"Petey, The Adventures of Peter Parker Before He Became Spiderman"
WEB OF SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL 5; 3 pgs.
MARVEL AGE 85; Feb 90; 2 pgs.
MARVEL TALES 235; Mar 90; 3 pgs.
"Spill the Beans"
MARVEL TALES 235; Mar 90; 3 pgs.
"Rep on Ice"
FRED HEMBECK $ELL$ THE MARVEL UNIVERSE; Oct 90; 1 pg; (T. Austin inks)
MARVEL TALES 248; Apr 91; 4 pgs.
MARVEL TALES 251; July 91; 3 pgs.
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bridge"
MARVEL TALES 252; Aug 91; 2pgs.
"With Babysitting Comes Great Responsibility"
SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL 11; 1991; 7 pgs.
"The Devil and Mrs. Parker"
UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL; 1997; 5 pgs.
"Hydra and Go Seek"
UNTOLD TALES of SPIDER-MAN minus 1; July 97; 5pgs plus cover.
"Hydra and Go Seek"
|Right off the bat, let me make something crystal clear: I do not own the rights to Petey, and though I came up with the initial notion to do him and am in fact the ONLY cartoonist ever to write and draw his antics, I wasn't REALLY his creator. Nope. Not really. When I spell out the extended -- proper -- version of the series title, you'll clue into what I'm rambling on about.|
|Y'see, the little fella was never simply
billed as "Petey", but instead
the more precise "Petey, The Adventures
of Peter Parker Looong Before He Became Spider-Man".
Ah ha, NOW you get it! I may've been the genius (?) who came up
with the bright idea to turn the future Spider-Man's
childhood into a salute to the classic Dennis
the Menace, Little Lulu, and Little Archie
comics I adored as an urchin, but let's never
forget that the core characters all sprang
from another beloved series of my youth,
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's seminal AMAZING
SPIDER-MAN books!! (I even bought the very
first issue off the newsstand, which means
yup, I'm THAT old!!) Working on "Petey"
was always a pleasant indulgence for me,
and I'm hoping the fine folks currently in
charge of the Marvel Comics Empire will indulge
me a bit further by allowing me to post the
puny Parker's pre-powered, pre-pubescent
exploits here on this site. All totaled,
the eleven episodes (plus a single Spanish
translation) weigh in at just under fifty
pages. As canons go, that's one that probably
wouldn't make it through a single performance
of the 1812 Overture!!!…
That said, let's throw a little credit Kurt Busiek's way. Yes, folks, the award- winning scribe of the landmark MARVELS series. Only, y'see, Kurt wasn't always the toast of the comics biz--there were times, early on in his career, when he seemed to be just plain TOAST!?! Me, I always liked the way the guy could make his typewriter sing, and I told him so when we'd bump into each other at comic conventions back in the day. A friendship was struck, and one fine day he and his buddy Adam found themselves guests of Lynn and I at our palatial upstate New York manor (or rickety old firetrap, I forget which. We've since moved…) As always when comics folk congregate, one inevitably says to the other, "Whatcha working on?" Well, as I had nothing exciting on my plate at the time (this was after Lynn served a delicious dinner of beef stew), I was a little lacking in conversation. Then it hit me-I DID have this idea that I was toying with. It involved the merging of the four series I mentioned earlier-take the crisp, clean line of Al Wiseman's Dennis, the sitcom feel of John Stanley's Lulu, and just a touch of the sentimentality of Bob Bolling's Little Archie, apply it to the prototype Lee/Ditko Peter Parker, by far the most realistic teen in early sixties funnybooks, and the result? Why, Petey, of course!! Kurt seemed more than politely enthusiastic regarding my revisionist notion, and encouraged me to go forward with my attempt to write the Webspinner's pre-history. All well and good, but just how and where was I supposed to get this mildly radical concept into print?
