13 Stories Featuring an Appearance by Peter Parker or Spider-Man in a Book Not Published by Marvel Comics
1. “Night of the Reaper!” (Batman #237, 12/71)
“So,” someone said recently, “I enjoyed your list of Superman appearances in other companies’ comic books; were you planning to do the same kind of list for Spider-Man?” Why not? Let’s start with this panel from a 1971 Batman comic, a story that finds the Caped Crusader motoring up to Rutland, Vermont, in search of bad guys during that town’s annual Halloween parade. Naturally, he fits right in thanks to the presence of others decked out in various superhero costumes (and, in some cases, appearing as the writers and artists who create them); check out Thor’s “hammer” in the panel, along with a slightly paunchy fellow posing as “Webslinger Lad.”
2. “A Stranger Walks Among Us” (Justice League of America #103, 12/72)
Trivia time: the Rutland Halloween Parade is an annual tradition that goes back to 1960, and almost from the beginning it has included a large contingent of revelers wearing superhero costumes. In 1970 alone, parade marchers included the Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Vision, Captain America, Thor, the Red Skull, Batman, Captain Marvel and many other famous and not-so-famous characters. Credit local writer and comic fan Tom Fagan, who convinced a lot of his comic-biz friends to make the trip up from New York City to take part in the parade as his guests; they returned the favor by writing Fagan and the parade into a number of comic stories throughout the ’70s. Technically, these issues featured some of the first (albeit unofficial) inter-company crossovers between DC and Marvel, such as this issue of Justice League of America, in which figures on a background float are clearly meant to be parade participants dressed up as ’70s Hot Pants Supergirl, Thor, Spider-Man and the Hulk. (I’m not sure who Generic Gray-Suited Guy Captain Star-Chest is supposed to be…)
3. “The Future is Forever!” (Legion of Super-Heroes #300, 06/83)
One of Spider-Man’s lesser-known super-powers is his immortality; how else can you explain his ability to still be alive for photo shoots a thousand years from now (don’tsayclones don’tsayclones don’tsayclones)? This special triple-sized anniversary issue celebrating the Legion’s long publishing history ended with a double-spread illustration by artists Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt, and included every active, reserve and honorary Legion member that was ever on the team roster, as well as a few other unexpected faces. Batman appears in shadow in the top row near the far left, Garfield the cat pokes his head up among the crowd, and some of DC’s staff (including Keith, Larry, LSH writer Paul Levitz and editor Karen Berger) also make cameo appearances. And then there’s a certain wall-crawler whose face is obscured by the… well, whatever the hell that thing in the middle of the picture is supposed to be (a futuristic space-fountain?).
4. “Welcome to the Green Room” (1st Issue Special #2, 02/75)
So, the Green Team. Brainchild of comic legend Joe Simon during a whimsical period in his career, it was definitely a different type of comic-book team, to put it mildly. In their first appearance, the team of pre-teen millionaires (who recently received their own title and a few extra zeroes in their bank accounts) decide to invest in the Great American Pleasure machine, a device that creates an artificial reality so real that it threatens to make films, theatre and sporting events — “even comic books!” — obsolete. Naturally, it falls upon an evil and top-hatted Broadway producer (because why the hell not?) to round up an angry mob of movie stars and fictional characters (because why the hell not?) to destroy the infernal device in the name of… say, who is that masked fellow in the crowd behind Superman?
5. “Sofa So Good” (The Simpsons #101, 12/2004)
The characters in The Simpsons have never been shy about offering shout-outs to their comic-book brethren, from Lisa’s melancholic musings on Casper’s mortal identity to Homer muttering about “those stuck-up Riverdale punks.” Heck, even the funniest bit from The Simpsons Movie pays homage to the classic theme song from the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon. So it’s hardly surprising to find stories from Bongo’s line-up of Simpsons comics that do amusing send-ups of comic-book tropes. Here, writer Ian Boothby does a riff on Spider-Man’s origin story, putting Krusty the Klown in the role of the crooked show-biz guy (I know, what a stretch) whose shabby treatment of Mr. Parker results in the lad refusing to stop a thief who has just robbed him. “Dude, robbing TV studios really puts me in the mood to shoot somebody’s uncle!” Snake says to Spidey in the elevator they share going down. Ha ha! It’s funny because the imminent death of someone’s beloved father figure is about to lead to years of guilt and anguish.
