Spider-Man 2001: Back from the Brink?

There's an old Chinese curse that says "May you live in interesting times." 2001 certainly wasn't one of the better years in Spidey history, but without a doubt, it was one of the most interesting. 2001 brought us the long-awaited and overdue return of Mary Jane, the subsequent and annoying re-departure of Mary Jane, the final, flailing end of Howard Mackie's long and tortured run on the spider-titles, the first full year of Peter Parker under Paul Jenkins' stewardship, minseries out the whazoo, and the long awaited arrival of (drumroll) J. Michael Straczynski to the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.

In keeping with the grading scale for you who didn't fall asleep reading Spider-Man 1999 and Spider-Man 2000 and are still with me, 2001 gets a solid "C." This means, from my own distorted perspective, that this has actually been the best of the three (1999 and 2000 received grades of C- and D-, respectively) post-reboot years thus far. The titles are arguably on the upswing, not heading south as they were during 1999, or in the bottom of the abyss as they were in 2000. Paul Jenkins turned in some solid stuff, Mary Jane is officially not dead, and there is some promise to JMS' tenure, although it was obscured by a dreadful opening story arc and the controversial World Trade Center issue. Those problems, compounded by a simply awful story on the re-departure of Mary Jane, precluded a higher grade.

Mary Jane Returns
In what is becoming the equivalent of a broken record in the spider-titles, 2001 picked up where both prior years left off - dominated by the status of one Mary Jane Watson-Parker.

Before I get into the merits of the storyline itself, I want to wax philosophically a little bit. The continuing controversy over Mary Jane's status simply is not a good thing for the long-term health of the titles. Believe it or not, the Straczynski Hype will one day wear off, as will the movie hype. However, the Mary Jane controversy, which will exist for as long as she remains absent from the titles, is taking on a life of its own, and threatens to overwhelm the merits (or lack thereof depending on your perspective) of the character itself, not the least because of the continuing bitterness that her absence engenders among many long-time fans. While Marvel would clearly like to present one kind of Spider-Man to the public - a young, single, Spider-Man, the public has not resoundingly screamed "Bring on Young, Single Spidey!" The increased sales of both Amazing and Ultimate Spider-Man can partially be attributable to the relentless hype surrounding both titles, and the fact that both are currently scribed by popular writers. After all, sales didn't jump on Amazing during volume 2 issues #14-27, after Mary Jane supposedly died. And while not married to Peter, she is a major supporting character in USM, and is clearly presented as his best friend and true love (although I'm sure in the interests of drama there will be some peaks and valleys in that relationship), and she sure isn't hurting sales on that title. And, she's in the movies! Still, the powers that be stubbornly tried to get rid of her in one way or another for 8 YEARS, from the Clone Saga began its turbulent flight to frustration beginning in 1994. Naturally, each subsequent attempt only makes the fan base madder, louder, and unfortunately at times, shriller, which Marvel then uses to say "see, people who don't think like we do are crazy, lifeless fanboys wanking off to Elektra." Beyond my personal feelings on the subject, it's simply time to bring MJ back so that so we can finally focus on the stories themselves and not her absence from same.

That said, how the Mary Jane/stalker story wrapped up was a huge disappointment. Of all of the solutions that could have been thought of to end it - the worst possible one was selected, which, to be fair, cannot be laid solely at the feet of Howard Mackie. In a rare interview, with The Spider-Man Crawl Space , he stated that his original idea for the stalker was that it would be someone from Mary Jane's background, not Spider-Man's, to illustrate the point that not every problem in Peter and MJ's lives has to do with Spider-Man. However, things...happened.

The first suspect in many people's minds, including mine, was bitter Tri-Corp scientist Javier, who seemed to have it in for Peter. A later suspect that I thought would have been a good choice was Shea Tinker, the computer hacker who first appeared at a party thrown by Randy Robertson in Peter Parker #19, later helping Peter out of his Mendel Stromm dilemma in Peter Parker #28. Both men bore a resemblance to the shadowy stalker. And, Shea, in addition to the fact that he always seemed to have a sucker or something sticking out of his mouth (the stalker was a sucker freak), was also portrayed with some ethical gray areas. Ultimately, as long as it took to resolve the subplot, Javier probably wouldn't have been a good choice since he had been woefully underdeveloped, just like everyone else at Tri-Corp, and it had been such a long time since he appeared that many readers might have responded with a collective "huh?" had he been the one. And, I'm actually glad Shea didn't turn out to be the stalker because he seems to have potential as a supporting character. As big as computer technology is in everyday life, as well as drama, it helps to have a character who understands that and can communicate its nuances to both our hero and ourselves. (2004 Update: So much for what I thought - Shea hasn't appeared since.)

But what we got was a NOBODY we never saw before, whose name we never learned, and whose ultimate disposition had no emotional impact upon us whatsoever, except the huge sigh of relief we felt when we said "thank God that's over." We learned that the stalker was a telepath with little control over his powers, which was driving him insane. During the battle at the Daily Bugle at the end of "Revelations" in Peter Parker Volume 1 No. 75, brief, but violent physical contract with Spider-Man (Spidey shoved him out of the way of falling debris) somehow forged a link between the two, and the stalker, as he became, knew all about Spidey, and even had a symbiotic relationship where if Spidey felt pain, he did as well. The answer to his dilemma was to kidnap Mary Jane, make Peter believe she was dead, which would weaken him emotionally, and then have him find her so that he could use his mental powers to force Peter's conscienceness into oblivion and take over his body and life. But then, at the end of Peter Parker Volume 2, #29, the stalker realizes that if he kills Spider-Man, he never really will become him, because Spider-Man doesn't kill, and so he walks off into the park, and blows himself up. The End.

Got that? Good, 'cause I ain't repeating it.

I mean at the very least, we should have been given the pleasure of seeing Peter beat the stalker to a pulp, rather than the other way around. Or we could have seen Peter be faced with an ethical dilemma, of wanting to kill the man who did this thing to him and his wife, and then of course, realize that he couldn't go through with it. But, Spidey spends the last part being the stalker's punching bag, and then the stalker walks off and blows up after muttering some incoherent psychobabble double-talk. For a story arc that had been nearly two years in the making, from the first harrassing phone call, we certainly deserved a better ending than this.

