Recently I thought I was nearing the completion of the next update of the Spider-Man Chronology that would essentially cover the Alien Costume Saga period. I was getting ready to put the finishing touches on it. Just one thing left to do. Check out the mini-series Marvel 1985 and see if it needed to be included. That’s when the snowball began to run downhill.
I left Marvel 1985 until last in this subset that I was covering as I wasn’t even sure it was in continuity. It appears to be, but I am not 100% convinced. Regardless, it opened the floodgates as I realised I hadn’t done due diligence with some other Marvel mini-series that overlap this time period in the Chronology: Marvels, it’s quasi-sequel Code of Honor and it’s true sequel Marvels: Eye of the Camera.
These four series, while not Spider-Man series, are Marvel Universe wide spanning and the wall crawler does appear to varying degrees. I’ve combined the updates of my two Spider-related posts as the majority of the appearances are cameos, but I also feel like the Chronology needs a decent explanation for what does and does not appear from these books.
Marvel 1985 is the story of a boy named Toby Goodman. Toby lives in “our world”, or at the very least, in a world where there are no super heroes and the Marvel characters appear each month in good old Marvel Comics. The year is 1985 and Toby has just discovered the Secret Wars mini-series. He’s also just discovered that the Red Skull has moved into his neighbourhood. Um what?
I won’t break down the story here as that is not my goal with this post. Needless to say, Toby’s hero (and villain) free existence is about to change. Writer Mark Millar does an excellent job handling Toby’s story in what seems very much like a What If? style arc. Which I mostly lean towards it being…except that an original character from this series later appears in Millar’s Fantastic Four run, which makes it hard to argue that this is non-canon.
So for our purposes, how does Spider-Man fit into all this?
Issues 1-4: Spider-Man makes no appearances in these issues.
Issue 5: This is the major Spider-Man appearance of this series. It’s not much more than a glorified cameo and can be skipped in general if you are strictly reading the Chronology. It does span 5 pages though and seems significant enough to include. Spider-Man is wearing his black costume. It is not explicitly stated, but the implication seems to be it is the alien symbiote version and not the “really, Black Cat sewed this costume for you?” version. There is a wisecrack about web-shooters that can be taken in different ways and cast doubt on which suit it is. But we’ll assume it is the alien. Anyway, I will include the whole issue as the appearance completely out of context might be very confusing.
Issue 6: Not surprisingly, the finale of this series features a series of hero/villain battles. Spider-Man doesn’t play a big role in the narrative but makes the following cameos:
Marvel 1985 is definitely not a core read in terms of the Spider-Man Chronology and in that regard could even be skipped completely. But the entire series is a recommended read, so give it a shot.
In 1994, artist Alex Ross was mostly an unknown commodity. But that would change when he teamed up with writer Kurt Busiek to take a walk down memory lane of the Marvel Universe with Marvels. The story follows the life of photographer Phil Sheldon as he captures the rise of the super beings in the Marvel Universe and the ramifications that followed for years afterward. Busiek is a fantastic writer, but it was Ross’s painted visuals that stole the show. A then 19 year old Jimmy had never seen a comic book like this before. It was stunning. And with Busiek behind the wheel to keep this from simply being a series of Ross pinups, the series won numerous awards and became an instant classic. Like Marvel 1985, regardless of how Spider-Man fits into all this, Marvels is a recommended read.
Speaking of Spidey, let’s see where he appears:
Issue 1: The series is chronological for the most part, beginning in “1939” where Peter Parker is not even born yet. This issue focuses mostly on Namor and the Original Human Torch. No Spider-Man as of yet.
Issue 2: The timeline has shifted into the Marvel era post Fantastic Four #1, so Spider-Man exists. There are several mentions of him (notably of the Spider-Man/Giant Man fight from Tales To Astonish #57), but no actual appearances.
Issue 3: Spidey and Peter Parker finally appear in cameo:
Issue 4: The only book that will appear in my Chronology. Again, I recommend reading this entire series, but this book can be read individually and stand on it’s own better than say Marvel 1985 #5. It deals with the events surrounding the deaths of George Stacy, Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn.
Issue 0: Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin appears on the cover, but the story is all Original Human Torch.
Code of Honor
I’m not much of a Marvel historian, but as far as I know the story of Code of Honor goes something along these lines.
After the success of Marvels, Kurt Busiek was looking to write a sequel. Since the original series only covered from the timeframe up to 1974, Busiek had another 20+ years of continuity to work with. That time period gave rise to the likes of the Punisher and Wolverine. Violent anti-heroes that Marvels artist Alex Ross had no interest in drawing so he bowed out of the project. Busiek eventually moved on as well, and the scattered remains were eventually jumbled back together by writer Chuck Dixon and turned into Code of Honor with a grab bag of painters far inferior to Ross.
Unlike the rest of the series in this post, I really can’t recommend this one. While it is Marvels-like, it never comes close to capturing the magic of that series or it’s eventual true sequel.
For our Spider-Man purposes, I won’t be including any of these issues in the Chronology. Spider-Man appears in three of the four issues but strictly in cameo.
Issue 1: Spider-Man cameos.
Issue 2: The Spider-Man cameo here is the biggest of the series, but amounts to nothing besides an oddly rendered Spider-Man mask.
Issue 3: No Spider-Man appearance.
Issue 4: Another blink and you missed it cameo of Spidey.
Marvels: Eye of the Camera
In 2009, Kurt Busiek finally returned to finish the story of Phil Sheldon. Unfortunately his partner in crime, Alex Ross did not. Artist Jay Anacleto would step in to handle the art chores. While he is no Ross, he does an admirable job throughout the series. And after reading Code of Honor with it’s at times horrible artwork, this was a breath of fresh air.
Like most sequels it never lives up to the experience of the original, but Marvels: Eye of the Camera still comes recommended. Busiek masterfully weaves his way through another 14 years or so of Marvel continuity, picking up from 1974 where the original Marvels left off and bringing things up to around 1988.
As usual Spider-Man appears thoughout, again mostly in cameos. He does have two appearances of some notability which will make the Chronology.
Issue 1: There are several mentions of Spider-Man and he appears in a photo in the newspaper, but no other appearance.
Issue 2: There are 5 pages of this issue that deal with Phil Sheldon and Peter Parker/Spider-Man. It’s nothing technically that couldn’t be skipped and I debated whether the Chronology should include it. Eventually I decided that it would. If you are just looking for completeness in terms of Spidey you could just read those pages, but the book (and the series) as a whole is worthwhile.
Issue 3: Unlike issue 2 where Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s appearance was actually new story, his 4 page appearance here is more in line with the rest of his Marvels appearances. The Spider-Man portion of this issue retells the ending of the Spider-Man/Punisher story from Amazing Spider-Man 174-175. I don’t know that it is necessary to read the entire issue (but you should!) so I am just including those couple of pages in the Chronology.
Issue 4: Several Spider-Man cameos throughout:
Issue 5: Spider-Man is mentioned but never shown.
Issue 6: As good as the artwork has been in this series, Anacleto can’t draw a good Peter Parker. He is unrecognizable in his small cameo appearance (P.S. spoilers):
And I think that covers that. Look for another update to the Spider-Man Chronology very soon, once I get the last few wrinkles ironed out of the alien costume.
As usual, you will always be able to find the Complete Chronology in it’s permanent home under Spotlight Features in the menu under the Gabbing Geek banner.