Cover Price: $.15
Value: $125 (Near Mint-)
"To Prowl No More!" - 20 Pages
We didn't see too much of the Web-Slinger in
#78. Instead, the plot centered around the birth of a new costumed
character, the Prowler. The Prowler - AKA Hobie Brown - is a young
African-American with a knack for inventions but a dead-end job washing windows.
His racist boss won't give him a break, so he quits his job and uses his
inventions to become the super-villain known as the Prowler. But Hobie isn't
really a bad guy. He intends to rob the Daily Bugle offices, then return
the money as Hobie Brown, thereby becoming an instant hero. However, his plan
goes wrong when Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson discover the Prowler sneaking
into the building. Peter throws himself out of a window to escape! "I can't
fight him as Peter Parker," he thinks. "I'll have to pretend the shock made me
lose my balance." Of course, his spider-powers allow him to reach the ground
safely and switch into his Spider-Man costume. But the Prowler doesn't know that
- he thinks he has just accidentally killed Peter and is distraught about it.
Spider-Man catches up with the Prowler before he can go too far and the two tangle. The Prowler can shoot high-powered projectiles from his wrist bands, but he's not in the league of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Still, he is able to escape by catching Spider-Man with a surprise gas blast from his boot. Peter goes back home, but he's still upset - not because he didn't catch the Prowler, but because he mistakenly believes that Gwen Stacy and Flash Thompson are fooling around behind his back. "I can always wait for a rematch if some costumed clown manages to beat me the first time around," he says. "But what does a fella do...when he learns that he gave his heart to the wrong girl?" He runs into Gwen the next day at school, but he blows her off. That hurts Gwen, who says, "Peter Parker! This is me...Gwen Stacy...remember? If something's bugging you, I've a right to know what it is!" Peter replies, "Sure, Gwen...sure! You've got your rights! And I hope you'll enjoy sharing them with Flash Thompson! But it won't be at my expense any more!" Peter is understandably upset by the situation, but he's got it all wrong - she isn't cheating. Gwen only met with Flash to ask for some advice about Peter because she was worried about his recent disappearances (he was slipping away to become Spider-Man, but she doesn't know that). Gwen only wanted to help Peter.
Meanwhile, Hobie Brown is haunted himself by the thought that he caused Peter Parker's death. "Was it because I scared him?" he asks. "Did he think that I was really trying to kill him?" John Buscema does some beautiful work here - even without a word of dialogue, we could still tell that Hobie is a tormented man. The Prowler figures the only way to clear his name is to capture Spider-Man. The Prowler breaks into a jewelry store, hoping that Spider-Man will find him. Spidey does - and round two is underway. This time, Spider-Man is prepared for the Prowler's knockout gas, which leaves the reluctant villain scrambling for a Plan B. "I only beat him by a fluke before!" he realizes. "Compared to that cat, I'm strictly nowhere!" He tries to escape, but Spider-Man's webbing easily captures him. However, rather than turn the Prowler over to the police, Spider-Man decides to listen to his story. He realizes that Hobie Brown is just a mixed-up kid, not a bad guy. So he lets him go. "So far, you've hurt no one...you've stolen nothing! So who am I to turn you in?" There's a sad irony here - Spider-Man realizes that the Prowler is just misunderstood, as he often has been himself. Yet Peter Parker isn't wise enough to give his own girlfriend that same benefit of the doubt.
That sense of pathos always was a part of Stan Lee's Spider-Man. It's a big reason why he became such an iconic figure. Things often didn't go right for Peter Parker. Like the rest of us, he always had his share of problems - and that's why we can relate to him.
The Prowler takes Spider-Man's good advice and permanently steps away from crime. In fact, he eventually becomes a costumed crime-fighter as a member of the Outlaws team. However, two other men later adopt the Prowler identity and use it for criminal purposes. Hobie shows up next, without his costume, in Amazing Spider-Man #87.
One interesting note: This story originally was intended as a three-part storyline, but a new editorial mandate eliminating continued stories meant that Lee and Buscema had to wrap this up in two issues.
Next issue: The long-awaited return of Spider-Man's first super-villain - the Chameleon!
Reviewed by Bruce Buchanan.
Marvel Tales #60
Spider-Man Comics Magazine #9
Spider-Man Essentials IV
Also This Month:
No Other Spider-Man Comics this month.