've seen in LA.) "Since you two have a room in this hotel," says MJ, "and my publicity interview isn't until tomorrow morning..." Panel #2 is a close-up of Peter as he finishes MJ's thought, saying, "The four of us can have a nice quiet dinner here, tonight." Off-panel, MJ whispers, "Uh...Peter..." She finishes in panel #3, smiling and pointing at Peter who is carrying all of their luggage from the car at once. (Five suitcases in his arms with a duffel bag over his shoulders.) May looks on, concerned. "...Have you forgotten where we are?" MJ whispers. Peter whispers back, "What, honey? I'm just carrying our..." (And I don't know how they hear each other's whispers because they are about ten yards apart.) In panel #4, Peter gets the point. Finishing his sentence by saying, "...luggage!" he drop it all with a THWUMMP (sure hope there's nothing breakable in there) as two bellhops run up to help. In panel #5, May and Anna are shocked, while MJ smiles. "You mustn't try to lift so much, Peter dear," says May. "I don't know how I got all that off the ground even for a moment, Aunt May," says Peter. And in panel #6, the camera pulls back so that Anna, MJ, Peter, and May are in the background as the doorman holds the door open for them. In the foreground is a mysterious figure in a slouch hat. "No! That can't be her!" he thinks, "It's not possible! Not here!"

Our "Next" caption is "Everybody Loves a Mystery!" Last week's, which finished off our last adventure, said, "Define 'Weirder'!" which I don't think we have yet done.

May 8, 2017

"A family reunion in Hollywood..." is the caption. In the panel, May, MJ, Peter, and Anna sit at a table at a restaurant with indoor palm trees. There are 6 other diners visible behind them. "Isn't this restaurant a bit expensive, Peter?" asks May. "Don't worry, May," says MJ, "The movie studio's paying for everything." (Because MJ is starring in 'Marvella 2' when the first one went straight to video? No wonder the studios are always in financial trouble!) Panel #2 moves outside. We can still see our group through the restaurant's window (Peter, at least, is recognizable but only two others can be seen and one looks like a man while the other looks like a woman with hair that is nothing like May or MJ or Anna) but the focus in on the man in the slouch hat who has followed to spy on them. "Right, Aunt May," says Peter, "Nothing's too good for the star of 'Marvella'!" (See my note above.) Outside, the mysterious man whispers to himself, "She seems happy...and well taken care of. I could ask ...for no more.."

Do you want my guess as to the mystery man's identity? I'm going with the Mole Man who was going to marry Aunt May back in 2010-2011 (in the strip-verse only, of course) but let her go when May couldn't breathe properly in his underground world. We'll see!

May 9, 2017

This time we can see the restaurant's awning. "La La Fine Dining" is written on it. Is this supposed to be "LaLa's Grill" in LA? Is LaLa's Grill "fine dining?" Anyway, we're still outside but we can see Peter and May inside. They have clearly changed seats in the middle of the meal. Outside, our mystery man says, "I'm so glad that she at least wants for nothing." From off-panel, someone yells, "Hey, old man..." Panel #2 reveals a tall, broad and bald bouncer. "What's the big idea of starin' at our payin' customers?" he says. "Let me be. I am not bothering anyone," says the mystery man. In panel #3, the bouncer puts his hand on the man's shoulder. (All we see of the bouncer is his arm.) "In case I didn't make myself clear - move it!" says the arm. "Fool!" says the mystery man, "Do you know to whom you're talking?" Someone who uses correct grammar! But, no, we don't know to whom he's talking except my guess is, as I said yesterday, the Mole Man.

May 10, 2017

The bouncer had his left hand on the man's shoulder in panel #3 yesterday. Today he has his right hand on the man's left shoulder as they face each other. "I'm tellin' you for the last time, shorty - move your tail!" says the bouncer. "And I am warning you for the second time..." says the man. In panel #2, he finishes with "...to leave me alone!" He swings a concealed stick at the bouncer and whacks him in the knee with a THRAKT. (A staff like the Mole Man carries.) "YEOWWW," says the bouncer. In panel #3, Peter is back in his correct seat with MJ to his right. (Two other diners behind him.) He stands up because his spider-sense is jangling and he gets that half-Spidey-mask look. "There's some kind of altercation outside," he says, "I'd better go see what's happening!"

May 11, 2017

Peter goes outside to find the bouncer sitting down and holding his leg. "You okay, man?" asks Peter. "Y-yeah - just an achin' shinbone!" says the bouncer, "He hit me - hard - with some kinda stick!" In panel #2, Peter gets that half-Spidey look with spider-sense spikes as he looks around. The bouncer turns his back on us and walks away into a Loony Tunes spotlight...his work in the story being done. "Who?" says Peter, "I don't see anyone." Then he thinks, "I can't tell that guy - but my spider-sense is going like a house afire!"

May 12, 2017

Back again in the restaurant, Peter prepares to sit next to MJ (two diners in silhouette behind). "Apparently, security had an altercation outside with some 'little old man'," he says. "I'm glad you didn't have to get involved," says MJ. Panel #2 is a threesome of May, MJ, and Peter. (What is Anna? Chopped liver?) "Yes, you know how delicate you are," says May. "Aw, I'm sturdier than I look, Aunt May," replies Peter. And, in panel #3, the mystery man returns as he thinks, "I'm fortunate he didn't spy me. Still, I'm thankful I got to see her....one last time!"

May 13, 2017

Back in their hotel room, Peter closes the door and says, "I got Aunts May and Anna all squared away, honey." MJ, taking off an earring, replies, "Thanks, Tiger. I couldn't face that TV interview tomorrow morning..." And panel #2 moves outside the hotel. A word balloon points to the Parkers' room as MJ finishes with, "...if everything wasn't A-OK!" And below, the mystery man is back staring at the hotel.

May 14, 2017

“Morning, in one of the swankier hotels in Los Angles…” as MJ, Peter, May, and Anna get off the elevator. A studio rep (blond hair with glasses and carrying a tablet) is waiting to meet them. “Hi. I’m Jacky,” he says, “Thanks for coming down so quickly, Ms. Parker.” Panel #2 is a threesome of (left to right) Jacky, MJ, and Peter. “Please…the name’s Mary Jane, or MJ!” says MJ, “This is my husband Peter.” “Hi,” says Pete. Panel #3 has the whole fivesome. “Oh, and this is my Aunt, Anna Watson…and Peter’s Aunt, May Parker,” says MJ. “The more the merrier!” says Jacky, “There’s plenty of room in the limo!” Like panel #1 above it, panel #4 shows the group from a distance. In panel #1 they are exiting the elevator. In panel #4, they are entering the limo. All five characters appear plus a limo driver who holds the car door open. “Actually, I figured I’d take these two ladies to see the Walk of Fame,” says Peter. But Aunt May protests, saying, “Oh, we can do that tomorrow, Peter!” Panel #5 is a twosome of MJ and Anna with the bottom part of the panel filled by the roof of the limo. (Did Alex not want to illustrate the whole panel?) “Yes, it’s not every day my niece, the Broadway star, gives a TV interview in Hollywood,” says Anna, “Or maybe I should say, ‘my niece, the movie star’!” In panel #6, the limo drives off but the mysterious figure hitches a ride on the back, his head low so he won’t be seen through the rear window. “And I shall be there as well!” he says, “I must have one final glimpse of my beloved!”

The “Next” caption is “The Secret Admirer Revealed!” but we already know it’s the Mole Man, right? Last week’s was “Everybody Loves a Mystery!” We’re still loving it but it isn’t much of a mystery.

May 15, 2017

First, our caption: “The film studio’s PR man escorts Mary Jane to a TV interview.” The chauffeur holds the car door open again as everyone disembarks in front of KLMN-TV “L.A.’s Primo Channel” according to the sign. “…Remember, MJ – mention the movie’s name every chance you get,” says Jacky. “Right, Jacky,” replies MJ, “this isn’t my first rodeo, y’know.” In panel #2, Anna, Peter, May, MJ, and Jacky (from left to right) enter the studio in the background (“You just make sure Peter and our guests have choice seats for my interview!” says MJ) as the mystery man peeks out from a manhole in the foreground. (So, he jumped off the back of the car and climbed into a manhole? Lucky for him that there was one right there.)

May 16, 2017

Peter and MJ chat in whispers as Aunt May marvels at the photos on the studio’s walls. (We see one sketchily-drawn movie star in one photo.) “Don’t tell the PR man, but I am a little nervous,” whispers MJ. “Why? You’ve done TV interviews for your play…” Pete whispers back. Panel #2 shows Peter and MJ without May and without the movie star photo. “But if this movie hits, it’ll take things to a whole new level…” whispers MJ. (Don’t get your hopes up, MJ! Remember, it’s “Marvella 2.”) “Yeah, it’s hard handling the fame thing,” whispers Peter, looking like he had some plastic surgery work on his eyes, “I find it hard just being Spider-Man – and I can hide behind a mask!” (Oh yeah, Pete, it’s always about you, isn’t it? You and Spider-Man!)

May 17, 2017

“In the TV studio’s ‘green room’…” says the caption as MJ sits and reads a magazine called “Pals” with cover subjects that look more like a Picasso print. A woman peeks into the room and says, “You’re up, Ms. Parker.” “Thanks,” says MJ and thinks, “Well, here goes the proverbial nothing!” In panel #2, the mystery man tries to sneak by two security guards. One calls at him, “Hold it! What’re you doing backstage?” “Just about anything I want to!” says the man. (Not the best answer to give a security guard.)

May 18, 2017

The two guards approach the mystery man. “We’re throwing you out, mac – right now!” says the same guard who spoke yesterday. “I wouldn’t advise trying,” says the man. In panel #2, Peter goes all half-Spidey-mask-with-jagged-spider-sense-spikes. “While, in the TV audience…” says the caption as Peter thinks, “My spider-sense is tingling again.” Because two security guards are going to take on the Mole Man? (Come on, we know it’s the Mole Man.) That’s worthy of spider-sense? In panel #3, Peter rises. Good thing we had that caption in panel #2 or we’d never know he was in the TV audience. All Larry draws is Peter, May, and Anna. “I’ll be right back, Aunt May,” whispers Peter. “But dear – the host is introducing Mary Jane!” May whispers back.

May 19, 2017

So, Peter enters through the “Exit” to find the two guards struggling with the mystery man. “Those security guards – they’re overpowering somebody!” he thinks. But in panel #2, the mystery man knocks the two guards back with a wooden staff. Off-panel, Peter thinks, “Correction: looks like he’s trashing them! Wait a minute! I think that’s the…” And in panel #3, Peter gets a good look at the mystery man. With a couple of squiggle lines around his head, he calls out, “Mole Man!” (Hah! Told you!) The Mole Man looks back at him and says, “Do I know you?”

May 20, 2017

It’s a Loony Tunes spotlight with Peter and the Mole Man in it. Pete says, “We’ve met before – when you kidnapped my wife.” (Think of how odd that sentence is. And now think about how many different people Peter could say that to!) “Ah yes,” replies Moley, “Just before I met the true love of my life!” But in panel #2, one of the security guards grabs the Mole Man from behind. (It is supposed to be one of the two from before but he doesn’t really look like either one of them.) “You’re about to meet the cops, shorty!” says the guard. “Again you dare lay hands on the Mole Man?” says Moley. And Peter looks on with a dim look on his face.

May 21, 2017

It’s the “Mornings with Maureen” show and Maureen says, “…And now, ladies and gentlemen…the star of the big new movie ‘Marvella the Magnificent’…” as MJ enters to the sound of KLAPKLAPKLAPKLAP. In panel #2, MJ takes a seat as Maureen sits at her desk. “You looked surprised, Mary Jane, when I said the film’s name,” says Maureen. “I was, Maureen! The last I heard, it was just called ‘Marvella II’,” replies MJ. Panel #3 shows MJ and Maureen in close up. “There was a ‘Marvella I’?” asks Maureen. “Yes, but it went direct to video – only it became such a hit, we made a big-budget sequel,” says MJ. In panel #4, Maureen mugs to the audience, saying, “This may be the first time a sequel opens in theaters…and the original movie didn’t!” A HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA goes through the audience (and across panels #4 and #5). Panel #5 pulls the camera back to show the cameras of the “Mornings with Maureen” show and the two cameramen. Seven audience members’ heads are in the foreground. “The audience is laughing! Good!” thinks MJ, “I hope Peter, May and Anna are enjoying themselves, too.” But a panel #6 caption replies “Actually, MJ – your hubby is otherwise engaged at the moment…” as the Mole Man tosses one of the security guards so that he lands on Peter. The other guard watches and Peter’s half-Spidey-jagged-spider-sense business begins again. “You uniformed dolts won’t expel the Mole Man from these premises!” says the Mole Man.

Our “Next” caption says, “Backstage Brawl!” which is already happening. Last week’s was “The Secret Admirer Revealed!” which happened.

May 22, 2017

The two security guards regroup and confront the Mole Man who seems to have found his stick again. (He didn’t have it yesterday.) “You caught us off guard with that nutty stick,” says the guard who hasn’t said anything before. “Right, but this time…” says the other. But, in panel #2, the Mole Man knocks both of them back with one swing of his stick (THWAK). “…Will be exactly like the first!” says the Mole Man, finishing the guard’s sentence. Panel #3 is back in the audience as May and Anna sit next to a guy with sunglasses and a goatee and another with a mustache. “I’m getting worried about Peter, Anna,” whispers May, “He’s missing Mary Jane’s entire interview!”

May 23, 2017

The security guards are on their knees looking up at the Mole Man. (We only see the back of Moley’s head and his right hand holding his staff.) One guard reaches for his gun as the Mole Man says, “Stay down, both of you! I don’t want to harm you…” He continues in panel #2. “But neither will I let you draw your weapons on me!” and he pops them with his staff again, so hard that the sound effect gets an extra “K.” (THWAKK.) “OWWW,” says one of the guards. In panel #3, Peter is all alone. In fact, he looks like he’s in another location altogether. “Those guards can’t handle the Mole Man by themselves,” he thinks, “Am I gonna have to change to Spider-Man?”

May 24, 2017

Back in the studio, MJ stands as Maureen gives her a send off. “Okay, folks – give it up one last time for Mary Jane Parker! And don’t forget to look for her new movie!” says Maureen. We see one guy in the audience as a KLAPKLAPKLAPKLAP goes through. Off-stage, MJ says, “Well? How’d I do, Jacky?” and the PR man says, “You killed ‘em, MJ!” In panel #3, Peter approaches the Mole Man from behind. “Lower your staff, mister!” says Peter. “Who do you think you are, the Fantastic Four?” asks the Mole Man. (Aha! So there is a Fantastic Four in this universe. I haven’t seen any evidence of it.)

May 25, 2017

Now, Peter gets between the Mole Man and the guards. He holds his hand out to hold the guards back as he says, “Wait – I know this guy! He won’t hurt you unless…” “Out of our way! We’re takin’ that pint-size gatecrasher down!” says one guard. From off-panel, someone says, “I thought I heard Peter’s voice out…” It is Mary Jane, as seen in panel #2, as she recognizes the mystery man. “Peter – and – the Mole Man!?” she says. “The who??” says one guard.

May 26, 2017

From left to right, we have one guard (his back to us), the Mole Man, Peter, and MJ. “Mole Man or Soul Man – we’re tossin’ you out, short stuff,” says the guard. “Officer, please – I can vouch for this man!” says MJ. In panel #2, the other guard holds his hand behind his head as he says, “Well…okay, if you say so, Ms. Parker…” and Peter thinks, “Me they wouldn’t heed – but to them, MJ’s a movie star. Well, at least now I don’t have to play the Spidey card!”

May 27, 2017

The guards, Peter, MJ, and Mole Man have a parley. “Are you sure this guy won’t cause another disturbance, Ms. Parker?” says one guard. “I promise you. I know him…fairly well,” says MJ. “In point of fact, we were once engaged,” says Moley. Panel #2 is only MJ and the Mole Man. “Not really…since I was married at the time,” says MJ. “A mere technicality,” says a smiling Mole Man. And two word balloon stems go off-panel. This is clearly the two guards. “?” they say.

May 28, 2017

“As a tense confrontation ends in an L.A. TV studio…” we see the two security guards in the foreground with Peter, MJ, and the Mole Man in the background. “Hey, Joe – I just got a call – somebody’s passed out in Studio ‘B’,” says one guard. “We’d better get over there,” replies Joe. In panel #2, the camera moves behind Peter, MJ, and Moley as Joe faces them and finishes his sentence. “If you think everything’s okay here, Ms. Parker.” (The other guard seems to think so. He’s in the background, already leaving.) “Couldn’t be better!” says MJ. Panel #3 is a Peter/MJ twosome as Pete whispers, “Thanks, honey. When those security guards faced off with the Mole Man – I was afraid Spider-Man might have to make an appearance.” The camera pulls back in panel #4 to include the Mole Man as he says, “If you’ll excuse me, my young friends…I must be going.” (Channeling his inner Groucho.) MJ leans forward and says, “You’re leaving? But you haven’t told us why you’re here.” Panel #5 is a Mole Man close-up as he says, “Actually, I – uh – just happened to be passing by, and wanted to pay my respects to…” but he is cut off by an off-panel speaker who says, “Melvin…?” Panel #6 pulls the camera back again to show May, Anna, Mole Man, MJ, and Peter. May was the off-panel speaker and she now says “What are you doing here?” “Oh – now I get it,” says MJ. And Peter thinks, “Me, too – unfortunately!”

So…Melvin? The Mole Man is another of those characters who was not given an actual name until much later. Personally, I’d rather not know some of these characters names, but I digress. Anyway, at some point in the comics, the Mole Man was named Harvey Elder. (Can anyone tell me when this name first appeared?) Since Stan didn’t give him that name, he probably didn’t realize that Moley ever got a name. So, in the previously- mentioned 2010-2011 storyline, he gave him the name “Melvin.” And “Melvin” he remains, in the strip-verse.

Our “Next” caption is, “The Mole Man’s Story!” Last week’s was “Backstage Brawl!” And, yeah, that happened.

