Amazing Spider-Man #256-258
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #256, Amazing Spider-Man #257, Amazing Spider-Man #258
Sounds generic enough, but there's a couple of neat points about Puma. First, in his civilian identity he's a very successful (and possibly somewhat corrupt, considering the influence he has over local politicians) businessman; CEO of Fireheart Industries, which seems to be in real estate. He's only in the assassin game for the thrill of it.
He's also a Native American, and his super-powers are supposed to be so that he can be a tribal guardian, not an assassin.
And because his powers include a tracking ability, he's able to follow Spider-Man's "spore" to Peter Parker's apartment. It's not made explicit, but the assumption is that he now knows Spidey's secret identity.
He's also got an executive assistant named Jenna Taylor that he's enamored with in a non-romantic way. Every opportunity he has, he thinks to himself something like, "She's so capable! I don't know how I'd ever survive without her!". Cheesy writing. I'm sure that's going somewhere plotwise.
Anyway, Puma has a good showing against Spider-Man, in part because Spidey dislocates his shoulder during the initial attack and winds up in tremendous pain.
The Black Cat drives him off the first time. He doesn't want to attack the Cat because he's not paid to. And her bad luck aura keeps him off balance (but he can detect it).
Mary Jane happens to be visiting Peter when the Puma attacks him at his apartment the second time. Peter quickly pushes MJ out the door in a ridiculous scene. She shouts "What's happening?" as she's pushed out and then as the fighting is going on inside the apartment she's pounding on the door demanding to be let back in and then talking like she's going to rescue Peter. Considering the revelation she's about to drop, it makes no sense.
Ron Frenz can't seem to design good clothing for MJ. Here she is at the Daily Bugle earlier (Peter is yawning because his costume is still taking him out at night to web-swing while he's asleep)
And this time she's just wearing these crazy boots.
During the fight, Puma observes that Spidey's webs are organic. Peter is shocked by that. I guess Peter never really thought about where the webbing was coming from. Spidey does better during the second fight, and when he exposes himself rescuing some bystanders from some falling equipment, Puma decides not to take advantage.
Meanwhile, the Kingpin finds out that the Rose put the hit on Spidey and angrily demands that the Rose cancel the contract. So that's it for Puma for now. When Peter returns to his apartment, MJ is still there, and she reveals that she knows that Peter is Spider-Man.
A note on Peter Parker's flat head from Christopher Priest:
In fact, about the only thing I didn't like about AMAZING was Peter Parker's head was too flat. I mean it, it was like he was Hammerhead Jr. or something. I called Ron and said, "Please stop making Peter's head flat." The next day, DeFalco stopped in my office to offer fatherly advice. He was a fatherly advice kind of guy in those days, patiently and gently leading me through the curves. He explained to me, you never leave a message like that on a freelancer's answering machine because it'll freak him out.
Anyway, before Peter can explore the bombshell that Mary Jane drops, the Black Cat comes swooping in, through the window, as Peter has told her not to do many times.
Mary Jane's line "It's true! It's all true!" doesn't quite jibe with the fact that (according to Untold Tales of Spider-Man #16), she knew for a fact that Peter was Spidey. It looks more like she's always suspected and the Puma incident and now the Black Cat incident are confirming it for her. But who knows, maybe "It's all true" actually refers to the fact that Peter is dating the Black Cat.
Anyway, she runs off. The Black Cat misinterprets the situation and tries to run off as well. But Peter's costume, currently disguised as his clothing, shoots a web, preventing her from leaving. To Peter's surprise.
I guess the symbiote likes the Black Cat more than Mary Jane.
Later (and there's room for other comics, like Marvel Team-Up #146 and Spectacular Spider-Man annual #4, to fit in this gap. The second story in the annual, where Spider-Man and the Black Cat decide to spend some quality time together, works very well after this near break-up scene), Peter falls asleep, and once again his costume takes him out for some unconscious web-swinging.
This time, however, Peter has some costume related dreams while he's sleep-swinging, which are illustrated nicely by Frenz. I like the fact that in Peter's dreams he still looks like he did in high school
"Sometime later" again, Peter finally decides to take Mr. Fantastic up on his offer to inspect the costume. Luckily the FF are home.
After some tests, Mr. Fantastic confirms what he says he knew all along (thanks for being proactive about telling me!): Spidey's costume is a living alien symbiote.
Peter tries to get the costume off, but it refuses. Mr. Fantastic uses a sonic blaster to remove it...
...and then the Human Torch uses his flame to corral it so that Reed can catch it in a jar. Just to be clear, the fact that Reed uses sonics is because he doesn't want to hurt Spider-Man. The fact that sonics and fire were used to remove the costume in this scene was basically just due to circumstances; there's absolutely no indication that sonics and fire are the only things that can hurt the symbiote.
The fact that a horrifying alien creature was trying to permanently bond itself to Spider-Man (Peter speculates: "What could it have been feeding off of? Glandular secretion? Fat cells? Bodily wastes--?") is no reason for the Human Torch to not play a humiliating practical joke, so here's the costume Johnny gives Spidey for the trip home.