That said, I loved artist Lee Weeks' Mary Jane from ASM #29. The accompanying picture is probably one of my all-time favorites of MJ (and no, not because her legs are spread either, wise-asses). I think Weeks does one of the best modern MJ's - she's not the wisecracking 60's hippy, but neither is she the big-haired sex goddess in a teddy that originated with Todd McFarlane. She's incredibly attractive, but there is still something very "girl next door" about her. In fact, that's how Peter refers to her in the accompanying narrative, which beautifully sums up the extent of our hero's feelings for her in just a few sentences. In fact, it's been suggested that Paul Jenkins actually wrote some of this issue as well. The narrative style certainly suggests it.

Of course, we're not done with Mary Jane's story, but we'll return to it a little later.

If we don't mention it, maybe it really didn't happen
I think I got a hint of what Marvel means when it says that you don't have to contradict continuity if you don't refer to it. Amazing Spider-Man #27, which is a Squid story (you know he just wasn't a bad-joke villain from last year, you were begging to have him back) features Peter looking for some insight into the type of man his late father was. And through all of the time Peter and Aunt May talk about Richard Parker, not once do they mention or refer to the Robot Parents storyline (where it appeared that Peter's parents had never really died, but it turned out they were really robots created by the Chameleon in a scheme hatched by the late Harry Osborn) that grated on endlessly just before the Clone saga took off (back in Amazing Spider-Man #365-388), nor the fact that Peter's real folks were spies (or SHIELD agents). It would seem almost impossible for Peter and May to even think of Peter's folks without thinking of the faux folks foisted upon them by one of Harry Osborn's posthumous schemes.

The other example was during the encounter with what appeared to be a Borg-ified Mendell Stromm in the pages of Peter Parker #27-28. Once Spidey figures out that Stromm is behind the electrical surges plaguing New York City, his mind reflects back to what he knows about Stromm. The memory he conjures up implies that he and Stromm have had a long history of conflict, which is simply not true. Stromm appeared once, alledgedly dying in Amazing Spider-Man Volume #1 No. 38, and staying dead for nearly 30 years before being revived as Norman Osborn's crony "Gaunt" at the end of the Clone Saga. During that story, Osborn fried Stromm's brain, so that most of Stromm's memories from the previous nine years were gone. All Stromm remembered was that he loathed Norman Osborn (and his strange hair), but in Spider-Man Unlimited #17, Spidey calmed Stromm down and the man appeared to be on the way towards reform. Now, all of that seems to have been ignored.

Perhaps the explanation is that these were supposed to be simple tales. To have brought all of the long and tortured back story into it would probably have muddied the waters and confused some of the readers unfamiliar with all of the details. Plus, if you're a writer and think something was just plain dumb, (like Robot Parents) then maybe you're not likely to want to refer to it.

The Stromm story reminds me that for all of the flack that Howard Mackie and JMS have received for their story errors, Paul Jenkins has not been immune from continuity glitches, yet he seems to be getting a pass on his errors from the spider-fanatics (2004 Update: His luck with fans finally seemed to run out in "The Lizard's Tale," in the new Spectacular Spider-Man #11-13 - in which he has Curt Connors knowing that Peter Parker was Spider-Man - but that's a tale, no pun intended, for another time). For example, in Peter Parker volume 2 #33, Peter says that he never goes with Aunt May to Ben's marker on this date. However, he has gone with her before - Spectacular Spider-Man #68 comes to mind - but not always - see Amazing Spider-Man #181. And the name of Jenkins new villain "Fusion" was actually used on another Spidey villain, way back in issue #208. Of course, that was during the wretched Denny O'Neill era, and that Fusion was the scientifically created melding of two dwarf twins, one a scientist and one a janitor, who has thankfully, never resurfaced. This new Fusion can have the name. And in PP volume 2 #30, Paul establishes Peter as a baseball dolt by having him not know how many home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927 (Peter guesses "300" - an awkward way of inserting the title of the story into the dialogue - although one could argue I suppose that Peter gave such a dopey answer because he didn't want to play the board game his friends were forcing him to play at the time), but then three issues later has him a big baseball fan revelling in all of the game's small pleasures.

Perhaps Spidey fans do get a little too anal about continuity glitches (stop pointing that finger at me!) - but the reason they tend to be more forgiving of Paul Jenkins' continuity problems is because by his words and writings he has shown that he clearly cares about this character and feels much the same way about him that we do. He doesn't given the impression of trying to "redefine" Spidey, and seems to believe he already has plenty to work with the character the way he is (2004 Update: See the earlier annotation).

Speaking of Paul, is this Peter Parker or Tangled Web?
No less than three times during the year did Jenkins tell a story that seemed to be more suited for the Tangled Web anthology series, in issues #26, #35 and #36. In all of these stories, Spidey only appears either in flashback, as part of someone else's recollections, or in the case of #35, as a little boy's fantasy figure. Issue #33, which I refer to later, is different than these because at least in that story, it is being told by, and features, Peter Parker. Not that any of them are bad stories. Issues #26 and #36, the first dealing with the cop on the street perspective of "the" Spider-Man (I did feel the article was unnecessary), and the second about a loser private investigator who thinks he's stumbled onto the story of a lifetime were o.k., better than what had been churned out in previous years, and they do represent interesting ideas that are not really discussed much in the spider-verse, that the police force and others would be tracking Spidey's "flight patterns" and appearances, studying his webbing, all in an effort to get a bead on just who and what he is. Issue #35 was actually a pretty good story, and a touching one, about an urban boy who deals with the horror and sickness of the world he is being brought up in by remaking Spider-Man in his own image. The story is so skillfully told that you don't catch Jenkins' clues about the identity of this Spider-Man until you re-read the story, and then the final panel makes sense. But, taken together, it does seem a bit sloppy from an editorial perspective to have so many of these same types of stories told within such a short period of time. It is even debatable whether or not two stories centering on Uncle Ben should have been told within the space of a year (issues #20 and #33). And that leads me to:

Fusion Fizzles
A persistent criticism hurled at Paul Jenkins during his first year at the helm of Peter Parker was that nothing ever happened in his stories. Many folks got rather tired of Paul's one-part character studies and wanted some serious superheroing.

