Not every story is worthy of an Eisner award, but one of the things I particularly enjoy about Spider-Man is how over the years his popularity had led to an abundance of ridiculous tales. From hanging out with a cartoon dog to riding in a souped-up dune-buggy, Spidey has done it all. No yarn is too bizarre, no story too unbelievable. Now, Spider-Man has a lot of comic book appearances (probably only third to Superman and Batman) and so naturally there will be a sizeable number of issues that delve into the “it’s so bad it’s good” territory. This, my friends, is one of those issues.
Tale of the Tape
Marvel Team-Up #74
Written by Chris Claremont
Pencilled by Bob Hall
Inked by Marie Severin
Coloured by Marie Severin
Lettered by Gaspar Saladino & Annette Kawecki
44th ed. Overstreet Guide puts a 9.2 of #74 at $6
Not available on Marvel Digital Unlimited (I assume it is a rights issue with SNL)
Marvel Team-Up was the second ongoing Spider-Man series; it debuted in 1972, nine years after Amazing first hit the stands. Each issue feature Peter Parker meeting another Marvel hero and, after the obligatory misunderstanding and fight sequence, teaming-up with them to defeat the villain of the month. Due to the one-and-done nature of the series it is often dismissed as an unimportant part of Spider-Man lore; that is, most of what happened was sort of inconsequential. However, the revolving nature of the stories and cast allowed for a pretty interesting playground of ideas, and it gave up and coming artists and writers a place to show off their ideas for the friendly neighbourhood web spinner. From fighting Kulan Goth to travel back in time to the Salem Witch trials, Spidey had 150 issues of super-hero partnerships that kept fans interested until it was cancelled to make way for Web of Spider-Man.
This year SNL has its 40th anniversary so I wanted to focus on the craziest, and arguably the best, MTU story where Spidey teams up with the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players to take down the Silver Samurai. I wish more Spider-Man stories dealt with New York based celebrities risking their lives to take down C level villains, but that isn’t the gritty realism demanded by todays audiences.
The story begins with Peter and MJ getting tickets to a SNL taping. Even back in 1978 they were pretty hard to get and the duo is quite excited. However, the Silver Samurai and his henchmen have stuck into 30 Rock to steal a magical ring that has ended up in John Belushi’s possession. The comic basically writes itself from there. I don’t want to spoil it but the SNL cast joins forces with Spidey to stop the villains while the show is still going on! Can’t ruin the magic for the audience you know. Even if a homicidal samurai is trying to kill everyone back stage. The story is pure fun and nicely manages to capture the zeitgeist of SNL at the time, while playing into the goofy guest star plot that people had come to expect from shows of the time like Scooby Doo and the Love Boat.
It is this sheer nonsensical loveliness that I miss in comics. Comics once were all such nonsense, so edgy and realistic were different and new. But now that comics try to present a more serious tone the goofy one-of becomes the outlier, and it would be great to see more insanity like MTU 74 in today’s books. Gives us more Frankencastle, Pet Avengers, JLApe, or Aunt May as herald of Galactus.
This is cheap, and great, addition to any comic collection so I hope that you scour back issue bins to find it. And if you are looking for other fun Spidey celebrity cross overs – he meets Stephen Colbert in Amazing Spider-Man #573 , Jay Leno in a bunch of Marvel books in July 2002, and President Obama in Amazing Spider-Man #583.
Marvel Team-Up was one of my favourite titles of the bronze age and I collected the whole run. The stories were much lighter in tone as you describe, and are really good books to introduce new readers to Spider-Man. I believe this title was Marvel’s (late) answer to DC’s Brave & the Bold title. It gave Marvel a chance to showcase their universe of characters along side their flagship character Spider-Man. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4 would be a good example of a prototype issue for this series.
This should also double as an Undervalued Spotlight! I grabbed it at my LCS a couple of years ago for $2 after reading about it somewhere and thought I had gotten a steal… Still do.
As a kid I remember my intense dislike for stories such as these, a prime example being the mentioned Aunt May as the Herald of Galactus. I felt these stories took away from the ‘realism’ Spiderman and wanted the spotlight on team ups with grittier characters such a Daredevil, Moon Knight or Wolverine. As a collecting adult, they’re pure gold! Another to add if I may…Amazing Spiderman #131. The cover says it all. Loved the cameo tribute to that issue in the recent Superior Spiderman storyline. Thanks, great article.
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