I've been sick the past couple of days and woke up today after a night of fever remembering this story from the mid-eighties, which was during the high point of my Spider-man fandom. Right away it will be noticed this is during the black suit era, not the suit that was Venom but the handmade version that the Black Cat whipped up for him because she preferred it to the classic, more colorful Mexican wrestler version. I actually feel the same way, even though I'm usually a rabid traditionalist when it comes to costumes.
This particular story, "Cry of the Wendigo" by Charles Vess (story and art), was not the first story in the issue but a backup feature. It was certainly the better part, as the first part was just a tie in to the Daredevil "Born Again" storyline that would be Frank Miller's swansong work on the character who originally catapulted him to well-knownness. I think however it's possible that the Vess thing was meant to be the entire issue but ran too short so they had to whip up the lead-in, but that's just a guess.
So in the superior back-up story, we are first treated to the eye-grabbing splash page shown above, as Spider-man appears to be inexplicably lost in a blizzard. But after a series of panels where he seems to freeze to death, it is revealed...
...that it was all a dream.
Feeling restless, Parker's not about to let a little thing like a blizzard stop him from swinging around the city, I know I sure wouldn't - though of course I'm Canadian.
Meanwhile, in another part of the city it is revealed that the Canadian ambassador and his family have arrived in town. I actually only realized, rereading it today, that it was supposed to be the ambassador from Canada. Well, what did I know when I was 12? They don't name my home and native land, but they refer to having journeyed down to New York and brought the weather with them. Trivia: The current Canadian ambassador to the U.S. is Gary Doer, who used to be the premier, kind of like governor, of my province, Manitoba.
It turns out to be fortunate Spidey has left his cozy bed, as there are nogoodniks about who promptly kidnap the ambassador's little daughter. Spidey chases their van and grabs the girl, but then he is on the run when...
So there is the inspiration for the title, and the other clue of it being the Canadian ambassador. Spidey meanwhile is starting to realize that he's ill and should be in bed. A cold or flu is hampering his strength and other powers considerably. However, when the baddies show up again, Spidey proves he is worthy to be called hero...
After some dazzling Spidey acrobatics and various kicks to the face, he carries the girl to safety but tells the now contained bad guys he will have to send the police after them. One is about to shoot Spider-man in the back - bearing in mind the cold and blizzard are hampering the old Spider-sense - when a sudden blast of snow, led by what appear to be some icy claws, descends on the villain.
After getting the girl back to her parents Peter wisely chooses to head for bed, leaving kidnappings and so forth to New York's many other superheroes.
I'm glad I remembered this. It's a simple but great story. It's nice to see a superhero take on regular villains and I am glad nothing terrible happens, and at the same time, with the dream and Wendigo (does it really exist? - we are left to ponder) it has sort of a horror feel. I sometimes think the horror aspect of Spidey could be played up more - I mean in a lot of ways, he's much like a fifties sci-fi movie monster (an influence seen in several Marvel characters) only his spider-ness doesn't manifest visibly.
That was an era when I was really into Spider-man, and now that I've been able to sample several different eras of Spidey, I still personally prefer it. He was somewhat less angst-ridden and more heroic than in some earlier versions. Issues during this time, usually written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Ron Frenz, often had to do with Spider-man feeling discouraged by overwhelming odds but having to pull himself together, which probably helped bolster my own spirits during my early adolescence.