The Purse-Snatcher Trilogy

Part I - A Not-so-Casual Observation

Disclaimer:  Spidey, JJJ, Robertson, Urich, the victim, and the purse-snatcher all belong to Marvel!  The observer is mine, though.  ^^x

Notes:  This is based not-so-loosely on the scene in Issue #15 of Ultimate Spider-Man, in which Peter Parker, a little upset by having been kicked in the ass by Kong, takes out his frustrations on a purse-snatcher as Spidey after school.  He's hilariously jovial and plainly having a good time taking out the oversized thief - and it makes for, in my opinion, an amusing scene.  First of all, there's a crowd of, like, 50 people looking on; Spider-Man is shown in all his scrawny, short glory (he's probably shorter than any of the spectators); JJJ gets his comeuppuns, and Peter's sarcastic streak is in full bloom.  This is the stuff that made me fall in love with Spidey in the first place.

Some background about Ultimate Spider-Man you may need to know:  Peter Parker's only fifteen, and the Ultimate Spidey version of everyone's favorite wall-crawler is only 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds.  Translate: he's short, thin, and more youthful-looking in this comic book.  It's the art style that made me fall for this version, really … if you can't tell by the end of this fic, you're blind.  ^^x

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            It was a Monday.

            I've never liked Mondays - never saw a reason to like them.  Most people don't.  I guess it's because it signals the beginning of another week of work.  Besides, they're often rainy.

            This Monday, however, wasn't rainy at all; in fact, the skies were almost unbearably clear and the weather perfect, tempting me to take the day off from my dreary office job cooped up in a cubicle and come outside to fly a kite or have a picnic or take my son to Central Park for a game of catch.  It was almost worse than rain.

            In the end self-discipline won and I stayed at work until about four o'clock.  Since it was such a nice day, I decided to walk home; I wasn't expected back for an hour, anyway.  Apparently I was not alone in my judgement; the streets of New York City are always busy, but today they were packed.

            As I shuffled briskly along with the rest of the crowd, my eyes fell on one of the more tabloid-variety papers in a newsstand - the Daily Bugle. The Bugle's HQ was only about a block away.  As usual, the front page was occupied mostly by a blaring headline defaming Spider-Man.

            Spider-Man!  That was the hot topic all over NYC these days, it seemed.  Not that it was terribly surprising; the idea of mutants among us had been becoming more and more infamous over the last few years - in fact, there was a school for mutants right here on the East Coast.  Spider-Man, a man with strange abilities strikingly like a spider's, looked to be one of these mutant types.  This had some people terrified of him; others were frightened of him for other reasons.  For instance, wherever there was trouble, Spider-Man seemed to be. According to the Bugle (and my colleagues at work), Spider-Man was behind half the crimes in the City.  I was more inclined to try and keep an open mind and open eyes; like everyone else, I hoped badly for at least a glimpse of the unusual figure --

            "Aaah!  Help!  Someone stop that man!"

            I twisted in mid-step at the tragic shout; a huge, barrel-chested man, fat and powerful-looking, was barreling down the sidewalk, a small purse in his hands.  I couldn't see the woman who had shouted, but it was rather obvious that the man was fleeing a crime.  However, with typical New York resident lack of interest, the crowd allowed itself to have a path carved through it by the man.  "Out of my way!" he kept saying needlessly; if anyone had really tried to stop him, it would have been a simple matter for him to shove them aside.

            And that was when the voice came out of the sky.

            "You, my friend, are just what the doctor ordered!"

            I blinked and, like everyone else (including the purse-snatcher), looked up.  There, perched on a street lamp over our heads, was Spider-Man.

            My eyes widened.  "Dude ..." muttered the person next to me.  I had to agree.

            Spider-Man was not exactly as I had imagined him to be.  I'd seen him on TV once or twice, and the Bugle sometimes had great pictures of the mutant, but it wasn't anything like seeing him in person.  The first thing that struck me was the sheer awkwardness of his position, which should have been impossible for any man who wasn't a eunuch to assume.  I found one hand working its way to my groin in sympathy, and I had to shake my head and move it away.  The second thing that hit me was that his voice was a high tenor.  For some reason, I'd always imagined that a superhero/villain mutant would have a baritone voice.

            Before I could think about it any further, Spider-Man grasped the lamppost with one hand and swung off of it with ease, crashing his feet into the purse-snatcher.  "I've been looking for a big, bad bully to clock," he said casually, straightening.

