Spidey Doesn’t Play Well With Others is a monthly column, published every third Tuesday, by Paul DeKams that looks at stories that showcase that while Spider-Man might have many “Amazing Friends,” they don’t always get along.
Recently, outspoken pro wrestler, comic book fan, and comic book writer CM Punk announced he would be training to compete in UFC. He’s not the first professional wrestler to make the transition from ‘fake’ fighting to competitive mixed martial arts. Brock Lesnar, Bobby Lashley, Drax the Destroyer himself, and Batista all preceded him with stints in UFC or other competitive fighting organizations. But there’s another former pro wrestler who made the jump with little-to-no fanfare: Spider-Man.
Spider-Man, the pro grappler that defeated Crusher Hogan only to throw away a promising career and millions of dollars, choosing ‘action’ as his only reward, made a brief return to the ring in 2010’s Spider-Man VS Vampires by Kevin Grevioux and Roberto Castro. But Spidey didn’t come back to the squared circle for a showdown with some no-name jabroni. Nor did he sign up with anything so mainstream as UFC. No, Spider-Man made his return in an illegal underground vampire fight league against “The Daywalker,” Blade.
The fight was declared a no-contest due to the fact that both competitors were found to have a vampirism-inducing steroid-like substance in their blood. It’s also a battle that has gone largely uncelebrated, as it’s a pretty generic story built around two moments: Spider-Man turning into a jacked up vampire for two pages, and Spider-Man making a Batman joke at the end of the book.
As a lover of superheroes, the horror genre, and pro wrestling this comic book should be my jam. This comic book should be running across a meadow in slow motion towards me to kickoff a montage of a man and a comic book falling in love. This column, should be a combo-column celebration. “The Spooktacular Spidey Doesn’t Play Well With Others!”
Unfortunately, “The Spider and The Sword,” a story that promises an epic battle between two juiced-up competitors on the level of Hulk Hogan VS Macho Man instead delivers nothing more than a bunch of kids hitting each other with foam noodles while wrestling in their backyard.
It’s purely a gimmick comic, and the gimmick wears thin very quickly in this execution. More time is dedicated to building up Negus, a villain who only appears in this single issue, as a major threat that must be stopped. Negus is put on the same level as Dracula (Marvel Dracula, who has a mustache and world domination goals), but is defeated by Spider-Man’s use of an UltraViolet grenade to the face. They build this guy up as an unstoppable force with an unstoppable plan, and he gets taken out by the right weapon at the right time like any other villain guest star.
On top of that, his evil plan is a mish-mosh of “unite all vampires” which is muddled with the distribution of a drug called ‘Fang,’ which turns people into mindless, temporary vampires, as well as hosting a roving Fang-fueled vampire fighting league. These were all supposed to come together as elements that establish Negus as a force to be reckoned with. It was hard to take this information seriously, as it was conveyed by Blade after Spider-Man purged the Fang from both their systems via a tanning bed. Also, his evil plan involved an illegal fighting league, and those things NEVER go well.
An instance in which the Blade/Spider-Man pairing works is in Marc Guggenheim and Howard Chaykin’s Blade #1 from 2006. The comic opens on Blade battling a vampire Spider-Man, who has been turned by Dracula, with the normally stoic vigilante cracking jokes and hitting one liners out of the park against a hissing webslinger. Blade’s expertise in this world allows him to dispatch Spider-Man quickly. Blade shoots Spider-Man in the knees followed up by positing that Spider-Man’s radioactive blood will quickly purge any vampiric toxins from his system. Their interaction is wonderful in its brevity. It’s a fun guest-star moment, and the creators get in-and-out of the “Spider-Man’s a vampire, isn’t it AWESOME?” scene before it goes on too long.
Spider-Man and Blade can be an enjoyable team-up. I think many of us were introduced to the pairing in the 90s “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” cartoon, where the gravelly-voiced Blade served as a stark contrast to the Greg Brady-voiced Spider-Man. The two fell into the overly familiar Spidey/Punisher dynamic of arguing over methodology, but it was done in a fairly entertaining manner.
What I do appreciate about both stories is how they stand out from Spider-Man’s typical hero VS hero showdowns. In each of these comics, these conflicts aren’t born of misunderstandings or via a difference in crimefighting philosophies. Their great power combined with a complete loss of control is what leads to them fighting. In the context of Spider-Man being a former wrestler, its intriguing to view Spider-Man VS Vampires through the lens of an athlete becoming overly violent due to performance enhancing drugs. That story has played out in real life many times, and offers a number of paths a creator can take, especially with one such as Spider-Man who is driven by his sense of responsibility. The problem again with this comic specifically is it never really dives any deeper than the surface level of wanting to show a few cool scenes, and introduce a ‘badass’ new character to the Marvel Universe. It doesn’t succeed on either front.
I know CM Punk is taking on a Thor Annual soon. We’ll see if he can deliver as a comic book writer. But if his storytelling in the ring is anything to go by, then maybe he can give us an epic Blade/Spider-Man vampire match that has enough substance to match the flashy styles of pro wrestling and mixed martial arts.