May 29, 2017

“A reunion of sorts…” as a surprised May and a smiling Anna approach the Mole Man. “Melvin…? What are you doing here?” asks May. “Do you mean – in Hollywood, my dear May?” replies the Mole Man. Anna gets aced out of panel #2 as the camera slide over to include Peter and MJ. “I meant…on the surface, rather than in your underground kingdom!” says May. (In the strip-verse, this is a perfectly reasonable sentence.) “I wonder if it had something to do with Aunt May being here!” thinks Peter.

May 30, 2017

Suddenly, Peter decides to confront the Mole Man, with Aunt May looking over his right shoulder. “Mole Man – are you stalking my Aunt?” he asks. “I assure you, I had no idea she was here in Los Angeles,” replies Moley. Panel #2 is Melvin and Peter, in profile, facing each other. “In fact, I came here because I assumed she’d still be in New York,” says Mole Man. “But why are you on the surface at all?” asks Peter. Panel #3 is all Melvin as he says, “I – had no other place to go – now that I no longer rule Subterranea!” Way down in the lower right corner is a word balloon that has an “?” in it. It has four stems pointing off-panel, which means that even Anna Watson is saying, “Wha???”

May 31, 2017

Anna gets the air again as May faces Melvin while Peter and MJ look off-panel right. “D-did you say you don’t rule Subterranea anymore?” asks May. (Yes, May, he said it in panel #3 yesterday.) “I fear I did, dear lady, you see…” begins Mole Man but MJ points off-panel, turns to her husband and says, “Peter…?” Panel #2 shows Peter looking at what MJ was pointing at. Two security guards running up to join them. “We’d better take this discussion somewhere else, guys,” says Peter, “These security guards look a lot less friendly than the last two!” They look less friendly because their hands are balled up into fists, I guess.

June 1, 2017

So, Melvin, May, Peter, and MJ sit together at an outside table of a place apparently called “Café.” “I’m sorry, my dear, that your friend Anna had to return to your hotel,” says Mole Man. (Unless that’s her posing as a waitress in the background.) “I’m afraid she couldn’t take all the excitement!” says May. (She probably also couldn’t take that she was written into this story for no reason.) The camera moves overhead a bit in panel #2 so we can really see the steam coming out of their coffee cups. “I’m so pleased that you are clearly far hardier than people assume,” Moley says. Peter puts a hand up to his mouth as he does an aside to MJ. “Aunt May’s heart may be stronger than it once was, but…” MJ finishes it up. “Obviously, it still belongs to the Mole Man,” she says.

June 2, 2017

Still, at the Café, Mole Man takes May’s hand and says, “I have sorely missed you since you discovered you could not survive in Subterranea. My only consolation was that you would recover your health.” MJ interjects with “But now you’ve left there as well. Why?” Panel #2 is a too-close close-up of Mole Man. He says, “Because – I was overthrown – by the conqueror known as Tyrannus.” And the three others (off-panel) says “! ?” which, I suspect, means something like “Oh oh, here we go!”

June 3, 2017

Peter, MJ, May, and Melvin are still at the Café, with three or four people in the background. “Who’s this ‘Tyrannus’ that took over Subterranea?” asks MJ. “He’s an ancient Roman – an emperor, actually,” says Moley. Panel #2 is all Peter as he says, “But the last Roman emperor was a guy named Augustulus – and he was deposed in 476 A.D.!” (And I am just so impressed that Peter knows this!) Panel #3 is all Mole Man as he replies, “Yes…that’s the one!”

June 4, 2017

There are four very happy bystanders in the foreground as Melvin, May, Peter, and MJ sit in the background at their café table. (It turns out the café is called Alberto’s.) “The Mole Man is explaining how he was deposed…” says the caption and Moley says, “1600 years ago, the usurper’s name was Augustulus…” Panel #2 gives us an odd angle, making it look like the group is sitting at a table that is no longer in front of the main café window. Only Melvin, Peter, and MJ are shown. “…Back when he was the last Roman emperor,” finishes Mole Man. “Assuming that’s true,” says Peter, “How has he lived so long?” May reenters the picture in panel #3. The Mole Man is the only one who speaks and is the only one with his back to us. A strange choice. “Subterranea is home to many wonders, Peter Parker,” says Moley, “as your wife and Aunt could tell you, having actually been there!” (Peter was there, too, but Mole Man doesn’t know it because Peter was there as Spider-Man.) Panel #4 focuses on Moley and Peter (with the back of a bystander’s head in the background). Peter’s coffee cup has a big “A” on it. (It didn’t have that back when we thought the café was just called “Café.”) “One of them is what you would call…the Fountain of Youth!” says Melvin. Panel #5 focuses on Mole Man with his thoughts made flesh in the background, as Tyrannus and two Moloids make an appearance. “Having discovered it, he’s had many centuries to amass power,” says Mole Man, “Now he calls himself ‘Tyrannus’…” Panel #6 is back to the foursome, only the camera has swung around from its position in panel #3 just above. Mole Man now faces us as he says, “…and I fear he’ll not be content with ruling the mere interior of this planet!” May, Peter, and MJ all look suitably shocked.

The “Next” caption is “Rumors of War!” Last week’s was “The Mole Man’s Story!” We’ve gotten some of it but we still haven’t heard how Tyrannus managed to defeat him and how he made his way to the surface. Maybe we won’t at all.

June 5, 2017

And yet more chat between the Mole Man and the others, this time repeating what was said yesterday. The first two panels are only Melvin and Peter. In #1, Melvin says, “I’m afraid after all I’ve said, you probably think me a liar.” A shocked Peter replies, “You say this Tyrannus who deposed you was the last Roman emperor…” In #2, a more-composed-looking Peter continues, “And he’s stayed alive all those years because of a Fountain of Youth? You’ve gotta admit, Mole Man, it’s pretty hard to…” He is cut off by May, off-panel, who says, “Melvin…dear Melvin…” and panel #3 is Melvin and May as she says, “I believe you.”

June 6, 2017

It’s a Melvin-May twosome as he takes her hand and says, “Dear May…it means so much to have you believe me.” “I saw your soul when, all that time ago, I looked into your eyes,” she says, “and I know you would never lie to me.” Panel #2 pulls the camera back to show all four of them again as Mole Man says, “I only wish I were lying! Because I also must tell you – that Tyrannus means to conquer the surface world!” The other three looked appropriately shocked.

I try to avoid politics in these reviews but this is all starting to sound familiar. A tyrant with flamboyant orange-like hair, very old, succeeding the guy who “would never lie to me,” intent on conquering the world. Remind you of anyone?

June 7, 2017

First, Peter and Melvin. Peter: “Do you really think Tyrannus wants to take over our world as he did Subterranea?” Melvin: “He’s vowed to do so!” Second, Peter, MJ, May, Melvin and some silhouette of a bystander in the background. Peter: “Why the bemused look, honey?” Bemused MJ: “If Tyrannus really has a Fountain of Youth, he won’t have to conquer the outer world.” Third, MJ alone, looking more bemused. MJ: “Mankind will probably hand it to him in exchange for eternal life!” One person, off-panel: “!” As in “She’s right!” Probably Peter.

June 8, 2017

This is an odd panel. The camera rises up to show the table but only Mole Man is clearly seen. We see the back of May’s head along with her left arm (she is holding Melvin’s hand) and the back of MJ’s head is a little Cousin Itt blob. And Peter’s face is covered by an off-panel word balloon. “I don’t know how long before Tyrannus may strike, but…” says Melvin. “So here you are,” says the off-panel person. Panel #2 shows MJ and the previously-off-panel person. It is Jacky, the PR guy. He leans in and down to MJ, putting his hand on her shoulder. “…sneaking off to enjoy a latte while we press agents hunt all over for our wayward star!” he says. MJ, leaning back and looking up, says, “Uh…hello, Jacky, this is…” Panel #3 is Mole Man and Jacky as Moley interjects with “You may call me Melvin.” With a big, goofy grin on his face, Jacky says, “Hey – nice shades, Mel!”

June 9, 2017

Jacky leans down to MJ and says, “Hate to drag you away, MJ, but we really need to strategize…” May, also in the panel, looks up and says, “What’s that sound?” The sound begins with an “R” in this panel (right at May’s throat) and goes through the second panel, ending in the third. RRRRRRMMMMBLLL. You can tell that everything is shaking because there are motion lines around MJ’s head and a waitress behind her is dropping her tray. “Is the ground vibrating?” asks MJ. Panel #3 is all Mole Man, in close-up, but he has so much to say that his words begin in panel #2. “I… dared hope we had more time…but it’s already begun…(panel #2)…Tyrannus’ attack on the surface world! (panel #3).”

June 10, 2017

More RRRMMMMMBLL through the two panels. In a Loony Tunes spotlight, Peter, MJ, Jacky, and Mole Man look at something at which Moley is pointing. “You think this might be the start of Tyrannus’ assault?” asks Peter. “I’m afraid, Peter,” says Mole Man. “There can be no doubt of it!” he continues in panel #2, off-panel except for his pointing hand. In the street, four bystanders panic. (Why were they in the street to begin with? And where are all the cars?) With a KRRAKK, a big scaly arm breaks through the asphalt.

June 11, 2017

There is no opening caption this Sunday but there is a RRMMMMMBLL along the bottom of panel #1. Peter and MJ are standing, looking like they want to run in two directions at once. The Mole Man is helping Aunt May to her feet. A waitress is losing a tray, spilling mugs of coffee. Two bystanders look horrified. “The whole street – it’s shaking!” says MJ. “And there…” says Peter, leading us by this look to panel #2 where he is in close-up pointing to the big green scaly arm that is coming out of the street with a KRAACKK. (There are five fleeing bystanders and, wonder upon wonders, a car.) “…is why!” says Peter. Panel #3 is a close-up of the creature emerging from the street. He looks a bit like a big, scaly, clawed version of a Muppet. (Anyone remember Scred from the old Saturday Night Live skits?) Someone off-panel (Peter, presumably) asks, “Is that one of your subterranean subjects, Mole Man?” Panel #4’s camera shoots through the legs of the creature as Moley, MJ, May, and Peter cower together. (Everyone else has fled. Why didn’t they?) “As I told you – they’re mine no longer!” says Moley, “Now they obey Tyrannus.” Panel #5 is an odd one. The camera now faces the charging creature. Peter, May, Melvin, and MJ are in the foreground in silhouette. But the word balloon points off-panel. It is clearly the Mole Man speaking as he says “And this one has come for me…” (Is he having an out of body experience?) Panel #6 features a grimacing Mole Man, Peter with his half-Spidey-mask face with spider-sense spikes coming from his head, and May looking terrified. “To destroy me, before his underground army emerges to conquer the surface world!” says Melvin.

The “Next” caption reads, “Shock Troops!” Who knows what that’s supposed to mean? Last week’s was “Rumors of War!” which was more like rumbles from the street. But okay, fine, whatever.

June 12, 2017

Here’s one of those strips that moves back in time. Yesterday, the creature had emerged and was charging our cast. Today, we’re back to the moment when MJ, May, Peter, and Melvin look on (and one bystander is fleeing) as the creature emerges. (With a KRRRAAAKKKK covering both panels.) We may not have had a caption yesterday but we’ve got one today. “As an L.A. street cracks open…” it says. Peter says, “Did Tyrannus send that thing to capture you, Mole Man?” “Yes,” says Melvin, “back when that armadillo-like beast served me…” “…I called him Lenny!” he finishes in panel #2 as Lenny busts out of the street with four bystanders in silhouette behind him.

June 13, 2017

I’m starting to think the events on Sunday were a bit of a cheat. Lenny still hasn’t charged our group and they are making a break for it. Peter and Melvin start to head off stage left. Melvin turns to look back at May and MJ and says, “You two ladies must get to safety at once!” Peter looks around, saying “Maybe Jacky can help – hey! Where is your ever-present press agent?” “Absent!” yells MJ. (If Jacky ends up being Tyrannus in disguise, I am going to be very cheesed off.) Panel #2 shows MJ pushing May so hard that motion lines appear around May’s head. “I’ll get May to a safe spot,” says MJ, “You two – do what you’ve gotta do!”

June 14, 2017

Now I know that Sunday’s strip was a bit of a cheat. MJ hustles May away. (Three freaked-out-looking bystanders in silhouette to the right and behind them.) “This way, Aunt May! Hurry!” says MJ. “I know Melvin feels obligated to face that subterranean creature,” says May, “But how could Peter possibly help him fight such a monster?” The camera moves in to MJ’s face (and May’s left ear and hair bun) in panel #2 as MJ glances behind her and says, “Peter’s very resourceful. I’m sure he’ll think of something!” But she thinks, “I hope!”

June 15, 2017

Stan uses yesterday’s strip focusing on May and MJ as a distraction to avoid having to tell us what happened to Melvin and Peter in the meantime. Now, in panel #1, Mole Man is all alone, facing Lenny who is charging at him. (What happened to Peter? Doesn’t Mole Man wonder?) “I know you obey Tyrannus only because you must, Lenny,” says Melvin, “So I’ll not fight you.” (And I just realized that Lenny has four arms.) But in panel #2, Spidey swings in and spirits Melvin away. Just in time, as Lenny swings his claws at him with a SZZATTCH. “You give up way too easy, Moley!” says Spidey. “Spider-Man!?” says Melvin. (Then he says, “What are you doing here? Where’s Peter? Waitaminute, are you Peter?” No, actually, he doesn’t.)

June 16, 2017

Spidey alights on a rooftop with Mole Man, who says, “Where did you come from?” “New York, originally,” replies Spidey, “But these days I’m practically bi-coastal!” Panel #2 is a Melvin close-up as he says, “I meant – how did you know there would be danger here?” In panel #3, Spidey points down at Lenny who has stepped on a car, forcing the driver to flee. (Only Spidey’s hand is shown.) “That ten-foot ‘armordillo’ is kinda hard to miss!” says Spidey’s hand, “Besides, I’ve got a spider-sense!” There he goes again! The spider-sense could be his greatest secret weapon…except that he’s blabbed about it to just about everyone he’s met. (My alternate reaction is, “Spidey’s hand has a spider-sense?”)

June 17, 2017

And now, two panels featuring Spidey and Mole Man and little else. (Panel #2 is a Loony Tunes spotlight.) In panel #1, Melvin says, “You must surrender me to that underground entity – before he lays waste the entire city!” In panel #2, Spidey puts his hands on his hips and replies, “My specialty’s fighting, not surrendering – didn’t it used to be yours as well?” You tell ‘im, Spidey!

June 18, 2017

Spidey and the Mole Man look down from the rooftop at Lenny, who is tearing up a lamppost. Three bystanders flee from smashed vehicles. (Didn’t we deal with this in the last story when the Sentry was on the loose?) The Mole Man has somehow regained his staff even though he didn’t have it when Spidey took him to the rooftop. “’Lenny’ is coming for me – to return me to Tyrannus,” says Moley. Panel #2 focuses on Melvin and Spidey. “Spider-Man – you’ve met May Parker and her niece, Mary Jane Parker,” says Melvin. “Uh…yeah, down in your realm, a while back,” says Spidey. The Mole Man’s face completely fills panel #3. “Well, they’re in Los Angeles – fleeing from that beast,” he says, “I beg you, please go after them – make sure they’re all right!” (But what happened to Peter, Melvin?) Panel #4 looks down at Lenny who is looking up at them and bellowing. Spidey is shown in profile but Melvin only shows the back of his head. (Is it Melvin? It looks like MJ!) “The best way we can make sure they don’t get hurt, Moley” says Spidey, “is to take care of that overgrown armadillo!” In panel #5, the camera looks up from below Lenny with Spidey and Moley still on the roof behind him. (And, hey, there’s some birds flying above. Alex loves to draw his birds.) “Are you with me?” asks Spidey. “Subterranean invasions make strange bedfellows, web-spinner,” says Melvin. In panel #6, he brandishes the staff that he shouldn’t have. With Spidey clenching a fist beside him, the Mole Man says, “But yes – I believe I am!”

The “Next” caption is a very-clever “Arma(dillo)geddon!” Last week’s was “Shock Troops!” and I still don’t know what that means.

June 19, 2017

The opening caption says, “Spidey and the Mole Man face a giant armadilloid…” as Lenny continues his rampage. Spidey and the Mole Man leap down behind him. “Any idea how we can send that thing packing?” asks Spidey. “I thought you had spider-strength,” says Moley. In panel #2, the pair stands behind Lenny who looks back at them. “I do,” says Spidey, hands on hips, “but then I seem to recall that armadillos are a lot like anteaters…and anteaters eat spiders for breakfast!” You know, Lenny doesn’t really look like an armadillo. (See for yourself in the “Panel #1” image.) Can we call a halt to all the armadillo humor?

June 20, 2017

Mole Man raises his staff as Spidey leaps towards Lenny. “There must be some way we can defeat ‘Lenny’,” says Moley. “While you think about it, I’ll see if I can stop him with a frontal assault,” says Spidey. In panel #2, Spidey punches Lenny in the chest with a WHAMM. But, in panel #3, Lenny knocks Spidey back with a THWACKK. “Apparently not,” says the web-slinger.

June 21, 2017

Melvin runs up to the recovering Spidey. “Well? Have you thought of an anti-armadillo defense yet?” asks Moley. “No, he’s too big to stop,” says Spidey. Panel #2 closes in as Moley cups his chin in his hand. “But wait,” he says, “if you could tear off just a little piece of his armor - !” Spidey says “?” which means “Huh? Armor?”

June 22, 2017

So Spidey leaps at Lenny, saying “I’ll see if I can get you what you need, Moley!” His leap makes a SWISSHH sound, for some reason. In panel #2, Spidey pulls a section of armor off of Lenny’s back with a RRAKK. “HGNNH!” says Spidey, so you know it must have been taken a lot of effort to pull that piece off. Lenny, on the other hand, endures it all in silence. In panel #3, Spidey leaps back to Mole Man. (Did losing the piece of armor make Lenny shrink? He looks quite small behind Spidey.) “Here’s the piece of his armor that you wanted,” says Spidey. “Excellent!” says Melvin, “Now – throw it down the crevice he tore in the street!” Huh? Is Mole Man punking Spidey? “Excellent. Now – stick it up your @$$, then throw yourself down the crevice in the street!”

