Amazing Spider-Man annual #22
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man annual #22
This is the first published appearance of Speedball, and also the Marvel Universe debut of Marvel Try-out contest winner Mark Bagley, and also an Evolutionary War issue, and it also has a Daredevil appearance. So you get your money's worth.
Another nice thing about this annual is that it actually plays off something that happens earlier in The Evolutionary War. Nothing relating to Evolutionary directly. But the impact of the Colombian drug dealer's facilities in Punisher Annual #1 is shown here, with the idea that thanks to a major blow (ha, ha) to supply, the price of cocaine in New York has gone up dramatically. Mark this down as the one time the Punisher's actions have had any effect on crime in the Marvel universe.
Spider-Man wraps up a bunch of mob dealers who are sitting on a load of cocaine that's already in the city, and then informs a beat cop, who decides to wait for back-up before going to the warehouse. Related to recent comments regarding Todd McFarlane's pencils, notice that Bagley (and/or inker Mike Esposito) also hasn't drawn the web lines on Spider-Man's costume.
The problem is that by the time the police do get into the warehouse (it seems to take a looooong time for that back-up to arrive), a rival mob has gotten there first, killed all the criminals that Spider-Man webbed up, and left with the drugs. And at this point Peter Parker has handed in pictures of Spider-Man fighting the first set of criminals, so he's implicated in the murders.
Since we're looking at the art, here is the first appearance of Robbie Baldwin (Speedball) and his mom. The mom looks like she was re-drawn pretty hastily.
Matt Murdock decides to get involved the next morning.
The good news is that since Daredevil can tell right away if someone is lying, there's no need for a Misunderstanding Fight. So Spider-Man and Daredevil can look for the real killers. Together!
And to get to the part directly related to the Evolutionary War, the Kingpin ties the recent appearance of an armored man with the (differently) armored soldiers that destroyed the Colombian drug supplies.
There is something very Ditkoesque about Bagley's art.
Poor Speedball gets bounced up onto the roof by those muggers, and then some of the High Evolutionary's Purifiers show up. Speedball thinks that they are killing the muggers, but that's not confirmed...
...and Speedball decides to follow them to get evidence since he thinks no one would believe him. He gets to hear the High Evolutionary's plan of the moment, which is to knock out everyone in New York City and sterilize everyone with "unacceptable DNA patterns". Speedball hears the word "eradicated" and thinks it means killed, but that's not how i read it in context. Speedball works in a science lab, right?
The Evolutionary's plans may again seem a bit random, but give the guy some credit. Most super-heroes and villains tend to congregate in New York, so maybe this is a continuation of his plans from the New Mutants annual to de-power, or at least eliminate the bloodlines of, mutants and other altered humans. Probably not, though.
The Kingpin has meanwhile gotten his hands on one of the Purifiers and extracted similar information (although i think this is the clearest statement on the High Evolutionary having three types of soldiers: Eliminators, Purifiers, and Gatherers)...
...and he arranges for that information to get to Daredevil and Spider-Man by planting someone at Earl's Bar & Grill (they had already been to Josie's).
So Spidey and DD show up at the Purifier's base at the top of the Empire State Building...
...while Speedball independently destroys the sleep ray transmitter.
Spidey catches Speedball as he's falling to the ground after destroying the transmitter.
By the way, i keep calling him Speedball, but while he does refer to "the Speedball effect"...
...and, as Robert notes, he does refer to himself as "Speedball" in a thought bubble, he doesn't introduce himself that way to Spidey and DD, and he's generally referred to as the Masked Marvel in his own stories in the beginning.
To keep Spider-Man and Daredevil from going after him once they realize that he planted the info on the Purifiers (since it had nothing to do with the drug crime), the Kingpin has the Arranger arrange for the second mob gang to confess to their crimes. We end with the Kingpin worrying about changes happening all over the country, and there's an ominous reference to the next installment of the Evolutionary War crossover.
Not that anything that will happen there specifically need worry the Kingpin. At least someone is thinking about the bigger picture here, though. I'll give the Punisher a pass and Silver Surfer credit for trying before he got called away, but X-Factor, the New Mutants, the Hellfire Club, and now Spider-Man and Daredevil all end their respective annuals seemingly uninterested in trying to figure out who all the guys in armored costumes are working for.
The first back-up feature in this annual could easily have been a story in Speedball's regular series. It has Speedball going up against a guy in a terrifying rubber mask...
...who is trying to kill his mother for theater-envy related reasons.
Here's Robbie calling himself the Masked Marvel.