I won't pretend to know everything going in a writer's mind when he decides to work out plots for his book, for the same reason I won't pretend that I know what it takes to be a good brain surgeon or short-order cook. But, in looking at the environment surrounding Marvel and the spider-titles at the time, it is possible the circumstances at hand certainly prevented Paul from taking much of a risk with his stories. The lead title itself was in complete shambles when he arrived on Peter Parker (although he's certainly had the class to never, ever rip Mackie or anyone else), and then his first two-part story and new super-villain was brutally short-circuited by the "Maximum Security" crossover crap. Maybe nothing could have saved Typeface anyway, but the crossover didn't help. Also, once Mackie's run was over, a new, and famous, writer was coming into Amazing, with a yet undetermined agenda and story focus. So, it probably wouldn't have been wise to jump into a "big, important" story right off the bat in Peter Parker. Still, the one "big" story that Jenkins did do during this period of time, with a brand new villain of his own creation, ultimately was uneven.

As a villain and psychotic, Fusion at least had an honest set of motives for his hatred and self-absorption. Having lost his son in an accident where the boy was imitating Spider-Man, and unable to face the fact that the himself may have had some responsibility in the matter, Fusion turns on the rest of the world, and particularly Spider-Man. It's ironic that the possbility of children hurting themselves imitating Spider-Man was something that old JJJ warned about in the very first issue of Amazing Spider-Man.

That said, Fusion's powers ultimately seemed too derivative of Mysterio, or any of a dozen other masters of persuasion and illusion that we have seen for years, something which Spidey actually acknowledges in the story.

On the plus side, after being so horribly mishandled during 2000, Flash Thompson finally has a good moment when he meets up with Peter this time. This time, rather than the insenstive clod who revelled in Peter's misery, Flash comes across as genuinely concerned about Peter - but, as we see, he's still the old oafish, thick-skulled Flash that was a mainstay in the spider-titles for several years.

But for the most part, Paul's work has been very steady. Maybe it hasn't hit the peaks of storytelling in some fans' minds (I do think #33 was such a peak, which I discuss later), but he has more than certainly stayed out of the pits and valleys where too many Spidey stories found themselves in the preceeding several years.

Miniseries Mayhem
Marvel may have technically cancelled everything but the two remaining core titles in 1999, but with the miniseries and one-shots, it certainly seemed like there were still at least three monthly titles. In Spider-Man 2000, I discussed the excellent Death and Destiny and this year we had Paul Jenkins' Spider-Man/Daredevil: Unusual Suspects , Tom DeFalco's Mysterio Manifesto and Fabian Nicieza's Lifeline. There was also a Spider-Man/Marrow one shot - you know, the one that screamed "Collector's Item" (which was sitting in the bargain bin for twenty cents when I finally gave in and bought it), as well as Jenkins' Spider-Man/Sentry story.

The most eagerly anticipated miniseries, in my opinion, was Mysterio Manifesto, which was not only written by Tom DeFalco, whose Spidey expertise needs no introduction, but also promised to resolve some long standing loose ends left over from the pre-reboot era which were still irrititating to Spidey fans. These danglers included the identity of Mad Jack, who was essentially Jack O' Lantern II, a leftover villain from JM DeMatteis's days on Spectacular Spider-Man prior to the reboot (DeMatteis admitted he had created the character without knowing who he really was) and whether or not the Quentin Beck Mysterio was really dead, since he appeared to kill himself in Daredevil, only to show up the following month in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. And since Daredevil was present at Mysterio's suicide, it was only natural that he be along for the ride, since supposedly his radar sense would be able to dope out the truth of the matter. DeFalco also brought in characters from the late Webspinners first story arc, which featured a former girlfriend of Beck's and a Guy Named Joe, from ASM #38 (first volume), who was now married to said ex-girlfriend.

Unfortunately, the most disappointing miniseries of the three was the same Mysterio Manifesto. It had a strong first half, which included a sequence where Peter fantasized that both Mary Jane and Baby May were alive and living with him in the same penthouse that he had just been evicted from. Aunt May was also there, fully knowledgeable about his secret i.d. (2004 Update: Obviously this was before May really did find out later in JMS' Amazing volume 2 #35), was shoving him out the door to go fight Dr. Octopus, saying the Fantastic Four has better things to do than chase after his old villains. After that, it seemed that rather than explaining the various unsolved mysteries, DeFalco decided to get clever and introduce more riddles, leaving the reader with as many questions in the end as the beginning, which was not the stated purpose of the series. It left an unsatisfying taste in the mouth. Was Mad Jack in the pre-reboot era some distant Beck relative imitating the old man, or was he really Danny Berkhart, the faux Mysterio from ASM 141-142? Is Berkhart now Mysterio, since Jack claimed that Beck was truly dead? That's where it seemed to be going, but the introduction of the cousin at the end under not one, but two different names, and a Mysterio suit that took on a life of its own needlessly complicated matters. And since DeFalco doesn't have a regular gig on a current continuity title, there's no certainty that any of these questions are going to be answered. (2004: The Spider-Man Encyclopedia, released in 2003, cuts through the crap and states that Berkhart was indeed Mad Jack, and is now Mysterio.)

Lifeline was a treat for old Spidey fans who remembered the original "Mysterious Tablet" saga that weaved through ASM's 68-75 where crime boss Silvermane thought he was getting the Fountain of Youth when he decrypted the tablet, but the resulting formula de-aged him all the way back to nothingness. This time, additional pieces of the tablet have been discovered which change the original chemical compound. Crime boss Hammerhead wants the other pieces, and guest stars from the original story include the Lizard, mobster Cesar Cicero, and Man Mountain Marko. An additional plus is that the writer actually uses Arthur Stacy's detective skills to assist Spidey. Since Spidey is not the world's greatest detective it helps to have a recurring character with law enforcement connections to assist with certain plots, particularly a character who's purpose for being in the stories was forgotten by previous writers. The art also has a classic comic book feel. It's not a bad miniseries, particularly since the reason why Hammerhead really wants the tablet is surprising. Still, it's not a great series either, and is muddled by appearances by Dr. Strange and the Sub-Mariner (because of the tablet's apparent Atlantean geneology).

Unusual Suspects was the best of the miniseries of 2001, though it ultimately focused more on Daredevil than Spidey, taking a sharp and weird metaphysical turn at the end which doesn't do that much for the story. Plusses include the dynamic between wisecracking Spider-Man and "Zen Warrior from Hell's Kitchen" Daredevil, as Spidey calls him, when the two begin to lock horns near the conclusion due to their mutual frustration with each other's widely disparate approaches to fighting crime. In a segment at the beginning with Peter Parker and Matt Murdock involving bottled water, Jenkins illustrates the difference between the working class superhero Spider-Man and the more cultured and refined Matt Murdock. The art by Phil Winslade is terrific, as his Spidey is truly a lean, angular insect-like presence, and he even makes a goofy villain like Stilt-Man look scary.

