Spider-Man Newspaper Strip 17 November 2014- 14 March 2015

Background

You remember "Marvella," don't you? No? It was a super-hero movie starring Mary Jane Parker (told in a 2006 storyline) that went straight to video. So much for MJ's movie career, right? But now...

Story 'Marvella 2 (Part 1)'

  Spider-Man Newspaper Strip 17 November 2014- 14 March 2015
Summary: With Mysterio
Writer: Roy Thomas, Stan Lee
Pencils: Alex Saviuk (Sunday Strip), Larry Leiber (Daily Strips)
Inker: Joe Sinnott

Peter returns home to find out that Mary Jane's Broadway show is closing. Not because it's unsuccessful, since it is "a smash hit," but because the theater "is a death trap." It will take three months for the repairs to be made on the theater but "in this town, that's an eternity." Fortunately, just at that moment, Abe Smiley knocks on the door. He is the producer of that "clunker" Marvella except that the film made a mint on DVD. So, Abe figures it's time to make Marvella 2. Peter complains that, if Marvella is such a hit, "how come [MJ] hasn't seen any royalties?" Smiley says "It, uh, must be some glitch in accounting." MJ complains that she doesn't want to go back to Los Angeles for three months and Smiley tells her that they are filming Marvella 2 in New York. That does it and they shake hands on it. (No wonder she hasn't gotten any royalties!) Meanwhile, "not so very far away," Mysterio is lurking.

Now that MJ has taken the job, she feels bad "about the poor actress...already cast as Marvella. (I'm not sure how she knows there is another actress since Abe didn't tell her.) Abe replies that the actress will understand "Because she's my daughter. She only took the role as a favor to me."

Abe, MJ, and Peter go down to the studio. There, MJ sees Mr. Dashell who was the director of the first Marvella and is also directing the sequel. He gives MJ a big hug and asks her to call him "Dash." Peter thinks, "Why do I feel like a fifth wheel?" MJ tries on her costume and gets a copy of the script but Peter's spider-sense starts tingling. He thinks all of this is too good to be true.

MJ reads the script and loves it. "It's 1000% better than the script for the first one," she says. "That wouldn't be hard," says Peter. Usually it takes forever for something to happen in this strip but not in this case. It is already time to begin filming in what appears to be the day after she agreed to be in the movie. Peter points out that MJ hasn't signed a contract yet and she says, "Mr. Smiley said he'll have it ready today." He does, offering the same amount of money she earned for Marvella. When MJ insists on twice the amount, Smiley already has that contract prepared, too. But MJ is still reluctant to sign. There is one clause she needs to discuss with her lawyer. When he shows up (is he Foggy Nelson? Jimmy Olson?), Smiley is so stressed that his beard disappears. It turns out her lawyer IS Foggy Nelson and he okays the contract. MJ signs and Smiley is ready to begin "the movie magic!"

Abe introduces MJ to "special effects wizard Rory McCormick." Rory tells MJ he's seen her Broadway play three times but adds that he's "been picturiing 'Marvella 2' with Sharon Smiley in the starring role." This prompts a "?" from MJ, an "!" from Abe and head wiggles from both. Then, MJ meets Sharon who is clearly not happy. She tells MJ that she was "born to play Marvella" (which seems sort of pathetic to me) and she sneers at her rival. Abe rolls his eyes at this but MJ offers to resign so Sharon can attain her birthright. Abe will have none of it. He waves the contract in front of MJ and tells her he will sue her if she breaks it. Sharon stalks off, sniping, "Have fun, Parker! I hope it's the last part you ever play!"

That night, as MJ goes over her lines, Peter notices a carjacking right outside their apartment and does his Spidey thing. He is about to collar the crooks when a bright light temporarily blinds him, allowing the carjackers to get away. That bright light came from Mysterio who arranged the carjacking right outside MJ Parker's building to confirm his suspicion that Spider-Man is watching over MJ. Spidey's spider-sense warns him that someone may be nearby so, instead of swinging into the window, he digs an old raincoat out of a trashcan and returns to his apartment as Peter.

The next day, MJ has to report for filming at the top of the Empire State Building. Peter decides to hang around as Spidey to make sure MJ is safe.

