Can you remember a day when everything went to shit?
You got late to work on presentation day; your dog ate your neighbor’s shoe and got sick; you stepped on wet shit. You didn’t think I would be this literal, did you?
But whatever it was that made your day horrible, close your eyes and try to remember. I promise I’ll get to the point in a second.
Recall how it felt to have the world crumbling down around you: the tight feeling in your chest, the pulling on your stomach, and the pressure on your brain to figure a way out.
Now imagine if – right at this moment – everyone could see you. Everyone could watch the humiliation you were going through … on live television!
You might have thought this would never have happened if you were superhuman, but life doesn’t work like that. In a matter of hours, Spiderman almost lost everything dear to him and experienced public humiliation on live tv. Plus, he had to walk through the Baxter Building in his undies.
But how did that happen? And what does it all have to do with the Bombastic Bag Man? The answer starts with everyone’s favorite Symbiote: Spiderman’s iconic black suit.
My Bottom Line Up Front
Comic book writers often throw whacky ideas at the wall to see what sticks – and though some may think massive sagas with soaring stakes have the most chance to stand the test of time, that’s not always the case.
Sometimes, silly ideas like Spiderman wearing a bag for a mask are exactly what readers didn’t know they needed.
The Bombastic Bag Man is an icon because he opens up space for creative freedom in the comic industry, and that’s why I’m such a fan. Far from me to deny I love comics’ Earth-shattering events, but often I enjoy a surprising gag just as much.
Beware the Bag Man
Here comes the Bombastic Bag-Man! Despite the silly name, I’m not talking about a cynical superhero parody – but about Spiderman’s most ridiculous alter ego.
But wait! Don’t hate me if you’re a fan; I say ridiculous as a compliment. This quality allowed the Bag Man to stand the test of time and appear in other comics and video games.
I can’t pinpoint what makes the Bag Man so popular, but I risk it has something to do with how idiosyncratic he looks.
The original flabby Fantastic Four uniform, the lack of shoes, and a bag for a mask are such a ridiculous combination but iconic nonetheless. Still, there’s another vital element behind the Bag Man’s success: its engaging story.
Before the Bag Man
Okay, then, what’s the story?
Like most things in comics, the story starts with a previous tale that references another event, and on it goes. I mean, how can one even begin reading comics without helpful guides like this one?
Anyway, our starting point is 1984’s Secret Wars: the first all-encompassing superhero crossover in comic book history. That is, if you ignore the controversy behind it.
Rumor has it Marvel stole the idea of putting its heroes together from DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and released their saga two years before. But I digress.
Secret Wars saw all Marvel heroes and villains fighting for their lives in Battle World. It’s a fantastic story with many gripping twists and events, but I won’t focus on them here. So be sure to check the story out.
The critical information for us is that Peter Parker found a sleek new black suit with remarkable features – like adapting to his wishes and commands.
He thought the suit was made of a highly advanced alien material, but the truth was way more sinister. Unsuspicious, Peter Parker returned to New York and his crime-fighting career – then something weird started happening.
A Mixed Bag of Problems
Enter Amazing Spider-Man #258: the iconic issue that brought the Bag Man to life.
An alien is trying to control Peter and take everything from him, but the hero can’t see it because he has bigger troubles, like … relationship drama.
To be fair, his girl troubles involve more than silly arguments. Mary Jane has just told Peter she’s always known he was Spiderman. Worse, he was why she left New York: her best friend risked his life every day, and the redhead couldn’t live with that.
Peter stands livid, trying to reach a way out with words that wouldn’t leave his mouth. When a woman is sure, she is sure. But of course, like any guy, Peter had to try and blurt out, “It’s not what you’re thinking.”
Thankfully, a costumed figure jumps through the window before the young man humiliates himself with the worst cliché in fiction history.
The masked woman assesses the situation, and she has one vital worry: What is this redhead doing with her boyfriend?
Black Cat has no clue what the real issue is, and she doesn’t care. After all, ensuring your boyfriend isn’t cheating on you – even though he gave you no reason to be suspicious – is far more important than protecting his secret identity. Or ensuring an alien won’t brainwash him.
Peter tries to talk to both women, but Mary Jane leaves while he’s solving his situation with Black Cat. Again, relationships trump all. These heroes know how to make a choice. Still, the hero is conflicted by all the drama: his misunderstanding with Mary Jane, his girlfriend’s jealousy, and the multiple villains trying to kill him.
So, he does what any responsible person full of problems does: he goes to sleep.
But sleeping would actually worsen his problems. Who would’ve guessed it?
While Peter takes a nap, the black suit starts to crawl over him. It envelops his body and takes him swinging through the city while a nightmare takes over Spiderman’s brain.
The hero is in the middle of nowhere as he watches his original red suit and the black one fighting over him. Each version pulls one of his arms – and as the breaking point nears – Peter wakes up.