You didn't miss anything if you passed up on the Spidey/Marrow one-shot. Since Spidey last saw Marrow in an issue of Amazing Spider-Man in 1999, she apparently has taken English lessons from the Hulk as she now talks in the third person ("Let Marrow go"). The only significant part of this story is that Peter goes on his one and only true date since the "death" of Mary Jane, with a former student of his, Sara Rushman, who turns out to really be - ta da - Marrow. Nonetheless, there is a good moment when Sara asks Peter into her apartment after their date, and Peter refuses, thinking that it would be crowded with "the three of us" as MJ is still very much in his thoughts.

And finally, the Spider-Man/Sentry one-shot might appeal to those who followed the entire Sentry saga. Essentially, it was about one of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe, a Superman-like character called the Sentry, yet although he was so great, no one remembered him. The tale wove through several one-shot stories featuring various Marvel characters. The Spider-Man issue centered around the idea that when the Sentry walked the earth, Peter Parker snapped a photo of him, winning him a Pulitzer Prize as well as fame and fortune. Of course, since all knowledge of the Sentry was wiped from humanity, so was Peter's achievement. And since I don't do crossovers, I have no idea how this story wrapped up, nor do I care.

Aunt May Matters!
Finally, nearly three years after her resurrection which was oh-so-needed because the spider-titles "lost" something, and then after being allowed to languish in obscurity and cliched plot lines by the same people who proclaimed that her return from the dead was essential, Aunt May is slowly beginning to play a truly meaningful role in the spider-titles, and I'm not just talking about the stunning revelation at the end of ASM #35 where May walks in on a beaten Peter who has left his spider gear all over the place. Jenkins' May was already beginning to show a little bit of spunk, and in Peter Parker #28, Peter goes to her with a critical question regarding a controversial issue. After being slowly taken over by a computer acquiring sentience, Mendell Stromm requests that Spider-Man literally pull his plug, before the computer completely takes him over, as well as the New York City power grid, which would create widespread havoc and possibly cost thousands of lives. Never willing to take a life, but desperate to do the greatest good for the greatest number, Peter asks Aunt May about her feelings over the right to die. The answer May gives him is as unsettling as the question itself, which cannot truly be answered.

In Amazing Spider-Man #31, as Peter is grappling with the need for a new direction in his life due to Mary Jane's departure, May helps him find it by pointing him towards teaching at his old high school. I did find the dialogue to be a bit long and too laborious to have really come out of May's mouth, but it illustrates the beginnings of positive change regarding a long standing character who by all rights should be one of the most important in our hero's life. For all intents and purposes, May is Peter's mother, and as a result of her age and her life experiences should be a source of help and comfort for him, and a continuing link to his own humanity even though he himself has become more than human. She shouldn't be a plot device dragged out when tension is needed to be artificially injected into a story, which is what she has been for far too long.

And now that May has found out that Peter is Spider-Man...will she find a new lease on life and purpose in the stories - or will it only reinforce the notion that she is a limited purpose character that has long outlived that purpose?

JMS and Ezekial-Morlun-Totem Stuff
And that, of course, brings me to the 800 pound gorilla of the year - J. Michael Straczynski. So much passion has been invested in pro and con JMS debates, which began even before he wrote the first word, that it's rather hard to take a step back and impartially reassess his first six months on the title. Of course, his "move out of your parents' basement" and "stop breeding" comments directed at those who legitimately felt his ASM #36 World Trade Center issue was less than it should have been hasn't won him any additional fans (2004: And still hasn't. They were childish and petty statements).

I'll freely admit to this day that J. Michael Straczynski was exactly the kind of writer I wanted Marvel to get for the spider-titles. In the dark days even prior to the reboot, when it was clear the character was floundering due to overexposure and lack of direction - I thought Marvel should give the writing chores on its lead solo character to an established, accomplished, well-known writer who understood and respected the sci-fi/fantasy genre and its peculiar rules, understood the importance of good female characters (for the purpose of handling the marriage to MJ properly), and had enough popularity and pull to (1) bring some of his own fan base with him to bring more attention and readership to our suffering web-spinning hero, and (2) tell some good, strong, progressive stories that were needed for the character to continually evolve without fear of being tripped up by Marvel's occassional short-sightedness. I was never a Babylon 5 fan, but I was thrilled when JMS was first given the ASM assignment because he seemed to meet all of my prescribed criteria.

But then came the news that Mary Jane was going to be written out of the stories, which was extremely disappointing - but not because of any innate obsession with the character, since she is, when it all comes down to it, a supporting character. However, after all of these years, Mary Jane was a core part of the series. Her absence and the continued uncertainty regarding her status, which reaches back to the early days of the Clone Saga, seemed to keep the series in perpetual turmoil. And that feeling still lingers. Until Mary Jane comes back, the titles simply seem like they are treading water, waiting for her return so that things can really take off in new and interesting directions.

O.K. - now clear your mind of everything that has happened in the last year or so in Amazing Spider-Man, and all of the animosity and anger (I gotta take a lotta pills to be able to do that - but nonetheless...) and let me run this story idea by you:

While web slinging across the city, Spidey runs into an older man who not only possesses the exact same powers as he, and knows his secret identity, but then proceeds to tell him that nothing about him is as he thinks, and suggests to Peter that his receipt of spider powers was no accident.

Curious? Of course you are. The essence of drama typically requires the hero to reassess himself and his place in the world. Sometimes that requires that his world be torn apart in one form or another. It often results in the reader being as unsettled as the hero, and confronting unpleasant facts. The demands of a long running drama ensure that this, unfortunately, happens on a recurring basis, no matter the desire of the audience for an elusive "happy" ending.

