Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Live Your Dreams

Seldom has both a comic's cover and its splash page evoked such puzzlement as this issue of Amazing Spider-Man from late 1983:

On the one hand, we have J. Jonah Jameson punching Spider-Man's lights out, this time without the benefit of being at the controls of a Spider-Slayer--while on the other, the Watcher, whose duty is to observe significant events involving a living being, a world, or even a galaxy, whether they occur in our own universe or another, now peers into the imaginations of four random people from Earth, a shift in his modus operandi which would normally be quite a departure for this character.

But rather than scrutinize that shift to any degree, let's assume instead that this is the Watcher version of donning a virtual reality headset and enjoying some down time; in fact, writer Roger Stern's only use for the Watcher is to smooth the path for us as to what we'll be seeing in this unusual issue, making both his entrance and exit on page one and offering no narrative or closing scene. It's quite a diversion for the Watcher to make, simply to pull back the curtain for us, proving that even a Watcher knows how to let his hair down occasionally. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

With the exception of Felicia Hardy (a/k/a the Black Cat), the Watcher has settled on an assortment of the book's longtime supporting characters--and as imagination is the issue's theme, we'll be taking a peek inside their thoughts and getting an idea of not only what's on their minds but, as the title implies, find them doing a little daydreaming as to how the ideal circumstances for those thoughts might play out. In Felicia's case, she's growing restive in the hospital, where she's recovering from injuries sustained from weapons fire by Dr. Octopus' hirelings--and she knows just the man to "take her away from all of this."

Despite appearances, however, that man may not necessarily be Spider-Man.

Just as with Spider-Man, the sure thing for a case of cabin fever is adventure--and while for Felicia's case that would usually mean ruffling the feathers of law enforcement, in this instance Spidey is able to provide just as much excitement for her by working alongside the Feds to recover important documents.

Their mission goes off without a hitch--and with the appropriate thanks from their Federal contact (along with $500,000 in cash, which could only happen in a dream involving the Feds just handing over that kind of money), Spidey and the Cat board the wall-crawler's yacht (!) and head for a little down time of their own. But for this particular adventure, it appears Felicia also had another daring adventurer in mind.

Cut to the sub-basements of the Daily Bugle building, where Jonah Jameson soaking in the atmosphere of his long career as a newsman (in a track suit, no less)--and where a single headline in the next copy of the Bugle is enough to make him incensed enough to unleash his full fury against one who has mocked the slippery slope of his ethics.

With Mary Jane, the reality she envisions for herself is just as wishful, though with a different perspective--for she wishes harm to no one, her mind's eye bringing her a harmless fast-forward on what she dreams will be a career of self-fulfillment, adulation, and recognition from the highest circles of stage and screen.

Yet Mary Jane's careless daydream is shattered by thoughts of her estranged sister, Gayle--a story that Stern would keep on tap for nearly four more years, but which now brings a tinge of guilt to her aspirations for herself.

As for the star of this mag, seeing Jameson on Park Avenue interrupts his conflicting thoughts on whether or not to pursue Avengers membership, and triggers a fantasy of his own--a combination of success and validation, from many corners of his double life.

But in the end, Spider-Man, like Mary Jane, can't help but wonder if what his dreams offer are truly deserved. And for the answer, Stern this time segues the dream to something remarkable for Spider-Man, who comes face-to-face with the unspoken dreams of someone whose life at this point in time can't help but ring familiar to Peter Parker--leading to one of the finest endings in a Spider-Man story that's ever been produced by both writer and artist.

The times where Spider-Man is allowed to recognize that his selflessness is appreciated and that all the trials he goes through actually count for something are tragically few--but the fantasy that briefly occupied his daydream pales beside the real-life, unsung act of kindness he performed this day.

Amazing Spider-Man #246

Script: Roger Stern
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Dan Green
Letterer: Joe Rosen


Anonymous said...

Lets assume the Watcher enjoys spending his down time watching random individuals on Earth?
I always suspected he was a bit of a creep, Comicsfan.


Comicsfan said...

Given that he's tapping into their imaginations, as well, sean, perhaps even the Watcher could do with knowing the difference between curiosity and intrusion. :)