June 23, 2017

With Lenny looking on, Spidey drops the chunk of armor into the crevice. “There goes the chunk of armor just like you said,” he says. From off-panel, Moley says, “Now – get out of the way!” In panel #2, Spidey leaps aside as Lenny jumps into the crevice. “Yeesh! That was close!” says the web-spinner, “But – why’d that thing jump in after it?” Panel #3 is Spidey and Melvin in a Loony Tunes spotlight as Melvin explains, “The only way to lure an armadillo – is with armadillo scent! He’ll follow it – to the center of the Earth!” Say, what???!!!

Okay, I can sort of go along with the “armadillo scent” thing. A University of Florida site says “Smells from other armadillos…have potential to attract armadillos” although it also says that “armadillos communicate with one another through odors they emit through their anal scent glands.” The only trouble is Lenny is not an armadillo! Oh, hell, why am I bothering?

June 24. 2017

Spidey and Melvin look at the very large hole in the street. “Are you saying this crevice leads down to the Earth’s core?” asks Spidey, referencing Melvin’s comment from yesterday. “I was merely exercising poetic license,” says Melvin. Panel #2 is a close-up of Melvin’s face as he says, “But it does go down several miles – to my one-time realm of Subterranea!” Sounds like a road trip to me!

June 25, 2017

And now, our opening caption: “Spider-Man and Mole Man have lured a giant monstrosity back beneath Earth’s surface…” Spidey and Melvin look down into the crevice. “If, like an armadillo, that thing will follow it’s own kind’s scent…” Panel #2 moves the camera into the crevice, looking up at our duo. “…it’ll keep chasing that hunk of armor that I threw down there,” Spidey finishes. “I’m positive it will,” says Mole Man. (I’m only going to say this one more time…Lenny is not an armadillo.) The camera is now behind Mole Man in panel #3. “But can’t it see that it’s basically following itself?” asks Spidey. “Like his surface cousin, ‘Lenny’ has exceptionally poor eyesight,” says Moley. “But I can see, Melvin,” says someone from off-panel. Panel #4 reveals the speaker to be Aunt May who now hugs Moley. MJ is also there and she shrugs at Spidey as if to say, “How could I keep her away?” May finishes by saying, “…that you’ve saved this city!” “Well…er…I did have a bit of help from Spider-Man,” says Melvin. And May says, “Spider-Man?! What happened to Peter?” No, actually, she doesn’t. In panel #5, Melvin tells her, “We’ve spared Los Angeles from Tyrannus only for the moment. He now controls all beings that dwell beneath this planet’s fragile crust.” Panel #6 is a Mole Man close-up as he says, “He will send one after another for me – until he has dragged me back to Subterranea – and death!”

Our “Next” caption reads, “What to Do Until Tyrannus Comes!” which is a riff off the books “What to Do Until the Doctor Comes,” “What to Do Until the Psychiatrist Comes” and “What to Do Until the Undertaker Comes” and probably some others. Last week’s was “Arma(dillo)geddon!” which turned out to be a bit overwrought.

June 26, 2017

Aunt May, Mole Man, and MJ appear in panel #1. “You’ve saved this city from that monster, Melvin!” says May. “With a little help from Spider-Man,” MJ says behind her hand. In panel #2, May puts her hand to her mouth and says, “I just hope dear Peter got to safety.” MJ holds up her tablet and lies to Aunt May. “He just texted me, May. He’s all right,” says MJ. Panel #3 is all Melvin as he says, “But – don’t you see? Tyrannus will try again, and again – until he drags me back to Subterranea!”

June 27, 2017

Spidey took the day off yesterday but today he’s back in panel #1 with Melvin. “If Tyrannus tries again to capture you, we’ll handle him,” Spidey says. “No!” says Moley, “You saw how much destruction that last creature caused.” In panel #2, he faces May who smiles at him. (Spidey was right behind Moley in panel #1 but now he’s in the background, behind MJ. Did he teleport?) “I won’t risk any harm coming to others – especially to my beloved May.” Panel #3 is all Mole Man as he says, “I must surrender myself to Tyrannus.” The fourth day in a row that a Mole Man close-up finishes off the strip.

June 28, 2017

Aunt May looks horrified as she tells Melvin, “Surely you don’t mean to put yourself in your enemy’s hands?” “That’s precisely what I intend, my dear,” says Moley. Panel #2 is also May and Mole Man but the camera pulls back so we can see the smashed car in the background. (Has no one else shown up to access the damages?) “What does my wretched life matter,” says Melvin, “weighed against the misery Tyrannus could bring to millions?” Panel #3 is MJ and Spidey as MJ puts her hand up in front of her face to whisper to Spidey, “Is this really the same Mole Man who used to be a menace to the entire surface world?”

June 29, 2017

Spidey and MJ continue whispering. (MJ keeps her hand up in front of her mouth. Can she not whisper without doing that?) “I can’t believe the Mole Man wants to surrender to his worst enemy – to spare civilization from being caught in the crossfire!” she says. “He’s a changed man,” Spidey whispers back, “since he fell for Aunt May.” Panel #2 has (left to right) Mole Man, Aunt May, Spidey, and MJ in a Loony Tunes spotlight. May turns to look at Spidey and MJ. “What are you two whispering about?” says May. “We were just trying to cook up a scheme – to defeat Tyrannus!” lies Spidey.

June 30, 2017

It looks like a whole week’s worth of talk that goes nowhere has gotten to Aunt May. She sags and holds her head in her hand. Mole Man and Spidey continue the chat. “The only way to spare the surface world is for me to give myself up,” says Moley. “From what you’ve said about this ‘Tyrannus’ guy,” begins Spidey. “Once you’re in his grip, he’s liable to invade us anyway,” he finishes in panel #2. Moley is the only other one in the panel. He says, “Well…yes, he very well might.” MJ joins the duo in panel #3 (as Mole Man gets shoved down into the lower left corner). “They why go back?” asks MJ. “Stay here and help us find a way to stop him, once and for all!” says Spidey.

July 1, 2017

Larry gets tired of drawing May and MJ. Panel #1 is Spidey and Moley by the crevice. (Still, no one else on the scene to check out the damages.) “Do you really think we can defeat a murderous tyrant – a man who controls the hordes and behemoths that live beneath the Earth’s crust?” asks Mole Man. Panel #2 is, again, Spidey and Melvin. “Hey, the Fantastic Four licked you several times!” says Spidey, “If they did it – so can we!” Which makes no sense to me. Maybe if they invited the Fantastic Four to come along. Actually, I wasn’t sure the FF even existed in the strip-verse. Dr. Doom doesn’t seem to know about them. He keeps fighting Spidey instead.

(In the last Mole Man appearance, Spidey goes, in the November 21, 2010 strip, to the Baxter Building to seek help. There, the Thing says, "The rest'a the Fantastic Four goes off for a Thanksgiving vacation." So, the FF exists in the strip-verse in 2010. But did they exist before then?)

July 2, 2017

It’s Sunday, so let’s begin with a caption. “The aftermath of the attack by a huge subterranean monster…” Melvin, Aunt May, Spidey, and MJ stand over the big road crevice. And Anna Watson is there too! Even though she went back to the hotel on June 1st. There are a few wrecked cars and two bystanders fleeing in the background, as well as the sound effect WHREEEE in small letters. MJ says, “Sound like every police car in L.A. is headed our way!” Of course, it doesn’t sound like that. It’s a small sound effect. Speaking of the police, they should have been there ages ago. Except for those fleeing bystanders, it is still our usual foursome (or fivesome). In panel #2, the sound effect gets larger and extends across the entire panel. WHREEEEEEEEEEEE. The panel shows Spidey, Moley, and May, from left to right. “If they recognize me, they’ll imprison me – and throw away the key!” says Melvin, referring to the havoc he wreaked in his 2010-2011 appearance, for which he was not imprisoned. Panel #3 is only Spidey and Mole Man (from another angle) as Mole Man says, “You see, Spider-Man? It’s just as I told you. There’s no place for the Mole Man in the outer world!” Panel #4 pulls back to show Spidey, Moley, and MJ. “I must go below and surrender to Tyrannus!” says Melvin. Spidey steps forward and says, “Wait! Maybe we can…” but Moley cuts him off in panel #5. (With the same three characters but with the camera behind them.) “No! I will not stay on the surface – no matter how many times you ask me!” says Melvin but, from off-panel, someone says, “Then, Melvin…,” leading us to panel #6 where Aunt May touches Melvin on the shoulder and says, “What if I asked you?” It’s a nice panel showing Spidey and Mole Man from about the same angle as panel #3 above it but with Aunt May now wedged between them. Spidey and MJ (who is also in panel #6) have the head wiggle lines that imply that they are surprised by May stepping up but, really, they shouldn’t be. And Anna has disappeared again. Let’s see if she turns up in the upcoming strips or if she was just a temporary flashbulb retina burn.

The “Next” caption is “A Proposal on the Edge!” Last week’s was “What to Do Until Tyrannus Comes!” I guess, stand around for an entire week, talking.

July 3, 2017

Now, it’s May and Melvin by the crevice. May says, “Dear Melvin – I’m begging you not to put yourself in the hands of this ‘Tyrannus.’ Defy him, and remain here on the surface.” Moley looks back at her and says, “I…” Then in panel #2, he gets down on one knee, “Yes! I’ll do so, my beloved May,” he says. In panel #3, he is reduced down to a Cousin Itt spot of hair in the lower right corner as he says, “If you will agree to marry me!” MJ, Spidey, and May all get wiggle lines and all looked shocked but, really, why should they? Wasn’t May going to marry him 6 years ago? The bigger surprise is that it only took one day to fulfill the “Next” caption from the Sunday strip!

July 4, 2017

May’s head continues to wiggle as she says, “Melvin – did you just propose to me – again?” MJ looks, wide-eyed, at Spidey but the web-slinger is just a little thumbnail with webbing on it in the lower right corner so we can’t see his reaction. Panel #2 belongs entirely to Melvin as he says, “Yes. But this time, we can live in your sunlight world – not my former domain of darkness!” And panel #3 shows May taking Melvin’s hand as she says, “Then –with all my heart – I accept!” Eh, yeah. I wouldn’t count on it.

July 5, 2017

Mole Man and May clasp hands and gaze at each other in a Loony Tunes spotlight. Mole Man says, “I can’t believe you’ve accepted my marriage proposal.” But Spidey is also in that spotlight, as is the start of a sound effect that extends into panel #2, going WHREEEEEEEEE. (I like that one of the “Es” is actually on the panel border in between.) “You can spend time getting used the idea, Moley,” says Spidey. (Poor Spidey, he’s so shocked that he forgot the word “to” in that sentence.) In panel #2, Spidey grabs Moley by the arm and starts tugging him away. “After we split, so the cops don’t arrest you on outstanding warrants and drag the rest of us in as material witnesses!” he says. “There’s wisdom in your suggestion, web-spinner,” says the Mole Man.

July 6, 2017

The camera moves up into the air to show our four characters down below. (See? No Anna Watson. I told you she was a retina burn.) The cops are still coming (it’s taking them forever) but their siren sound has lost some of its “Es.” Now it is WHREEEEE. “We’ll never get away from here before the police arrive!” says MJ. (I don’t know why not. Everybody else did!) “We don’t have to go far!” says Spidey and he shoots his webbing up on some fire escapes with a FWIPP. “We just have to camouflage ourselves!” he says in panel #2 as he tugs on the fire escapes, which come loose with a THRACKK. And, off-panel, the other three all say, “?” which, I think, means, “Do they have fire escapes on old buildings like this in L.A. or have we suddenly been transported to New York?”

July 7, 2017

The fire escape hits the ground with a SPLANNG. MJ and Spidey look at it lying in front of them. “What good will pulling down that fire escape do?” asks MJ. “Plenty,” says Spidey, “when I use my spider-strength…” “…to twist it into a shield that looks like metal debris!” he finishes in panel #2 as he does just that. In panel #3, the police finally arrive but appear to be blowing right by in their police car as if there is no debris or wrecked cars or huge crevice in the road. The siren has lost another “E.” WHREEEE. Spidey and MJ hide behind the fire escape. “The cops have way too much on their plate right now to notice one more pile of rubble!” Spidey says.

July 8, 2017

The twisted fire escape is now high enough to hide everyone easily. It looks so unnatural, I would assume that the cops would check it out. But May and Moley seem satisfied. They stand behind it with Spidey (MJ takes the day off) as Melvin says, “Thank you for sparing me an altercation with the police.” “A face-off wouldn’t have done us – or the world – any good,” says Spidey. In panel #2, Spidey puts his hands on Melvin’s shoulders, looks him in the eye (Well, looks him in his dark glasses.) and says, “We’ve got to work together – to figure out what to do if Tyrannus attacks again!”

July 9, 2017

We spent the last two weeks focusing on about five minutes of time so it looks like it’s time for a time jump. Panel #1 is a close-up of MJ (with no Sunday caption). She is clearly in a room somewhere because there is a painting on the wall behind her. “We did it!” she says, “We really did it!” In panel #2, she looks out a window at a building with a flag on it. There are three heads in silhouette in the foreground. “Somehow we managed to reach our hotel – without being spotted,” she says. And panel #3’s camera moves up to the ceiling to show MJ, May, Melvin, and Anna in a room with two double beds. “A group consisting of Spider-Man, Mole Man, a slightly flustered senior citizen – and one very weary actress!” says MJ. Panel #4 shows MJ, May, and Melvin from left to right. Melvin says, “Actually, Ms. Parker, the web-spinner seems to have left us.” May puts her hand to her face and says, “Oh dear. I’ve always been a bit fearful of Spider-Man, given his reputation for violence…” She continues in panel #5 with MJ and Melvin also in the panel. “But with the current threat hanging over our heads, I’ll confess I found his presence comforting!” she finishes. “Don’t worry, May,” says MJ, “I’m sure he’ll be back when we need…” A loud SLAM! of the door interrupts her. She finishes in panel #6 with, “…him!” as Anna, May, and Melvin look, with surprise, at the entering Peter. May says, “Peter! MJ said you texted her you were safe, but…” and Peter says, “I’ve been combing the city looking for you folks!” When did you sneak off to begin with, Pete? And is anyone really buying this? They all know he’s Spidey and they’re humoring him, right?

The “Next” caption is “What’s the Plan, Stan?” which is what I’ve been wondering for about the last thirty years of this strip. Last week’s was “A Proposal on the Edge!” which, you’ll recall, immediately took place on Monday as Melvin took a knee by the crevice (“the Edge”) and proposed to Aunt May.

July 10, 2017

So, yeah, “Back at the Parkers’ L.A. hotel…” Peter has shown up. MJ rushes up to him and says, “Spider-Man had to leave, but thank heaven you made it here safely, Peter!” May and Moley are also looking at Peter. (Anna has disappeared again.) “I was so worried…!” says May. “I would feel far more confident discussing strategy with the web-spinner,” says Moley. Panel #2 is only Peter and Moley as Pete says, “I can see how you might feel that way, Mole Man.” “Please…call me Melvin,” says Melvin.

July 11, 2017

From left to right, it’s the end of a bed, Peter with MJ’s hand on his shoulder, the back of MJ’s head, Melvin standing in front of a chest of drawers and May. (No Anna.) “Maybe now that he sees you’re no threat to him – that ‘Tyrannus’ character will leave you in peace,” says either Peter or MJ. (The word balloon seems to point in between them.) “I doubt it,” says Melvin, “but one can always hope, and, speaking of hope…” As in the Hope Diamond, because Melvin, in panel #2, pulls out the biggest damn diamond I’ve ever seen and presents it to May. “I devoutly hope, dear May, that you will do me the sublime honor of becoming my wife!” says Melvin, proposing all over again. Staring at the diamond, May says, “Why, Melvin – is that the same diamond ring you offered me last time?” Peter and MJ both say, “?!” which, I think, means, “Mole Man just offered you the biggest diamond we’ve ever seen and all you can say is, ‘is this the same thing you tried to foist on me before?’.”

July 12, 2017

Still no Anna, as Peter says, “Melvin, did you just propose to May again?” Now, you’d think this is just Peter pretending he doesn’t know since he was dressed as Spidey when Melvin proposed and May accepted (on July 4th) but, no, because that was actually MJ who says that line. Peter says, “I thought we left that notion behind in Subterranea some time back.” Melvin, holding up the big diamond ring, says, “Only because it was clear that she could not exist underground.” In panel #2, Melvin continues. “But now that I have traded my kingdom for life on the surface – there is no reason we cannot be together!” And May puts her hand to her chin and says, “There really isn’t, is there?” as if this is something that just occurred to her. Um, May? Remember July 4th? Remember you saying, “Melvin – did you just propose to me – again?” Remember Melvin saying, “Yes. But this time, we can live in your sunlight world – not my former domain of darkness!” And remember you saying, “Then –with all my heart – I accept!” Remember all that? It was only last week!

July 13, 2017

So, here we go again. Melvin gets down on his knees, takes May’s hands in his and says, “And so, once again I ask – May Parker, will you marry me?” MJ whispers to Peter, “Peter – can’t you do something?” as if May hasn’t already accepted a week ago. And Peter whispers back, “It’s her decision, honey –not ours.” And panel #2 shows a grinning Melvin, a grinning May and the big diamond between them as May says, “Why, yes, Melvin – I do believe I will!” So, are we stuck in a time loop? Did the proposal not count because it was done next to a big hole in the road? What is the deal here? And why isn’t anyone concerned that Anna Watson appears to have disappeared into thin air?!

July 14, 2017

Some odd camera shots today to accommodate all of the dialogue. First, a drone shot with Peter, May, and Melvin pushed to the left of the panel. May towers above the men as they are shoved to the bottom. “Mole – uh, Melvin – I’ve gotta ask –how will you support my Aunt?” asks Peter. A strange question coming from someone who is supported by his Broadway actress wife. “I’m not entirely without means, Peter,” says May, “I have my Social Security.” (Yeah, May. For now.) Melvin holds May’s hand and that huge diamond ring is on her finger. “Your independence does you credit, my dear,” says Melvin. Panel #2 shows MJ, Peter, May, and Melvin in a row at the bottom of the frame. Each looks slightly larger than the last so that they look like the contents of a nesting doll placed side by side. (Still no Anna, by the way. She is in the room, you know. We saw her there last Sunday.) Melvin finishes his statement. “But I did not flee Subterranea empty-handed! The gold and diamonds I brought with me will make me one of the richest men in the world!” he says. And where is he keeping all this gold and diamonds? In his pockets?

