Sometime in the early months of 1985, a young writer struggled against a looming deadline. The story outline for the upcoming Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man annual was due the following morning, and the stressed scribe could not think of a single workable concept.
The paralytic grip of writer’s block was made even worse by the folks in the upstairs apartment. They’ve been blasting their stereo, alternating spins of Thriller and Purple Rain for the past twelve hours. Any chance of coming up with a remotely usable story hook had been drowned out by the infectiously familiar rhythms pulsing through the paper-thin walls.
“Would you knock that shit off, for crying out loud!” the writer pleaded as he rapped the end of a broomstick against the ceiling. “Michael Jackson and Prince, Michael Jackson and Prince, over and over again! It’s all I can think abou–”
An electric flash of inspiration struck. The writer rushed to his typewriter, fingers clacking away at the keys before he’d even settled in his chair.
The following afternoon, the folks upstairs opened their door to find a Hickory Farms gift basket with an unsigned thank-you card attached.
The above tale is, as history scholars would say, “complete bullhockey,” but how else could one explain the pop-soul hybrid horror….
…otherwise known as Ace?
In his debut appearance (in PPTSSM Annual #5), Ace Spencer rocked a look akin to the post-Thriller, pre-facial incineration Michael Jackson. Fitting, I suppose, for a tale which was essentially a reworking of the “Beat It” video that dropped the dance battles and sick Eddie Van Halen riff and merciful brevity in favor of turning the Gloved One into a superhuman ex-gangbanger who felt obligated to look after his ailing mother and younger siblings while learning valuable life-lessons from Spider-Man.
When Ace inexplicably returned for a second and final time in the following year’s PPTSSM annual, his wardrobe and outlook had fully embraced the “Minneapolis sound,” while his attitude remained fixed in the “surly sociopath” sweet spot common to the pre-fab badass class of characters.
Though Ace has not appeared since the height of the Reagan Era, stories have circulated about his subsequent activities — collaborations with a rotating roster of female sidekicks, an ill-advised name change, a lost decade trapped in the spiritual wilderness, and persistent rumors about his pending return to prominence.
Whether that will ever happen is beside the point. For should you ever experience an especially manic Monday or find yourself hemmed in by sugar walls and require the services of a laughable z-lister conceived to cop onto a passing popcult trend, Ace will be there.
And make no mistake, he would indeed die 4 U.