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Yeah Spidey, but smoking makes you look so boss and cool… – Spider-Man, Storm and Power Man (vs. THE DEMON TOBACCO)

December 30, 2011

This is yet another in the long line of drug PSAs masquerading as comics, one-offs that barely restrain themselves from lurching into a Reefer Madness degree of hysteria. They’re unhip. They’re square. Their good intentions are drowned in a sea of unartistic lecturing. All that’s not to say that railing against childhood drug use is a bad thing. Far from it. But with a little distance, a dash of perspective, snorting spilled blow off restroom floor tiles can be a bit much.

Cigarettes aren’t good for you. But they’re legal. They were legal when this comic was published (1982). Maybe not for kids, but good God. The underlying ninnyism here makes some of the Edwin Moses leaps in this comic stretch credulity to its breaking point. It’s nicotine, people. It’s not healthy. But it’s not human sacrifice, nor is it bathing in fresh entrails.

Is there anyone out there that doesn’t know about that lung cancer, emphysema, and leathery skin stuff? Anyone? Well, if all that’s not enough, this comic seems to postulate that teenage smoking can lead to a descent into the world of organized crime and youth track meet betting schemes. THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINTHEARTED.

Not only that, it features one of the oddest assemblages of good guy talent you’re likely to see.

Luke Cage is taking a break from knocking people’s teeth out to coach a youth track team. Coincidentally, Peter Parker is covering their practice for the Daily Bugle in what must be the lowest moment of his measly photog career. Maybe he pissed in J. Jonah’s coffee or something.

Anyway, the star runner is coming up a bit short in practice, and I THINK YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING:

After a concerned Cage follows young Bret to a rendezvous with some of his new smoking-friendly pals (low-level hoodlums), Peter, now in his Spider-Man guise, shows up, engages in his usual insufferably glib banter, and then calls in backup. This is a real five alarm superhero crisis, after all. Perhaps nothing made me raise an eyebrow more in this comic than Spider-Man reaching out to Storm for an assist. Seems arbitrary. Wouldn’t there be about fifty other names that would leap out as he flipped through his hero Rolodex? As he scrolled down his Facebook friends (so to speak)? Storm? Really? What, Speedball wasn’t available? Maybe he has a thing for her.

Storm and her weather powers (She can extinguish a cigarette with a mere windy whim!) are soon incapacitated when she stumbles onto Smokescreen, the villain for the cover who wears the unfortunate initials SS on his chest. Not only is he a crook, he’s a subliminal Nazi. Eventually the hoods and Smokescreen spring their fiendish plot on naive young Bret — YOU’RE GOING TO THROW THAT YOUTH MEET, KID:

Betting on a scholastic track competition has to rank someplace below Puerto Rican cockfighting in the Degenerate Gambler Hierarchy.

Lo and behold, Spider-Man, Luke and a resuscitated Storm quickly put an end to this nonsense, with Luke giving a little extra punctuation by cracking a pool table over the goons. Fun.

We wrap things up with our lesson for the day, after Bret gives the big race his all but still loses:

Biggest bunch of crooks, Spidey? Really? These douchewibblers were worse than the Kingpin? REALLY? YOU HAVE DISAPPOINTED ME THIS DAY, WEB-SLINGER.

In case the threat of idiot mobsters isn’t enough to turn you off of the cancer sticks, maybe some simple opportunity cost will change your mind:

That kid smoking there on the bottom looks pretty damn happy, doesn’t he?

This story fails on every level. The boring (and rather tame) health information provided is undermined by the ridiculous plot, one that pushes the bounds of silliness to unprecedented reaches. It backfires about as bad as that time Hank Hill tried to teach Bobby the evils of smoking.  It assuredly drove more kids to smoking out of spite than it brought back into the fold, like those smug, smarmy Truth commercials that made me want to side with Big Tobacco. The enemy of my enemy…

There are no credits given for who put this comic together, and that’s a small mercy to the poor souls who were saddled with it. Blessed anonymity.

I’ve yet to see any anti-smoking campaign counter the fact — FACT — that smoking makes you look cool, something that’s been drilled into our heads by decades of cinema classics. I’m not a smoker, but I’ve smoked. And when I’ve put that cigarette between my lips and drawn that first draft of smooth goodness, I’ve felt like James Dean. A rebel. Humphrey Bogart. A man. Surgeon General Warnings be damned.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2011 6:52 pm

    I guess Nick Fury, Wolverine and Ben Grimm were too busy?

    My favorite Marvel propaganda is Captain America joins the War on Drugs. Er…Cap, remind us…How did you get your powers?

    • January 2, 2012 1:41 am

      CA is definitely in the “Do as I say, not as I do” camp. Good call.

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