The Bizarre Adventures of SpiderMan on Power Records

first_imgIn the early 1970s, a company called Power Records released a series of LPs and 45s with licensed superhero characters, including ones from Marvel. The popularity of Spider-Man in the 1960s lead to his banner status in the “Heroes” collection of records, even amongst other Marvel characters Power licensed, like Captain America and the Hulk. These would be audio dramas with sound effects and multiple actors telling a short story. The early Power Records releases came with comic books meant to be read while you listen, their covers boasting “The action comes alive as you read!!”For some odd reason, probably having to do with relicensing all the old material, the Power Records presses haven’t seen a modern re-release. However, the culture of the internet has preserved a lot of the Power Records content, including the records and comics featuring Spider-Man. Even though Spider-Man was on the cover of over a dozen Power Records releases, they all boil down to six core recordings.The most well-regarded of the Power Records Spider-Man stories was “The Mark of the Man-Wolf,” for two reasons: One – it was one of the two Spider-Man records that came with a read-along comic book, and two – it was actually an abbreviated adaptation of Amazing Spider-Man #124 by Gerry Conway with Gil Kane on pencils. The other Power Records Spider-Man releases were original stories that featured original antagonists while “The Mark of the Man Wolf” was essentially a Spider-Man radio drama version of a comic book.From powerrecord.blogspot.comThe story is about J. Jonah Jameson and his son John Jameson Jr, an astronaut who is also turning into a werewolf. After John breaks an evening appointment, he gets attacked by a werewolf in his office. Spider-Man is swinging around the city, seriously considering tracking down Jonah Jameson and physically threatening him to stop writing bad newspaper pieces about him when he stops being angry at the shock of seeing a werewolf. Jonah recognizes through familial intuition that the Man-Wolf is James, so he yells at Spider-Man to let the Man-Wolf get away. Long story short, John tells his father that a moon rock he wears around his neck is the cause of the lycanthropy (my word choice). He transforms again and is about to attack his father when Spider-Man shows up, and figures out the necklace is the power source through plot convenience.“The Mark of the Man-Wolf” had a companion comic to read along with, and so did one other Power Records Spider-Man adventure: “Invasion of the Dragon Men.” This story picks up with some teenagers making out during an astronomy lecture who find men with scales and dragon heads (dragon men!) lead by a giant, fire-breathing dragon wandering in the forest. That giant fire-breathing dragon is Draco, King of the Dragon Men. The next day, Peter Parker decides not to hang out with Mary Jane because his spider-sense is going off and follows the danger to the underground lair of Draco and his band of dragon men. Draco has a very complex plan, and a nonsensical backstory where he’s not actually an alien like the prologue lightly implies but is a human named Demosthenes Drake who mixed his blood with iguana blood. If that makes no sense (like, why can he breathe fire?), then don’t expect the ending to make much more sense. A fall from the Empire State Building somehow turns Demosthenes back into an iguana, not a human, and Spider-Man lets the iguana escape. This tale is more interesting as a comic, where Draco pops like a giant green dragon than as an audio story, but that’s why it’s so fortunate that it came with the comic book to read along to.The other four Spider-Man adventures made by Power Records didn’t come with a corresponding comic book, only as records. They have no basis in what was the existing Spider-Man canon, instead relying on one-off villains and a lot of Spider-Man explaining what sort of web attack he is currently using on his foe. “The Bells of Doom” is particularly odd as the villain, Ultra-Sonic Man, has a plot to get revenge against members of the record industry. It seems like a detective-story plot grafted onto a super-villain. “The Abominable Showman” has Mary Jane and Peter Parker seeing Merlin the magician, which also devolves into a revenge play, but this time the magician and his “magic” rope, monkey, and robot are after University members who didn’t recognize his genius. Again, Spider-Man finds himself solving a problem that is unusually below the Spider-Man standard, even for Power Records stories. The guy fought a dragon on top of the Empire State Building!The remaining two Spider-Man adventures both deal with villains that would have felt more in place on a radio drama for older radio heroes The Phantom or The Shadow. “The Return of the Conquistador” has Spider-Man tracking what he thinks is a murderous art thief only to discover it is a Spanish History professor from the local college who believes he is the reincarnation of an ancient conquistador that appeared in the stolen painting. The possessed professor proceeds to murder other high-placed members of the New York art world until Spider-Man figures out what is going on and fights him. “The Mad Hatter of Manhattan!” features a villain who dresses up like different hated heroes of history (Robin Hood, D’Artagnan of the Three Musketeers, Paul Revere, and pirate Captain Kidd) to pull off bank robberies and jewel heists. His secret is under the hats he wears is a metal skull-cap that gives his super strength and increased speed. Still not enough to dodge getting webbed up by Spider-Man, but more than a normal human.The Spider-Man adventures on Power Records are fun, and it makes sense that they are simpler 45-ready stories for the early 1970s. They certainly make an impression as entertainment that can be re-played on a record player and brought to life the same fantastical stories of the comic books at the time. In the end, a lot of the voice acting done for the Power Records hero series ended up being utilized in music; most notably for Spidey in rapper MF Doom’s “Bells of Doom” on his 2009 Unexpected Guests compilation album. The track pulls a clip of Ultra-Sonic Man’s claim that he’ll “show the record executives I’m the best sound man of all time.” Considering the song is good, and the sample plays better in context of a pop song than a Spider-Man adventure, I guess the “Bells of Doom” story has been justified for its oddity in hindsight.From powerrecord.blogspot.comlast_img read more