How does it go again… day late and a dollar short? Actually, it was a month and seven quarters. In October of 1991, with my own money, I bought my first comic book from the KB Toy store in the Brea Mall. I was eleven years old. Picking Spider-Man #17 off the rack is one of the earliest memories I have as a comic book reader. The cover just… called to me. “The Death of Spider-Man? Really?” It was almost too much for my little adolescent mind to take. Of course, at the time, I hadn’t the foggiest who Todd Macfarlane was or that he’d just completed a lengthy run over on Amazing Spider-Man that ended in a spin-off book he launched with his stardom, the adjective-less Spider-Man. I also didn’t know that this “light in the darkness” was only a lousy fill-in by Ann Nocenti and Rick Leonardi. Up to that point, the only comics I’d read were some old G.I. Joes my dad brought home from a liquor store located in one of his shopping centers.
So, I was a month late to the Spider-Man revitalization… but I really couldn’t care less. I sometimes wish I could return to that ignorant, yet innocent mindset. Even cracking the book open now… I noticed how ratty the bag and board look, I’ll have to replace them before I put this baby back in the collection… brings back great memories. I mean, Christ, I must have read this sucker backwards and forward at least 20 times in that first month. I remember reading it, loving it, grabbing a copy of Amazing 359 (the book my brother had purchased on the same visit to the mall) and reading that… then quickly tossing it aside to read Spider-Man 17 all over again. I was struck. I was in love. It was over. Thanos, not Spider-Man, had caught my geeky eye.
“Holy shit,” I must have thought, “who is this guy? He’s so… BADASS!”
The story starts simply enough, with some inner monologue to set the proper Spidey tone. We even get the laundry list of problems Spidey has to solve before heading home. And then, OH NO! Spider-Sense Tingling! Of course he’ll save them, he’s Spider-Man. Spidey always saves the day… but not this time. Spider-Man is dead. So this is about three pages in, and I have to say, when I read this I was seriously taken in. I really thought he was dead. Simpler times I guess. Well, the story doesn’t end there. In fact, Peter Parker’s journey has just begun. As he floats up to Heaven, he reflects on his life, about the “would have’s” and “should of’s”. When he gets to where he’s going, which isn’t exactly Heaven, he comes face to face with the master of all creation, Thanos of Titan. A slight digression here… this story takes place during the time right before the start of the Infinity Gauntlet affair. Thanos has the Infinity Gems and he’s hanging out with his reluctant love, Mistress Death. I, of course, had no clue, but that didn’t take away my enjoyment of this single issue tale one bit. If anything, it sucked me further into the Marvel Universe, as I believe it was that same week, that I located a nearby comic book store and started an account. My point is that Spider-Man #17 stands as a perfect example of what tie-in issues should be. We don’t need the stupid event banners in the right hand corners; we just need solid, well told stories. Anyway, back to the synopsis…
Spider-Man has a conversation with “god” and comes to understand how futile his entire life has been. Spidey almost falls for it, till he notices that he didn’t travel to this realm alone. And it’s at this point that the main thrust of the argument is stated. Is the sacrifice of living the hero’s life worth it if in the end, we all end up in the same place? I guess this was actually a great point in my life to jump into comics, especially with this issue, since taken from a different perspective, the author is actually making a great case for super hero genre and the comic book medium in general. Inevitably, Spidey makes the only choice he can, the only choice in death that’s consistent with his choice in life… even after Thanos warns him of the consequences. I love those panels so much. I could write an entire page about those panels, but I’ll spare you this time… man, I wish we could put word balloons in Versus art. BOOOM! Spidey punches out god… and then gets smacked around like a little bitch.
Eventually, Mistress Death steps in, not surprisingly on a side opposite of her biggest fan, Thanos. You see, at this point in their relationship, Thanos is more into Death than the other way around. Unfortunate. Anyways, Death, in her reticent way, agrees with Spidey and sends him back to be all that he can be, like, save innocent little girls and stuff. Even though I’ve scanned almost the entire issue, it would still be a great idea to hunt a copy of it down and read it for yourself.
So, with that much love for a single issue, I was obviously going to include it in a Versus set at one point in my flavor career. I finally got my chance with Marvel Team-Up and the rest is solid rare-search history.
Setting: Realm of the Dead
Action: Thanos and Death are in the center of the image, standing giant-sized in the Realm of the Dead. Thanos grips a tiny Spider-Man in his left, Infinity Gauntleted hand. Death stands behind Thanos, her boney hand on his shoulder. Spider-Man tries meekly to break free of Thanos’s grip… but, to no avail.
Focus: Thanos and Spider-Man
Keywords: Life and Death Struggle
…and as an added bonus, an original deck created with cards from the future!!! This is my Silver Age Thanos Legend deck, let me show you it:
1xXXXXXX, XXX XXX XXXXX
4xXXX XXXXXXXXX, XXXX
4xThanos, Courting Death
2xXXXXXXXXX, XXXX xx XXXX
1xThanos, Protector of the Reality Gem
1xXXXXXXXX, XXXXX XXXX
1xThanos, Alpha and Omega
1xXXXXX, xxx XXXXX XXXXX xx xxx XXXXXXXX
1xThe Infinity Gauntlet
1xUltimate Nullifier, One-Way Trip
2xXXXXXXXX XXXX, XXXXXXXXX xx XXXXXXX
2xXXXXXXXX XXXX, XXXX xx XXXXXXXXXX
2xNegative Zone, Shadow Dimension
Plot Twists: 16
3xXXXX xxx XXXXX
1xThe Annihilation Wave
Man, wait till you see some of these Marvel Universe cards… makes the Infinity Gauntlet archetype completely viable. Of course, this build is slightly more flavorful than the most consistent builds, but I can’t just post actual R&D lists on a blog. Get Real. I’m sure Hump would be none too pleased.
Well, that’s it for this week’s Origin Stories… come back next Wednesday for more insider info and straight up lies about your favorite Versus cards.