Sunday, March 26, 2017

Houston Heroes


We've seen Marvel Comics superheroes come to Texas before but so far they've been confined to Dallas.  Sure, it's an adventurous city but when out-of-towners want the "Everything's Bigger in Texas" experience they almost inevitably want to visit the biggest city in Texas.  And so it was only a matter of time before Spider-Man and the Hulk showed up in Houston:

What we have here is another newspaper freebie from Marvel Comics in the 80's.  It was given away in the Houston Chronicle and sponsored by Foley's Department Stores (and believe me, you'll get the hint throughout the story).

So what brings our heroes to town?  An emergency at NASA?  Nope, just the further frustrations of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson:

After lamenting the lack of good NYC based news stories, JJJ is tipped off by Peter Parker about a Houston Chronicle article about rodeo superstar Rex Ryder and Jameson is immediately smitten.  So there's nothing left to do but hop on the first plane for the Lone Star State:

One of the disappointments of the comic is that other than the setting, there are just about no Houston area name-checks.  They head to the rodeo but don't actually say it's the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.   We don't even get a decent shot of the city skyline.

So we must be content with generic cowboys and cowboy accoutrements at the parade and the stockyards.  And there are a few distinctly non-Houstonian elements at the festivities.  Peter's Spidey Sense kicks in almost immediately as he spots members of the criminal ne'er-do-well gang known as the Enforcers:

So now that Peter Parker is a "Spider-Man with a mission," we turn our attention to the nearby stables, and if you weren't satisfied with the amount of Marvel characters that inexplicably decided to converge on Houston this day, then you're in a for treat!

Yep, the Hulk's alter ego Bruce Banner is still trying to Bill Bixby his way across the country and picked Houston as a place to stop.  Apparently he pulled on his best pair of purple dungarees and got a job at the rodeo.  And it doesn't take long for him to also realize that there's troubling brewing.

So apparently the Enforcers have kidnapped Rex's best girl Annie and decided to use her for leverage to make him throw his Bull Riding event.  And if that wasn't enough, they let him know (for some reason) that they're also going to rob the box office.  That's a pretty ambitious scam for a rodeo caper.

Meanwhile, as Bruce Banner investigates, he makes an additional discovery.  If the triple decker coincidence sandwich that is this story hasn't satisfied you so far then get ready for the fourth heat!

 Yep, the Spider-Man villain "Rhino" has also decided to brave the humidity to rob what must be an amazing box office and he makes Mistake #1: he backhands Puny Banner!  Well, you can guess where this is going...

Yep, the manure hits the fan as two different sets of heroes and villains converge at the rodeo and the results include the Rhino punching a bull...

...Spider-Man "lasso-webbing" the kidnappers...

...the Hulk beating up the Rhino, which inadvertently leads to a van (which was unfortunately left in neutral) being pushed by the two warring brutes down a hill, straight for the runaway wagon that held the kidnapped Annie...

...leading to a daring "double rescue" and solidifying the notion that super heroes cause as many problems as they solve.

So when all was said and done there was nothing left to do but have a celebratory shopping Foley's, of course:

And with that, our action packed adventure in the Gulf has concluded.  Sure, there's a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of murky motivations but thanks to our heroes, the rodeo funds were saved and Rex and Annie get to ride off into the sunset.

If experience has told us anything it's that it won't be long before the Lone Star state ends up in the comics pages once again... be continued?!?

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