July 15, 2017

Peter looks dubious, too. He has wiggle lines around his head as he says to Mole Man, “You managed to escape with your underground wealth intact?” “Only the tiniest percentage of it, Peter,” says the back of Mole Man’s head. Aunt May looks on, smugly, in profile, like an Easter Island statue in a pillbox hat. Panel #2 is all Melvin in a Loony Tunes spotlight as he smiles and says, “Still, if I was penniless when I left the surface world years ago – I have returned to it – a billionaire!” Gah! Get ON with it!

July 16, 2017

In case we haven’t figured it out, Stan tells us, in his opening caption, “Peter is less then ecstatic that his Aunt May has accepted the Mole Man’s wedding proposal…again.” From left to right, panel #1 has MJ, Peter, Mole Man, Aunt May (in each other’s arms) and Anna. Anna’s back! “You absconded with Subterranea’s wealth when you fled?” asks Peter. “Part of my royal treasury,” says Moley, “Gold, silver, diamonds, mined by my loyal subjects.” Panel #2 moves in to show Pete, Melvin, and May as Melvin adds, “Most of it remains with them – if they can ever overthrow Tyrannus and reclaim it. And welcome they will be to it!” He continues in panel #3 in captions. “But, riding on my worm-mount Linneus, I managed to bring a miniscule fraction of it with me. Humankind takes far more from Mother Earth every minute of every day,” he says as the panel shows a flashback of Moley riding Linneus through the earth with several treasure chests strapped on behind him. Panel #4 is a ceiling shot of all five of them as Moley wraps up with “So even the greed-crazed usurper Tyrannus could hardly miss the pittance I took.” “Let’s pray you’re right,” says MJ. And May says, “Peter, Mary Jane – I hope you both accept my decision to marry Melvin.” (So, Anna is back but is not worth talking to.) In panel #5, May and Melvin gaze into each other’s eyes as Peter and MJ look on. “It’s your decision, Aunt May,” says Peter, “Besides, I’m convinced that the Mole – excuse me, Melvin – sincerely loves you.” In panel #6, May hugs Peter as Melvin, MJ, and Anna look on. “Then there’s nothing we need worry about!” says May. But Peter is in “half-Spidey-face” with jagged lines coming off of it. He thinks, “If that were true – my spider-sense wouldn’t be throbbing like a runaway train!”

The “Next” caption reads, “Wedding Plans!” which sounds exciting. Last week’s was “What’s the Plan, Stan?” which I am still asking.

July 17, 2017

And now continuity gets all messed up. In panel #1, MJ tells Peter, “Now, things have settled down a bit, I should look in on my Aunt Anna!” Yeah, MJ, since she’s been right there in the room with you! But, apparently not, because an off-panel voice says, “There’s no need, Mary Jane…” and panel #2 shows Anna entering the room with Jacky, the press agent. “This gentleman came to May’s and my room looking for you,” Anna says. So, if Anna was in her own room all this time, who was hanging around with Peter, MJ, May, and Melvin? Jacky says, “Thank our lucky stars you’re okay, MJ…” He continues in panel #3 with, “…because we’ve got to leave for your next publicity stop – in San Francisco!” Peter and MJ both say “!” as their heads waggle. Did they not know the itinerary?

July 18, 2017

In a Loony Tunes spotlight, MJ sticks her finger in Jacky’s face, causing him to recoil with wiggle lines around his head. “How can you possibly think to go to San Francisco, Jacky,” she says, “after all that’s happened?” Wide-eyed and confused, Jacky replies, “You mean that thing that tore up through the street?” Panel #2 has (left to right), the Mole Man, Jacky, Cousin Itt (oops, sorry, that’s the back of MJ’s head) and Peter, as Jacky asks, “What’s that got to do with you and our movie?” Peter whispers to MJ, “Honey, do you want to be the one to explain who the guy standing next to him is?” In panel #3, a calmer MJ relents. “All right, Jacky, when do we leave?” “Ideally – five minutes ago!” says Jacky.

July 19, 2017

Outside the Hotel, with a doorman standing by (except his face is wiped out by Peter’s word balloon), Pete and MJ head to a waiting taxi. “I just wish you’d let me fly to San Franciso with you,” says Peter. “You know it’s best you stay here with May and…Melvin,” replies MJ. Panel #2 shows the backseat of the cab where Anna awaits with Jacky, who has, apparently taken his glasses off. “Don’t worry, Peter,” says Anna, “Jacky and I will take good care of my niece.” (Let’s just hope they don’t forget that Anna is with them in San Francisco.) From off-panel, Peter replies, “I know you will, Mrs. Watson.” Panel #3’s camera is inside the cab in the backseat so we can see MJ (who has gotten into the front passenger seat), Peter (standing outside looking in) and Jacky (who has his glasses on again). “I’ll join you as soon as it’s feasible, honey,” says Peter. Jacky leans forward and says, “Meter’s runnin’ MJ!”

July 20, 2017

The cab pulls away next to some palm trees (in case you forgot that we’re in California) as May puts her hand on Peter’s shoulder and says, “I know you’ll miss Mary Jane, dear, even if it’s only for a day or two.” “Well, it might be longer than that, Aunt May,” says Peter. In panel #2, Pete looks right at us and continues, “After San Francisco, she has to fly to Denver. The studio’s really pulling out all the stops to promote her and the ‘Marvella’ movie.” And in panel #3, May replies, “Yes, I know, but surely – she’ll make certain she’s here for my wedding!” A shaken Peter says, “Don’t call me ‘Shirley’.” Actually, he doesn’t say anything. He just gets a pained look on his face and wiggles appear around his head as he realizes that May is ready to take the plunge at any moment. With the Mole Man!

July 21, 2017

Peter talks to Aunt May as the Mole Man sneaks up behind him. “You and the Mole Man have made wedding plans already?” he asks. “Please, I remind you again…it’s Melvin,” says the Mole Man. In the panel #2 Loony Tunes spotlight, Melvin takes May’s hand. She says, “We’ve only just decided – the wedding will be in two days.” He says, “Why should we delay now we’ve found each other again?” But, in panel #3, Tyrannus watches them on his glowing video screen (as a couple of Moloids look on). “While elsewhere…” says a helpful caption as Tyrannus says, “And why should I delay, my hapless enemy – now that I’ve found you!”

July 22, 2017

Peter lies in bed, talking to MJ on the phone. “You heard me right, honey!” he says, “Aunt May and the Mole Man are getting wed in two days!” “I’ll get back to L.A. for it…” says MJ over the phone. Panel #2 switches to MJ’s hotel room in San Francisco (although she doesn’t get one of those “While elsewhere…” captions). The room has a fern and a picture on the wall that looks like a checkerboard. And Jacky is lurking around behind her. “…Even if I have to chain my P.R. man to the Golden Gate bridge!” she finishes. “Hurry, MJ!” says Jacky. “We’ve got two newspaper reporters and a major blogger waiting!” So… is MJ so busy that she’s got interviews in the middle of the night or did Peter go to bed at about 7:30?

July 23, 2017

We begin with a close-up of Aunt May’s glowing face as, off-panel, Melvin speaks words of love, Subterranea-style. “Your eyes are like two limpid pools gleaming in the phosphorescent glow of a subterranean cavern, my dear,” he says. “And I’m sure your eyes are lovely too, Melvin…” says May. The camera pulls back in panel #2 to show May and Melvin holding hands at a restaurant table. May continues, “…If only I could see them through those dark glasses.” “You know how sensitive my eyes are to light,” says Melvin. In panel #3, the camera peeks over Melvin’s left shoulder as May says, “There is one thing I feel I should know before we’re married. You’ve never actually told me – your last name!” Panel #4 is a Melvin close-up as he kisses May’s hand. (Panel #1 is above with May looking left and smiling. This panel shows Melvin looking right and kissing as if the two people in the two panels are facing each other. May’s left hand is up to her face in panel #1 and her right hand is being kissed in panel #4. A nice diptych.) “A careless oversight, I assure you,” says Melvin, “My last name is Kurtzman!” (A tribute to Harvey?) Panel #5 moves outside the restaurant as Peter spies on the couple who are, conveniently, sitting next to a window. “I hate spying on May and her fiancé,” he says to himself, “But with Moley on the lam from that Tyrannus guy…I need to keep an eye on both of them!” “And some distance beneath Peter’s feet…” says the caption in panel #6, Tyrannus hangs out in Subterranea, drinking wine served to him by a Moloid with three other Moloids in attendance. He is also spying on Melvin and May through the restaurant window from the same angle as Peter. In fact, is Peter his camera? Sure looks like it. “The time is fast approaching when I shall have my final reckoning with the Mole Man!” says Tyrannus. But first…a glass of wine! I like this guy’s style!

Our next caption is “Street-Level Spy-Drones!” Sounds like we could easily waste a whole week with that! Last week’s was “Wedding Plans!” which took place off-panel while MJ hustled off to San Francisco.

July 24, 2017

Peter is still spying on Melvin and May outside the window. Now, though, the restaurant looks much cheesier with a red and white striped awning and a Menu tacked up outside. Peter has gone from talking to himself to thinking to himself. But first, a caption, reading, “An L.A. night…” Thanks for that! While spying, Peter looks around because, as he puts it, “I hate spying on Aunt May and the Mole Man – but it’s for their own safety, so – what’s that sound?” And we hear it too. A RRRRRRRRRR that appears along the bottom of both panels. In panel #2, Peter looks down and sees a little spider-like machine, which must be the Street-Level Spy-Drone that yesterday’s “Next” caption warned us about. (At least we now know that Peter isn’t Tyrannus’ camera.) “!?” says Peter.

July 25, 2017

Peter squats down to look at the drone, which is still going RRRRR. “Huh?” he thinks, “What’s that gadget down there? Looks like – some kind of ground-level spy drone.” (Very good, Pete! It’s a street level spy drone!) “And now it’s burrowing into the sidewalk!” he thinks, off-panel, as, in panel #2, the drone makes a SKATTCH sound. Panel #3 is Peter’s arm as he shoots his webbing with a FWIPP. (Lots of sound effects today.) “Not on my watch, pal!” he says.

July 26, 2017

Peter tugs on the drone with his webbing. “Whoever sent you, little drone,” he says, “you’re not getting away!” In panel #2, he gets the drone up into his hands. (The webbing has miraculously disappeared.) “Got you!” he says, as he squeezes it with a KCHOMP. In panel #3, he looks at it in surprise (with head wiggles) and says, “Only thing is – I’m not quite sure what I’ve got!”

July 27, 2017

Now we jump ahead to the end of May and Melvin’s dinner. They are back at the hotel. Out in the hallway, Melvin kisses May’s hand. “Thank you for a perfectly lovely evening, Melvin,” May says. “The pleasure was all mine, dear May,” says Melvin. In panel #2, May has gone into her room and Melvin heads toward his room. But Spidey peeks his head around a corner and says, “Psst…Mole Man!” Melvin looks back and says, “You! Have you been spying on me?” In panel #3, Spidey shows him the street-level spy-drone. “No…but someone else has been!” (Of course, Spidey is lying here because he was, in fact, spying on May and Melvin. Maybe he considers what he does as Peter and what he does as Spidey two different things.) Melvin recognizes the machine. “Why, this is one of my old digger drones!” he says.

July 28, 2017

A close-up of Spidey and Mole Man looking at the drone. “Digger drone?” asks Spidey, responding to Melvin’s comment yesterday. “It’s very similar to one of your surface-crawlers’ drones…” says Melvin. Panel #2 is rather a drone shot itself, taken above the duo, as Mole Man continues, “…designed to burrow through earth or rock to reach those being observed.” “It was observing you and May earlier,” Spidey says, “I presume it was…” And in panel #3, a close-up of Mole Man, Melvin finishes the sentence. “…sent by the usurper Tyrannus? Yes.”

July 29, 2017

A couple of panels in those Loony Tunes spotlights. First, Mole Man now holds the drone as Spidey looks on. “My worst fears are confirmed, wall-crawler,” says Melvin, “Tyrannus will never allow me to live in peace here on the surface.” Second, Spidey in a close-up, half-in and half-out of the spotlight as Melvin, off-panel, says, “As a matter of fact, I strongly suspect – that he does not intend to let me live at all!” Spidey says, “!” which means, I suppose, “Harsh!”

July 30, 2017

And now as we switch over to Alex on Sunday, the walls have gone all-metallic, Spidey is perched up on the wall, the Mole Man has his staff in his hand (did he take it on the date?) and there is smoke coming out of the drone. “So this ‘digger-drone’ I smashed was spying on you and May Parker?” Spidey asks. (He knows full well it was since he was spying, too.) “I strongly suspect so,” says Mole Man, looking very sad. The camera shifts in panel #2 to get a closer view of Mole Man with Spidey behind. Melvin looks very sad. “There’s only one thing I can do – deeply as I regret it,” Melvin says. Panel #3 is a close-up of Melvin’s face with tears streaming down from behind his glasses. “I must cancel my marriage plans with dear May,” he says, “So my enemy Tyrannus cannot strike at me through her.” (Because of a drone??? You already knew Tyrannus was after you, Moley!) Panel #4 is a neat, silent panel, shot from behind Spidey and Moley, as Melvin drops the drone and slumps away. But, in panel #5, now shot from the front, Spidey jumps down from the wall and yells, “Stop! I never thought I’d hear myself say this, Mole Man…” and he finishes in panel #6 with, “…but I think your wedding should go forward as planned.” Melvin looks back at him and is so surprised that he says “?” and lines shoot out from all over his head!

The “Next” caption is, “Has Peter Taken Leave of His (Spider) Senses?” which is kind of cute. Last week’s was “Street-Level Spy-Drones.” If it had been singular, it would have been 100% correct.

July 31, 2017

Mole Man and Spidey face each other in the hallway. (Moley still has his staff.) “For decades, my hearing has been vastly superior to my faltering eyesight,” says Melvin, “but – did you say my marriage to May Parker should proceed on schedule?” For panel #2, the camera moves around to the other side so Spidey is on the left when he was on the right in panel #1. “Actually, I think we should make her aware of the potential danger – and let her make her own decision!” says the wall-crawler.

August 1, 2017

Now, Moley sets his staff to the side as he sits on a loveseat with May Parker, presumably in May’s room. He holds her hand as he finishes, “…so that’s the whole story, beloved.” Didn’t May already know about Tyrannus? She acts like she didn’t. “Goodness!” she says, “So there’s danger if you and I go forward with our wedding plans?” Spidey is there, too. “I’m afraid so, Mrs. Parker,” he chimes in. Panel #2 puts Melvin and May in a Loony Tunes spotlight as May says, “Well, it’s been years since I’ve been this happy – and I won’t let this Tyrannus or anyone else stand in the way of that happiness!” The Mole Man smiles.

August 2, 2017

Now, for some reason, Mole Man and Spidey have moved to the roof. Moley says, “May’s nephew Peter may not appreciate your encouraging our marriage to go ahead…given the threats from Tyrannus!” (Has Tyrannus actually made any threats?) Spidey replies, “I know Mole Man…Melvin.” In panel #2, he puts his chin in his hand and really lets loose. “But if May Parker threw aside her chance to marry you – I fear she’d be no more than a walking ghost the rest of her life,” he says. Moley looks shocked and wiggle lines appear around his head. He’s got to be thinking what I’m thinking: “Where in the world did you get a crazy idea like that???!!”

August 3, 2017

Still on the roof, Melvin says, “Naturally, I want my marriage to May to happen. But will Tyrannus let it happen?” Panel #2 is Spidey alone in a Loony Tunes spotlight. (These spotlights have been getting a workout.) “I’ll be around to protect you both,” he says, “Maybe knowing that will persuade him to give up his plans.” As Spidey web-swings away in panel #3, Melvin looks on and thinks, “I only wish I believed it would, web-swinger!

August 4, 2017

Today is all Spidey and all Spidey’s thoughts. In panel #1, he web-swings along, thinking, “Wish I could be sure I’m doing the right thing – advising the Mole Man to go ahead with his marriage to Aunt May.” In panel #2, he shoots out a web with a FWIPP and reverses course. (Since he’s only pretending to leave and has to get back to the hotel.) “But they clearly love each other,” he thinks, “So, on their wedding day…” In panel #3, he is back at the hotel as he thinks, “I’ll keep an eye – and my spider-sense – alert for any threats from Tyrannus!”

August 5, 2017

Panel #1 is a close-up of Aunt May. She says, “What do you think, Peter?” “I think – no, I know, Aunt May…” says Peter, off-panel. In panel #2, Peter is with May. In the foreground is a man with a woman in a bridal dress so I suspect they’re at the bridal shop. “…that you’ll be the most beautiful bride this side of a million-dollar wedding cake,” Pete finishes. But, in panel #3, a street-level spy-drone watches behind a smiling Peter Parker.

August 6, 2017

That drone from yesterday sends a picture of Aunt May to Tyrannus’ video screen, which becomes our first panel today. From off-panel, someone says, “So, this is where you’ve been, husband.” In panel #2, the camera pulls back to show May on the screen, Tyrannus watching, three Moloids, and a woman in a headdress that makes her look like a rooster. “Spying on the Mole Man’s intended bride!” she says. Tyrannus looks at her, smiles, and says, “Kala! I didn’t hear you approach!”

With the introduction of a new character, I think it’s time we looked at the history of a few of them. The Mole Man, as I’m sure you all know, first appeared in Fantastic Four #1, November 1961, the first issue of the Marvel Age. But the other underworld dwellers are longtime members of the Marvel Universe as well. Tyrannus first appeared in Incredible Hulk #5, January 1963. Kala “Queen of the Netherworld” faced Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #43, July 1963. In Fantastic Four #127-128, October-November 1972, Kala teams up with Mole Man, then betrays him for Tyrannus but then Tyrannus betrays her and she ends up with Mole Man again. So, did Kala marry Tyrannus in the Marvel Universe? Not that I can tell. But this is not the Marvel Universe, this is the Stripverse. So, if Stan says Kala is married to Tyrannus, then Kala is married to Tyrannus.

