Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #1

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This story is part of an Arc: "Tarantula & Kraven"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2004.

In Detail...

"Twice Stings The Tarantula!"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #1
Dec 1976 : SMURF 163.600 : SM Title
Arc: Part 1 of "Tarantula & Kraven"
Editor:  Gerry Conway
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Mike Esposito
Cover Art:  Sal Buscema
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #1
Articles: Flash Thompson, Glory Grant, Lightmaster, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Tarantula I

Spidey's hanging around at ESU to get photos for the Daily Bugle of the school's Vice-Chancellor, Edward Lansky, giving a speech. Lansky is preaching that the city should feel more responsibility to higher education despite the financial crisis. Peter agrees, but has a feeling about Lansky. Suddenly the Tarantula and some henchmen interrupt in an attempt to kidnap Lansky. Spidey notices Flash and Mary Jane in the crowd as he swoops down to try to stop the villain. While he and the Tarantula battle it out, the henchmen take Lansky and put him in a waiting getaway limo. Flash tries to stop them (says Mary Jane, "Come back, you nitwit - this isn't a freaky football game!") but gets punched out for his trouble. Meanwhile Tarantula plays possum and lets Spider-Man get close enough for a vicious kick that injures the hero enough so that he can't try and stop him ("beaten by a sleazy flamingo dancer"). Some of the students, angry that their beloved Vice-Chancellor was kidnapped, go after Spider-Man who retreats to his automatic camera. Unfortunately his webbing snapped and the camera has broken. Spider-Man punches the top of the building in disgust - hurting his hand.

Back at his Chelsea apartment, Peter is tended to by neighbor Glory Grant as Mary Jane drops by. Things are a bit strained between Peter and MJ but they accompany Glory to City Hall where she plans to look for a job. But Peter's spider-sense tingles as he sees the same limo in which Tarantula kidnapped Lansky. A quick excuse to call the hospital about Aunt May and Peter's off to change.

Meanwhile Tarantula receives instructions from a mystery man in a suit driving the limo - the mayor must die! He and his henchmen infiltrate the City Hall offices and steal a key to the private elevator when Spider-Man appears. The henchmen manage to hold the web-slinger off while Tarantula escapes into the elevator. Spidey manages to tear the door off and climbs up the shaft. The Tarantula finds the mayor and his aide and - despite the mayor's harried promise of not giving more money out - threatens to kidnap him.

Spidey arrives and tackles Tarantula and tries to insult the Latin man's pride to goad him into making a mistake. The mayor and his aide are trapped by the fight in which Tarantula again fools Spidey into thinking he's more injured than he really is. Spider-Man finally tackles Tarantula but as they head toward the window the villain manages to grab the mayor. The three fall from the window leaving Spidey with a choice to capture the villain or save the mayor - no real choice at all for our hero. He webslings down to safety with the mayor. With Tarantula gone, Spidey swings off to try to catch up to Glory and MJ.

In General...

Current comics fans are so accustomed to the bombast and hype of a number one issue, that this comic seems very low-key indeed. In fact it reads just like your average Amazing Spider-Man title from the time. This probably foreshadows the second-banana status "Spectacular" endured throughout its run (Web of Spider-Man became third-banana).

Our Pal Sal is his usual solid if un-"spectacular" self. There's a nice full- page panel of Spidey blindsiding Tarantula, undercut a bit by G.C,'s addition of 11 word balloons on the page. M.J.'s hair seems plastic at times and the renderings as a whole seem a bit rushed. The cover is great classic triangle formation but Sal's Flash looks a bit too much like a blonde Peter Parker.

The convention of having Spanish-speaking characters revert to their language for one or two words is tiresome (and will become more so with the introduction of White Tiger as a supporting character later on in the series). Tarantula calls Spidey both a "puerco" and a "peeg."

Every writer wants to have a scene reminiscent of the famous sequence in Amazing Spider-Man #33, in which Spidey somehow manages beyond all hope to lift the great weight off him in order to escape and save his Aunt May. This time Spider-Man has to get through a door of "solid steel at least three inches thick!" in order to get to the wise-cracking "May"or in time. Sal's only afforded four panels to convey this struggle.

Overall Rating...

Solid, but hardly as Spectacular as the title might suggest. Three webs.

Footnote...

*According to our friends at Marvel Chronology Project, this issue takes place in the middle of Amazing Spider-Man #163 (featuring Spidey vs. the Kingpin) and is followed by Marvel Team-Up # 52 (wherein Spidey and Captain America take on Batroc). In fact, Peter references the party Glory threw in ASM 163 in this issue. After the MTU issue, the Spider-Man saga resumes on page 10 of ASM 163, according to the master of chronology, George Olshevsky, in issue seven of The Official Marvel Index to the Amazing Spider-Man.

*Although the cover title is "Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man," the indicia omits "Peter Parker."

*The fun one-liner previews that ran on the bottom of the pages of Marvels from this era continue this issue and include:

Captain America and the Falcon crushed by the Unliving Enemy! (What? Did he fall on them?)

The Defenders face Solarr, the Rhino, Egghead, and the ever-deadly Cobalt Man!

Super-Villain Team-Up #9: The Vision! Captain America! Iron Man! And more! (Huh...thought they were all heroes...)

Who will win the battle of Los Angeles? The Champions...or Nemesis?

Mighty Thor #254: Wouldja believe...the Stone Men of Saturn?

"Gods and Men at City College!" Make sure you're there too in The Eternals #6!

Hunted by the police, Iron Fist the Living Weapon become a "Kung-Fu Killer"!

Journey through "Space: The Final Frontier" with the Golden Avenger in Iron Man #93 (I thought he took on Commander Kraken?)

*The "first issue text page" traditional for this time period appears with "Notes from Myself" by Gerry Conway which explains why Spidey's getting another title. Spidey's cast needs "room to live, breathe and develop." But don't worry because "I'm going to coordinate my stories with the stories in The Amazing Spider-Man, and what isn't covered in that book, will be covered in this one."

"G.C" also takes the Dashing Competition to task for its overloading of Superman titles, saying "there were so many books about him and his friends and his acquaintances and his nephews and dogs and people he met in the street and total strangers who'd seen him once on TV that pretty soon, all the stories became alike, and one issue was exactly like another." Not to worry, he says, there won't be a book called Spidey's Girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson or Spidey's Ex-Roommate Harry Osborn. (Hmmmm...the latter has shown up 28 years later!)

G.C. also reports that Amy Carter, the daughter of Presidential nominee Jimmy, is a Spider-Man fan.

*The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins preview this very issue and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It also tells of the Marvel softball team's success but "will the rules committee finally question the presence of a seven feet tall, one thousand pound centerfielder who has green skin and purple pants?" I always saw the Hulk as more of a rightfielder, myself.

Among the Welcome Wagon notes are brief introductions to "Timorous" Terry Austin and "Bumptious" Bob Wiacek.

*Interesting ads include Mead products with Marvel characters; Marvel pajamas, belts and sweatshirts; O.J. Simpson-endorsed multi-purpose shoes: Juicemobiles!; Spider-Man and the Fly in a Twinkies ad; the World Encyclopedia of Comics edited by Maurice Horn; and a very small ad for "The Buyer's Guide for Comic Fandom."