Characters Appearing: Angel, Beast, Bishop, Gambit, Jason Macendale, Mary Jane Watson, Rogue, Spider-Man
Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda #1-3
Issue(s): Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda #1, Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda #1, Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda #3
Welcome to the first issue of our groundbreaking SPIDER-MAN: THE MUTANT AGENDA limited series. Now, for the first time, you can see a story unfold in two incarnations -- this three-issue series and the "Spider-Man" Daily newspaper strip -- brought to you by two different creative teams!
So it's the same story - or, rather, two broadly similar stories - told in different places. There is no crossing over between the Marvel universe and Newspaper Spidey's world. I'd also push back on the claim that it's a "first". Spider-Man's marriage in the comics was intended to line up with his marriage in the newspaper. It didn't quite work out that way, schedule-wise, but it's the same basic idea. However, in this case it's not just an event that is paralleled, but an actual story. (While i'm being persnickety, i also want to chuckle about the fact that this was promoted as a "multimedia" event. Publishing something in a comic book and a comic strip clears the absolute minimum bar necessary to make that claim.)
That said, it's interesting to see how much the two stories deviate from each other. Even the basic plot itself differs in a way that seems arbitrary. The basic story is that the Brand corporation has made a scientific breakthrough, but there's a secret that the Hobgoblin tries to blackmail them over. In the strip, Brand's breakthrough is a potential cure for mutants, but the secret is that it's really a way to kill mutants. In the comic, the breakthrough is said to be a way to create mutants, but it's really a way to cure mutants.
I can understand why, in the comics universe, a cure for mutants wouldn't be right for the initial breakthrough. Marvel comics readers would instantly recognize a cure for mutants as problematic, since in the comics mutants can be a (however imperfect) symbol for minorities or oppressed groups. Granted, the ability to create mutants (or, more accurately, mutates) would be pretty controversial too (and the Beast gets involved because he worries that Brand will use the technology to create a slave race). But what i don't know is why in the strip version they wouldn't be able to go with the same idea as the comic.
Beyond this essential difference there are a lot of smaller details that vary as well. I'll go through some of them below. But it's worth noting that the editorial page indicates that "quite a bit of effort" was made between Marvel and the strip's syndicate, King's Features, in the areas of "scheduling, promotion, and coordinating". So it doesn't seem like the difference in the core plot was due to a lack of coordination.
Regardless of that, it seems like the main purpose of this mini series was to get comic book readers to contact their local newspapers and tell them to run the Spider-Man strip. There was an earlier effort in a Bullpen Bulletin where Stan Lee was given space to make that pitch, and the editorial page in issue #1 also tells readers to "make your voices heard!". There was also a #0 issue of this miniseries which allowed you to pay $1.25 for the privilege of getting a bunch of blank pages where you could tape clippings from your newspaper (the issue did also include a color reprint of Newspaper Spidey's origin and some pin-ups). At least for the trade reprint they added the strips. But for readers in realtime, between the use of the word "crossover" and the #0 issue that required you to add to the clips, it would be very easy to get the impression that you were missing part of the story if you didn't have a local paper that carried the Spider-Man strip. I may just be speaking for myself, but until i bought this trade for my project, i was always under the impression that it was a crossover that started in the newspaper strip and concluded in the comics (although i always wondered how that was possible, since Newspaper Spidey is definitely in his own continuity).
The comics version is written by Steven Grant, who (as my trade reminds me by including it as a reprint) wrote a previous Spidey/Beast team-up in Marvel Team-Up #90 (not that it has anything to do with this story; Steve Englehart's solo Beast stories in Amazing Adventures are much more relevant). Art is by Scott Kolins and Sam DeLaRosa. The newspaper version is written by Stan Lee, with art by Larry Lieber and Fred Kida.
I'll cover both versions of the story at once.
A scientist at Brand, named only Landon, is giving a conference about their breakthrough. Both Peter Parker and the Beast are interested and attend the conference. The Beast has a personal connection with Brand, which is why he goes alone instead of with his X-Men companions. Instead of just explaining that to a poorly drawn Rogue, he has her touch him to absorb his thoughts.
Apparently he's got a lot of deep-seated grief about it.
Gambit never misses an opportunity to act like a creepy stalker, even when he's just got a cameo.
It'll later be said that the Beast is afraid that Landon's research is based on his own work from when he was at Brand, and that will turn out to be the case.
One difference between the newspaper and comic is that Spider-Man and the Hobgoblin cross each other on the way to the conference and get into a fight. In the newspaper they pass each other without noticing. Hobgoblin has no interest in Spidey at the moment and manages to get away. Then, in the comics version, Peter and Hank are seated separately but in the newspaper version Peter sits next to the Beast.
Thanks to the efforts of Josh Fruhlinger at the Comics Curmudgeon, we know that Newspaper Spidey is a lazy self-centered jerk, so it's no surprise that he sees no problem with just blurting out that the Beast needs a "cure". The Beast is polite about it.
And here's Spidey's hapless lazy side.
No, Peter. No need to change into Spider-Man when one of your enemies shows up. Maybe the Beast will take care of it for you.
Hobgoblin confronts Landon and tells him that he knows his secret and wants money, and then leaves.
Our next difference is that, when chasing the Hobgoblin, Newspaper Spidey can't shut up about using his spider-tracer.
This is of course a byproduct of doing a daily strip, especially for an audience not necessarily familiar with all of Spidey's abilities. But it's still hilarious to read all at once.
In the comic, Steven Grant has more freedom to be creative.
Spider-Man and the Beast are trying to stop the Hobgoblin, but they are attacked by Brand security guards. The Beast is captured, and Spider-Man takes a bullet for the Hobgoblin, who was about to get shot by Landon. Both are brought to a Brand lab where the cure/kill will be tested on them. They're put in a big electrified cage with the cure/kill serum in a vat below them.
