Friday, July 20, 2018

Spidey Super Stories #33

I grew up steeped in comic books. My older brothers were there at the beginning of "The Marvel Age of Comics" and witnessed the birth of the characters that now dominate the movie theaters.  I missed that time by about a decade, but I had access to a number of their comics (sadly, most were sold to fund their automobile needs as teenagers) including "The Amazing Spider-man".   I was also an ardent fan of the 1967 Spider-man cartoon, long in syndication by the time I was watching it. So overall, I was fairly heavily invested in the Spider-man mythos. So much so, that it even bugged me (no pun intended, okay maybe a little) that in the cartoon, Spider-man's eye openings moved as if he were blinking.

In 1974, The Electric Company premiered "Spidey Super Stories" featuring a live-action rendition of the Web-slinger solving riddles rather than crimes, while teaching reading skills. Spider-man never spoke in the episodes, but instead utilized word balloons narrated by no less than Morgan Freeman.  Spider-man was licensed free of charge to the Children's Television Workshop by Marvel Comics, although I'm sure they realized the free publicity and potential sales boost that it might bring.

A companion piece to the television show was a comic published by Marvel Comics likewise called "Spidey Super Stories".  It featured simplistic and typically humorous stories involving Spider-man, but unlike the show, actually utilized other Marvel characters and actual villains from the comics.

I never collected these comics because I thought it minimized (or even mocked) Spider-man. I told you, I was an ardent fan.  But taking a second look at these many decades later, they aren't that bad and have an innocence that's been lost in today's comics.

I found a few of these at a recent estate sale.  Today we'll be looking at #33, "The Hulk Cracks Up".

Typically, the inside cover of these issues would familiarize the reader with Marvel characters that appear in the story that they may not have been familiar with, such as this introduction to Peter Parker's girlfriend, Mary Jane.

Well, that's kind of how it happened. Here's it the real panel from "Amazing Spider-man" #25 which portrays Mary Jane as more than a little vain.

The top panel of each story also gave a very brief synopsis of how Peter Parker became Spider-man. If I'm not mistaken, I think the same panel was used for the Sunday comics version of Spider-man.

"Unknown to anyone, Peter decides to use Spider Strength."  Well, unknown other than the fact he proceeds to knock down the targets with 9 balls at once with uncanny accuracy, and then proceeds to do it repeatedly until the booth has given away all of its prizes.  That might raise an eyebrow; just saying.

Despite having "Spider sense", apparently it only takes a roomful of mirrors to completely disorient Spider-man.  Note to his villains.

For some reason, regardless that no one actually sees him, The Hulk assumes everyone is laughing at him and goes on a rampage. 

Hulk go "Oof!

I'm not sure why the carnival keeps a canister of Nitrous Oxide hanging on the wall, but apparently, possession is completely legal.

Typically, these stories taught a lesson or moral.  I think this one is, if someone is laughing at you, learn to laugh at yourself.  And also, it's okay to call people names as long they're not around.

Despite this being a comic from 1978, "The Hulk History Page" gives the Hulk's alter ego's real name ("Bruce") and his real origin as opposed to the one told in the popular TV series that premiered that same year.

"The Short Circus" was another Electric Company piece that featured a band singing fairly awful songs about letter combinations.

Coincidentally, "The Kangaroo" was  a fairly awful Spider-man villain with an awful origin to match, but you can't argue with his musical taste.

This issue wraps up with a visit by Peter and his elderly Aunt May (who never dies, trust me) to the Grand Canyon...but something is amiss.

And again, despite his "spider senses", Spider-man totally face plants into a giant postcard.

Wouldn't the National Parks Department have known something about this?

Aunt May (who doesn't know her nephew is Spider-man, by the way) is completely unnerved that Peter has disappeared and Spider-man has appeared.

Giant postcards, giant trashcan lids and now a giant trash can. This S.Chemer guy has everything.

And a sweet fly helicopter to boot.

And Peter reappears, no questions asked.

The inside back cover of each issue featured a typically awful reader-submitted joke.

I should mention, these comics contained no ads, aside from the back page which offered a subscription to "Spidey Super Stories".  I always hated the clip-out ads and stamps. Who wants to mar their comics, even if it is "Spidey Super Stories"?

And finally, as a bonus, I offer the first episode of "Spidey Super Stories". Enjoy!


  1. I have to wonder if the person that designed Thundarr the Barbarian saw the Kangaroo in this comic. Looks almost exactly like him!

    1. That's an excellent observation, Dex. Jack Kirby designed Thundarr and John Romita/Jim Mooney designed The Kangaroo. While Kirby had already left Marvel by that time, it's entirely possible he was inspired by the costume.

  2. As all Marvel and DC heroes will attest, the ideal way to stop a villainous rampage is with the lure of delicious Hostess™ Fruit Pies and Snack Cakes.

  3. Great and thorough post, Tom! I only dabbled in comics as a kid in the late 1970s/early 1980s. But now I have (1) a nostalgia for that era of Marvel comics that's disproportionate to my interest in them at the time, and (2) an burgeoning interest in some of today's comics. (Mid-Life Comics crisis?)

    And so I find myself going back and reading some of the 1960s and 1970s comics, especially The Avengers, Doctor Strange and Luke Cage. Plus oddball stuff like Omega the Unknown. I have a small stack of Spidey Stories, because I love The Electric Company angle and how it was incorporate. And, yes, you're right about them having a refreshing innocence to them.

    And am I a total sucker for 1970s comic book advertisements, as I have revisited them often for my blog.

    In my middle-age comics renaissance, I find myself enjoying the new takes on old heroes like Captain America, Doctor Strange and Black Panther. And seeing the emergence of new heroes like Ms. Marvel, which gives a wider set of readers an opportunity to see themselves reflected and represented on the comics pages.

    1. I'm currently on the downswing of my comics obsession. It had a boost in the early 90's, but as I get older, I'm starting to let go of them. By the way, Ms. Marvel isn't new. She actually debuted in 1977 in response to the Women's Lib movement of the 70's (although her first costume wasn't exactly what the movement would want to promote).

    2. He might be talking about the current Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan), definitely one of my favorite newer characters in recent years.

    3. Excellent observation as usual, Dex. I'm not familiar with that incarnation of Ms. Marvel. Guess I've been out of the scene too long.


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