I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
Lake Placid, New York is approximately three hundred miles away from the island of Manhattan, where major newspapers, such as The Daily Bugle and The Daily Globe, have their headquarters. So it makes sense that whole battalions of staffers would be dispatched to the upstate community when it served as host to the Winter Olympics, in 1980. That’s how intrepid news photographer Peter Parker, then a salaried employee of the Globe, found himself amongst the pageantry of the world’s foremost quadrennial assembly of frostbitten athletes at precisely the point the unique skillset of his alter ego, the amazing Spider-Man, was direly needed. Because his stratospheric jumps could result in landings just about anywhere, the green goliath known as the Hulk was handily in the vicinity, too.
Of course, there was an entirely different, and every so simple, reason the two most popular characters in the Marvel Comics galaxy of stars converged at a locale of a famed event. Through the nineteen-seventies and into the early nineteen-eighties, the snappy storytellers at the House of Ideas were expert exploiters of buzzy trends and events. If the general populace was sure to be chatting about the Winter Olympics, taking place on U.S. frozen tundra for the first time in twenty years, then there’d best be an appropriately themed four-color fable featuring Marvel do-gooders on newsstands. So the oversized pages of Marvel Treasury Edition #25 were given over to scripter Bill Mantlo and penciler Herb Trimpe to relay a white-knuckle thriller about Spider-Man and the Hulk becoming enmeshed in the ongoing battle for supremacy between belowground dwellers the Mole Man and Queen Kala.
While the Hulk was getting lured into serving the self-proclaimed monarch of all Subterranea, a process aided greatly by some spiked vittles, Spider-Man was tangling with a crew of hooded goons calling themselves the Outcasts.
As is often the case in the shoot-webs-first-ask-questions-later land of superheroing, a lot of miscommunications take place, all the better to ensure the spectacle of various fantastically powered beings temporarily getting in one another’s way when they’re basically on the same side. The Outcasts were trying their best to stop Kala and the Mole Man from abducting Olympians, precisely the same perplexing scheme Spidey was attempting to thwart.
It turns out the medal hopefuls were rounded up in order to serve as unwilling foot soldiers in the ongoing war between Kala and the Mole Man. Respecting the developed expertise of the diverted athletes, Kala equips them with weaponry designed to feel familiar.
This is precisely the sort of goofball comic book logic that I expected when I plunked down the princely sum of two whole dollars for a comic book the size of a deluxe road atlas. The Hulk and Spider-Man are similarly dragooned into the geopolitical struggles of the literal underworld, serving opposite sides, all the better to allow them to duke it out on the slopes, complete with some creative web-spinning that could have convinced the proprietors of the local snow sports outfitter to offer the wall-crawler an internship.
As they must, Spider-Man and the Hulk realize after trading a few blows that they’re better off teaming up. They best the bad guys and liberate the international competitors. And the moral of the story arrives just in time.
Previous entries in this series (and there are a LOT of them) can be found by clicking on the “My Misspent Youth” tag.