Friday, December 22, 2006

In DC Comics, Santa has JLA membership. In Marvel, burglars dress up as him. Sounds fair.
What child hasn't dreamed of paying back Santa?

Even though this wasn't a comic from my early childhood, the all new, all daring Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #112 not only remains a favorite, but also almost the template for how I think of Spider-Man: a total hardluck sad-sack. "On Christmas Day" was written by Peter David, pencilled by Mark Beachum, and inked by Pat Redding. For good measure, a great Kyle Baker cover! At the time, David had previously gotten typecast as a writer of funny stories, and his work on Peter Parker may have been him trying to shake that by working in a bit grimmer, darker vein, although it too was often funny.

Not yet married to Mary Jane, Peter is in what charitably could be described as Christmas blues, but is probably more accurately long term depression: hopeless at work, no plans for the holidays, a fire-damaged apartment, and a really hot ex-girlfriend. (I don't think David hit the right notes for the Black Cat every time, but often.) Not to mention the eight or nine super-villains, crimelords, and assorted lunatics that attack Spidey on a regular basis, which this story doesn't mention.

Oh yeah, and a cat burglar dressed up like Santa Claus, a subplot that had been running in the shadows for a while. He would convince kids that if he could take their families' small appliances, he would bring them big ones for Christmas. Hey, kids were more innocent back New York.

OK, so the burglar was probably in more danger than the kids. Also, in full Santa gear, the burglar tries to escape Spidey by getting to the roof, which is just sad: you don't suppose someone who swings all over NYC is going to be able to catch you faster than you can get stray pepperoni out of your beard? Seriously, fake-Santa, you'd have a better chance of escape in a closet.

Before Spidey can deliver a present of web-wrapped pain, the real Santa gets the burglar and teaches him the error of his ways, possibly with a 12-piece set of glass ornaments, some bacon grease, and a funnel. Hey, these were grim-n-gritty times. Fake Santa gives out presents as he turns himself in, and gives Peter a message from Kris Kringle: "Call your aunt." Yes, Peter, there is a Santa Claus, and he got you...a post-it note. Geez, even a knockoff action-figure of Spidey would have been better than that.

Peter ends up having a pleasant Christmas morning with his Aunt May and Mary Jane (and MJ's horrible aunt, whom he could take or leave); but even then it looks like someone's plotting against him. Turns out it was a group of muggers seeking revenge on Aunt May's boyfriend, Ernie Popchik, for shooting some of them during an attempted robbery. And some people wonder why the Spider-Man books don't focus on the supporting cast anymore...

1 comment:

CalvinPitt said...

Man, Santa could at least have hooked Peter up with some supplies to make web fluid, or some spare film for his camera.