And here's some Ditko eyebrows.
Not sure if Speedball's Beatle-hating Uncle Norm ever comes up again.
This issue also has an ad for Newspaper Spidey disguised as a Pin-Up...
...and another feature that is either tongue-in-cheek or really scraping the bottom of the barrel. The Punisher's annual had schematics of his battle van and the like; this one has schematics of Peter Parker's furniture.
I cover the Saga of the High Evolutionary back-up in a separate entry.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is one of the Spider-Man appearances that takes place during the "two weeks" in Amazing Spider-Man #304. The MCP has Daredevil here between Daredevil #259-260. Speedball's origin is told in Speedball #1, so this issue should take place after that, even though it was published first. This is part five of The Evolutionary War; Fantastic Four annual #21 is next.
Crossover: The Evolutionary War
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): show
I love the fact that JJJ wants to prove Spider-Man is innocent. Ha ha.
Posted by: JSfan | July 11, 2014 4:18 PM
I could see that page of furniture as loosely tied to Marvel's vying for Cultural Respectability - along the lines of the fashion designer tie-in for the wedding. Making Spidey relatable to the couture crowd and such.
Posted by: Cullen | July 11, 2014 5:04 PM
Peter not blaming himself for the deaths of the criminals he webbed up is out of character considering that Peter usually blames himself for every death that he is even tangentially responsible for.
Posted by: Michael | July 11, 2014 5:55 PM
I guess I was unaware of the existence of this one at the time. I had thought that Speedball's first interaction with the wider Marvel universe was when he tried out for the Avengers alongside some other obscure/low-powered heroes in the pages of Captain America after his series got cancelled.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | July 12, 2014 12:14 AM
The furniture schematics were definitely supposed to be a joke.
In that Daily Bugle panel: Greg Wright was a Marvel staffer at this time.
The villain in Speedball might have worked in a slasher film, but in the MU he's basically Baron Von Shtupf-level. Didn't help with the critics either.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 12, 2014 11:00 AM
Amazing Heroes #133 confirmed that Michelinie couldn't write the main story by himself due to him being tied up on biweekly issues.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 2, 2014 1:35 PM
You said he never calls himself by the name Speedball but he appears to in his thought bubbles during his first transformation scene: "Transforming me into -- SPEEDBALL!"
Posted by: Robert | March 14, 2015 3:52 AM
Thanks for that, Robert. That's actually an interesting point. He's never called that in his regular series but they do use that name here (although only in a thought bubble). I wonder if Tom DeFalco was more willing to embrace the name or if they realized "Masked Marvel" wasn't going to work as his actual super-hero name since he's meeting other heroes in this story, or just a coincidence.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 14, 2015 11:54 AM
" Speedball hears the word "eradicated" and thinks it means killed, but that's not how i read it in context."
That seems pretty final to me. It doesn't seem to lead to anything other than death, IMO.
Posted by: clyde | June 25, 2015 11:32 AM
"The Kingpin has meanwhile gotten his hands on one of the Purifiers and extracted similar information (although i think this is clearest statement on the High Evolutionary having three types of soldiers: Eliminators, Purifiers, and Gatherers)..."
The wiki entry on The Evolutionary War does name the three different kinds of soldiers and where they were used in the different annuals:
Posted by: clyde | June 25, 2015 11:40 AM
I quite like the detail of the Kingpin not knowing who the High Evolutionary is, and his being worried about all this weird new (to him) stuff happening. To the street-level heroes he's an A-level threat (maybe *the* threat*), and even in the globetrotting adventures of a guy like Captain America, the Kingpin is a significant player. But when cosmic entities and people who create planets from scratch start playing games with he world, he may as well be any other normal human being.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 27, 2015 8:45 PM
Possibly the furniture pages were model sheets given to the artists so they'd draw the apartment consistently.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | November 22, 2017 1:51 AM
Ditko back in a Spider-Man comic, but he doesn't get to do Spider-Man. How about that.
Posted by: squirrel_defeater | January 22, 2018 7:31 PM
If I remember correctly, Ditko has consistently declined to draw Spider-Man for Marvel ever since he stopped drawing *Amazing Spider-Man*. There was an issue of ROM, I think, that Ditko penciled, where most of the major Marvel superheroes made a guest appearance - Spider-Man is conspicuously absent. I'm sure if Ditko wanted to draw a Spider-Man story again, Marvel would open the door for him.
Posted by: James | January 23, 2018 7:57 AM
Are you talking about Rom 65-66?
Posted by: clyde | January 23, 2018 8:47 AM
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