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Dollar Bin Discoveries: Spectacular Spider-Man 53 and The Darkness/Superman



Jessika: My leg is getting tattooed, only laying down. And this guy was like, are you reading comics? Uh, yeah. Uh, I am. Yeah.

Mike: Welcome to Tencent Takes, the show where we chew the scenery with gusto, one issue at a time. My name is Mike Thompson, and I am joined by my co host, the four color femme fatal, Jessica Fraser.

Jessika: Oh, it is I. And I am many colors.

Mike: I mean, if you're not following Jessica on TikTok, you should and see all of her rad tattoos she's been getting.

Jessika: It's a journey. Everyone, come along with me.

Mike: How, uh, are you doing?

Jessika: Oh, I'm good. I have a new tattoo. Life is good.

Mike: Awesome. Well, if you are new to the show, our main episodes drop every other week and provide in depth looks into interesting moments in comic books and how they tie into pop culture and history. But today is one of our dollar bin discoveries. Many episodes that we do in between those deep dives, the general premise is that we spend a lot of time rooting through dollar bins at local shops looking for interesting stuff. And while a lot of the issues that we find are fun and weird, there may not be enough in those for us to do a full deep dive on. But that's just at the moment we reserve the right to change our mind and come back later. Each of these mini episodes features both of us talking about one random issue that we came across in the dollar bins and talking about what it is, what goes on inside it, and why it's interesting. These are mini episodes that are meant to provide you with some weekly content in between our more in depth discussions. And as always, we hope you enjoy them. So, uh, Jessica, it is mid December. Did you find something holiday themed in the dollar bins?

Jessika: Inadvertently.

Mike: Really?

Jessika: Yes, I will say inadvertently.

Mike: All right.

Jessika: Maybe even the title will tell you why. So this is Peter Parker the Spectacular Spiderman, issue number 53 from April of 1981, titled Toys of the Terrible Tinkerer. That's the only way. It's like any in any way holiday related. It's just toy related. Okay. But it feels very adjacent. So this was written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Jim Moore, inked by Frank Springer, lettered by Jim Novak, colors by Ben Sean, edited by Denny O'Neill and editor in chief was Jimmy shoots himself. Plot if he ever listens to that, he's going to feel so disrespected or he's going to be very excited that he lives among us with nicknames I died of whichever could go either way, let us know. Plot peter Parker is heading home from a disappointing day, being not graded his day job, when he sees a woman in distress who's raving about toys and is threatening to jump off of a very high building in order to get away from them. And of course, Peter Parker just has to get involved. So he puts his web shooters on in a phone booth, alas Superman, and shoots webb in his own face to hide his appearance.

Mike: Yeah, that checks out.

Jessika: Okay, side note, he tie and write this down. But side note, he talks about the fact he's like, it's really itchy in here. I'm not looking forward to having to put that mask back on. And I'm just like, my guy must have such bad acne.

Mike: Oh, yeah, totally.

Jessika: I bet his face is either he's got a really good skin routine or his face is just absolutely spotted, which would be very sad for him. It's hard to be a Spider with acne.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, he was still at that point in time being portrayed as, like that late high school or early college student, I think. So. Checks out. I don't know. Maybe at this era he was out of college. Uh, it seemed to kind of back up.