            I raised my eyebrows.  Another shocker – Spider-Man was tiny!  His shoulders and torso were thin; although every muscle was cleanly defined by his outfit, they were not large knots of power, but small and lithe, which seemed to match his overall gangly look.  He looked rather like a member of a high cross country team (at least his build suggested it), except he was shorter than any cross country runners I could think of.  Strangely, this stirred a little sympathy in me.  I shook my head slightly.  What reason could I have for pitying someone with such incredible powers?  The entire city would be at Spider-Man's disposal, had he so chosen to use his abilities!

            The fat thief was knocked off his feet by Spider-Man's easy hit, but with a grunt and terror in his eyes, he rolled back to his feet and rushed towards Spider-Man with his fist cocked.  I watched with silent awe as Spider-Man jumped skyward, doing a flawless midair split, and flipped over the purse-snatcher's head.  "Aw, look at you!  Putting up a fight!  That's cute!" he said, his voice full of sarcastic, good-natured humor.  He then proceeded to dance around the thief, easily avoiding his fists and throwing in a few punches of his own.  I was spellbound by his effortless leaps, bounds, and flips.  "Actually, I'm kind of grateful," Spider-Man continued.  His voice was so even I would have sworn he was standing still, except I could see him jumping in a way that would have left anyone else breathless (supposing they could even do it without a trampoline).  "I mean, usually I get to fight guys who throw fireballs and lightning bolts at me, so these non-super-villain type fights get to looking a little lopsided … So, you should really get a weird gimmick or something if you're going to tangle with big-time superhero types like myself."

Spider-Man paused in his ongoing banter long enough to gracefully twist away from an awkward kick from the purse-snatcher before pressing his two middle fingers to the inside of his palms.  A strange substance that I could only describe as thick spider webbing shot from the inside of Spider-Man's wrists and coated the man.  It even hit the thief with enough force to knock him down!  I heard gasps, and I swallowed.  Whoever heard of web coming from the inside of one's wrists?  What a strange power! I knew that when I saw strings of sticky stuff hanging from buildings it was a sign of Spider-Man, but it was completely different seeing it in action …

In only a moment or two, Spider-Man had the thief completely covered in the 'webbing' and stuck hopelessly to the ground.  With a flourish the scrawny mutant took one long leap to where the victim's purse lay forgotten on the ground.  "And – tadaa –" he began, turning back around and hopping towards the woman, bouncing once on the webbed thief and making him grunt, "I present you your purse, madam.  Justice has been done.  All is right with the world."

He handed the purse to the woman.

She took the purse and stared.  Heck, everyone stared.  It took several moments for the woman to seem to gather her wits, blink, turn, and run as if Spider-Man would suddenly change his mind and attack her.

There was the briefest of pauses in which no one in the large crowd said a word.  I could hear a car honking half a block away.

Then Spider-Man, not missing a beat, pointed a finger at the sky, shook it vigorously, and looked after the fleeing woman.  "See that?  A guy can't run around in his underwear like a maniac without a woman acting he's a guy running around in his underwear like a maniac!  It's a disgrace, I tells ya!"

I think there was a collective blink – the sort that should have generated gale-force winds in Kansas.  We all just stared at the freak in red-and-blue spandex and blinked.  Of all the things I had expected Spider-Man to be, it wasn't anything like this – a wise-cracking hero who was apparently unperturbed by his horrendous reputation, who was almost painfully short and frighteningly scrawny (I could imagine my wife's reaction, which would have been to grab him, hug him, and then proceed to feed him until he 'fattened up'), who had powers that suggested he better belonged on a professional gymnastics team, and who mocked himself and societal values with equal eagerness and irony.  It took me a moment to put my finger on why it seemed so strange to me, but when I did, everything seemed to click together.  He's really down-to-earth!  Spider-Man was more like a normal human than a superhero (if you could ignore all the hopping around like an acrobat). I was totally intrigued.

That was when Spider-Man's gaze shifted into the crowd and someone near me said, "Say, isn't that Jameson?  The Daily Bugle editor?"

There was a murmur of assent and I followed everyone else's gaze to a tall, middle-aged man wading through the crowd.  His hair was mostly brown, but the locks at his temples were more gray than anything else.  His features were creased in what looked to be a constant frown, and his eyes never moved off of Spider-Man, although he had two other men in tow – one a black man in a nice suit ('Robertson', someone said), and the other the famous (or maybe infamous) investigative reporter Ben Urich.  Indeed, this man had to be J. Jonah Jameson, the editor of the Daily Bugle and arguably Spider-Man's worst enemy in the press.