|Enter, once again, Jim Salicrup, patron saint of my Marvel career. His name keeps popping up in these intensive intros found throughout this site, and with good reason, as he was involved in most everything I ever got published back last century!?! Why should " Petey" be any exception? Here's how that one came down: not long after the dinner visit with Kurt and Adam, Jim called with news. Instead of going with triple-length stories in the upcoming, summer 1989 Marvel Annuals, they were planning to lead off these special, once a year editions with a mere double-length adventure. In the spirit of the earliest Annuals produced over two decades hence by such stalwarts as Lee, Ditko and Kirby, the retro-plan was to fill out the books with short, fun-filled, and occasionally informative features.|
|THIS is where I came in, and since Jim had three Spidey books to fill--AMAZING, SPECTACULAR, and WEB OF--he enlisted me to whip up five different three-page sequences. Dipping into my massive arachnid archives, I came up with illustrated overviews of Spider-Man's most fearsome foes, the most important women in his life, the most dubious situations he'd encountered, an examination of his skewed relationship with Daily Bugle publisher J.Jonah Jameson-and "Petey".|
|1989's WEB OF SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL#5 housed the debut of "Petey", and anybody at all familiar with Wiseman's art will immediately recognize the Dennis swipes-and Lulu fans, weaned on Tubby's fruitless attempts to woo the vapid but beautiful Gloria Darling away from the aptly named Wilbur Van Snobbe with desirable promises of ice cream sodas will find hauntingly familiar echoes of THAT situation in more than a few "Petey" episodes! Hey, if you're gonna steal, might as well do it from the best, right? Of course, the word we creative types like to bandy about is "homage', but in any event, as the series progressed, it became less reliant on it's inspirations.|
|"Petey" took the comics world by storm-sorta like a light drizzle on an early August morning in Miami! But what did I care? I was having big-time fun distilling a quartet of my all-time favorite series down into one, and I was getting paid for it!! The door now off the barn, I next snuck the little guy into the holiday episode of my ongoing MARVEL AGE page. Realizing where my interests were heading, Jim very graciously found some nooks and crannies out and about the Marvel line to sneak my "Petey" strips into. MARVEL TALES had long been a repository for ancient Spider-Man reprints, but upon occasion the page count of the vintage material wouldn't match the more expansive space then currently allotted for editorial material.|
|Fact is, a year or so earlier, I myself had done several "Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham" stories for the very specific purpose of filling out the back pages of MARVEL TALES-and before you ask, no, that character was NOT my idea!! Porker the pig existed both before and after I got a hold of him-and considering how lousy a funny animal cartoonist I am, that's a bit of a miracle in itself!?! Presented with an alternative to the Spider-Swine, Jim allowed me to craft several short "Petey" tales in their stead, and five shorts of varying length found their way into MARVEL TALES issues published in 1990 and 1991.|
|A choice slot for the longest "Petey" story ever was being reserved for me within the pages of 1991's SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL # 11 when potential disaster struck: Jim Salicrup and Marvel came to a parting of the ways. Luckily for me, incoming editor Danny Fingeroth very professionally honored Jim's commitment to me, and the story was indeed published. After that, however, the little fellow went into cold storage for quite awhile…|
|It took over half a decade, but Marvel finally managed to hire an editor with esoteric enough tastes to consider bringing "Petey" back before the multitudes. Folks, I give you Marvel patron saint number two, Tom Brevoort. Tom was helming a then new retro series with the unwieldy moniker of UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN, which, in a curious coincidence, was being scripted by the now-celebrated Mr. Busiek-and very well, I might add. I was more than happy to bring back "Petey" for a five pager in 1997's UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL#2, and not long after, in UNTOLD SO ON AND SO FORTH Minus One. What's a Minus One? HOO boy, are you ever in for a long-winded digression!!?!….|
|Y'see, DC Comics had earlier published zero
("0") issues of virtually their
entire line, ostensibly returning to the
roots of each series in a effort to provide
a jumping on point for new readers to hop
aboard. The following month, the books resumed
their standard numbering as well as their
ongoing storylines, hopefully with a larger
audience. Always competitive, Marvel planned
to one up their long-time rivals with an
event that would out do the zero issue stunt,
at least amongst mathematicians-the minus
one issues!! Also known by the "Flashback"
banner that ran across the top of all the
participating titles, the somewhat shaky
concept that formed the basis of this experiment
was that the time-frame being explored was
in those days BEFORE said lead super-duper
character had become super-duper!?! This
somewhat dubious premise invited such thrilling
sights as Dr. Bruce Banner fiddling with
a lab full of test tubes, with nary a rampaging
Hulk anywhere in sight. Somehow, this gimmick
was right up the alley of a book like UNTOLD,
even though it meant digging even deeper
into the past than usual. "Peter Parker,
Fetus' probably didn't seem like a very good
idea, so instead the lead tale dealt with
the secret agent antics of Peter's pre-pregnant
parents (and if you don't know the deal on
THAT, forget it. Things are getting bogged
down enough around here as it is.) Veteran
Spider-Man scribe Roger Stern, filling in
for Kurt, concocted a plot that had the pistol
packin' Parkers up against a certain Baron
Zemo, a long-lived Marvel villain known for
battling Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos
while on the side of the Nazis during World
War Two, and then going on to oppose Col.
