Appearing in "Compulsion!"
- Human Torch (Poses as Blaze)
- Captain Jean DeWolff
- Daily Bugle staff
- Ashley Cranford (First appearance)
- New York City
Synopsis for "Compulsion!"
Spider-Man is present for the interrogation of a university student named Barry. Declining to have a lawyer present, Barry tells Jean DeWolff what they had done was out of compulsion. He explains that he and his friends at Empire State University had grown bored with their academic pursuits and sought some form of amusement. It was all the idea of his classmate, Ashley Cranford, and insists that nobody was supposed to get hurt. He begins telling his story...
He, Ashley, and Thomas were always trying to expand their intellectual pursuits. One day, as they were playing a drab game of trivia, Ashley suggested that they is more fitting of their intellect. That's when Barry suggests that they play the new edition of a superhero role-playing game. Ashley scoffed at this idea, finding it juvenile, saying that superheroes are unintelligent. To prove his point, Ashley bets that he can run a superhero ragged, Barry and Thomas agree to take him up on the wager and they began debating on which superhero they should use as their subject.[Continuity 1] After some consideration, they all agree to go after Spider-Man and spend the next few days researching everything they can about the wall-crawler. After documenting the basic route that Spider-Man uses to patrol the city. Noticing that most of Spider-Man's photos were taken by Peter Parker, they come to the conclusion that Parker, and Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson may be in cahoots with Spider-Man.[Continuity 2]
Hearing all this so far makes Spider-Man think about how sloppy he has been getting if college kids could so closely connect Peter Parker with Spider-Man. Barry goes on to explain the next part of their plan, to create a non-existent super-villain to pit against Spider-Man...
The began coming up with ideas and a design for their phony villain. Eventually, they came up with Blaze, an armed mercenary that uses flame guns as a primary weapon. Part of his fictional background is to make a name for himself by going after a costumed superhero. Naturally, they were going to choose Spider-Man.
Later, at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson is furious to receive "fan mail" for Spider-Man and passes it off to Joe Robertson.[Continuity 3] Joe opens it up and finds a warning to Spider-Man by someone named Blaze. As they are about to tell Betty Leeds about it, the letter goes up in flames. J. Jonah Jameson is furious that Spider-Man's foes are targeting his employees and demands that Joe use a front page coverage of this story, but Joe tanks the idea as they shouldn't give into the demands of terrorists. Later, at a press conference in the South Bronx, the mayor of New York City announces new federal funding to gentrify an old neighborhood.[Continuity 4] It's then that a burning message from "Blaze" appears on the side of a building, threatening Spider-Man. This is all a special effect rigged up by Ashley and his friends. However, by this point, Thomas thinks they have gone too far and bows out of the plan.
Later, Ashley and Barry begin the next phase of their plan. Dressing up in a Blaze costume, Ashley is filmed threatening Spider-Man, announcing that he knows the hero's secret identity and that he will attack him and his "allies" at the Daily Bugle. Once the footage is filmed, they mail it off to the local television statements. When the video gets out to the public, it causes trouble between management and the union at the Daily Bugle. Betty Leeds has her husband Ned assure his mother that he is safe. Ashley and Barry decided to take a tour of the Daily Bugle to watch the staff worry. When Barry snaps a photo of Peter Parker, he gets mad at them, pointing out that everyone in the office is on edge. This new development brings joy to Ashley and Barry.
That evening, as Spider-Man is out on patrol looking for news photos, he sees some fireworks go off. Going to investigate he finds a strange effigy that is half Spider-Man, half Peter Parker. Spider-Man fears that Blaze has somehow discovered his secret identity. Suddenly, his spider-sense goes off and the effigy suddenly bursts into flames. As Spider-Man tries to make sense of the situation, Ashley and Barry watch from behind a dumpster and try to contain their laughter.
In the hospital,[Continuity 5] Captain DeWolff asks Barry why he made the effigy to look the way it was. Barry explains that it was to point out the connection between Spider-Man and the Daily Bugle. Spider-Man breaths a sigh of relief that these youths had not discovered his secret identity. That's when a nurse comes in to scold Jean DeWolff for smoking in the hospital. Spider-Man asks the nurse how Thomas is doing and she informs them that he has burns of 90% of his body. This causes Barry to choke up a bit, swearing to DeWolff and Spider-Man that they didn't intend for anyone to get hurt. That's when Ashley continues, explaining that they had no idea that someone would really take on the identity of Blaze...
