Appearing in "Grave Memory"
- 🢐 Roland Rayburn 🢒
- Martha Robertson 🢒 (Only in flashback)
- 🢐 Ben Urich 🢒
- Kingpin (Wilson Fisk) (Mentioned)
- New York City
- Philadelphia (Only in flashback)
Synopsis for "Grave Memory"
As Peter Parker sits down to dinner with his wife Mary Jane, he gets a call from Daily Bugle editor-in-chief Joe Robertson asking him to come down to the office immediately.[Continuity 1] Sensing trouble, Peter changes into Spider-Man and web-slings to the Daily Bugle. En route, a sniper tries to take a shot at him but misses thanks to the wall-crawler's spider-sense. Spider-Man goes after the shooter and webs up his escape route and demands that he talk. When the man refuses, Spider-Man knocks him out and webs him on the end of the flagpole. When the shooter comes around, Spider-Man scares him into talking and learns that he was a blind hire to take a hit on Joe Robertson. With this information, Spider-Man leaves the shooter for the police. Sneaking into Joe Robertson's office, Spider-Man finds no trace of Joe, however, he finds a recording addressed to Peter Parker.[Continuity 2]
Playing the recording, he hears Joe giving a confession to something that will end his career. The reason he decided to tell Peter is because he is a freelance photographer who doesn't have an agenda to protect Robertson or the Bugle. Much to Spider-Man's surprise, Joe confesses that he is an accessory to murder. More shocking, he says he is responsible for the deaths featured in a number of newspaper clippings involving the mobster known as Tombstone. Before he can listen to anymore, Spider-Man is forced to leave with the recording when he hears Kate Cushing and J. Jonah Jameson coming. They thought they heard Joe's voice, but find no trace of him. This raises concerns as Jonah and Kate have noticed that Joe has been acting strangely. Meanwhile, at the Kingpin's office tower, the Arranger demands that the mutant known as Roland Rayburn work for his organization. Rayburn refuses to use his ability to influence people for criminal ends. Unhappy with this response, the Arranger has Tombstone rough him up to force him to comply. Roland attempts to use his powers to convince the Arranger to let him go, but his powers have no effect on Tombstone. The mob enforcer points out that the Arranger is being influence. After shaking off Raymond's influence, the Arranger orders Tombstone to dislocate his arm. Suddenly, they get a phone call from Joe Robertson. Tombstone takes the call and asks to leave to sort out some personal business. The Arranger thinks that he won't need Tombstone's services for the rest of the night. As the killer leaves, the Arranger calls in a nurse to treat Roland's injuries. The Arranger insists that Roland will eventually use his abilities to help them, however, Roland remains defiant.
Elsewhere, Spider-Man is web-slinging across the city, listening to Joe's recording along the way. Joe Robertson begins talking about his connection to Tombstone. The tale begins decades earlier when Joe attended high school in Harlem.[Continuity 3] It was during his senior year he was an editor for the school newspaper and had recently been granted a scholarship to the Columbia School of Journalism. The most feared person in school was a young albino named Lonnie Lincoln, a bully everyone called Tombstone. One day, after working late on the school paper, Joe was confronted by Lonnie about a story that Robertson was going to write about him in the paper. Lonnie demands to know what the contents of the article were. Joe tried to put up a brave front, refusing to tell him. However, the youth who would later become the deadly mobster known as Tombstone, beat Joe into submission and convinced him to drop the story. From there, Lincoln would perversely consider Joe his friend.
The next morning, Joe's teacher was concerned that Joe was quashing his story, even though she hadn't read it. Joe insists that the story was a bust and that he was quashing it. However, Joe had a difficult time with the idea of compromising his future. Although Lonnie Lincoln thanked Joe for quashing the story, telling him he "does good work", Joe vowed to never retreat on another story ever again. Eight years later, Joe was working the late night desk for a newspaper in Philidelphia. One night he got a panicked phone call from a crook who had information on the recent murder of Ozzy Montana. Joe rushed to the meeting place and was horrified to see that his contact had just been strangled to death. More shocking was the fact that the killer was none other than Lonnie Lincoln. Joe tried to flee the scene but tripped over some barrels. However, when he regained his footing, Tombstone was long gone. He was so frightened, he returned home to think about what to do next. That's when he got a phone call from Tombstone, whose only words were about how Joe "does good work" before hanging up. Fearing for his family's safety, Joe decided not to report the story. A month later, Joe and his wife moved to New York City where Joe took up his job at the Daily Bugle. Over the next twenty years, Joe followed the career of Tombstone and how he managed to escape prosecution by intimidating witnesses. He thought that he was out of Tombstone's reach until he recently saw Tombstone in New York.[Continuity 4]
With his past catching up with him, Joe began collecting articles on Tombstone's career to see if he could justify his silence. His feelings of guilt got worse when he had a confrontation with Tombstone a few days earlier.[Continuity 5] Recently, he was at a pub that is frequented by reporters from the Daily Bugle. There, he overheard Ben Urich talk about the rumors that were swirling around about Tombstone. He then snapped at Urich to do his job as a reporter and follow up on these rumors. He then stormed out of the bar where he came upon a newspaper box that had a headline story on the increase in mob killings in the city. Losing his temper, Joe punches the newspaper box, doing nothing more than cutting his knuckles. It was then that he vowed to end his shame once and for all by confronting Tombstone that very evening. Hearing this, Spider-Man goes to the Kingpin's office and orders the Arranger to tell him where Tombstone is meeting with Joe Robertson. The Arranger plays coy about hiring Tombstone, but suggests that Spider-Man might want to go to Battery Park.
At that moment, Joe Robertson meets with Tombstone in the pouring rain. Pulling a gun on Tombstone, Joe is determined to take Tombstone in for his crimes. However, Tombstone is faster than Joe and easily disarms him and grabs him in a bear hug. Disappointed that Joe is no longer honoring their "arrangement" and breaks Joe's back. Hearing his screams, Spider-Man rushes to Joe's aid. Spider-Man finds the crippled body of Joe, but no sign of Tombstone. When Spider-Man tries to offer his aid, Joe tells the wall-crawler not to move him, as his back had been broken.
- Peter and Mary Jane are referred to as husband and wife here. However, years later, their marriage is erased from existence by the demon Mephisto, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #545. As such they should be considered a common-law couple here as opposed to husband and wife.
- The device depicted is a tape recorder. This should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616 as tape recorders of this kind have since become obsolete.
- Joe states that this was when Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive and "before Black was Beautiful", suggesting that Joe was in high school in the 1950s. This should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616. Modern readers should interpret that Joe Robertson was in high school at least 29 years prior to this story, or 22 years prior to the start of the modern age.
- Joe first saw Tombstone in New York in Web of Spider-Man #36.
- Joe Robertson bumped into Tombstone in The Spectacular Spider-Man #137.
A flashback in this story affects the chronology of the following characters: