Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
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.
Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.