Bad Santa

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Another Christmas comic for another Christmas season. Today I’ll be taking a look at Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #112 (Mar. 1986), written by Peter David and illustrated by Mark Beachum with a killer cover by Kyle Baker.

Not a whole lot of action in this tale, but it’s certainly one hell of a trip in the way-back machine, as we’ve got a ton of supporting characters that I haven’t even given a thought to in many a year. There’s Joy Mercado, Pete’s journalistic partner in Now assignments, surprising him with a kiss under some mistletoe. There’s Kate Cushing, then-new city editor who was always busting Pete’s chops over the quality of his photos and slow to give him assignments. There’s Randi, Candi, and Bambi, Pete’s sunbathing neighbors in Mrs. Muggins’s apartment building. There’s Randy Robertson, who’s home for the holidays with his new bride. And we also get our more standard regulars in the persons of Joe Robertson, Harry Osborn, Aunt May, Anna Watson, MJ, and the Black Cat.

Spidey’s books had a deep bench of supporting players back then, obviously. This was necessitated by editor Jim Owsley (a.k.a. Christopher Priest)’s attempt to give each title its own unique flavor. So Web of Spider-Man had Pete partnering up with Joy for adventure and intrigue while on assignment for Jameson’s Now magazine; Spectacular Spider-Man had some gritty street stories to go along with some more light-hearted fare, such as the sun-bathing neighbors; while Amazing remained the more traditional Marvel superhero book.

The reason all of these characters happen to appear in this one story is because Peter David is trying to show how desperate Pete is to make holiday plans with someone, anyone, just to avoid being alone on Christmas. True to the Parker luck, everyone shoots him down—or appears to, anyway.

One interesting development here: We learn that Bambi has a son named Jordan. A department-store Santa with bad intentions gets the boy to reveal his mother’s address to him so he can loot the place later. Since Bambi lives next door to Spider-Man, you can probably guess how this plays out.

This issue has a cover date of March 1986, which means it was published around Christmas time 1985. So when the other Santa—the real one—mentions “slasher films” from the year prior, he’s talking about an elegant cinematic gem titled Silent Night, Deadly Night (not to be confused with the Marvel Two-in-One story of the same name). Here’s the TV commercial as it ran in 1984.

Incredibly enough, there may also be another Santa slasher movie that came out around this same time—note that he said “films,” plural. I have the vaguest memory of there being another such film, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere on the web. Anyone out there that might know more about this, please share in the comments below.

Anyway, the bad Santa of this story turns up rehabilitated at the Daily Bugle toy drive and points Peter in the direction of his Aunt May, with whom he’ll end up spending the holiday, along with MJ and Anna Watson. The story ends on a rather ominous note, with a couple guys outside Aunt May’s house, one brandishing a knife while the other reins him in, saying, “Forget it, man. We’ll do it another day. He won’t get away.” But this was just a semi-cliffhanger teasing the events of the next issue. For this issue, Peter gets to enjoy the holiday with his aunt, Mary Jane, and her Aunt Anna. It’s a sweet and cozy Christmas ending—hopefully we’ll all get to enjoy such a holiday this year. I think we’ve earned it.

2 thoughts on “Bad Santa”

    1. Interesting observation. The similarity is undeniable, though I hadn’t noticed before because I never saw Cobra, so it doesn’t take up much space in my memory. (I do remember the poster and can recall the cheesy tagline, “crime is the disease and I’m the cure.” Or something like that.) However, a quick trip in the wikimobile reveals that Cobra was released Memorial Day weekend of ’86, while this issue of PPTSSM came out in December of ’85. Now is it possible that promotional material for the film was put out nearly half a year before its release and inspired Baker’s cover? Or, perhaps even more incredibly, could this cover have inspired the poster?

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