Amazing Spider-Man Extra #1 (July 2008)

When the news came the other day that Zeb Wells will be taking over Amazing Spider-Man in April, I thought “Oh cool, he actually wrote one of my favourite favourite Harry stories.” So hey, how about taking a look at it now?

This one is called “Birthday Boy” and it appeared in Amazing Spider-Man Extra #1, illustrated by Patrick Oliffe. Also, it’s not to be confused with another story Zeb Wells wrote called “Birthday Boy,” which appeared in… Amazing Spider-Man Extra #2. It’s confusing, I know, sorry.

I love this comic because it is one of the few 21st century Harry stories to not only remember he has a mental illness, but highlight that there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding the concept of mental illness too. Oh, and it’s just a sweet little Peter-Harry friendship story as well.


It’s Harry’s birthday, and he and his girlfriend Lily Hollister are trying to contact Peter as the party is about to start. Peter’s not answering, because he’s in the middle of a fight with none other than Trapster, aka the supervillain once known as possibly the silliest of all supervillains, Paste-Pot Pete.

Yep… That doofus.

“Peter feels uncomfortable around the rest of my friends. That’s why I made sure we could show up together,” says Harry, and that’s a intriguing line. Harry is clearly very aware of the class difference between him and Peter and that plays into this story too.

Peter does make it to the party, but unfortunately some of the Trapster’s glue got stuck his head and he had to improvise. (It could only happen to Peter.) Harry is unimpressed.

A wild douchebag appears!

One of Harry’s rich “friends,” someone who could invest in the Coffee Bean (which is very sentimental to Harry since it’s where he and his loved ones hung out all the time) pops up and immediately mocks Peter.

We don’t really have the term “community college” in England so I had to look that up. It’s a kind of college that offers lower-priced educational courses, so yeah, this is a dig at Peter’s working-class background and/or education.

Unfortunately, Harry is still furious at Peter for showing up late and rocking a bandana. He storms off, and Peter is left alone. (No MJ at this party, seeing as how the devil removed her and Peter’s marriage and split them up. Well, you probably remember that.)

As soon as Harry’s back is turned, Jay starts calling him various cruel names like “nutjob” and “psychopath,” i.e, the exact sort of things you fear being called when you have a mental illness (been there) so no wonder Peter takes offense on Harry’s behalf. Oh yeah, comparing him to Norman would be an appalling insult too of course.

It takes Peter all of five seconds to decide to defend Harry with his fists, whatta guy. Jay seemingly gets the entire punch bowl on his head, which he richly deserves.

Harry is angry that Peter ruined his business deal. Peter explains what happened, without going into specifics, apologises and walks off.

Harry stares at the partygoers through the window and at his own reflection. I love this panel, not least because it’s such a good callback to Harry’s Goblin days where mirrors and reflections featured prominently.

But those days are behind Harry now. He runs after Peter and tells him he’s his best friend, and always has been.

The two of them leave to go get pizza. Wait, did Harry leave Lily at the party? I suppose he can always call her now that the Marvelverse, unlike when Harry first left it, has cellphones.

So yeah, all in all a lovely little comic about friendship and not putting up with people who will shame others for having mental illnesses. Also, interestingly, I think this was one of the very first Harry stories written after Brand New Day and his resurrection, it was before we even knew how he’d come back from the dead even. (Although I suppose thanks to last year’s retcon, we… actually still don’t exactly know that.) So this must’ve been the first story to feature the Harry-Peter friendship for at least the best part of a decade. It was an excellent beginning to Harry’s new era.

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