Monday, January 24, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #68 - September 1990

Tombstone Territory

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

The Plot: Tombstone summons Robbie Robertson for a meeting, and Spider-Man follows. Inside Tombstone’s hideout, Robbie discovers a badly beaten Hammerhead. To Robbie’s surprise, Tombstone thanks him for his new powers and declares a truce. Spider-Man leaps in to apprehend Tombstone, as Hammerhead breaks free of his restraints in the confusion. He guns down Tombstone and accidentally destroys the armory. When the smoke clears, Tombstone is gone.

The Subplots: Nick Katzenberg follows Robbie Robertson throughout the ordeal, but his ransom photos are ruined when his camera is damaged in the explosion.

Review: The long-running Robbie Robertson/Tombstone arc, perhaps the most notable aspect of Gerry Conway’s return to Spider-Man, concludes with this issue. Again, it’s a little odd to see the final installments show up in Web instead of Spectacular, but we are provided with over two pages of recaps to bring everyone up to speed. Tombstone, an albino school bully turned professional hitman, is one of Conway’s greatest creations, and his interactions with Robbie Robertson are some of the highlights of this era of Spider-Man. As hard as it might be for Robbie to believe, Tombstone honestly likes him, which is why he merely broke his back instead of actually killing him. Conway seems to be riffing on the belief (and I have no idea how much research has really gone into this) that bullies actually have some amount of affection for their targets. Tombstone tortured Robbie in high school, and from a distance intimidated him well into adulthood, but that doesn’t mean he has genuine antipathy towards him. In Tombstone’s warped mind, his relationship with Robbie is probably the closest he’s ever come to a friendship.

Now that Robbie’s responsible for inadvertently giving Tombstone super-strength and invulnerability, Tombstone extends his hand for a handshake and declares all debts are paid. Sure, he’s terrorized Robbie for decades, and Robbie has tried to kill him on two separate occasions by now, but Tombstone wants Robbie to know everything’s okay between them. I imagine that Tombstone has been granted super powers in order to make him a more credible Spider-Man foe (Conway always had to dance around Tombstone’s mere “peak human strength” in his previous fights with the hero), but Conway is still using the opportunity to tell a story about the characters. On the final page, Robbie reflects on Tombstone’s twisted view of friendship and realizes, with a little prodding from Spider-Man, that he’s been too hard on Peter. After around twenty issues, Robbie Robertson’s long arc is concluded. He’s faced his fears, realized the true value of friendship, and is starting to forgive himself for an old mistake. Gerry Conway leaves the books a few issues after this, and Robbie predictably returns to the background, but I think anyone who read this storyline was made fully aware of just how much potential is hidden within the character.


Alex Saviuk said...

This is ALEX SAVIUK---WEB of SPIDER-MAN artist and co-creator of TOMBSTONE---I designed TOMBSTONE for WEB #36 and he only appeared in 3 panels---Gerry for some reason decided to continue the Robbie/Tombstone storyline in SPECTACULAR instead of WEB, so I missed out on drawing my creation for a number of years..until the final panel of WEB 67 and all of #68. Since he apparently was killed in that fateful blast at the end of the story, I have to be satisfied with having drawn the "bookends" of Tombstone's career!

G. Kendall said...

Thanks for the post, Alex. I viewed you as the definitive Spidey artist as a kid, and you're still one of my favorites.

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