In panel #3, Kala faces Tyrannus with her hands on her hips. “Because you were focused on your desire to destroy him!” she says, “You’ve driven him from his throne, Tyrannus. The underworld is yours!” “You mean ‘ours,’ beloved,” says Tyrannus, his hands clasped in front of him. The camera moves in to show Kala and Tyrannus’ left hand in panel #4. “I was content before you overthrew him – back when we ruled only half of Subterranea,” she says. In panel #5, Tyrannus, now up from his throne, holds Kala (as a Moloid watches) and says, “The crown can never rest easy upon our heads, dear wife – not while the Mole Man lives!” And, in panel #6, a caption says, “Some time later, above ground…” Melvin, May, and Peter are walking in L.A. with four bystanders. “It’s so nice of you to escort us, Peter,” says May. “I’m not letting the two of you out of my sight!” replies Peter.

Our “Next” caption is “Wedding Bells – or a Death Knell?” Does it have to be one or the other? Last week’s was “Has Peter Taken Leave of His (Spider) Senses?” and I think we still don’t know the answer to that.

August 7, 2017

Peter, walking with May and Melvin, looks startled. “Your wedding’s going to be held where, Aunt May?” he says. “Melvin and I want to be wed someplace with special meaning for us,” says May. “And since we both love the old movie ‘Rebel Without a Cause…” says Melvin. And in panel #2, Melvin’s hand (the rest of him is off-panel) points up at Griffith Observatory. “We’re going to be married up there – on the grounds of Griffith Observatory,” he says. Peter says, “!” which might mean, “Both of you guys are fans of ‘Rebel Without a Cause’?” but I think probably means, “Good luck setting up a wedding at Griffith Observatory in two days!”

August 8, 2017

More “Rebel Without a Cause” talk. In fact, too much talk altogether. Peter and May look up at Griffith Observatory. “Sure, I saw ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ on TV a couple of times,” says Peter, “And I know its most famous scenes were filmed up at Griffith Observatory.” Panel #2 is just Peter and May. “But – as a place to get married -!?” adds Peter. “An observatory is as near as we mortals can get to heaven, Peter…with all of the city laid out beneath it,” says May. Panel #3 is a smiling Peter. He says, “Okay, okay, you’ve sold me! What can I do to help?”

August 9, 2017

Back in his hotel room, Peter has a little FaceTime with MJ. “That’s right, MJ, Aunt May and the Mole Man are getting married tomorrow at dawn,” he says. (Dang! They set up that wedding at Griffith Observatory already?) “Think you and Anna can catch a plane over from Denver?” he asks. (Denver? When did they travel to there from San Francisco?) In Denver (and panel #2), MJ talks to Peter as Anna…closes the window? “I – I so wish we could, Peter?” says MJ, “But this thunderstorm has grounded all air traffic!” (So, the storm is going to go on until tomorrow?) Outside, lightning strikes with a KRA-KOOOM.

August 10, 2017

Back in L.A., Peter places a hand on May’s shoulder and says, “MJ and Anna are devastated they can’t be here for your wedding.” May says, “We know they would if they could.” Melvin holds up a videocassette or an external drive or something. “But, later, they can enjoy a complete digital record of it,” Melvin says. “While, some distance beneath their feet,” says the caption in panel #2. Tyrannus is back in his throne, watching Peter on his video screen. “And that wedding will be my chance to strike!” says Tyrannus. “Oh no it won’t!” says someone off-panel.

Come on, Tyrannus! Strike! Nothing has happened in this story for weeks!

August 11, 2017

“In the caverns of Subterranea…” according to the caption. Hands on hips, Kala confronts her husband. “I can’t believe you want to attack the Mole Man on his wedding day!” “What better time to catch him off guard?” asks Tyrannus. In panel #2, Kala sticks a finger in Tyrannus’ face. “You’ve taken his throne. You’ve no need to destroy him,” she says, “I want you to promise to drop this mad scheme!” In panel #3, Tyrannus tells a smiling Kala, “All right, dear wife, I promise,” he says but he crosses his fingers behind his back.

August 12, 2017

May and Peter are out on the balcony of her hotel room (I think). “I wish Melvin were here with me,” says May. “You know it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride the night before the wedding,” says Peter. (But he was just there a few minutes ago, wasn’t he?) In panel #2, May turns her back on us and looks out at the city. “Oh, I know. And after tomorrow morning, we’ll be together always,” she says. Peter looks out at us and gets that half-Spidey mask as he thinks, “My spider sense is working overtime. Something bad is going to happen – I just know it!” Good or bad, let something happen!

August 13, 2017

The Mole Man is watching TV, a blond woman on his screen, and eating popcorn. Behind him, an off-panel voice says, “Mole Man?” “Eh? Who’s there? We’re on the 8th floor!” says Melvin. In panel #2, Melvin looks out his open window (where are they finding these hotel rooms with windows that open?) and sees Spider-Man hanging upside down on his web. “Oh, it’s you! I might have known,” says Melvin. In panel #3, Spidey jumps into the room. “I got a – well, call it a premonition – there might be trouble at your wedding come dawn,” he says. “As if I’d let anything mar May’s and my big day!” says Melvin. Panel #4 moves in to a two-shot of Spidey and Moley. “But you know Tyrannus tried to kill you before,” says Spidey. “Since I didn’t retaliate, I’m sure he realizes I’m perfectly content with his ruling my former realm!” says Melvin. In panel #5, Spidey web-swings away with a FWIP; Melvin in the room behind him. “It’s no use,” thinks Spidey, “He’s so blissed out, he’s in denial! I’ll just have to be extra alert tomorrow.” “While in Subterranea…” says the caption in panel #6. Tyrannus talks to eight Moloids. “Prepare the dawn attack – but silently!” he says, “My dear wife Kala must not know – until it’s too late for her to prevent it!”

The “Next” panel is “Comes the Dawn…!” and it can’t come too soon! Last week’s was “Wedding Bells – or a Death Knell?” and we still don’t know which.

August 14, 2017

“Not long before dawn…” according to the caption. Two women help May get dressed in her hotel room as Peter, in a tux, looks on. (He rented a tux in just two days?) “Oh Peter…I’m so thrilled Melvin and I are going to be wed!” says May. Panel #2 is May, one of the women, and Peter. “Even though my intended matrons of honor are hundreds of miles away!” says a sad May. “MJ and Anna couldn’t fly here through that storm, Aunt May,” says Peter. (That storm is still going on?) But panel #3 is Peter with spider-sense spikes shooting off his head as he thinks, “The way my spider sense is throbbing, I’m almost glad they aren’t here. This way I don’t have to watch out for anyone but Aunt May and her groom.”

August 15, 2017

Peter in his tux and May in her Granny (bridal) dress walk past the doorman, as they head outside. “Melvin said there’d be a car here to take us to…” says May. An off-panel voice interrupts her. “Mrs. May Parker, I presume?” it says. Panel #2 reveals the speaker to be a chauffeur who is holding open the door of a stretch limo. “Mr. Kurtzman said I’d have no trouble recognizing the lovely lady I’m to drive to Griffith Park,” he says. “This isn’t a car,” says Peter, “it’s a private train on four wheels.” Ah yes, I forgot Melvin had all of those jewels. Maybe he can arrange a wedding at Griffith Observatory in two days.

August 16, 2017

The limo driver had a line yesterday but that’s it for him. We don’t see him at all today as Peter helps May out of the car at the observatory. “The observatory looks so lovely at first dawn,” says May. Mole Man, in his tux and looking like Doc Ock, joins them in panel #2. “It, and the stars above, fade to insignificance next to you, dear lady,” he says. And Peter looks at him and thinks, “I can’t believe that’s the same Mole Man who once tried to conquer the surface world.” And he goes off into a reverie in panel #3 in which half of the panel is taken up with a close-up of MJ in his thoughts. “Well, actually…when I think of what MJ means to me,” he thinks, “I shouldn’t be surprised that love really can accomplish miracles!”

You know, Stan’s wife Joan just died, during the run of this story, on July 6. I don’t think Stan writes this strip anymore and, if he does, this story was probably written months ago but it is becoming a nice little tribute to marriage and wives. My sympathies to you and your family, Stan.

August 17, 2017

Hey, the limo driver is back! This time, he has a camera and is taking a picture of Melvin, May, and Peter. “Nobody here but the Mole Man and our chauffeur, but that’s okay,” says Peter, “long as he dug up a justice of the peace for somebody to…” “Oh, never fear, Mr. Parker,” interrupts an off-panel person. Panel #2 reveals the speaker; a minister whom Peter and Aunt May recognize. “Mr. Kurtzman and I are old friends,” says the minister. (You know, none of us knew Mole Man’s last name just a few days ago and now it seems like everybody knows it!) “I recognize you!” says Peter. (Told you.) “You’re the minister Melvin brought to Subterranea the first time we attempted to wed!” (“Attempted to wed?” Who in the world says “attempted to wed?” Aunt May, I guess.)

August 18, 2017

The minister and Melvin watch the rising sun. “The sun is just coming up,” says the minister, “I believe this is when you said you’d like to begin?” “Most decidedly,” says Melvin. (May says, “Attempted to wed” yesterday, Melvin says “Most decidedly” today. They are made for each other.) But down in Subterranea, Tyrannus watches Melvin and the back of the minister’s head. “Then, it’s time for me to begin as well and for the Mole Man’s wretched life to end!” he says to no one.

August 19, 2017

The ceremony is about to begin. Peter decides this is a perfect time to guilt-trip and lie to Aunt May. They whisper back and forth as the minister stands before them holding his Bible open. “I’m so happy you’re the one giving me away, Peter,” whispers May. “Last time, Spider-Man had to stand in for me, didn’t he?” Peter whispers back. This startles Aunt May. In panel #2, her head wobbles and she whispers “Oh dear…I’ve always hoped you didn’t hold that against me.” And Peter says, “No, Aunt May, I’m just messing with you because I am Spider-Man!” Hah! No, he doesn’t! He whispers, “Hey, I make a living taking photos of the ol’ wall-crawler! I’m just sorry I wasn’t there to snap some pics!”

August 20, 2017

“Griffith Park, Hollywood…At Dawn…” says the opening caption. Peter leads Aunt May to Melvin as the minister waits to begin the ceremony. (Super-Mario is also there. Actually, I think that must be the chauffeur.) “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together,” begins the minister. “Oh dear,” says May. In panel #2, the camera moves in on Melvin, Peter, May, and the minister. “What’s wrong, my good lady?” asks Melvin. “I can’t help remembering when we reached this point in the ceremony the first time we tried to wed…” says May. The minister ducks out of panel #3. In it, May says, “…that awful giant monster reached up and grabbed me with its great clawed hand!” (I can see how that might tend to stick with you.) “Don’t worry, May. That won’t happen this time,” says Melvin. “No…” says Peter, looking behind him. “This time it’s a humongous tentacle,” finishes Peter in panel #4 as a “humongous tentacle” pushes out of the sidewalk with a KRAKKKKK. It turns out that our group is not down at ground level. They are on a roof of the observatory. The green tentacle rises up at them. (And look! There are birds in the sky so it must be an Alex Saviuk Sunday page.) In panel #5, Peter says, “…and it’s latched onto the Mole Man!” And, yup, that’s what the panel shows. May looks on, horrified. The minister is looking for an exit. “No! Th-this can’t be happening! Not now! Not today!” says Melvin. “While far below…” says our panel #6 caption. Tyrannus watches Mole Man and the tentacle on his viewscreen. Five shocked-looking Moloids watch with him. Tyrannus raises a fist. “It just doesn’t get any better than this!” he says.

The “Next” caption is “Down Into the Depths?” with a question mark so it’s not even sure. Last week’s was “Comes the Dawn…!” and, yeah, it finally came.

August 21, 2017

Today is nothing but a recap. In panel #1, the minister is beginning the service. Melvin, May and Peter are there but Super-Mario is not. A caption begins, “No sooner does the wedding ceremony of Aunt May and the Mole Man begin…” The minister again says, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together…” and the caption finishes in panel #2 with “…than events suddenly take a sinister turn!” The tentacle busts through the concrete with a KKRRACKK that spans both panels and it grabs Melvin. “No! Th-this can’t be happening – not today!!” he says. And Peter thinks, “But – it is!” (It’s not only happening, it’s happening again.)

August 22, 2017

The Mole Man dangles in the tentacle’s grip as Peter tries to lead Aunt May away. “Let go of me!” yells Moley. “Please go inside, Aunt May!” says Peter. “But – what about poor Melvin?!” says May. In panel #2, Peter turns May over to the minister and runs over to help Melvin. “I’ll bring him to you!” says Peter. “Peter – no!!” yells May.

August 23, 2017

Now, two panels with long range views. In the first, the tentacle is pulling Melvin off of the roof. Peter leaps after it. “Save yourself, Parker!” says the Mole Man. “We’re both walking away from this thing or else,” says Peter. In panel #2, the tentacle, Moley, and Peter have all disappeared into the ground with a KRUNNNTCH. May and the minister look down from the roof. “The ground – it just closed – behind Peter and Melvin and that terrible tentacle!” she says. “Thank heaven I’ve never had any other weddings turn out like Mrs. Parker’s!” thinks the minister.

August 24, 2017

“A subterranean behemoth drags Peter and the Mole Man down…” according to the opening caption. We are with them underground. The Mole Man is wrapped up by the tentacle but Peter is hanging on to the tentacle himself. “Tyrannus is behind this!” says Melvin, “You can’t help me!” “Maybe – if I can just…” says Peter, but in panel #2, the tentacle seems to fling Peter away. “Oooph,” Peter says. “Good!” says Melvin, “It flung you onto that ledge!” (Of course, it doesn’t worry Melvin that that ledge is way down underground somewhere.) In panel #3, with Melvin and the tentacle in the distant background, Peter begins to change into his Spidey duds. “Truth is, I leaped here, so he won’t see me doing my Spider-Man bit!” he thinks.

August 25, 2017

“Above:” in panel #1, the minister stands with a shaky Aunt May. “Are you all right, Mrs. Parker?” he asks. “M-my heart – it’s racing -!” she says. (Oh oh. Looks like one of those patented Aunt May attacks coming on. And where is Super-Mario?) “Below:” in panel #2, Spidey web-swings down to help Melvin, still wrapped in the tentacle. “Spider-Man!? Where did you come from?” asks the Mole Man. “Didn’t think I’d miss your wedding, didja – even if you did?” says the wall-crawler.

August 26, 2017

We begin with an odd panel. Tyrannus is watching Spidey on his viewscreen but Tyrannus is off-panel. Instead the viewscreen takes up about two-thirds of the panel with four cringing Moloids in the bottom right. “Eh? How did Spider-Man manage to join the Mole Man underground?” asks the off-panel Tyrannus. Then, to make up for his absence in panel #1, Tyrannus fills up the entire second panel (looking a bit like an evil John Elway) as he says, “No matter! There is room down here for both of them. Subterranea has the deepest graves on the planet!” Ha ha. That Tyrannus. What a card.

August 27, 2017

“As the tentacled beast descends deep into the Earth…” Spidey clings on as Melvin is still encircled. “You can’t help me,” says Melvin, “Go help Peter Parker – he must be clinging to a ledge up above!” Panel #2 moves closer to show Spidey crawling over to Mole Man as he says, “I already took care of him, Moley.” (So it did worry Melvin that Peter was on an underground ledge.) “Now it you I’ve got to…” begins Spidey as another tentacle reaches for him. He leaps away in panel #3, saying, “Oh no you don’t!” But, in panel #4, he is entrapped by a whole slew of tentacles. “No nigh-brainless brute sneaks up on your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!” he says as he tries to fend off the attack. From off-panel, Melvin says, “I should tell you – that’s a dectopus…” He continues in panel #5 with “It has ten enormous tentacles!” (Yeah, you really should have mentioned that before, Melvin!) A tentacle hits Spidey with a SLAMM, knocking the air out of him. “HNNNH,” he says. “While leagues below…” in panel #6, Tyrannus watches Spidey and Melvin entrapped by the tentacles. “It’s like having a front row seat - at the greatest gladiator contest of all time!” (Wow, I hope that isn’t true.)

Our “Next” caption is, “Helpless – At the Earth’s Core!” which makes it sound like this storyline is going to go on for quite a while. Last week’s was “Down Into the Depths?” which probably had that question mark because, after a full week, Spidey and Melvin are still traveling down.

August 28, 2017

We move back in time a few seconds to the point where the tentacle hits Spidey with a SLAMM and he says “HNNNH.” But this time, the Mole Man says, “I tried to warn you, wall-crawler.” In panel #2, both of them are wrapped up as Moley says, “Nothing can save me from the wrath of Tyrannus! Nothing can save either of us!” Thanks for that, Moley!

August 29, 2017

And now the dectopus arrives at its destination. It has Moley and Spidey wrapped up in tentacles and it appears to have a head with an eye so it isn’t just all tentacles after all. Tyrannus is waiting as the dectopus arrives. He has his back to us and his word balloon obscures part of his head (in both panels) but we can still see he is now wearing some dopey-looking crown. “Ah! Welcome back, my many-tentacled minion,” he says, “You bring not only the deposed fool I sent you after…” Panel #2 is a close-up of Spidey, unconscious in the tentacles’ grip with Tyrannus behind. “…but his web-weaving defender as well!” says the guy in the dopey-looking crown.

August 30, 2017

A Moloid puts handcuffs on Melvin as Tyrannus stands before him, arms crossed, wearing his very dopey-looking crown. “You took my throne, Tyrannus,” says Melvin, “Couldn’t you allow me a crumb of happiness on the surface?” “Sooner or later, you would long for what you lost,” says dopey-looking Tyrannus. Panel #2 is a close-up of Tyrannus’ head and that crown. “Uneasy lies this crown upon my brow,” he says, “as long as its former wearer is still alive!” So, that means the Mole Man also wore that dopey crown?

August 31, 2017

A close-up of Spidey…tilted sideways. “Man! That underground octopus sure packed a wallop!” he says, “Can barely move…” From off-panel, Tyrannus says, “That, you poor imitation of an arachnid…” And panel #2 pulls the camera up above so we see Tyrannus standing over Spidey who is chained up and lying on the floor. Melvin is also there in the lower left corner. Tyrannus seems to have lost his dopey crown. “…is because I had my subjects bind you with unbreakable chains!” finishes Tyrannus. (Unbreakable chains! What a great invention!)

