Back Issue #145 August 2023 (magazine review).

The latest edition of ‘Back Issue’ is the ‘Spider-Rogues Issue’, which explores Spidey’s rogue gallery that hasn’t been covered elsewhere. Surprisingly, this is the first time a piece by Frank Martini takes a look at Otto Octavius, also known as Doctor Octopus, and scrutinizes how much he’s varied over the years.

This is the first time I’ve really examined his relationship with May Parker; his colorful history straddles the line between madness and criminal mastermind. The periodic reinvention of any comic book character likely accounts for his longevity. Writer Ed Lute profiles minor villains the Kangaroo (both versions), Mindworm, Gibbon, Grizzly, Rocket Racer, Big Wheel, The Spot, and the White Rabbit. The latter must surely be considered as a precursor to DC Comics’ Harley Quinn. Some of these characters were clearly walkovers with absurd powers, but they add a certain variety and craziness.

Writer John Schwirian’s examination of Jackal and Carrion makes me perceive Professor Miles Warren as Marvel’s top recombinant clone expert, given his extensive history. It’s unclear how he managed to duplicate personalities, but it underscores his dangerousness even without his super-villain disguise.

I concur with writer Joseph Norton that the Tarantula was never going to be a leader, primarily because he was too much of a loner. Nevertheless, making him the antithesis of Spider-Man somewhat constrained him, as his only real weapon – those spiked shoes – merely puts him parallel to Batroc.

The history of Wilton Fisk, also known as the Kingpin, penned by writer John K. Kirk, begins with him as a nemesis to Spider-Man and then shifts to Daredevil, occasionally even clashing with Hydra. I’m not sure I’d call him a thug, though. His longevity suggests that readers have found some appeal in his character over the decades. He certainly keeps other mob leaders in check in New York.

Writer James Heath Lantz examines ‘The Gangs Of New York’, covering all other Maggia bosses, except Count Nefaria, who was never a Spidey foe. Considering their frequent internal conflicts, it’s unsurprising that they scarcely have time for the superhero fraternity in New York. However, their gang initiation rituals, which involve murder, begs the question of how they recruit members in the first place. For the record, we have Hammerhead, Tombstone, The Schemer, The Rose, and briefly, The Black Rose.

Finally, we examine Thomas Fireheart, also known as the Puma, a wealthy Native American assassin for hire. That in itself could make for a Back Issue special. After all, Marvel has more than one super-powered assassin or mercenary. Luke Cage probably started that trend, but it does exemplify the American attitude of commercializing any free occupation. I hope you’re reading this, Michael.

As you can probably tell, I’m reacting more to the material this time. Spider-Man’s villains are well-known, which likely explains their longevity and provides a reason why any successful superhero or team has a robust rogue’s gallery that resurfaces from time to time. A superhero is often only as good as the super-villains they face, and Spider-Man certainly has a diverse array of them.

GF Willmetts

July 2023

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $10.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it for $10.95 (US))

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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