Tom DeFalco

Caught in a Ham (2019, Miguel Jiron)

I think I went into Caught in a Ham with unduly high hopes (I’ve been a Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham since 1983) and apparently I’m enough of a purist to be a little upset Spider-Ham loses out on half his four minute cartoon so it can tie into Into the Spider-Verse. There’s also the issue of him getting the shaft on the runtime. If you’re going to ape an old Looney Tunes cartoon, give it at least seven minutes. Four just isn’t enough. Especially not when half of it is bridging material, which is the nature of the made-for-home-video-supplement beast but whatever. Have some respect for the brand.

Anyway.

The cartoon opens fine. Spider-Ham swinging through the city, making jokes about the hot dog he’s about to eat (I don’t remember cannibalism from the old comics but I was in grade school) and he gets into trouble with a painfully uncool villain, Doctor Crawdaddy. Oh, right. John Mulaney voices Spider-Ham, Aaron LaPlante voices Doctor Crawdaddy. They’re both fine. There’s not much for them to do. LaPlante’s the butt of Mulaney’s jokes and gags, which are lifted—most obviously—from Bugs and Elmer and then something else with slamming doors and hallways. I can’t remember if it’s Tom and Jerry but it’s something. I feel like there’s a cat in it.

Caught in a Ham, considering how “meta” it gets, would do just as well if not better to give citations on screen with the nods because they’re not meant to be discreet and citations would—do something.

Because once LaPlante’s Doctor Crawdaddy disappears and the cartoon gets very meta about Spider-Ham being a digitally animated creation being digitally animated, it becomes obvious it’s not adding up to anything. And it doesn’t. It just sends Spider-Ham, presumably, off into the Spider-Verse, where—hopefully—he gets more to do than in his own truncated cartoon.

Maybe it plays better after Spider-Verse but it certainly shouldn’t.

The animation’s good. Wish there was more of it and less perfunctorily animated meta-nonsense.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Miguel Jiron; screenplay by Jiron, based on the character created by Tom DeFalco and Mark Armstrong; animated by Daran Sudric; produced by David Schulenburg; released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Starring John Mulaney (Spider-Ham) and Aaron LaPlante (Doctor Crawdaddy).


Star Trek 7 (October 1980)

Star Trek #7Tom DeFalco’s Trek script feels a little too generic. He doesn’t bring much personality to the principal cast members, saving it instead for Scotty and Uhura. She gives him a very clear bicep squeeze for support. It’s interesting.

But Kirk just occasionally yells when he’s stressed out and Bones makes a quip or two at Spock’s expense. DeFalco doesn’t write Spock well. It’s probably hard to write the character after Star Trek: The Motion Picture as the character just went under a major change. DeFalco tries with it and does not succeed.

Still, Michael Netzer does a great job on the pencils. He does lots of stuff with panel layout and with perspective in space. The Enterprise shooting while rotated and so on. The art is very imaginative. And Janson inks it beautifully. All the art’s good, some is better.

DeFalco moves the issue well too; it’s just got problems.

B- 

CREDITS

Tomorrow or Yesterday; writer, Tom DeFalco; penciller, Michael Netzer; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Ray Burzon; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man 259 (December 1984)

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Lot of Ditko homage on the last pages, even with the filmic–especially for the eighties–pacing of Peter suiting up in the red and blue.

It’s sort of a weak finish to a great issue. Most of the issue–except some ill-advised attention on Hobgoblin (providing the action)–is Mary Jane telling Peter all about her life.

DeFalco does an amazing job with the Mary Jane stuff. It’s this heart-wrenching confession–as Mary Jane assesses herself and her past actions–mixed with Peter’s internal reaction. It might be one of the most touching comics I’ve read about a major property, just because it’s so delicate. It doesn’t even with Peter and Mary Jane heading off to the altar–far from it. DeFalco seems to be aware if he went that route, it’d flush the story’s value.

Frenz does an excellent job (albeit within his abilities) here too.

CREDITS

All My Pasts Remembered!; writer, Tom DeFalco; penciller, Ron Frenz; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Joe Rosen; editors, Bob DeNataleh and Danny Fingeroth; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man 258 (November 1984)

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I knew I liked these eighties Spider-Man issues. It just took DeFalco a while to bring it around (though it could all be the nostalgia talking).

What’s important about this issue isn’t the beginning, which cops out of the previous cliffhanger and then strangely sends Black Cat off to Neverland instead of resolving a new situation with her… but the end.

The majority of the issue is spent getting the black costume tested by Reed Richards and then taken off Spidey. There’s some funny stuff with the Torch–it’s amazing how much better DeFalco does when he’s writing Spider-Man around other superheroes instead of trying to handle his Peter Parker stuff–and a couple nice Ditko homages.

But the ending–Mary Jane shows up to talk to Peter. I didn’t think she would show up… figured DeFalco would draw it out.

He doesn’t and it’s a lovely move.

CREDITS

The Sinister Secret of Spider-Man’s New Costume!; writer, Tom DeFalco; penciller, Ron Frenz; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Joe Rosen; editors, Bob DeNataleh and Danny Fingeroth; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man 257 (October 1984)

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What a cliffhanger! Mary Jane reveals to Peter she knows he’s Spider-Man! All with some weak Ron Frenz faces. I actually liked most of Frenz’s work this issue, when he was doing the action stuff–the fight between Puma and Spider-Man had some nice moves and it worked. But when Peter gets back to Mary Jane for a talking heads scene?

Ick.

Frenz can’t keep the faces constant from panel to panel on the same page.

He seems to get the hair right though, on both of them. I guess hair’s something.

