Nighttime. A ferry boat makes a tour of Manhattan. A young couple is on the deck, admiring the view. Sue tells her boyfriend, Steve, that from way out here, with the dusk all around them and the city lights shining, Manhattan seems so peaceful and safe. Not at all the stories they get back home in Tulsa! Steve replies that’s why them New Yorkers keep the Staten Island around – so they can ride out in the ferry and impress their girls! “Us New Yorkers?” Sue exclaims. Is he planning to stay? Steve insists he’s got to. If he’s going to be an illustrator, this is where he’s got to be. He was kind of hoping she’d be here with him. Out of breath, Sue admits it is beautiful. Steve corrects her: not near as beautiful as she is.
As the ferry approaches the port, Steve explains to her it’s about to dock; this is the best part! He urges her to lean way over the rail and look down. Some guys bungle the docking but some guys slide in real smooth! Sue suddenly tells him to look: something’s floating down there in the water. She suddenly screeches as she discerns a human body!
Minutes later, two crewmen carry the man on board. They are both astonished to see how inhuman the being they carry is. One of them gasps that from the top deck it looked like a body. “It is a body… isn’t it?” his colleague exclaims, equally perplexed. The other man admits he doesn’t know… and then, the man they retrieved from the water suddenly burns up, becomes red-hot and incinerates them both! A woman screams that this thing is staggering up! She realizes it’s reaching out. It’s draining out all the electricity in the dock into itself!
As the passengers flee, overwhelmed with panic, Steve, equally horrified, tells Sue that this thing is glowing now, like an… incandescent man! And it’s blacked out the whole darn dock!
Meanwhile, along Fifth Avenue, Cannonball is shopping hats for his mom in Saks. He knows she likes pink and flowers and feathers. As he tries on a rather garish hat with flowers, he contemplates that, even though his hair is shorter than hers, it seems near perfect! The hat is promptly packed as a gift and the saleswoman assures him it’s lovely. Sam explains it’s for his mom. She came here once from Kentucky when she was young and she always said Saks had beautiful things. However, she was too poor then to do more than look. Sam figures she deserves it. The saleswoman informs him that’s 54 dollars and 11 cents. Sam cries out that it said 49 dollars and 99 cents! Sales tax, the woman explains. Cannonball hesitantly pays. Leaving with the much coveted hat, he ponders that even, though it cleaned him out, it’s worth every hour it took to earn the money. Mom always fancied hats but, ever since Dad died, there hasn’t been much money for luxuries.
“Golly! Would you look at that!” Cannonball spontaneously exclaims as he exits Saks and watches Spider-Man doing his acrobatic skills overhead, moving from one building to the next. Sam thinks he’s a great guy, the way he helped the New Mutants back when Bobby and Rahne were kidnapped. It makes Sam nervous to be in an elegant store like Saks, to be even in Manhattan… but Spider-Man acts like he owns the whole town! Sam assumes he sort of does. His pictures are in the Bugle all the time. He’s famous and glamorous and agile and everything Sam will never be! He bets Spider-Man never has to worry about mundane stuff like school and sales tax.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man thinks that maybe he shouldn’t have quit school; he loved biophysics. But a guy has to earn a living and he couldn’t be a grad student and Spider-Man and a photographer! It was too much; he had to choose! If only he could explain that to Aunt May. But it’d kill her to learn he’s Spider-Man. And right now, she’s so mad that he quit grad school, she’s not speaking to him, anyway!
Taking some pictures with his camera, he realizes May’s birthday is coming up. Maybe if he got her a really spectacular present… But who’s he kidding? Unless he sells his latest shots of himself stopping some muggers, he’ll be eating peanut butter and saltines for a week. He considers he might as well finish off the roll. On a clear night like this, with the city lights blazing, New York is his kind of town.
