A Love Letter to Marvel Team-Up #74

My Treasure,

I can’t stop thinking about you lately; it seems like everything I read online reminds me of you.

Don’t worry. It’s not because I’ve developed some kind of weird new fixation on your Hostess Fruit Pie ads. It’s just that, for the last couple of weeks, all of the Newsaramas and the blogospheres have been hyping the eternal soul out of this week’s The Amazing Spider-Man #573. According to the press release that I’ve seen twenty-three sites copy and paste into posts in the last ten days (it counts as content!) this issue will feature an eight-page backup story in which Spidey teams up with late night comedian Stephen Colbert to fight evildoers.

Sound familiar, my beloved?

I have no idea whether or not this story will be any good. It’s by Mark Waid and Pat Olliffe (now, there’s a team-up) so obviously my hopes are high… but I already know it could never hold a candle to you. No matter what kind of wacky wallwalker truthiness they have up their sleeves for me this week, you never forget your first WTF.


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s crossover? Thou art more self-contained and more fun….

…sorry. I was toying with teaming up with Shakespeare for a moment, my treasure, but I never was much of a poet.

The first time I saw you is still etched on my memory like initials in a tree. It was junior high, and I was pillaging the Book Busters back issue bins during one of their Super Summer Sales, when old comics were cheaper than my dad. I was firmly in a Spider-headspace that summer, slowly unraveling the mystery of the Hobgoblin a mere year and a half behind everybody else, but I had exhausted my shop’s supply of affordable Spidey back issues. Then I remembered: Marvel Team-Up! The Shemp Howard of Spider-Man comics! Surely, those would be a steal.

I didn’t have to riffle through the boxes for too long before a sinking sensation set in. I did not need to see any of these teams teaming. Spider-Man and Tigra? Spidey and Man-Thing? No wonder I never heard anyone talking about this book. Then it happened: I saw you across a crowded bin and instantly knew you had to be mine. Marvel Team-Up #74: Spider-Man and the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players.

that damned mustacheIt was a transitional year for me; I was reading more comics than ever, but I was shedding many of my other childhood fancies in search of more adult interests. Of these, nothing fascinated me more than Saturday Night Live. I had seen shows and listened to comedy albums that made me laugh for years, but something more was inherent to this show, something in the marrow of its bones that gave it an irresistible mystique to me. I’m sure part of it was that the show was forbidden fruit; none of us at school were “allowed” to watch it in the strictest sense of the word (in particular, I can remember Robin Williams’ opening monologue being mentioned by name when four of my friends had it banned outright from their homes) but somehow all of us still managed to sneak it and talk about it on the playground Monday morning. In a way, it was cool to us in the same way it had been cool to our parents’ generation thirteen years earlier for many of the same reasons. It seemed new and transgressive.

This was also an era when there weren’t six daily Comedy Central reruns or complete season DVDs to remind you that for every great land shark sketch, there was a sketch about Jimmy Carter’s secretary of agriculture or something. The show seemed unattainable then; it played hard to get. Being the kind of kid I was, I responded by reading everything about SNL I could get my hands on. I read old Rolling Stone articles at the library; I read A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live; I even read Wired. But even with that ravenous hunger for both SNL and comics, I had no idea that you were out there waiting for me. I never dreamed that back in October 1978 Chris Claremont and Bob Hall, desperate for a Team-Up idea, had scanned the zeitgeist and gotten peanut butter in my chocolate. Once I stopped staring at your cover and going “Huh? Whaaa??” I realized that you and I were perfect for each other.

Bob Hall has never seen the show.Admittedly, you were a little scantily plotted. Peter and MJ had gotten tickets to an SNL taping (which was a big deal at the time; this would have been at the beginning of the third season, when the cast was becoming bigger than the Beatles). Unfortunately for Pete, the Parker luck was in full effect, since he coincidentally got these date-impressing seats on the one night the show was getting raided by supervillains. A magic ring intended for the Silver Samurai had been mailed to NBC by accident, where John Belushi opened it, assumed it was from a fan, and promptly put it on. (Would the real John Belushi just use whatever showed up in his fan mail? Perhaps this is best left unconsidered.) Silver Samurai and his goons stormed the set right in the middle of the live show, forcing Spider-Man to duck out on his date and join forces with the cast to vanquish him in a flurry of battles and costume changes, all without letting the audience realize anything out of the ordinary was happening. After all, the show must go on.

