Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tie-ins, Part XXVI: Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk Back-to-School Edition

Some random Spider-Man books, Part 2
A free 16 page comic story shouldn’t cost this much

A straightforward story with some really weird ads

"Pipeline to Peril!"
Writer –
Art – John Romita, Sr
Letters –
Colorist –
Editor –
Editor-in-Chief –
August 1990

Imagine being a child back in 1981 and opening up your Sunday funnies to find a surprise: a comic book!

Not just any comic, either. A Marvel book featuring two of Marvel’s biggest superheroes: Spider-Man and the Hulk.

Unlikely scenario? Not if you were a child living in Dallas back then, because that’s just what happened.

Marvel the company created these one-shot funny books in agreement with select area retailers in various markets in the country. Dallas was one of the few that got in on the act with not just one issue, but five separate comics delivered this way in the early 1980’s. One of those five showcased the Dallas Ballet doing the Nutcracker and another the Dallas Cowboys football team, but the other three were all from a local upscale retail outlet known as Sanger Harris.

All of them had Spider-Man too. Three teamed him up with the Hulk, one title had him going solo, and the last one had Firestar and Iceman.

If the other four are like this one, I’m not sure if seeking them out is worth the effort. Let me show you why.

For one thing, there are 18 pages of ads in this issue, including the front piece and the back page. And while you might shrug your shoulders and go “So what? Just skip past ‘em,” understand that they are all from Sanger Harris and show various types of kids clothing. Still not feeling why this is so odd? Guess I’ll have to put them up for you to see.

This is our inside front page and WHAT is up with that girl’s face? She’s wearing a look of mild-to-medium incompetence. This isn’t JR, Sr’s doing, I won’t believe that. If anything, the ad looks like New Mutant’s era Bill Sienkiewicz. And it isn’t just this ad…It’s ALL of them.

(on a side note: the price of that shirt that the girl will grow out of in under six months is $16, which is about four dollars more expensive than a shirt for a kid at Target today. This was 35 years ago. That shirt is probably like a $40-45 shirt in today’s dollars. For a kid’s shirt they would grow out of in 6 months or thereabouts. YES, upscale store with overpriced stuff!)

Ad number two has two little blonde girls being “menaced” by a pack of goo-footed green aliens. But that’s okay, because they will make it through on buddy power. Kick the snot out of those little green frackers, girls!

Uh…you missed one. And your brother and his young playmate are totally too involved in reading a book or staring into their own eyes in the bathroom mirror to notice it.

These little cheerleaders are full of team spirit! And so is the pedophile about to touch Suzy’s rear-end. That’s what she gets for shaking her “pom-pom” so much. Run, girls! Run!

Don’t worry Suzy! Billy the kid will take care of that mean old Mr. Octopus-hands. He’s ready for some “rough and tumble action,” if you know what I mean? Now STOP Chester-molester! This means YOU!

However, the situation just gets worse and worse. Now the aliens are back and THEY want to “check out” the girls Luv It jeans. Seems more than just a little fishy if you ask me. Why is there an overtone of creep to all of these?

Okay, now I’m hacked off. Sanger Harris was showing “never released” Super Hero cartoons. And YouTube doesn’t have them. Where are these cartoons? Internet, don’t fail me!

Bobby and Billy sure do love using Mommy’s rouge. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

As do their sisters, but that may be because the older girl is hooking for lunch money. Heck, she has to, at the prices her parents are paying for these clothes.

When Hell is full, the dead will walk the Earth…so don’t leave your babies sitting in the graveyard.

Now we are talking, at least on price anyway. They could shave off a few bucks more by not making such wide collars, I’ll bet.

Great Values for Girls! All I hear is John Belushi saying “Your women. I want to buy your women. The little girl, your daughters…sell them to me. Sell me your children!” from The Blues Brothers.

The best Christmas present ever.

Okay, we can start the story now…anytime. Maybe I should just skip the rest of these…

Oh, but not before another molester one! And this one tends to imply that your child will be grabbed by some “creep.” I don’t know who the marketing genius at Sangers was, but he sure knows how to make compelling ad copy.

Come off it! They aren’t being protected. Little Suzy’s head is encased in a solid block of ice. Get real.

Back in the day, my Adidas would kick the crap out of a child wearing “Kid Power” shoes. Possibly while I sang RUN/DMC.

Some of the weirdest belts I have ever seen.

That is 18 pages of ads… told you they were strange. And That's A LOT of ads compared to the story they share page space with. Now on to the 16 pages of story and 2 activity pages. Yay!

We begin with a reason for Spider-Man and Sandman to both show up in Dallas. Coincidentally this will be at the exact same time. Sure this is old-school hackneyed, but I forgive a lot of this for the sake of a story.

