The Transparent Fox:
Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #86
Issue(s): Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #86
Fred Hembeck first got attention at Marvel for sending letters in cartoon form (see here at the bottom) and by this point he had also drawn the 1982 Fantastic Four Roast joke issue. He was also doing a column/strip at the Comics Buyer's Guide. He's referred to disparagingly (jokingly) as a "fan" in the Al Milgrom portion of this issue, where the gag is that Milgrom goes to the Marvel office to find that regular editor Danny Fingeroth has been replaced by Bob DeNatale, who has decided to run Hembeck's art instead of Milgrom's for this issue.
Hembeck's art is deliberately very stylized, cartoony, and more suited for satirical commentary, but this issue takes the unusual tack of playing it completely straight. There are a few jokes, but no more than you'd expect from any Spider-Man comic.
We may consider ourselves lucky that this was the issue that was chosen for Hembeck. Because the basic premise is that the Fly is degrading mentally into an actual fly, to the point where he likes to eat garbage.
His self-disgust over this development causes him to renew his attack on J. Jonah Jameson. Spider-Man also happens to be near the Bugle because he has decided to show the Black Cat where he works.
This story also continues the conflict between Spider-Man and the Black Cat over her desire to be his partner even though she doesn't have super-powers, and we again see her not doing so well against a super-powered opponent.
She is, however, able to play a supporting role, and keeps JJ safe while Spider-Man finishes off the Fly.
At the end of the issue, Danny Fingeroth returns from the San Diego comics convention (he got writers cramp from all the autographs he was signing) and he puts a stop to Hembeck's art and so the last few pages are Milgrom again.
Proving that Bob DeNatale only deserves to be an assistant editor, here's a typo.
The reaction to this was basically "It was GREAT. Don't ever do it again." and that's pretty much how i feel, too.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #85-87 really seems to have been intended to flow through as a continued story. Issue #85 ends on a roof after the Black Cat fumbled the fight with the Hobgoblin, and this issue first shows the Cat following Spider-Man and trying to talk with him about that event. This issue ends with Spider-Man telling the Black Cat that he's going to take her to his home, and issue #87 begins with them arriving there. The issues aren't direct continuations and the interpretation could be that they're happening on separate nights, but surely the original intention was that it all happened in succession. But in issue #87, Spider-Man references the events of Amazing Spider-Man #250. And the Hobgoblin battle in Spectacular #85 has to take place before the Hobgoblin's appearances in Amazing Spider-Man #249-250. So at a minimum, there has to be a break between #85-86. And all of this has to take place before Secret Wars, and there are Marvel Team-Ups to contend with, too. All that said, it still might be possible to fit #86-87 together but the MCP places a break between those issues as well, placing ASM #249-250 between them. And i'm going to be a bit lazy and follow that rather than find an alternate placement.
The Fly appears here after Moon Knight #35.
On a more humorous note, during the framing sequence, we see Bob Harras going through withdrawal from not having heard from his boss Ralph Macchio in five minutes.
There was a plot point in Dazzler #30 where Harras was going through a similar withdrawal and eventually was talked into taking more direct control. So you might argue that this should take place before Dazzler #30. But at the end of that issue, Macchio got back in touch with Harras, and i'm saying that since then Harras reverted to his previous dependent state. Obviously this isn't critical to the project, and either interpretation works, but i wanted to address it.
Crossover: Assistant Editors' Month
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
The Fly was also lusting after garbage in his Moon Knight appearance, so it wasn't completely jokey.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 16, 2013 6:03 PM
Al cartoony self-portraits look great in these scans. They're appealing and full of character. Looking at these images side by side with his work on SECRET WARS II makes me wish he'd adopted his cartoony style for everything.
Posted by: JP | May 31, 2015 1:02 PM
Actually, that typo is Fingeroth's responsibility, if he mandated that art change, isn't it?
In agreement with JP - Milgrom does great work with his looser style. Imagine how much fun WCA could have been!
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | April 4, 2016 12:05 AM
I actually liked the Fly as a villain. I think his costume was good and power set was decent. Despite the fact that spiders eat flies, I thought the Fly could have been a good villain against Spidey as he was powerful enough. And the conflicting animal themes could have been put to good use provided the Flies advantages (like flight) were put to good use against Spidey.
Having the Fly devolve though put the character on the path to doom. As a one shot thing, it seemed disgusting and creepy, but there's not much room for the character after this. Pretty much any time a character begins to degrade like this (see Manticore or Man Bull), the character has had it. The character had managed to appear about once every two years on average which isn't bad. But the next time we'll see him, it's Scourge bait.
Posted by: Chris | June 20, 2017 3:22 AM
The Fly's other problem is that Mantlo, his co-creator, basically used him to retell the Scorpion's two Lee-Ditko stories: his origin in the Annual from the 1970s is ASM #20, and this story is in some ways a plot retread of "Never Step on a Scorpion" from ASM #29.
That may have convinced other writers that the Fly was little more than a knockoff of an existing Spider-Man villain.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | January 29, 2018 6:56 PM
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