Secret Origins: Spider-Boy!
The 90′s get a bad rap in the comic world, and mostly for good reason. The market could only take so many variations of Death Blood Force Strike Works #1 before the bubble burst on lame concepts and lamer costume choices (pouches). While some aspects of the generic term “the 90′s” indeed lasted throughout the decade (again, the pouches). In the latter half of the decade, comics toyed with some very fun concepts. Probably the biggest and most fun concept was Amalgam Comics. The idea behind Amalgam was a simple one; “What if the DC and Marvel Universes were combined?”. Sprouting from the pages of DC vs. Marvel, Amalgam, is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. Of all of the Amalgams, my very favorite is the subject of today’s column. A mixture of the “cloned from Superman” version of Superboy and the ever-Amazing Spider-Man. A character whose appearances can be counted on the fingers of a career shop teacher, yet epitomizes the fun inherent in the Amalgam-verse. I give you the Arach-Kid himself Spider-Boy!
Our story starts on the ground running, as Spider-Boy and the scientists at Project Cadmus (Including the Challengers of the Fantastic) are facing the albino menace of Bizarnage (a mash-up of Bizarro and Carnage, natch). Bizarnage’s deal is that he wants to be like the Kid, but there’s only one Spider-Boy, so it’s a whole stalker murder/replacement thing. Biz is wreaking havoc, having bizarnagized Johnny Storm, aka Red of the Fantasti-Challs. Being the only spidery-powered teen in the area, Spider-Boy plans to sacrifice himself to save the denizens of Cadmus. Bizarnage is amicable to this plan, so he leaves Red and charges the Arach-Kid. Ah, but our be-jacketed web walloper is a clever teen. Just as Bizarnage is about to possess/kill the Kid, Spider-Boy jumps off the wall he was sticking to, revealing the door to a containment unit. Having trapped the imperfect symbiote, Spider-Boy takes a second to enjoy his victory…
In the aftermath, we find Johnny and his 6-inch clone trooper are perfectly ok, so their trip to the Phantom-Negative Zone is still on. This doesn’t really pertain to the story at large, but it is awesome, so I included it in my recap anyway. Speaking of, we cut Senator Ben Grimm, calling for the head of Dabney Donovan, who is suspected of letting Bizarnage out in the first place. While in the DC Universe, Dabney is an evil so-and-so, in this case, he did not release the monster. Reed Richards did. Donovan is responsible though, thanks to the steady diet of “Evil DNA” he’s been adding to Reed’s food. We’re then treated to an inner monologue by Reed himself, masterfully conveyed by Mike Wieringo.
Then, before anyone can catch their breath, Sue Storm, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the final member of the Fantasti-Challs enters the facility with a hurt Dr. Curt Connors. It seems when Bizarnage was wreaking havoc, the power grid went down and another monster imprisoned at Cadmus escaped! Namely, King Lizard (an amalgam of the Lizard and King Shark) has torn through the facility, Sue, Curt, and Dr. Pym’s particle accelerator! Now, the monster is growing at an alarming rate and is on track to decimate the city! Dr. Connors is cursing himself, but our hero comforts him, sort of…
Ben Grimm (aka Rocky) is ready to call the Army as well as the Challengers of the Fantastic to stop the threat. Spider-Boy intervenes, reminding Ben that Cadmus is a secret facility and it’d be in their best interest to let him go after King Lizard instead. Tough as nails Sue Storm give him the go ahead, but promises to call in her boss, Bruce Wayne, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. if things go tits up. Before Spider-Boy can jump into action, he’s stopped by Professor Ray Palmer, who asks if the Kid has had the chance to test out his White Dwarf Star device yet. Spider-Boy gives with the small talk that it shrank him down into a sub-atomic universe, and we get an editor’s box referring to the non-existent issue this happened in. Then, to jam pack this issue with even more awesome, Dr. Palmer has a quick tête-à-tête with Dr. Pym about whether micro or macro is the way to go in their respective scientific endeavors. Finally, Spider-Boy is ready to make the scene, and he’s ready to clear the zoomway in his rocket car, prepped by none other than Dr. Otto Octavius. Some quick banter between the two, and a simple newspaper reveals how Spider-Boy is treated by his world’s public…
Anyway, while Spider-Boy is on auto-pilot in the zoomway, he decides to reminisce about his origins. Whew, I knew we’d get to it eventually! Spider-Boy thinks back to his “Uncle Gen”. Honestly, I think that’s really a stretched analog for Uncle Ben. Seriously, General “Thunderbolt” Ross doesn’t shorten well. I’ll let it slide though, because the rest of the origin is pretty inspired.