Nick Fury, top Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. whilst
head of the secret spy organization, Hydra,
two decades later. Roger set his story in
the period betwixt and between, and I haveta
admit, it was a great idea. Fact is, I had
the EXACT SAME IDEA!!??!! Yup, without any
foreknowledge of what was being planned in
the front of the book--and without feeling
the need to share my plans with editor Brevoort,
I came up with roughly the same premise.
I say "roughly" because I don't
believe there were any water rifles included
in the lead story. Plus, mine obviously happened
years later, as Petey was a grown boy, his
folks long, um, deceased, and in the care
of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Each of our
efforts was different enough from the other,
so it all worked out fine, but I always found
it to be an amusingly cosmic comic book coincidence-and,
luckily, as best I could tell, so did Tom!!
The reason I was even invited to participate in the festivities had to do with the fact that the artist responsible for illustrating Mr. Stern's opus, the legendary John Romita senior, didn't have enough time in his hectic schedule as to allow him to fill the entire book with his pulse-pounding pencils. Mr. Romita, you'll recall, was the fellow given the unenviable task of following the mystique of Ditko on the webhead's series, and the fact that he was held in such high regard two decades on speaks well for how he rose to the occasion! His being in demand opened the door for "Petey', and actually led to an amusing situation that resulted in Petey's one and only cover appearance. Yes, Mr. R. did a cover for that issue of UNTOLD, which is the one most folks who are at all aware of that issue are likely familiar with, but there was a second, alternate cover featuring my little guy. Why? Settle in--it's explanation time again.
|Y'see, there was this big bucks comics dealer, whose name escapes me. Apparently convinced of the salability of the Minus 1 gimmick, he decided to open the vault and add his own, potentially lucrative twist on the proceedings. For a hefty sum of moolah, he induced the folks at Marvel to go back to press with four (I think) specially chosen Flashback titles, each with a different, unique cover illustration by one of the fan-favorite artists whose work was contained therein. Who better to bring in the fans than the storied Mr. Romita? Thus, UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN was added to that roster.|
|The catch was, of course, that you could only purchase these instant collector's items directly from his outfit, and not for cheap, either! To alleviate the pain of digging so deep into one's pocketbook, each cover was to be personally signed by the artist who drew it. Except… Did I mention that Mr. Romita was very, very busy? So busy that he couldn't possibly whip up another cover in time? Thus, when Tom called me up and asked ME to come up with a Petey cover, I was overjoyed at the rare opportunity! Tom explained a little bit about what the situation was, but I didn't fully appreciate what had gone down until the quartet of collector's covers were advertised in the Diamond Distributor's catalog several month's later. Four books were listed--but only three small cover reproductions were included!?! Sure enough, an alternate cover of UNTOLD is noted, and a signature by John Romita IS promised, but WHAT exactly it is is never quite made clear!?! The blurb doesn't actually say it's a Romita cover, but then, it doesn't actually say it ISN'T, either!?! What they definitely DON'T say is that it's a Hembeck cover!?! Y'know, I've always kinda wondered what the fella who shelled out all that cash thought when he first realized he was getting a cover from yours truly and not the one he no doubt expected from the far more illustrious Mr. Romita?? And how about Jazzy Johnny, as Stan Lee affectionately labeled him? How'd HE feel about having to sit down and repeatedly splash his John Hancock across MY drawing? True, there WAS a small portion of his original cover reproduced down on the lower portion of my illustration for him to claim, but still… And considering that samples of a kid Parker strip he had proposed during the sixties had come to light in recent years, did he think I was somehow attempting to STEAL his idea?? I wasn't, of course, but he didn't know that. I think that's fairly obvious by taking just a quick glance at Mr.Romita's character models, taken from a feature found in the 111th issue of MARVEL AGE (Apr1992).|
|He includes characters such as Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborn, none of whom Peter would actually encounter until his college years. Also, the young Mr. Parker is wrongly depicted sans glasses, which, prior to that fateful spider bite, were still necessary for him. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is just how much better drawn the Jazzy One's happy little group are!?! Hey, it's sad but true. The guy's a master. I'm still working at it. So those are what might've been, and "Petey"? That's what was. Woo hoo!|
|A word or two about that old devil, continuity.
