Sunday, September 23, 2012

1983 - Amazing Spider-Man #243

Amazing Spider-Man #243
August 1983
Writer: Roger Stern
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Dave Simons

This issue starts with a fun Archie moment with Peter locked in the arms of Amy Powell and covered in lipstick as Mary Jane Watson walks back into his life. Interestingly, it’s MJ’s sudden reappearance that has more of an effect on Peter’s life as over the next few years, she becomes a more prominent character.

Amazing Spider-Man #243 is a quiet, character issue with no real bag guys to fight (okay, maybe a handful of armed men taking worshippers hostage in a church), that gives Peter a chance to digest everything that’s been going on in his life and to figure out the direction he wants to take going forward.

This story isn’t so much about options like the story title suggests, but more about decisions. Peter has been struggling with balancing all of his responsibilities. He’s a student, photographer, and super hero, and something has to give. Peter passes his final exam, but realizes that the next year of school will demand much more of him, especially in terms of the lab and research work.

After considerable thought, Peter decides that its school that has to give at this point in his life and quits. It’s not an easy decision and it was a shocking twist by Stern, who was the first writer in Spidey history to pull Peter out of school. Even today, I recall that last page and the emotional weight of it. “And once those decisions are made – for good or bad – we must live with them… all the days of our lives.”

Growing up with a maturing Peter Parker, I could sympathize with his dilemma, but I couldn’t help but feel it was the wrong one. Rereading the issue it’s difficult to see where the blame of this decision should land. Was Stern to blame or was this simply a natural progression of the character. People don’t always make the right decisions, but that’s part of growing up. Even for a comic book character.

Peter’s life up until that point has always been tied to school and his studies in the realm of science. Leaving that behind seemed to be liberating. Unfortunately, this character shift isn’t really dealt with later in the Stern-Romita run, but is eventually picked up over two decades later by J.Michael Straczynski, who had Peter return to the classroom as a teacher.


  1. It's moments like that which cast such a (well deserved) harsh light on the Spidey-Mephisto reset. Ditching his college education was a pretty big moment in Peter's life, particularly for readers who had followed many such turning points for the character--yet, what meaning does it have now? Peter's slate has been wiped clean--and our reactions to such decisions are now moot. Your words "growing up with a maturing Peter Parker" speak volumes, since the time we invested in that character and all he went through is rendered null and void, for all intents and purposes. Which begs the question: why should we do so a second time?

    Granted, Peter isn't the first person with a promising future to chuck school, and Spider-Man has obviously been the bigger draw of the book. Yet I can't bring myself to look at the trials and tribulations of Peter Parker again in the same light, even if Roger Stern were to step in and write the most moving story ever for him. If it has to do with Peter's future, what would be the point?

  2. Hey Comicsfan, thanks for the comment. Your words echo my thoughts on tihs; nicely said.

  3. Another "quiet" character driven issue from Stern. God I miss that run.

    I remember having the issue before this one (when MJ walked in on him right before the comic ended)- I think it was the issue where Spidey beats up the Thinker's battledroid (remember when Spidey was a formidable match for any foe?). I moved about a thouseand miles away from my home right after that issue came out and never got settled in time to pick back up with Spidey until DeFalco was on board. So I never saw this issue until I bought the ASM DVD a few years back. As such, I don't have the fond childhood memories of this issue per se, but do of this the issue right before this and for the run in general.

    I don't think it was an "error" by Stern to pull him out of school at the time - I think the dictates of the story were kind of heading in that direction for a whil. Obviously there were a lot of mis-steps taken after this by subsequent writers (Stern was not on the title for long after this if I remember correctly). And who knows what Stern would have done with it if he had stayed on the title long term?

    And that is a question I can cry myself to sleep at night with. Where would Stern had taken Spidey if he had stayed on.

    Oh - and OMD/BND did not "wipe this away" IMO. I'm not defending that decision and I think that story and it's implications were badly handled, but this is pre-marriage Spidey were talking about here anyway. OMD/BND never purported to re-write Spidey history to the beginning, just the marriage.



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