In every installment of “If I Pass This Way Again,” we look at odd comic book plot points that were rarely (sometimes NEVER!) mentioned again after they were first introduced.
Today, we look at the short-lived, odd, but also kind of adorable friendship between Spider-Man and Nate Grey, the mutant most commonly known as X-Man.
Late 1996 was a strange time for the “Spider-Man” line of titles. Peter Parker had returned as Spider-Man and the various writers tried to stress how young Peter and his wife, Mary Jane (who had just lost their daughter to a stillbirth), were, so they both went back to college and they were living with Mary Jane’s Aunt Anna, who took on the role of the well-meaning older parental figure who Peter had to hide his secret identity from that was temporarily vacated by Aunt May Parker (who was thought to be dead at the time).
Meanwhile, “X-Man” was in an odd spot, as well. Launched as part of “The Age of Apocalypse,” Nate Grey was a sort of alternate version of Cable, but he survived the alternate reality and came over to the “main” Marvel universe. The title was created by the then-creative team of “Cable”, writer Jeph Loeb and penciler Steve Skroce. They both continued on “X-Man” but eventually both moved on to other titles. Terry Kavanagh took over “X-Man”. The problem with “X-Man” was that he had no real specific purpose as a character, so he sort of wandered around aimlessly.
Skroce eventually ended up becoming the new penciler on “Amazing Spider-Man” (working with inker Bud De La Rosa) and in December of 1996, “Amazing Spider-Man” writer Tom DeFalco had Nate Grey show up in “Amazing Spider-Man” #420, where he befriended Spider-Man (Peter had been sent to investigate Nate, who had become a sort of “wise man in Central Park” figure). They shared their respective back stories…
Peter ended up inviting Nate to attend Christmas Eve dinner with him, Mary Jane and Aunt Anna and Nate agreed.
In return, Nate gave Peter a wonderful gift, a visit with his (thought to be) dead Aunt May…
That same month, Kavanagh had Spider-Man guest-star in “X-Man” #24, where they encounter Morbius.
In the double-sized “Amazing Spider-Man” #425, Nate and Spider-Man team-up to take down Electro. First, we were reminded of their new friendship…
And here they are in action, along with Spider-Man’s special “Electro-Proof” suit…
Skroce then left the book and DeFalco didn’t seem too interested in keeping Nate around (he did have him cameo in “Amazing Spider-Man” #429) but Kavanagh, who had written “Web of Spider-Man” for a number of years, seemed more inclined to keep the friendship going, so Spider-Man made numerous appearances in “X-Man” throughout 1997 and 1998.
In fact, during one storyline in 1999, X-Man was placed in a fake “perfect” world known as Greyville and while there, in his “ideal” world, he and Spider-Man were crimefighting partners.
But then Kavanagh left “X-Man”, as well and the friendship was not followed up by the later “X-Man” writers and then the book ended period. Nate Grey then seemingly died, but he has returned a few times since but his friendship with Spider-Man has not followed suit. It was just an odd little late 1990s plot point that hasn’t been revisited since.
I personally like weird intercompany continuity stuff like that.
If you have a suggestion for a future If I Pass This Way Again suggestion, drop me a line at email@example.com!
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