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Comic Book / Untold Tales of Spider-Man

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Untold Tales of Spider-Man is a Spin-Off of the Spider-Man series of Comic Books. Written by Kurt Busiek (with Tom DeFalco and Roger Stern each co-writing the last few issues with him) and penciled by Pat Olliffe, it featured new stories set in the early days of Spidey's crime-fighting career, interweaving its plotlines with those originally created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

The title was part of an experiment by Marvel Comics to publish a number of new titles for only 99 cents, in hopes that the low price point would attract new readers who might have been put off by the higher prices for comics at the time. It ultimately ran for 26 issues (#1-25, with an issue #-1) from September 1995 to October 1997, as well as two annuals. A follow-up one-shot by Busiek and Stern, Untold Tales of Spider-Man: Strange Encounter, detailing Spider-Man's first team-up with Doctor Strange, was released in August 1998.


A three issue mini-series titled Amazing Fantasy also written by Busiek and painted by Paul Lee served as a direct followup to the last issue of the original Amazing Fantasy title and a prequel to the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, even continuing the original numbering of Fantasy, and was released from December 1995 to March 1996, showcasing Peter's first steps into becoming a superhero. It is considered a spinoff of the main Untold Tales comic and included in collections of it, with some events that occur in the mini even getting mentioned in the main comic.


Untold Tales of Spider-Man provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: After discovering the thrill of helping Spider-Man, Peter Parker's classmate Sally Avril decides to use her acrobatic skills to fight crime. She creates a blue-and-white costume, calls herself Bluebird, and arms herself with various homemade egg-themed gadgets.
  • Adaptive Armor: Commanda's armor can generate a force field, fire electric shocks, and change its shape and appearance at her will.
  • Armed with Canon: Occurred since Untold Tales ran around the time the regular Spider titles were entangled in The Clone Saga mess; this became exacerbated when John Byrne created Spider-Man: Chapter One, his attempt to update the old Lee and Ditko stories. Needless to say, Byrne simply disregarded most of what Busiek had done. That said, Chapter One was stricken from canon before even finishing and subsequently Untold Tales was back in canon.
  • Art Shift: The backup story of Untold Tales #-1, "Hydra and Go-Seek", was written and drawn by Fred Hembeck.
  • Ascended Extra: The Headsman first appeared in several issues of Untold Tales, before being promoted to a main character on Thunderbolts.
  • Asshole Victim: Played With. Sally Avril was a deeply unpleasant person. She mocked and bullied Peter Parker, she didn't care about his uncle's death, and when she saw Liz talking to him (she was offering him her condolences) she coaxed Liz away rather than offer her own sympathy to Peter. She even tried to blackmail Peter when she became the superhero Bluebird to take her pictures. But when she died in a car accident trying to take pictures of a Spider-Man fight, Peter acted like he lost a good friend and wonderful person in his life. However, Peter acting like Sally was a good person could be seen as him feeling guilty that he did not save her. Talking with Johnny Storm, who told him that Sally's death was her own fault, allowed Peter to let go of the guilt he had for her death.
  • Call-Forward: One issue sees Spidey facing Hawkeye, who was an Iron Man villain at the time. Spidey realizes that Hawkeye is just being used by Black Widow and tries to convince him that he can be a hero.
  • Continuity Nod: Lots, due to the nature of the series.
  • Confronting Your Imposter: Averted, Spider-Man never bothers going after the fake Spider-Man running around Forest Hills committing minor vandalism to smear him, he's too busy dealing with Batwing. Flash Thompson ends up stopping him instead, revealing him to be a mentally ill Jason.
  • Criminal Mind Games: Issue #6 has Spidey and the Human Torch working together to stop The Wizard, who left logic-based puzzles as clues to his next caper. The crime spree is The Wizard's attempt to prove that he is smarter than the Torch, but Genius Bruiser Teen Genius Spider-Man solves them all fairly easily.
    The Wizard: You can't have solved that equation that fast! You can't! I'm smarter than you — smarter than any costumed clown — and I'll prove it! You hear me? I'LL PROVE IT!
  • Dawn of an Era: A minor subplot in Amazing Fantasy is how a new era of superheroes are slowly making their presence known, with Peter being one of them.
