Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Brutal Betrayal of Debra Whitman!


We've recently taken a look at the strange saga of Debra Whitman, a young woman from the midwest who ended up in New York and met Peter Parker while he was attending Empire State University. In time, she became attracted to him, though the relationship failed to really go anywhere despite her hopes to the contrary, even as things were further complicated by Debra's suspicions that Peter was also Spider-Man. Eventually, the situation led to Debra developing a fragile state of mind that was only stabilized by Peter admitting the truth while in costume, a gesture which instead served to shock Debra out of her supposed delirium and finally take stock of her life after thanking Peter for going to such lengths just to help her.

Cut to twenty-four years later (our time) to early 2007, where Debra is now living with her mother (with good reason, as we'll learn)--while in New York, we find Peter at the point in time where he has revealed his identity as Spider-Man to the world in compliance with the Super-Human Registration Act. What effect would that revelation have had on Debra, you may well ask--a woman whose mental health was compromised by Peter's lies on the subject in addition to allowing her to leave town under the mistaken impression that his revealing himself in costume was only a ruse to shock her back to "reality"?

For Debra, the effect might be a toss-up between feeling either betrayed, or played.

And unfortunately for Peter, it turns out there's someone else who wants to jump on the revenge wagon.

Thanks to the X-Men, Peter has borrowed an image inducer which allows him to walk the streets in plain sight as "Ben Reilly," having had his teaching position compromised by criminals looking to eliminate Spider-Man by threatening his students. Not the best time for him to be hit with the news of Debra's book release--but on the other hand, news that a certain winged foe of Spider-Man greets with sheer glee.

Arriving in New York for a book signing, however, Debra is first intercepted by two stalwart friends of Peter's, Betty Brant and Flash Thompson, who each in their own way has things to say to her. But only one of them will be someone whom Debra can relate to.

In the meantime, "Mr. Reilly" has arrived to take a virtual ringside seat at the event--just in time for Flash's entrance, along with that of an event crasher of the first order.

Spider-Man's battle with the Vulture is touch and go, until the Vulture's own health betrays him and he's hospitalized--followed by Spider-Man's arrival at his bedside, and an exchange of words which serves to settle things between them at least for the time being. But it's another visit in this story that takes center stage, as we finally learn why Debra has done what she's done (and perhaps the real reason behind her outburst at home)--and like Peter's approach with the Vulture, Betty takes a parallel role in setting things right.

Which paves the way for the roundabout, delightful moral to this story: What J. Jonah Jameson doesn't know about Betty Brant won't hurt Debra Whitman.


dangermash said...

Thee's something about the way Deb Whitman is drawn in the posts that results in her having zero sex appeal despite her good looks and decent body. Is it all in the body language? Whatever it is, I salute the artists; I think it's genius.

Big Murr said...

SOoooo, the Superhero Registration Act prompted Parker to reveal his secret identity...and then he promptly uses an image inducer to create a new secret identity?? Wacky times in the Marvel world. I see tidbits like this and my curiosity is piqued, until I remember the story is smack in the middle of that toxic spill called "Civil War".

The artists may convey a convincing image for Deb, but the drawings of the Vulture raised an eyebrow. I'm not saying a senior citizen can't have a physique like an Olympian medal winner, but I prefer the artists that do a scrawnier, more buzzard-esque elder

Comicsfan said...

Actually, Murray, I'm fine with the less-Ditko Vulture, especially considering that underneath that costume is a good deal of body armor--a long time in coming, and a long time suspending my disbelief that it seldom occurred to the police that they could have nailed this flying target by opening fire on him with their guns and rifles. As for his buzzard-like appearance, he still maintains that look by hunching over a fair bit.

Anonymous said...

The way the original Deb Whitman story was resolved was quite bad. But bad stories are bound to happen in comics especially in long lasting characters with multiple titles.

I prefer to think of them as showing the writers were bad, and not the characters we all love for all the good stories written with them.

Unfortunately, new writers who seem to be only inspired by previous stories (instead of their own creative ideas) always seem to pick these bad stories to follow up on instead of doing the right thing - ignore them as if they never happened (which also means resisting the urge to "fix" them which only brings attention to the problem).

So while I am usually fond of reintroducing old supporting characters again, the circumstances of Deb Whitman pretty much mean she should never be seen again (at least in a Spider-Man comic).

I understand that one of the points of unmasking Spider-Man was to generate easy stories like this. But that was always a horrible idea which is why they eventually got rid of it (albeit in an ridiculous fashion, but then again only the ridiculous could work). The Bendis era of Marvel just really turned me off, and I eventually decided it was best to just stop buying Marvel comics and enjoy the combination of nostalgia and better quality of the past.


Comicsfan said...

Y'know something, Chris? The last few words of your post would make a great tag line for the PPC masthead!
"Enjoy the combination of nostalgia and better quality of the past!"

(Let's talk about royalties. How does a no-prize sound to you?)

Anonymous said...

I'll take any no-prize I can get.