Sunday, 3 May 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #78. The Prowler

Amazing Spider-Man #78, the Prowler
(Cover from November 1969.)

"The Night Of The Prowler!"

Written by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema and Jim Mooney
Lettering by Sam Rosen

It's 1969 and John Romita Jr makes his first ever contribution to the strip by coming up with the idea of the Prowler but, in the world of fiction, Peter Parker's got problems.

Yes, he's still worried about his relationship with Gwen.

Not as worried as she is. She's so worried in fact that she's called in Flash Thompson for advice on how to deal with Pete. Asking Flash Thompson how to deal with Pete might seem like asking Dr Doom how to live in peace and harmony with those around you but, fair play to him. he's known Peter as long as anyone and she figures that if anyone can shed light on the boy's psyche, Flash can. That does bring to mind something that had never struck me before. That, seventy eight issues, and seven years, into the strip's run we still don't know Flash Thompson's first name. I mean, it seems unlikely that his parents (assuming that, unlike many in the Spiderverse, he actually has them) decided to christen him "Flash".

But Peter Parker has better things to worry about than Flash's name. Having seen Gwen and Thompson together in a coffee shop, he's more concerned about his motives. He walks the streets alone, pausing only to knock out a couple of would-be muggers and, along the line, looks up to envy a late-night window cleaner and the no-doubt carefree existence he must have.

Meanwhile, the window cleaner's looking down at Pete, thinking what a care-free life he must have. The window cleaner's Hobie Brown who, thankfully for us is another character in the habit of talking to himself. He feels like a loser. He has an idea for these great devices that could make window cleaning so much easier but he can't even get his boss to listen.

It turns out the window he's cleaning is that of Daily Bugle publisher J Jonah Jameson, out of hospital and back to working all hours that God sends him. He yanks open the window and chews Hobie out over how long it's taking him to do the window.

But it seems that, for once, we've misjudged Jonah. In his own charmless way he's trying to warn Hobie that his boss is on the war path about his sloth-like window cleaning. Now his boss storms in. Jameson covers for Hobie, saying it was he who held the youth up by complaining to him about the prices his boss charges. Then the boss says something vaguely racist and JJ threatens to deck him. It's scenes like this that make you love Spider-Man, where even a panto villain like Jonah can have a moral streak within him.

Hobie returns home. He's had it with window cleaning. If he can't use the devices he's invented to make money honestly, he'll do it dishonestly. He'll become a super-villain and commit a robbery. Then, as Hobie Brown, he'll "find" the abandoned loot and hand it in for the reward. He gets busy. He whips himself up a costume and now he's Hobie Brown no longer. He's the Prowler and he's ready for action.

Elsewhere, Peter's dropped in to the Bugle offices. He needs an advance from Jameson. He doesn't get it. He just gets the customary rant. Seemingly, it's only other people's employees he stands up for. As for The Prowler. He's decided that the best way to get publicity is to steal from a newspaper. There's only one problem. Just as he's stealing the Bugle's payroll, who walks in but Peter Parker.

Pete's about to tangle with him.

But now J Jonah Jameson walks in.

So, now what does our hero do? He can't let the Prowler get away but, with Jonah watching, how can he be seen holding his own against a super-villain?

Mary Jane vigil.
Number of consecutive months without Mary Jane now: 13

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