Credits: Kurt Busiek (writer), Chris Marrinan (penciler), Don Hudson (inker), Brad Joyce (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)
The Plot: Spider-Man comes across struggling PR exec Sturdevant E. “Bob” Robbins, who helps him defeat the criminal Hypertron. Unbeknownst to Spider-Man, Bob steals Hypertron’s harness, hoping to use his marketing skills to become rich as a superhero. He’s soon pursued by the former AIM scientists who created the harness. Spider-Man saves Bob and the scientists from each other, and orders Bob to turn over the harness. Bob complies, but secretly saves a backup of Hypertron’s schematics.
The Subplots: None.
Web of Continuity: Bob later reappears as the Bobster, which is just one of the potential superhero names he considers in the issue. During Spider-Man’s flashback to his origin, the spider on the back of his costume is colored blue. This is a reference to the very first printing of Amazing Fantasy #15. John Byrne, of course, provided an elaborate and unnecessary explanation for the blue spider in his Chapter One miniseries.
I Love the (Early) ‘90s: Bob has lost business, and the AIM agents have been laid off, since the start of the recession. An opening narrative caption even comments on how “easy” it was to make money in the ‘80s, but those days are over. The Hypertron armor is also powered by a series of what appear to be cassette tapes and floppy discs.
Review: I think Web of Spider-Man fill-ins are a good test of skill for writers. Even assuming that the story fits within one or two issues and actually makes sense, does the plot truly connect to Spider-Man in some way? Is the supporting cast used? Can future writers expand on the ideas you’ve introduced? Or are you just writing generic action stories that could star any hero? Too many of Web’s fill-ins fall into that latter category, which is why it’s a relief to get to the Kurt Busiek issues.
I don’t think any of these comics will go down as classics or anything, but they’re solid standalone stories that fit all of the criteria listed above (with the possible exception of the Bloodshed issue, which didn’t specifically feel like a Spider-Man story, but was still a solid character piece focusing on an average person who's crossed the hero's path). Bob seeks out Spider-Man, looking to overturn his steady stream of bad publicity. When he realizes that Spidey isn’t looking for representation, he decides to enter the hero business himself. Spider-Man recognizes his younger self in Bob, and feels an obligation to teach him that getting into the hero business for money is going to end badly. The story’s not very serious, but it still incorporates some of the central themes of the character and leaves the door open for more Bob adventures. Chris Marrinan’s art, which is highly reminiscent of Erik Larsen’s take on Spider-Man, is also better than your average early ‘90s fill-in.