Jessika: He had this job most of his life. So I guess maybe his job isn't the point that we should anchor him to when we're talking about his age. But yeah, he did seem like he was kind of young adult, as it were. So he shoots webb in his own face to hide his appearance. He almost bungles saving the woman and a cop who was like, I got you. Wait, no one's got me. Like, that was the line, right? And, uh, as they're falling, Spiderman is just like, bungling it. And he's just like, can't really seek. He's got web on his face and he's making little things that they can kind of bounce off of. Uh, but then everyone's like, he's dropping them on purpose. And it's like, he's clearly not he's clearly the only one involved in helping them in any way. But the whole crowd is, like, upset about it somehow anyway. And they're like, is that Spiderman? It's like, who the fuck else climbs up walls like that? They're like, it has to be. Yeah, no, this guy's got it. How many other people are you seeing rolling around the city like this? Anywho? Saves the lady. Then he's like, in the room where she was trying to figure out what the hell happened. And he ends up figuring out the woman may have been onto something and is looking around the room in the building he just saved the woman from when a huge man attacks him after he's also sprayed in the face by a jack in the Box clown with some sort of confusion like mind agent. And the man Peter Parker is fighting ends up being incredibly strong and flies away from the scene with the loot that had been in that room to begin with. And he has this backpack that a little, uh, Go Gadget helicopter comes out of. And Peter Parker is like, whoa, that's not normal. So after gearing up with his actual spider suit, I don't know why he didn't carry that shit around to begin with. Peter Parker tracks down the man, and he just happens to be in a layer of toys. And the man himself ends up being a toy named Toy. And he is in control of the Tinkerer, who explains that he has been, overall, just fucking with Spiderman for a while now and actually gives different points from other issues where he has been involved. For example, he states that he was the one who had taken control of the Spidermobile at a different point and that he had also sent another yeah, the Spidermobile. So at one point, he loses control of the Spidermobile and Tiger is like, uh, uh, that was me. And then he's like at another point, he said he had sent another previous folk named the Rocket Racer, and I guess he was the Toy too. Toy and Rocket Racer are African American men are black men. Fun fact. Put that away in your little brainski for later when Jessica starts talking about this stomach. So Spidey ends up in what is basically a giant claw machine and escapes the giant claw and winds up throwing Toy directly into the path of some sort of stun gun that the Tinker had trained on Spidey. So Toy is effectively destroyed and the Tinker is distraught at having killed what he considered to be his child. So Spiderman flies away because apparently that trauma won the fight. And the bad guy was effectively ended because he's sad now. I don't know. It just ended there. He just left.

Mike: Did it end on, like, A, two B, continued note, or was that like it?

Jessika: Uh, no, he just left. He's like, well, guess he's sad enough kind of a thing. And I was like, is he? I mean, he's definitely not coming back for vengeance later. Like, the cops didn't come or anything. Like, there really wasn't.

Mike: I feel like this is kind of anecdotal, but every comic I have from before the mid 80s, they were almost always pretty self contained stories. Yeah, they didn't, like, end on Cliffhangers or to be Continued. They would always kind of wrap things up. I don't know. I feel like this was a storytelling technique that was derived to boost sales, which would check out with the 80s since that was, like, capitalism's.

Jessika: Heyday, 1 million%.

Mike: I could be way off on this. But a lot of times they would wrap things up in a bow in ways you're like, wait, but you didn't really resolve anything.

Jessika: You could be way off, but I suspect I heavily suspect you. Or not. It was a fun story. It did get really intense at the end with the idea that the Tinker thought of Toy as his child because would you put your child in that much danger? Like, all the time he's in danger. I was like, okay, whatever.

Mike: My guy, the Tinker has come back every now and then. It's kind of like a supporting character I think he shows up as like one of the Thunderbolts eventually.

Jessika: I can't remember for sure.

Mike: I might be off. It might have been another kind of like tech oriented villain. I don't really remember it.

Jessika: That is interesting. It now kind of makes me wonder. I have not looked up anything about this comic, so I have no idea if it's worth anything. I literally picked it up in the Dollar Bin, so probably wouldn't be but it's just one of those things where it's like now I'm like, huh, does this guy show up in more places? Is this one of those issues where they're like, oh, that's where that other dude showed up a bunch of times. I don't know. Someone else. Tell me. Jake, tell us.

Mike: Yeah, Jake and Jesus.

Jessika: Jake and Jesus. Tell us.

Mike: He's come about again and again. Marvel Snap has a location card right now for the tankers lab. Um.

Jessika: That'S weird. That's weird that I would just kind of bring that about.

Mike: M. Here's the other thing though, is that just because it's in the Dollar Bin doesn't mean that it's not worth anything. Like the stuff that I have found in Dollar Bins. I have found books that are worth some pretty reasonable money. Like even that alpha that we talked about recently, Alfred, even in the ratty condition that it's in, I could probably sell it for like $20 to $30. Um, I found rare variants. I recently found a hollow foil variant of Crimson Number One from Image Comics back in the don't know if it's worth this, but the amount that I've seen people asking for it on ebay is fifty dollars to one hundred dollars. And it's in great condition. You just got to be patient. And you can't go in expecting to find treasure every time, but every now and then you do.

Jessika: M, totally fairly fair. Here's the thing. I go in opposite. I expect I will find nothing but just things that belong to the Dollar Bin. I'm just like, this is where you belong, isn't it? I'll just go ahead and take you home. You need a new home, don't you? I'll take all of the trash mine now.

