Spider-Man Newspaper Strip: 13 February 1978 - 9 April 1978

 Posted: 22 May 2023
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


The last time we looked in, at the February 12, 1978 strip, Peter Parker was temporarily heartbroken over Tana, whose father was the Terrorist. He was planning to propose marriage to her before she left him but quickly forgot when he found out that “World Wide Studios is doing a big-budget movie about the web-swinger!” Pete had also been offered a teaching job at Empire State University but who needed regular employment when you can jet off to Hollywood with the hopes of playing yourself in the Spider-Man movie?

Story 'Mysterio in Hollywood'

So, with stars in his eyes, Peter calls Dean Foster and tells him he is not taking the teaching job. (February 13) Then, as Spidey, he swings over to the Daily Bugle, comes in JJJ’s office window, webs his door shut and tells him, “I’m starring in the new Spider-Man movie.” (“Sure, and I’m playing Frodo in ‘Lord of the Rings’,” replies Jonah.) With “Part one of Mission: Hollywood” completed, he leaves and returns as Peter Parker where, after they pry the webbing off the door, Jonah tells him to “Grab a plane! You’re going to Hollywood to get me pix of Spider-Man.” “Dopey kid,” thinks JJJ, “I conned him into an assignment with one crummy plane ticket.” “I knew I could trick that tightfisted turkey into paying for my air fare,” thinks Pete.

So, Aunt May sees Peter off at the airport and Pete soon arrives at a cheap Hollywood motel. (February 18) He dons his Spidey garb and heads out, declaring, “So eat your heart out, Charles Bronson, here comes Spidey!” He arrives at World Wide Studios where he tries to impress the guard by hanging from his web and sticking to a wall but the guard only tells him to “join the others.” At the Casting Office, he finds a line of five Spideys of all shapes and sizes. Proving that he’s the real deal (by threatening and terrorizing), he sends the others running for cover, then enters the office, certain that he will get the job only to find another Spidey already there and clinging to the wall. “Isn’t it wonderful,” says the director, “We found the real Spider-Man!” (February 21) Spidey quickly jumps in and clings to another wall. “Two of them!” says the guy who was photographing the first one. “But…which is the fake!” says the director, whose name, we learn on February 24, is Ellen Day. Spidey proves he’s the real McCoy by lifting the cameraman and his camera. (This is probably Anton who isn’t named or seen clearly until March 19.) Bested, the imposter disappears in a cloud of smoke and Ellen tells Spidey, “You’re hired!” When Spidey wonders who the imposter was, Ellen says, “There’s one man who…no! That’s silly! It couldn’t be him!” And outside, the imposter sticks to a wall and says, “My adhesive costume would have fooled them if the real Spider-Man hadn’t appeared! But he’ll live to regret it!”

You can’t have a Hollywood story without some John Romita celebrity depictions. Here on February 26, we have Farrah Fawcett (Farrah Fawcett-Majors at the time) (panel 1) and Telly Savalas (panel 2). Panel 7 introduces Tommy, a boy in a wheelchair, who is being told, “I know Spider-Man’s your idol…But…The picture is too expensive – too big a risk! We’ve got to give it up!” The man telling Tommy this turns out to be his dad, Mr. Rimston, the head of World Wide Studios. He continues to tell Tommy “We can’t gamble everything on some yo-yo like that web-spinner” but then Spidey appears at his window and Ellen enters his office to tell him, “We hired the real wall-crawler!” Tommy is so thrilled at Spidey’s appearance that his dad says, “I haven’t heard such happiness in your voice since…since…” (Oh oh. It sounds like his mother died.) And seeing that, Rimston tousles Tommy’s hair and says, “Well, what are we waiting for? We’ve got a movie to shoot! Let’s get started!” (I don’t know why he was complaining that the picture is too expensive when he was the one, through his studio, who put the publicity out that attracted Spidey to Hollywood to begin with.)