As comics-type experiments are wont to do, this one didn’t turn out exactly as planned. Peter Parker is killed in a power surge/explosion, and the clone is liberated before the process (whatever it was) is completed. The clone does has the odd ability to change his personal gravity, giving the illusion of walking on walls. He also has a modicum of super-strength, but he’s certainly no super soldier. General Ross does take the young clone under his wing (although he apparently never gives the lad a name). The General does however impart the famous “Great Power/Great Responsibility” speech, attributing it to Super-Soldier (the amalgam of Superman and Captain America). Despite the tragedy that “birthed” him, the Kid has a pretty ok life, thanks to the General, so of course we have to do something about that.
After the tragedy, the Kid displays a massive amount of sangfroid, presumably brings “Uncle Gen’s” murderer to justice. And then decides to take to the spotlight so no one ever underestimates him again. He becomes Spider-Boy to be the over-the-top media darling. Wealth and fame are definitely not ignored when it comes to the Arach-Kid. The flashback ends when Spider-Boy arrives at his home. Apparently, King Lizard isn’t as big a threat as we were led to believe. Anyway, he uses his rooftop mounted catapult, the “Web Slinger” to arrive at the Daily Bugle, ostensibly to get a lead of King Lizard. Really though, I contend that you don’t need a lead to find a 35 foot tall Lizard! In his admittedly clever guise of Pete Ross (a mash-up of Peter Parker and General Ross, his “parents” and a reference to Superboy’s best friend), he’s instantly caught up in the newsroom drama, and we get a glimpse of this universe’s J. Jonah Jameson…
Finally, there are reports of King Lizard at the city docks, wreaking havoc. Spider-Boy uses his amazing web-gun to travel across the city, signing his theme song all the way. Truly, this guy doesn’t have a problem with using multiple forms of transportation. Before you can say “does whatever a spider can”. the Kid is on the scene, taking King Lizard on directly. While the battle rages, Spider-Boy tries the whole “witty banter” thing, but King Lizard isn’t exactly receptive to it. The Kid leads King Lizard on a merry chase through the city, where he makes a pretty astute observation…
Rather than waiting until King Lizard grows so large that his skeleton can no longer support his weight (comics don’t always use you know, physics), Spider-Boy manages to lead the green gargantuan back home where he grabs Dr. Palmer’s White Dwarf Star device. Unfortunately, King Lizard smashes it, causing it to go into some sort of overload. Spider-Boy doesn’t want to find out what’ll happen when the thing explodes, but luckily he has a plan. He leads King Lizard up to the roof, where the device is prepped on the web-slinger. Spider-Boy pushes a button and…
And so, King Lizard starts to shrink, so much so that Spider-Boy assumes he’s now in the sub-atomic universe himself! There’s nothing like foisting your problems on another group of people, I always say. Anyway, with the day saved, Doc Ock comes out of the woodwork to congratulate the Arach-Kid. He has an ulterior motive though, as he’s also there to set the Kid up on a blind date. Just like in the old Spider-Man comics, the Kid is reluctant to go on a date with someone named Mary Jane Watson. Just like Peter Parker, the Kid is in for an unexpected surprise…
Sadly, despite the tag, the story wasn’t continued since it was intended as a one-shot. Spider-Boy would return the next time DC and Marvel decided to mesh, in an even crazier adventure though. He hasn’t really been seen since, as the two companies don’t really even have crossovers anymore. It’s not terribly likely that we’ll see the Arach-Kid again, but this book is a testament to the fact that if it’s obvious the creators have fun with a book and its concepts, the readers will too. That’s a good litmus test for any comic, in my opinion!
This story originally appeared in Spider-Boy #1 April, 1996. It was reprinted in The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection, which is out of print, but still available on Amazon… for a price.
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