Story Title: Auto Motive
Reviewer: Paul Sebert
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Ty Templeton.
Editor: Schmidt, Moore, Lazer, Tom Brevoort, & Joe Quesada
Publisher: Rhymes With Larval
The seventies were a strange, strange time for Spider-Man and comics in general. Gerry Conway took over for Stan Lee on the book’s writing chores and brought the title to new highs (The Death of Gwen Stacy) and lows (Doctor Octopus trying to marry Aunt May.) New villains were introduced some classic and many laughable. Oh and a guy named The Punisher debuted. Meanwhile Johnny Storm took a back seat to The Thing as the Fantastic Four’s most popular member. Ben Grimm starred in Marvel Two-in-One before later getting his own title in the early 80s.
Oh and then there was the strange story of the Spider-Mobile. You see in the 70s Marvel had a deal with a meddling toy-company which insisted that the comic include a vehicle from it’s action figure line. Conway reluctantly agreed to include the Spider-Mobile, which made it’s first introduction into Marvel cannon in Amazing Spider-Man #130. Alas fans hated the vehicle, hated the idea, and Conway wasted no time sending the tricked out Dune Buggy plunging into the bay eleven issues later in #141. The car made one more appearance taken control by Tinker in issue #157 before finally getting destroyed in #160.
That said it may be to toy manufacturers may have gotten the last laugh as the Spider-Mobile is a prized commodity among Mego Collectors and lives on in occasional appearances in Twisted Toyfare Theater. And it’s also the focus of what might be the best issue of Dan Slott and Ty Templeton’s Spider-Man/Human Torch mini-series.
The story opens up with a recount of both the tragic and somewhat ridiculous story elements that were going on at the times as we see Spider-Man mourning Gwen Stacy’s passing. We learn of how Spidey was approached by an advertising firm to build the car and how working with Johnny Storm has helped him cope with what’s been going on in his life. The Spider-Mobile has been transformed from an ridiculous plot device to an instrument of catharsis.
Which isn’t to say the Spider-Mobile isn’t ridiculous in this story. Far from it, in fact a good deal of this issue consists on Spidey and The Torch dealing with dealing with the inherent problems associated with the car before Parker suddenly happens upon a brilliant idea that will actually make the car viable. Unfortunately said idea involves a new invention of Reed Richard’s latest invention which just happens to be sought after by the Red Ghost and his Soviet Super Apes!
You read that right true believers… communist super primates want the Spider-Mobile.
At first the juxtaposition of the sillier elements of the bronze age paired with some serious discussion of Gwen’s passing struck me as odd but as I re-read the story it made perfect sense as it shows just how important the friendship is between the two heroes and how it’s evolved over the years.