Cover Price: $.30

#9
August 1977

Value: $12 (Near Mint-)
1st White Tiger (In Comic)

 

Supporting Cast:


Guests:
1st White Tiger (1st true appearance in Deadly Hands Of Kung-Fu Magazine #19)


Villains:

"...Like A Tiger In The Night!" - 17 Pages


Writer -
Bill Mantlo
Artist - Sal Buscema
Inker - Mike Esposito
Cover - George Perez
Lettering - John Costanza
Colorist - Phil Rache
Editor -
Archie Goodwin

The late 1970s were a troubled, tough time for New York City's South Bronx. The neighborhood was plagued with rampant poverty, high unemployment and far too much crime. These troubles were immortalized in the 1981 film, "Fort Apache: The Bronx." The South Bronx needed a hero and, at least in the Marvel universe, it got one in the form of Hector Ayala, the White Tiger!

The White Tiger first appeared in the black-and-white comic magazine The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, but he makes his full-color, mainstream debut here in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #9. The White Tiger was created out of the break-up of the Sons of the Tiger - the martial arts team that helped Spider-Man battle a gang of villains in Marvel Team-Up #40. When the Sons of the Tiger split, they discarded their individual jade necklaces. Hector found the amulets. Their combined powers transformed him into the White Tiger, a hero with superhuman speed and strength (although not at Spider-Man's level) and, most of all, incredible martial arts talents.

At the start of this issue, though, Hector Ayala is just a college student trying to get an education at Empire State University, which also happens to be where Peter Parker is going to school. However, the college has decided to close its night school, which has led to a large, angry protest, mainly from poor, minority students like Hector who stand to be the most affected by the decision. Mr. Dwyer, the E.S.U. President, says it is a budgetary decision, as the cash-strapped university no longer can afford night school. But the protestors, led by Professor Ramon Vasquez from the Ethnic Studies department, say the school could sell a book called the Erskine Manuscripts for millions of dollars, allowing them to keep the night school open. But President Dwyer won't hear any of it, "E.S.U. Will not relinquish what is considered an invaluable scientific treasure for mere financial remuneration!" he tells the angry crowd. Peter runs into Hector after the protest breaks up and asks him what's next. "Only one place to go -- back to the South Bronx -- the University of the Streets! Get a good schoolin' there -- if you're into learnin' about dope, numbers, rats and poverty!" Hector tells Peter. "But you...you're white, amigo! This just doesn't affect you at all!" Peter says he has to think about that.

Behind the scenes, President Dwyer isn't sympathetic at all to the night school students. "The Erskine Manuscript is worth far more than any of those loudmouthed slum kids will ever amount to!" he says. Meanwhile, a shadowy figure plans to take action to oppose Dwyer. "Perhaps it is time for El Tigre Blanco -- the White Tiger -- to prowl again!" the mystery man thinks. Is this man Hector Ayala? That's what we are lead to believe, particularly when Hector sees a gang of armed men breaking into the school library, where the Erskine Manuscripts are stored. "I should let 'em -- ah, A quien estoy bacilando? Who am I kidding?" he thinks and transforms into the White Tiger. Peter also is in the library and gets a warning from his spider-sense. He opens the Erskine Room door and encounters the White Tiger stealing the Erskine Manuscripts! He jumps into action, but the marble floor, combined with his street shoes, cause him to fall. The White Tiger pushes a bookcase on top of Peter, pinning him to the floor and allowing the bandit to escape with the Erskine Manuscripts (FYI: Dr. Erskine is the scientist who developed the Super-Soldier Serum that transformed Steve Rogers into Captain America).

The scene shifts again to elsewhere in the library. The White Tiger encounters the gunmen who broke in earlier. He goes through the thugs with a dazzling array of martial arts strikes and kicks. However, Peter has recovered and is aching for a rematch. The White Tiger hears him coming and backhands him to the floor. However, he stops fighting and gives Peter a stunned look, allowing the gunmen to escape. The White Tiger escapes as the police come to assist Peter. Apparently, he has stolen the Erskine Manuscripts -- at least, that's what the cops, President Dwyer and even Peter Parker believe to be the case. Later that night, Spider-Man does some detective work on the White Tiger. He learns that the White Tiger has been seen with a Harlem detective named Blackbyrd, a gruff, cigar-smoking, derby-wearing private eye. Spidey tracks down Blackbyrd and the private detective isn't happy to see the Wall-Crawler, even though all Spider-Man wants is a little information. "Dial 411, bro, or try the public library. But keep yer hands offa me! This here's Harlem, do-gooder! Keep actin' like yer actin' and you'll be food for the fish 'fore you know what hit you!" But Blackbyrd changes his tune when Spider-Man tells him the White Tiger might be in trouble. The two share a cab back to Empire State University, where Blackbyrd fills Spider-Man in on the White Tiger's background as a crime-fighter.

The issue ends in the office of Professor Vasquez. The professor returns to find his papers disturbed and the Erskine Manuscript on his desk. "Dios mio -- what does this mean?" he asks. He turns to see the fearsome image of the White Tiger behind him, and the Tiger isn't happy. "Some answers, el Senor Vasquez -- and I want them now!" The White Tiger grabs Professor Vasquez by the throat and shoves him to his desk. But the White Tiger, in turn, is surprised to see Spider-Man standing in the office window behind him. "You got it, Tiger -- Spider-Man! And attempted murder makes me very, very mad!" So is the White Tiger a thief? A hero? Both? Those questions have yet to be answered, but the picture will be much clearer next issue.

This issue is a fine set-up of a conflict to be resolved in the subsequent issue. Both sides in the protest have merit, although clearly the writer's sympathies are with the protestors. However, (apparently) stealing the Erskine Manuscript is taking the protest way too far. Spider-Man falls squarely in the middle, as he should with any hot-button issue. Bringing the White Tiger to the Spider-Man comics was a good idea, too. The character represented a laudable trend in the 1970s for Marvel to add more diverse heroes to its roster, the most notable additions being the "new" X-Men. Having a working-class Puerto Rican kid become a superhero sent a good message to readers that good guys come from all neighborhoods.

Next issue: It's Spider-Strength versus Tiger-Power as Spider-Man battles the White Tiger!

Reviewed by Bruce Buchanan.

Quality Rating: 3
Significance Rating: 4

Overall Rating:

7

 

Spectacular Spider-Man #8

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Nova
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Spectacular Spider-Man #10