Web of Spider-Man #56
Issue(s): Web of Spider-Man #56
While trying to develop a stronger web fluid, Peter Parker instead creates a fluid that is highly acidic. So he places it in a glass jar on a shelf until he's able to find a way to dispose of it.
But he's interrupted by a demonstration from a group of racist skinheads outside his building.
Peter gets into costume, hoping to get some pictures and only interfere if things get out of hand. Although they don't have a permit for the burning cross, and waving sticks and chains around and making threats probably isn't the sort of peaceful protest the framers had in mind. If you can't use your vigilante status to web up some skinheads, what good is it? In any event, Rocket Racer shows up, with more violent intentions than just webbing people.
Spider-Man stops him.
As Spidey drags Rocket away, the police show up and do indeed bust the skinheads for the fire and for inciting a riot.
We see that one of the skinheads, Eddie the Cross, used to be with the Watchdogs.
Rocket Racer is surprisingly ok with Spider-Man jumping in to stop him, and he explains to Spidey what got him going. It turns out that in his civilian identity he's started going to ESU, but he and his family were accosted by the skinheads earlier in the day.
Rocket Racer tells Spider-Man that he'll let the police handle it, but thinks to himself that if they don't, he'll come back and attack them again.
Spider-Man actually has a pretty enlightened view of skinheads. He knows they aren't all racist.
Meanwhile, Mary Jane proposes to her model friends that she go into business for herself (presumably with the idea that they'd work for her), but they instead suggest that she try auditioning for television.
And when Peter gets home, he talks to Nathan, who Peter knows is dying.
It almost reads like that final bubble about Peter knowing that it's Nathan was tacked on later than the rest of the script in these panels.
Peter then gets a call from Harry Osborn, who reminds him that he and MJ have to help move into their new apartment "on Saturday" and that he and Liz have a surprise for you guys (which is probably the offer to have Peter and MJ also move into the building, even though that offer seems/seemed spontaneous in Amazing Spider-Man #322).
Peter falls asleep on the couch and wakes up the next morning with MJ sleeping next to him. "A breakfast of corn fritters and one shared shower later", Peter heads back to ESU where a riot is on the verge of breaking out due to the fact that the skinheads have been released from prison on bail.
That night, (or actually, the caption just says "Night" if someone were looking for an alternate way to place these issues, but with heated tensions it really only makes sense if it's the same night), Spider-Man finds Rocket Racer on the roof of the Afro American Studies building, and while they argue about what should be done about the skinheads, a bomb goes off, destroying the building.
At that point, Spider-Man takes his "we shouldn't interfere" position to extremes that seem beyond the courtesy he extends to regular bank robbers, and gets a face full of rockets for it.
I mean seriously, Rocket Racer gets a punch to the face while the Eddie the Cross is just standing there?
The fight winds up in Peter's lab office, and Eddie gets Peter's acidic experimental web fluid dumped on him.
He begins melting...
...but when both Rocket and Spider-Man are out of the room, his body disappears, and we later see him show up at Skinhead HQ having renamed himself Skinhead the White Redeemer.
Another epilogue shows us that Thomas Fireheart, aka Puma, is behind the hostile takeover of the Daily Bugle.