Of course, now that I’m older this all seems crazier than an explosion at the Superball factory. When I first read you, it was simply fun to see all my interests in one place and ponder the possibilities– did the cast even know this book existed? Did Bill Murray have a cherished copy of it in his den? Had the artist ever beheld any of the people he was drawing before?– but our relationship has deepened with age. Even after all this time, you still find new ways to delight me. Now that the tell-alls have been published, the Marvel interpretation of SNL‘s reality is two or three additional kinds of hilarious. Claremont apparently envisioned the behind-the-scenes atmosphere to be less like the Studio 54/pirahna tank it’s now described as and more like backstage at the Muppet Show. Statler and Waldorf even have a cameo at one point. That’s the kind of book you are. That’s why I love you, ya daffy bundle of stapled crazypapers.

Why can’t the audience know anything is happening? Would a panic in Studio 8H really be worse than an actor getting eviscerated on live television? How badly do you have to screw up an address label to accidentally send something to Saturday Night Live? (Worst eBay seller of all time!) Through the Claremont prism, SNL ’78 looks like a show where the cast can get yanked offstage by goons and arbitrary sword fights can break out in the middle of sketches, and to the audience it’s basically indistinguishable from any other episode. (And actually, considering some episodes of the time, I guess I have to give that to him.)

And then there is the matter of our host, Stan Lee. “Have you ever tried getting through a story conference with the Thing?” Stan asks the audience in his opening monologue. “I saw him on the street the other day and I said, ‘Ben, how are ya?’ and he said, ‘Not too good… in fact, I’m feeling a little rocky!'” The audience can barely breathe from laughing so hard. In the Marvel Universe, Stan Lee is apparently Shatner meets the godhead; everyone in the audience knows and adores him (perhaps sensing on some level that he could obliterate them from existence) and all the sketches are about the Avengers. The reader cannot linger too long on any one page, or reality will collapse in on itself.

The musical guest was Rick Jones. Thank goodness Dazzler hadn’t been invented yet; that would have knocked over the gyroscope entirely.

What can I say? I’ve always liked the dorky ones. But your sense of humor isn’t for everyone; my friends never did understand what I saw in you, and even now I tend to hide you like I’m ashamed. When people ask about the all-time classics, I immediately parrot back “oh, Watchmen, certainly” in an affectless monotone like you’re required to do by law, but even as I’m saying it I’m fighting the urge to blurt out your name. There are the books you say you like, and then there are the books you actually like.

Over the years, other books I bought would flirt with madness the way you did — Marvel Team-Up #96 (featuring Howard the Duck) was just an inch away in that same back issue bin in the eighties, and who could forget Star Trek/X-Men: Star TreX? — but my heart belongs to you. You’re the kind of book that gives those canon lawyers in mom’s basement ulcers: “How can Peter Parker be 25 now, when he is clearly 25 thirty years ago?, huff-huff-breathe-in-paper-bag.” I think that’s one of the things I like about you most. That’s why I still keep a copy of you on my desk; whenever I look up, you are there to remind me that we don’t have to take it all so goddamn seriously. Even if Spidey and Colbert don’t do that for someone this week, we’ll always have each other.




Jim Mroczkowski can’t help wondering if his wife will read this and get jealous of Marvel Team-Up #74. “Oh, you want dinner? Well, why don’t you have Marvel Team-Up #74 make you dinner?” etc. Apology gift ideas and/or therapist referrals can be submitted via Twitter or Jimski.com.



  1. looks like a good place to jump onto Amazing Spiderman.

