When Spider-Man teamed up with Planned Parenthood to stop an enforced pregnancy alien

There are certain things you would expect to see in 1970’s Spider-Man comics. Fight with animal villains. Romantic drama amidst the glamorous supporting cast. Secret identity gimmicks. Which you probably do would not Expect this: Spider-Man foils a devious scheme to spread misinformation about sex in a comic sponsored by Planned Parenthood.

The year: 1976. The Sexual Revolution was in full swing. Roe v. calf had been passed three years earlier and had temporarily enshrined national abortion rights. The nation was now openly addressing the existence of teenage pregnancy, with the phenomenon covered in places like LIFE magazine. Worrying reports of a rise in teenage pregnancy rates prompted reproductive rights organizations to raise awareness of the issue — and someone at Planned Parenthood came up with the idea of ​​commissioning a free booklet from Marvel Comics. The result: The Amazing Spider-Man vs The Prodigya 16-page comic written by Ann Robinson, the company’s licensing officer, and drawn by regulars Amazing Spider-Man Art team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.

Our story begins with a green-skinned, big-headed alien named The Prodigy who plots to brainwash America’s children into pumping out children to fill the need for child labor on the planet Intellecta. (He can, explains a hilariously long editor’s note, because cosmic rays have rendered his voice hypnotic.) “Imagine,” the prodigy gleefully tells the reader, “[teens] really think you can’t get pregnant until you’re 15 or when you’re having sex for the first time if you only do it occasionally. They’re going to have babies left and right out of ignorance, just like I planned for my giant baby snap.”

However, what the prodigy didn’t plan is for Spider-Man to follow the helicopter he sent out to bring impressive teenagers to his secret mansion. The suspicious wall crawler lurks outside the window, watching as The Prodigy – wearing a rubber human mask, of course – unfolds his game. “They’re just trying to scare you and make you think it’s easy to get pregnant,” he tells the kids. “But I say, how else can you prove that you are a man; how else are you going to get a man? Your babies will not be a burden…they will be raised by experts. After all, they are important.”

Spider-Man, of course, is disgusted. “This guy’s plan is to keep kids from learning the facts,” he tells the reader. “He want they’re supposed to be baby machines! Change diapers. Dead end jobs with nowhere to go…sitting at home every night trying to find the time and money to go to the movies or to the burger stand! What kind of life Can they live?”

However, The Prodigy has bigger plans – he will go on national TV and give the same speech to the whole nation. Enter: Spider-Man dusting and rubber masking him and his henchmen, uncovering the evil conspiracy and saving America’s teens from alien misinformation.

While The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Prodigy may seem like an unusual artifact, it actually represents a common side business of mainstream comics publishers: publications featuring popular characters commissioned by government organizations, nonprofits, and private companies . Some of these are purely commercial advertisements – who could forget the narrative masterpiece from 2012 Craftsman Bolt-On System saves the Justice League? — but others acted as PSAs, some of whom went to extremely crazy places.

According to Douglas Wolk, a journalist who writes about comics, the comic commissioned by Planned Parenthood was actually an early example of Marvel’s form. In the 1980s, the company released several more. Some, like an anti-smoking comic starring Spider-Man, Storm, and Luke Cage for the American Cancer Society, have been continually reprinted. Others have subsequently (and unfairly) been the subject of internet shaming in particular secrets, a 1984 Spider-Man story commissioned by the National Committee For Prevention Of Child Abuse in which Peter Parker revealed that he had been sexually abused by an older man. (In 2011, Marvel announced a collection reprinting many of the PSAs, including The Amazing Spider-Man vs The Prodigy and secretsbut for whatever reason, he only released the anti-drug films under the title Amazing Spider-Man battles drug abuse.)

“Spider-Man is used a lot in these commercials because he’s a recognizable character,” Wolk said. “He’s one of the most human, normal, not rich or special… he’s the character that kids can relate to. But he’s also a familiar character, and it’s about getting a familiar character as a hook to get kids to pick something up and read it.”


