- Marvel often uses popular characters like Spider-Man to boost sales of new comic book series.
- Spider-Man made guest appearances in the first issues of Howard the Duck, NFL SuperPro, Silver Sable and the Wild Pack, and Nightwatch.
- Spider-Man’s presence on the cover and in the story helps create excitement and draw readers to these new series.
In the latest Drawing Crazy Patterns, where we spotlight five recurring themes in comics, we examine five times that Marvel used a guest appearance by Spider-Man to help sell the first issue of a new ongoing comic book series.
Throughout the history of Marvel Comics, a constant has been that if a character is popular, you use them to guest-star in a new comic book series to help sell that new comic book series. It’s just common sense, as if people like Wolverine, then wouldn’t they naturally be more likely to read a comic book that Wolverine was guest-starring in? I actually did a bit where I noted that Wolverine actually guest-starred in at least one Marvel comic book a month for over three years!
However, there are guest appearances, and then there are FIRST ISSUE guest appearances. They are relatively less infrequent, as often Marvel figures that the first issue is a big enough deal on its own, so you wait a couple of issues and THEN bring in the big name guest star. While rarer, though, they still DID happen with some frequency (to the point where Howard the Duck had it happen TWICE). Here, then, are five times that Spider-Man was used to guest star in a brand-new Marvel ongoing series to help increase the sales of the book.
Reed Richards can seemingly do anything – except help his fellow superheroes whenever they come to him for help!
Spider-Man had a convenient helicopter available to help out Howard the Duck
The cover of Howard the Duck #1 probably had the earliest outright reference to the fact that, hey, Spider-Man sells, people!
Howard had been a supporting character in Steve Gerber’s Man-Thing feature, and then had some guest appearances of his own before finally getting his own series, with artwork by Frank Brunner and Steve Leialoha (Brunner did the cover by himself). The concept of the issue is that a magician (with accounting powers) known as Pro-Rata created a tower in Cleveland, and sent Howard into another dimension to get him a key he needed to become a god. Peter Parker had been sent to Cleveland to get photographs of an alleged talking duck.
Once there, Spider-Man sees the tower, and swings into action via a conveniently located helicopter…
At the end of the battle, after Spider-Man saves Howard’s life, Spidey departs…also via a conveniently located helicopter…
Decades later, Spider-Man once again guest-starred in the first issue of the excellent 2015 Howard the Duck series by Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones…
Spider-Man was starstruck when he met NFL SuperPro in their respective secret identities
NFL SuperPro was a very silly comic book series from the 1990s that saw Marvel and the NFL combine to create a new superhero. Spider-Man appeared on the cover of NFL SuperPro #1…
Fabian Niceiza was the original writer on the series, paired with artists Jose Delbo and Mike DeCarlo. Spider-Man sees SuperPro in action and decides to help surreptitiously…
Really, it was a clever idea by Nicieza to get the benefit of Spider-Man guest-starring in the issue without having to worry about SuperPro (a former star football player turned sports reporter who was exposed to chemicals to gain powers, and then pairing with an NFL-themed supersuit, fought crime) looking bad compared to Spider-Man, as Spidey mostly works in the shadows of the issue, as SuperPro clears the name of a friend of his accused of sports gambling…
At one point in the issue, there’s a cute bit where Peter Parker stares at Phil Grayfield, and Jose Delbo does the famous half-mask for them both, and Phil thinks Peter might suspect him of being SuperPro, but in reality, Peter is just amazed at seeing the former football star in person.
Spider-Man and some shiny foil helped give Silver Sable and the Wild Pack a strong start
Silver Sable, of course, was introduced in the pages of Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz’s Amazing Spider-Man run (one of the many animal-themed characters from this era, which had an interesting origin, as I noted in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed). So Spider-Man guest-starring in the debut of her comic book series, Silver Sable and the Wild Pack, made sense.
The issue also got a foil cover, so good for that book!
The issue, written by Gregory Wright and drawn by Steven Butler and Jim Sanders III, saw Peter Parker quickly see the trouble going on, and deciding to help out…
I love how Silver Sable is so cool that she reacts to his presence like it’s no big deal at all…
This was a really fun comic book series. It’s too bad Sandman became a villain again, as his redemption arc was really nice.
The villainous Darkseid is one of the most imposing characters in comics, and as a result, he is a very effective final page reveal in comic stories
Nightwatch was confident enough to not even have Spider-Man appear on the cover
Here’s a weird one, as Nightwatch #1 (also a character who debuted in a Spider-Man comic, Terry Kavanagh and Alex Saviuk’s Web of Spider-Man), doesn’t even feature Spider-Man on the cover! How do you have Spider-Man guest star, but then not use him on the cover? There’s a mention he’s in the comic, but it seems like a real lost opportunity.
In the story (by Kavanagh, Rom Lim and Al Milgrom), Nightwatch responds to a hostage crisis at a prison. As it turns out, the bad guys got on to the prison by stealing a Daily Bugle helicopter, so Peter Parker is one of the hostages. When Nightwatch attacks, Peter sneaks away and changes into his Spider-Man garb. There’s a great joke about the Spider-Man movie everyone thought would show up at any moment back then (but didn’t come out until 2002)…
Spider-Man is a bit unsettled by how Nightwatch seems to be a bit TOO violent…
Spider-Man tried to take a bite out of Blade on Blade’s 2006 debut
Marko Djurdjevic did an amazing series of covers for the 2006 Blade series (by Marc Guggenheim, Howard Chaykin and Edgar Delgado), and this opening cover with Vampire Spider-Man versus Blade is no exception…
The issue opens with Blade fighting against Spider-Man, who has been temporarily turned into a vampire…
Blade deals with it by shooting Spider-Man (but hey, at least he didn’t stake him)…
This is one of the more amusing examples of bait and switch advertising, as Spider-Man is pretty much out of the story after this opening fight. It’s still a good issue, though.
Remember, everyone, that these lists are inherently not exhaustive. They are a list of five examples (occasionally I’ll be nice and toss in a sixth). So no instance is “missing” if it is not listed. It’s just not one of the five examples that I chose. Thanks to reader Mike for the suggestion! If anyone has suggestions for a future Drawing Crazy Patterns, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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