While Peter sees the "sights" of Dallas), including a Sanger Harris store specifically because cousin Billy insists on driving THROUGH a shopping mall parking lot on the way home in his Datsun two-door. Just what I love to do after a long plane flight. We also get a brief update on Bruce Banner, working in the oilfields. Meanwhile Sandman is making trouble below the soil.

I’m uncertain how shining a flashlight down a pipe will show signs of sabotage, but hey, I’m not a rig worker. Meanwhile Bruce catches sight of Sandman without realizing who he is. This leads him getting some of ole Sandy in places where the sun don’t shine courtesy of a quick sand storm.

Which leads to him transforming and generally making a nuisance of himself while also raising everyone’s suspicions that he’s the true cause of the rigs problems. which he kind of ends up being...

Parker finally gets to change clothes. Cousin Billy takes him on a tour of Dallas’s sights, which don’t seem like much at the time. There is 7-11's corporate headquarters! Dallas has changed a bunch since the early 80’s. Bruce meanwhile turns back to himself but can’t remember anything about Sandman. All he needs to do is check his underwear for a reminder.

Our pal Sandman gets the bright idea of covering himself in green dye after newspaper reports (note: it’s the Dallas Times Herald) show the Hulk sighted by the oil well. His plan goes off without a hitch, meaning he is free to menace the drilling operation while all suspicion will fall on the Hulk being responsible for any mishaps.

And more mishaps there will be as Sandman continues to wreck pipelines. Bruce knows he has to find a way to discretely stop whomever it is and the bad guys appear to have won this round.

Have to take a moment and state how much I love John Romita, Sr.’s art. His classic style set the standard after Ditko’s departure from Amazing. His clean figures and well-balanced panel layouts are always a treat.

Oh, and by the way, those page size ads for children’s clothes were not enough. Nor the product placement inside the book. No, now we have to show Spider-Man actually shopping at Sanger Harris for a present for Aunt May. That last panel is his spider-sense going off telling him that he’s found the perfect purse for her…and it’s on SALE too!

I was close. It was warning him that Sandman was near. Peter doesn’t recognize his famous foe but places a spider-tracker on him. Then he heads off for some Texas BBQ, which sounds mighty good there, pardner. Sorry. I’ve lived in Texas most of my life. If I slip into a Y’all here or there, ignore it please.

That night Spidey trails Sandman, using his power to attach webs to objects off panel that could in no way be high enough to give him the ability to swing like this. Also, that house is in the suburbs, probably Highland Park area given how cousin Billy likes to shop at over-priced Sanger Harris stores, which would make him close to downtown, but no where near the oil fields where Sandman would have a motel room…aaaaah! I wonder if New Yorkers do the same when they read a story of Spidey swinging through Long Island?

Anyway, he catches on to what Sandman is doing, just as the dirty crook approaches the oil field for his latest round of terrorism and destruction of private property. Banner tries to take him on mano-y-sandpile.

Only to have Bruce’s transformation freak Sandy the heck out. He finds his way blocked by Spider-Man though, and their ongoing enmity is something he can’t back down from. 

While Sandy goes after Spider-Man, Hulk goes to "help." Which is sort of like saying “Hulk does more damage than Sandman, thus furthering Kingpin’s interests." I love the “Ugly man keeps changing! How can Hulk smash him?” lines. Heck, I love “Hulk smash” ANYTIME.

And in a constant theme of WHY Sandman should never pick fights at construction sites, Spidey tricks him into punching a hole in a cement truck. Seems like he should have learned this trick by now.

And we have a one page story wrap-up that ties up EVERY plotline, and I do mean EVERY single one.

Decent story, some classic art, a little short and you have to dig through ads to get to it…I think I can show this one some love and give it a passing grade.

I would have loved to find this when I was child. Unfortunately, I was way past childhood and already starting high school when it came out. And of the three local papers (Dallas Times Herald, Dallas Morning News, and the Fort Worth Star Telegram), we took the Fort Worth paper.

The number of these type of inserts would make you think these turned into big sales for the Sanger Harris chain. Maybe they did, but those sales were either short lived or cost too much to generate. Six years later the chain was absorbed by the Houston-based Foley’s chain, and all the stores renamed. The unique arched storefronts have been remodeled in most malls. But the retail story doesn’t end there. Foleys was absorbed itself by the Macy’s brand name, with the final store being converted sometime in 2006. The Dallas Times Herald fell on hard times in 1991, and after 103 years of publication, was purchased by rival Dallas Morning News and ceased publication. Literally Marvel is the only company involved in this book that survived.

Sadly, as my lack of writer/inker/colorist/letterer shows, the book is barely a blip on anyone’s radar. Sad, because this was kinda cool and who knows for how many kids this was their first true comic book experience? Maybe it is more than half-full of ads, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And a comic book is a comic book!

Now enjoy these two activity pages because I’m swinging out of here:


Write on Kingpin’s head, children!

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