By the way, we have now hit the four month mark for this story and it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon.

September 1, 2017

Tyrannus dips his goblet into the Fountain of Youth as he speaks. (Has the Fountain of Youth been mentioned before? I can’t remember. Seems awful late to be bringing it into the story.) Mole Man and Spidey’s legs stick out from under some word balloons. Spidey is standing, even though he was chained up and lying down yesterday. Did someone help him up? “Now, after the barest sip from my life-sustaining Fountain of Youth,” says Tyrannus, “I’ll have my dectopus crush you both!” From off-panel, someone calls out, “Stop, Tyrannus!” The speaker is revealed, in panel #2, to be Kala, who knocks the goblet out of Tyrannus’ hand. “I won’t remain the wife and queen of a murderer!” she says. Just in case you forgot who she is, Tyrannus reminds us. “Kala,” he says, looking surprised. Well, why did you think Kala was introduced on August 6th anyway? And why did she make Tyrannus promise to give up his “mad scheme” to ruin the Mole Man’s wedding day on August 11th…a promise he immediately broke? I think we’re about to find out.

September 2, 2017

Hands on hips, Kala does not look happy as Tyrannus introduces her. “The Mole Man has met my lovely wife, Kala,” he says, “In fact, the two of them were once engaged…very briefly.” To quote myself from August 6th, “In Fantastic Four #127-128, October-November 1972, Kala teams up with Mole Man, then betrays him for Tyrannus but then Tyrannus betrays her and she ends up with Mole Man again.” Is this where she and Mole Man were engaged or are we dealing with a “Stripverse Only” event again?

In panel #2, Tyrannus turns to the chained-up Spidey and manacled Mole Man. “But you, Spider-Man have not had the pleasure,” he says. “If she’s anything like you, I’d sooner go another round with your tentacled monster!” says a very bitter Spider-Man.

September 3, 2017

It’s Sunday and Alex starts us off with a drone shot of Kala, Tyrannus, Spidey, Mole Man and about 11 Moloids standing around an underground pool while Stan gives us a caption that reads, “The captive Spidey and Mole Man are witnesses to a subterranean domestic spat.” Kala leans into Tyrannus and says, “You lied to me, Tyrannus!” Panel #2 takes us down to head level. It’s Kala, Tyrannus, Spidey, and Melvin from left to right. “You swore you wouldn’t try to slay the Mole Man,” says Kala, pointing at him, “since he’d abdicated and fled to the surface!” Panel #3 is all Kala and Tyrannus (except for two Moloids peeking in from behind) as Ty replies, “Surely you didn’t truly believe that little white lie, wife! I – we – can never sit safely on our thrones while he lives!” Kala looks very placid in this panel but she can’t be too fond of a guy who calls his wife “wife.” The camera pulls back a bit in panel #4 as Kala tries to take Ty into her arms. (There are 3 Moloids, Spidey in three-quarter profile and the back of Melvin’s head.) “I already ruled my own underground realm –and I shared it with you!” says Kala. (She did rule her own underground realm in Tales of Suspense #43, July 1963 and shared, briefly, with Tyrannus in Fantastic Four #127-128, October-November 1972 but, again…Stripverse.) Back to a two-shot of Kala and Ty in panel #5 as Ty says, “Don’t you see? I wanted a kingdom I had conquered!” (Ah, the plight of the modern-day male!) “Now I’ll have one,” he continues, “and I’ll make it mine forever – by executing the Mole Man and his bewebbed protector!” In panel #6, Spidey sticks his nose in. “Y’know, it might almost be worth dying just to get away from your corny monologues!” he says. Tyrannus looks back in anger at Spidey. Mole Man, right next to Spidey, says nothing.

The “Next” caption is “Timetable for a Double Execution!” Last week’s was “Helpless – At the Earth’s Core!” and, yeah, Spidey and Moley have been pretty helpless but are they really at the earth’s core?

September 4, 2017

Now, Kala sticks her finger in Ty’s face and says, “Tyrannus, I demand you spare the Mole Man and the Man-Spider!” Moley and Spidey are in the background. Spidey chirps in with “Actually, it’s Spider-Man – but I second the sentiments!” Tyrannus responds, “You are my queen, Kala – but I reign in Subterranea!” Panel #2 is all Tyrannus as he grimaces, clenches his fist and announces, “And I say – both of them –must die!”

September 5, 2017

And now Kala points at Spidey and says, “Give Spider-Man to me, to be my personal slave – and I’ll not interfere if you wish to slay the Mole Man.” “Agreed!” says Tyrannus. In panel #2, Ty stalks off, muttering, “The things I do to keep peace in the family!” while the manacled Mole Man says, “Somehow, I fail to appreciate this little bargain.”

September 6, 2017

Still in his chains, Spidey leans in toward Kala (the manacled Mole Man behind) and says, “You’ve got to stop Tyrannus, Kala! He’ll kill the Mole Man – in cold blood!” Unmoved, Kala slaps Spidey (in panel #2) with a WHAPT. “Shut up, slave!” she says. In panel #3, Tyrannus returns. “Now, which shall I use to execute you, Mole Man? Sword – or axe?” he says, carrying one of each. The Mole Man looks back at him and his head gets worried wiggle lines around it.

September 7, 2017

Tyrannus looks positively demonic as he looks at the sword and axe and says, “I suspect the sword is the better weapon of execution.” (Better than an axe? Since when?) Kala agrees. “Yes, it’s lighter than the axe…and you do seem a bit tired.” Panel #2 is Tyrannus and Kala’s hand. Tyrannus says, “Tired?” Off-panel, Kala says, “Yes, see how those wrinkles mark your face?” And Kala’s hand points Kala’s finger right at the wrinkles. In panel #3, Ty freaks out. He puts his hands to his face and says, “Y-you’re right! I’m starting to age again! It’s been too long since I drank from my Fountain of Youth!”

September 8, 2017

Tyrannus leans down by the pool, which is, in fact, the Fountain of Youth. He picks up the goblet that Kala knocked out of his hand on September 1st. “I must drink from my Fountain – before I quickly grow older,” he says, “But my chalice – it broke when it fell!” (Okay, Tyrannus, you win, I’ll start calling it a “chalice.”) In panel #2, we get a good look at the chalice and it is a mess. A big chunk of it is missing. Pretty cheap materials for such a crucial instrument. “Only by drinking precisely the amount it holds – no more, no less – can I slow my aging,” Ty says, “without the risk of reversing it – becoming an infant!” (How did he figure that out to begin with?) In panel #3, he drops the chalice and runs off, with Spidey and Kala watching. “Wait! I just remembered,” he says, “I’ve a spare chalice in my treasure room!”

Now, I’d like to ask some question. Wasn’t this the Mole Man realm? Didn’t Tyrannus just steal it? But hasn’t Tyrannus been drinking from the Fountain of Youth for nearly 1500 years? So, has the Mole Man just let him use it? Why isn’t it in Tyrannus’ old domains? And why does Tyrannus have a treasure room in the Mole Man’s old digs?

September 9, 2017

It’s Mole Man, Spidey, and Kala from left to right. “Is your husband out of his tree, Kala?” asks Spidey, “Does he really think that’s the Fountain of Youth?” “Yes,” replies Kala, “because that’s what it is.” Panel #2 is all Kala as she says, “He first drank of its waters 1,541 years ago – soon after he abdicated as the last Roman Emperor!” Remember that Tyrannus is Romulus, the last Emperor of the western Roman Empire who was deposed in AD 476. We’ve been told this before in this story…haven’t we?

September 10, 2017

“While Tyrannus searches for his spare chalice…” and he is really searching. He leans into a treasure chest and tosses things out behind him. He hair has gone completely gray, unless this is a coloring error. “It must be around here someplace!” he says. (Yeah, “where did I put that 1500 years ago?” You’d think, considering he needs the exact amount of Fountain of Youth water, he’d be more careful about where he put his spare. Or have a less fragile chalice.) A panel #2 caption continues the panel #1 caption. “…his queen guards the captive Spider-Man and Mole Man.” “You really expect me to believe that guy was once a Roman Emperor?” says Spidey, “The last one of those quit his day job in 476 A.D.!” (Yeah, Spidey. Who can believe a 1500 year old Roman Emperor? I mean, you’re standing at the center of the Earth after having a team-up with a raccoon from outer space. All much more believable!) Panel #3 is a Kala close-up. “Yes. That was Tyrannus,” she says, “He had a different name then, of course!” Panel #4 spotlights Melvin and Spidey, both chained. “Whatever he calls himself, he means to kill me when he returns,” says Mole Man. “We can’t let that happen!” says Spidey. With Kala looking on, like an Easter Island statue, in panel #5 (Melvin looking on, too), Spidey tries to break his chains. “If only - HNNH – I could get rid of these chains!” says Spidey but he is unsuccessful. (It has finally sunk in for me that the Stripverse Spidey is much weaker than the comic book Spidey. He’d have busted those chains in no time.) In panel #6, Kala produces a key (and some cleavage) as Spidey and Melvin stare at her. “Might this help?” says Kala. Spidey says, “!?” which is shorthand for “What? What? What?” or maybe for “The key or the cleavage?”

The “Next” caption is “Kala Changes Sides?” but, as you can see, the caption is undecided. Last week’s was “Timetable for a Double Execution!” but that timetable is very slow. Plus, Spidey got taken off the execution docket so that caption was just all kinds of wrong.

September 11, 2017

“While Tyrannus searches for his indispensable spare chalice…” Kala uses the key on the back of Spidey’s chains as Melvin looks on. (Looks like Kala's dress is no longer low-cut. Apparently, Larry is more restrained than Alex.) “You’re gonna set me free?” asks Spidey. “Yes, and you should know that I do it…” says Kala, “…in the name of love!” she finishes in panel #2, looking at Melvin. Spidey and Mole Man both say “?”

September 12, 2017

Spidey is free of his chains. “Now that I’m unchained, you can let Moley loose,” he says. “I can’t!” replies Kala as Moley looks on, “Tyrannus gave me only the keys to your chains.” (And when did he do that? And why?) In panel #2, Spidey tries to break Mole Man’s manacles. “And they’re – HNNNFF – too strong – even for me!” (Yeah, Stripverse Spidey is definitely weaker than the comic book version.) “I’ll just have to tackle your hubby when he gets back,” he continues. Panel #3 is another Kala close-up as she cups her chin in her hand. “The huge creatures he commands would crush you,” she says. (“Don’t crush me, Grogan!” Sorry. Old SCTV routine.) “But – perhaps there’s another way,” she finishes.

September 13, 2017

Kala whispers in Spidey’s ear as Mole Man looks on. “What are you two whispering about?” says Melvin, “Tyrannus will be back any second to execute me!” (Unless he “aged out” back there looking for the chalice.) In panel #2, Spidey web-swings away into a cavern. Kala and Moley watch him go. Everyone has his or her back to us in this panel. “Wait!” says Melvin, “Where’s he going? Not that I blame him for trying to escape with his life.” In panel #3, Kala looks at Melvin and says, “He is fleeing in order to save yours!” Mole Man says “?” He’s been saying that a lot lately.

At the start of this day’s recap, I initially accidentally wrote “September 13, 2107.” It only feels that way.

September 14, 2017

“As Tyrannus finally completes a desperate search…” He has given up on the chest and, apparently, has been going through a pile of treasure that fills up the room. Sort of like Jeremy’s messy bedroom in Zits. Tyrannus pulls the chalice from the pile and crows “Hah! I knew my spare chalice had to be here!” “…Our favorite human arachnid is on a mission of his own” in panel #2, as Spidey web-swings through tunnels and says, “If Kala’s directions weren’t dead-on, the Mole Man is history – and Aunt May gets stood up at the altar!”

Yeah, what about Aunt May? Wasn’t she having an attack of some sort the last time we saw her?

And need I point out that neither of those captions in the two panels was necessary?

September 15, 2017

Spidey now appears to be in an underground disco as lights flash all around him. “Good thing I’ve got this underground phosphorescence to see by!” he says, “Still, Kala said that, by this point, I’d hear…” In panel #2, he turns his head as he hears it. “Yes! There it is!” he says, “The sound of rushing water!” And in panel #3, he comes upon it. “And here’s the underground stream that feeds Tyrannus’ Fountain of Youth!” he says.

Wait! What? There’s a stream that fills that pool? Sure didn’t look like it to me. And, if there is, why isn’t everyone who lives underground using that stream to get younger? (Maybe they are.) The Fountain of Youth doesn’t seem so exclusive anymore.

But that’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is that, after four and a half months, we seem to be heading to a conclusion that was only set up a couple of weeks ago. How hard would it have been to mention Tyrannus’ Fountain or chalice months back? Maybe Stan (or Larry) is making it up as he goes along.

September 16, 2017

So, Spidey’s by the Fountain of Youth stream, killing time by talking to himself. In panel #1, he says, “Hard to believe this subterranean river is the source of the legendary Fountain of Youth. But I’m sure not gonna taste-test it to find out!” In panel #2, he says, “What if it turned me into a spider-baby – or worse?” What’s worse than a spider-baby?

September 17, 2017

Tyrannus is looking quite peaked as he runs through a hallway carrying his spare chalice. “Now that I’ve found my other chalice,” he says, “I must drink of the waters that keep me forever young!” Panel #2 zooms in to show all the new wrinkles on Ty’s face. “For with every moment, my wrinkling skin shows more of my 1500 years!” he says. “While, not far away…” in panel #3, a drone shot shows us Melvin, Kala, and about 8 Moloids standing around the Fountain of Youth pool. “There was no Fountain of Youth when I ruled Subterreanea,” says Melvin. “Tyrannus diverted it, so it would be near when he needed it,” replies Kala.

This answers one of my questions but did he also divert his entire treasure room? And did he divert the stream so that it feeds the pool from below? Into a hole that was already there? And arranged it so that it wouldn’t overflow? That must have taken some engineering. Did he do this in the short time that the Mole Man has been on the surface? Because it looked like he was spending all of his time watching Moley on his viewscreen.

Panel #4 is a close-up of Melvin and Kala as she finishes her thought from panel #3. “And – he needs it now!” she says, which is really quite convenient, isn’t it?

“As, a bit farther away…” in panel #5, Spidey studies the stream (which looks like it is boiling and steaming). “I’ve got to block this stream,” he says, “to deny Tyrannus access to its waters.” Yeah, sure. Should be simple enough. “But if I miscalculate by the slightest bit…,” he continues on into panel #6 as he says, “…a mountain of rock will come crashing down to bury me!” So, you’re going to pull chunks of rock out of the wall and try to dam the stream, Spidey? Good luck with that! Besides, even if he blocks the stream, isn't the Fountain of Youth pool going to stay there? Tyrannus only needs one chalice worth of water, you know.

The “Next” panel reads, “Like They Say – Here Goes Nothing!” And “nothing” is what I expect. Last week’s was “Kala Changes Sides?” I guess she did. It’s still not all that clear what her plan is.

September 18, 2017

Aha! One of my questions answered! But it brings up another. In panel #1, three Moloids pull on a chain that we haven’t seen before. It is anchored in the Fountain of Youth pool, which has changed its shape so it is now somewhat irregular. Melvin and Kala look on. “Kala – why did you order those Subterraneans to tug at that chain?” asks Mole Man. “Tyrannus cannot drink from his Fountain of Youth…” replies Kala, “…if the water is gone!” she finishes off-panel in panel #2 as a plug attached to the chain comes out with a SPLOSH. The plug and chain fly up in the air and the Moloids fall over backward. So this explains how the water will disappear if Spidey blocks the stream but it doesn’t explain why there’s a big bathtub plug in the bottom of the pool to begin with.

“While…” in panel #3, Spidey shoves on a big rock column. “Hnngnn!” he says, “G-got to - bring this pillar of rock down – now!” So, stripverse Spidey isn’t strong enough to break those chains Tyrannus put on him but he can topple a column of rock? Okay, admittedly, he hasn’t toppled it yet but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t. It may take him all week to do it, though.

September 19, 2017

It’s all Spidey this time. In panel #1, he pushes on the rock column. “Maybe – my spider-strength – HNNFF! – won’t be enough to…” he says. In panel #2, he yells, “Yes! The rocky ceiling is giving way!” as he knocks the column down with a KKKKKKK. In panel #3, he says, “But I didn’t want it to collapse right on top of me!” as the rock rains down on him.

September 20, 2017

Back to Tyrannus, Kala, and Mole Man in a Loony Tunes spotlight. “Step aside, my Queen,” says Ty, “I found my spare chalice.” Panel #2 is Ty on his own in an odd angle as he lowers his chalice down at us while looking behind him. “It will hold the precise amount of water to restore my youth without…” he says but then, in panel #3, he sees “What in Jupiter’s name? The Fountain is – empty!” The camera angle changes so that we see it too. And, what can I say? If Tyrannus didn’t want someone to empty out his Fountain, he shouldn’t have put a big plug in the bottom with a chain attached to it.

September 21, 2017

Tyrannus confronts Kala as Mole Man looks on. “What became of all the water?” asks Ty. “I ordered the Fountain drained,” replies Kala. Panel #2 is Kala alone as she continues “I had to stop your from executing the Mole Man!” From off-panel, Spidey says, “And in case you wonder why it isn’t refilling…” Spidey hangs from a web in panel #3 as Tyrannus looks back at him in horror. Spidey finishes with “…it’s because I dammed up its source!” So what’s to stop Tyrannus from going to the source himself and filling up his chalice? And wasn't Spidey buried under fallen rock two days ago? How did he get out of that?

September 22, 2017

Tyrannus points at Spidey as Kala looks on. “How did you get out of your chains?” asks Ty. (“And how did you get out from under those rocks?”) “I set him free, Tyrannus,” replies Kala. Panel #2 shows Ty and Kala facing each other in profile. “You betrayed me?” says Ty. (Tyrannus seems to have forgotten that he gave Spidey to Kala as a slave and he wouldn’t be much use chained up all the time. Actually, Kala seems have forgotten this, too.) “I’m your husband – and the King!” continues Ty. “And I have loved you as I have always loved you,” says Kala (which may mean “not at all”). Panel #3 is Kala alone as she says “But I could not stand by and watch you become a murderer!” You know, since Tyrannus is a Roman Emperor who has lived for 1500 years, there’s a good chance he already is a murderer.