Seeing it’s eight’ o’clock in the big tower clock, he realizes he’s going to be late. He promised to Robbie he’d be at the Bugle at eight sharp. It’s not a good policy for a freelancer to keep his editor-in-chief waiting! Changing clothes, he realizes that his black costume sure made it easier to change from Spidey to Peter Parker but the thought that it was a sentient alien parasite that was trying to take him over still gives him the shudders. At least, it’s safely imprisoned in the Baxter Building now – and if anyone can handle it, Reed Richards can.
Soon, he enters Robbie’s office in the Daily Bugle and cheerfully greets him. Robbie sternly notices he’s late. Peter advises him to cheer up. “Wait’ll you see these shots,” he tries to whet his appetite. Robbie, however, reminds him that, if they’re Spider-Man pix, unless they’re really spectacular, he’s probably not going to be interested. The public’s bored with Spider-Man, unless he’s fighting someone really dangerous like the Scorpion. Peter intends to get them developed before the lecture!
Shortly afterwards, Peter hands him the photographs. What a grouch, he contemplates, although he notices the photos are a little fuzzy. Robbie scrutinizes them: Spider-Man fighting muggers? “Sorry, but no thanks!” he rejects Peter’s work. Besides, they’re out of focus. He really ought to sharpen his technique. He advises Peter to find new subjects. Like he told him before, he can try shooting some other heroes. The city shots are better, though. All the passion of the others but great technique! It’s almost like they were taken by someone else.
Agonizing minutes later, an angry Peter, again dressed up as Spider-Man, soars above the city. Of course the city shots were better. He took those. It’s a miracle any of his Spidey shots came out, with his camera webbed to a wall clicking away on automatic!
Suddenly, he notices that a chunk of Chelsea – his neighborhood – blacked out. There could be looting. Still, he wonders: why should he care? The public’s bored with Spidey! He suddenly gets himself together: he’s a hero, not an entertainer. He ignored trouble once, let a burglar escape and his Uncle Ben died because of it. He can’t let that happen again – ever.
In the streets underneath, Chelsea, in lower Manhattan, has shut down. Lights from neon signs, from lofts and street lamps and traffic lights punctuate the darkness and pulse with electricity, providing a rare feast for… the Incandescent Man! And while the horribly glowing creature gloats gleefully, in the Catskill Mountains, a mysterious woman can feel he’s out there somewhere – awake again. Awake, alive… and hungry. But not strong enough for her instruments to locate him – yet. She realizes that in Manhattan, there’s more electricity than in any other city in the world. Her hovercraft and equipment is all ready. She’s got to get there – fast – before he slips from my grasp again, she decides and departs with her ship.
Meanwhile, Cannonball takes a stroll down the streets of New York, thinking that he’d get lost for sure, if he rode the subway. He’s halfway there, already. Still, his city shoes are killing him. He wishes he could just blast off and fly to Port Authority but that would reveal his secret identity. Besides, he can’t turn too well. He’d probably crash into something and give mutants a worse name than they already… Suddenly, he sees several people running to his direction, all of them in panic. Sam wonders what’s going on. He’s heard New Yorkers are pushy, but this is ridiculous!
Above, the mysterious helicopter pilot, dressed in a full body suit, observes that the lights are out all in a line down Broadway. Just then, another block flickers and dies. The Incandescent Man seems to be moving in a straight line towards Times Square. The woman hopes she will have plenty of maneuvering room there. He will soon be hers. And when he is, Project Pegasus will regret they ever created him!
En route to Chelsea, Spider-Man ponders that maybe Robbie’s right. Maybe he should take photos of another guy in action. For sure he’ll get better shots. He might as well admit it; it’s become kind of a challenge. As he approaches the streets, he realizes this blackout really did set off a riot. He hopes he can take pictures that will show up.
