I still remember it clearly, you usually do when it’s your first time. We were travelling up the east coast of Australia, it was Easter, and I was hooked! That morning the Easter Bunny had visited us and I had received the most precious gift. Yes there was chocolate but that wasn’t the best part. The Bunny (AKA Dad) had left me a comic with my confectionary. The Amazing Spider-Man #299 in fact. A gateway to a lifelong love of comics and storytelling that will never let up.
This Spider-Man wasn’t wearing the same red and blue costume that my bendable action figure had. It was black, and it was AWESOME! He was still Spidey though without any doubt. The quips, the thwips, it was all there. Plus, there was Chance, a mercenary with the swagger of Bruce Campbell and the Rocketeer. Spidey had to save him from the clutches of the Life Foundation, which was a little counter-intuitive but it hooked me even more. His relationship with Mary Jane was explored and how their lives didn’t quite gel as perfectly as you would expect.
But the last sequence of the comic had the largest impact. The menacing reveal of the mystery villain who could seemingly avoid Peter’s spider sense. “Hi, Honey… I’m home!” four simple words that so clearly terrorised Mary Jane, his face reflected in her pupils, accompanied by a demonic cheshire grin. I consider myself really lucky to have been exposed to Todd McFarlane’s drawings that enhanced the story of David Michelinie as my first foray into comics. Stumbling into the ground zero of the behemoth that would be the Venom phenomenon.
I remember reading it again and again. It has some creases now, and the pages have yellowed slightly but it is still to this day my most cherished comic. I loved the art, the way that action and movement danced from panel to panel. I loved the story, the cheekiness of Spider-Man, the hints at more to come. But above all of that I loved the joy that I felt each and every time I opened its pages. I still do.
John Vader is a child of the 80s who is still growing up.