After a moment I realized that not only was Jameson taking a lot of interest in Spider-Man – Spider-Man was taking a lot of interest in him.  The small-built superhero took two long strides forward, and the crowd parted for him like water.  Jameson stopped short, looking indignantly down at the costumed figure.

"Oh, man, Jameson is going down," someone next to me muttered.  I nodded absently.  I'm going to have to call a cab after gawking here like this all this time, I thought, but I couldn't tear my eyes away.

Spider-Man was toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye – well, make that chest-to-eye – with Jameson.  The lack of maturity in Spider-Man's build hit me like a physical blow when my eyes were forced to compare the size and shape of the mutant to Jameson.  He looks like a teenager, I thought ridiculously before shoving the thought away.  The idea that Spider-Man, hero/villain extraordinare, was only a high school student was nuts.

"Say, aren't you J. Jonah Jameson, editor of the Daily Bugle? The one who writes all those horrible lies about me?" Spider-Man asked, his voice a deadly calm.

I watched Jameson's face go from stern to worried to scared as the mutant spoke.  He said nothing even when Spider-Man said ominously, "I have only one thing to say to you."

There was a long and tense silence.  A thin sheen of sweat broke out on Jameson's forehead, and I couldn't blame him.  For a moment, despite his size making things look almost comical and his antics with the petty thief, I could believe all the rumors that Spider-Man was the mastermind evil in New York City.  He somehow managed to be incredibly menacing when he tried …

Jameson twitched.  I swallowed.

Spider-Man said, "Love the paper!  It's hysterical."

I know for a fact that my jaw dropped.

Without another word, Spider-Man leapt effortlessly over our heads and attached himself to the wall of the building we were standing next to.  With a series of leaps and bounds that defied gravity with inhuman effort, the costumed figure disappeared over the roof.

And Spider-Man was gone.

Immediately everyone began to murmur.  "Did you see how small he was?  I would have sworn he was six feet tall – he sure looks that way on TV – but geez, I don't think he's cleared five and a half!"

"Those jumps – incredible –"

"I wonder what the heck that web stuff is that comes out of his wrists.  Is that for real?  Is it some kinda spider-power or something?"

I said nothing, staring at the roof Spider-Man had disappeared over and comparing what I had just seen with what I'd been told.  He doesn't seem so bad to me – in fact, he seems like he'd be a nice guy to know.

"Maybe he's not the bad guy you want him to be, Jonah," the voice cut through my reverie.  I looked over to Jameson, Urich, and Robertson.

Whoever had said that, Jameson didn't look too convinced.  "Yeah, well.  We'd better get inside, where we'll be safe from – oof!"  The big man toppled out of sight.

I craned my neck, shamelessly trying to see what happened, and pushed through the slowly dissipating crowd to see J. Jonah Jameson flattened on the sidewalk, his feet trapped in the same sticky substance holding down the crook.

I couldn't help it.  I laughed.

Being a New Yorker, it didn't even cross my mind to help him out – after all, Jameson had his buddies with him – so I just walked home, still chuckling to myself.

Maybe it's not such a ridiculous thought that Spider-Man may be a kid, I thought.

And if today was any way to judge, he was the sort of kid that I would want as a son.

I was tackled by my real son as I walked in the doorway of my apartment, and kissed by my wife a moment later.  "Didja do anything cool today, Dad?  Huh?  Didja try out the trick spider I gave you?"

"Actually, funny you should mention spiders, Danny …"

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Author's Notes:  Okay, okay, so the whole idea is corny, I admit it.  It's really mostly for me to get how I feel about Spidey off my chest.  I used to watch/read Spider-Man regularly, but I lost interest until the movie, and then I got interested again, and then I discovered Ultimate Spider-Man (which may or may not be a good thing, all considered).  Since Peter Parker's only, like, fifteen in this version of the comic, he's a totally scrawny character and gets into situations only a high school student would get into (take it from me).  It's great stuff – and the puppy love between MJ and Peter is so cute … okay, I could rant about this for ages.

Er, um … right.  The dialogue isn't straight from the comic because I'm way too lazy to actually get out a copy and look it up.  It gets the gist of it, I hope.

Please review!  Reviews are always appreciated and loved, and I will try to be good and reply to your reviews, too!  ^^x