Sunday, December 9, 2012

Runaway Bride

Two back-to-back issues of Amazing Spider-Man published in March and April of 1974 had readers shaking their heads in--confusion? Astonishment? Shock? It's hard to narrow it down. When you put the covers of the issues next to each other, it's easy to wonder if writer Gerry Conway had gone off his medication for a couple of months:

The introduction of the "Spider-Mobile"--and the completely out-of-the-blue marriage of Peter Parker's Aunt May to Dr. Octopus. Peter's ulcer must have tightened like a knot at these developments.

First things first: the Spider-Mobile. Wouldn't you have loved to have been a fly on the wall when that concept was pitched. To make a long story short, an advertising company approaches Spider-Man (the reps see him swinging overhead and yell to him--you'd think the police would have such luck) and proposes to draft him into an advertising campaign by having him build a car which uses a motor designed by their client. Which seems ludicrous, given how public opinion regarding Spider-Man wouldn't exactly be conducive to selling anything and that any advertising company would already know that. But Conway follows one of the rules of soap opera: if you have an absolutely preposterous concept that no one in their right mind would swallow, first acknowledge the reasons not to do it and then go full speed ahead with it.

So Spider-Man lists all the things we're thinking as to why this is a terrible idea:

But mid-issue, when Peter is up against the wall and can't make his rent, he accepts the deal and pays a visit to the one guy he knows who's a wiz at cars:

Don't ask me why these advertisers wouldn't just go to Johnny Storm, already a popular celebrity, and ask him to sign on the dotted line instead. If you're looking for a super-being to advertise a new car motor, is your first thought of a vigilante who never uses a car--or do you approach a famous public figure whose favorite hobby is not only driving cars but modifying car engines? Nevertheless, four issues later, this concept is shoved down our throats whether we like it or not:

And though Spider-Man is no James Bond, his car is built with some extras made to order for merchandising:

Now I know your what you're thinking here: Aren't the police going to be happy that they can now catch this guy by chasing down his easily-spotted car, instead of being stuck at ground level while he travels over rooftops? (Or corner him just by showing up for his photo ops?) And isn't Corona Motors going to be miffed when their profits tank because their product is associated with a guy wanted by the police? Pfah. Conway would probably insist that this is all in good fun, and that you should just go with it. And that we did, for another thirty issues and an excruciating two and a half years--until, after a battle with the Tinkerer which all but wrecked this four-wheeled farce, Spider-Man finally delivers the Spider-Mobile to the advertisers:

Gee, Spider-Man seems to have enjoyed this experience as much as we have.

As for the nuptials from hell, I'd love to see Wikipedia take a stab at explaining the hows and whys, because I honestly don't think their servers would stand the strain. But in a nutshell: Aunt May inherits a privately-owned atomic processing plant residing on a Canadian island containing a very rich uranium supply and "one of the world's most sophisticated nuclear breeding reactors." I'll give you a minute or two to digest that before I go on; but in one issue, Aunt May has unknowingly gone from pie-baker to power player. Yes, it's obvious Conway has been watching way too many soap operas. And Ock, who has sweet-talked his way into becoming a fixture in May's life, cannily decides to seal the deal and marry into this little arrangement:

I'm not sure if it's artist Ross Andru we have to blame for May Parker looking like an old man here, or inkers Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt. But someone needs to get the memo that they're drawing May Parker, not Silvermane:

To make matters even more complicated, Hammerhead gets wind of this plan from his last encounter with Ock, and ends up doing what any good soap opera would have someone do in the middle of a wedding:

But Octopus escapes and, with his bride in tow, retreats to the island to get his first look at just what May has to offer as a dowry. Of course, you know it's a shotgun wedding when your bride-to-be is still a little stuck on formality:

Anyway, since Hammerhead isn't a guy to take no for an answer, he follows and confronts Ock on the island. Let's see--two bad guys, arguing in the same room that houses a nuclear reactor. Since one guy's name is "Hammerhead," and since Octopus is standing in front of the reactor, we know there's a huge sound effect in our future:

I don't think there was ever any real follow-up with May on either her botched marriage or any concern she might have for the whereabouts of her fiancĂ©. And astoundingly, no one ever came knocking at her door wondering about a nuclear explosion from a reactor facility in her name. The next issue jumps right into a battle with the Molten Man, with May presumably in bed somewhere sleeping off her ordeal.  I hope no one was waiting at the reception to toast the happy couple.


Kid said...

Ludicrous when you think about them, aren't they? Gerry Conway is now an executive producer (I think) on shows like Law & Order, and even writes some episodes. As well as other TV programmes, I believe. Comics don't seem to have hurt his career, eh?

Comicsfan said...

What--no soap operas in there anywhere? :)