So, it turns out that Sharon, who has already threatened MJ, is playing the villain Sister Steel, that they are filming on top of the Empire State Building with no additional structures built to protect the actors, and that there are no stunt people doing this scene. Sounds like really great planning. So, of course, Sharon punches MJ for real, knocking her back against the very flimsy-looking railing. What's worse is that the railing is an illusion and MJ falls off the Empire State Building. But, as he vowed, Spidey is nearby, keeping watch and he swings over to rescue her. But then, Spidey's webline dissolves and a mysterious cloud of smoke surrounds him, knocking out his spider-sense. He grabs a building's flagpole as he and MJ fall past but it breaks off in his hands with a SNAPP! Fortunately, the flagpole slows their fall enough so that they can land safely in a dumpster. Spidey figures that "what happened up there has all the earmarks of Mysterio!"

The movie crew arrives and Spidey wonders "could any of them be in league with whoever tried to kill us?" He takes off when SFX guy Rory uses MJ's phone to call Peter lest his phone ring and they figure out he IS Peter. Still, Rory and Sharon suspect that MJ is having an affair with Spider-Man. And Mysterio has somehow doped out that "Spider-Man is MJ Parker's husband!"

The next day, Abe calls MJ in and shows her a tall, gleaming robot. "This is a real robot, MJ," he says, "not just a model. It took part in a World's Fair years ago." (Is this a reference to a storyline that I don't know?) He wants it to "menace Marvella" in the city to drum up publicity. This does not bode well, particularly when the "Next" caption on the Sunday strip is "Runaway Robot!" And, sure enough, as soon as the robot is activated, it stomps right toward MJ. With no time to change to Spider-Man, Peter rushes over and shoves MJ out of the way but the robot falls on him, bruising him badly. Abe wants to call for an ambulance but Peter points out that "There's a hospital ER just across the street." (I thought they were filming at the Empire State Building. I guess that was the day before.) The FX man reports that "Something overrode my control board" to set the robot on the rampage and "In an undisclosed location," Mysterio rages, "I almost destroyed both of them at once - MJ Parker - and her husband, AKA Spider-Man!"

As MJ begins to help Peter across to the ER, Abe tells them "I'm going to cancel the filming of Marvella 2" but MJ talks him out of it. She is beginning to like the idea of starring as Marvella again. The Parkers soon return from the ER and tell the group that Peter has a cracked rib. He has a copy of the X-ray under his arm to prove it. But then Dash stumbles and bumps into Peter right into his chest, causing him to drop his X-ray which he completely forgets about and leaves on the floor, like a dog that has gotten tired of its chew toy. It ends up in Mysterio's hands. He looks at the X-ray and decides that the cracked rib is genuine.

The next day, the film shooting is scheduled for Washington Square Park. Because of his "cracked rib," Peter does not tag along. Rory and Sharon are, as usual, huddled off to the side together, whispering and scheming. Rory tells Sharon that she should be playing Marvella. "Maybe I'll get my chance yet, Rory," says Sharon. Later, Spider-Man shows up, web-swinging around the area. Sharon tells MJ, "Spider-Man's keeping an eye on you." And "nearby," Mysterio, who has figured out that Peter is Spidey, says "The wall-crawler's taking it easy today because of his cracked rib! But I won't take it easy on him!"

So, Spidey positions himself on top of a building to keep an eye on the filming. Mysterio levitates up and shoots his mist at him. Well, Spidey was on top of a building, which had air vents on the roof but now he's on top of the Washington Square Park arch, which I assume has no air vents. Mysterio's mist messes up Spidey's spider-sense which, according to Mysterio, "you're rumored to possess." (Yeah, if you consider all the times he's told people he has a spider-sense to be rumors.) Hampered by his "cracked rib" and lack of spider-sense, the web-slinger cannot dodge the "deadly discus," which looks like a buzzsaw blade, that Mysterio throws at him. It smacks Spidey right where his "cracked rib" is and he lets out an "OWWW," then falls off the arch. Mysterio says, "That glancing hit shouldn't have hurt you enough to make you fall - unless you've a cracked rib - like Peter Parker has!" As Spidey falls, Mysterio races down so that he can "see the impact at street level." (Nice guy.) But Spidey shoots out his webbing and snags the invisible device Mysterio stands on that allows him to fly. Mysterio calls it a "sky-ski." Spidey calls it a "nice little see-through hovercraft." Whatever its name, Spidey yanks it out from under Mysterio who saves himself with his "easily-activated jet pack." He rushes toward Spidey for their "final confrontation." (If only.)