  • A Day In The Lime Light:
    • Issue #16 focuses on Mary Jane during this period. Highlighted is her perspective on knowing that Peter is Spider-Man.
    • The -1 issue (an issue taking place before the main series) focused on Peter's parents during their spy days. This was notable in that they rarely show up in continuity.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Ascended Extra Sally Avril serves as one for the Kid Hero in almost the exact opposite direction from Peter. Rather than some injustice, Sally is motivated by fun and glory. She uses weapons developed by her friend Jason, but despite him being of above-average intelligence, they either have no combat function or are so poorly conceived and useless that it earns her the mockery of villains. Finally, despite being a skilled gymnast and a decent fighter, when Spider-Man decides she needs to learn her lesson and refuses to help her, she ends up on the receiving end of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from a street thug who any other Kid Hero would have absolutely no problem with. When Spidey finally forces her to call it quits, she decides to get her adrenaline fix as a photographer, convinces the unlicensed driver Jason to run a red light, and is killed in a car crash because she was hanging out a window.
  • Didn't Think This Through: One of Sally Avril's gimmicks when she was trying to be a costumed crime-fighter were capsules filled with chloroform, which she called "ether eggs". If she threw it at someone it would break open and the chloroform was supposed to render them unconscious. (How an underage high school student got a supply of chloroform, which is classified as a extremely hazardous substance and therefore highly regulated, is never explained) The first time she tried to use one, the person she threw it at sarcastically told her (correctly) that chloroform evaporates so quickly you have to pour a large quantity on a cloth and hold it over their mouth and nose for several minutes in order for it to cause loss of consciousness. A few panels later, she's getting her ass kicked and Spidey has to save her.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In one early issue, Jason attempts to prank Peter by stealing all the clothes in his gym bag while he's showering. Most of the other teens think Jason just crossed the line from funny to overly cruel, and even Flash, usually the first to harass Peter, feels that was going overboard.
  • False Flag Operation: Menace, the villain Spider-Man and X-Men team up to fight, is seemingly a powerful teleporter with a Touch of Death, and leads a horde of blue-skinned minions, proclaiming mutant superiority as loud as he can. In reality, Menace is actually a group of anti-mutant criminals trying to incite public opinion against mutants while filling their own pockets. The deadly touch is just a cybersuit, and they can’t teleport at all, they just show up in different places at the same time to make it look like they can.
  • Femme Fatale: Commanda doesn't hesitate to morph her armor into a low-cut dress when she tries to seduce Spider-Man.
  • Festival Episode: Issue #19 features the teenage Peter Parker taking pictures of a festival for J. Jonah Jameson.
  • Hate Sink: The Undertaker from Amazing Fantasy #16 is a con artist running a large racket where his men target widows and widowers with a fake story of how their deceased loved one made a down payment for some sort of furniture as a last gift, conning the loved one out of all the money they have left and leaving them in financial ruin and profiteering off their grief. Spidey is absolutely disgusted at the man's cruelty.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Spidey, as usual.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In "Strange Encounter," Spidey manages to save everyone sucked into Dormammu's dimension, and after all they've gone through even J. Jonah Jameson admits that Spidey is a hero after what he's done. However, when he sees all the trauma everyone is suffering from as a result of going through such a traumatic experience and learns none of them may ever fully recover from it, he has Dr. Strange erase everyone's memories of the past day to prevent that, even though it means they'll have all forgotten all the good he's done.
  • Hidden Depths: During her focus issue, Mary Jane plays up her party girl attitude, while her thoughts reveal how much her family troubles and other issues bother her. She also tries to figure out the depths of Peter Parker, who she feels isn't just a shy bookworm or just a wise-cracking superhero.
  • I'm Not a Hero, I'm...: Peter's character arc in #16-18 of Amazing Fantasy. He repeatedly insists he isn't any sort of superhero like the several of the other ones newly popping up like the Fantastic Four, but instead only someone who's trying to help out. It's only after defeating the villain Supercharger and saving several people does he finally recognize that maybe he is a superhero after all.
