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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 362: Amazing Spider-Man #298

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. As it’s now December, I will be examining the LAST pages of random comics, so watch out for SPOILERS! Today’s page is from Amazing Spider-Man #298, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 1988. Enjoy!

Dude needs a beer

Issue #298 of Amazing Spider-Man features Chance, the assassin-for-hire who likes gambling, and it features the very old-fashioned (even I thought it was in 1989, when I bought this issue) sub-plot of Peter Parker feeling inadequate because his wife “makes more money than IBM.” Really, Peter? She makes that much money? And you feel bad about it? Yeah, I’d hate having a hot wife who loves me unconditionally even though I’m a nerd and likes kinky sex and makes a shitload of money and doesn’t lord that over you. I mean, what a shitty life you have, Peter!

Anyway, no one today remembers poor Chance and his rocket-powered ankle bracelets, because ASM #298 has this as its final page, and this, of course, is the first “appearance” of Venom. I don’t even know if this counts – Venom’s full appearance is at the end of issue #299, where he menaces Mary Jane – but heck, I’m counting it! David Michelinie, as we all know, is noted commenter T.’s FAVORITE writer of ALL TIME, and he sets the scene in the South Bronx, where a shadowy dude is thinking to himself how evil Spider-Man is. Spider-Man ruined his life, blah blah blah, and our mysterious newcomer is going to take revenge. I haven’t read Web of Spider-Man #18, which is where Eddie Brock first appears, but I wonder if Michelinie knew even back then (two years earlier) that he was going to turn him into a super-villain (Brock apparently pushes Peter in front of a train in that WoSM issue, so I suppose Michelinie had some plans for him). Back in the day, when Marvel published fewer comics and they almost all took place at the same time (more or less), this kind of connecting the dots was not only fun but possible – these days it’s so convoluted that it’s almost impossible. But Michelinie gets the job done for an introduction – it’s a mystery who the bad guy is, he’s somehow connected to Spider-Man but we don’t know how, and he obviously has some kind of superpower. Good job, Mr. Michelinie!

This is Todd McFarlane on art, beginning his epic run on Amazing Spider-Man (which aren’t great comics, but which are pretty entertaining), and I imagine the shift from Alex Saviuk (who drew issue #297) to McFarlane was a bit shocking for regular readers. McFarlane gives us a nice tenement in Panel 1, and I like the graffiti touch – the Marvel Universe was much more tightly entwined back then, and earlier in this issue, there’s a blackout that is caused by events in X-Factor #25, and Spider-Man just has to deal with it! (That’s why Brock is using a flashlight, by the way.) McFarlane gives us the classic silhouette in front of an illuminated background in Panel 2, and we can see that Brock is a bit obsessed with Spider-Man’s exploits. In the bottom row, the progression from Brock’s hands to “Venom’s” hands is a bit silly – notice that the speed lines in Panels 5 and 7 make it appears that Brock is pounding his fist into his hand and then pulling his hand back, which is an awkward movement (try it yourself!), but the effect is pretty cool. McFarlane and/or inker Bob McLeod do a nice job with the blacks in Panel 6 slowly overtaking his hands, and the sequence is a good clue about the new villain – some readers no doubt guessed it was the symbiote, but it’s not too obvious. Notice that the clippings behind Brock show both Spider-Man’s classic costume and the black one, with the black one being closer to Brock’s hand, so it’s even more of a clue. It’s not the most subtle of foreshadowing, but it’s pretty good.

I know I’m viewing this issue through the haze of nostalgia, but it does work pretty well. Michelinie might not have been the best Spidey writer, but he wrote some fun-ass stories. You know it’s true, T.!

Next: One of my favorite Marvel characters gets the spotlight! Come on – doesn’t everyone know my favorite characters? Shame on you! I know you can find the writer and artist many times in the archives!


Fancy Dan?

Only the greatest character Ditko ever created.

That inter-connectivity between titles in the Marvel Universe back then is what really cinched that “era” for me. It was also very clever, subtle marketing on Marvel’s behalf: Have the Fantastic Four show up in one panel in the background of a completely unrelated comic fighting some cosmic menace that’s causing whatever residual complications in your title, and then the reader is like, “damn, maybe I need to pick up an issue of FF!” And yet, the individual stories themselves were easy to jump into on their own, while feeling part of something “bigger.”

This is pretty well the moment that made Todd McFarlane a star, right?

He had been banging around DC and Marvel for a few years with his unique style. None of it really went into the stratosphere the way Venom did. He did some nice work on Batman and The Hulk. His INFINITY, INC. felt innovative, but no one seemed to be reading it. He was on the road to being just a guy with a quirky style. You can tell Marvel didn’t value him very much, because they were burying his pencils under a heavy inker Bob Mcleod.

The introduction of Venom sort of changed everything in that way. Venom emerged from Marvel continuity, but he felt new.McFarlane’s style became a signifier for readers who were eager to break with the Silver Age and get new stuff.

Moon Knight or Dazzler? Hmmm…

Eddie Brock doesn’t really appear in Web #18 – Spidey gets pushed in front of the train and his spider-sense doesn’t go off, but he doesn’t see who did it (and neither do we). There was another of those Venom “appearances” around then (maybe in the same issue?) where Spidey’s walking on the side of a building and a hand reaches out and tosses him off the building.

The second Venom-arm cameo is in Web #24.

I remember for a while price guides had this issue in NM at over $100 or something ridiculous, just because it was McFartLand’s first issue of Spidey.

I never could wrap my head around that… I mean, he’s really not that good (just look at this page fer instance)

Dean: Yeah, probably. I wasn’t reading comics before this, so I don’t know how big he was, but this run was huge!

Da Fug: Not the first, and so close with the second!

S and Rob: Thanks!

JoeMac: It’s a little weird, but of course price doesn’t really rely on quality!

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