He looks down at the black suit and realizes it is moving. Worried that the costume has a life of its own, the hero takes it to Fantastic Four headquarters so Reed Richards can analyze it.
Reed looks at the suit and is overwhelmed by a terrible suspicion. He doesn’t want to needless scare Spiderman, so he quietly runs some tests. When the result is ready, Reed discovers, “it’s alive!”
The suit is a sentient being that has bonded with Spidey.
Peter does the only reasonable thing one would do when discovering your clothes are alive: try to get as naked as a newborn. But this proved to be more challenging than it should have been.
The symbiote suit hung tighter to him with each abrupt movement. So, Reed swoops win with a sonic blaster, and the symbiote leaves Peter alone.
The heroes imprison the alien to study it and decide what to do.
The Spider’s Out of the Bag
You might wonder: if the heroes got the suit out, what is Peter wearing? Well, nothing but his undies. Spiderman is mortified that his colleagues have seen him nearly naked, so Johnny Storm offers to help. The Human Torch grabs Peter an old Fantastic Four uniform –but he wasn’t precisely well-intentioned.
Along with the flabby uniform, Johnny gave Peter a bag for a mask. If you know the Human Torch as well as I do, you might suspect there must have been something better lying around one of the most advanced labs in the world.
Johnny wanted to pull a prank on Spidey. The Fantastic Four member can barely contain his laughter at Spiderman’s humiliation. Peter is no fool, so he quickly leaves the Baxter Building.
But he can’t get home as fast as he wants because he didn’t bring his web shooters. The black suit also performed that function, so Peter didn’t bother using the shooters anymore.
That just goes to show you must always have a plan B. I’m sure Batman wouldn’t end up in that situation.
Still, Peter is hopeful he can get home unnoticed if he does everything right. Unfortunately, Spiderman’s infamous luck wouldn’t let him get away so easily.
Spiderman runs by robbers fighting cops on his way home, and like any good hero, he saves the day. That’s enough for reporters to surround him and televise the whole event – including the “kick-me” sign on Spiderman’s back.
Yeah, that’s right. Real mature, Johnny Storm. You’re a real hero.
Reporters are avid to know who the new masked man is. Is he a new Fantastic Four member, or is he trying to apply? So, they attack Spiderman with a storm of questions:
- “Where did you come from?”
- “Why are you here?”
- “What do you call yourself?”
- “Do you have any superpowers?”
- “What’s the significance of the paper bag?”
That last question is my favorite. You just got to ask, right? Why would someone wear a paper bag for a mask if it isn’t meaningful?
The barrage of questions is too dizzying, so Spiderman climbs a building and escapes. But you can’t run away from everything. As Peter continues his walk of shame, it starts to snow. Yet, when the hero gets home, he knows better than to dwell on past events.
I’m kidding; he’s human, like all of us, and inclined to masochism. So he turns the tv on and watches his public humiliation. Now when you have a bad day, you can take solace in the fact nobody recorded it – and if they did, I’m genuinely sorry for you.
But on the bright side, you can think this awful thing makes you more like Spiderman – and who wouldn’t want to be more like a superhero?
A Bag of Surprises
The authors never thought this costume would get that much attention, but fans sometimes choose odd things to adore. Still, even if the Bag Man was only a silly joke for the creators, the character’s conception offers us keen insights into Marvel characters and the way publications worked at the time.
The First Bag Man
Ron Frenz – artist and co-author – toyed with offering Peter the Fantastic Four helmet Susan designed for The Thing. Originally Ben had a full costume – like everybody else – and a helmet. But, he threw the garments away because they were too confining.
However, as soon as the authors agreed the Human Torch wanted to humiliate Spidey, they scrapped the helmet idea. Writer Tom DeFalco states the prank in Amazing Spider-Man #258 says much about Peter and Johnny. Thus, it was an essential plot device to expand these characters’ relationship.
The issue proved iconic, but funnily enough, it wasn’t Spidey’s first appearance with a bag in his head. Yet, this moment is the one everyone remembers. But then, what was the first? It was Amazing Spider-Man #82, by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.
In the story, the hero needed to wash his costume at the laundromat but couldn’t be seen as Peter Parker washing Spiderman’s costume. So he put a bag on his head to finish his laundry service.
Does it mean the writers of Amazing Spider-Man #258 took inspiration from the earlier issue? Not necessarily. In an interview with the
Hero Journalism Youtube channel DeFalco says he wasn’t inspired by the 1970s comic but didn’t rule out a subconscious reference.
Even though we know Spidey’s alter ego as the Bombastic Bag Man, this wasn’t always the case. In Amazing Spider-Man #258, the bag man was called The Unknown Hero – a reference to a 70s comedian who first appeared in the Gong Show. The character was created and performed by comedian Murray Langston.
