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CSBG Archive

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.”


Paul Jenkins made me want to read Spider-Man. I have no real affinity for the character (although I love the Ditko material), but his writing on PP:S-M was too good to pass up. The Buckingham issues were mostly excellent, and the silent issue was hilarious. Unfortunately, the issues drawn by Ramos and others weren’t as good. I think the decline in quality, which was not nearly as steep as the decline in JMS’s writing on Amazing, kept the early issues from being remembered as fondly. I remember the new Spectacular Spider-Man series feeling really decompressed. That first Venom story went on forever, and I dropped the book right after. Still, Spectacular Spider-Man 27, the last Jenkins issue and one Buckingham came back for, was great.

Yeah, the annoying thing, Mike, was that Ramos’ guest-arc (with the Goblin) was possibly the most popular arc of Jenkins’ Peter Parker run (sales-wise), so obviously Marvel saw it and said, “Hey, let’s try to duplicate this success! And with a brand-new #1!”

And it really, really did not work (especially since Ramos did not even stick around for long).

Great stuff. :)

i remember how after reading both maybe next year and the story with La forte how teary eyed the storeis were and how marvel had picked one team that actully gets the human side of spider man.even if Jms was slowly losing his fire with the character

Somewhat random point: All the event comics that the big two release? They need moments like these. Out of costume sequences that drive home a thematic point. They never have that. It’s bad.

That Lafronce story was the modern equivalent to “The boy who collected Spider-Man”

I don’t remember the issue that well, but do they make it obvious that his Spider-Man is imaginary in that story, or do they save it for the end when they show that Spider-Man is black?

That was always one of the beautiful things about the Spidey costume. He could be just about anyone you imagine under there.

Ugh. I was just getting back into comics during this particular run and all I remember about it was that I hated Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham. Without fail I wanted to toss every issue they did together in the garbage. It was so frustrating that when they restarted with a new number one I saw it as an oppurtunity to drop the title. To this day I won’t read anything with Jenkins name on it. It’s funny that this is on this list because I would have nominated it for one of the worst comic runs ever.

‘Maybe Next Year’ is a great issue. I always get choked up reading it.

My favorite part of the baseball issue is where Peter gets knocked out by a stray foul, comes to with Mister Met standing over him, and screams in terror.

The LaFronce story is easily my favorite single issue of a comic book. It’s one of the few comics I’ve given to my non-fan friends and family members to read, and they all got it. First and only time a comic’s affected me so emotionally.

I really liked how Spidey was basically a super-powered version of his uncle, and I even more appreciated the even-handed, but honest way Jenkins dealt with the scenario. His portrayal could have easily been offensively one-sided or, conversely, naive. The inclusion of the aunt and uncle, and their dialogue, really went a long way for me.

Blulk, they make it clear throughout the issue that his Spidey is imaginary.

Matthew Johnson

February 8, 2010 at 9:39 am

Buckingham did a nice John Romita Sr take in the splash in the LaFronce story. Very appropriate.

@Gabe – I agree. I read the first TPB of this run and it did absolutely nothing for me.

I wouldn’t give up on Paul Jenkins though. He’s not 100% reliable, but he does turn out good stuff from time to time such as Inhumans, The Sentry and (surprisingly) Civil War Frontline.

Oh and don’t be hating Mark Buckingham. He wasn’t a great fit on this title, but he’s a cracking artist.

Agh, gotta buy these, too. Damn you, Cronin.

I love Mark Buckingham. Go read “Miracleman: the Golden Age” if you can find it. In six issues he’s every artist you can think of and they’re all great.

i like the story with the boy, but what’s up with them shaking hands left-handed?

I assume Imaginary Spider-Man is left-handed, just as he is Black. It’s the way the kid wants him to be.

This was during the decade when I wasn’t reading any comic books, so I missed it all. I’ve picked up a few of the Spider-Man stories I missed, but I haven’t got anything from this series yet. I can’t remember ever reading anything by Jenkins, so I wasn’t sure what his run might be like. I guess I really should buy a few of these when I get a chance.

I did see that baseball story in a previous column, but I couldn’t remember which series it was in.

I have to agree with Gabe, this was just awful stuff. I hated how his stuff was just cliche city, and just tried way too hard to manipulate the heartstrings all the time. It just tried to damn hard, and everything was always a blatant rip on a superior superhero classic. Like the black kid story was a poor man’s “Kid Who Collected Spider-Man”, the Ramos Green Goblin story was a poor man’s “Killing Joke,” etc. It just tugged on the emotional heartstrings in such clumsy, insincere and heavy handed ways. I think it benefited from comparison to years of previously awful Spider-Man stories much like Busiek’s Avengers benefited from years of mediocre Avengers stories.