However, JMS' choice for a first major story arc had two factors working against it. The first was that it was poorly timed. Spider fans had been tortured since the "Robot Parents" storyline in the mid-1990's with plot developments that dragged on and on and on with either no or unsatisfying resolutions. "Robot Parents" led into the famously unresolved "Who was F.A.C.A.D.E" storyline, and then straight into the Clone Saga. After the Clone Saga, more stories with numerous loose ends sprang, including Mad Jack and Green Goblin V, and continued uncertainty about Baby May's status, including tantalizing hints that she might be alive. But then everything crashed in the simply awful "Gathering of Five/Final Chapter" story which brought Aunt May back and had Peter burning his costume again. And the paint on the reboot wasn't even dry before we embarked on another long, convoluted story with riddles upon riddles and doubletalk upon doubletalk with no end in sight - the Senator Ward saga. Just six months prior to JMS' debut, the Ward story was put out of its misery by the Z'Nox and the Maximum Security crossover. After that, the "Where is Mary Jane" story, which had been going on a good 15 months at least, came to its own extremely unsatisfying conclusion. Spidey fans were desperate for a change. The timing was not good for another hazy and foggy story arc with mysteries, riddles, and more doubletalk. And yet that's exactly what we got with this Ezekial-Morlun-Totem stuff. If JMS had started off with the stories for issues #37 and #38 (which I won't discuss until Spider-Man 2002), then the pendulum might have swung in his favor a lot sooner. But I think a lot of writers have a certain artistic arrogance that makes them take the perspective that they don't care what other writers did and when they did it, they're going to tell the stories THEY want to tell - period.

When Ezekial first started talking about which came first - the spider or the radiation - implying that the spider may have been a magical spider that was going to confer powers upon Peter and then the radiation happened - I groaned out loud, not because my preconceptions were being challenged, but because I felt another convoluted story arc coming on. And rather than coming clean with Peter about everything in issue #32 and moving the story forward - Ezekial kept talking in circles and riddles, and you knew, you just knew that the story wasn't going to go anywhere, and you weren't going to get any answers. And that's exactly what we wound up with when the story (for the moment) wrapped up in issue #35. Will the magic spider story be revisited? I don't care - that's how interesting it turned out to be (2004: Two years later - it was finally resolved - with a dull thud - but that's for another time).

The other problem was that this story and the villain, Morlun, simply weren't interesting enough to sustain it for six months. Although I was originally going to knock the fact that Morlun seemed awfully similar to Morbius, and that vampires and horror schlock really aren't Spidey's bag (I know he walked around in daylight and didn't suck blood, but come on - the pasty white skin and the clothes from Bloomingdale's Gothic Collection. He was a vampire.), that really wasn't the problem because that aspect wasn't really emphasized as much as Morlun's strength and unstoppability. Not that Spidey fighting an unbeatable foe can't be interesting - after all, "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" in ASM #229-230 is one of the all-time classics. And one reason it's classic? Roger Stern told it in two issues. Part 1 was the set-up, Part 2 was the payoff. End of story. If he had stretched it out to six, then we would have griped about that, too. It's nothing personal, JMS. As it was, it took three months for Spidey and Morlun to trade punches, which they did incessantly for another three.

And while Ezekial poses an interesting question in #30, when he sits down with Peter Parker two months later in #32, he does nothing to answer it. Instead, we get a long, rambling monologue about totem forces. On the subject of how Ezekial got his powers, Peter lamely allows him to get by with a "ask me about it sometime - you'll get a kick out of it." No way, old-timer, you'll tell me NOW! When Spidey goes to Ezekial for help in #33, we get more mumbo jumbo, yet no answers. This is a cheat, particularly with a series that has seen way too many unresolved plot points in recent years.

And then there were the continuity glitches. At first they seemed to be just "art" glitches. After all, Peter never said that Gwen and Harry attended the same high school he did - it was just implied by the art, which showed images of Gwen and Harry with a bespectacled Peter Parker in high school. These images upset a lot of people, but cumulatively really didn't bother me that much. After all, during these flashbacks, he's not necessarily recalling literal events, he recalling general impressions about his past. And whenever Peter begins to get contemplative about his past, he is always a skinny geek with glasses. Now, he actually stopped wearing glasses waaaaaaaaaay back in Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1 #8, before the title was even a year old, while he still had another 18 months or so of high school left (he was graduated in #28). But the image of himself with glasses is seared into his brain and clings to him whenever he contemplates the past. Even though he has been Spider-Man for half of his life, the self-image of the skinny geek with glasses persists. So, whether his memory drifts back to high school, college, or even inserted into Harry's Osborn's own tortured memories in Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #14, that's how Peter sees himself. And since he first met Gwen and Harry during his first few days in college, it's not an unrealistic leap to assume that he would in general "lump" people and events together when he ponders where he's come from.

That said, the overblown hyperbole associated with the arrival of Morlun AS THE MOST DANGEROUS VILLAIN SPIDEY'S EVER FACED, telegraphed for three months before finally coming to pass, though not a major crime, was simply needlessly provocative and is more of an indication of editors not doing their job than a problem with the writer.

Given the limitations of the medium, a writer is trying to convey as much drama and excitement in as little narrative as possible. The nature of comics, particularly action-oriented superhero comics, don't easily lend themselves to pages and pages of ponderous narrative. If you want to capture the audience's attention, and quickly, you do it with either a stunning graphic, or by a few choice words or phrases guaranteed to elicit the largest response. I remember several years ago, at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #132 when Peter Parker had collapsed in a hospital hallway after Spider-Man's prolonged exposure to the newly toxic Molten Man, the last panel of the issue had Peter thinking the horrific thoughts "Is this the end of Spider-Man?" A few months later, a letter writer made a big deal of that being Peter's last thought before he fell unconscience, stating that he didn't believe that while Peter was in civilian clothes and possibly dying, that his last thoughts would be "Is this the end of Spider-Man?" Well, that's probably true. After all, if I thought I was dying and had just fallen to the floor, my last thought would definitely not be "is this the end of my career as (insert occupation here)"? The response to the letter writer was a simple "hey, it was done because it was a more suspenseful way to end the issue." Drama does often require creative license.

Back to Morlun, JMS wanted to convey as quickly as he could just how powerful this character was, and how difficult he would be to defeat. And I myself can't remember how many times that Spidey has been hit harder, although I'll dare say that Marvel Team-Up #100 counted as one of those times, when an enraged Thing clocked him so hard that everything instantly went black. JMS can hardly be chastised for not having committed to memory just how hard Spidey has been hit in any of the thousands of punches he has received over the years.

