This is the latest in a series giving you the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the "foggy ruins of time." To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of Seinfeld will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in "The Understudy" to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal). Here is an archive of all the Foggy Ruins of Time installments so far.
Today we look at the racy reference in Amazing Spider-Man #298 to the Venus Butterfly!
In 1987's Amazing Spider-Man #298, the first issue by artist Todd McFarlane (the issue was written by David Michelinie with inks by Bob McLeod), Peter tries to surprise Mary Jane with some sexiness...
After Peter recovers from his embarrassment, we get the following...
The Venus Butterfly was then a very famous plot device from the first season of the hit television series, L.A. Law, in an episode, "The Venus Butterfly," that aired in November sweeps in 1986.
Tax lawyer Stuart Markowitz was helping divorce attorney Arnie Becker with a massive divorce case involving an average-looking man who has at least eight wives that we know about. The women, though, are sort of pushed into divorcing the man. They really don't want to do it. Stuart wonders what the deal is, and the man explains it is mostly due to a special move he uses in bed called, you guessed it, the Venus Butterfly. He decides to share the move with Stuart, since he trusts him and he relates to him.
The diminutive Markowitz had been in a sort of relationship with his beautiful fellow attorney Ann Kelsey since the first episode of the series ("The Venus Butterfly" was episode 9), but you could tell that Kelsey was wavering a bit, as she sort of entered into the relationship in a moment of desperation. Stuart uses the Venus Butterfly and, well...
The episode writer, Terry Louise Fisher, has always maintained that she just made up the name of the move and that she did not put any thought into what the move actually entailed. However, that hasn't stopped people from assigning a move to the name over the years. I won't go into the details of what the "official" Venus Butterfuly is. You can just Google it to find out.
In any event, the Venus Butterfly was a really big deal at the time in popular culture, even a year later when Michelinie did the joke.
If anyone has suggestions for future installments of Foggy Ruins of Time, drop me a line at email@example.com