If I had to pick a favorite comic-book title from my youth, well...I probably wouldn't be able to do it. There were just so many that I enjoyed every month. But I would have to include Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One in the conversation. The original run of Marvel Team-Up started in 1972 and ran for 150 issues until 1985. It generally featured Spider-Man as the lead character teamed up (get it?) with another Marvel character or several of them. There were a handful of issues that had The Human Torch and/or The Hulk as the lead character, but it was mostly Spidey and a friend or three. Marvel Two-In-One was essentially the same book, but with the The Thing as the lead character, often pairing with more obscure characters as the series progressed. It was published for 100 issues (such great round numbers, right?) between 1974 and 1983. They even had at least one crossover during their runs, a couple of issues that I will most likely write about in a future installment of this series. Exciting, huh?
I loved crossovers between books when I was a kid. When Man-Thing would appear in an issue of The Incredible Hulk or when Luke Cage would fill in as a member of The Fantastic Four. And these two titles had a crossover like that in every single issue! I loved that. And the two titles also presented an opportunity to discover characters I had previously known nothing about. Like Deathlok, the Demolisher.
Deathlok was a fairly new hero or anti-hero in 1976 when Marvel Team-Up #46 hit the stands. He had his own run in Astonishing Tales starting in 1974, but it was canceled shortly after his team up with Spidey in this issue. I guess Marvel used Spider-Man's popularity to try to boost sales in some of their other titles. A bit of cross-promotion if you will. They even used the word "Astonishing" on the cover, in case you chose to connect the dots. It didn't work in this case.
The thing that was interesting about this original incarnation of the character (there would be others) is that most of his stories took place in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future. Luther Manning was an American soldier living in the Marvel Universe "present" time, but he is killed in action and he wakes up in the future reanimated as a cyborg. Freaky, right?
I don't exactly remember why or how Spider-Man got transported to this future time-line, but that was the crux of this issue. And, as the cover shows, he initially sees Deathlok as an enemy (or Deathlok sees him as an enemy) before teaming up with him to defeat a band of future mutant/things. And then Spidey goes back to his own timeline somehow, leaving Deathlok behind to his own fate. I'm SURE it was completely plausible, though. /sarcasm
What I do remember, however, was where and when I read this issue. OK, it probably wasn't the first time that I read it. I often re-read many of the comic-books I had as a kid. Often many, many, many times over. But one of the times I read this was when I went with my father to a nursery/garden center. Dad was working on some project in the yard. I don't remember what he needed, but it was nearing closing time and he asked if I wanted to take a ride with him.
I was always down to hang with my dad for a little while. I come from a big family, so we didn't get to hang out on a one-on-one situation very often. I wasn't going to go into the store with him (wandering around a garden center wasn't appealing to me as a 9 year-old...it still isn't), so I grabbed this issue from my stash and away we went. I think we got there about 15 minutes before they closed for the day, and we parked out back in an almost completely empty lot.
Can you imagine leaving your 9 year-old in the car in an empty parking lot at night while you went shopping? Probably not, but this was 1976 and it was a fairly common practice in those less-complicated times. For my family, at least. And, like I said, I come from a big family, so even 10 minutes of alone time while one of the folks ran an errand was a precious commodity.
The setting was perfect for reading this particular issue. The back lot of the garden center looked like something out of post-apocalyptic future. Pallets of fertilizer bags by the back door, a large garbage bin that had been spray-painted with graffiti, an old delivery truck parked way in the corner that looked like it may have been abandoned. Plus it was dark out so I had to read the issue from the dim light of the one overhead flickering lamp post in the parking lot. Added a lot of nuance to the issue, if you will.
They say that the sense of smell is a powerful trigger for one's memory. It also works the other way around. Sometimes a certain memory will bring a certain scent to mind. When I see this cover, I can almost smell those bags of fertilizer piled by the back door of the garden center. It's a palpable thing. And it brings me right back.
I also think of my father and the times we had together. Even it was just keeping him company on a ride to the store for a little while.
___________________________________________________Note: Remember to play the Badgerdaddy Trivia Challenge every day. Deathlok also had a laser gun. Cool.