The name Bag Man came only a decade after the original story, in Spider-Man #256, by writer JMDeMatteis and artist Luke Ross. In the issue, Peter has given up his Spiderman identity – but when the White Rabbit strikes, the hero enters a grocery store, grabs a paper bag, and leaps into action.
In this story, his appearance is quite different: Peter shows up shirtless, wearing boots and red pants. Once again, the Spiderman with a bag for a mask was just a coincidence. JMDeMatteis wrote on Twitter that he didn’t reference the original story.
Yet the moniker Bombastic Bag Man caught on to the earlier version, and it’s the title we see in official merchandise. Who can blame people and the executives? Alliterations are fun and poetic, as Stan Lee would undoubtedly agree.
The Bag Man Lives On
Bag Man’s run in comics was short-lived, but the following years would occasionally reference the beloved alter-ego. An example is Spider-Girl #47, where an alternate future Peter Parker leaves retirement to help his daughter, Spider-Girl. The problem is he doesn’t have a costume.
That’s the perfect cue for Franklin Richards – Johnny’s Nephew – to give Spidey an old Fantastic Four costume. But this time, Peter gets the Thing’s old helmet instead of a bag.
On another occasion, the bag man would appear again in a variant cover for Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman #2. But my favorite reference is a recent one: Amazing Spider-Man#87, from 2022.
After a near-death experience, Peter gets help from Captain America and Black Cat to return to the superhero game. However, a massive corporation has acquired the rights to the Spiderman brand, stopping the hero from using the name and costume.
So, during training, Spiderman wears a bag on his head and civilian clothes – including a cropped shirt! This was a high point in Bag Man history for me because I loved the outfit, and the story handles Peter’s training engagingly.
Then there were the games: Spiderman’s PS1 game, its sequence: Enter Electro and Spiderman Shattered Dimensions, all show some playable version of the bag man. But the one that first grabbed my attention was the PS4 version.
Though I had played some Spiderman games during my childhood, I was never as serious about them as I was with the PS4 game. It’s one of the titles that got me the most addicted in recent memory. Regarding the Bag Man, I love the PS4’s distinctive look: boots and Spiderman’s eye shapes outlined with black marker.
It stands out from the rest!
Bag-Man’s Shopping Bag
Unfortunately, you won’t find many Bombastic Bag Man collectibles to decorate your shelves – and a few years ago, there weren’t any official products. Before these recent releases, you could only find custom figures made with Fantastic Four bodies.
But although Bag Man figures lack in quantity, they do make up for it in quality. The products below are well worth your money.
Marvel Legends Series Bombastic Bag-Man Action Figure
This figure takes the cake for its outstanding level of detail. The bag’s shape is impressive: it has excellent movement and looks like paper.
The figure is so articulated that you can make any Spiderman pose – which is essential in any Spidey figure, as this is the essence of the character. Plus, the collectible comes with extra hands and the kick-me-sign.
Funko Pop Spider-Man Bombastic Bag-Man
My only complaint is that I wish the bag had more movement, like in the Legends figure. Compared to the previous entry, the bag texture feels a little flat.
Question: Who is the Bombastic Bag Man?
Answer: The Bombastic Bag Man is Peter Parker –aka Spiderman – in a different costume with a bag on his head. Sometimes the Bag Man can wear regular clothes or red pants, but the most recognizable version wears an old Fantastic Four costume with a bag.
Question: How to Get the Bombastic Bag-Man Suit in the PS4 Game?
Answer: The Bombastic Bag-Man Suit is a costume player may equip in Marvel’s Spider-Man for PlayStation 4. It is a free suit provided as part of the 1.14 update for the game.
Question: Was Spider-Man Part of the Fantastic Four?
Answer: Peter Parker has joined the Fantastic four a few times in alternate Universes, like in Amazing Fantasy #1000 and an issue of What if. In the main 616 Universe, Spidey is an occasional member of the FF and sometimes helps the team fight big threats.
At the beginning of his career, he tried to join the group for money, but the work wasn’t paid, so he left.
Still, Spidey would have another chance to join the Fantastic Four years later. After Johnny Storm’s death in Fantastic Four #587, Spiderman became an official group member.
The team’s new version was rebranded as Future Foundation and escalated to include more initiatives toward scientific endeavors and new members. Plus, they got new black-and-white versions of the uniform that look sleek as hell.
A Day to Remember
Spiderman’s extensive publication history has seen the character wearing various costumes – and without a doubt, the Bombastic Bag Man is one of the most iconic.
It’s amazing that a silly costume was the biggest takeaway in such a plot-heavy issue. For me, this shows that although we, comic book fans, are all in for the seriousness, we like to have some silly humor along the way.
If you’re curious about other outlandish Spiderman versions, look no further than the Cyborg Spider-Man. But if you’re tired of crazy costumes and just want to find some beautiful products for your collection, check our Spiderman Merch Guide.
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