Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Incredibly Stupid Plots

I was reading a list of failed government energy programs and the entry for breeder reactors reminded me of one of the dumbest plots to appear in Spider-Man. This got me to thinking about bad 1970s plots in general.

DC and marvel were a mess in the 1970s, especially Marvel. Stan Lee and the other driving forces behind the Silver Age were gone. The new generation was enthusiastic but undisciplined. Marvel was having trouble keeping an editor-in-chief. Pretty much every writer who hung around long enough got the job at some point. Most quit after less than a year. This showed up in the quality. Features were launched with A-list talent then turned over to the B-team after a month or two. Sometimes assignments were dumped on the new team with no indication of where plots were headed.

With all of this churning in assignments, deadlines were regularly missed. Most strips had at least one fill-in per year where the creative team had missed a deadline so an inventory story was run instead. These were usually poor and some were downright awful. Which brings me to one of the worst.

The Defenders was a team of marvel super-heroes. In one fill-in story, the team was captured by a frustrated chorus boy (dancer) and his tap dancing robots. Really.

After Star Wars came out and its licensed toys were a hit, Marvel began licensing its characters. Writers were encouraged to include licensed products in the comic book. So, Spider-Man got a Spider-Car. It was actually a dune buggy with tires that could stick to walls and web shooters. Even in the comic it was treated lightly. Someone offered Spider-Man some licensing money if he would build and drive a spider-car so he and the Human Torch whipped something together. Spider-Man had never driven anything besides a motor cycle before. after a few issues he lost control of the car and drive it into the East River.

But someone recovered it, outfitted it with remote control, and sent it to kill Spider-Man.

I actually saw the original art for the entire issue for sale once. It was fairly cheap, probably because it was such a bad issue.

DC had its bad stories, also. In one, Superman was traveling through time and found that the Time Trapper had arraigned it so that he could only go forward in time and so that he would age. At one point, in the far future, Superman found a burnt-out Earth being collected for recycling by two giant robots. He saved the planet from them then split it in two and welded the two halves together, side by side, with his heat vision. Then he used his super lungs to bring an atmosphere. Finally, he imported a new eco-system. Needless to say, none of this is remotely possible. Finally, Superman traveled to the end of time only to discover that time is circular so he ended back where he started.

Back to Spider-Man. This next one needs a little background. In Spider-Man Annual #1, six of Spider-Man's enemies made a coordinated attack. Their first step was to kidnap Betty Brant who Spider-Man had rescued before. It just happened that Spidey's Aunt May was talking with Betty when she was kidnapped so both women were taken. Their captor, Doctor Octopus, was very polite to them and May, who must have stopped reading the paper, had no idea that he was a super-villain. Later she commented on how much nicer he was than that awful Spider-man.

That is as far as this went until Stan left the strip. His replacement, Gerry Conway, wanted to take everything to the next level, even if it meant jumping the occasional shark.

When Aunt May decided to make a little extra money by letting out a room, Doctor Octopus rented it. Then he proposed.

But, it was all a trick. Unknown to Aunt May, she had inherited a breeder reactor in Canada and Doc Ock was after that (he was a nuclear scientist, after all). He went to collect the plant, a fight ensued, the plant went critical and exploded.

Where to start? Nuclear power plants just are not privately owned, especially experimental once capable of producing plutonium. Even if they were, May would have known and had to sign a bunch of paperwork before taking possession. And where did the rich relative come from who left her the plant? Why didn't anyone ever speak of it again? As owner, May would have been involved in legal affairs for decades after a power plant exploded (which can't happen). There just isn't a single part of this story that makes sense. It was all conceived to explain why Doc Ock would want to marry a poor widow and to tie in with the newest scientific news (the breeder reactor).

While the dancing robots were really bad, that was a fill-in. This was part of a story arc that stretched over months and, presumably, had editorial approval. That's why it gets my nomination for worst story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but I'd like you to send your comment to a power plant called "Three Mile Island" in 1980s. There was an awful lot of needless panic that could have been avoided if they had just been assured by you that "Nuclear Power Plants can't explode." Thank you, President Jimmy Carter