September 23, 2017

Tyrannus and Kala continue to face each other while Spidey and Melvin lurk behind in the lower right corner. “How could my own wife free Spider-Man?” asks Ty. “If you executed him and the Mole Man – then launched a war against the outer world…” she replies. “…You would no longer be the man I fell in love with!” she finishes in panel #2, looking away in anguish. Ty gets those lines around his head that show he is startled by this, though maybe he’s startled because he never said anything about launching a war against the surface world or maybe he’s startled because he can’t figure out what man she fell in love with considering he’s probably been executing people and attacking peoples for centuries.

September 24, 2017

We begin with a drone shot of Tyrannus, Kala, Spidey, Mole Man, and six Moloids next to the hole that used to be the Fountain of Youth. Two of the Moloids are still holding onto the chain with the plug that they pulled out of the Fountain. Let it go, guys! You have to tell them to do everything. Tyrannus says, “I am master of Subterranea, Kala – not you!” and Kala tries to reply, “Don’t you see, my love? I…” In panel #2, Tyrannus cuts her off. The camera is positioned so that it looks like Spidey is right between Ty and Kala. Ty says, “Silence! It is for me to decide who are the enemies of our realm.” (And Ty is looking pretty youthful. I guess Alex didn’t get the memo about Tyrannus’ aging.) “Listen to your better half, Tyrannus,” interjects Spidey. Panel #3 shows Ty with crossed arms, Spidey hitching a thumb at Mole Man, and Mole Man still in manacles. Spidey continues, “If the Mole Man’s content with you ruling his former kingdom, I don’t figure that’s any of my business.” Panel #4 is the same threesome from a different angle as Spidey still continues, “But I won’t let you execute him – or start a war with the surface world.” “There is no way you can prevent any of these things, web-weaver!” says Tyrannus, forgetting that he’s aging rapidly and Spidey has stolen his Youth waters. (Maybe he’s forgotten because Alex has made him look so good. And what’s with the “web-weaver?” Can’t people just call Spider-Man “Spider-Man” without making up these nicknames for him?) In panel #5, a very youthful Tyrannus is up close but only partly in panel so that we can see the ten Moloids and the big monster behind him. “Minions and monsters,” he orders, “Attack these traitors!” That last comment is in panel #6 as he points at Spidey (whose spider-sense is going off), Melvin (who is drawn in a somewhat sketchy fashion) and Kala (who looks very dismayed).

The “Next” caption is “Battle Beneath the Earth’s Crust!” Sigh. That means at least another week of this story. Last week’s was “Like They Say – Here Goes Nothing!” which speaks for itself.

September 25, 2017

Tyrannus is looking very pumped up as he faces us and Kala, Spidey, and Melvin, all of whom have their backs to us. “You betrayed me to my foes, Kala,” he says, “so you must share their fate.” In panel #2, he turns to 10 Moloids and one giant creature and orders “Minions! Monsters! Destroy these enemies of Subterranea!” You don’t suppose he thinks the Moloids are the Minions from the “Despicable Me” movies, do you? There is a bit of a resemblance.

September 26, 2017

With a large monster behind him, Tyrannus points at Kala, Spidey, and Mole Man and orders “Crush all three of them!” “Surely you’ll not harm your own queen!” says Kala. (And Ty replies, “Don’t call me “Shirley”.” Okay, he actually doesn’t.) Spidey takes a look at the monster’s snarling face and says “Maybe he wouldn’t…” “…But his ever-obedient monstrosities sure would!” he finishes in panel #2 as he grabs Kala and leaps away with her. Good thing, too. The big surly monster strikes in the spot at which she was standing with a SMASSH.

September 27, 2017

Now that Spidey has rescued Kala, the monster goes after Mole Man. As Melvin cringes away from the monster’s huge claws, Spidey leaves Kala, saying “Stay put, Kala – while I make sure that May Parker doesn’t become a widow…” He finishes in panel #2. “…before she even gets married!” (Well, May Parker is already a widow but we get what you mean, Spidey.) Spidey pulls Melvin away just in time. With a SKRAATTCH, the monster’s claws conveniently shatter Melvin’s manacles, freeing him.

September 28, 2017

Looks like we missed something here. Suddenly, Spidey, Kala, and Mole Man are in a tunnel high above the big monster and the nine Moloids who are stalking them from below. “Here comes Tyrannus’ good squad!” says Spidey, “Any ideas, you two?” In panel #2, Mole Man leads the way, as he says, “I know my former domain like the back of my hand. This way – quickly!”

September 29, 2017

The tunnel path splits. We get a nice view of it with the backs of the heads of Kala, Melvin, and Spidey way down at the bottom of the panel. “Turn left at that fork in the tunnel,” says Melvin. “Is that really necessary?” asks Spidey. The camera moves 90 degrees in panel #2 so that we now get the profiles of Kala, Spidey, and Melvin. “This shaft is too small for Tyrannus’ giant thingies to chase us,” says the web-slinger. “But he controls thousands of Subterraneans…” says Melvin. Well, he controls nine of them anyway. That’s how many we see when the camera pivots another 90 degrees and shows the Moloids coming up behind them. We also get Spidey’s head and Melvin’s pointing hand. “And they would swarm over us with deadly effect!” says Melvin’s hand. “Point taken,” says Spidey. Okay, first, as I said, there are actually only nine of them. Second, even if there were a thousand, they couldn’t all swarm over them. As Spidey astutely pointed out in panel #2, “This shaft is too small.”

September 30, 2017

With a KRRMMBL, Spidey shoves a bunch of rock into the passageway behind them. “This’ll prevent Tyrannus’ hordes from following us,” he says. “Down this corridor, yes,” says Melvin, his back to us. Panel #2 shows Melvin, Spidey, and Kala head-on. “But there are countless tunnels – and they know them as well as I do!” Melvin says. “So – I guess we keep running!” says Spidey. Kala says nothing but the expression on her face echoes mine. We have now officially hit the five-month mark for this story. And now we have to keep running??? I’m thinking the same thing you are, Kala. “How long, Lord, how long?”

October 1, 2017

As they wander through underground tunnels, the opening caption reminds us that “Spidey, the Mole Man and Kala flee the deadly minions of Tyrannus…” Spidey reminds us of yesterday’s strip by saying, “The tunnel roof I brought down should slow them down.” Panel #2 gives us profiles of Melvin and Spidey along with a stalactite dripping water. Spidey says, “But there’s so many Subeterraneans, they’ll soon dig their way through that rubble!” “If only I had my staff in hand…” says Mole Man. (Yeah, what happened to that staff? I’ve lost track of it.) Panel #3 moves the camera back for a side view of all three of our characters. (Kala looks like she is in a sprinter’s pose.) “…I’d teach Tyrannus he should have left me alone in my exile!” finishes Melvin. “It’s too late for that,” says Kala. Panel #4 is a Kala headshot as she continues “Now that he’s had a taste of wreaking havoc in the world above – he won’t stop until he’s conquered it, as he did the underground!” Spidey joins Kala in panel #5 to object, “Tyrannus – take over the surface world? Over my dead body!” Panel #6 is back to the three of them as Kala says, “At this stage, Spider-Man – I’m sure that’s precisely what he has in mind!”

Our “Next” caption is “Race Against Time!” We’ve been meandering through this story for over five months and now it’s a race against time?? Last week’s was “Battle Beneath the Earth’s Crust!” which, let’s be honest, did not happen since we really can’t call Spidey, Melvin, and Kala running for it a “battle.”

Nothing more to add except to point out that nothing at all happens today! The entire 6 panels are just marking time.

October 2, 2017

Let’s start with a caption. “Spidey, Kala, and the Mole Man flee for their lives…” The three of them run from the spot where Spidey blocked the tunnel. (I thought they already did that yesterday.) Spidey says, “It’ll take Tyrannus’ Subterraneans a while to dig through that rockface I collapsed.” Melvin, however, says, “But they know alternate routes through the Earth’s core…” And in panel #2, sure enough, Tyrannus is in front of them along with about 10 Moloids. Mole Man points at them and says, “So now they’re both behind and ahead of us.”

Two comments: One. Shouldn’t Tyrannus have aged into dust by now? And two. Doesn’t the Mole Man know all the alternate routes as well? Then, why didn’t he take them?

October 3, 2017

With Spidey’s, Kala’s, and Mole Man’s heads filling the left of the panel (and one lone Moloid behind), Tyrannus holds his hand up as a “stop” signal. “Surrender!” he cheesily says, “You three can’t evade the hand of Tyrannus!” “Oh no? Take a look at that hand, old friend!” says Melvin. Panel #2 is an odd Loony Tunes spotlight with the camera shooting over Tyrannus’ head. We see his hair and the veins standing out on the back of his hand. “Th-the skin – so wrinkled – and so quickly!” he says. (I know the feeling.) And panel #3 gives us a close-up of his now rapidly-aging face. “The effects of my Fountain of Youth are wearing off!” he says. Didn’t you already know that?

October 4, 2017

Tyrannus really isn’t looking too good. He looks down at his hands as Spidey, Kala, and Melvin look on. (The Moloids seem to have disappeared.) “I’m growing older by the moment, since you blocked my life-giving waters!” Ty says. “Hey, we’re all aging, pal,” replies Spidey, “What’s the big deal?” (Well, actually, Spidey, you’re not aging. You should be about 70 by now.) Panel #2 gives us Ty’s aging face, the back of Spidey’s head, and a Melvin profile. “But you aren’t more than 1500 years old, as I am!” says Ty. “And soon, you’ll be showing your age,” says Mole Man, “all 15 centuries of it!”

October 5, 2017

Three Moloids make an appearance. Then, Ty, Kala, Spidey, and Mole Man, from left to right. “I’ll have my subjects destroy you – then dig a path to the Fountain of Youth,” says Tyrannus. With crossed arms, Spidey replies, “And you might barely make it before the centuries catch up with you.” Melvin adds, “You’d have a far better chance if you spare us…” In panel #2, he points at Spidey and says, “…and let a man with the proportional strength of a spider share in the digging!” So, has Melvin suddenly become Spidey’s press agent? He’s even starting to sound like him!

October 6, 2017

Now we have Kala in profile, Spidey’s back, and the very top of Mole Man’s hair. They face Tyrannus who faces us. He has about 7 Moloids behind him. “Which will it be, Tyrannus?” says Spidey, “Do you waste time annihilating us – then hope you can excavate the buried fountain in time – or do you swear to a truce – and I’ll help you dig?” Panel #2 is a close-up of Ty’s aging face as he looks down toward the ground and says “Y-you win!” Yeah, like Tyrannus is trustworthy.

October 7, 2017

Kala sneaks up behind Tyrannus. “Go on, my love! Say it!” she says. “Say what?” says Tyrannus. Panel #2 belongs to Kala alone as she says “Vow to never again try to harm any of us – in exchange for Spider-Man’s help.” As Kala, Mole Man, and Spidey look on, in panel #3, Tyrannus crumbles. “I – do so swear – as the once and last Emperor of Rome!” he says.

October 8, 2017

So, Tyrannus kneels before Spidey, Kala, Mole Man and four Moloids and declares, “You three – have won! I vow to never attack you again!” Panel #2 is all Ty’s as he continues “As my Queen knows, I cannot break an imperial oath! Such is the bargain I made 15 centuries ago with Merlin the Magician – in exchange for the secret of eternal youth!” Wait. What? Now we’re dragging Merlin into this? And saying that Merlin made Tyrannus vow to never break an imperial oath in exchange for the Fountain of Youth which happens to be underground in California? Sorry, but I’m not buying it. Spidey isn’t buying it either. In panel #3, he, Kala, and Melvin look at Tyrannus and Spidey says, “I can’t believe I’m hearing this! You’re not only the last Roman emperor from 476 A.D. – with his own private Fountain of Youth…” He continues in panel #4 all by himself with “…but you got it from Merlin?! You mean, like – King Arthur’s Merlin?” Spidey’s head wobbles with disbelief. It continues to wobble in panel #5 as Melvin chastises him (and Kala comforts Ty). “Surely you can accept such far-fetched tales,” says Melvin, “After all, didn’t I hear that you got your powers from the bite of a radioactive spider?” “Now that’s something I find difficult to believe1” finishes Melvin as he and Spidey fill up panel #6.

The “Next” caption is “Youth Restored?” Well, is it or isn’t it? Last week’s was “Race Against Time!” when there really wasn’t much of a race against anything.

October 9, 2017

Spidey and Tyrannus are face-to-face as Kala and Melvin look on. “What are you waiting for, Spider-Man?” says Ty (we could ask Stan and Larry the same thing). “I pledged my imperial word to a truce as you demanded.” In panel #2, Tyrannus rubs his face and says “Now – you must fulfill your part of our bargain – before the ravages of age render it too late to save me!” In panel #3, Kala puts her hand on Spidey’s shoulder and says “Please, Spider-Man –hurry!” “Okay – I’ll do what I can!” says Spider-Man.

October 10, 2017

Tyrannus falters and Kala goes to help him. “Hurry! Tyrannus is getting weaker!” she says. Now, correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t they all far away from where Spidey dammed up the Fountain water? It doesn’t matter. Now it’s right next to where they are all talking. Spidey starts ripping away at the rocks. He says, “My hands – aren’t exactly shovel-sized, Kala, so…” The water comes rushing in with a SPLOOOSH washing Spidey away. “Whoa!” he says.

October 11, 2017

Spidey and Melvin stand in the river as Tyrannus sucks down a bunch of the water using his cupped hands. “The Fountain of Youth –it’s been restored to me!” says Ty, “If only it isn’t too late!” In panel #2, Ty starts getting younger. Kala looks on admiringly with Spidey behind her. “Yes! I feel the years falling away – with every drop I swallow,” says Ty. “Aren’t you gonna drink any, Kala?” asks Spidey. In panel #3, Kala looks back at Spidey and says, “It’s Tyrannus who is 1,500 years old. Do you think I look that old?” “Er…uh…no…I mean…” Spidey stammers.

You know the question you should have asked, Spidey? “After spending forever looking for his spare chalice to get the water dosage just right, why is it now okay for Tyrannus to slurp it down using his bare hands?”

October 12, 2017

Kala puts her hands on Tyrannus’ shoulders. Spidey and Mole Man’s heads are small in the bottom right foreground. “Feel better,” says Ty, “but still weak…it will take time for the waters to restore my youth.” “And as long as it takes, I’ll be here with you,” says Kala. The camera moves in to a profile two-shot in panel #2. “You – won’t desert me – despite my threats?” asks Ty. “I am your queen…your wife…your love,” says Kala. Panel #3 shows Spidey and Mole Man standing next to the underground river. “Tyrannus, next time somebody tells you Kala’s too good for you…believe them!” says Spidey, trying to reignite hostilities.

October 13, 2017

Tyrannus is looking rather distracted and meek as Kala puts her hands on his shoulders. She looks back at Spidey and Mole Man and says, “I will take Tyrannus back to our own kingdom while he recovers. There, nearer the source of the waters of life, he will feel safer.” So…taking the waters have turned him into a pushover? I don’t get that. Anyway, in panel #2, Kala and Tyrannus head off into the sunset…if there was any sunset underground. (Which reminds me, where is all the light coming from down there?) About five Moloids watch Mole Man and Spidey. “And I can return to the surface – to marry the woman I love!” says Melvin, apparently planning to leave his realm without a ruler. “I’ll admit I’ll be glad to have a nice blue sky above me again!” says Spidey. But Stan sticks a caption in that says “It ain’t over till it’s over, Spidey!” And, God help us, it’s still not over.

October 14, 2017

In the left foreground, Tyrannus and Kala depart, smiling at each other. In the right background, Spidey and Melvin watch them go. “Well, there goes a real fun couple!” says Spidey. “Kala and Tyrannus were made for each other, Spider-Man,” says Melvin. In panel #2, showing Melvin and Spidey in close-up, Melvin smiles and continues. “…just as May Parker and I were!” he says. “Y’know, Moley – I’m just about ready to believe you were!” says Spidey. But what’s this “were” stuff anyway? Does that mean the relationship is history?

October 15, 2017

“In the underground realm that was once ruled by the Mole Man…” Spidey and Moley stand by the underground river while four or five Moloids look on. “Well? What’re we waitin’ for, Moley?” asks Spidey. In panel #2, a two-shot of Mole Man and Spidey, Moley responds, “Please…I’ve asked you before…call me Melvin.” “Okay, Melvin,” responds Spidey, “But where’s our ride back to the surface?” Panel #3 is a Mole Man close-up, looking up his nose, as he puts his hands to his head to concentrate. “I have issued a telepathic summons!” he says, “One of my huge creatures will be here any second!” (If he can issue telepathic summons, why didn’t he do that to stop the creatures before? Or do they only have one master at a time?) Panel #4 is back to a two-shot as Moley smiles and points at Spidey. “I shall rejoin my beloved May Parker while you – well, you can get back to whatever you do when you’re not wearing that hideous mask,” says Melvin. Panel #5 is like a reverse shot of panel #2 as Moloid hands reach out toward Melvin’s back. “But I confess, I will miss this sunken land!” says Mole Man. “And from the look of them, Melvin,” says Spidey. “They’re going to miss you even more,” finishes Spidey in panel #6 as they look back at about a dozen pleading Moloids. This so surprises Melvin that he gets rays of light shooting out of his head.

The “Next” caption is “With Great Power, There Must Come…You Know the Bit!” Last week’s was “Youth Restored?” Yes.

October 16, 2017

Thirteen Moloids surround Melvin and Spidey. “One of my creatures will soon take us back to the surface,” says Melvin, “But – why are these Subterraneans crowding about me?” We can see seven of the Moloids in panel #2 as Spidey replies, “Don’t you get it, Mole Man? They don’t want you to leave!”

