Comics : NCPCA - Spider-Man, Reed Richards For Fatherhood
This story is part of a Lookback Series: A Word From Our Sponsor
This review was first published on: 2005.
Over the years Marvel has produced numerous "specialty" comics that have partnered the publisher with various corporations and pro-social groups to promote specific products or causes utilizing various Marvel characters. One of these social organizations has been Prevent Child Abuse America. The comics have come out of this partnership include preventing Sexual, verbal, and physical abuse.
Sponsored by the National Committee For Prevention of Child Abuse. Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic, specifically) co-star in a 16- page story dealing with fatherhood and parenting issues.
NCPCA - Spider-Man, Reed Richards For Fatherhood
Year 1997 : SM Title
Summary: Sponsored by Toyota
As the story opens up, Spider-Man is swinging past New York City's South Street Seaport and rescues a young child who has apparently fallen off the dock into the water. Upon returning her to the dock, he asks about her father, only to have him turn up and begin scolding her for wandering away. Angered, Spidey starts to Tee-off on the father, who quickly changes his tone and expresses both concern over his daughter, and thanks to Spidey for rescuing her. Mollified, Spidey swings off to home and his wife, Mary Jane.
Once home, he relates the story of what happened, and brings up the possibility of them trying again to have a child (thus placing this story squarely within official cannon and continuity. Apparently this story takes place after Mary Jane's pregnancy and she loses the baby.) Mary Jane isn't ready to talk abou tit just yet, and they both go to bed. Unable to sleep, Peter does what he does best, and puts on his Red-and-blues and starts to web- sling across Manhattan, where he happens across some kids tagging a building with spray paint.
Spidey corrals one of the kid (Raymond) and brings him home. When Spidey confronts Ray's mom, she confesses that Ray is hanging with a gang because Ray's father (who is a two-macho kind of guy who never thought that actually playing with or taking care of his own son was manly enough for him. Ray's mom also reveals that he hasn't been spending much time at home lately. Right about now, Spidey spots a drawing of himself that Ray did. The drawing adorns a Father's Day card. Spidey borrows the card, and begins looking for Ray's dad at his job on the docks.
When Spidey gets to the docks, he learns that Ray was let go a few days ago, and now simply hangs out in a bar across the street. Going across the street Spidey tries to talk to Ray's dad, Joe, only Joe turns out to be an angry drunk, and is in no mood to talk. Realizing that he is fighting a battle that even he can't win, Spidey starts to leave. Before he goes, however, Spidey hands Joe the card, and tells Joe that his son is looking for male companionship and is getting by running with a gang.
This gets Joe's attention, and he agrees to go with Spidey to meet Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic and the Fantastic Four. When they arrive, the see Mr. Fantastic playing with his son, Franklin Richards; also in attendance are the rest of the FF, Johnny Storm A.K.A. The Human Torch, his sister, Sue Storm. The Invisible Woman, and their friend Ben Grimm, The Thing. Sue takes Franklin off to bed and the others leave Spidey, Joe, and Mr. Fantastic to talk. Joe asks Reed how he manages to be a superhero, a scientist, and still have time to be a dad to his son. Reed relates a story of how Franklin wanted to go on a picnic with him one day while he was working on an experiment and Reed begged off. Upset, Sue took the heartbroken Franklin along. While Reed was working on his temporal communication project a masked figure from the future walked through his communication screen intent on conquering this time stream. During a brief battle Reed learns that the man is named Ego-Spawn, and never spent much time with his father who was always too busy working to be with him. Reed manages to defeat the intruder and unmask him.
Ego-Spawn looks strangely like an adult version of Franklin, but before Reed can determine who he is, Ego-Spawn fades away. Reed surmises that a strong possibility exists that Ego-Spawn might have been a future self of Franklin who grew up bitter that Reed was never around. Vowing that day would never come to pass, Reed determined to spend more time with his son. Inspired by that story, Joe too vows to be a better dad, and Spidey brings him home. Once home, Joe reprimands Ray, and "punishes" him by telling his that he has to spend the next several days with his dad, something that thrills Ray. Spidey returns home, where Mary Jane (who has woken up), tells him that he would make for a great father, and that they might once again try to have a child.
Keeping in minds that the goal of this series of comics is to communicate a point and teach a lesson in living (similar to the old After School Special TV shows), and are given away free to "At-Risk" teens, by not only attempting to reach them on their level, but to couch everyday problems in the form of superhero comics, to show how a superhero would react to every-day, real world issues, these books do an excellent job at achieving their goals. They are short, to the point, and (hopefully) effective at targeting their primary audiences.
The Prevent Child Abuse America series has not only been co-sponsored by corporations (this version of this book was co-sponsored by Toyota), but have been distributed free in newspapers across the country and as stand-alones across the U.S. This is the sixth book in the series.
Given the magnitude of their messages, these books tend to read as fast-paced morality plays with a powerful point and tend to come across quite well. I've always enjoyed them for what they are, sought them out to read and own, and promoted them to the general public whenever I've been able.
You can find out more about this comic, and order a copy direct from Channing-Bete, who created this comic under contract to the PCAA.