A Year of Cool Comics – Day 38
Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!
Today we look at Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham’s Peter Parker: Spider-Man!
As is the case for most things in life, timing can be very important when it comes to how people judge a comic book run. Come on to a book at the “right” time and you can be viewed as the savior of a title. Come on to a book at the “wrong” time and your contributions are somewhat lost.
Paul Jenkins on Spider-Man oddly had a little bit of both.
When he took over Peter Parker: Spider-Man (ending the “Howard Mackie writes both Spider-Man titles” experiment), he was portrayed in the comic book press as the guy who was going to save the Spider-Man titles from a lackluster creative period (especially as he already did two notable issues of Webspinners, Marvel’s “Legends of the Dark Knight” Spider-Man series).
And for about a year, that’s how things went (with some false steps along the way, like Typeface), but then, just at the beginning of Jenkins’ second year on the title, J. Michael Straczynski came aboard as the writer of the other Spider-Man title, and suddenly Straczynski got pretty much all of the attention.
Which is a darn shame, because that initial period when JMS took over was some of Jenkins’ very best work on the title.
While Straczynski was delivering the ongoing Spider-Man narrative, Jenkins was spending time doing offbeat “done in one” stories that were based entirely on character. It was sort of like what the series Tangled Web later became, offbeat character studies, only here was Jenkins doing that style every issue!
And as has become quite evident with his longstanding, award-winning work on Fables, Mark Buckingham is a great guy to have in your corner if you want to do character-based work, as Buckingham is excellent at facial expressions and getting across emotions.
In one issue, we meet LaFronce Bennett, a young child living with a terrible, terrible mother in a less-than-ideal situation. His only outlet to keep himself sane is by talking with an imaginary friend – in this instance, Spider-Man.
Spidey keeps LaFronce’s spirits up even as his mother drinks herself stupid each day and gets herself (and through her, LaFronce) involved with some pretty bad people.
Meanwhile, LaFronce’s aunt and her boyfriend are trying to get custody of LaFronce, but the system is none too cooperative.
At the end of the issue, LaFronce is finally going to live with his aunt, so he likely will not be able to see Spider-Man anymore – the two have a tearful goodbye, which you need to see to fully appreciate…
In another issue, Jenkins (and guest artist Staz Johnson) turns his attention to Billy Fender, a low-life private investigator for a crooked insurance company. Fender’s main job is to find out if people are committing insurance fraud, but along the way, Billy gets obsessed with the idea of finding out who Spider-Man really is.
He is obsessed, and finally, at the end, he has figured it all out!
He quits his job and heads over to the Daily Bugle to get his payday. He decides to take his information directly to J. Jonah Jameson himself. And, well, this one I won’t spoil. It’s a pretty great ending.
Finally, here’s one of my favorite pieces from Jenkins and Buckingham’s run, a bit from issue #33 involving baseball…
The basic concept behind this issue is that it is the anniversary of Uncle Ben’s death, and Peter does what he always does – he goes to a New York Mets game, like Uncle Ben always used to take him to when he was a kid.
After each game (the Mets always lost), Uncle Ben gave one of his famous speeches.
Again, though, every year went by and the Mets lost and lost and lost (in increasingly absurd fashion) to the point that Peter began resenting both the Mets and his Uncle’s speech.
That took us to the end of the issue, where Jenkins and Buckingham just create a scene to perfection…
That basically epitomizes Jenkins and Buckingham’s run – a very cool comic, indeed.
Their run was collected into two trades, Peter Parker: Spider-Man Vol. 1 “Day in the Life” and Peter Parker: Spider-Man Vol. 2 “One Small Break.”