October 17, 2017

Six Moloids stare at Spidey and Mole Man who are in close-up and in profile on the left side of the panel. “My poor forever subjects!” says Mole Man, “They’re a bit simple-minded and at a total loss without someone to rule them.” In panel #2, Spidey replies, “Now that Tyrannus and Kala have returned to their own kingdom – they want you to reign over them – just like you used to!” Melvin’s swivels his head around to look at Spidey and he says, “!?” which I think means, “What?! Am I the only one that didn’t see this coming?!” Yes, Melvin, I’m afraid that you are.

October 18, 2017

Melvin’s fists shake, his head shakes as he says to Spider-Man, “No! I can’t stay here in Subterranea! My place is above, with May Parker – the woman I love!” Two Moloids look on and then look up in panel #2 (as do Spidey and Mole Man’s shaking head) at the head of a big monster coming down from the ceiling. “And here’s our creepy ride to take us both topside!” says Spidey.

October 19, 2017

Mole Man and Spidey climb on the back of the creature that is going to take them to the surface. Five Moloids look on. “Goodbye, my former subjects!” says Mole Man, “I shall miss you!” “And they’ll miss you from the looks on their faces,” says Spidey. Panel #2 shows just Melvin and Spider-Man. “Oh, I’m sure they’ll forget me five minutes after we’ve gone,” says Moley. “Maybe so, Melvin…” says Spidey. He continues off-panel in panel #3, which shows three crying Moloids. “…but those sure look like very real tears they’re shedding!” You’ll believe a Moloid can cry!

October 20, 2017

From the right side of the panel, Melvin looks to the left (his right) at an inset of 7 Moloids crying. “Tears – from my simple Subterraneans?! I find that almost impossible to believe!” he says. (Especially since they were working for Tyrannus and trying to kill you not long ago.) Panel #2 is Spidey and Melvin. “But they’re crying just the same, Moley,” says the web-slinger. “Then, the sooner I’m gone forever from their sight…” says Melvin, “…the sooner they can begin to forget,” he finishes off-panel in panel #3. All that is shown is the tail of the creature carrying Spidey and Melvin to the surface while five Moloids watch them go.

October 21, 2017

As Spidey and Mole Man ride the creature, the web-slinger thinks, “It was touching to see those sub-earth guys shed tears when the Mole Man left them.” He finishes his thought in panel #2, off-panel. “But to him, I guess they’re considerably less than human.” But he doesn’t see the tears drip down Melvin’s cheek from behind his glasses.

October 22, 2017

The creature Spidey and Melvin are riding seems a lot skinnier than we’ve seen in previous strips. Now it just looks like a big worm. A caption tells us, “Spider-Man and Mole Man are riding one of his sub-earth creatures surface-ward…” Appearing to stand awkwardly on the creature’s back, Spidey says, “Are we there yet?” In panel #2, Moley looks back at Spidey and says, “Don’t be so impatient! It takes time even for the powerful Linneus to make his way upward.” (Ah, a name for the creature!) The camera pulls back to show most of Linneus and…and…actually I’m not sure what all is shown in this panel. But Spidey and Melvin are there and the wall-crawler says, “Actually, Melvin, I was just kidding! You know – it’s a thing kids say on a trip: ‘Are we there yet?’.” Panel #4 is Spidey, Melvin and a bit of Linneus and Spidey belabors the point. “Didn’t you say something like that, back when you were a – oh, never mind.” Panel #5 is all Melvin as he says, “Ah, I think I understand now. And besides…” On to panel #6 where Linneus pops out of the earth right where Aunt May and the chauffeur are! “We are there!” says Melvin. So, how long were they gone? Has Aunt May been waiting there all this time? And wasn’t she about to have a heart attack or something the last time we saw her?

The “Next” caption is “The Lovers Reunited?” and that question mark at the end doesn’t bode well for the relationship. Last week’s was “With Great Power, There Must Come…You Know the Bit!” Yes, I know the bit but I don’t know what it had to do with the last week of strips.

October 23, 2017

So, Linneus pops out of the ground with Spidey and Mole Man on his back about 10 feet from Aunt May and the chauffeur’s legs (the rest of him is covered up by Melvin’s word balloon.) “We have arrived at the surface – at the precise point from which we departed!” says Moley. “And – there’s Aunt May!” says Spidey, pointing at her. Panel #2 shows Spidey, Melvin, and a bit of Linneus as Spidey now points at Melvin and says, “Well – Peter Parker’s Aunt May, anyway. Not mine, of course.” (God but the stripverse Spidey is so inept.) “Of course not,” replies Melvin, smiling a smile that says, “You’re not fooling me for a second.”

October 24, 2017

Spidey and Melvin jump off of Linneus’ back as May looks on. “May, beloved – what are you doing here?” asks Melvin, “Surely you’ve not remained here ever since we were dragged off by that tentacle monster?” (That’s what I was wondering!) In panel #2, May explains to Melvin, while gesturing at the chauffeur. “No, but I had our wedding chauffeur Boris bring me back…because I knew that if you ever returned to me – it would be here!” How about that? Boris got a name. Linneus got a name. But the “tentacle monster” didn’t get a name, although we did learn he is a “dectopus.”

October, 25, 2017

Three panels, all with Aunt May. Melvin joins her in panel #1 and takes her hand. “You have returned to me, haven’t you, Melvin?” says May. “May…I can’t…” says Melvin, looking down. In panel #2, May says, “I knew our happiness was too sublime to last. Please Melvin – you must tell me…” She closes her eyes in panel #3 and asks, “Is there someone else?”

So, after bothering to go all the way to the surface, Melvin has suddenly changed his mind? What’s up with that?

October 26, 2017

Panel #1 is Melvin and May. “Do you truly think me so fickle I would abandon you for another?” “Well, you originally thought of making Mary Jane your queen…” replies May (another reference to the 2010-2011 story). In panel #2, Melvin again takes May’s hand but she looks away. “A passing fancy…until I met you, my love,” says Melvin. Spidey looks on, his left hand on the back of his neck. He thinks, “The world calls me a super-hero…but right now I’m just a hapless bystander! There’s nothing I can do to avert the heartbreak I fear is coming!”

October 27, 2017

Still holding May’s hands, Mole Man tells her, “May, I can’t marry you…but it’s not because I’ve fallen in love with someone else.” “Then why…?” May asks. In panel #2, all Mole Man, Melvin says, “It’s my once and future subjects below…my Subterraneans. They need me. I can’t abandon them….” In panel #3, having let go of May’s hands, he lowers his head and says, “…and I know it would mean your death if you tried to live in my realm.” May looks shocked and she gets motion lines around her head, as if this is news to her. She knows she can’t survive in Subterreanea (as seen in the 2010-2011 story). She was there, remember?

October 28, 2017

May and Melvin, seen in profile, look at each other as Spidey watches from behind. “Then you’ve recaptured your underground throne?” asks May. “No,” replies Melvin, “I was prepared to let Tyrannus rule there forever.” Panel #2 is a Melvin solo as he says, “But he has callously abandoned my once-kingdom…I fear my poor subjects won’t survive without someone to watch over them!”

October 29, 2017

Melvin and May are back to linking hands. Spidey, with arms crossed, watches. “…So you see, dear May, I’m torn on the horns of a dilemma,” says Melvin, mixing metaphors. (You’re either “on the horns of a dilemma” or you’re “torn.”) Panel #2 is Melvin and May as Melvin continues, “I fear my former subjects, the Subterraneans, will perish with no one to lead them.” (I assume they did all right though, in all the years before Melvin showed up to rule them.) “Thus, I must take back the crown I was content to have lost,” he says. Alone in panel #3, May puts her hand to her chin and says, “Perhaps…perhaps there’s some way I could come with you…” Panel #4 is a nice reverse of panel #1 right above it. Panel #1 had Spidey, Melvin, and May from left to right with Spidey in the background. Now the camera moves 180 degrees to show May, Melvin, and Spidey from left to right with Spidey in the foreground. “…some medicine I could take to help me adjust to your underground realm,” May says. But Spidey butts in with “You know that’s not possible, Mrs. Parker.” The camera pulls back in panel #5 to show a drone shot of the threesome. (What happened to Boris?) “You learned, down below, that you’re subject to ‘Spelunker’s Lung.’ It inflames the lungs – makes it a torment to breathe.” Spidey is right (see the 2010-2011 story) or maybe he just doesn’t want to go to the center of the Earth every time he wants to visit Aunt May. Panel #6 returns the camera to its panel #1 position but a bit closer even as Melvin and May move closer to each other. With Spidey again looking on in the background, a very sad May says, “Yes…I know. But…I dared hope…!”

Our “Next” caption is “Sweet Sorrow…” as in “Parting is such…” Last week’s was “The Lovers Reunited?” It had a question mark because the answer is “Yeah, sort of but, apparently, not for long.”

October 30, 2017

More hand-holding. More Spidey arm-crossing. More talk that we already heard on Sunday. “If you tried to live in my underground realm, dear May,” says Melvin, “the condition called ‘Spelunker’s Lung’ would soon end your life.” “Yes, I know,” says May. Panel #2 is a sad Loony Tunes spotlight on Melvin and May. Melvin says, “Thus, since I feel compelled to return to Subterranea…” and May finishes his sentence, “The two of us can never be together.”

October 31, 2017

And so Melvin mounts Linneus. Spidey and Aunt May stand by, watching. Spidey has his arm around Aunt May. (A far cry from “That Horrible Spider-Man” days! Or did they even happen in the Strip-Verse?) “Farewell, my beautiful, beloved May,” says Melvin. “Goodbye…my dear Melvin,” says May. And panel #2 is a silent heartfelt moment. As Linneus, with Melvin on his back, burrows into the earth in the background, May hugs Spidey in the foreground.

November 1, 2017

“Morning…” and back at the hotel. Aunt Anna’s back! (In more ways than one. Panel #1 only shows her from the back.) Anna and May are preparing to leave. Peter is there to see them off. “Here’s our airport limo, May,” says Anna. “I know how sorry you are that you and the Mole Man had to part,” says Peter. “Sorry? Yes…I suppose I am,” says May. With a tear in her eye in panel #2 (which is all hers), May says, “But think, Peter…in one lifetime, I’ve known the love of two wonderful men…your Uncle Ben and Melvin Kurtzman.” (Because Nathan Lubensky and Jay Jameson do not appear to exist in the Strip-Verse.) Then, in panel #3, May teleports into the back of the limo. (She must have teleported since she is continuing what she was saying in panel #2. Anna has also teleported into the limo.) As the driver puts their luggage in the trunk and Peter plays Easter Island statue, May says, “I consider myself the luckiest woman alive.”

November 2, 2017

The limo drives off. Peter watches it go, his arms crossed in front of him. “There goes Aunt May…and Anna Watson,” he thinks (Anna is an afterthought again), “I’ll be glad when they’re safely back in New York.” (Do you think May and Anna wondered where Peter was all this time? How he went into the hole with Mole Man but Spidey came out? And do you think Boris is driving their limo?) Some musical notes emanate from Peter’s pocket, meaning his phone is ringing. Panel #2 shows MJ on her phone. She is in an airport. We know she’s in an airport because a plane is taking off behind her. There are two bystanders with their backs to us. “Hi, Tiger!” says MJ, “I’m in the Denver airport, waiting to board a flight to Miami.” (We also know MJ is in an airport because she tells us. But what is this business of going to Miami? Peter and MJ drove all the way across the country to get to LA for the Marvella 2 premiere. Is that all there was to it? Then MJ flew to San Francisco with Jacky the press agent, then on to Denver. Now she’s going to Miami? Without Peter? Leaving him with the rental car? Was this the plan all along? And what happened to Jacky?) Ahem. Anyway, MJ continues, “So fill me in on what’s been going on since we talked yesterday.” (Yesterday? All that happened in one day?) Panel #3 belongs to Peter as he says, “Sure – long as your plane doesn’t board for a while…!” There is a “?” coming from the phone, meaning that MJ is wondering what he means. Perhaps Peter should start with telling her that the Melvin-May wedding is off. That would be nice.

November 3, 2017

Peter continues on the phone with MJ, with what looks like a huge marijuana leaf behind him. “…so May and Anna are on their way back east,” he finishes. From the phone, MJ says, “That’s so sad about her and the Mole Man.” In panel #2, MJ is, apparently, in line to board her plane. She is in between a woman with an earring and Salvador Dali. An airline employee is behind her and there is either a Brillo pad or somebody’s hair beside her. “Gotta go,” she says over the phone, “Sure wish you could join me in Florida…but I know Jonah Jameson’s expecting you back at the Daily Bugle.” Peter is so riled up that he pulls the phone away from his mouth and, perhaps, puts it on speaker. (We can see “MJ” written on the phone but no phone number.) “Stuff that penny-pinching paper-pusher!” he says, “I’m hopping the next plane to Miami!” Through the phone, MJ says, “!” which might mean, “No! Take a hint and go back to New York!”

But…but…what about the rental car? And can Peter afford to buy a ticket on the “next plane to Miami?” How did the Parkers get so rich all of a sudden?

With Melvin and May gone, with MJ and Peter heading to Miami, it is clear that we have finally finished the Mole Man story and are on to something else but I’m going to let it ride until Sunday and we’ll see where we stand.

November 4, 2017

Looks like the woman with the earring and Salvador Dali have gotten out of line. Now there are two men in front of MJ (one looking smug and the other looking bored) and about five people behind. None of them look like they’re in line. MJ may be last in line now. Did everyone else give up? MJ is still on the phone with Peter, saying “Gotta go, Peter. You know I’m glad you’re coming to Florida…but won’t Jonah Jameson be upset by his star photographer staying away even longer?” (Yeah, he’s been gone almost a year…of real time, anyway.) In panel #2, Peter responds. “What’s the upside to being his star shutterbug, honey – if I can’t raise that old skinflint’s blood pressure once in a while?!” Next to Peter is an image of JJJ, sneering fiercely.

November 5, 2017

“The Daily Bugle, Manhattan…” where Joe “Robbie” Robertson, his laptop in front of him, is on the phone. A woman looks into his office, as if eavesdropping and two other Bugle workers converse in the background. “Oh, hi, Peter,” says Joe, “On your way back, I hope? Our front page has been missing your shots of Spider-Man…” Joe thinks he is only talking to Peter Parker but panel #2 shows Spider-Man on the phone, his mask pulled up so his voice isn’t muffled. (And Alex has stuck some birds in the background.) “…though I hear he showed up in L.A., too!” says Joe over the phone. “Uh…yeah. I heard he was on the track of the Mole Man,” says Spidey/Peter. Panel #3 shows a smiling Robbie handing a file to some hands, probably belonging to the woman who looked into his office in panel #1. There is a weird motion line going from the open window to Robbie’s hand as if implying that the file flew in from outside. “The Mole Man?” says Robbie, “What was that sub-earth sultan doing out west?” (Sub-earth sultan?) Over the phone, Spidey/Peter replies, “Afraid I never saw him to ask, Robbie…let alone take pics of him and/or Spider-Man.” So, they’re going to pretend that the near-marriage of Aunt May and Mole Man never happened? I suppose all of the purchases and such were done in the name of Melvin Kurtzman but didn’t he buy a whole lot of stuff with precious jewels? Surely, someone must have put two and two together here.

Panel #4 pulls the camera back to show that Spidey-Peter is web-slinging as he talks on the phone. How does he manage to move from one web to the other when one hand is occupied? From over the phone, Robbie says, “Hey, no sweat! You’re officially on vacation, I seem to recall.” “I’ll make it up to the Bugle when I get back!” says Spidey/Peter. Panel #5 moves the camera behind Spidey to show him web-swinging toward a high-rise with balconies. (And some birds in the sky.) “Can you please tell Mr. Jameson first I’ve gotta join my wife in Miami for a few days?” asks Spidey/Peter. (I’ll bet it’s going to be a little more than “a few days.”) “Funny you should say that,” says Robbie over the phone. He finishes, still off-panel over the phone, in panel #6 with “Cause Jonah’s in Miami right now – for a big publisher’s confab!” Spidey is so shocked to hear this that he says “!” and swings right into the high-rise with a SPLAT.

The “Next” caption reads “Miami-Bound - & Danger-Bound!” which is as good a name for the next storyline as any. Last week’s was “Sweet Sorrow…” and, yes, my friends, it certainly was.

In General...

What? Is it over already? What a rip-off! It’s only been a little over six months! Surely, Stan and Larry can milk another week or two out of this sappy story. Actually, this has to be one of the most exhausting Spidey stories ever. And following the Rocket Raccoon story as it does, it goes a long way to completely reducing the Spidey strip to self-parody. Did we really spend all Summer with Melvin spying on the Parkers then revealing that he was deposed in Subterranea by Tyrannus, the last Roman emperor, Lenny tearing up an LA street, Melvin proposing to May, the wedding arranged for Griffith Observatory, Tyrannus abducting the groom and giving Spidey as a slave to his wife Kala, only to have Tyrannus give up and vow never to attack again in exchange for Spidey to keep the Fountain of Youth flowing even though it turns out the Fountain is actually a river? (You know, as in, Kala takes Tyrannus back to his old domain “nearer the source of the waters of life” after he frantically gave up as if the spot Spidey blocked was the only place to get to the waters.) Did Tyrannus really spend forever looking for a replacement for his broken chalice only to finally drink the waters out of his cupped hands? And did Melvin suddenly change his mind about marrying Aunt May because a few of his Moloids cried, assuming they couldn’t live without him when they must have been around long before he ever showed up? Yes, yes, and yes. It would have been so very cool if the Strip-Verse so differed from the mainstream Marvel Universe that May could actually marry the Mole Man but it was not to be. And, by the way, what happened to the Marvella 2 premiere? Was the plan really to drive to LA only to have MJ fly to San Francisco, Denver, and Miami?

Yes, the whole thing was a big fat mess but it also had its undeniable charm. How can you resist the Mole Man as a romantic lead? How can you hate on a story with a subterranean monster named Lenny? And how can you not feel the heartbreak when the two villains get to go off together to re-establish their love but our hero’s Aunt has to suffer her lover’s noble sacrifice?

Overall Rating...

Like the stories themselves, Strip-Verse web-ratings are not in the same universe as comic book web-ratings. They are a thing unto themselves. With that in mind, I think the charm of this shambling six months offsets enough of its cheesiness to warrant a middle-of-the-road two point five webs.