Spider-Man is the everyman. Creating a super-hero who’s a nerdy high-schooler is a genius idea, and it made Spider-Man a figure his readers could identify with easily. He is one of the best super-hero concepts of all time.
Newspaper Spider-Man, on the other hand, is the worst super-hero of all time. He gets knocked out every other week. His powers randomly stop working around bricks, bullets, hammers, or any other form of danger.
From his boss to his own wife, everyone just relentlessly clowns on the poor guy.
And that’s before Clown-9 shows up:
That guy, by the way, keeps Newspaper Spider-Man busy for four months.
The epic of Clown-9, who time and time again succeeds in outsmarting Spider-Man, culminates in Spidey finally winning by using a joy buzzer.
Clown-9, it should be noted, has zero super-powers of any kind. Still, he almost effortlessly won the first two encounters with Newspaper Spider-Man by using the awesome power of a “clown-nose siren” and a “kick me” sign:
By the way, I’m not sure whether Stan Lee really is the one writing Newspaper Spider-Man these days, but he might as well be. This is vintage Stan Lee Spider-Man – a put-upon nerd constantly fighting for respect from anybody. Not only is Spider-Man humiliated by Clown-9, but Peter Parker also misses a payday because he was not there to take photos of the action. This poor guy just can’t catch a break.
Which brings us to a Newspaper Spider-Man storyline that just wrapped up:
Spider-Man saves (most of) Albuquerque
Mary Jane Parker, Peter’s wife and a successful actress, needs to go to California for the premiere of her new movie. Instead of doing the sensible thing and taking a plane, she proposes that Peter and her go on a road trip. Perhaps she remembers that the last time Newspaper Spider-Man tried to get on a plane, he had to be cleared to board by President Obama himself.
Anyway, during the mind-numbing exercise in boredom that is a car drive from New York to Los Angeles, Peter and Mary Jane come across a crashed space ship, and here’s where this story becomes amazing.
Spider-Man, Mary Jane, and Rocket Raccoon on a road trip through New Mexico is pretty close to all I ever wanted from comics. Mostly because Newspaper Rocket Raccoon:
- does not know what a raccoon is
- is never drawn the same way twice
- is the latest in a long line of sentient beings to think Spider-Man is the worst super-hero of all time.
Rocket is on earth to hunt for Ronan the Accuser and Spider-Man decides that letting an unsupervised raccoon with a gun run around is not what responsible adults do. There is a subplot where Rocket starts stealing stuff from a motel, which prompts Peter to explain to the motel owner that this is indeed his son, in a very realistic raccoon costume. Said “son”, meanwhile, is busy fighting a stray dog for control over the motel’s trash can.
Anyway, Ronan has shown up in his pre-movie-appearance glory. Much like Rocket, Ronan is never drawn the same way twice, measuring anywhere between five foot ten and eight foot depending on perspective. Also, much like Rocket, Ronan has quite correctly assessed Newspaper Spider-Man as a chump:
You know what they say: with great power comes great responsibility, but your dignity is another matter entirely.
Ronan is looking for a Kree sentry, a robot construct which last appeared in print around when Stan Lee was still plotting every Marvel book. So maybe “Stan the Man” is writing Newspaper Spider-Man after all. Ronan actually succeeds in awakening the sentry and sends it on an ill-defined rampage towards nearby Albuquerque. Of course Spider-Man will stop the robot from destroying the town, right?
The sentry flies off and lays waste to Albuquerque for over two months before being stopped, which might be the reason the Albuquerque Journal carries the newspaper strips of Mandrake the Magician, Popeye, and Prince Valiant instead of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Once your friendly neighborhood gets destroyed by an alien robot, it’s probably hard to root for the guy who failed to prevent it.
Finally, Rocket helpfully informs Peter that Ronan needs his helmet to breathe. This leads to the turning point of the battle, when our hero glibly asphyxiates the guy:
That is the last time we see Ronan move, which lends itself to the interpretation that Rocket was lying to Peter about this whole “oh, Ronan just goes into hibernation, he’ll be fine if you steal his helmet” business and they just flat out murdered him.
Meanwhile, the sentry is taking weeks to level downtown Albuquerque.
Rocket and Peter go off to stop the robot, meaning that they leave Mary Jane alone with an alien corpse. Luckily, she remembers that the sentry will not harm a Kree and decides to hitch a ride with Ronan’s limp body in tow.
“Yo, Spider-Man” indeed. How they managed to get Ronan, who is suddenly eighteen foot tall, onto the truck, is anybody’s guess at this point. Anyway, after about a week of “are you thinking what I’m thinking” strips, our hero throws a stiff-as-a-board, probably deceased alien into a the path of a robot’s death ray.
This move (nice of Ronan to shrink down to a portable size again, by the way) allows Rocket to dig around inside the sentry’s brain and kill it. Good job, guys!
So, Albuquerque is still mostly standing (somehow) and Rocket takes Ronan back to space. Peter and Mary Jane continue their road trip. Upon finally arriving in Los Angeles, they are greeted by… Aunt May, who has done the only sensible thing and taken the plane instead.
Oh, and of course they are being watched from the shadows by someone, because when you’re Newspaper Spider-Man, the horror never ends.
We don’t know who this mysterious figure is yet (this strip, in case you haven’t deduced this yet, moves at a glacial pace), but it looks like it might be either Mole-Man or Doctor Octopus, who has followed Spider-Man from New York to Los Angeles.
Let’s hope that guy took the plane as well.