Of course, Spidey can't get home without incident. His spider-sense detects a robbery in progress, and he's easily able to take care of it, but attracts the attention of the press.
To top things off, it starts to snow on the way home, even though it's "the middle of the summer". It's the beginning of the blizzard that we'll see in the Casket of Ancient Winters storyline.
"Much later", Mary Jane shows up at his apartment again. This time she's ready to talk.
Meanwhile, Spidey's costume tries to escape.
While all this is happening, the Hobgoblin resurfaces and makes contact with the Rose.
I've been a little down on the Defalco issues of Spider-Man. It's easy to be disappointed after the Stern run. But while the dialogue can get cheesy and there's a bit too much melodrama with Peter's lady friends, these issues are actually pretty good. Puma's an interesting bad guy and the costume stuff is really cool and handled very well with the neat dream sequence, the Fantastic Four, and the funny paper bag-head costume scene.
It's pretty amazing, when you look back on it, how short a time it was that Spider-Man wore the original alien costume. He got the costume in Amazing Spider-Man #252. Six issues later, it's off (of course, that's multiplied by the fact that he also wore the issue in a similar number of Spectacular and Marvel Team-Up issues). It felt like such a significant and long-term event at the time, and yet it was only half a year.
The other interesting factor is that we don't even see Spidey get his costume in Secret Wars until issue #8, the December issue. Amazing #258 had a November cover date, so the whole initial saga was wrapped up by the time it was introduced in Secret Wars.
There's a line in issue #256 where Peter is thinking about how his costume can change its appearance, and he says "I guess I could make it look like my old, familiar Red and Blue threads -- but that wouldn't seem right."
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The very end of this arc takes place as the Casket of Ancient Winters saga gets started. I've decided to place this before the major Thor Casket entry, but it runs concurrently with the early issues of that arc. I've noted several gaps in issue #258 where other Spider-Man comics (Marvel Team-Up #146 and Spectacular Spider-Man annual #4) will have to fit - due to the convergence between Spidey's costume revelation and the Casket of Ancient Winters storyline, the Spider-Man books are tightly bound together.
Crossover: Casket of Ancient Winters
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Tales #270, Marvel Tales #271 (issue #258 is an original)
Inbound References (23): show
This is a great three issue arc here. Puma should have been a rather generic villain, but I think he really works. Good set of powers to make him a good foe for Spider-Man, and an interesting background. DeFalco really put some effort into him! He also had a surprisingly decent longevity and kept being used (not always to my pleasure).
The last page of #258 would be used extensively, and I think quite effectively.
Posted by: Chris | August 27, 2013 10:33 PM
ASM was the first comic book I ever bought. I remember at the time being pretty confused about all the black costume symbionts stuff, but in retrospect I picked a great time to start.
Posted by: Time Traveling Bunny | December 9, 2013 8:26 AM
Oops, I meant specifically ASM #256
Posted by: Time Traveling Bunny | December 9, 2013 8:28 AM
And I meant "symbiote". I am just a mess right now.
Posted by: Time Traveling Bunny | December 9, 2013 8:30 AM
I bought issue 258 in august of 1984. That started a 25 year love of collecting comics and of spider-man in particular. Looking back now I read many issues better written/drawn than that issue but still to this day that issue has a special place in my heart. I stopped collecting because it seemed that comics lost some of the magic that it had. That and I wasn't much of a fan of the newer artistic styles. Also, I think that continuity is ignored more so once we get into the 90's and beyond. I really enjoy this website though. It's nice to relive some of these stories that I read when I was 16 years old or so. Can't wait to read your take on some of the books coming up in the next few years of the 80's. Keep up the great work!
Posted by: Tommy | December 11, 2013 1:18 PM
If you're gonna be like this I think I also have to chime in: ASM #256 (or rather the Finnish Spider-Man 52-pages issue of June '87 consisting of ASM #256-257) was my first-bought also and convincing enough to also try not only the X-Men comic of the same month (UXM #199 and the first third of #200) but also the black-and-white Fantastic Four Special on sale at the same time.
So, what I got - and what got me, hooboy - was a non-one dimensional antagonist like Puma in action-backed fight with Spidey, MJ walking in to tell Petey she knows his secret, a shape-shifting villain talking governmental backing for the antics of her super-group in a story THAT USED THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA AS AN EXTENSIVE BACKSTORY, lots of costumed people appearing in middle of Paris from nowhere and a recap of Magneto's history.
The 84-pages FF Special had a nice story about Dr. Doom stealing the powers of the Silver Surfer.
Posted by: Tee | December 31, 2013 5:34 PM
Fnord, you have the scan of Spidey swinging into the FF's building twice.
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 12, 2015 7:53 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | May 12, 2015 8:52 PM
Personally, I think the symbiote has terrible taste. Aside from the fact that MJ is a redhead, she never calls him "My Spider!"
This is the issue that made me want to say, "Peter, just tell Reed and Johnny your secret identity. Surely they can be told if anyone can. Then they can just drop you at home."
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 20, 2015 7:14 PM
No way, then they might be targets for Spider-Man's enemies like The Sandman. It's too dangerous.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 21, 2015 12:02 PM
So, what would have happened had the Black Cat not intervened? Would the symbiote have acted to save Spidey's life? It sure was cutting it close.
