Appearing in "Local Superhero!"
- Joe Robertson
- Smithville Thunderbolt (Fred Hopkins) (First appearance)
- Roxanne DeWinter (First appearance)
- Ludlow Grimes (First appearance)
- Marge (Only appearance)
- Irving Stein (Only appearance) (Only in flashback)
- Captain America (Photo)
- Human Torch (Photo)
- Hobgoblin (Photo)
- United States of America
- Greyhound Bus
Synopsis for "Local Superhero!"
Years Ago:[Continuity 1]
In the vastness of space, a planet explodes, hurtling debris across the universe. One such chunk ends up crashing in a junkyard on planet Earth in the small town of Smithville, Pennsylvania. The following morning, Frank Hopkins reports for work at the Smithville Savings Bank. He arrives late for work much to the annoyance of his employer. After being snubbed by Marge, the bank typist, he meets with his co-worker Irving. Irving has two tickets to an orchestra performance that evening and Frank accepts an invitation to join. That evening, Frank waits outside for Irving, who is running late. Suddenly, he hears a scream in a back alley and sees a pair of thugs tar and feathering Irving. Around his neck is an antisemitic sign reading "Jew Boy". When Hopkins tries to stop them, he is beaten up and left in the alley. The two thugs then throw Irving in the back of a pick-up truck and attempt to flee. Frank grabs ahold of the tailgate and holds on for dear life. However, despite his heroic efforts, the speeding vehicle shakes him loose, sending Frank Hopkins rolling into the junkyard. Trying to get up, Frank uses the chunk of space rock to steady himself. Suddenly he feels funny and gets up with no further pain. Walking home, Hopkins dismisses this as nothing but adrenaline.
Returning home, Frank goes through old newspaper clippings of heroes like Captain America and the Human Torch, who were active in World War II. He wishes that there were heroes like that around in this day and age to prevent such acts of violence.[Continuity 2] The next morning, the front page story in the papers is about the beating of Irving Stein, who is now recovering in hospital. Reading this at work, Frank Hopkins once more wishes there was something that could have been done for poor Irving. At lunchtime, Frank goes out into the bank parking lot to eat his lunch. When he accidentally drops his apple under a car, he is surprised when he somehow manages to lift the car off the ground in order to retrieve it. Not believing what just happened, Hopkins attempts to lift the car again. He is surprised that he is able to lift it over his head. Putting it back down he wonders what he should do with this newfound power. When he walks around the front of the bank, he witnesses the two thugs who beat up Irving as they trip a young African-American boy. Suddenly, Frank Hopkins has some inspiration.
That evening, Frank returns home and gathers an old pair of long johns, some dye, and some markers and gets to work. Putting on this outfit and a mask, Frank Hopkins goes out looking for the guys who beat up his friend. He finds them roughing up a man who just walked out of a liquor store. Frank easily trounces these youths before the eyes of astonished bystanders, who proclaim him a hero.
Peter Parker is meeting with Joe Robertson at the offices of the Daily Bugle. He is upset that Joe is once again refusing to buy photos of Spider-Man. Joe tells him that if he used every photo of Spider-Man they have in his files, they could publish them for a year-and-a-half. Sympathetic of Peter's situation, Joe assigns him to a story that Joe is researching for the Sunday Suppliment. It is regarding the true identity of the Smithville Thunderbolt, a local hero in Pennsylvania. With no other choice, Peter grudgingly accepts the assignment and is soon on a bus to Smithville. The whole way, Peter complains to himself about how hard it is to make a living now that Joe Robertson is less interested in photos of Spider-Man.[Continuity 3] Soon, Peter arrives in Smithville and once off the bus a young man runs by warning everyone of a fire. Peter sees a nearby abandoned home billowing with smoke. With everyone off the bus, Peter slips inside to change into Spider-Man to save anyone who is trapped inside.
