What I Remember:
I didn’t like this book much as a little kid, there was no Spider-Man in the story, just Peter. As a kid, you want web-slinging, villain-mocking, masked Spider-Man, not Peter Parker in a mental hospital,drugged up and in a wheelchair. Cerebral stories aren’t great reading when you can barely read. However, I do remember liking this book more when I reread it as a teen.
Spectacular Spider-Man #133 "I Am Spider"
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Penciler: Cyndy Martin
Inkers: Joe Rubenstein
Colorist: Janet Jackson
Letterer: Rick Parker
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor In Chief: Tom DeFalco
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Publication Date:December 1987
Cover Price 75¢
Re-Collection Price: Original Copy
Peter Parker is in a mental hospital, wheelchair-bound and struggling to even speak, until he finally blurts out, “I am Spider!” This shocks the art therapy class in the room. We learn that he and the other patients in the ward have been given a cocktail of drugs, clouding his mind and leaving him nearly a vegetable.
Another patient, Zero, who thinks he’s a superhero and sports a Brian Bosworth haircut, tells Peter he’s looking forward to the next revolt. Peter staged an escape in the last chapter. He’s then dragged off by orderlies, for what appears to be a lobotomy.
Peter convinces Mary, the ward nurse to start weening the patients of their drugs because many of them are there not because they need care, but because they’ve made enemies of the Kingpin.
There’s a subplot where one of the Kingpin’s men learns that his kids know his true profession and confront him about it. He tells them he's a criminal to pay their mom’s medical bills but now she’s been place in the same home as Peter, placing him forever in debt. They resolve to get their mom out and start new lives.
The Arranger informs Kingpin that the ward he finances has a patient claiming to be Spider-Man and that this could pose a problem. We also learn that the head doctor at the facility is turning patients into super-assassins and he wants to pick this alleged Spider-Man’s brain. We get a glimpse of the experiments turning a patient into an assassin that must obey his master.
Meanwhile, Peter’s plan ween the patients off their drugs starts to pay off and the ward begins to come alive. Soon enough a patient freaks out and a riot begins and the escape is on.
Peter, wearing his costume around his neck like Zero’s cape runs head first into Brainstorm, the doctor’s guinea pig.
He takes out Brainstorm in a short but hard fight. The doctor is taken hostage at the end of the melee by the husband from before and the couple, Peter escape along with the doctor and call the authorities and have the place shut down.
Peter returns to the hospital with Ben Urich to cover the story of the corrupt hospital for the Daily Bugle where Arranger acting as a spokesman for Fisk puts the blame squarely on the mad doctor.
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Bonus Bullpen Bulletins:
This book is notable because it has a predominantly female creative team with Ann Nocenti writing, Cyndy Martin penciling and Janet Jackson (not that Janet Jackson)coloring. This is rare even today, nearly 30 years later.
I really liked Martin’s art style as well as Rubenstein’s inking. The art is simple and clean. The lack of detail works very well and captures the creepiness that comes with a mental health facility. Even the Bill Sienkiewicz cover (featured at the top of this article) is great.
The plot was interesting but a bit garbled. The Frank Gibbs subplot was only two pages before he shows up for the climax, his decision to run from the Kingpin of all people happened suddenly, but I imagine that your daughter pulling a gun on you has the ability to rush one’s decision-making process. Perhaps cutting to him driving to the ward would have kept me from forgetting about him until her turns up at the end.
This book is more fun to look at with it’s powerful imagery than for the story.
We jump a few months ahead to the Spectacular Spider-Man #138 where Spidey has to battle the Latin American villain Tarantula and Captain America? See you next week!