Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The X-Men’s Wacky Neighbor: Told Tales of Spider-Man Team-Ups

Marvel last week announced a replacement title for Wolverine & the X-Men – on account of Wolverine’s dead – called Spider-Man & the X-Men, to be written by Elliott Kalan and drawn by Marco Failla. As usual, there was the normal Internet contingent of “This is unnecessary and/or different and must be destroyed so my butt stops hurting!”

But it’s not like Spider-Man hasn’t been teaming up with the X-Men for years. He may not be a mutant, but his powers are born of the same Nuclear Age, with-great-radioactivity-comes-great-powers-comes-great-responsibility schtick as anything else Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko created in the early 1960s.

With that in mind, here are some of the other times Spidey teamed up with the X-Men, in varying media and to varying degrees of success.

Marvel Team-Up featuring Spider-Man and Captain Britain (1978): This one’s a bit of a slant rhyme as X-characters go, but it counts as a Spidey-X-Men team-up for a few reasons: 1) Captain Britain spent a decade with Excalibur during the book’s original run, hanging with X-Men such as Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey; 2) The story was written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne during their golden-age period on X-Men; 3) The main villain in this two-parter is Arcade, a Claremont/Byrne creation who tormented the X-Men on the regular (see further down this list).

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends: From 1981 to 1983 on Saturday mornings, Peter Parker and his Aunt May took in a trio of strays: Bobby Drake, the X-Men’s Iceman, who spent 1975 to 1985 bouncing around lower-tier teams like the Champions and the Defenders; Angelica Jones, a fire-powered character created for the series but who was later written into the comics as a member of Emma Frost’s Hellions; and a dog.

Spider-Man vs. Wolverine (1987): In this one-shot by Jim Owsley and Mark Bright, Peter Parker and Logan end up in a still-divided Germany on different assignments and end up exchanging blows. The one-shot is notable for spelling the death of Ned Leeds, who may or may not have been the Hobgoblin depending on who was writing the title. It also features Spider-Man wearing a knock-off Halloween costume with the words “Die Spinne” on the back.

Spider-Man and X-Force in “Sabotage”: It’s 1991. “Beverly Hills 90210” is on the air. Vanilla Ice’s film “Cool as Ice” exists. Kelly Kapowski has left Zack Morris for her boss at The Max, Jeff. On Friday nights we hang out with our friends Urkel, Balki and Uncle Joey. These were cheesy times. Then Black Tom Cassidy blew up the World Trade Center, which hadn’t happened in real life yet so it probably didn’t make readers uncomfortable. With Todd MacFarlane and Rob Liefeld handling the art (incidentally, it was MacFarlane’s last issue on Spider-Man), the result is a big, dumb early ’90s action movie. The books were even laid out horizontally (though the ads were not) for an allegedly more cinematic experience. All that was missing was Cable yelling “Yipeekiyay, Mr. Falcon.” On a side note, these issues go a long way to showing how much comics culture has changed in the past two decades, considering how many times the Juggernaut calls Warpath some variety of “Injun” and accuses Shatterstar of being a “pretty boy” and a “pansy.”

Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge: This LJN game was released in 1992 for Nintendo’s Super NES and Game Boy and Sega’s Genesis and Game Gear. Playable characters included Spider-Man, Wolverine (in his yellow-and-burgundy ’80s outfit), Cyclops (in his blue-and-white ’80s X-Factor togs), Storm (in her then-modern ’90s uniform) and Gambit (in his classic trenchcoat and headsock). Arcade – not exactly a marquis Marvel villain, but OK – kidnaps the X-Men and runs them through his trademark murder mazes, with Spidey in hot pursuit. I remember never beating this game, rage-quitting it a few times and failing to sell it at a garage sale. Bosses included typical villains such as Rhino, Shocker, Carnage, Apocalypse and Juggernaut, and head-scratchers such as the demon N’Astirh (from the "Inferno" storyline) and Obnoxio the Clown.

“The Mutant Agenda”/”Mutants’ Revenge” (1995): Fox had a good thing going on Saturday mornings in the mid-90s between the X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons. So it made sense the two would cross paths at some point, which they did in Spider-Man’s show. In the second season in 1995, old Peter Parker’s spider-borne mutations were out of control, so he sought help from the gang on Graymalkin Lane. In the process, the Beast gets kidnapped, the Hobgoblin (who sounded suspiciously like the Joker) makes trouble, and good guys fight each other over the kinds of manufactured misunderstandings that only happen in comics.

Uncanny X-Men 346 (1997): The issue is tagged as being part of "Operation: Zero Tolerance," the big X-crossover of 1997, but only one actual X-Man – Gambit – shows up for all of one page. At this point, half the X-Men had been lost in space for six months, helping the Shi’ar fight the Phalanx, while the other half had been kidnapped by Bastion and his Prime Sentinels. So 346 turns into a Spider-Man issue, complete with America’s favorite micromanaging, sensationalist newspaper publisher, J. Jonah Jameson. Spidey teams up with Morlocks Callisto and Marrow against a pair of Prime Sentinels tasked with running security for Henry Peter Gyrich, Marvel’s longtime government d-bag. In the process, Spidey lectures Marrow that with great power yada yada yada. Marrow later joins the X-men for all of about 8 seconds.

Bendis’ pet Avengers (2004-2012): Spidey and Wolverine have been teammates for about a decade now, courtesy of the Brian Michael Bendis age of Avengerdom that ran roughly from 2004 (Avengers: Disassembled) to 2012 (Avengers vs. X-Men). And since Bendis shifted after that from writing Avengers to writing X-Men, overseeing two of the franchise’s main books, it makes sense that that relationship is still in place. Also, a book called Spider-Man & the X-Men is going to sell far more copies than, say, Beast & the X-Men or Kitty Pryde & the X-Men or the New Broo Review.

X-Men and Spider-Man (2009): In this four-issue retcon-tastic miniseries by Christos Gage and Mario Alberti, Spider-Man is shown teaming up with the X-Men across their respective 50-year histories in an overarching plot that involves Mr. Sinister, Kraven the Hunter and Carnage. Issue one is set in the ’60s, with the original five X-Men. Issue two takes place just after the Mutant Massacre in the ’80s. Issue three takes place amid the Clone Saga in the ’90s. And issue four takes place in the wake of M-Day in the 2000s.

Dan Grote has been a Matt Signal contributor since 2014 and friends with Matt since there were four Supermen and two Psylockes. His two novels, My Evil Twin and I and Of Robots, God and Government, are available on Amazon.

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