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Skating on Thin Ice

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artists: Alex Saviuk, Christopher Ivy, Geoffrey Wright
Editors: Bob Budiansky, Tom DeFalco
French adaptation: Reader's Digest Canada
Cover to Skating on Thin Ice by Todd McFarlane

Created by Marvel Comics but produced by the Canadian Association of the Chiefs of Police and the Alliance for a Drug Free Canada and funded by a host of sponsors (including, curiously, Shopper's Drug Mart), these comics were distributed free by Canadian police officers and elementary school teachers in 1990 and subsequently became one of the most common sights at second-hand bins and garage sales throughout the Great White North.

"Beer is the gateway drug"
--Bill Maher, Politically Incorrect.

As an announcement of intention, McFarlane's cover for Skating on Thin Ice equals the one boasted by Green Lantern / Green Arrow #76, where we learn that sidekick Speedy has become a junkie. We see Spidey and four assorted children-- one of them wearing an Edmonton Oilers jersey-- looking in on the world of addictive substances-- cigarettes, a hypodermic needle, pills, and a couple of beer. Even through those one-way mirror lenses, we can see the Web-slinger's concern.

"Curse you, Spider-man! You've meddled in my plans for the last time!"
--Electro

The story begins with a blurb giving us Spider-man's origin, and then throws our hero into battle with a cliche-spouting Electro. The villain and his toadies gain the upper hand, and we overhear the thoughts of one thug, who apparently has bigger plans than even Electro knows.

The villains escape, but Spider-man discovers that they've been shipping hockey pucks to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Fortunately, there's a high-profile kiddie science fair going on there at the time, and Peter Parker convinces J. Jonah Jameson to send him to cover the story. This permits Spidey to investigate a little further.

He doubts that Electro has gone into the sporting goods business.

"...Herb was blocked from the National Hockey League, even though he was superbly qualified, because he was black. Far from being deterred, Herb took that block as a challenge that went far beyond hockey."
--"Meet Some Real Characters," Skating on Thin Ice.

In Winnipeg, Parker tracks Beth, a young science ace whom everyone expects to take first place at the fair, to a local community centre where she plays hockey. Her athletic mentor is Herb Carnegie, a former Canadian Minor Hockey League star kept from the NHL by 1950s racism. Carnegie expresses pride in young Beth, but concern for team star Alan, a boy who has gone seriously off his game in recent days.

Parker soon learns that Alan has been drinking with some teens, but decides not to interfere, because Alan and the other kids will have to make their own choices. Spider-man only becomes involved when he realizes that Alan's teenage friend/bad influence Ben is being used as a courier for drugs-- drugs being shipped across the border in hollow hockey pucks.

Showing questionable concern for safety, Spidey swoops up Alan and they follow Ben, discussing the dangers of substance abuse along the way. Beth and the other kids, meanwhile, follow Spidey and Alan. This ends up with a confrontation in a warehouse. The kids demonstrate the effectiveness of clever kid sidekicks; the drug-smuggling Electro gets nailed by hockey pucks which, being non-conductive, cannot be affected by his powers.

The mysterious thug from the introduction escapes; when Spidey tracks him to the street, he finds only a passing old lady. The web-slinger's spidey-sense tingles wildly, but he cannot figure out why. Worse, he realizes that the missing thug had been interested in Beth.

The story ends with Alan and the other kids winning a game and deciding that they don't need beer, cigarettes, or any other such vices to celebrate. Spider-man, meanwhile, wonders why the thug was interested in Beth, who will be going to Fredericton for the science-fair finals.

...Remember, the next time someone offers you something, I won't be around to help. It'll be up to each of you to decide what to do!"
--Spider-man, Skating on Thin Ice.


Double Trouble

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artists: Herbe Trimple, Christoper Ivy, Greg Wright
Editors: Rob Tokar, Tom DeFalco.

The first issue boasts a dramatic anti-drug poster by Todd McFarlane for its cover; the second features one of the most visually incoherent covers in comic-book history. A bizarrely-clad girl runs screaming from what appears to be a giant purple sock with teeth, Spider-man squeezes a giant orange worm-thing that is crawling on a green curtain with pink stars, and two boys pose, panicked.

Spider-man, now in Fredericton, New Brunswick stops a mugger and then tries to find his way to the convention centre. He complains about how difficult web-slinging is in a city with so few tall buildings. Anyone who has been to Fredericton has to be wondering how he found anything to swing from at all. In any case, he finds the science fair finals, where we catch up with Beth, Herb Carnegie, and the previous issue's plot. We also meet a mysterious woman who appears to be tracking Beth.

We learn our mysterious character is the "Chameleon," a villain with protean abilities. He has previously appeared as a thug of Electro's, and he has been seeking Beth all along. This is a comic book, after all, and so naturally the local science nerd's lab notes contain the key to a valuable discovery. Since this "Chameleon" cannot find the notes, he suborns a kid named Charlie, a friend of Beth's who is hooked on pills. That doesn't work. Finally, the Chameleon just shows up as Spider-man, and the girl willingly hands over the notes for protection to the vigilante/wanted fugitive. This leads to a battle between the Chameleon and the real Spidey. Eventually, we have a showdown at the fair. And the incoherent cover? It isn't a drug trip-- the Chameleon had rigged the exhibits to start moving and create a distraction if he needed to leave in a hurry.

"You know, when I was your age, I was insecure. I had a lot of trouble finding my way. Heck, I still do, every now and then. I'm glad you found the courage to make your own decisions, rather than letting them be made for you."
--Spider-man, Double Trouble.

The story ends with the villain's capture, more reminders to make wise choices where drugs are concerned, and a Wayne Gretzky ad for Coca- Cola.

This story has been wrapped up-- but we learn that Spider-man will stay in Canada for further public service announcements in an issue entitled Spider-man: Hit and Run.

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