So, my “Noteworthy Issues” reviews on the original run of The Amazing Spider-Man got to the first appearance of the Prowler recently. I’d seen the character a handful of times and mostly knew him as Miles Morales’s uncle. As such, I opted to take a look into the character for the column here and…well, it turns out there’s actually been a couple of these guys.
Yeah, that I didn’t see coming.
The original Prowler was Hobie Brown. Created by writer Stan Lee and artists John Buscema, Jim Mooney, and John Romita Jr…OK, John Romita Sr was the regular artist at the time, so I wonder if Wikipedia has that wrong…but whichever Romita it was, the character first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #78 from November of 1969. Hobie was an African American about the same age as Peter Parker, but while a brilliant inventor, the boss of his window washing job was a racist who only hired Hobie to meet a quota and didn’t care for any of Hobie’s ideas to improve the company’s safety standards and the like. This guy was so bad, J Jonah Jameson actually looked good by comparison. I mean, Jonah was actually treating Hobie like a human being and giving him good advice while calling out Hobie’s boss.
Regardless, Hobie was fired and decided the thing to do was to make a costume that allowed him to show off some of his great inventions, like wrist blasters that shot off different stuff, other gadgets to allow him to scale walls, and some claws for cutting things. Hobie figured the thing to do was pose as a villain, steal some stuff as the Prowler, then return the money as Hobie to make a name for himself. He opted for the Daily Bugle building, and after he thought he accidentally killed this Peter Parker guy, fought Spider-Man, but Spidey saw Hobie was basically an innocent guy who made a mistake and opted to let him go. From there, Hobie used his Prowler identity to be more of a good guy than anything else, and is a Spider-Man ally to this day.
Now, that’s the first Prowler. And no, he is not Miles Morales’s uncle.
Now, the second Prowler had no other name. A character named Bella Donna managed to swipe the Prowler costume and gave it to an unidentified cat burglar to fight Spider-Man. This version first appeared in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #47 in October of 1980, as created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It looks like his most noteworthy moment was when he was among a group of supervillains that was nearly killed by the Punisher at the Bar with No Name after getting into an argument with Hobie.
The third Prowler, first appearing in Todd DeZago and Mike Wieringo’s The Sensational Spider-Man #16 in May of 1997. This one was medical intern Rick Lawson. While Hobie was being treated for paralysis, he stole a replica of the Prowler costume and used it to get even against people he felt had wronged him. He had a run-in with the Vulture, looking to get back at the original Prowler for reasons, and only barely survived thanks to Spider-Man. He then returned the costume and that was that.
Now, the fifth Prowler, and I am going back to the fourth, was a Hobie clone created by the Jackal because of course he did. First appearing in the 17th issue of the 4th volume of The Amazing Spider-Man by Dan Slott and R.B. Silva, the clone was one of multiple Spider-villain clones created by the Jackal as part of what was probably a needlessly convoluted plot to get back at Peter Parker because that’s what he does. This Prowler eventually sided with Spider-Man against the other villain clones and then went through the rapid clone decay and died.
But the fourth, he was from the Ultimate Universe. Aaron Davis first appeared in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli. This one is Miles Morales’s uncle, and the one who has appeared in other media, voiced by Mahershala Ali in the Spiderverse animated movies and by Donald Glover in live action.
So, there’s a reason I didn’t know much about the Prowler: there’s been a whole lot of ’em!