... Barry and Ashley were plotting the next part of their plan. However, Ashley refuses to go walking around in public in the Blaze costume. Looking in the ESU library, they come across a book on creating holograms, giving them inspiration. However, they are soon confronted by a man in a costume claiming to be the real Blaze. He thanks them for creating him before walking out, leaving out the window. Realizing they are three stories up, the pair rush to the window and find no trace of Blaze. Ashley and Barry begin to panic, but Ashley assures him that he will figure a way out of this mess.
At that moment, Blaze fires a signal into the sky that creates a massive flaming "B", attracting the attention of Spider-Man. However, when the wall-crawler tries to attack him, Blaze disappears in a burst of flame. Once Spider-Man's vision clears, he finds a note from Blaze challenging Spider-Man to meet him at the Arch near New York University. Ashley and Barry are delighted by this recent development but don't think that this impostor would be dumb enough to face off against Spider-Man. However, when they returned to their dorm room they find a message waiting for them, inviting them to watch Spider-Man's downfall.
When they arrived at the Arch that evening, they found Thomas had also received a note as well. He warns Ashley and Barry that they have gone too far this time. That's when Spider-Man arrives and tells them to get to cover. Before they can, Blaze suddenly appears at the top of the Arch. As Spider-Man battles, the villain, Ashley, and his friends watch by the sidelines. They are astonished to see the Blaze apparently has the ability of pyrokinesis as well as other weapons. When Spider-Man is stunned by Blaze's "killer frisbee", Thomas runs to his side and is blasted by Blaze's flame gun in the process. Blaze is horrified by what he has done and flies away, leaving Ashley and Barry behind. The pair think their friend is dead and begin to panic over what has happened. Spider-Man tells them that they can explain everything when they get to the hospital....
With their story done, Captain Jean DeWolff tells the two young men to go home, but to show up at the police station at 10 am the next morning with lawyers for formal charges. When Ashley and Barry leave, DeWolff asks Spider-Man if he is satisfied. He is, as is Thomas, who was not really injured at all but was wearing makeup to make it look like he was horribly burned. That's when "Blaze" comes out of hiding as well, he was actually the Human Torch in disguise. Jean DeWolff asks for the trio to fill in the blanks for her so she can understand what happened.
Thomas explains that he decided to do something about the situation after he saw the Blaze video on the news. He approached Peter Parker and told him all about it in the hopes he can contact Spider-Man. Parker says he can't and suggests that Thomas try to get in touch with the Human Torch. Thomas then went to the Baxter Building, where he found both the Torch and Spider-Man.[Continuity 6] Spider-Man is furious and wants to teach the kids a lesson, but both Thomas and the Human Torch suggested a more subtle approach. That's when they put together the entire ruse to trick Ashley and Barry. After hearing all this, Jean DeWolff is furious to hear that they played such a prank, or that she went along with it and warns them against pulling a stunt like this again. Spider-Man points out that it was for a good cause because Ashley and Barry seemed to learn their lesson.
However, Spider-Man wouldn't think so if he could hear Ashley assuring Barry that the police have nothing on them. On their way to the elevator, he tells Barry that, at worse, they would be charged with misdemeanors. As they enter the elevator, Ashley is already thinking of a new scheme, asking Barry if he knows just how well the president is protected...
- ↑ Although not implicitly stated, Ashley Cranford first chooses Batman when a bat flies through the window. This is a parody of the moment where Bruce Wayne first decided to use the bat as his emblem, first seen in Detective Comics #33. Barry and Thomas point out that Batman isn't "real". However, as explained in DC Versus Marvel #1, the DC Universe can interact with the Marvel Universe. Recent editions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe refers to the DC Universe as a "Distant Cosmos". That said, the general population of Earth-616 is unaware of the existence of the DC Universe.
- ↑ Barry refers to Peter as a "former student" of Empire State University. At the time of this story, Peter had decided to quit grad school in Amazing Spider-Man #243.
- ↑ Peter wonders if the envelope is more nude photos of the She-Hulk. He is referring to Naked Truth publisher T.J. Vance published a nude photo of She-Hulk in Fantastic Four #275.
- ↑ The Mayor of New York is depicted as Ed Koch in this story. This should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616.
- ↑ Captain DeWolff reprimands Cranford for smoking in a hospital room, but Cranford's pipe is not releasing fume - Some pipe-smokers keep their pipes in their mouths even when unlit. Later, a nurse reprimands Captain DeWolff herself for smoking in a hospital room - and her cigarette is giving out smoke.
- ↑ The narrative of this story states that this takes place prior to Fantastic Four #278. In that story, the Baxter Building was destroyed by Kristoff Vernard.
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- ↑ First and only known appearance to date besides flashbacks
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