Appearing in "That Old-Time Religion"
Races and Species:
- New York
- New Jersey
- Cult headquarters
Synopsis for "That Old-Time Religion"
At the Bedford Towers condo owned by Mary Jane and her husband Peter Parker, Mary Jane returns home with an old friend Lorraine Mandell, a fellow model.[Continuity 1] As Lorraine takes off her coat, Mary Jane quickly takes it from her to hang it up, so that her friend doesn't see Peter's Spider-Man costumes. When Lorainne asks where Peter is, Mary Jane quips that he must be hanging out somewhere.
At that moment, Spider-Man is at the New Jersey compound of the Students of Love, a cult that recently recruited Betty Brant as one of their members. Fearing that she had been brainwashed, Spider-Man had come to rescue her only for Betty to raise the alarm. The wall-crawler soon has a mob of cult followers charging into the room armed with baseball bats. The web-slinger tires to get away but he is swarmed by the sheer numbers. Forced to use violence, Spider-Man fights off his attackers. Seeing Betty running out of the room, Spider-Man follows after her. He tries to talk sense into Betty, but she refuses to go with him, saying this is the best thing that has ever happened to her. Seeing how brainwashed she was, Spider-Man tries to carry her out, but she fights back. Something that catches the hero off guard because Betty doesn't set off his spider-sense. As the other cultists come after them, Spider-Man webs up her arms and legs and runs for it. Around the corner, Spider-Man is confronted by one of the cultists armed with a flamethrower. While dodging the flames, Spider-Man is distracted enough to allow Betty to rip off his mask. Fearing Betty could recognize him and tell the cultists about his true identity, Spider-Man flees, fearing that the cult might go after Mary Jane if they discover who he is. Running down a hallway, Spider-Man manages to escape through an air vent and evade capture.
Meanwhile, Ben Urich pays a visit to Liebman Reality to inquire about Betty's apartment that has gone up for sale.[Continuity 2] When he mentions the Students of Love, the realter suddenly changes her tone and invites him to leave. So soon hops into a cab, making Urich even more suspicious than before. Back at the cult's compound, Peter slips through the vents to try and find out what's going on. In one of the rooms, he spots the man who recruited Betty into the cult talking to their leader, a man known only as the Teacher, as well as his concerns about Brother Bruce's proccupation with fire. The Teacher assures him that they have nothing to worry about, as Spider-Man was a tresspasser and they are law abiding citizens. That's when he gets a phone call from Sister Jane who tells the Teacher about the visit she got from Ben Urich. Brother Guy offers to get some of the other followers to scare off the press, but the Teacher declines this as well. Hearing all of this, Peter realizes how deep in it he is. Going further down the vents he comes across something that can buy him more time. However, he worries that Mary Jane may be worried sick about him. However, this is far from the truth, as his wife has been up all night with her friend Lorainne and having a great time of it. As it is getting late, Lorainne thinks that he should head home to get some sleep. Mary Jane refuses to let her go without meeting her husband Peter, inviting her to in her bed, while Mary Jane sleeps on the couch.
By this time, Peter has entered a supply room where he puts on one of the outfits that the cult members wear, putting a baseball cap on his head in an attempt to disguise himself and continues to search around. While back at home, Mary Jane is woken up by Lorainne tip-toeing through the condo. When Mary Jane asks her what she is doing, Lorainne says she was going to the bathroom and rushes back to the bedroom. The following morning, Flash Thompson is at the Daily Bugle demanding to be let in to see Kate Cushing. The guard at the front desk is giving him a hard time when Kate is walking by. Flash explains that he has come to follow up on the search for Betty Brant. Kate takes Flash upstairs and leaves him with Ben Urich who is still investigating the situation.[Continuity 3] Urich tells Flash that he was just on his way out to meet with someone who can give them a lead on the case. Needing help, Ben hands Flash a camera and tells him he just volunteered as a photographer. While back at the Parker home, Mary Jane is going over Lorainne's modeling photos, telling her Peter came home late in the night and left early in the morning. When she remarks on the more revealing photos, Lorainne suggests MJ take some intimate photos as well, telling her there is substantial money in it. Mary Jane is even more interested in it but decides she should talk to Peter first before taking the gig.
Later that morning, Peter is out toiling in the garden with the other cult members. He is surprised that nobody has questioned his presence. Finding Betty again, he can't help but remark that she is at peace living here. Suddenly, one of the cult members announces that the Teacher is going to perform a miracle. At that moment, Ben and Flash arrive at the home of Reverend Tolliver. Inviting them in, Tolliver explains that he often de-programs members of religious cults and says that the Teacher of the Students of Love is a con artist who uses trickery to convince his followers that he can perform miracles. He explains that one of the Teacher's tricks is to call together his gatherers to observe him remove a cancerous mass from a person's body. Using an obese person and a water balloon with fake blood, the Teacher then makes it look like he is plunging his hands into the person's flesh and remove the "cancer". In reality, his hands are hidden in the folds of excess flesh and bursts the balloon, making for a graphic display. The idea of this feat of magic is that his followers are so enthralled that they take what they see as a miracle. Those who fall for this con often become even more devoted to the cult as a result. As Reverend Tolliver is explaining this, Peter Parker is seeing this con first hand, confident that if this is a con he will see through it. However, as he witnesses this seeming miracle, Peter is completely taken by the spectacle.
- Peter and Mary Jane are referred to as husband and wife here. However, years later, their marriage was erased from history by the demon Mephisto in Amazing Spider-Man #545. As such they should be considered a common-law couple here, as opposed to husband and wife.
- Ben mentions the recent death of Betty's husband Ned Leeds. He was murdered in Spider-Man Versus Wolverine #1.
- Kate refers to Flash as the "former Hobgoblin suspect". Flash was framed by the Hobgoblin in Amazing Spider-Man #276 until he was cleared in Amazing Spider-Man #289.
- First and only known appearance to date besides flashbacks
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