Welcome to the five hundred and seventy-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven't been able to update it in a while). This week, did Marvel have a Spider-Man foe based on Prince? Did Peter David almost quit Incredible Hulk over Betty Banner's pregnancy being terminated? And learn why the Hulk wasn't allowed to crap out in Las Vegas!
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There's a little "next" button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel had a Spider-Man villain/anti-hero based on Prince.
STATUS: More False Than True, but Some Definite True in There
Tragically, music icon Prince passed away this week at the far too young age of 57. The hit singer/songwriter was one of the most dominant musicians of the 1980s and his influence is still felt in popular music to this day. His striking visual style was almost as impressive as his music. Reader Darryl M. wrote in yesterday to ask a question about Prince, namely, is it true that Marvel introduced a Spider-Man foe that was based on the singer?
The character in question was named Ace, and he debuted in the 1985 Spectacular Spider-Man Annual (#5) in a story edited by Christopher Priest (then known as Jim Owsley), drawn by Mark Beachum and Joe Rubinstein with a script by Peter David.
He was a former gang leader drawn into a current gang shooting. Here he is his introduction...
Reporter Joy Mercado is sure that Ace witnessed a gang shooting and she and Spider-Man try to persuade him to do the "right" thing and testify. He refuses.
He even gets into a memorable fight with Spider-Man where he manages to hold his own and even cut Spider-Man with a knife!
In the end, he agrees to testify against his own brother.
Many fans saw the style inspirations between Ace and Prince, including the famous poster for Prince's film, Purple Rain, with Prince on a motorcycle...
I have no doubt that Priest was a big Prince fan at the time. Heck, I bet he had that very poster (Peter David has recalled that Priest DID have that poster in his office). So with that in mind, I find it hard to believe that there was not some influence of Prince and Michael Jackson upon the design of Ace.
However, back in 1996, Priest also went into fairly explicit detail into Ace's origins on Usenet:
"Ace" was a PPTSSM annual (I don't recall issue #). The sequel, "Ace II" was out the following year (1984 I think). Mark and I have wanted to do an Ace special, but we were never in the same place at the same time.
FTR-- the character Ace was pretty much a self-portrait of Mark, only toned down a little. Yes, I said toned down. It kind of answered the question (as Mark in real life did): "What If Michael Jackson Looked Masculine?"
and then noting:
He looked like Mark. He *was* Mark. Mark looks like a masculine Michael Jackson. An MJ that could kick your ass. He's tall and lean with a piercing gaze and funky hair. He *is* Ace.
Priest did note, though, that Mark drew Ace as more Prince-looking than Michael Jackson.
Some folks confuse the "Mark" Priest refers to as Mark Bright, Priest's long time collaborator, but it's Mark Beachum, co-creator of Ace.
The second Ace annual the following year was even MORE Prince/Michael Jackson-esque, as Ace returns to town to testify.
Here are a few examples...
When he enters the courtroom, he even comes in "Billie Jean" style!
By the way, Ace nearly stabs Spider-Man to death in the issue!
(He retracted the blade at the last moment)
The annual is actually a really sad story, as Ace is fed up with the justice system, and ends up leaving mid-way through the tiral, and his brother goes free. He is now branded as a traitor and it doesn't even help keep his brother off of the streets. He ends up leaving New York with his sister (I assume to go to Minnesota).
I don't have a photo of Beachum from the time, but looking at a more recent photo of Beachum, I can definitely see it:
There's enough there for me to go with it as "false," although obviously Prince and Michael Jackson WERE style influences on Ace, as well.
Thanks to Priest for the information!
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On the next page, learn what story change almost made Peter David quit his run on Incredible Hulk less than thirty issues into the run!