Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #58 - December 1989


Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Peter Parker boards a train to Pennsylvania, where Robbie Robertson is turning himself over to authorities after his forced escape from prison. The Grizzly confronts Peter, demanding he find Spider-Man and arrange a rematch. Peter reemerges as Spider-Man, and soon realizes Grizzly merely wants to regain his self-esteem. Spider-Man throws the fight, and although Grizzly later realizes he didn’t actually win, he feels lucky he got his shot.

The Subplots: Puma reveals to Spider-Man that he purchased the Daily Bugle in order to restore Spider-Man’s reputation and pay off his debt of honor. Kristy’s parents, Lou and Sibyl Watson, arrive in New York. Lou is verbally abusive and dismisses Kristy’s problem, while Sibyl stays in denial. MJ stands up to Lou and promises Kristy that she’ll be her family.

Web of Continuity: The Grizzly is a former flunky of the Jackal, who first appeared in Amazing #139. Puma says he owes Spider-Man a debt of honor for “numerous reasons.” This issue doesn’t make it clear, but other issues list Puma’s accusation that Spider-Man’s a thief, from Web #50 , as his motivation for buying the Bugle and helping Spidey’s reputation.

*See _________ For Details: Thomas Fireheart took over the Daily Bugle and fired Jonah Jameson in Spectacular Spider-Man #157. Robbie Robertson also confronted Tombstone on an Amish farm in the same issue.

Review: Here’s another villain reformation that many creators ignored. Gerry Conway seems to have a knack for creating likeable characterizations, because I have a hard time thinking of the Grizzly as a loser after reading this issue. He’s a decent guy who wants a second chance, but can’t let go of his humiliating defeat from years earlier. After he realizes Spider-Man threw the fight, Grizzly accepts the kind gesture and moves on with his life. That is, until later creators come along and just throw him into a “loser’s squad” of lame villains out for more revenge against Spider-Man.

It’s obvious that Grizzly was already considered a joke by the time this issue was released, since even the characters in the story can’t stop laughing at his bear suit (although Alex Saviuk actually makes it look pretty credible). It’s easy to keep using Grizzly or Rocket Racer as throwaway gag characters, but making the reader actually care about them takes real skill. Personally, I think the earnest attempts Conway made to actually do something with the characters are more entertaining than the predictable joke stories. The subplots tie in with the main story, as Robbie Robertson and Kristy Watson deal with their own self-esteem issues. Robbie feels whole again after finally confronting Tombstone, while Kristy’s eating disorder is traced back to her dysfunctional family. She has to begin her own journey to discover her self-worth, and MJ promises to be there for her. As Robbie conveniently explains as he returns to custody, “If you believe in yourself…what other people think of you, or do to you, just doesn’t matter.” It’s all very touching, but maybe we should forget that Kristy completely disappeared from the books just a few issues after MJ promised to help her though her problems and take care of her like family.


Matt said...

That is, until later creators come along and just throw him into a “loser’s squad” of lame villains out for more revenge against Spider-Man.

I totally agree with your sentiment here. I hate when a writer credibly reforms a villain, and then a later writer returns them to villainy without so much as an explanation -- or even worse, with a totally lame, unbelieveable reason like "I was just lying the whole time" (coughSandmancough).

However, that said, I thought J.M. DeMatties' Legion of Losers storyline was pretty hilarious when I first read it. And as I think about it, weren't the Grizzly and the Gibbon trying to be good guys in that story or something? I'm not sure; it's been years since I read it, but I thought they were playing at being Batman and Robin (complete with a Grizzlymobile or something!).

Anyway, I suppose it's possible that's not the later story you're hinting at, but it's the only Grizzly appearance I can recall, probably since these Web issues were first published!

G. Kendall said...

My memory is that Grizzly hated Spider-Man like all of the other villains in the first chapter, then suddenly decided in the second chapter that Spidey was okay.I don't know if someone came across this story in-between issues, or if it's just a coincidence that two separate writers decided to reform Grizzly.

Spiderman kids wall decor said...

My little boy loves to immitate Spiderman, he has this spiderman clothes.

Ed said...

I'm glad to see someone out there reviewing comics from this time period - I'm kind of in the dark w/ Spider-man from this era. I was entering kindergarten in 1989. It's funny this issue revolves around the Grizzly. There's a funny issue (#19) of Spider-man's Tangled Web where the Grizzly tries to reform, but his next door neighbor ends up being the Rhino and they...well, the just don't get along. Funny stuff.

If you've got a minute, check out my blog Four Color Crusader. I think we might be kindred spirits.

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