Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham #6
Star Comics (Marvel; March, 1986)
Yes, I know I said today would be a The Phantom comic but I found this during the comic organizing project as well as well as the 25th anniversary special I reviewed when it originally came out. So we’ll get to the Ghost Who Walks next week. This is the last Spider-Ham comic I currently own to review.
WRITER: Steve Skeates
ARTIST: Joe Albelo
COLORIST: Steve Mellor
LETTERER: Janice Chaing
EDITOR: Larry Hama
After stopping jewel thieves working for someone called the Master Conniver, Spider-Ham returns home unaware that Aunt May is back early from an event and accidentally scares her, causing her to pass out. (She’s an Aunt May alright.) Luckily an experimental serum meant to draw animals out of a vegetative state could break her out of her coma is being tested at that hospital but the Master Conniver has it stolen for his own plans. Spider-Ham beats up every criminal he can to get whatever information he can about the Master Conniver like he’s 90s Batman but with no luck. He just happens to find the laundromat that serves as the Conniver’s headquarter and discovers he’s actually Ducktor Doom, who wants to use the serum to turn vegetables into his anthropomorphic army. Spidey wins, but all the serum is used up. Using the toughest fighter, an eggplant, Spider-Ham convinces the doctor to attempt a transfusion of the serum into Aunt May, which works. Too bad for Peter, she wants to feed him veggies now.
The back-up is about Alpha Flight parody Awful Flight going to the US to complain about acid rain. They end up going in the opposite direction while continuity keeps popping up and then they find a US dollar which means they can buy a whole lot more root beer. When I first read this I thought my lack of knowledge of Alpha Flight is what was keeping me from finding this funny. (This was the first ever issue of Spider-Ham I read.) Now I know it’s because none of these back-up parodies aren’t any good. But back to the main story.
What they got right: Outside of the vegetable army idea and a few sight gags this could almost be a regular Spider-Man story. It takes its universe a bit more seriously than the rest of the comics I’ve read while still having fun with the idea and a few funny gags, has some decent action, and good characters. While I like the rest of the series I kind of wish more of the stories were like this.
What they got wrong: The Junior Newsboys’ presence is kind of unnecessary. They follow Spider-Ham to the laundromat and proceed to do nothing of value for the rest of the story. There’s also a slight continuity hitch that I could get a No-Prize for. Peter thinks about how Aunt May raised him from a piglet. But with no flashback, the later origin (where Peter was an ordinary spider before being bitten by a radioactive pig) isn’t necessarily contradicted. He could have had parents who died and scientist May took care of him until she forgot who she was and Peter was turned into a pig, so he was thinking in pig terms (“raised me from a young piglet”) instead of spider-terms but he’s still a spider who became a pig and kept most of his spider abilities. The little things can matter.
Recommendation: This isn’t my favorite issue because it’s my first but because it was a good superhero comic that happened to have comedic elements and was set in a world of animal people. If you want a first issue recommendation for this series, this issue is it. I’m hoping there are more of these as I try to collect the rest of the series.
The artwork on the cover is very memorable. Salad Daze…fitting title! The way the vegetables and fruit soldiers are drawn is pretty awesome. It’s very vivid and makes one wonder why a salad army is going after Spider Ham! It makes one want to buy the issue. That’s what covers are supposed to do: motivate the consumer to take a peek inside and then say, “yes, this is a comic I want to buy”.