Last week, when Marvel announced the new series Avenging Spider-Man, for me and probably most long time comic readers, it immediately brought to mind the classic Marvel Team-Up, which featured Spider-Man teaming up with a different character every issue. It was great, and I couldn't help but think that the new series could never live up to it. Superhero comics just aren't nearly as much fun anymore. However, when I made a joke on twitter specifically referencing two of my favorite team ups, Red Sonja and Frog-Man, I got absolutely no response. Either people just don't know what they are missing, or I'm insane. I'm going with the former.
"Sword of the She-Devil" (Marvel Team-Up #79), by Chris Claremont and John Byrne is great for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the premise is so crazy. Basically, some random museum guard gets possessed by Kulan Gath, a villain created in the Conan comics, after touching an amulet. The museum gets taken over by the Hyborian Age (aka Conan Times), and shit goes crazy with demons and stuff. Then Peter Parker and a reporter have to leave the Daily Bugle Christmas party to cover it, and Mary Jane decides to stow away in their car for shits and giggles. Then Spider-Man has to team up with Red Sonja to defeat him and get everything back to normal. How exactly does Spidey team up with the metal bikini clad warrior from nine thousand years ago? Mary Jane turns into her, of course.
I don't want to give away too much, because you really should track it down and read it for yourself. All the typical comic book team up misunderstandings happen though, which leads to them getting captured, and some light bondage.
This doesn't really stop Sonja from insulting him though, because, well, he's still a man and he does sometimes act like an idiot, even though he's not. She talks about Ishtar a lot too, but it seems to be some god and not the movie. Eventually everyone gets really confused by the bright lights in the big city and Spidey is able to find a way to save the day. It's a fantastic comic. As a matter of fact, it's so epic that even Superman has to put in an appearance. He doesn't help out though, because that would cause too many legal problems.
This issue was my introduction to the character of Red Sonja, and, while I have never ventured into her comics, I've always had a fondness for her because of it. She's fun, and I love the idea of her being in modern day New York.
A few years ago, Marvel and Dynamite, the current license holders for Red Sonja comics, released a new miniseries, by Michael Avon Oeming and Mel Rubi, re-teaming Spider-Man and Red Sonja. This time Kulan Gath managed to take over the whole city, instead of just a museum, and it features Red Sonja-ized versions of many Spider-Man supporting cast members and villains. I loved it as much as the original comic, and I recommend picking up the Marvel Premiere Edition hardcover if you can find it. (I got it half price at a convention.) It has both the miniseries and Marvel Team-Up #79.
J.M. DeMatteis, one of my all time favorite Spider-Man writers (probably only second to Stan Lee himself), is best known for writing the brilliant "Kraven's Last Hunt," but one of the things that made his Spider-Man work, which spanned many years and multiple titles, so great is that he would also write some unabashedly goofy comics. "The Best Things in Life Are Free... but Everything Else Costs Money!" from Marvel Team-Up #131, with art by Kerry Gammill and Mike Esposito, is one such story.
All you really need to know about this comic is that a new costumed criminal, White Rabbit (above), my all time favorite D-list Spider-Man villain, and her henchmen are on a crime spree. There's a huge reward out for her capture, and seemingly everyone is in dire need of cash, especially a friend of Peter's who has to pay his mom's medical expenses, and Frog-Man (below). I love the way comics before the era of decompression just flat out told you what you needed to know about a character in a few expository paragraphs, but I guess that's what we have Wikipedia for now.
White Rabbit used her wealth to pay for cool gadgets, like jet boots and an umbrella the shoots carrots. Anyone who has seen Shoot 'Em Up, which you all should because it is brilliant, knows exactly how dangerous a carrot can be.
And if Frog-Man never appeared in one of those Hostess snack cake ads, that's a crime. (And if he has, and you know where I could find it, please let me know in the comments.)
Frog-Man has most recently appeared in Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #2, by Sean McKeever and Mike Norton. (I literally read it the morning after I started working on this post, and had to tweet my thanks to them for being awesome enough to include him.) As for White Rabbit, I think comic writer Fred Van Lente may be the only person besides me who remembers this character. He has used her a few times, such as Amazing Spider-Man #605 and Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #35, which I highly recommend. It's worth tracking down Marvel Team-Up #131 though, as well as the few issues of Spectacular Spider-Man, that White Rabbit appears in from DeMatteis' underrated post-"Clone Saga" run with Luke Ross, notably issue #256, which features a giant robot rabbit with machine guns. (I actually read those issues first, and then had to find White Rabbit's first appearance because of how much fun they were.)