  • Irony: In Untold Tales of Spider-Man #16, which focuses on Mary Jane Watson, she says several guys were interested in her when she rejects going on a date with Peter. She does not want to go out with someone who can t get her own date. While in Amazing Spider-Man #25, Mary Jane meets Betty Brant and Liz Allan, two beautiful girls who were both vying for Peter's affections at the time.
  • Jerk Jock: In addition to Spider-Man regular Flash Thompson, Untold Tales featured Tiny McKeever, one of Flash's pals, who initially comes off as a copy of Flash. Peter eventually discovers why he's such a jerk: Tiny is under constant pressure from his abusive father to keep his grades up for football but genuinely lacks the intelligence, so Tiny takes it out on Pete because school seems so easy for him. When Peter later offers to tutor him, Tiny eventually softens up.
  • The Load: Sally Avril/BlueBird, whose crime-fighting zeal is surpassed by her inexperience and poorly developed gadgets. Spider-Man even allows one villain to hurt her quite badly in an attempt to dissuade her from crime-fighting.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The person who hired the Scorcher to steal weapons and electronic plans in issue one is revealed to be none other than Norman Osborn. Literally foreshadowed due to him appearing as a shadowy figure and standing in front of the Oscorp building.
    • The person backing the Headsman is eventually revealed to be The Green Goblin.
  • Multilayer Façade: When The Crime-Master demands that the Green Goblin reveal his secret identity as a prerequisite for their team-up, due to the Goblin having deduced his own, the Goblin agrees and removes his mask to reveal...J Jonah Jameson! Turns out Norman Osborn had guessed Crime-Master would make this demand and was wearing a detailed Jameson mask. Completely unecessary at that, as fans who read the original Crime-Master storyarc knows that he died in a shootout with police before he could reveal the Goblins identity, fake or not.
  • Mutants:
    • Batwing, who was originally a prepubescent boy until he got lost in the Carlsbad Caverns and drank water polluted from illegal chemical dumping.
    • There's also an issue where Spider-Man encounters the original five X-Men.
  • Mythology Gag: When Peter attempts to go to an eye doctor after his glasses were broken by Flash in the original comics, he uses the alias "Peter Palmer," a nod to the first Chameleon story mistakenly giving him that surname instead of Parker.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Sally Avril was an awful person to Peter Parker in her life. She mocked and bullied him, didn't care about his uncle's death, and when she saw Liz talking to him (she was offering him her condolences) she coaxed Liz away rather than offer her own sympathy to Peter. When Jason Ionello attempted to prank Peter by stealing all the clothes in his gym bag while he's showering, she was the only one who approved of the prank when all of her friends thought Jason crossed the line from funny to overly cruel. She even tried to blackmail Peter when she became the superhero Bluebird to take her pictures. But when she died in a car accident trying to take pictures of a Spider-Man fight, Peter acted like he lost a good friend and wonderful person in his life. He talked about how she was vital and alive and fun to be around. While it's understandable why her friends miss her because they were also unpleasant people, Peter had no reason to mourn her. However, Peter blames himself for her death and it was implied that his guilt was causing him to project Sally as a better person than she was. It was only while talking with Johnny Storm, who pointed out that her death was not his fault and given her behavior she was likely to get herself killed sooner or later no matter what Spider-Man did or didn't do, did he let go of his guilt.
  • Previously on…: To help out readers without encyclopedic knowledge of Spider-Man history, most issues include a one-page summary of recent events, both from Untold Tales and from the original the Lee-Ditko run.
  • The Power of Hate: Jason embraces this as a way of dealing with the guilt of Sally's death and targets Spider-Man. Unusual for this trope, he isn't effective at it, being limited to try and framing Spider-Man for petty vandalism and theft, and is eventually caught by Flash Thompson, and revealed to be legitimately unbalanced due to the guilt and in need of professional help. Spider-Man himself never even bothered to go after him.
  • The Power of the Sun: David Lowell, a.k.a. Sundown, who first appeared in Untold Tales Annual #2.
  • Revision: The whole point of the series. Busiek even included a timeline indicating where each story took place among the the Lee-Ditko run.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Sally Avril, one of Peter Parker's fellow students. She tries to become a vigilante like Spider-Man, but he tries to dissuade her due to the risks. Undaunted, she later dies in an auto accident after recklessly pursuing Spidey to get photographs of him in action.
