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“See, he’s a pig with all the powers of a spider and WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME THAT WAY?” – Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #14

January 8, 2012

I have a confession to make. I like Peter Porker. I like him a lot. A like that borders on love.

There’s no shame inherent in this. I read his book as a kid. I was right smack dab in the middle of the target demographic for a short Spider-Ham. But there’s this odd impulse amongst many men to never admit to ever having delved into the frivolities of youth. I include myself in this class. You know how in Greek myth the goddess Athena was “born” by shooting out of Zeus’s head fully formed? I feel like I should always give off the aura of one who burst out of my mother’s womb smoking a cigar and clutching a straight bourbon. “Where’s the dames?”

Granted, I make no bones about having loved comic books and still treasuring them well into adulthood. But a kiddie book about a short and cute Spider-Ham, under the kiddie Star Comics imprint no less, well, that might be a bridge too far. I feel like the Man Police are going to kick in my front door. WE HAVE A WARRANT FOR YOUR ARREST, PUSSY.

Nevertheless.

I hadn’t cracked open an issue of The Spectacular Spider-Ham in years until the other day, after I picked this one up while spending far too much money in a New Year’s sale. And I was more than a little surprised by how well the whole enchilada holds up to my early-30s eyes.

For the noninitiates, Peter Porker started life as a spider, one that was bitten by a radioactive pig (up is down, down is up) and thereupon began fighting crime in a critterfied Marvel Universe, one where every character you can imagine is shoehorned (quite easily, actually) into a furry counterpart. Here’s a selection, conveniently printed in this issue, including an alarmingly buxom Mary Jane Waterbuffalo:

If you don’t love Mooseterio…

There was a distinct, fun visual component to the title (including the design of Spider-Ham — every time I see Brian Griffin on Family Guy I think of those stubby limbs and that snout). An identity all its own. It reminds me of modern 3D animation in that respect. There’s a Pixarity to it — that might be overstating things, but there you go. A variety of artists worked on the title (Joe Albelo and Pierre Fournier pencilled and inked this installment), and they all built on this unique aesthetic. And the writing wasn’t puerile (Mike Carlin scripted here). It was miles better than your similarly aimed Looney Tunes or Disney tripe.

This issue is a decent example.

It’s no ordinary animalified foe that our virtuous Spider-Ham foe that our hero tussles with here. It’s a character in the vein of the above Sylvester Stallion. It’s a rocker character who bites the heads off chocolate bunnies. Not Ozzy Osbourne. It’s Ozzy Ostrich, and Ozzy Ostrich’s decibels do not agree with poor picture-snapping Peter’s piggy ears:

The Marmosets. IT NEVER LETS UP.

Spider-Ham is as often in over his head as his human counterpart. Even gangly rock star birds can kick his ass, as Ostrich does after a misunderstanding about (not) stolen gate recepits:

Porker’s work life isn’t much better, just like Parker’s:

If you’re wondering why Porker is all flattened, it’s because he was caught in the Daily Beagle’s (…) printing press while changing out of his Spider-Ham attire — CAN SPIDER-MAN GET MASHED UP LIKE THAT YEAH I DIDN’T THINK SO.

The real villain of the piece isn’t Ostrich, but a sinister pawnbroker who sells him a guitar that hypnotizes listeners to do his (the pawnbroker’s) bidding. Porker, with his cotton-stuffed ears, is immune to its effects while on his second photog assignment, and through porcine pluck he’s able to free Ostrich from its grip. They team up to deliver a (literal) El Kabong to the malefactor:

I’m not claiming that this stuff needs to be studies with Talmudic intensity, nor am I claiming that it’s the best material in the world. If I was force-fed a steady diet of Spider-Ham, I’d probably grow tired of his act quite quickly. Maybe even puke. But an occasional dip into Peter Porker’s little world is inordinately enjoyable. If you’ve never given it a try, dive right in. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Spider-Ham still shows up occasionally on variant covers and in one-shots. That seems about right. Always leave them wanting more. And there’s still plenty of room in the world for a Spectacular Spider-Ham.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2012 2:39 am

    Still my favourite comic of all time.

    I was lucky last year to receive some unpublished pages of Petey from Mark Armstrong (the definitive Ham artist:)

    • January 11, 2012 10:47 pm

      The existence of such a phrase as “definitive Ham artist” is one of the reasons that I so like/love the character.

      • January 11, 2012 11:01 pm

        Indeed it is;)

        Feel free to email me if you’d like me to forward the work to you?

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