So, they’re about ready to film. Ellen tells Spidey that “When you’re not in costume, you’re a mild-mannered millionaire hair stylist!” Spidey reminds her that he doesn’t unmask and only does the stunts. “Right,” Ellen says, “Your other self is played by Robert Bedrock! (Is he a combination of Robert Redford and Fred Flintstone?) He’s a perfect superhero type.” Spidey looks over at Bedrock who wears a neck ring and has his shirt open enough to show his chest hair and says, “You coulda fooled me!”

Spidey is checking over the script when someone appears with a WHOOSSH! It’s a guy wearing a fish bowl over his head and he proclaims, “Forget your script! The scenario is changed! Spider-Man is finished before he’s begun! Mysterio is here!” (March 3) After some trash-talking, Mysterio attacks Spidey. (“Like the kick of a mule! But I didn’t see him touch me!”) He seems to walk on air and he sprays something from his glove that dissolves Spidey’s webbing. He then removes his helmet and, while he looks like Quentin Beck from the comics, he is actually Hadley Harper, Ellen’s ex-husband and “Hollywood’s master of special effects.” He tells Ellen he wants a second chance. “Let me play the heavy in your film,” he says. This troubles Spidey. “He’s a genius but he’s mad,” he thinks, without any evidence, except that his spider-sense is “throbbing like mad!” Mr. Rimston is opposed to hiring Hadley but Ellen talks him into it. Back at his “private workshop,” Hadley muses, “For years I’ve been an unknown special effects man while others got the glory!” Apparently, he means the actors take credit for his work because we’ve already been told that he’s the best special effects man in the business. But even this doesn’t wash. “If the real Spider-Man hadn’t appeared, his role would now be mine!” he says but we’ve already been told that Robert Bedrock is the lead so Hadley’s Spider-Man would have been just another special effects job. Now, though, he thinks that he'll “win everlasting fame” as Mysterio. “This time the villain will win and none can stop it!” (Well, I think the studio could stop it.) It turns out that he means to actually kill Spider-Man to gain notoriety. He designs some kind of laser that blasts right through a big chunk of metal on which he has bothered to put Spider-Man’s picture.

Back at the studio, Spidey secretly webs up a camera to get some pictures for J. Jonah Jameson. Then, the filming begins with Robert Bedrock in a Spidey outfit. He’s playing “Bryce Bountiful, millionaire hair stylist…in reality, the Amazing Spider-Man.” Then, it’s Spidey’s turn to face Mysterio in an action scene. Ellen is pleased by the scene but she doesn’t know that Spidey had to evade a real ray blast from Mysterio. She tells the combatants that they’ll finish the scene tomorrow. Hadley tells Ellen not to “make a fool out of yourself over that two-bit Spider-Man.” When she tells him, “You’ve got no claim on me,” he grabs her and says, “I’ll always have a claim on you!” Ellen breaks away and says, “I left you because of your possessiveness,” (no kidding!) but Hadley thinks she left because he “hit the skids” and he plans to be on top again “once Spider-Man is destroyed.” I’m not sure how this works. If he destroys Spider-Man, he destroys the film, doesn’t he? That’s not going to put him back on top.

Meanwhile, Peter calls Aunt May and tells her that he’s in Hollywood. (She should know this since she saw him off at the airport on February 17.) She asks him, “Have you met any glamorous stars like Gene Autry or Lawrence Welk?” (The obvious point here is that Aunt May is old-fashioned. Gene Autry was the Singing Cowboy and he was at the height of his career in the 1930s and 1940s. Lawrence Welk was a bandleader and host of The Lawrence Welk Show which ran from 1951 to 1982 and was the poster child for “square” music and programming during the 60s and 70s.) Peter replies, “No, but I saw Kojak’s barber…” which is a joke because Kojak was played by Telly Savalas (whom we saw on February 26) and he was bald.