Also, I’d disagree with DanCJ and throw Civil War Frontline into the garbage file. Not only was it the same annoying pro-liberal slant of the original Frontline story, but it was horribly written with that awful Captain America Myspace scene.

I take a middle road. Parts of Frontline were good, and parts were bad. Ignore the Cap Myspace scene and the heavy handed allegory back-ups and you have three interesting stories, including the earliest build-up towards Dark Reign with Osborn being set up to take over the T-Bolts. The Penance story was really well done.

Wow, I’m glad you reviewed this. I loved Jenkin’s run on PPSM and the Mets issue is my favorite comic of all time. That was my story as a child of a split home – my dad taking me to Shea or my step-dad taking me to Shea. The Mets usually won when I went, an amazing thing. Some of the best memories of a weird, 70’s childhood. Anyway, I loved the issue so much I bought four copies – one to get signed (I eventually got his and Joe Q.’s on it), one to frame unopened, one for me to read, one to share out. A wonderful story from one of the freshest writers I’ve read doing Spider-Man or any comic.

Pro-liberal slants aren’t annoying. They’re just common sense.

Pro-liberal slants aren’t annoying. They’re just common sense.

Attitudes like that are exactly what makes pro-liberal slants annoying.

You have to bear in mind that what passes as “liberal” in America could be anywhere from center to right-wing in most of the rest of the world.

I never got why CW: Frontline was considered an unmitigated disaster. From my anecdotal ask-arounds, if you weren’t somehow invested in the Speedball character, the Penance stuff was plenty interesting: goofy also-ran becomes a scapegoat because of a couple poor choices, and his powers change to match. It takes a willful choice to ignore the story in order to conclude that Penance is some sort of high school goth fantasy.

Was the Cap confrontation goofy? Yes. Without the swearing and snideness, Captain America would likely have responded in the same way as the well-known edit: the flag he wears is about the relevance of values in a changing world, not about the trends of the day.

But, honestly, the Penance story delivers a version of this message, in its own twisted way. Robbie really believes that he was responsible for Stamford, whether he was or not, because as a hero, it’s always his responsibility, reality TV or not, government reshuffle or not, Tony Stark or Steve Rogers or whatever. So he punishes himself, which isn’t the best way to respond, but it’s understandable.

I think the reason that CW: Frontline is pretty disastrous isn’t because of how it portrays Cap, but rather in how it portrays Iron Man. Jenkins goes the JMS route – Stark’s not a guy with a different, maybe wrong, idea about how superheroes should be curbed by society. He’s a straight up conspirator who brings in Norman Osborn as a personal assassin so Stark can make money off of a trumped-up war. If the stuff that happened in Frontline ‘applies’, Stark’s one of the worse villains in recent Marvel history and no one should trust him again.

The whole fun of Civil War, which helped me get back into comics, was that the political dispute between pro-reg and anti-reg DIDN’T correspond one-to-one with American political discourse. Registration could be viewed as both gun control and the PATRIOT Act. It could be viewed as ‘common-sense’ regulation by concerned liberals, or as ‘common-sense’ national security by concerned conservatives. JMS and Jenkins lost that nuance, and couldn’t write Tony Stark properly as a result.

Much as I enjoyed CW: Frontline and had no idea that anyone considered it a disaster, you do make good points Tungsten Man.

That said I think Mark Millar pretty much played Tony Stark as a villain in Civil War to an unnecessary degree.


If the Registration act had been simply that Superheroes had to be trained and possibly had to join an official group to operate then that would have been fine. The problem is they pushed it too far and said that anyone who had powers had to join and help hunt down uncooperative heroes or they’d be sent to a gulag. There was no middle ground for people like Jessica Jones who just wanted to live their life not particularly using their powers. And of course the homicidal Thor clone didn’t help either.

I still thoroughly enjoyed Civil War and Civil War Frontline, but they completely failed to present a balanced argument.

As a personal aside, I knew I had to stop reading Spider-Man when Stravesty’s stories actually started making Jenkins’ seem good!

(In Brazil all Spider-Man comics are published on a single mag.)

Jenkins went WAY over the top with the cheap, tearjerking sentimentality. Once or twice it worked well, but every single friggin’ month? I couldn’t stomach that!

Not to mention that most of his stories could have been done with ANY character, not just Spider-Man. Like the ones excerpted above.

Interestingly enough, the best thing I’ve seen from Jenkins are his CBR columns. His comics work is unreadable, but I look forward to his columns! Why can’t he write like that on his regular comics work?

Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

jenkins brought me back to my favorite hero. i wish i couldve returned the favor when he was writing i think it was a money issue at the time i only got bits in pieces. another classic done in one that he did was spec spidey 21 the poker issue. i need to hunt this bulk of work down.

Man, basecall caps are hard to draw, even for pros.

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