One thing that gets expanded on in the comic is the idea that the Beast knows Landon from his days working at Brand. Landon is actually insane, and believes that the Beast killed Hank McCoy, despite all evidence to the contrary. The Beast is told this by another Brand scientist, Dr. Everett Burgos (not exactly a flattering tribute to the Golden Age creators).
Definitely the best scene in the comic is a bit with Hobgoblin at a bar while he's giving Landon time to stew over his blackmail threat.
The sequence shows a good understanding of Jason Macendale's history and is just a nice look into the psyche of a mid-tiered villain. He's also pretty nasty and dark for a story that was theoretically tying in with a more mainstream audience. "Look Kids! Comics!"
By contrast, i wouldn't be surprised if Stan Lee didn't even know who the Hobgoblin was. Probably wanted to use the Green Goblin but was told that he was dead.
You'll also notice that the Hobgoblin thinks that Brand's secret is that they want to kill mutants, which is in line with the newspaper strip version, but as you can see with Dr. Burgos' conversation with the Beast, there's more to it. Actually, the answer is that it's both.
Hobgoblin returns to bother Landon some more, dislodging Spidey and the Beast from their cage in the process. Spider-Man and Landon are knocked into the vat. Spidey's full body costume protects him from its effects, but Landon is transformed into a monster (all of this basically the same in both versions).
Landon and Hobgoblin are both defeated and captured. High five!
If i'm being totally fair, the difference in the main plot is in part a matter of detail. Landon in the newspaper version is actually vague about what his breakthrough is. It's Peter who (boorishly) suggests that it could be a mutant cure. And in both versions it does turn out that the breakthrough will result in mutant deaths. But still, it's only in the comics version that Brand initially says that it had developed a way to create "mutants".
Of course, there isn't a lot of room for nuance in the strip version, since it has to constantly repeat itself...
...and totally make up dream sequences to kill time for the Sunday strip.
For what it's worth, this same plot was later used in a storyline on the animated Spider-Man and X-Men cartoon shows. That actually was a "crossover" (between the two shows) and i guess it also belatedly made this a "multimedia" event.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: A footnote says that this takes place before Amazing Spider-Man #385.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda TPB
I remember the Spiderman TAS arc and it started to feel familiar when you mentioned the Beast here. It's not bad as an introduction to those who don't know about the X-Men I admit; but then again we had the X-Men animated series running alongside Spiderman TAS so...
A bit surprised little is mentioned of the Englehart Beast story in the comic, though.
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 22, 2017 3:37 PM
Hey, you're right! This was a plot of one of the 90s Spider-Man cartoon episodes. Although in the cartoon, the story involved also the rest of the X-Men and it was tied into the longer storyline of Spider-Man mutating into a monster.
BTW. One of my friends watched that episode and it was his first exposure to the X-Men. He didn't like them :(
Posted by: Piotr W | February 22, 2017 3:41 PM
Woah, I remember the animated version of this too. It's interesting to see the stories it was adapted from and how they differ according to their format.
I have to wonder if anyone on Earth bought the "groundbreaking" hype Marvel's editorial was trying to put over. Even if a person's a fan of both the comic & strip, this kind of event just means that instead of getting two stories to read, you get one story told twice.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 22, 2017 5:16 PM
I knew nothing about this series and never imagined that the animated version wasn't an original storyline. I even thought Herbert Landon was created specifically for the show! Weird how he became a recurring character there.
Posted by: Enchlore | February 22, 2017 7:19 PM
At best! Like fnord, when I was reading this my local paper didn't carry Spider-Man, so I just felt like I was missing out. Of course in hindsight it was all just pretty lame anyway.
Posted by: Andrew F | February 22, 2017 7:20 PM
Paul Ryan & Joe Sinnott were the art team on the Sunday strip.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 22, 2017 8:17 PM
Didn't Peter David do a story about a supposed mutant cure in X-Factor prior to this?
Posted by: GreggM | February 22, 2017 8:49 PM
Sort of- it was supposed to be an abortion story but the editors rewrote it into an in vitro mutant cure:
Posted by: Michael | February 22, 2017 9:43 PM
The 90's Marvel cartoons were almost entirely based on plots lifted from the comics, albeit rewritten to be more concise and with some elements shifted around (i.e. Bishop taking the place of Kitty Pryde in DoFP).
Posted by: iLegion | February 23, 2017 4:14 AM
I really liked the bar sequence. Steven Grant's great strength has always been sharp, witty dialogue and he handles Macendale as the badass mercenary he should have been, albeit an unlucky one at that.
The banter between Spidey and the Beast is also spot on. I've always thought of them as kindred spirits. Both are super smart, tech-savvy, and have been viewed as social outcasts due to their powers and/or appearance. It makes perfect sense for them to work well together, in many ways more so than Spidey and someone like the Human Torch. I've never really understood the connection there aside from Stan pairing the two due to them being similar in age.
But I digress. This looks like a nice read to pick up and one of the better Spidey tales to come out of the grittier 90s era.
Posted by: Clutch | February 23, 2017 7:45 AM
@Clutch: Good points about how well Spider-Man and the Beast go together. I enjoyed the times that the two co-starred in Marvel Team-Up (which I read when they were reprinted in Marvel Tales in the early 1990s) and Erik Larsen's Spidey / Beast story in Spider-Man #15 is a favorite of mine. I never read The Mutant Agenda, but if I ever come across the trade paperback for sale at a discount maybe I'll get it.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 23, 2017 2:51 PM
The tpb sells for under five bucks at this site:
Posted by: chaiml | February 23, 2017 3:46 PM
The art is terrible...The Liefeld kind of terrible.
Posted by: Bibs | April 12, 2018 7:21 AM
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