Sunday, April 7, 2013

Stop Draggin' My Heart Around

I know it's hard to believe, given this woman's history, but:

Aunt May came out of this situation WITHOUT having a heart attack.

(Which makes the Beetle either a great caregiver, or a lousy menace.)

As practically any comic book reader knows, Aunt May's heart condition is near-legendary. For a long time, it was the main reason why Peter Parker was so careful about keeping his Spider-Man identity secret--out of the fear that the shock of the news might be too much for his frail aunt to bear. But even though Peter got to be pretty good at keeping his crime-fighting identity under wraps, his life as Spider-Man still provided ample opportunities for Aunt May's heart condition to heighten the drama in Amazing Spider-Man. And if Aunt May wasn't having an actual heart attack, she could always be put into situations which could potentially give her one (such as with our friend, the Beetle):

It's no picnic being Aunt May.

Even Marvel poked a little fun at its constant use of Aunt May's heart attacks, in the pages of its 1967 satire mag, Not Brand Echh:

So in what has to be the most morbid post of 2013, here's a brief look at how Aunt May's heart has stood the test of time, as well as the often strenuous test of being Peter Parker's doting aunt and consequently ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. All things considered, we haven't had to roll our eyes too often with these heart attacks, even though it seems they happen frequently. In the early days, Aunt May was always having doctor's appointments or hospital visits for health issues which she was vague with Peter about. I think her first-ever actual heart attack happened "off-stage," with Peter finding out from a phone call. Apparently, she'd had a number of such attacks prior to this one:

And thus, a legend is born. There may have been one or two other instances where her heart attack was only discovered after the fact, such as when she was driven off in an ambulance after being surprised at seeing Gwen Stacy's clone in Peter's apartment. But surely there's a drinking game somewhere that specifies taking a shot if Aunt May is pictured having a heart attack in the issue--maybe two shots if Dr. Octopus is involved, since he has the distinction of often triggering this kind of drama in the book.  In what may be Aunt May's first pictured heart attack, we find Ock in residence at Aunt May's home as a boarder. Of course, the time had to come when Aunt May would get an eyeful of Spider-Man and Ock battling it out under her own roof:

Nice going, Peter. If by some miracle she should open her eyes and see you gripping her as Spider-Man, you might as well start pricing funeral homes.

Still, the issue never formally termed May's collapse an actual attack, so we get to catch up with her while she's recuperating and watch her give it another try:

This time an ambulance is involved, so it looks pretty serious. Yet if there's one definitive heart attack scene for Aunt May, she has to take the Oscar with this performance, where Spider-Man is taking off to look for the Kangaroo. And where you or I might stuff some pillows under the covers in order to fool anyone checking up on us, Peter's bizarre brain comes up with this bonehead solution:

(Jeez, Peter, easy with the "THIS is a job for..." pose. Are you going to try to fly out the window?)

Anyway, you can guess what happens next. And the award for Best Dramatic Fall goes to...

Go ahead and applaud. I did.

I think the next instance of heart failure happened when Aunt May was protesting at City Hall. Yes, that Aunt May, who could barely summon the strength to move about her house. And I don't know what vitamins she took this morning, but look what else this frail woman decides to do:

Um, Peter, I don't think it was the policeman attacking your aunt with a sign, pal.

May gets to the hospital and receives care--but I think the writer was a little bored, because she suffers complications from both her heart condition as well as being related to Spider-Man:

Man, a "red blanket situation"--that sounds awful.  Not even Google could tell me what the heck that is.

Which is where I'm afraid we'll have to leave Aunt May. Don't worry, she's tough and I'm sure she'll pull through. Assuming someone forges Peter's signature on those consent forms. And speaking of Peter--well, with his aunt in the hospital, he has no one to scare into a heart attack, so...

With any luck, Jonah will end up in the same room as Aunt May.  That's sure to make visiting hours fun.


Anonymous said...

I never liked the Aunt May character very much.
She always seemed like a heart attack waiting to happen, an obvious foil,and she represents the maudlin drama that Stan Lee was famous for. I love the guy, but sometimes he laid it on pretty dang thick. The difference between drama and melodrama is in the eye of the of the beholder, but sometimes Stan the Man could pour so much sap in there you could, after reading those comics, blow your nose with a pancake.
Nuff said, but after that post about the Kangaroo, when are you gonna put out a post about Squirrel Girl?

Unknown said...

What a great idea for a column. Over at my blog I would have shamelessly called it "Top Ten Aunt May Heart Attacks"

I wish I'd thought of this first. Well done!

Comicsfan said...

Thanks! It was fun to put together. :)

Commander Benson said...

"Red blanket" is colloquial medical jargon for "rapid transfer protocol". That is, the patient is so close to death that, when he is brought to the hospital, he is immediately taken to an operating room, rather than undergoing triage in the emergency room.

Since May Parker was already hospitalized, the use of the term "red blanket" wasn't, technically, correct. However, it did convey the overall scenario of a life-or-death situation.

I found the definition of "red blanket" on line, through Google. I must have used a better string of search terms.

Hope this helps.

Comicsfan said...

Good to know, Mr. Benson--thanks!

Commander Benson said...

Glad to help. Things like that always challenge me. (I'm still confounded by "Roosevelt nickel", though.)

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