Posted by: irh13 | July 13, 2015 9:56 PM
I used to think it was a dick move Johnny pulled in this issue, but after reading Amazing Spider-Man #8 recently, I'll say that Parker had it coming.
Posted by: Mortificator | July 15, 2015 6:41 PM
'This is the issue that made me want to say, "Peter, just tell Reed and Johnny your secret identity. Surely they can be told if anyone can. Then they can just drop you at home." '
Given that this was before any mystical collective mindwipe rubbish, I would suggest, even if the Illuminati are a huge retcon in and of themselves, that Reed probably already knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. Professor X probably found out when he wiped Spidey's memory that he was going to report the X-Men going off to meet Magneto. OK, there's not been a convenient moment since the X-Men or the Fantastic Four returned from Battleworld to tell Reed Richards, but, hey, since when did the lack of sensible gaps to impart information in character stop the Illuminati? ;)
Posted by: Harry | July 15, 2015 7:04 PM
Erik Beck : But Felicia wears the costume’s colours!
MJ’s line about ‘it’s true it’s all true’ is easily reconcilable.
a) She could be referring to the fact that Black Cat and Spidey were dating, not the fact that Peter is Spider-Man
Posted by: Al | January 27, 2016 9:03 PM
I remember flicking through the book and seeing Spidey lose the black costume and i was SO happy as I didnt like it. In my naive youth, I had thought the red and blues were gone forever.
Posted by: kveto | March 7, 2016 4:09 PM
Your comment about the black costume reminds me of just how short-lived all of these "life-altering" changed brought on by the Secret Wars were:
1) Spidey's costume, as you mentioned, was really hyped and barely made it half a year
Even worse, while all of these changes were known going in since the ongoing books had to incorporate these changes within a month of Secret Wars #1 coming out, their actual introduction in Secret Wars was pushed until the very end. We didn't have any real buildup of Jen becoming friends with Reed and Johnny (or even Ben), so the switch there just came out of the blue AND it was in the last couple of pages of Secret Wars #12. The Colossus romance was rushed and clumsy. Rogue and Professor X also got their new duds at the end of #12 and Lockheed (who'd been gone since #2) just showed up right at the end with his new "girlfriend" who became the focal point of their return issue... and then got sent away. Even the Spidey costume was supposed to show up in #6 and was held up for two issues.
Posted by: Dan H. | January 15, 2017 1:27 AM
@Dan- Secret Wars did introduce Titania, Spider-Woman and the Venom Symbiote and Peter and Kitty's breakup which resulted from it lasted decades.
Posted by: Michael | January 15, 2017 11:44 PM
Michael, I understand your point and basically agree with it, but that's part of the point Dan's making. That's it? The initial snowball-rolling-downhill that becomes Venom is the biggest change, and even then, didn't Spidey stop wearing the black costume by the time "Secret Wars" #8 came out? I like Titania, but she's not really a major villain, she just aspires to be one. Spider-Woman? Uh, no. Yeah, Peter and Kitty's break-up was a major change in their long-standing relationship, but "Teenagers break up with each other" isn't world-shattering news and, as I understand it, they get back together. They sure seemed happy at the end of "Days of Futures Past." ;)
Mostly it was that the "Secret Wars" changes came out of nowhere, usually at the end. Lockheed finds a chick who's "deployment hot" (which explains "X-Men" #181) Shulkie joins the FF, Doc Ock goes nuts. These were the interesting changes. It's one reason "Secret Wars II" came across as 'more of the same,' especially compared to what DC had done with "Crisis."
Posted by: ChrisW | January 16, 2017 4:10 PM
Venom was just a bunch of things aligning perfectly considering the situation, from backlash when people got word that "Spidey was changing his costume" to people liking it after the whole "it was an alien symbiote" reveal, to Micheline wanting to use it to create a legit threat and Todd McFarlane just wanting to put the black costume to bed once and for all with that first showdown in ASM #300. The only reason people consider it a success now probably has more to do with Venom than it does with what it was when Spidey emerged from Secret Wars with it.
Posted by: Ataru320 | January 16, 2017 5:04 PM
"Mostly it was that the "Secret Wars" changes came out of nowhere, usually at the end". But, I always thought the best part of Secret Wars was that it changed the status quo for a lot of these characters in a major way.
Posted by: clyde | January 16, 2017 7:28 PM
Gotta say that as a youngster this particular run felt more intense than most if the non-hobgoblin Stern stuff did...maybe I was just susceptible to the melodrama. DeFalco did a great job on the fight with Puma...i couldn't remember a time where Spidey was so vulnerable. Yeah Juggy was tough, but he'd have been happy if Spidey had just bounced off and gotten out of his way. Hobgoblin also only incidentally fought Spider Man. Puma straight up targeted and deconstructed him. Good stuff.
Posted by: MindlessOne | May 2, 2017 10:37 PM
Seeing Pete with the paper grocery bag over his head gives me flashbacks to the Unknown Comic from the '70 's cult TV classic "The Gong Show".
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 18, 2018 12:15 AM
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