Commissioned comics were actually able to tackle issues that many mainline comics shied away from in the 1970s — like drug abuse and teenage pregnancy, Wolk said. Comics at the time were regulated by the Comics Code Authority, an institution set up by major publishers to stave off government regulation in the 1950s. Carrying the CCA was not required by law, but was required for kiosk sales. Since Amazing Spider-Man vs The Prodigy was distributed free of charge and in magazine format, but Wolk said it was not under the jurisdiction of the code.

“There’s a sexual openness for his time that’s a bit odd to see in the context of Spider-Man in the mid-’70s,” Wolk explained. “But it’s a comic about sexual and reproductive health. It’s a “let’s correct these myths and make things clear” comic. It’s fascinating that it exists, but it’s not a wild, anomalous thing.”

Amazing Spider-Man vs The Prodigy is an interesting window into how organizations like Planned Parenthood communicated about sex in the 1970s. At the end of the booklet you will find a list of ‘facts’, some of which stand quite well today: that it is natural to think about and dream about sex, and that masturbation is not unhealthy. Others read very oddly; The pamphlet assures people that homosexuality is not indicated by “a person’s appearance or behavior” and that “having a close friend or being attracted to someone of the same sex does not mean you are or ever will be homosexual.” . ”

“Amazing Spider-Man Versus The Prodigy is an interesting window into how organizations like Planned Parenthood communicated about sex in the 1970s.”

Interestingly, neither abortion nor contraception are directly mentioned. A teenager does allude to the fact that drugstores have things that keep you from getting pregnant, although it doesn’t say what those measures are. (It’s worth noting that the teenager is black, which – as sociologist Frank Furstenberg notes – is black The history of teenage childbirth as a social problemties in pretty well with public messages about the prevalence of teenage pregnancy in black communities, then and now.)

“One thing this comic gets full marks for is its use of humor and general language (even though it’s aged by 2022 standards) to address these issues, which can be very uncomfortable and embarrassing for people to talk about to read,” said cartoonist Erika Moen, co-author of Let’s Talk: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human. (Moen is also the creator of the sex education webcomic Oh joy sex toys.)

The comic’s general approach to teenage pregnancy – ie judgmental language and scaremongering around the horrors of teenage pregnancy – is less effective. “Rhetoric like this puts a lot of blame on the individual choice without acknowledging the systems that don’t support pregnant people, parents and families,” health educator Cynthia Sleight told The Daily Beast. Additionally, she said, research suggests such approaches aren’t particularly good at preventing pregnancy or STDs. Instead, Sleight recommends a mix of comprehensive sex education and free or low-cost health care that includes birth control and STI testing.


A better approach, Moen said, would emphasize that while unplanned children can make it harder to complete school and pursue a career, “teenage parents can and will lead full, rewarding lives and may be able to continue their… Pursuing ambitions, it’s just going to be harder, take longer, and be harder to afford… it’s just about what the challenges might be so they can make an informed decision.”

“Teens who receive comprehensive sex education are more likely to wait to have sex, practice safe sex, and are less likely to experience unwanted pregnancies,” Sleight said. “If someone were to rewrite this booklet now, I would hope that it would provide comprehensive information on how to practice safe sex, where to get condoms and other types of birth control, how to get tested for STIs and HIV, and the pregnancy options available are in their region.”

However, the notion that there is some sinister plot to force children into childbirth – in this case for economic reasons, ie a steady supply of what appears to be low-wage labor – is proving to be worryingly prescient. And there’s no point in waiting for Spider-Man to be foiled the to plan. Find and support your local abortion fund here.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/when-spider-man-teamed-up-with-planned-parenthood-to-stop-a-forced-pregnancy-alien?source=articles&via=rss When Spider-Man teamed up with Planned Parenthood to stop an enforced pregnancy alien


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