There are some ideas in comics that are offensively bad. Storylines that make you say "why did they think that was ever a good idea" out of disgust and anger. But there are also other times where you say "why?" just out of pure confusion, because an idea that got to publication seems so pointless and so redundant that it should never have been given the go ahead in the first place. And it is the later we are dealing with one this weeks edition of What Were They Thinking? (the place where we look at the stupidest, most ill-advised things in all of comics history) as we are taking a look at The Spider-Mobile.
So, what's the story? Well, back in 1974, Spider-Man was approached by a marketing company who wanted him to advertise a new non-polluting car engine that was being manufactured by Corona Motors, a company they were representing. However, in order to do so, he would need to build his own car. Spidey initially shrugs them off but later reconsiders and enlists the Human Torch to help him build the thing.
So, let's just take a time out here to make a few points. Firstly, why did they need a superhero to market this miracle engine? Surely just get Ford or GM on the case. Secondly, why are you asking said superhero to build his own car? What if he's not a mechanic in his day job and can't. Surely you'd have a car that has this new engine already fitted to make sure it was actually suitable for use in a car, or am I just being increadibly dense as to how testing new automotive technology works here?
Anyway, back to the story. The Spider-Mobile has a lot of useful features, such as being able to spin webs, climb walls and it has a built in spider-signal. So basically it does everything Spider-Man could already do, but is less conveniant because of how crowded Manhatten's streets are. Oh and then it turns out the Peter never learnt how to drive. *Facepalm*.
Still, Spidey uses it to take down some of Hammerheads goons and then gets tricked into driving it into the Hudson by Mysterio, right as Corona Motors want their engine back. So Spidey has to find his sunken car, which has now been found and modified by the Tinkerer, who uses it against Spidey. The whole fiasco ends with Spider-Man hanging the smashed up remains of the car outside the marketing companies 14th floor offices.
Now, what really puzzles me is why? Why did this have to happen? At first I assumed it was a real-life cynical marketing ploy to launch some sort of Spider-Mobile toy line, but I haven't found any evidence of any toys bearing much resemblance to the vehicle that appeared in the comics, so that theory doesn't hold water. I mean, there was Spider-Mobile toy made prior to it's appearance in the comics, but the two look nothing alike, which makes the whole thing less plausable, because if you're trying to transparently market something using a seperate medium, you'd make the two at least look the same right? My only other thought is that Marvel wanted to copy DC and have their own version of the Bat-Mobile, but even then the timeline is off. The Bat-Mobile hit its peak popularity it the 60's (to coincide with the Batman TV series) and the late-80's (to coincide with the release of the first Batman movie), whilst the Spider-Mobile falls in a very awkward limbo period slap bang in the middle. Also, there's no logic to giving Spider-Man a car, as already stated, due to him living in Manhatten and already being quite able to travel around in a highly recognizable and marketable fashion. It's obvious that the writers didn't like the idea, they wrote it as a joke, and not even Spider-Man thought it was a good idea (just look at his reaction in the picture up top). Plus the fans didn't care for it. Yet it lasted 30 issues somehow.
Oh and this thing will not die by the way. Since it's destruction it wasn't mentioned again for 30 years, then it shows up as a meseum piece in the Smithsonian of all places (where it is rightfully laughed at by a bunch of kids). Then Old Man Logan used it, the Peter builds a new one for Parker Industries that has Web-Fluid Airbags and wheels that turn into legs (I'm not kidding), then a sentient one appears in the Spider-Verse and finally Deadpool finds the original one and rebuilds it, because Deadpool. Why won't this thing just die?
So yeah, to sum up, what we have here is a redundant addition that seemingly had no reason for existing, that nobody liked at the time, became a joke and now won't go away. Not the worst thing in the world, but definately a head-scratcher.
And with that