Gang of street toughs closely stalking the Black Cat, or promo image for a new wave band?

§ April 9th, 2014 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 6 Comments

…or, possibly, both:

Anyway, that’s not what I originally planned this post to be about. This image was taken from Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #90, cover-dated May 1984, and is notable primarily for being one of the first appearances of Spidey’s then-new black costume.

The subject came to mind when, on our store’s Facebook page, a customer questioned an assertion I made on our regular website that Amazing Spider-Man #252 was the black costume’s first appearance. “Isn’t it Secret Wars #8?” he wondered, and I explained that even though Spider-Man is shown first receiving the costume in SW #8, that is actually a good seven months or so after the costume made its debut in ASM.

However, even that’s apparently not cut ‘n’ dried, since in Overstreet it’s noted that ASM #252, the aforementioned Peter Parker #90, and Marvel Team-Up #141 are “tied” (Overstreet’s terminology) for the costume’s first appearance.

Today’s Marvel is more than happy to crank out four or five or six Avengers or X-Men titles the same week, but it was my memory that wasn’t Marvel’s habit way back when, when all these comics were hitting the stands. So it had me wondering, even though they’re all cover-dated May 1984, did they all come out the same week, or on succeeding weeks, and which one was first?

Alas, though our store was open then, those invoices/cycle sheets/what-have-yous were discarded long ago. A little Googling finds some discussion (like this example), based mostly on “I-was-there” memories, plus additional blurring of the costume’s history with the inclusion of prior promo pieces from Marvel’s news/interviews comic Marvel Age and elsewhere.

A mention of Amazing Heroes #39 as a possible “first appearance” of the costume (speaking of blurring the lines) reminded me of a feature of Amazing Heroes, the “Coming Distractions” section, which would list all the new releases for that month, including specific release dates. Thus, I pulled out #40, the issue with the relevant information, out of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives, and here is what it says:

Amazing Spider-Man – “ships 1/10, newsstand o/s 1/31”

Marvel Team-Up #141 – “ships 1/24, newsstand o/s 1/14” [typo – supposed to be 2/14…see below]

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #90 – “ships 1/24, newsstand o/s 2/14”

And, yes, of course there’s that typo in the Marvel Team-Up listing, confusing things. But it’s certainly a typo: every other comic with a ship date of 1/24 is listed as being on sale on newsstands February 14th. (Both December 24, 1983 and January 14, 1984 would have been Saturdays, whereas every other date listed is on a Tuesday. In addition, no other book with a December shipping date is noted, so the 1/24 date doesn’t seem to be a typo.)

According to the information provided by Marvel, Amazing Spider-Man #252 was at least planned to ship out at least two weeks before the other books, making this the first in-story appearance of the black costume. This is of course assuming things worked out the way they should have. Shipments could have been delayed, books might have been late, etc. etc., so it is within the realm of possibility that some of the books may have been released, at least in some locales, simultaneously.

And then there’s the fact comic shops in the direct sales market received their books weeks prior to newsstands. I wasn’t on the business side of the counter in those days, but my memory is that direct shipping of new books wasn’t quite the exact science it is today, he said half-sarcastically, so again, it’s possible that even if the books stuck to Marvel’s schedule, who knows what order they showed up in which comic book stores.

On top of that, there was the usual speculation/hoarding shenanigans that turn up whenever something in the comic market smells like it could be “hot,” so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some people remember seeing Marvel Team-Up #141 before Amazing #252, since all the 252s were immediately scooped up, bagged, boarded, and thrown in boxes marked “DO NOT OPEN ‘TIL EBAY.” And even beyond that, the disparity between new arrivals in comic shops and new arrivals on newsstands could have meant people spotting the latter Spidey books at their comic shops before seeing #252 pop up at the local 7-11.

Anyway, I wish I knew back then I’d be writing this blog today, so that I’d have taken better notes. As it is, at the time I did buy Amazing Spider-Man #252, from a newsstand no less, because I was semi-collecting that series anyway. I don’t recall when those other Spider-Man comics in question came out in relation to 252, since I wasn’t reading those at the time and didn’t pay any attention.

I was also going to discuss whether or not Web of Spider-Man #18 should be considered the actual first appearance of Venom, but I think we’ve all had quite enough of this sort of talk today. (And if you say ASM #252 is his first appearance, I’m gonna pop you in the nose.)

image from Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #90 (May 1984) by Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney

6 Responses to “Gang of street toughs closely stalking the Black Cat, or promo image for a new wave band?”

  • C. Elam says:

    There was an article in COMICS COLLECTOR (I think?) at the time that discussed the future collectibility of the first appearance of the black costume and only Amazing #252 was mentioned. So it was regarded at the time, at least, as being THE first appearance. All of this is before Secret Wars #8 darkened a single newsstand.

    I tend to regard that “tied” note as an allowance because some dealers want to mark up the other two issues because they came out the same month. Which, OK, I’ve heard worse schemes.

  • King of the Moon says:

    ASM 252, bought that at a 7-11 and it was my first exposure to event comics. So excited that EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED!

  • Jack says:

    ASM 252 was first. I say that fairly unequivocally since I had just started going to a local comic store, after a childhood of buying comics either from 7-11 and the “Hey Kids, Comics!” racks at drug stores, and the premiere of the black costume was something of an event at that store. Owner was saying to people “hey you see Spidey’s new costume?” as they came in.

    Guy got out of selling comics and went to just baseball cards in 1991. Never figured out if he was smart or not for that move.

  • Bully says:

    As somebody who was buying every Spidey title at the time, I’ll add my two cents: ASM #252 was the first appearance of the costume that was on shelves. I distinctly remember waiting until the other Spider-Man titles caught up to continue the story.

    There was a preview of the costume (black, but with red highlights) shown in Marvel Age #12 a couple months before (cover-dated March 1984, on-sale 12/06/83), but it was sketches, not a story. The color bleeding of the red highlights through or on the black costume might have convinced them to switch to black-and-white.

    Also, the shipping dates for he Spider-Man titles listed in the Coming Attractions section of Marvel Age #11 match Mike’s above.

  • Snark Shark says:

    ” Secret Wars #8″

    ..could be considered the “origin” of the costume, if anyone cares, as we see how Pete gets it. Also, it has a nifty Mike Zeck cover!

  • Ben Herman says:

    This reminds me of how the first official appearance of Gambit is supposed to be Uncanny X-Men #266, which is cover-dated August 1990. But he had a cameo appearance in Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 in a story which was, if I recall correctly, set after the events of that issue, but through the vagaries of Marvel’s publishing schedule, actually came out a few weeks earlier.

    And let’s not get stated on trying to figure out the first appearance of Cable!