Spider-Man’s Biggest Challenge

Breaking away a bit from our usual fare here at Nonfiction Comics, Web comic artist Andrew Farago provides us with a gem via his LiveJournal; yup, a comic book featuring a mainstream hero facing a mainstream issue. “Spider-Man Vs. The Prodigy” was put out in the 1970’s in a partnership with The Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Yup, after tackling drug addiction and adultery (depending on who you ask, Peter Parker might have slept with a married Betty Brant), Spider-Man takes on planned parenthood!

The main plot of the issue centers around an alien villain by the name of The Prodigy, who is looking to bring thousands of babies back to his home planet of Intellectia! With that plot, I can see why writer Ann Robinson didn’t have much of a career outside of being a Marvel Executive for a few years. Anyway, to achieve his vicious scheme, The Prodigy intends on telling teenagers that they don’t have to worry about having babies through sex. His lies include things like, “You can’t have babies before the age of fourteen” and, “Pregnancy is good for you. It clears up acne!” Had he simply given the kids Power Thirst, he would have received as many babies as he desired without hassle.

Prodigy has a magic voice that makes teens everywhere believe every word he says, so off to the radio station he goes to spread the word. Of course, Spider-Man tries everything in his arsenal to stop The Prodigy before he can spread his baby-making magic to the masses. Yes, this includes trying to pose as a gargoyle to avoid detection from guards. Ever see a red and blue clad gargoyle with webbing under his arms? Yeah, I thought so. Out of the pages posted by Farago, one panel stood out to me as particularly amusing considering the status quo of Spider-Man comics after the recent One More Day storyline. There is Spider-Man, lamenting on how he is ridiculously lucky to be single and without child. I mean, can you imagine what Peter Parker’s life would be with a child? Neither can he! Spidey would much rather have Twinkies and jive turkey for dinner. Mmmm…

Once the world is safe from Prodigy’s influence, we get a page reviewing facts about pregnancy and human sexuality. I’m pleased to see Marvel touch on homosexuality, making clear that the way someone acts, sounds or dresses does not make them gay. That’s somewhat proactive for the time, even for the 1970’s.

Even with the hoaky storyline I’ll admit I dug the art, which was done by Spider-Man veterans Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. And hey, the comic did manage to be somewhat informative. All I really want to know is one statistic: how many unwanted pregnancies were stopped from happening by Spider-Man? The world may never know.

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