However, no sooner is Spider-Man on a rooftop opposite the other building, he witnesses the Smithville Thunderbolt running onto the scene. The wall-crawler decides to sit back and watch things from the back of the burning building. As Spider-Man climbs into the building, the Thunderbolt leaps out with two children out the front. The web-slinger looks around but can hardly see through the smoke. Suddenly, his spider-sense begins going off, warning him of danger. However, he is too late to stop a huge bruiser in overalls from striking him from behind. The strength of the blow causes Spider-Man to break through the floor to the main level of the house. Looking at who he attacked, the mysterious attacker realizes that this isn't the Smithville Thunderbolt and leaves. Spider-Man recovers from the blow and witnesses the Thunderbolt leap away. Wanting to learn more, Spider-Man tags the local hero with a spider-tracer. With the danger over, Spider-Man decides to change back into his civilian guise before he is spotted. Later, Peter Parker begins tracing the signal from the spider-tracer. It lures him to a dumpster, and Peter fears that the Thunderbolt discarded his tracer. Suddenly, someone from behind compliments him on his camera. It's a woman, and when he thanks her for the compliment and that he uses it for journalism, the woman gets upset. Turns out, the woman is Roxanne DeWinter a reporter for the Smithville Gazette, and she views Peter's presence as competition for her attempts at learning the Thunderbolts identity. However, she quickly changes her tone when she learns that Peter works for the Daily Bugle and insists on buying him lunch.
Soon the pair are sitting down at a diner where Roxanne explains that she is looking for a big scoop so she can finally get out of Smithville. She figures that learning the Thunderbolt's true identity is her ticket out of town. She suggests that the two of them work together, but Peter declines, saying that he works better alone. He thanks her for lunch and heads out. However, Roxanne DeWinter refuses to be blown off so easily. Moments later, Peter is back at the dumpster, but doesn't find any trace of his spider-tracer. Suddenly, he picks up a faint signal and leaps over the dumpster to track it, unaware that DeWinter is following after him. The signal leads Peter to a modest looking home. He then slips around to the side of the house and changes back into Spider-Man and tries to find a way inside so he can recover his spider-tracer. Not far away, Roxanne DeWinter has lost sight of Peter since going back for her car, but deduces that he is in the only inhabited house in the area. Inside the house, Spider-Man introduces himself to Frank Hopkins, who is shocked to see Spider-Man in his home. Saying he has come to recover his property and follows the signal to a closet. Before Frank can stop it, the wall-crawler opens it and is shocked to discover the costume belonging to the Smithville Thunderbolt.
Unaware that Roxanne DeWitter is listening outside his door, Frank Hopkins confesses that he is the Smithville Thunderbolt. He begs Spider-Man not to tell anyone because he believes he will be humiliated and ridiculed. He explains that he got his power a number of decades ago, but they are now starting to fade. He reveals that he has been using ordering scientific equipment to build devices that could roughly mimic is fading powers. Frank then reveals that with crime at an all time low in Smithville, he would manufacture dangers so he could still play hero. He reveals that he staged the "fire" in the house with smoke bombs and hide in the dumpster after his "daring" rescue. He once more begs Spider-Man not to reveal his secrets, fearing he will be laughed out of town. That's when Spider-Man hears a creaking floorboard from behind a door and ues his webbing to open the door. Before they can react, Roxanne snaps a photo of Frank in costume with his mask off. As Spider-Man tries to recover the camera from Roxanne, his spider-sense begins to go off. Suddenly, the strong man that attacked Spider-Man earlier comes bursting through the wall. He intends to kill Frank, insisting that he is the true Smithville Thunderbolt.
- This story states that the flashback occurs 30 years ago. Later a calendar on the wall states it happens in the year 1954. Hopkins also looks at magazines of Captain America and the original Human Torch. When he becomes the Smithville Thunderbolt he tackles a lot of racially motivated crimes. Marvel has yet to confirm if this should be considered a topical reference (in that it moves forward with the Sliding Timescale) or a factual one (in that these events are locked in 1954 and the Modern Age slides further and further away from this date.)
- If this story is to be accepted as happening in 1954 (as opposed to an unfixed date that pushes forward with the Sliding Timescale, the Human Torch was only recently revived, (as seen in Young Men #24). Although the original Captain America was lost during World War II (as depicted in Avengers #4) one of his successors William Burnside became active as Captain America around the same time (also in Young Men #24). Since this story takes place in Pennsylvania, it could be news of the return of the Torch and the new Captain America may not have reached that region.
- Joe Robertson had just recently took over as Editor-In-Chief of the Daily Bugle in Amazing Spider-Man #251 after J. Jonah Jameson stepped down. Since then, Joe has been less interested in pictures of Spider-Man.