6. “The Friend” (Batman #609, 01/2003)
Then there are the times when Peter Parker, Freelance Photographer, appears in his civilian guise doing the sort of thing that photojournalists are expected to do. Just as sticking glasses/blue suit/spit curl on any random reporter instantly identifies him as Clark Kent, putting short brown hair on a younger guy with a camera makes it very likely he’s supposed to resemble Aunt May’s favorite nephew. Here’s Peter in the background as Dr. Thomas Elliott (a fellow who will go on to play an important role in Batman’s life) emerges from the OR where he just finished saving Bruce Wayne’s life…
7. “Worlds in Limbo” (Crisis on Infinite Earths #5, 08/85)
…and here he is demonstrating the proper level of shock that one would expect from someone who has just survived the literal collision of multiple Earths and now has to deal with the mind-blowing reality of seeing two different Supermen standing right in front of him…
8. “Untitled” (Stormwatch Vol. 2 #1, 10/97)
…and here he is (complete with handy press ID badge noting his name is “PARKER”) taking pictures at the United Nations while his Daily Bugle colleague poses a question to a Stormwatch representative…
9. “Architecture & Morality, Part 6” (Tales of the Unexpected #6, 05/2007)
…and here we find an impatient Peter Parker sharing a subway car with passengers who also bear striking resemblances to a few other superheroes in their civilian identities.
10. “Untitled” (Youngblood #9, 09/94)
A caption at the start of this story tells us: “This story does not necessarily conform with any known continuity.” I would love to meet someone who still obsesses over continuity issues in Youngblood comics. This early Image book is pretty much what you’d expect of a comic from that era; in this untitled tale, the team’s strong guy (“Badrock,” God help us) flies to Hollywood to jump-start his career as a big-time celebrity. The scene above shows a few of the heroes in the Image universe arriving for the “mahvelous party” to celebrate the debut of his TV show and… hey, who’s the guy with the really familiar-looking leg over on the right? (Hint: It ain’t Spawn.)
11. “A Screaming Comes Across the Sky” (Top 10: Beyond the Farthest Precinct #1, 10/2005)
How unlucky can one superhero get? Even in a city that’s filled with nothing but superheroes, Spidey somehow manages to get the kind of PR problems that guys like Superman never have to worry about. Top 10 was a 1999 series by Alan Moore and Gene Ha that’s best described as “Hill Street Blues meets every superhero comic you ever read,” with stories following the superhero cops of the Tenth Precinct in a city where literally everyone has super-powers. The series is also rife with background in-jokes, like ads and store signs that refer to comic book characters and creators; in this issue, a piece of litter on a city street features what looks like a torn piece of newspaper asking the question of whether a masked hero who looks a lot like a certain webbed wonder is a hero or a menace.
12. “Apokolips… Now! (Part 2)” (Superman, original airdate 2/14/98)
The 1996 Superman series was one of the more faithful animated adaptations starring the Man of Steel partly because the show, like others set in DC’s animated universe, wasn’t afraid to sometimes go to dark places. The darkest moment was arguably the death of Dan “Terrible” Turpin, the gruff cop who dies during an invasion of Earth by Darkseid’s forces. His funeral service at the episode’s end was an homage to artist Jack Kirby (who died in 1994), with a pan shot of the mourners including cameos by artists who were Kirby’s friends and fans (including DCAU writer/producers Bruce Tim and Paul Dini), as well as a host of Kirby creations from both DC and Marvel books in funereal garb, including Nick Fury, the New Gods, the Fantastic Four and Peter Parker (though Ditko did the interior art for Spider-Man’s debut, it’s Kirby’s pencils on the cover of that issue of Amazing Fantasy). The scene was re-edited for subsequent airings and the DVD release to remove obvious references to Marvel’s characters; DC and Warner Bros. didn’t comment on the decision, but it’s fair to assume it had something to do with copyright issues. (This screen shot is from my DVD copy, so I can’t be sure if that guy in the back behind Lois is supposed to be Parker… but I’d like to think it is.)
13. “Superman’s Pal’s Pal” (Superman Adventures #17, 03/98)
Speaking of Superman’s animated adventures. Superman Adventures was the comic book adaptation of Superman: TAS; it lasted about five years, not a bad run as these things go. This story followed Jimmy Olsen and the not-so-good day he was having while showing a new Daily Planet intern the ropes… only the guy he thought was an intern was in fact someone else, and while Jimmy was out of the office and getting into trouble the real intern was busy impressing Perry White with his work habits. It’s not an obvious shout-out because no one mentions Peter by name here, but there’s no way a slightly built kid with that haircut, sweater vest and smug look on his face isn’t a young Peter Parker. (Punk.)