Chances are it's not back to school time right now, but let's pretend it is. How are you going to get your kids kitted out for the upcoming school year? And, more importantly, how are Spider-Man and the Hulk going to work "back to school" into their Constitutionally-mandated "whenever two heroes meet they have to fight" fight? Well, that was the question on everyone's lips in 1979! Luckily, the Columbus Dispatch was there to help.
Used to be comic books would spend a little time explaining who the characters were and what their deal was, so that people unfamiliar with the concepts - say, small children - could get up to speed and hopefully become life-long Webheads or Hulkamaniacs. Comics stopped doing this right around the time they decided they didn't need new readers any more. Sales have been moving steadily ever since! Downward, that is. And getting new readers is important, because without new readers the comic book industry can't fulfill its basic purpose - selling junk to children.
Here's the first hint of exactly what Marvel and the Columbus Dispatch were up to with this "special back to school issue" - they were all about grabbing the attention of kids in order to pitch a wide variety of kid-oriented merchandise in their direction, starting with the new Fly Away Action Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk! Sure, we all know Spider-Man and the Hulk can't fly. But Mego has rectified this lack of vision on Stan Lee's part, and through a complicated arrangement of wires and pulleys, both Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk can now fly! Or, rather, slide down a string.
Turn any 8 year old loose with this contraption and before you know it everything has "fly away action" - bananas, the hamster, small cats. No, seriously, kids will spend ten minutes trying to figure this out and then go back to holding the action figures in their hands and running through the yard making "whooosh" noises, as God intended. (image courtesy megomuseum.com, thanks) And now back to our story.
It's Take Your Daughter To Work Day down at the docks, where Coulda Been A Contender Terry tells his daughter to wait a bit while he rats out his fellow workers. Meanwhile, haunting music plays as Bill Bixby, wanted for a murder he didn't commit, struggles to contain the raging beast within and also struggles to find a major city university. I'll tell you where it isn't, buddy, it isn't on a boat.
Did David (Bruce) Banner's concern - yes, we all know who this is going to turn out to be - did his concern about the little girl actually distract the little girl enough so that she lost her footing and is now about to plunge into the Hudson River? How smart was THAT, Dr. Banner?
He could either jump in and rescue her, or he could flip out and turn into the Incredible Hulk. And this comic book isn't called "Spider-Man Vs. Damp Dr. Banner," now is it?
I'm thinking docks, I'm thinking piers and pilings and warehouses, not really thinking "lampposts," but that's what we're going with, work with us.
"Some sort of creature." Don't you watch CBS, buddy? Don't you read Jack McGee's column in the National Register? But enough excitement, it's time to get back to the REAL purpose behind this giveaway comic.
Wow! It's Spidey and the Kid Power Gang at Lazarus! Wow! What the holy hell is wrong with those children's legs? You're creeping me out, Kid Power!
Meanwhile Spider-Man is late for school, battling armed criminals, and referencing Reggie Jackson - he was a baseball star, kids. Look him up.
Sure, Spider-Man broke your store window, with his, uh, Spider Bullets from his Spider Automatic. You might be thinking of another Spider there, shopkeeper. Meanwhile, a tardy Peter Parker is making a love connection with Empire State University's "sexiest dish!" Sorry, comic book, but I'm going to call "archaic" on that bit of slang. It's 1979, he'd definitely be using the word "foxy" somewhere here.
Looks like Peter Parker is GOING FOR IT with one of his famous "Then, maybe... well, who knows?" dates! Will the lurking Incredible Hulk put the kibosh on Peter's forthcoming assignation? Let's be honest, if the Hulk isn't going to mess it up, Peter will.
Why is it that Spider-Man has ad-lib zingers and quips for days when he's fighting Doc Ock, but when it comes to ditching a date, all he can come up with is "this bio report I gotta write?"
And here we go kids, it's up to Spider-Man to stop the Hulk from, uh, loitering, I guess.
well, you've tried bouncing around, you've tried the webbing, now you're all out of ideas.
Gang, I got nothing here. This is pretty funny all by itself.
And again we pause for a word from our sponsor!
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Hey now, the Hulk's doing some much-needed demolition work around campus. Those dilapidated old dorms needed to go, and.. what's that? They were filled with fiberglass and asbestos and required professional removal by a team of specialists in order to prevent enviromental hazards? In that case you'd better move it, you clowns, this isn't an audition for the Gong Show! ("The Gong Show" was a comedy variety TV show hosted by game show impresario Chuck Barris. Look it up, kids.)
Wait.. what's this? Are we going to be treated to that most special of Spider-Man references, the callback to Amazing Spider-Man #33?
That's right, when the chips are down, when all looks dark, Spider-Man remembers that if it's one thing he's good at, it's Not Giving Up While Trapped Under Slabs Of Concrete!
Aw gee, looks like Cindy never read that issue of Spider-Man and therefore doesn't know she isn't supposed to ever give up.
Puny concrete slab is easy work for Hulk! Now maybe sexy ESU dish will have burger and shake and who knows with Hulk!
With such a snap diagnosis from a medically untrained police officer, we might suspect that Cindy's no-doubt serious injuries are being glossed over so as to not distress our younger or more impressionable readers. Better roll her back and forth a few more times just to make sure she doesn't have any spinal problems, guys.
We're at the point of the comic were things need to start wrapping up and that means Spider-Explain-Man gives us the whole "but we attacked HIM FIRST" speech, and some forgotten secondary characters from Act 1 show up as character witnesses. Single panels start to do a lot of work - check out the lower right here, we've got a webbed policeman, a destroyed building, Spider-Man, and Cindy being resuscitated by what appears to be an actual doctor. None of that decompressed storytelling in 1979!
What's in store for Spider-Man in the rest of the school year? And more importantly, what's in store for your kids this year? What will they be hectoring you about incessantly from now until Christmas?
I WANT A SPIDER-MAN BIKE MOM! Actually the Hulk bike looks cooler, let's go with the Hulk bike! Did I actually have one of these? I can't remember. All I can remember is that fateful day when the training wheels finally were gone and there I was, just two wobbly wheels between me and the hard pavement, how long before I was taking it over sweet Evel Knievel jumps? About ten minutes, as I recall. TWELVE minutes before the Band-Aids had to come out.
Now we've seen a lot of super hero merchandise paraded across these pages - bikes, flying action figures, shoes, and pens - and these are all fine things kids love. But there was one particular super-hero branded item that we weren't going to have ANYTHING to do with.
That's right, we draw the LINE at Underoos! Sorry, Union Underwear Company! Not gonna happen!
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