  • Save the Villain:
    • Spider-Man saves J. Jonah Jameson from being framed by the mob in issue #15.
    • He also saves The Kingpin from The Vulture in #20, though he has no idea he's doing it, he never actually saw who Vulture was going after, and even if he had, this was before the two had met.
  • Series Continuity Error: In the final issue of Untold Tales of Spider-Man #25, Liz Allan and Flash Thompson are at Empire State University as part of Midtown High's week-long visit to colleges around the city. It implied that the two of them are still friends and keep in contact even those they will not go to the same college. In Amazing Spider-Man #28, Liz cut Flash and all their other friends out of her life because she was ashamed of the person she was in high school, a ditzy blonde, and plan to move on with her life.
  • Sewer Gator: The Lizard takes reptiles from the zoo in "Cry...Lizard!" and leads them into the sewers to make them into an army.
    Spider-Man: Alligators in the sewers, Lizzie? Isn't that a little... cliché?
  • Suicide by Cop: Batwing attempts this when Curt Connors attempt to cure him seemingly fails.
  • Talking Down The Suicide: Of all people, The Vulture does this when he stumbles across Jason on a rooftop, preparing to kill himself over the death of Sally Avril. Unfortunately, Vulture does this by convincing Jason to embrace The Power of Hate instead, and blame Spider-Man for Sally's death rather than dealing with it in a healthy way.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: In their confrontation in #20, Spider-Man talks down the Vulture by complete accident, when pointing out that it's not the Vultures style to do someone else's dirty work (he'd been freed from prison to kill The Kingpin), and asks if this is what he wanted in his old age; to be a weapon for someone else. Vulture, who was already ambivalent about the whole thing, stopped fighting and turned himself in.
  • They Would Cut You Up: This was the motivation behind Batwing's rampage in Untold Tales #2. When Spider-Man discovers that Batwing is actually a frightened mutated child and promises to get him help, Batwing freaks out completely.
    Batwing: Not going... get cut up by scientists... like mom said!
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sally Avril. While she does (grudgingly) get the message that she's in way over her head trying to be a superhero when Spider-Man lets a mook punch the shit out of her before stopping him, she decides there's another way to get the action and excitement she craves, namely by running around town trying to take pictures of superhero battles and be a part of the action that way. So she bullies a friend into driving her at breakneck speed towards one such battle, hanging out the window and not wearing a seatbelt, while goading her friend so incessantly that he ignores all the rules of the road. Naturally there's a massive accident and she's killed. Spidey somehow finds a way to blame himself, and is mourning at her grave when the Human Torch shows up. Upon hearing the story, Johnny shows a surprising amount of insight and knowledge of human nature by cutting through Spidey's guilt bullshit and putting all of the blame on Sally, pointing out that her behavior proved she was an adrenaline junkie who was going to get herself killed sooner or later no matter what Spider-Man did or didn't do. Spidey realizes that Johnny is right, and both of them depart the cemetery.
  • "Ugly American" Stereotype: Richard and Mary Parker (Peter Parker's parents) exploited the stereotype in India by playing "Ugly Americans" with two goons guarding an enemy installation, portraying themselves as crude and tacky tourists while asking the guards if they'd be so nice as to take their picture. Figuring they had better send these annoying foreigners on their way as quickly and with as little drama as possible, the guards fell for the ruse. The "camera" the Parkers gave them was actually a knock-out gas dispenser.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Spacemen are four astronauts who got their powers from a secret space mission, and are immediately lauded as honest heroes by renown anti-vigilante J. Jonah Jameson. In reality, they're washout trainees who used their powers to steal money while blaming Spider-Man along the way.
  • Water Tower Down: Spider-Man uses it in issue #1 to defeat the Scorcher.
  • We Used to Be Friends: As shown in Amazing Fantasy #17, Peter was actually close friends with Liz, Jason, Sally, and Tiny when they were all children, but as they got older and they began showing different interests from him they gradually drifted apart, which finished happening around the time Flash started becoming popular and became the "cool" kid.