Mike: We are the Dollar Bin Goblins.

Jessika: We are, uh, let's see. Oh, my thoughts. We didn't get into my thoughts. Here we go. Mhm, we did, kind of. But let's get further. I do like the fact that they brought the Tinker into so many other issues. I like the idea that he'd been kind of quietly working against Spiderman even when he wasn't actually present in those other issues. And it didn't even really feel like retconning because it was a believable set of characters to be under the Tinker's command. Like, it seems believable that he could get the Spider mobile under his command or that he could send another person who was also a believable android.

Mike: Yeah, um, I like that stuff. A lot of times they would sit there and kind of plant seeds for it. And so I'm curious if we saw him in the background and those issues, but who knows?

Jessika: Yeah, I wonder that too. But yeah, since I just have this one, I kind of just have the island of Not Knowing, but I wonder that too. So it would be interesting to go back and check it out. M. So one thing I will mention about this Tinkerer character is that he is an old white guy, but he makes all of these toy foes to fight Spiderman that are made to look like realistic strong black men.

Mike: Mhm. I don't know how I feel about that.

Jessika: I don't feel good about it. I don't feel good about it. Yes, it's giving bad vibes is all I'm really going to say on the topic is it's giving bad vibes. I just think it's an interesting choice.

Mike: It's serving problematic realness.

Jessika: It is serving incredibly problematic realness. I also did find it interesting once again, that the crowd was written to turn on him so quickly when he was, like, the only one helping. There was nothing anybody on the ground could do. Now he really can't. Like, sure, there were like there were like firefighters and stuff, but legitimately, what were they going to do? Absolutely nothing. This is the only motherfucker climbing up a building and you're going to sit here and boo at him. I really don't understand it's.

Mike: New York.

Jessika: They're mean? Because they're in New York. I guess.

Mike: Yeah, I think that's the general gist is that, uh, new Yorkers are mean.

Jessika: Listen, New York, prove my cross. I don't believe you're all mean. All right, well, listen, that was my read. I did have a good time reading it. It was a fun story. But what about you? What you've been chewing on?

Mike: So I found the two issue miniseries of the Darkness, Superman crossover. And so I read the first issue. Uh, and this is from 2005. It is written by Ron Mars. Pencilled and ink by Tyler Kirkham. Additional inks were done by Don Ho, Tom Barr, and Matt Banning. It was colored by John Starr, lettered by Dennis Heisler, and Robin Spehar, and it was edited by Scott Tucker. And do you know the darkness? Have you ever have you ever seen what the Darkness looks like?

Jessika: No.

Mike: Okay. Um, we're going to do an episode tying into this at some point about this because it's a much deeper rabbit hole than you would expect. But the Darkness is an example of mid 90s extreme grit in comics that's managed to stick around in terms of pop culture success. So the comic stars a mob hitman named Jackie Estacado, who gains this sort of it's like a supernatural curse, but it also, like, grants powers. It's something called the darkness. It basically passed down his family line and it grants him a number of abilities that usually manifest as, like some kind of mystical armor that grants the usual strength, durability, all that. And then he has the ability to summon what are called darklings, which are these kind of goblin like creatures. So this is extra cool with us now because we're the dollar bin goblins and we have a goblin mascot.

Jessika: Yeah, we do.

Mike: But the darklings do is bidding. And so this crossover came out right around the time that the Darkness was at its peak popularity. New Line Cinema had just optioned the comic for a movie that never came about. There was a video game that was fantastic that was in development, and that came out in 2007. And this book specifically came out right when Top Cow was actually doing several intercompany crossovers with The Darkness. There's similar crossovers with Batman and Wolverine, which I haven't read, but I really want to look them up now. And anyway, this comic opens up with like, you see headlines of the Daily Planet talking about how there might be a mob war going on in Metropolis. And Jackie is in the city trying to expand his mob family's presence onto Superman's turf. He is in an Italian restaurant. And then Metallo, the Superman villain who is working for another mob boss that Jackie wants to buy out, he comes in, and there's a confrontation between the two where Jackie's goons try to gun him down. That doesn't happen. And then Jackie winds up kind, uh, of beating the hell out of him with his darklings. It's a fun little scene. And then it goes to the Daily Planet, where it's revealed that Perry White is very focused on covering what is possibly going to be a mob war going on in his city between Estacado and this other boss. And so, like, it's kind of great because Perry wants his top four to run the assignment. And so he assigns Lois to COVID the story. And at this point in time, Lois and Clark are married. It's kind of funny. She's actually drinking from a cup that says, like, my husband is a Superman. And it's got the Superman logo. It's very cute.