Many of us first generation Marvel Comics
fans were real sticklers for everything in
that big ol' universe jibing together just
right. For instance, if Johnny Storm was
sporting a Mohawk in this month's Fantastic
Four, then he darn well better not show up
with a mullet in the pages of the Avengers!?!
You know, earth shattering stuff like that
there. It just didn't seem acceptable to
deviate from the master plan, so I took it
upon myself not to directly violate any established
Marvel lore, though I did allow myself to
skate up right to the edge of propriety several
times. I gotta have my fun, right? In various
ways, I did: early on, I have young Petey
encounter the man who'll one day employ him
as photographer Peter Parker--and harass
him as the amazing Spider-Man -- Daily Bugle
publisher J .Jonah Jameson! Boxer Battling
Murdock and his son Matt figure prominently
in another story looong before that young
fellow would become Daredevil, the man without
fear. Characters somewhat older than Petey
are encountered at pivotal points in their
lives-surgical whiz Dr. Stephen Strange pops
up amidst his drinking days, after the car
accident that rendered his medical career
obsolete, but before a trip to the far east
led him on a journey that resulted in him
taking on the mantle of sorcerer supreme.
We glimpse Victor Von Doom prior to the horrible
chemical explosion that transformed an arrogant
college science student into that scarred
enemy of all mankind, Dr. Doom. Actual Golden
Age comics featuring the legendary Captain
America-as well as fifties mainstays Kid
Colt and Patsy Walker--make brief cameos.
Dr. Don Blake hovers off stage in a later
tale, while his future persona, Thor (along
with evil half-brother Loki) put in rare
on-panel appearances in an episode dealing
with ancient Norse mythology and the weather.
Perhaps my most obscure teaming is the one
I'm proudest of: I placed Petey in the position
of babysitting a character even younger than
himself, one who would grow up to be, if
not one of the icons of Marvel Comics like
those previously mentioned, a late addition
to the sterling resume of artist Steve Ditko!?!
Yup, without giving away the (mild) surprise
of the babe's identity, I will happily take
credit for arranging a first meeting between
two Ditko characters!?! To me, that was quite
the accomplishment-ain't I the consummate
fanboy, or what? (Those voting for "or
what" can quietly leave now…)
When all's said and done, we hope to have all the "Petey' adventures posted here, in strict chronological order. You'll also find some odds and ends following the final episode-some pin-ups featuring the little fella and several of his kid pal inspirations, taken from the pages of the once annual but now no longer published AMAZING HEROES SWIMSUIT SPECIALS. There's also a never before seen page that I did especially as a gift for an old friend, comics scribe Ron Marz. He was living nearby and writing the Silver Surfer at the time. Nowadays he's toiling for Crossgen while residing in the wilds of Florida, and by all indications, that seems to be working out just swell for him. And for all my muchachos situated even further south, there's a Spanish translation of the Baron Zemo epic, just because.
|Finally, if you take a gander over nearby, you'll see a small repro of the second page of the first issue of a book called SPIDER-MAN SAGA, the purpose of which was to distill the amazing one's history down into four double size publications, culling carefully chosen panels from the archives to accompany text written by Glenn Herdling. Seeing Petey included in this historical overview meant that, back in 1991 at least, my goofy little stories were considered to be part of the larger, expansive Marvel Universe tapestry, and…sniff…I couldn't have been happier.|
|However, a lotta times gone by, new folks are running the ship these days, and though my good buddy, Tom Brevoort, is still gainfully employed by the House of Ideas (as it was once known), the likelihood of any further "Petey" antics is exceedingly low. That's okay. I had my fun. It was a pleasure and an honor to put my fingerprints all over such an icon as the webslinger (even without the webs!).|
|I'd like to thank Tom, Jim, Danny, Kurt, and of course Stan and Steve for all the good times I had. I hope rescuing these stories from obscurity will provide you readers with some chuckles and prompt you to look at what else I have available here at this site (KIDZ is the next logical step, for those who might be curious). But as I've always said to my dear darlin' wife Lynn, I've done a lotta stuff I've been pleased with, but always, I've been proudest of my "Petey"!!…|