Reminiscing on Spider-Mans Rainments -


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Reminiscing on Spider-Mans Rainments

Remembering the Birth of the Black Suit

By Chad Derdowski     April 27, 2011

Chad Derdowski's final Comicscape takes a look back on Spider-Man's outfit
© Bob Trate


There are certain touchstone moments in human history that cut us to the very core. Those moments which can be recalled with stunning clarity and accuracy… the assassinations of JFK or John Lennon. The Challenger explosion or the fall of the Berlin Wall. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 or the suicide of Kurt Cobain. When thinking back on events such as these, it’s often easy to remember the smells, the weather, the clothes we were wearing or exactly what we were doing when we first heard the news. 
For many of us whose hobbies happen to include a weekly trip to the comic shop, May of 1984 holds such memories. That is the month during which Amazing Spider-Man #252 hit stands, and the first time we found out that the rumors were true, as the blurb on the cover suggested, and we were introduced to the “new Spider-Man”.
We’ve come a long way since then and that alien symbiote has since tried to kill Spider-Man, bonded with another human and continued to attempt the Webhead’s murder, been sold to the highest bidder (who also happened to have a strong desire to see Spider-Man dead) and has recently wound up in the service of the United States military, granting legs to Flash Thompson and allowing him to continue to serve and protect his country. These days, we tend to cringe at the very thought of that symbiote, after years of Lethal Protectors, Carnage and The Bride of Venom (not to mention the big screen travesty that was Spider-Man 3); but back then, it was just “the black suit” and as far as we knew, Spider-Man had turned bad. At least, it sure looked that way to us and our friends, most of whom were around 7 or 8 years old at the time. Those were simpler days, when bad guys actually did wear black.
How many of you are in your mid-to-late-30’s? You remember it well, don’t you? Or perhaps it wasn’t until early to mid-summer before you finally found out… was it the next door neighbor who had a copy of a recent issue of Amazing (or perhaps Spectacular) Spider-Man, or was it a classmate, or maybe even your older brother who showed up in the driveway, callously tossing his bicycle aside and rushing to share the news with you? Regardless, the next step likely involved frantically begging your parents for money or scouring the couch cushions for spare change – comics were only 60 cents back in those days – and then, the furious pedaling of sneakered feet to get to the local 7-11 or drugstore to see just what the hell was going on. Was it true? Had Spider-Man turned evil? Was there someone else under the mask? And what about these rumblings we’d heard that the suit had powers of its own?
And then, the discovery. That sleek design, like nothing we’d ever seen before. Unless, of course, we had older siblings who were reading Grendel… something we’ve always been a little suspicious of, but that’s neither here nor there. The black suit was to the 1980’s what Spider-Man’s original red-and-blues were to the 1960’s: a complete breath of fresh air. Let’s face it, true believers, Steve Ditko’s design for Spider-Man’s original costume was and still is one of the all-time greats in superhero history. From the full face mask to the striping down the arms to the fact that it didn’t feature underpants on the outside, that costume must have looked absolutely unbelievable in 1962 – which is exactly what the black suit was in 1984. 
First of all, it wasn’t really all that common for a hero to wear black back then. Or… maybe it was more common than we think, but like we said, we were seven. Our worldview was still pretty myopic at the time. So that’s undoubtedly what led to our brief impression that Pete had switched sides. Beyond the color, that suit looked downright sinister and ten kinds of badass. It’s an absolutely brilliant design, beautiful and elegant in its simplicity. No gloves, no boots; just basic black. And that doesn’t even touch upon the redesigned symbol, which wasn’t just featured on both the chest and back, but actually connected on his ribcage. It was mindblowing then and when clear our minds of the oversaturation of symbiotes that the ‘90s yielded, it still strikes us as a pretty mindblowing design. Kudos to Mike Zeck and Randy Schueller for creating such an amazing look.
These days, it’s not uncommon for a hero to get a new look every few years. Dan Slott’s current Spider-Man storyline has already introduced two in the past year, not to mention Spidey’s FF duds. Heck, most of the time, two artists can’t even agree on a definitive look for a hero and wind up drawing them however they please. But back then, it was earth shattering; at least to us. Perhaps older fans were more cynical, but at the time, our friends had no idea the black suit wasn’t permanent. For all we knew, that was the costume that Spidey would be wearing from now on and frankly, we thought it was awesome.
People can reminisce about the death of Superman or waiting in lines to see the first Tim Burton Batman movie all they want. For us, seeing Spider-Man’s black costume was a monumental occasion that remains etched in our minds as one of our earliest and most important geek memories, and no matter how overused or altered that costume (or character) becomes, we’ll never forget that bicycle ride to 7-11 when history was made.
… and don’t even get us started on the first time we saw Beta Ray Bill. You wanna talk about mindblowing?!?!  Sheesh!
Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
And if I can stop referring to myself in the 3rd person for a moment… with this, my 2 ½ - year run on Comicscape comes to an end. It’s been nearly 3 years filled with four-color philosophy, monthly mindtrips, graphic novel guidance, sequential art suggestions and comic book consultation. My time here has given me a lot of great experiences, allowed me a place to sharpen my skills (though some might disagree) and I’ve made a few friends (and probably a few enemies) as well. 
I’d like to thank the folks at Mania for giving me a soapbox upon which to espouse my views and I’d especially like to thank the Maniacs for reading them week in and week out and offering opinions of their own. If you’ve taken nothing else away from our time together, I hope you’ve developed an appreciation for Spider-Ham and signed at least one petition to bring Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends to DVD. 
And if you are among the rare few who might actually miss me, feel free to hit me up on Facebook (I’d love to be your virtual pal) and check out more of my inane ramblings on the Zod Complex and Geek Fights podcasts which can be found at and respectively. Until then, I’ll see you in the comic shop next Wednesday! 


