Many a comic writer has tried to add verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and insipid narrative by chucking in a topical reference or two.  Witness Captain America’s battles against both Nixon AND Reagan, Alison Blaire’s original gimmick as Disco Dazzler, or the double-shot of concentrated 1990’s that is Doc Samson’s second uniform.  And then, there was this issue…

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Bob Hall
Inker: Marie Severin
Colorist: Marie Severin
Letterer: Gaspar Saladino/Annette Kawecki
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 35 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $5.00

Previously, in Marvel Team-Up:  Spider-Man has always been a great character for team-ups.  He’s smart enough to play the brains, funny enough to contrast a stoic, tragic enough to give gravitas to a lightweight.  In short, he’s versatile and unique enough that he’ll play against nearly anyone, from the Angel to the Zombie, without losing the Spider-Man mystique, and the Marvel Team-Up title was created to exploit that fact.  But, not all of Pete Parker’s life is about fighty-fighty, and even the hard-luck kid occasionally gets a night off for a little girly action…

The first thought that popped into my head about this issue was how much Marvel has missed by underplaying Spider-Man as a boyfriend/husband.  The character just seems to scream out “LOVE ME!” and in a monogamous relationship, he’s adorable, as when he stammers an apology to Mary Jane about how long dinner took.  Moments later, a strangely familiar Japanese man (pay attention to him, he’s important later) pushes by, as Peter and MJ make their way to their seats for the big show.  At the same time, backstage at Studio 8H…

What’s probably funniest about this is that Bill Murray looks not even a little bit like Bill Murray here, instead vaguely resembling Johnny Yong Bosch.  The late John Belushi fares a bit better, if only because his more exaggerated features lend themselves to comic book caricaturing more.  Having recieved a mysterious parcel, the ever-curious Belushi opened it, put on the jeweled ring within, and has promptly gotten his finger stuck, a slapstick premise if there ever was one.  Sadly, Chris Claremont’s comedy is a lot like Gene Roddenberry’s: Inconsistent, at best.  The ring’s actual owner, the Silver Samurai (remember the rude Japanese man?) has assembled a group of criminals to regain his property, which leads to wacky hijinks…

…virtually none of which are really all that funny.  Jane Curtin also doesn’t look anything like herself under Bob Hall’s pen, now that I mention it, and there are a couple of cute moments to be wrung out of Garrett Morris playing Thor.  Bill Murray even gets a heroic turn, braining one of the bad guys and hiding amongst their number in the expected trench coat and fedora hat, as the criminals work their way through the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players to find which one has Silver Sam’s magic ring.  But if you know anything about Saturday Night Live in the ’70’s, you know that there’s only one way this is going down:  Samurai versus Samurai!

John Belushi’s samurai character is one of my favorite characters in SNL history (“Yo mamasan!” being a comedic highlight of epic proportions), and on the face of it, he’s no more ridiculous (or, for that matter, more historically inaccurate) than the mighty Silver Samurai himself, so seeing the bathrobe-clad madman in action was the main reason that I ever bought this book in the first place…

Sadly, Spidey’s strike freed the ring from Belushi’s finger, and the hidden teleportation circuitry (the main reason that the Samurai was so intent to find the thing) allows him to make a quick getaway.  I was a little surprised to have the issue wrap up so quickly, but paper shortages back in the day had lowered page counts to a place below even today’s 20 page stories, and things wrap quickly, with Belushi and Spider-Man ending up in the same bar (!!) to close things up…

This is a weird issue in a number of ways, not the least of which is in the real-world tie-in, but also in seeing Peter and Mary Jane having what might be a drinking establishment, having a discussion that carries a slight sexual connotation to it, a cameo from Statler and Waldorf, and Claremont attempting to be funny.  The last item doesn’t work as well as some of the others might have, which undermines things greatly, especially when we’re supposed to be seeing the actual SNL broadcast.  (If the whole aired show is of the quality of the on-air scenes we see, then it’s certainly the worst episode of the show ever, worse even than the 1980 season or anything that Chris Kattan ever did.)  The rule of funny states that an appropriately decent punchline can override story logic, but this issue gets by mostly on the rule of peculiar, but at least gives Bill Murray some kick-ass fight sequences.   Marvel Team-Up #74 is an anomaly even by Bronze Age standards, a story in which the topical references take over the entire issue, but one which oddly had minor ramifications in the Marvel U, giving Silver Samurai a new power, earning a mixed bag 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  

Rating: ★★½☆☆

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. May 13, 2012 at 10:12 pm — Reply

    I remember seeing this issue at my local shop a few years ago, and was sorely tempted to pick it up. Based on this review, I still can’t decide whether I made the right choice or not. This issue does raise the question of the old SNL skit where Belushi was the Hulk and how that all works.

  2. May 14, 2012 at 4:22 am — Reply

    So wait, thing thing is still canon? I mean I guess a story is canon until the company says it isn’t, but does that mean modern Peter Parker once interacted with the 70s SNL cast? And it still technically matters to modern events?

    Gotta love that flexible passage of time. Where Spiderman can be in comics with both John Belushi and Barack Obama at one time or another.

    • May 14, 2012 at 7:23 am — Reply

      So wait, thing thing is still canon? I mean I guess a story is canon until the company says it isn’t, but does that mean modern Peter Parker once interacted with the 70s SNL cast? And it still technically matters to modern events?

      Up until his recent death, Silver Samurai still had the teleporting ring that he got here, and there was at least one reference to the adventure in which he got it during the Quesada era (maybe in Sunfire and Big Hero 6?). That counts, to me… :)

  3. Jeremy Patterson
    June 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm — Reply

    Amusingly enough, this is another comic that is going to be reviewed by Linkara, as he will review it this coming Monday!


    • June 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm — Reply

      Not entirely sure how that’s amusing, but whatever blows up your dress, I suppose…

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