Still, you would think that a writer coming in on a such long established character in the sci-fi/fantasy tradition, with a history that is held sacred by legions of fans, would be especially sensitive to committing continuity errors. For example, a writer given an assignment on such long-running TV shows as "Matlock" or "Friends," could probably be excused if they contradicated something in season 9 that was said back in season 2. And the editors and producers could be excused from overlooking it and not correcting it. Rigid dedication to previously established storylines isn't necessary for these kinds of shows. And soap operas routinely ignore contituity, yet legions of dopes - er, uh, highly intelligent people worthy of far more intellectual stimulation - still watch them. Conversely, if you're a writer, and you write for say "X-Files," or any of the Star Trek television shows, and you contradict something, you're going to hear about it - and in a big way. It's the nature of the beast - for whatever reasons - those types of shows thrive on their complicated continuity. The continuity is as much of a character as, well, any of the characters. AND THE WRITER KNOWS THAT GOING IN. (2004: O.K. - with the exception of the creator and writers of that Star Trek debacle "Enterprise," most writers with sci-fi backgrounds know that going in.) And you would also think, that a man who orchestrated a complicated, interweaving universe such as the Babylon 5 universe would understand that better than most. So, the better part of valor would simply be to avoid making such a blatant comment such as "never been hit that hard before."

But then, it wasn't left alone at that. Not long after, Spidey says "I've fought every kind of nutball on the planet…YOU'RE THE FIRST ONE WHO'S REALLY TICKED ME OFF." Now please. Excessive hyperbole once is forgivable. Twice in the first five pages of the same issue? And this time, we KNOW FOR A FACT, that this isn't true - and can't possibly be true. Gwen's Stacy's dead body betrays that statement for the lie that it is. There is simply no way in hell that anyone would believe that Morlun has already gotten under Spidey's skin more than say, your average Osborn.

And then again in issue #34, when fighting with Ezekial against Morlun, Spidey comments on what a new experience it is, relying on someone whose powers are similar to is. Oh really? Or, I suppose it should be, oh Reilly? Again, we're not talking about JMS not knowing about a chance meeting with a minor figure in the backup story of Amazing Spider-Man Annual # whatever. Just those two words "Ben Reilly" can excite the passions of any spider-fan regardless of what side of the Clone Saga debate they're on - he was THAT major of a character. Hell, for a year, he WAS Spider-Man.

But there's clearly another force at work here rather than a writer being unfamiliar with the character's canon, or getting caught up in dramatic hyperbole, or editorial being fearful of JMS' "change my words and I'm gone" edict. It's Marvel's current bias against continuity. In other words, IT DOESN'T MATTER. For you see, none of these glitches that I've mentioned were all that serious individually, and all could easily have been taken care of by editorial with either the neat excise of one line, or a couple of redrawn figures. But by not making these simple changes, Marvel is trying to send a message: IT DOESN'T MATTER. GO WANK OFF TO ELEKTRA, FANBOYS. IT DOESN'T MATTER.

That said - there were some good things about the first six months of the JMS run. For one, I liked issue #31, where Peter decides to become a teacher. I have said for a long time that the whole photos for the Daily Bugle gig burned itself out a long time ago, particularly since the only photos Peter takes are of Spider-Man. It continually defied logic for Peter to continue selling these photos and the Bugle to continue to buy them. People would have doped out the true connection years ago. And I never wanted to see Peter become a full-fledged scientist for a number of reasons (1) the Marvel Universe is already overpopulated with brilliant, eccentric scientists and (2) Peter Parker and Spider-Man are esssentially street level, working class heroes. They need to be down there on the street, meeting people who are likely to prompt new and interesting stories, and not cooped up in a lab. And while Peter's scientific genius was necessary to make things like webshooters and web fluid possible, overemphasis on this actually makes him less accessible. I had advocated in the past that Peter work on the Bugle's website (which oddly enough, turned out to be the gimmick in Ultimate Spider-Man) as a way of keeping the Bugle connection going - but the teacher gig works for me, at least for awhile. Although Peter himself is no longer a teenager (is someone finally realizing that over at Marvel?), a high school teaching job will allow him to keep the company of high school teenagers and be plugged into their problems. What's funny, though, is that considering that high school teachers are considered authority figures, they probably seem quite old to your average high school kid. I remember being stunned as I passed 30 that it occurred to me that many of my teachers had actually been younger than that - but they sure didn't seem young at the time. Again, it is ironic that after spending so much time trying to de-age Peter, Marvel lets his newest scribe put him in a job that reaffirms his advancing age. Flip-flopping on things like this tends to underscore the reasons why Marvel has little credibility with some of its critics. After all, if Peter can be a teacher - why not a husband? Why not - gasp - a father?

I already mentioned the stronger role that Aunt May is having in Peter's life, although this actually began to occur earlier during Paul Jenkins' run on Peter Parker. May's discovery at the end of issue #35 is also long overdue.

I like JMS' highly passionate Peter, who says things like “screw you” and tells the school's administrative assistant where to stick the phone. Hey, if you’re running scared for your life, manners are not among your higher priorities. And the fact that Morlun’s intimidation of innocent people arouses the latent anger that Peter still feels from having been bullied as a child during his pre-radioactive spider days almost literally caused me to cheer out loud as if I were watching it on the movie scene. I liked his decisiveness in issue #31 as he decided that no one at the school was going to be hurt while he was there. JMS was ripped, unfairly, in my opinion, for using the hot-point current event of school shootings in this story. If he was guilty of "exploiting" the event, then shows like, "Law & Order" for example, are really shameless because virtually every episode is based on something that really happened.

Another irony is that I thought that Ultimate Spider-Man was failing in its self-proclaimed attempt to reach younger audiences because the slow, deliberate pace of the series could not possibly appeal to the short-attention span Pokemon generation (2004: I'm still convinced this is true - I'll bet that most readers of Ultimate Spider-Man are old fogies who also still buy Amazing). On the other hand, issue #33 of Amazing should be just what that generation ordered. Fast moving, smash mouth action and excitement that comes about as close as a comic book can to being an action-packed video game. After Morlun finally kicked into gear rather than sitting around talking about the mystic properties of pastries or worrying about whether or not his ass was getting wider, he really did look like one mean mother. Also, I had to give Straczynksi credit for capturing Spidey's sense of humor. #33's hero is the one that got a lot of us into the character in the first place - bold, confident, and relentless in the pursuit of his objectives - yet with a goofy sense of humor that manifests itself at the oddest moments, such as when he literally crashes a birthday party. Sure, sometimes JMS gave Spidey some awkward dialogue during the fight scenes, but I really think he scored with the first person narrative. All of this navel contemplating sounded like the Spider-Man I’ve always known and loved.

