Friday, May 31, 2013

Childhood Memories: Spider-Man's Black Costume Saga

I started collecting comics in the mid-1980s, and like most adult fans, that period of time when I first discovered the hobby is my Golden Age.  And the overarching storyline of Peter Parker's black costume is one that I fondly remember.

It all began in Secret Wars #8 (a book that does not even come close to holding up when I tried to re-read it a few years back, but does have some interesting ideas and concepts hidden within).  Spidey gets a new costume through an alien machine that Peter believes all the other heroes have been using. But once the costume is fitted, he discovers that he utilized a different machine.  But he quickly dismisses that, as there appears to be nothing out of the ordinary with this new suit - other than the fact that it seems to react to his thoughts and expands over his body like a second skin rather than the previously mundane act of actually putting on a costume, as he did with his classic one.  And this is a mysterious world created by the Beyonder from pieces of myriad worlds, so if the science is beyond these Earthlings, who is Parker to argue the point?

But, once Peter returned to Earth, things changed.  He found himself fatigued, even after a full night's sleep.  His emotional health began to suffer, and while in his guise as Spider-Man, encounters with civilians and fellow heroes became awkward.  And readers come to discover that all of this is occurring because the costume - which is actually an alien symbiote rather than some scientific wonder - is leeching Peter's strength by forcing him to go out into the city at night, while Peter is still asleep.

This was a crazy idea that really had me, a relative newcomer to comics, invested and excited about Spider-Man.  This story climaxed with the landmark issue #300, written by David Michelinie and drawn by Todd McFarlane.  Peter has figured out that sound waves - loud and intrusive - can harm the alien symbiote that has now permanently latched itself onto him.  He ends up going to a bell tower, high above street level, and suffering through the cacophonous rumblings of the bells as they toll the hour, forcing the symbiote to release its hold on Peter and slip away, apparently defeated (if I am remembering correctly).  And with the next issue, Peter returned to the classic red-and-blues.

But, of course, the threat of the symbiote - which would become Venom - was not over.  Not by a long shot.


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