Tommy shows up to tell Spidey that he’s “worried about Mysterio” but Tommy’s dad comes in and tells him he wants to speak with Spidey alone. He then tells Spidey, “I won’t have him idolizing some muscle-bound costumed freak! So finish the film and then take off!” Back at the set, which is apparently unoccupied and unguarded, Mysterio shows up with his smoke effect (even though no one is there to see it) and sets up some devices that will “insure Spider-Man’s finish.” The next day, Anton the cameraman finds a note in his seat that reads, “If you value your life, keep the camera rolling – no matter what happens” and it is actually signed “Mysterio.” The note then self-destructs and disappears. Anton is no hero. Instead of ratting out Mysterio, which would be easy enough to do, he does exactly what the note says. Tommy Rimston and his dad show up to watch the filming and “the shooting of the final battle scene begins!” (March 22). Spidey quickly sees that Mysterio is deviating from the script and trying to really “zap” him. It isn’t long before everybody else realizes it, too. Ellen tells Anton to stop filming but, beads of sweat on his face, he refuses. “I can’t! Mysterio warned me!” Tommy calls out, “Dad, they’re not acting! Mysterio’s trying to kill him!” Using his pre-planted devices and his glove blasts, Mysterio gets Spidey on the ropes. The whole crew…Ellen, Anton, Tommy, his dad, others…run for the exit as the roof starts to fall in on them. But Mysterio has put up a wall on the other side of the doors and everyone is trapped (March 26).

Then, everyone seems to forget what just happened…including Spidey who thinks, “He’s ad-libbing! That’s not in the script!” (March 27) and Ellen who says, “Mr. Rimston - - I’m frightened! Mysterio’s gone mad!” (also March 27) and Mr. Rimston who says, “It’s insane! Nobody’s following the script!” (March 28). Mysterio hits Spidey with his “mystic mist” which deadens the web-slinger’s spider-sense enough for Mysterio to hit him with his “touch of death.” Only his spider-strength keeps Spidey alive and he tells himself, “Can’t pull my punches any longer!” (You think???) And with that, he takes Mysterio out with a couple of punches, shattering his fishbowl helmet.

Mysterio lies stretched out on the floor. He has fallen near some reels of film and he says, “The film –destroyed! Nothing left! Not a frame!” as if the camera was photographing onto finished film on reels. He mopes that he did everything for Ellen, as if she would appreciate him ruining the film that she is directing. (Isn’t he the guy who said “For years I’ve been an unknown special effects man while others got the glory!” and that he could “win everlasting fame” as Mysterio back on March 8? And now, suddenly, he did it all for Ellen?) Spidey thinks they’re going “back to square one” but Mr. Rimston steps in and announces, “There’ll be no movie!” (Wait. Wasn’t this the last battle scene? Did they do the action scenes first? What about the rest of the film with Robert Bedrock?) But Tommy objects. “You can’t do that to Spider-Man,” he says. “Is he all you care about?” says his dad, “What about me – our studio – the money we’ve lost? Why does he matter more than your own father?” Um…because he isn’t a jerk? But, hearing this, Spidey decides to pretend he is a jerk to get Tommy to ally with his father. He tells Tommy, “Clam up, stupid! I don’t need interference from a punk kid like you! I’m after the big bucks, see? But your old man’s not loaded enough! So he can kiss off, dummy! And that goes for you, too!...Who cares what a yo-yo like you thinks? Go sit on it, junior! I got things to do!” And then he climbs a nearby wall (which I think is part of the set and not going anywhere), leaving Tommy in tears and declaring, “I never want to see him again!” His father tells him, “Don’t hate him too much, Tommy! Perhaps he’s helped us both – to grow a bit!” Yeah, perhaps, but I kind of doubt it.

While Spidey is still clinging to that wall, Ellen comes over and tells him she overheard. “Too bad you’re not a professional actor,” she says, “You gave the greatest performance I’ve ever seen!” So, she seems to be level-headed. Except, when the cops take Mysterio away, she tells Spidey, “He got what he deserves and yet in his own strange way, he did it - for me. I can’t desert him now – when he needs me the most!” Wha???

So, “That’s show biz,” as Peter says. He packs up and takes a plane back to New York. And sleezy horndog that he is, he stares bug-eyed at the attractive woman who is in the airplane seat next to him. He immediately flirts (“Quiet! Don’t make a sound! I don’t wanna wake up!” and “You’re an actress, right?”) She tells him she is…if she “could convince a studio” and asks if he’s in movies. Peter can’t resist. “Actually, I’m really Spider-Man!” he says, “They were filming my life story!” “Well, ask a silly question,” she says.