The infamous World Trade Center issue, in ASM #36, has been debated so extensively that I don't really want to revisit it here. I am in the process of combining and revising two articles I originally wrote on it which explains my perspective in detail. Basically, I felt it was a story that did have to be told, but it was poorly executed - the voice we were hearing narrate the story was not Spider-Man's, but JMS', and that we were getting his political perspective, including what I considered an offensive suggestion that America itself was partially responsible for the attack (..."or their burdens will become our tragedy") And, if you insist on having surreal, largely symbolic images not to be taken literally, such as villains crying at Ground Zero, then it should have been a special one-shot and not part of the regular title run.

Obviously, the next 12 months of Amazing Spider-Man should indeed be very interesting. Whether it will be successful is a different matter entirely, but I shouldn't be at a loss of things to talk about when it comes time to write Spider-Man: 2002.

Best Stories of the Year
I knew this would be the choice as soon as I read it the first time. It's "Wait Till Next Year," in Peter Parker #33, which will probably be somewhere in my 11-20 on the Best Spidey Stories if I ever get around to doing that article. Paul Jenkins' single issue character studies don't always score, but this one does - and does big time. It's the anniversary of the death of Uncle Ben, and Peter chooses to acknowledge this event by continuing a Parker family tradition - attending a New York Mets game. Peter relives the events of games the two attended over the years, including the last one before Ben's death. There's something both happy and sad, when thinking about all the times you sat next to your old man watching a baseball game - particularly when you know you'll never get the chance again.

This was a wonderful story, reminding us of the basic humanity of the man who wears that goofy costume and punches out garishly dressed bad guys. For all of the talk in the lead title about "re-discovering Peter Parker" through energy vampires, wall crawling old men and totems, Paul Jenkins seems to have re-discovered him already. It's stories like this that remind me of just why I became such a devoted follower of the character and continue to put up with some of the crapola that is issued with his name slapped on the cover, because every once in a while, it pays off.

Honorable Mention
This was a stunner. It never occurred to me until I re-reviewed the 2001 issues that this would score so high on the list. It's the Universe X: Spidey one shot. Frankly, I'm not much of an Earth X (or any of its successors) fan. For one, if you're going to do the Marvel version of Kingdom Come, then it should not only be as good as the former, but at least as COHERENT.

Earth X started with the genesis of a good idea - a future Marvel-Earth where a mutant plague has given everyone superpowers, the world is suffering from severe economic and political decline with food shortages rampant, and Norman Osborn is the President of the United States (and yes, I thought that was so cool - and this was BEFORE Lex Luthor became President of the U.S. in DC continuity). However, about mid-way though the first miniseries it degenerated into far-out, New Age, unintelligible, anti-existential drivel that seemed to be more concerned with packing as many possible characters from the history of the Marvel Universe into its pages than in telling any kind of coherent story. But that's beyond the scope of this article. In this future, Peter Parker starts out as an overweight sad sack who was long ago outed as Spider-Man. Mary Jane is dead, and daughter May (funny how for a character that Marvel wants nothing to do with in present continuity - she seems to show up and thrive in a bunch of alternate realities) has bonded with the Venom symbiote. Unlike Eddie Brock, however, May is in control of the symbiote and is a superheroic Venom. After Earth X, Peter joined the New York Police Department (how's that for irony?) and during the miniseries Universe X this one-shot took place. In this story, a mutagenically altered character known as "Spiders-Man," (that's not a mispelling - and he looks more like Spider-Lizard) with the power of illusion is keeping the people of New York in thrall to the wishes of a being called Immortus (I can't explain much more than that without confusing myself). Officer Parker agrees to deal with Spiders-Man, but after two days, has yet to return from his mission. May finds her father seemingly helpless in the grip of one of Spiders-Man's illusions, but after being unable to bust the illusion through a physical assault on Spiders-Man, decides to enter the illusion itself and attack matters from there. What she finds is a future where the mutant plague never occurred, Peter Parker is comfortably retired and middle-aged (paunch and all) and long married to Gwen Stacy. The illusion in this story supposes that during the events of Amazing Spider-Man #90, Spidey saved Captain George Stacy from being killed from falling debris during the battle with Doctor Octopus. Soon after, Stacy discovers that Norman Osborn is the Green Goblin and has him arrested, which results in Osborn's lifelong incarceration. And we all know what subsequent event that prevents. Harry Osborn and Mary Jane are married to each other, and all four are sitting around the apartment discussing Peter's past days as Spider-Man. There is still a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swinging around the city - but it's not Peter. Still -nothing is as it seems. Is Peter really under the Spiders-Man's control? Who is this new Spider-Man in Peter's preferred future? And what ugly truth does young May confront that has the potential to shatter what both she, and ourselves, have always believed about her father?

Whether you agree with the "truth" as May perceives it or not, this story does several positive things: it dispels the demented notion that there is no compelling drama or conflict in Spidey's marriage to Mary Jane, or in his being a parent. We are given a glimpse of MJ's very real and understandable fears surrounding her relationship with Peter - and it just wasn't all about him being Spider-Man. If the writers in the current continuity had chosen to exploit that potential, of her fear of either living in the shadow of a dead woman, or of being replaced by someone more in tune with Peter's superhero lifestyle, instead of repetitive "oh, Peter, please come home safe," or "oh, Peter, please don't go out as Spider-Man," or "oh, Peter, I don't deserve this because I'm so young," then Marvel's management may have hesitated before "killing" her and the baby off in the current continuity.

I really liked the moments when comfortably middle-aged Peter, Gwen, Harry, and Mary Jane are sitting on the couch watching old videos of Spidey in action and looking through old photographs, just like, well, old friends would. There's a certain sense of realism here in a world where Peter, having long-retired as Spider-Man, is able to casually talk about that portion of his life with the woman he loves and his best friends, who more than likely probably knew all along anyway. That kind of realism doesn't exist in the current continuity in which everyone is as dumb as a post in their inability to put two and two together when Peter disappears and Spidey appears.

As for the art, it's always a pleasure to see John Romita, Sr. at work on Spider-Man again, as he did during the illusion sequence.