I get the idea of trying to show a balanced approach or that taking the bait from racist protestors is falling into their trap, but Spider-Man comes off looking like an obtuse and dare i say privileged dunderhead in the face of Rocket Racer's justified anger. Ironically this is being published at the same time that Spider-Man is teaming up with Silver Sable and Solo in Amazing where he just cringes a little while they torture and murder the bad guys. Once the skinheads here went from protesting to bombing (if not earlier), Spider-Man should have teamed up with Rocket to apprehend them, maybe stopping Rocket from killing them or hurting them more than was necessary, as, say, Daredevil has done for Spider-Man in the past. There's also something about using the laughingstock character Rocket Racer as your black representative while turning the skinhead into a cartoon villain that i don't love, but i guess i do appreciate the attempts to turn Rocket into a respectable character. Anyway, more on all of this next issue, but we have to pause here due to continuity considerations.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This has to take place after Amazing Spider-Man #321, when Peter and MJ find out that it's Nathan, not Aunt May, that's dying from heart disease. But it's in ASM #321 that Peter and MJ help the Osborns move into their apartment and get the offer to move in there as well. So the two stories must intertwine (more than intended), and i've placed them next to each other. This must take place before Amazing Spider-Man #322 since that's when MJ goes on the soap opera audition. This also takes place before Spectacular Spider-Man #156 when Puma completes his takeover of the Daily Bugle. Next issue starts with Skinhead chasing his skinhead buddies around their junkyard base and eventually eating them, but he must have tried working with them for a while first, because next issue also has Peter and MJ unpacking boxes in their new apartment, so it must take place after Amazing Spider-Man #322 and i'm going to say even after the painting party in Spectacular Spider-Man #156.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAunt May, Ben Urich, Harry Osborn, J. Jonah Jameson, Joy Mercado, Kate Cushing, Mary Jane Watson, Nate Lubenski, Nick Katzenberg, Rocket Racer, Skinhead, Spider-Man
Spidey does have an enlightened view of Skinheads. He's right that the original skinheads did have an appreciation of West Indian music though some were still racist towards Pakistanis. Eddie The Cross's mob are more 'boneheads'
Posted by: JSfan | November 4, 2014 6:09 AM
I can't understand Spider-Man's actions, either. I get the point that violence doesn't necessarily solve problems but he came across very unsympathetic to RR's anger especially when the Afro Studies building was bombed. I thought he'd snap then but he didn't. Weird. I felt the story could have been dealt with a little bit more delicately. Does Skinhead The White Reedemer appear further down the years? I
Posted by: JSfan | November 4, 2014 6:25 AM
Skinhead appears again in a 1994 Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) one-shot. He reconciles with his dad in that story.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 4, 2014 7:47 AM
Some serious http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UnfortunateImplications going on here.
Was Conway reflecting some weird of-its-time political belief here and something was just lost in translation? This seems like the kind of story Jim Shooter could have written about rejecting on his old blog
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | March 22, 2016 11:17 PM
While Spider-Man is right in that the original British skinheads were not overtly racist, and many of the first-wave skinhead bands played ska and reggae influenced music and had black members, I wonder how much of this applies to the skinhead subculture when it was imported outside Britain? At least here in Finland it was the racist, anti-immigrant part of the British subculture that the local skinheads emulated, and non-racist skinheads have always been extremely rare. Don't know how it is in the US, but it feels kinda dodgy for Spidey to judge American skinheads based on what the original British subculture did, because clearly he's not dealing with old-school Britons here. Just the fact that they're burning a cross and talking about the supreme white race should, you know, clue Spidey in that these people are not SHARP but genuine boneheads.
Posted by: Tuomas | March 23, 2016 3:49 AM
Responding to Tuomas, I thought at the time and still thought that Marvel had Spidey think that in order to avoid getting a bunch of letters telling them the same thing. It was probably an editorial insertion.
Posted by: Matt Posner | March 23, 2016 4:36 AM
Let's ignore the racial side of things for a second. MJ decides to become a soap opera actress because her model friends laughed at her plans to become an agent!?
Objectively speaking, Peter is more responsible than Rocket Racer for Skinhead's disfigurement. Not only did he fail as a hero by not stopping the skinheads earlier, he failed as a chemist by putting his too dangerous to dispose of haphazardly web-fluid in a non-shatterproof container.
Posted by: FF3 | March 23, 2016 2:44 PM
Agreed that Spider-Man seems to be suffering from an especially unfortunate case of white privilege here with how he's treating Rocket Racer. Spider-Man is all but saying to him "Yeah, I know that these guys are violent racists who attacked you and your family without the slightest provocation, but the last thing you want to do is fight back and make a bad situation worse!" Uh huh. Yeah, easy enough for Spider-Man to say, since when he's out of costume he doesn't have to worry about walking down the street and randomly getting assaulted by a gang of bigots.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 23, 2016 9:28 PM
@FF3- I think MJ's friends were pointing out what the readers already knew- at this point, MJ has shown zero talent at business but considerable talent as an actress.
Posted by: Michael | March 23, 2016 9:39 PM
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