  2. A copy of Marvel Team-up 74: $2.00

    A Pumpkin Spice Latte to drink while you read the MTU 74: $4.29

    Spitting up said latte all over the MTU 74 because Jimski made you laugh mid-sip: Priceless.

  3. Is there anything they didn’t do in comics before I was born?

  4. I really want to find that issue of Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man and SNL….God that could be the funniest story ever put on paper and I dont have it. Those snap shots alone Jimski provided are proof on how much fun that issue is.

    Oh and I certainly hate the new direction of ASM, we all know that. But I might break my stubborness just this once to get the Stephen Colbert issue. Sorry but the Colbert bump is stronger then my hatered for BND.

  5. Nice going.  I love the characterization of what SNL is *like* in the Marvel U — the obsession with Stan Lee, the FF, and Avengers.

    I know I have ‘The Avengers go on Letterman’ (the old school ‘Late Night’ version) lying around somewhere.  I think it features Paul Schafer in a Captain America T-shirt.  

    And who could deny the awesome of Xmen/Star Trek, which you know someone came up with entirely for the purpose of using the "Dr. McCoy, meet Dr. McCoy" joke.

  6. Jimski- When you write these articles , do you have an idea about the types of things you’ll link to before you write?

    Or do you just write and hopes you’ll find hyperlinks afterwards? I ask because I don’t know hoe I’d approach it myself

  7. Great stuff – happy to see someone else realizes that, like present day and every day since its inception, SNL isn’t always a home run. While this era was considered the heyday of SNL, there were a lot of stinkers in there.

    I think I have this and the Avengers/Letterman issue somewhere in a long box, rotting away into obscurity. I would like to find that Howard the Duck issue, though. Maybe time to do some back-issue box diving. 

  8. @Dan – SNL is something that people always look back on with rose-colored glasses.  It helps when all you see are the highlights from past seasons over and over again.  Almost every year of my life the critics decry that it’s awful or dying or mediocre.  The heyday eras (the original cast, the Eddie Murphy years, the Hartman-Carvey-Myers years) all had good episodes and bad, good skits and bad, good cast members and bad (although the original cast didn’t really have any dead weight on the cast).

  9. How have I never heard of this before? This sounds even better than Archie VS. The Punisher!

  10. Hey i have this issue its pretty funny. I came across it while going thru back issues and when i saw it i knew i had to have it.

  11. @Conor: I agree people look at the highlights and not the entire shows all together. I mean everyone would be amaze the more misses then hits some of the cast members had with skits. But you gotta admit: The era from 1988-93 is much better then the junk this current line-up is giving us.

  12. @TNC – On average, yes.  But each "era" has had its ups and downs, its good and bad shows.

  13. @conor: Again agree with that statement…but I think this current era has more downs then ups…I mean seriously, the best new comedian they got is the kid from Good Burger? Weak.

  14. Replyorama!

    @Neb: around this same time, Marvel put out some comics starring KISS that had vials of KISS band mamber blood poured into the ink. I have never seen them, but I guarantee you that they are as awesome as MTU 74 plus five. One day I’ll confirm this, and you’ll probably read about it here.

    @DaveCarr: if my wife outlives me, my tombstone will read "JIMSKI: Made It Up As He Went Along." I just write, and as I do I think things like, "surely that Reeses’ ad must be on Youtube" or "I just wrote ‘some people might disagree’; I should make ‘some people’ a link to the American Communist Party or NAMBLA." (To be fair, if I outlive my wife her tombstone will read "I Don’t See What’s So Funny.")

    @BrianBaer: I am ashamed to have forgotten about Archie vs. the Punisher, which is just shy of required reading.

    Also, I have reached a place where good SNL sketches delight me and bad ones fascinate me, so I might not be objective enough to weigh in on its quality. I will say that I really like the last two or three permutations of the cast and laugh a lot more than I cringe. (The musical guests, on the other hand, consistently cannot even see the toilet from the section of pipe they’re in.)