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TayDor 4/27/2011 2:34:17 AM

WTH?  You did not just compare Spider-Man getting a new suit to 9/11, the Kennedy Assassination, Lennon Assassination, and Cobain's Suicide?

Talk about out of line and inappropriate.

robbo 4/27/2011 5:11:37 AM

It was a great run, Chadwith! Thanks for such consistent, high-quality contributions over the years! You made me look like a genius for hiring you.

ChadDerdowski 4/27/2011 5:43:20 AM

I didn't want to single any one person out, but I guess I will anyway...  truth be told, I owe you the biggest thanks of all, Rob!   And you looked like a genius long before I started writing Comicscape.  Hiring me just cemented it.

TayDor... [sighs and shakes head]  It's okay, buddy.  Calm down.  

jedibanner 4/27/2011 5:47:53 AM

WHAT??? Chad is leaving? Ahh man, sorry to hear this.

Always enjoyed your colums and will surelly miss the weekly articles.

It's sad to see this happens, I home Mania has something interesting to replace this gap that will be missed.

And Taydor, it's not a direct comparaison but rather a similar experience caused by a specific events. They are not the same but the effect it had on someone is the same. There is nothing inappropriate in this.

goldeneyez 4/27/2011 6:31:11 AM

Sorry to hear you're leaving.  Hope you're moving on to bigger & better things.

Hobbs 4/27/2011 6:54:12 AM

I still remember that issue and the secret wars that lead Spidey to the suit.  I also remember being pissed at how bad secret wars was.  So much potential with all those sups and villians in the same place wasted.  It should have been an all out mass destruction fest but we didn't.

Good luck Chad, I've enjoyed coming by now and then to read your stuff. 

TayDor 4/27/2011 7:39:57 AM

No, I get what he was trying to evoke.  I just thought the examples he used were a bit over-the-top.  That was the only issue i had with the article.  I do remember reading secret wars and thinking the new suit was pretty cool.

Tevii 4/27/2011 7:59:25 AM

Wow the problem with this country is everyone ACTS so sensitive...Wah, Wah  Booh-effin-Hoo. The pussification of the nation needs to stop. Get over it.

But to clarify ANYWAY, he wasnt comparing the events, he was comparing the way they became media phenomenons. Death of Superman can be included. They shocked people.

And to be honest Spiderman getting a new costume, or the Death of Optimus Prime, for me AT THAT AGE, WAS comparable to those.

Wiseguy 4/27/2011 8:47:20 AM

Damn Chad why you leaving us? With you and Robbo gone the site really is losing the last aspect of actual comic books. My wednesdays are ruined now :(

CHAD good luck to you in your future endeavors and I will make sure to look  up those podcasts. Farewell my comicbook loving brother

HunterRose 4/27/2011 9:18:02 AM

Nice reference to George Carlin there Tevii and I totally agree with you. Let's see....1984. I was still in college and I had just discovered that comics could be bought at comic shops and not just 7-11's (this discovery of course led to my over spending every Wednesday that continues to this day). I had been reading Amazing Spider-man since 1982 so the change wasn't that much of a shock. I thought the suit was awesome, but I prefer the classic red & blue suit. I noticed the white FF suit he has now, but I have no idea what's going on in the Spider books (thanks to Joe Quesda who wiped out the history of the Spidey i grow up reading about just because HE wanted Peter to be single. I hate you JQ).

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