It’s a somewhat boring, contrived issue–with the exception of the long fight scene. Black Cat bitches and moans–in thought balloons–about how common Peter Parker lives. She’s such an unsympathetic character. They should have killed her off at this point. Mary Jane shows up to annoy Peter, then reveals the secret.

Still, not atrocious.

CREDITS

Beware the Claws of Puma!; writer, Tom DeFalco; penciller, Ron Frenz; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Christie Scheele; letterer, Joe Rosen; editors, Bob DeNataleh and Danny Fingeroth; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man 256 (September 1984)

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Why have a Native American superhero when you can have a Native American supervillain!

The politics of Puma (this issue is his first appearance) are fantastic–successful Native Americans use their special abilities to become assassins for hire. It’s great. You’d never see this kind of thing today.

Maybe Jason Aaron can do a Puma MAX series, after he’s done with Scalped.

Otherwise, it’s a fine enough eighties Spider-Man costume. Frenz isn’t great, but he’s enthusiastic and he works–most pages have nine panels–and his Peter Parker looks like a grown up Ditko Peter Parker. There’s a nostalgic appeal to it.

The writing’s pretty lazy. DeFalco repeats the same expository revelation two pages after the first mention. Then there’s the when he comments on the Black Cat and her “colorful” namesake. Pretty sure a black cat is monotone.

There’s nothing particularly good about it, but nothing bad either.

CREDITS

Introducing… Puma!; writer, Tom DeFalco; penciller, Ron Frenz; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Christie Scheele; letterer, Joe Rosen; editors, Bob DeNataleh and Danny Fingeroth; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man 255 (August 1984)

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It’s a perfectly decent done-in-one.

The issue opens with the Black Fox (I thought he was the Black Cat’s father, but maybe not) and he introduces the issue’s main story, the Red Ghost wanting to rob a bunch of stores so he can afford to build his death ray (or whatever it’s called). There’s some painful dialogue until that conversation, but then it gets amusing–the supervillain in hiding, needing to resort to breaking and entering to fund his devious device.

It’s funny.

The Spider-Man stuff is awkward. Most of the Peter Parker scenes are spent going over all the events of previous crossover titles. Then the black costume takes him out for a day and keeps him unconscious (which he doesn’t know yet, of course).

It’s a breezy read and Ron Frenz does a good job of the action. He gives Spidey some needed physical levity.

CREDITS

Even A Ghost Can Fear The Night; writer, Tom DeFalco; penciller, Ron Frenz; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, Joe Rosen; editors, Bob DeNatale and Danny Fingeroth; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man 254 (July 1984)

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Here’s my issue… yes, Spider-Man has lots of human problems–his aunt’s pissed at him, he’s got girlfriend trouble, he’s got job trouble. He’s apparently the only superhero in New York when there’s a superpowered terrorist blowing up toy stores. The list goes on and on.

But let’s look at these problems.

Aunt May’s pissed he dropped out of college. How contrived. She’s not even a character. It’s unbelievable her beau would even have lunch with her.

His girlfriend trouble–the Black Cat. She’s a moron and a flake and written by everyone in that manner. She even tells Peter she doesn’t like him, only the costume.

The job trouble–he’s taking boring pictures. Considering he got his start faking exciting pictures, Peter’s just being lazy.

He’s not very sympathetic here.

But the Leonardi art is good on all the superhero adventuring. Not so much on the faces though.

CREDITS

With Great Power…; writer, Tom DeFalco; penciller, Rick Leonardi; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Christie Scheele; letterer, Joe Rosen; editors, Bob DeNatale and Danny Fingeroth; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man 253 (June 1984)

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Where to start… I’m tempted to start with Rick Leonardi, who comes up with these great layered panels (or maybe Bill Anderson inked them to make them layered), but simply cannot keep any consistency when drawing people. Maybe he does all right when he’s got football helmets on them–it’s a football corruption story, luckily Peter was assigned to the sports department this issue.

DeFalco manages to overwrite and underwrite at the same time. He’s pushing everything he can into the issue to get an emotional response–the football player throwing games, his disappointed kid brother, Aunt May being mad at Peter for dropping out of college. He even ends the issue with Peter being compared to the football player, they’re both throwing it all away.

But there’s almost no Spider-Man stuff in the issue. Some swinging around, some black costume stuff. There’s no focus on the character though.

CREDITS

By Myself Betrayed!; writer, Tom DeFalco; penciller, Rick Leonardi; inker, Bill Anderson; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, Joe Rosen; editors, Bob DeNatale and Danny Fingeroth; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Marvel Team-Up 141 (May 1984)

25860.jpgWow, Priest can write. I’ve liked his stuff, been impressed what he could do with Marvel superheroes, but this issue is just fantastic. Maybe because he… he writes thought balloons like they’re internal monologue and not declarative statements, not opportunities for expository shortcuts.

He also should write Batman, because he borrows Batman and Jim Gordon’s relationship for Matt Murdock and Ben Urich.

The issue’s a nice story about Matt trying to help a client–not sure how ethical it is for Daredevil to act as Matt’s private investigator, since he’s not informing the client–and Spider-Man trying to help a technically innocent teenage thug.

The teenager and client are the same person, but Priest explores the difference in Spidey and Daredevil’s approach to how and why to resolve the situation.

Goofy art–Matt’s hair is absolutely hilarious–but not bad Marvel house style.

I’m stunned by the book’s quality.

CREDITS

Blind Justice!; writers, Tom DeFalco and Christopher Priest; pencillers, Greg LaRocque and Mike Esposito; inker, Esposito; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, Diana Albers; editors, Bob DeNatale and Danny Fingeroth; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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