Worst Story of the Year
Hands down - it's the Amazing Spider-Man 2001 Annual. Basically it can be summed up in the following (1) Peter hounds Mary Jane for sex (2) Peter hounds Mary Jane for sex (3) Peter hounds Mary Jane for sex (4) Mary Jane begins thinking weird thoughts (apparently not about sex) while looking at old pictures while Peter goes off as Spider-Man to fight some bad guys. (5) MJ gives Peter dime store psychobabble that they’ve changed too much since they were married. (6) Mary Jane walks off into the night (even though she's still overcoming the trauma of being kidnapped and held in a small room, she's willing to walk off into the night by herself. Yeah, right.) (7) Peter acts like a slack-jawed dumbass in letting her go without so much as a whimper of protest, walks back home, staring at the sunrise in incredibly stupid soap opera formula ending.

AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH! Talk about a candidate for Worst Spidey Stories. If I ever do a worst stories 11-20, this will be on that list. Howard Mackie's last Spider-Man story brings an era to a dismal, painful conclusion. And before someone out there gets the idea that this is just another rant from a helplessly deluded middle-aged Spidey fan who can't stand change - I'm not necessarily mad that MJ decided to take some time off to get herself together. Actually, that's perfectly logical. And I'm not contradicting myself from earlier when I stated that MJ needs to come back. What was so appalling were the circumstances under which she leaves again and the complete mishandling of all the characters, particularly Peter.

First of all, considering the trauma that MJ underwent, I agree that it could be unrealistic for her to simply pick up her life where she left off and behave like nothing happened - even if she is finally reunited with the man she loves. Her claustrophobia that occurred when a door becomes jammed made perfect sense. Her sense of confinement is no doubt very strong, and she would feel suffocated very easily, no matter how gently Peter pursued his, uh, "interests." However, her ultimate reasons for bailing out on their relationship are superficial and typical of the worst daytime television plotting. "We're not the same people we were in those earlier pictures" MJ says. So? Tell me about it! You should see the pictures from when my wife and I were married more than a decade ago! Originally I didn't want children - but I've got two reasons why I'm glad I "changed." Isn't there something to be said for maturing? We should change.

This is also inconsistent with how MJ was written just earlier that month - by the same writer. Then, she was crying about wanting to be back with her husband and wanting her life back. Now she wants out of that life. And Peter, so desperate to get her back, so unwilling to believe that she was dead, to the point that his family and friends thought he was losing his mind, now lets her walk off into the night without so much as a "please, no"? After all those months of separation? Most of us guys would be on our knees promising her anything if she'd only stay. And if the issue is Peter's life as Spider-Man, hey, he was willing to take a respite from being Spider-Man after the reboot for a few months because Aunt May came back from the dead, so why wouldn't he consider making that same offer to Mary Jane after she came back from the dead? The world certainly didn't come to an end during that time, so why would it if he took some time off now? Especially since both scenarios happened under the same writer! I'm too tired to try to reconcile all of this idiocy.

And let's talk about sex. Well, not really, but while it would not be unrealistic for Peter to want to get to know his wife in the Biblical sense again, his continued pressing of the issue is not only completely out of character, but grossly insensitive. Although MJ was not physically raped by the stalker, she was violated in more than one sense, particularly in the complete loss of her freedom and her extended isolation from the rest of the world. The stalker didn’t even talk to her until the very end of her captivity. Suddenly being thrust back into a hustling, bustling, demanding world would be highly traumatic. Frankly, she could probably use intensive therapy. But, it is inexplicable that Peter Parker, a man who more so than most people values his “space” and is a pro at keeping people at a distance, wouldn’t respect Mary Jane’s “space” at first.

This story was a clear example of the difference between good writing and bad, character driven writing and event driven writing. Character driven writing follows the characters as they come to conclusions based upon what has been established about them. The story's ending makes sense and is consistent with all that has gone before. Event driven writing has a predetermined conclusion that will be reached regardless of what it takes to get there. Anyone who gave it half an effort could probably come up with a number of good reasons to keep MJ out of the titles for 6-12 months that would actually make sense (need for therapy, serious illness for Aunt Anna down in Florida, family problems in Pittsburgh, or simply getting out of a crowded city like New York and seeking some wide open spaces). But it's apparent that Marvel felt that the fans weren't worth the effort, and so we were force-fed this drivel.

So much was left on the table. Peter talks about still having money in the bank. What about the fact that they were financially ruined after MJ was presumed dead? Did Peter declare bankruptcy and get out from under this debt? Whatever happened to MJ’s business manager? The one who supposedly stole all her money?

At first, I was highly skeptical of JMS’ comments about focusing on Peter for awhile when he takes over writing chores for Amazing so he can discover who he is. Now, I’m not so sure that’s such a bad idea. Considering how badly the character has been bungled in the last several years, from the gloomy, self-pitying, poor table mannered "I am Spider" to the wife-beater during the Clone Saga, to the mentally ill derelict who slept on the streets rather than let Aunt May take care of him, to the high on Viagra sex fiend he was in this annual, maybe JMS is correct to focus exclusively on Peter for awhile and straighten him out. When he finds out who Peter is, then maybe he’ll have a better feel for how to write Mary Jane and the other members of the supporting cast.

In Spider-Man: 2000, I talked about how bad the annuals typically were. The Peter Parker Annual for 2001 wasn't as insulting as the ASM one, but was pretty dopey. It's an "Untold Story" where a teenage Peter Parker goes to Peru on a class trip (he had to beg for Aunt May's permission to go to Florida in the original Amazing Spider-Man #6, and even then she only let him go because JJJ was going, too - so she's going to let him go to Peru?) It gets better. Peter meets a race of spider-worshipping natives whose spider-temple has been taken over by an evil sorcerer, but Spidey helps them find their spider-amulet and invoke the powers of the Great Weaver and finish off the evil sorcerer.

Does that sound like a Spider-Man story to you? It almost sounds like it might fit with with the Ezekial-Morlun-Shathra-Totem-Mystic Spider stuff, whether deliberately or the sheerest of sad coincidences, who knows at this point.

Needless to say, Marvel's plan to dispense with the annuals in 2002 and simply go with 13 issues of the regular titles seems ingenious when one looks at the poor quality of annuals issued in the post-reboot period.

And that's my look at the year in Spider-Man. Just follow the links below if you want more!

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Copyright © 1998-2006 The MadGoblin's Ward. All Rights Reserved. All original content is the exclusive property of the MadGoblin's Ward. Spider-Man, the Green Goblin and everyone else who appears in the Spider-Man comics is the property of Marvel Entertainment.