Sunday, 3 May 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #79. The Prowler

Amazing Spider-Man #79, the first appearance and origin of the Prowler
(It's Christmas, and Peter Parker's having a smashing time. Cover from December 1969.)

"To Prowl No More!"

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

Now the Prowler's got problems. All he meant to do was steal some money, return it in his civilian disguise and look like a hero. Now he's suddenly found himself as a murderer, having flung Bugle photographer Peter Parker through a skyscraper window.

In fact, he did nothing of the sort. In order to get away without arousing J Jonah Jameson's suspicion, out hero has flung himself from the window, acting like it was the gentle push from the Prowler that did it. There is one fairly obvious flaw in the Parker plan, which is that, in order to survive the fall, he has to use his spider powers, while out of disguise, and in full view of half of New York.

Happily for him, it turns out there's no one around at all to see him do this, not even when he lands in the middle of the street in one of the world' busiest Metropoli. Who said Peter Parker never has any luck? Well, Peter Parker said it, in every issue, ever. He was wrong.

Now he changes into Spider-Man and sets off to deal with the miscreant.

The miscreant, meanwhile, flees the Bugle offices in a panic. How did a simple window cleaner get himself into this mess?

His mess just got a whole lot bigger because, on the roof, Spider-Man intercepts him. The Prowler's armed to the teeth and has claws but simply can't lay a glove on our hero and, after an action-packed but ultimately futile fight, flees.

Back home, the memory of what he thinks he's done goes round and round in Hobie Brown's head. He needs to do something to redeem himself.

Spider-Man! He reasons that if he captures Spider-Man and brings him to justice, it'll prove to the world - and to himself - that he's not a bad guy.

He goes about trying to prove to the world that he's not a bad guy in a very strange manner, by committing a string of crimes in order to get Spider-Man's attention. He gets his attention all right and, after checking potential targets in the area, Spidey finds him in double-quick time.

This is where all logic flies out the window. As he robs a jeweller's store, Hobie's delighted that he's discovered (presumably from the Bugle) that Peter Parker's still alive, which does pose the question as to why he's still robbing places to attract Spider-Man to capture him to redeem himself for the murder of Peter Parker. Oh well, no one ever said that comics or costumed cavorters had to make complete and total sense.

The last time the pair met, the Prowler got away by firing gas at our hero. He tries it again. The only problem is Spidey's wearing a gas mask under his spider mask. With that discovery, the plan to capture Spider-Man goes right out the window and the Prowler flees.

He doesn't get very far. Spidey zaps him with his webbing and it's game over, the super-villain career of Hobie Brown comes to an end. Spider-Man unmasks him and Hobie tells him the whole sorry tale of how he became the Prowler.

And now Spidey shows that being a hero is about more than just nabbing bad guys. Sometimes, it's about letting them go. Seeing something of himself in the youth and recognising that what he needs most if he's to go straight is a second chance, he tells him to go back to his girlfriend and sort things out. If this were the 1970s' cop show The Sweeney, this would be one of those episodes where they finished the show with the sad version of the theme tune. As it happens, this is a comic book and so it has to settle for Spidey swinging off, silhouetted by the moon. It's an odd tale with a villain who doesn't really want to be a villain and who clearly never has the power to challenge Spidey but that's what makes it one of the more appealing tales of this era as it shows the strip's main strength by concentrating on the character of Hobie Brown to give us a tale of how, when we make a single wrong turning in life, things can quickly escalate beyond our control.

Mary Jane vigil.
Number of consecutive months without Mary Jane now: 14

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