Cover Price: $.15
Value: $125 (Near
"The Night Of The Prowler!" - 20 Pages
Addressing social issues in comic books is
hardly a new phenomenon. Stan Lee did it frequently during his great run at
Marvel, but unlike many ham-fisted writers who followed, he never let the
message get in the way of telling a good story. Such is the case with Amazing
Spider-Man #78. This issue makes some serious statements about racial
prejudice and discrimination - issues that were in the forefront in 1969, when
this issue was published. Remember, the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial
segregation in schools and public places, was only five years old at the time.
This issue introduces Hobie Brown, AKA the Prowler, to the Spider-Man universe. Hobie is a talented young African-American man struggling to get by as a high-rise window washer. His racist boss only hired him to fill a quota and Hobie knows he's on a dead-end road. "Okay, so I'm stuck cleaning these crummy windows...but this ain't gonna last forever! Or maybe you're kiddin' yourself, Hobie boy! Maybe this is the best you can do!" he says. Hobie's girlfriend, Mindy, tries to talk him out of feeling sorry for himself, but Hobie doesn't listen and that drives Mindy away. "If you act like a loser...you'll be a loser!....I'm tired of being your crying towel!" she tells him. So Hobie goes to his boss with blueprints for some new equipment he designed that will make the job safer and make the workers more productive. However, his jerk of a boss won't even take the time to listen. Hobie is daydreaming about this encounter when he is interrupted by a loud voice inside the window - none other than Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. But rather than give Hobie a hard time, Jonah lets him know that his boss is keeping an eye out for him. When Hobie's boss comes in and tries to give the young man a hard time, Jonah sticks up for Hobie, "I wanted him to tell you I'm sick of paying through the nose to get my windows clean!" he says. "You don't haveta try to go to bat for me, mister! He can take his crummy job and...well, he knows what he can do with it! I quit!" Hobie says. Nice bit of storytelling here - rather than tell us that Hobie has been the victim of racism, we see Hobie getting a raw deal and are left to draw our on conclusions. Show, don't tell: that's a lesson young writers should learn. Anyway, a disappointed Hobie goes back to his apartment and starts working on some of his designs. He figures he can use them to become a costumed crime-fighter. But as he's working, he thinks that perhaps crime might pay. So he becomes the Prowler, a purple and green costumed villain. Well, he's not really a villain. Hobie intends to commit a robbery as the Prowler, then return the money as Hobie Brown, thinking that will make him a hero.
The Prowler has no superpowers, but his inventions make him a formidable foe. His steel-tipped claws allow him to scale buildings and his wristbands can shoot projectiles or gas. His shock-absorbing boots allow him to jump from heights unharmed. The Prowler heads back to the Daily Bugle, intending to rob it. He figures that if he wants publicity, there's no better place to go than a newspaper. At the same time, Peter Parker is meeting with Jonah about a payday advance. Peter discovers the Prowler sneaking into the building, just as Jonah opens the door. The issue ends with Peter struggling with the Prowler, but knowing he can't use his spider-powers for fear of exposing his secret identity.
This issue has a good subplot, too. Peter calls up Gwen Stacy, hoping to see her. But she tells him she is busy - but doesn't mention Flash Thompson is over at her place. Peter decides to walk by her apartment, only to see Gwen and Flash together at the corner coffee shop. Of course, he draws the conclusion that Gwen is cheating on him with Flash. But instead, she asked to meet with Flash because she's concerned about Peter. She's worried that he seems to disappear any time there's trouble: "He...means so much to me! If he's in trouble...I have to help him!" she says. This is classic Spider-Man melodrama - just great stuff. Needless to say, both storylines will be continued.
Spider-Man himself doesn't play a big role in this book, as Peter is in costume for just the first few pages - and even those aren't terribly important to the plot. While I wouldn't want a steady diet of stories without much Spider-Man action, it works just fine on occasion. It's a real tribute to the strength of this book that the title character barely appears (at least in costume) and we don't really miss him that much.
John Buscema fills in for regular artist John Romita in this two-part story and, as usual, Big John does a nice job.
Next issue: Spider-Man finally meets the Prowler, plus more of the Peter-Gwen-Flash "love triangle".
Reviewed by Bruce Buchanan.
Marvel Tales #59
Spider-Man Comics Magazine #9
Spider-Man Essentials IV
Also This Month:
No Other Spider-Man Comics this month.