General Comments

Over the next week, Peter gives a George Burns photo to Aunt May, sells his Spidey-Mysterio photos to Jameson, runs into Carole and has a strange vibrating pigeon follow him. But all of that is for next time.

Here are this story’s “First appearances in the Spider-Verse:”

  1. Worldwide Studios and the guard at the gate, February 19, panel #1
  2. Other Spideys, February 19, panel #7
  3. The blonde woman in the bikini hanging around the studio, February 19, panel #7 (She shows up again, posing on the set on March 2, panel #1.)
  4. Mysterio (as Spider-Man), February 21, panel #3, (as Mysterio), March 3, panel #4 (as Hadley Harper), March 5, panel #6
  5. Ellen Day and the photographer, February 21, panel 3, with the photographer only appearing until February 24, panel #1
  6. Anton the cameraman, February 23, panel #1, but not seen clearly and given a name until March 19, panels #2 and 3
  7. Farrah Fawcett-Majors, February 26, panel #1
  8. Telly Savalas February 26, panel #2
  9. Tommy Rimston and his dad, February 26, panel #7
  10. Robert Bedrock, March 2, panel #3 (as Bryce Bountiful), March 12, panel #1
  11. The hunk of metal with Spider-Man’s picture on it, March 9, panel #1
  12. The attractive woman on the airplane, April 9, panel #3

Overall Rating

That’s it? Oof. What a letdown.

So let me get this straight…Spidey goes out to Hollywood to star in a movie about his life, except that he won’t reveal his secret identity so he can only do the stunt work, which hardly seems worth it. Mysterio is not Quentin Beck as he is in the comics but is, instead, Hadley Harper, a disgraced stunt man and Ellen Day’s ex-husband, who has been “bounced from every studio” according to Mr. Rimston. In spite of this, they decide to hire him and he decides that the best way to get into his ex-wife’s good graces is not to create great special effects for the film but, rather, to kill Spider-Man, effectively ruining his ex-wife’s film. In spite of this, she decides to stick with him because he did it for her.

And then there’s Mr. Rimston and his son, Tommy. He is the head of Worldwide Studios which is a studio hurting for funds. He tells Tommy that making a Spider-Man movie will be too expensive but he gives in because Spidey is Tommy’s idol. Except that Peter only knew about this film because the studio advertised that it was “doing a big-budget movie about the web-swinger” and that “They’re combing the country for the best man to play the title role.” How hard did they look? They seem to have chosen an established movie star in Robert Bedrock. And, in spite of all the money already put into this, Mr. Rimston shuts down the film because one set has been destroyed.

Tommy and his dad seem unfinished as characters (Mr. Rimston doesn’t even get a first name), as if there was a back story that was left on the cutting room floor. Why is Tommy in a wheelchair? Where is his mother? On March 1, panel #1, Tommy is thrilled to meet Spidey and his father says, “I haven’t heard such happiness in your voice since…since…” and Stan never follows up on that. Since his mother died? Since he ended up in a wheelchair? What?

Throughout the story, Mr. Rimston acts like a jerk in regards to Spidey. Instead of trying to be a father to his son, he jealously wants Spidey out of their lives. And yet, when the film is shut down, what does Spidey do to try to repair the apparent rift between father and son? He acts like an even bigger jerk. Yeah, just the thing to help mend a dysfunctional relationship. Then, after moping for a couple of strips, he forgets all about it and flirts with the woman sitting next to him on the plane. Ugh.

I’d give this story a half-web but Johnny’s artwork is so good (I love the Farrah and Telly caricatures) that’s I’m tacking on an extra web. This is still, far and away, the worst story in the strip so far.


Next: Who is Spidey’s greatest foe? Well, in the stripverse, it appears to be Dr. Doom. He’s back next time.

 Posted: 22 May 2023
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)