With Spidey now dangling from the sky-ski, Mysterio moves in to again attack him with his discus. MJ, watching from below, is so rattled that she almost blurts out Peter's name. "Be careful, P-- Spider-Man!" she says. Abe says, "I never dreamed the Amazing Spider-Man could be so helpless!" but he doesn't seem so helpless to me. Mysterio uses his discus to sever Spidey's web but this is just what Spidey wants. He has noticed that the discus automatically returns to Mysterio so he grabs hold of it and it flies him back to where he can kick Mysterio in the gut. But this move knocks Mysterio into a "downward spiral - propelled by his own jet pack" so the web-slinger lets go of the discus and dives after Mysterio in a rescue attempt, where he tries to "unstick" his jet pack. But the two are about to crash land in Washington Square Park.

Fortunately, they land in the fountain (though I doubt that would protect you from a fall from that height). Mysterio pulls a gun on Spidey ("This is the thanks I get for saving your life?" asks the web-slinger) but, waterlogged, it won't fire. "While I waterproofed my webbing years ago," says Spidey as he uses his web to snatch the gun away. Spidey punches Mysterio in the gut, knocking him down and then pulls his helmet off to reveal Dash Dashell underneath. Which one was Dash again? Oh yeah, the "boy movie director." Spidey pulls that mask off to reveal Quentin Beck underneath. MJ speaks for all of us when she says, "He was wearing a mask under his mask!?" Really, why would he bother? Spidey answers that (I guess). "He was too busy having two secret identities to take off one mask before he put on another!"

Abe can't believe that his director is Mysterio and he wants to know "where's the real Dashell?" (You mean, there's a real one? Yes, there is.) Mysterio reveals that "First, I damaged the Mammon Theatre, so it would need repairs! Then, I took Dashell's place, and talked you into hiring MJ Parker so I'd get the chance to kill both her and Spider-Man!" So, what's that all about? "I'd kill her first - so Spider-Man would suffer," he says, "then I'd off him, and gain the revenge I wanted!" When MJ asks him why he thought murdering her would make Spidey suffer, Mysterio replies, "Because I've watched you and I know your little secret! Spider-Man is actually your husband - Peter Parker!" Oh oh.

But, just then, Peter Skypes in "to see how thing're going on the set." (Some guy just happened to have a laptop open on set and Peter just happened to Skype into it.) This doesn't fool Mysterio. "That call could've been pre-recorded," he says. (Especially since no one bothers to response to Skype-Peter so he never has to say anything else.) Mysterio breaks free of the cop who is holding him and he punches Spider-Man in the side. Spidey doesn't "even flinch." "Peter Parker has a cracked rib - I saw the X-ray," says Mysterio, "When I hit you there - your pain should've been excruciating." "If I was MJ Parker's husband," replies Spidey, "which I'm not!" Mysterio gives up and Spidey web-swings away.

The police take Mysterio away. He promises to reveal where he is holding the real Dash captive. Abe now believes that the film will "be finished on schedule" and he plans "to dedicate it to Spider-Man!" Sharon apologizes to MJ for treating her badly. "I was just mad because I wanted that role, instead of Sister Steel," she says. "Personally, I think it'd be a lot more fun to play the villainess," MJ tells her.

MJ heads home for a rest before resuming filming. There she celebrates with Peter for convincing Mysterio that he isn't Spider-Man. "All it took was a pre-recorded Skype call," says MJ. "Plus a set of old X-rays from a few years back when I did have a cracked rib," says Peter. Huh? So, they smuggled an old X-ray into the Emergency Room just in case Mysterio suspected Peter was Spider-Man? Well, okay, why not? In fact, it turns out that the whole accident with the robot was faked. Spidey's "super-thin webline made that robot topple toward me," says MJ, allowing Peter to "rescue" her and fake his rib injury.

General Comments

So, let me see if I got this straight. Mysterio suspects that Peter is Spidey, for some reason, so he arranges to shut down MJ's Broadway show, kidnap and impersonate Dash Dashell, and convince Abe Smiley to hire MJ as Marvella again just in case he is right? And he then just hangs around the set causing trouble, hoping that Peter will reveal himself? And Peter and MJ fake an injury to the extent that Spidey reacts with pain and falls off the Washington Square Park arch to convince Mysterio (but mainly to convince the reader) that he does have a cracked rib only to prove he doesn't after Mysterio is captured? What happens if Mysterio doesn't break free of the police and punch Spidey in the side? What happens if someone actually tries to talk to the pre-recorded Skype message from Peter? Even the reveal of Dash being Mysterio isn't that surprising. After all, he was the guy who bumped into Peter to get him to drop the X-ray. So, it all seems pretty flimsy to me.

Overall Rating

I can't give it much of a rating but I always enjoy Mysterio, even in flimsy stories, and I get a kick out of the whole Marvella bit. Two webs.

Footnote

And look! The Marvella bit continues as Spidey and MJ run into the Hobgoblin.