  15. @TheNextChamp: The kid from Good Burger has been on the show for several years now, and he’s actually hysterical.  I’ll agree that the show goes through peaks and valleys, just as each season has its good points and bad points.  This current season has started out strongly, even with a very uneven first episode and no real "homerun" guest host.  We had this conversation in the forums earlier today; SNL right now is as "Must Watch" as it has been in awhile.  And while those mid-80 casts were not real good (Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo carried the show single handedly for awhile), the worst, absolute worst season ever was the Janene Garafolo/Chris Elliot/Michael McKean/Sarah Silverman season.  The cast had about fifteen other people as well, and it was just putrid.  After that season they cleaned house and brought in Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, Ana Gastayer, Chris Kattan, Darrel Hammond et al., which really is what started the "modern era" of SNL.

  16. @Race: Yeah that line up you mentioned was pretty bad. I mean Chris Elliot and Sarah Silverman in the same season? Makes me want to throw up violently. But McKean is a funnier guy then most people give him credit, he just does a lot of terrible films.

    The worst line up is a tie between the current line-up and the 80-81 seasons. Those 80’s years with that Jean Doumainian (spell check?) are some of the worst comedy you’ll ever see. But SNL has had really funny stuff with the election and especially Sarah Palin…So I guess the current season edges out the 80’s one.

  17. I’ll be extremely curious to see how they handle the DVD release when they get to season 6. I also can’t wait for them to start releasing the DVDs of the seasons I actually watched live, which at the current rate of release should start hitting the market around my fiftieth effing birthday. I taped so many of them at the time… but I don’t have a VCR attached to anything anymore.

  18. I loved SNL’s take on Superman’s death.

  19. @TheNextChamp – Oh, no way, dude.  That ’94-’95 season was the worst in show history, IMHO.  It was a joint effort between a poorly constructed cast and terrible, terrible writing.  And trust me, I am a student of SNL.  It is by and far my favorite show on television.  I think the current cast has a lot of talent, but also a lot of hit-or-miss oddballs (Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Kristen Wigg, Fred Armisen).  Jason Sudeikis is great, "Update" is very strong with Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler (although it loses something without Tina Fey, certainly), Bill Hader and Keenan Thompson are both very funny dudes…  They do some odd stuff that falls flat sometimes, but I certainly prefer it to that ’94-’95 train wreck, and I’ll certainly take it as opposed to the unprofessional can’t-stop-laughing antics of Horatio Sanz and Jimmy Fallon.

  20. I miss Horatio and Jimmy busting up in the middle of a sketch.  That was always a highlight for me.

    It’s a reminder that this stuff is supposed to be fun.

  21. I thought Jimmy and Horation was funny for a while, but then it started happening every time, and got annoying.

    The cast of the current show is pretty good, with lots of talent Wiig is genuinely funny, and perhaps the funniest character actress they’ve had in a long long time.  Everything Will Forte says is funny.  EVERYTHING.  Armison used to be funny, and now it seems he’s not.  What the fuck are Kenan and Darrell Hammond still doing there? 

  22. Like he does with everything, Josh said what I was thinking about Jimmy and Horatio and needed 1400 fewer words to do it. "Oh," I remember thinking during the third crack-up sketch, "this is going to keep happening." But to be fair, how many times have I had that same thought when a character became recurring?

    Fred Armisen had a character named Nicholas Fehn on Weekend Update that rang truer and made me laugh harder than just about any damn thing I’d seen on TV in a long, long time. He… does a better Obama than I do.

    Oh, Darrell Hammond. Biopic tagline: He wasn’t in the original cast. He was just old enough to be.

    Oh yeah: the Colbert/Spider-Man thing delivered what I came for.

  23. I’m shocked Colbert hasnt advertised his appearence in ASM this week. He’s had Joey Q on his show a couple of times and he let him advertise big storylines for Marvel. Maybe he’ll do it tonight, I hope, cause as much as New Ways to Die was boring; it was all worth it going for the instant classic Colbert/Spider-Man team up.

  24. Marvel Team Up 79 is nice – Spider Man and Red Sonja.

    And there is always Howard The Duck #1 (1976) that has spider-man.