Jessika: She's Louise.

Mike: It's kind of great.

Jessika: Yeah.

Mike: But yeah. Uh, so Clark ends up showing up to the meeting late because it turns out he was out literally stopping an alien invasion. He hustles into the janitor closet to make out with Lois, which I kind of liked. I love the fact that he likes to sneak away. And then they have a conversation about what's going on. And Clark is not really thrilled, but he acknowledges that he's probably going to have to defend this mob boss from Estacado because he doesn't want the violence spilling over to affect the rest of the city. And then we get some in between stuff where, like, Superman goes to save a train while Jackie is having a conversation with his right hand man Butcher, about how Metropolis is a good spot to operate out of because Superman is like, too busy dealing with the world ending threats. And so if Estacato's operation runs smoothly and kind of under the radar, they can do really well. And he also mentions how he thinks that Metropolis is a better location than Gotham City because he had a really bad run in with Batman, which I thought was kind of and then there's a showdown at the docks where Jackie shows up and has a confrontation with the other mob boss. Estacado almost shoots his rival, but then Superman appears and deflects the bullets. And then Lois and Jimmy are off on the side observing everything and doing reporting and Metallo captures them. And then he shows up and weakens Superman. After Superman's kind of smacked Estacato and his darkness form down a little bit, and that's where it ends. It's on a cliffhanger of, like, Superman's week. Lois is in trouble. We don't know what's going to happen. We know there's going to be like, a reluctant team up.

Jessika: Yeah.

Mike: But to be honest, uh, it's surprising how much I enjoyed this comic. Like, Kirkham's art is really slick. It's definitely got that polished late 90s early odds vibe. But it doesn't feel quite as male gazy as a lot of the books from Top Cow felt at that point in time. I enjoyed the premise of how Superman got involved in the story. It plays more into the aspect of I want to stop people from getting hurt rather than a power fantasy. And I actually really liked how much of a badass they made. Lois, like, she is definitely played off as the more successful journalist. And there's even a bit where, like, Clark sits there and he gets kind of disgruntled about Perry assigning the story to Lois and how he should probably come along as backup. And Perry is like, nah, she doesn't need you. She can handle herself.

Jessika: That was great. Oh, salty Clark.

Mike: Yeah. And then, like, Lois actually gives Clark a bad time and she's like, yeah, you're going to be on page eight and I'm going to be on page one.

Jessika: Uh, snap a doodle.

Mike: It was a really pleasant surprise. And the Darkness crossovers are super cheap. I want to pick up the other ones after I finish this.

Jessika: Nice.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: Very solid comic.

Mike: Yeah, well, likewise. So that covers everything for us tonight. We will be back next week doing a deep dive into something. I don't even know what that's going to be since it's my episode and I haven't figured out what the topic is yet. Uh, but until then, we will see you in the stacks.

Jessika: Thanks for listening to ten cent takes. Accessibility is important to us, so text transcriptions of each of our published episodes can be found on our website.

Mike: This episode was hosted by Jessica Fraser and Mike Thompson. Written by Mike Thompson and Jessica Fraser and edited by Jessica Fraser and Mike Thompson. Our intro theme was written and performed by Jared Emerson. Johnson of Bay Area sound our credits in transition. Music as Pursuit of Life by Evan McDonald and was purchased with a standard license from Premium Beat. Our banner graphics were designed by Sarah Frank, who you can find@lookmomdraws.com.

Jessika: If you'd like to get in touch with us, ask us questions or tell us about how we got something wrong, please head over to tencentakes.com or shoot an email to tencent takes@gmail.com. You can also find us on Twitter. For now, the official podcast account is ten cent takes. Jessica is Jessica witta and Jessica spelled with the K and Mike is van Sau V-A-N-S-A-U.

Mike: If you'd like to support us, be sure to download, rate and review wherever you listen. Stay safe out there and support your local comic shop.

Jessika: You.

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