In Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1, the reader is asked to lend some sympathy to lifelong D-list crook Boomerang, aka Fred Meyers, a former baseball player who threw games, and then took to throwing boomerangs as his weapon of choice. When I first saw the solicitation for Superior Foes #1, I was skeptical that a title starring a guy who had a nickname as bad as “the killer who keeps coming back,” the same guy who ripped off the superior Bullseye’s catchphrase “anything in my hand is a deadly weapon,” could ever entertain me. In fact, I thought long and hard about whether or not there were any Spider-Man stories starring Boomerang that gave me any reason to care about this guy.
Enter Spectacular Spider-Man #67, a blind spot for me much in the way other Spectacular issues from this era have long been off my radar. I wasn’t even a year old when this comic book first came out, and in the years that passed, I’ve focused the bulk of my collecting/reading efforts on Amazing Spider-Man, a comic book series where Spider-Man had the bulk of his most memorable battles with his most memorable villains like Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, Vulture, Sandman and Mysterio. The parade of villains used in the Bill Mantlo era of Spectacular is certainly a mixed bag filled with some very solid stories, and then some laughable guys like Swarm, Razorback, Iguana and Hypno Hustler (I know, I know, he’s a cult favorite).
But “Boomie’s” battle with Spider-Man in Spectacular #67 is fun one (though hardly a great one) and when read in tandem with Superior Foes #1, truly demonstrates the character’s potential, especially for use in an off-beat, quirky comic the way Nick Spencer did in Superior Foes (and the way Mantlo does throughout his run with some of the lesser foes). In Spectacular, Boomerang shows that even the losers don’t get lucky some times, and by issue’s end, I’m feeling quite sorry for Mr. Meyers.
Seriously, it’s quite the impressive feat for a comic to introduce us to a character by showing him murdering someone as a way to make nice to the Kingpin, and then having us learn that Kingpin is actually quite cheesed off by death. To rub even more salt in the wound, Boomerang wants to be Kingpin’s chief assassin, a title already owned by Bullseye, who was emerging as a true industry superstar during Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil. I can’t think of character who’s ever been more ignorantly audacious – even Doc Ock on his finest day has nothing on Boomerang in the chutzpah department.
So when Kingpin challenges Boomerang to kill Spider-Man in order to earn a spot on his team, for a split second I’m kinda rooting for Fred … but only because Kingpin doubts his odds for success and has his goons tail Boomerang the whole time.
When Boomerang confronts Spider-Man, the dastardly Spidey steals his (terrible) catchphrase before Freddie gets a chance to say it, and then makes fun of what I’m assuming is his speech impediment (do any of you more seasoned Spectacular fans have any other reasons as to why Spidey would mock Boomerang by saying “thweat” to him?). As a guy who long suffered with saying his “S’s” and who want through all forms of speech therapy before discovering I was just basically being lazy about the whole thing, I wish Spidey wasn’t so mean to Boomerang.
Spidey’s tussle with Boomerang spills over into the Daily Bugle newsroom, give J. Jonah Jameson and the rest of the crew a close-up look at what a threat he’d become, but of course Spider-Man ruins that too when he destroys rival photographer Lance Bannon’s camera during the fight.
The more I think about, the more I realize what a jerk Spidey could be sometimes. Peter’s all ticked off because he’s having a miserable day at school, so he takes it out on a guy who’s just trying to make a name for himself carrying out a task he has no chance of succeeding at.
OK, now I’m just trolling you guys a bit. But in all seriousness, it’s amazing looking back at this character and seeing this wealth of comedic potential all wrapped up in a tiny like bow tied by Mantlo. He might be one of the few Marvel characters who has even worse luck than Peter Parker. Guys like the Goblin, Doc Ock, etc. almost always had a moment or two in the sun against Spider-Man, and Boomerang is a part of one failure after the next.
In my write-up of Superior Foes #1, I said that Spencer finally gave us a reason to have sympathy for Boomerang – and while this is true in terms of modern comic book stories, I think the seeds for this kind of emotional response to a crook were first planted in Spectacular #67. Now I just need to get my hands on a copy of the Deadly Foes of Spider-Man series from the 1990s to see if there’s more Boomerang-as-a-loser treasure to be sourced from some of my Spider-Man “B” title blind spots.
All images from Spectacular Spider-Man #67: Bill Mantlo, Edward Hannigan & Al Milgrom