Cover Price: $.35

#16
March 1978

Value: $12 (Near Mint-)

 

Supporting Cast:
J. Jonah Jameson, Joe Robertson



Guests:



Villains:
Beetle

"The Beetle And The Badge!" - 17 Pages


Writer -
Elliot Maggin
Artist - Sal Buscema
Inker - Mike Esposito
Cover - Sal Buscema
Lettering - John Costanza
Colorist - Phil Rachelson
Editor -
Archie Goodwin

After the four-issue epic pitting Spider-Man and Razorback against the Man-Beast, it's a good time for Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man to shift gears and present a different kind of story. Such is the case with this issue, "The Beetle and the Badge." While it stars our favorite Web-Slinger, this issue really is about a character named NYPD Detective Joey Macone and the price of his bravery on the job.

Spider-Man is hanging around Manhattan when he spots a high-speed police chase. Macone, who is on a motorcycle, is chasing after a carful of counterfeiters. Spidey jumps into the action, only to be thrown off the car and land unceremoniously on his backside. "Hope my fans didn't see that. Both of them would be appalled!" Spider-Man jokes. Meanwhile, Detective Macone tries a daring, desperate tactic by jumping his motorcycle off of an overpass and onto the roof of the escaping car. He easily could have been killed, but instead, he causes the car to skid out of control. It looks like the car will skid into the East River, likely killing Macone and the crooks. But Spider-Man is able to stop it with a well-placed webline.

Peter Parker takes his photos of the incident to the Daily Bugle, where, not surprisingly, J. Jonah Jameson is excited to see them. He tells Peter that he wants more news about real-life heroes, not crime-fighters of the costumed variety like Spider-Man. Peter gets an assignment to go to Officer Macone's apartment to shoot some photos for a feature story. He gets there, only to find Macone and his wife in the middle of a heated argument. It seems that Macone has tried these types of death-defying stunts before in order to bring criminals to justice. His wife says she doesn't want to be a widow and isn't sure she take take the pressure of knowing her husband is risking his life in such a reckless manner. "Sure I was proud when you brought in that little girl's killer...and when you single-handedly captured those smugglers...and today!" his wife says. "But I won't be proud when your heroics get you killed, Joe! And I won't spend my life just waiting for that to happen."

But not all police officers are as noble as Macone. One officer goes to a secret hideout to tip off his criminal employer -- the Beetle! The Beetle made his debut all the way back in Strange Tales #123 where he battled the Human Torch. He first tangled with Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #21 and has been a regular, although not quite A-list, Spider-Man foe ever since. The officer informs the Beetle that their efforts to get some unknown item from the police evidence room wasn't successful. But the Beetle isn't about to give up. Whatever he was looking for must be important. He organizes a crime spree in Midtown Manhattan, knowing it will draw the police out of the precinct house. Spider-Man encounters and stops some of the Beetle's thugs as they try to rob a city bus. But he realizes there must be more to the story.

The Beetle then raids the nearly empty precinct house. Macone, who was asked to stay behind after his adventure the previous day, sees the villain enter the evidence room. He decides he has to do something. The Beetle rummages through evidence to find...a briefcase full of office supplies?!? That doesn't make much sense. At this point, Spider-Man enters the scene and he and the Beetle renew their rivalry. Spidey gets some shots in, but so does the Beetle, who is aided by his heavily armored battle suit. Macone decides he has to help Spider-Man. He grabs a couple of packets of heroin from the evidence room and mixes them with water, creating a sticky paste. He then slaps the paste onto the Beetle's hydraulic "feelers" or tentacles, which the Beetle uses to batter his foes. "Here, Beetle! Shove this up your suction cups -- and stick 'em!" Macone says as he leaps into action. The tactic doesn't work and Macone is injured by the villain, but his brave (or foolhardy) ploy does give Spider-Man an idea. He takes off all of the web-fluid cartridges from his belt and pours the sticky liquid into the Beetle's tentacles. The web-fluid dries, causing the tentacles to malfunction and taking away the Beetle's primary offensive weapon. This turns the tide of the fight and, before long, the Beetle is defeated.

Macone is pretty badly injured, but he will live. He also has discovered why the Beetle wanted that seemingly worthless briefcase. It seems the briefcase belonged to a mobster and, hidden in a hollow bottom, is $1 million in laundered cash. Macone announces the findings at a press conference and, once again, he is treated as a hero by the public. However, his wife walks away, unable to listen to any more. Peter, who is photographing the press conference for the Daily Bugle, contemplates taking her picture, but decides against it, thinking that to do so would be an invasion of the Macones' privacy in what is obviously a complex, difficult situation. "But somehow, the Daily Bugle photographer cannot bring himself to snap the shutter. Because Peter Parker knows too well...there are problems even heroes can't solve."

This story asks some pretty difficult questions about the line separating heroism from foolishness. Even today, after having read this issue numerous times over a nearly 30-year period, I'm still not sure exactly what to make of Detective Macone. Is he a brave cop willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the people he serves? Or is he a glory-hog with a death wish, who doesn't consider the impact his risk-taking has on his family? Or is he both? I'm not sure and I don't believe I'll ever know for certain. However, these are the types of questions that make for good story-telling and Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #16 is just that -- a good story.

Guest writer Elliot Maggin contributes this month's story, although regular series writer Bill Mantlo returns with the following issue. Maggin did a nice job here and I would've liked to have seen more Spider-Man work from him. The Beetle next shows up in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #58-60 for a rather fun little three-part storyline.

Next issue: Spider-Man goes to California, where he finds a mystery surrounding the superhero team known as the Champions!

Reviewed by Bruce Buchanan.

Quality Rating: 2
Significance Rating: 2

Overall Rating:

4

 

Spectacular Spider-Man #15

Also This Month:

Amazing Spider-Man #178
Marvel Team-Up
#67

Spectacular Spider-Man #17