“Golly, Spider-Man!” Cannonball exclaims as he spots him. Sam realizes that maybe this is more than ordinary rush-hour jostling! He asks one of the fleeing men what’s going on up there. The man replies that some sort of monster is heading into Times Square. Probably one of those mutant menaces he’s been reading about in the papers! A monster, Sam contemplates. Folks might get hurt! “Thanks, sir! Nice talkin’ to you!” Sam politely replies and then, much to everyone’s surprise, ignites the thermo-chemical reaction that transforms him into an invulnerable living Cannonball and rockets him toward Times Square.
“Holy cow!” Sam cries out as he flies above the gigantic Incandescent Man. Two police officers ask the villain to halt otherwise they will shoot. Sam knows Professor X is really disappointed in him. The other New Mutants can mostly control their powers but he can barely turn. But maybe, this time, a turn will be all he needs. The policemen shoot at the Incandescent Man, until one of them tells his colleague, Casey, that these bullets are doing nothing, except making him madder! Just then, the Incandescent Man whips out a glowing hand and lightning lashes out toward the police officers. Sam intervenes and shoves the officers aside, barely saving their lives. Cannonball explains he was scared they would be fried, just as he clumsily crashes onto a hydrant on the pavement. A sprout of water relentlessly engulfs the villain and Cannonball notices he’s shrinking!
Suddenly, he sees the package has fallen off his hands and a dog snatches his mom’s gift and runs off. Turning back to the Incandescent Man, he realizes this guy may be shrinking like the Wicked Witch of the West, but that’s not stopping him. It seems like he knows who caused all his troubles.
Nearby, Spider-Man is satisfied: he’s taken some great angles of the kid saving the cops and with that monstrous figure chasing him. Robbie’s going to plotz when he sees these shots! Maybe Peter will make it as a photographer, after all. He sees the monster running past him and following the kid and decides to take one more shot. Below, on the run by the Incandescent Man, Sam realizes the villain’s gaining on him. In pursuit of the dog who stole the gift meant for his mother, Sam hopes he can reach the hat before the Incandescent Man reaches him!
Suddenly, Spider-Man ensnares the villain in a web-net and grabs Cannonball, as he shoots another web and flees upwards. “My hat!” Sam cries out. Thanks to Spidey’s maneuvers, he manages to snatch it from the dog just before they both land on a movie marquee. Peter addresses Cannonball with his codename and argues they’ll be safe up here, at least for a while. Sam realizes he remembers him! Spider-Man reminds him he’s met all New Mutants… and how many guys are there who can become a human rocket, anyway? Not many that are as bad at it as he is, Sam admits. He sure made a botch of things, not being able to turn that well and smashing the hydrant and all. He’s always doing things like that. At this rate, he won’t be a New Mutant for long. Professor Xavier is going to flunk him out – Sam just knows it.
Peter asks him about the hat. Sam explains it’s a present for his momma. Peter tries to inspirit him and argues that to him, Sam was doing okay. Sam demurely thanks him for saving the hat – and him. Peter then points him at the Incandescent Man on the street below. Sam confirms that the villain is getting smaller. Peter realizes he seems to be made of electricity and city water – with its high mineral content – is a great conductor. It looks like it’s draining the electricity from him.
The Incandescent Man is little more than a shadow when, finally, he staggers from the spray of water, hungering… starving for power! Times Square blazes before him… an electronic banquet… and the Incandescent Man gorges himself! Cannonball realizes he’s calling the electricity to him – and he absorbed it, all of it! In all Times Square, he’s the only light left blazing – and he’s biggest than ever. Cannonball wonders how they are going to stop him!
Suddenly, they hear a helicopter overhead. Peter remarks it may be wishful thinking, but maybe the cavalry has arrived! Sam wonders what a helicopter pilot can do. Use the wind from his blades to blow that guy out like a candle? The pilot lowers something – a net. The damped net is constructed of heat-resistant, non-conducting fibers but for all their toughness, they may not be enough. Slowly, bit by bit, the fibers melt until the Incandescent Man hangs suspended by several melting, tenuous threads.
Just then, a gust of wind blows and takes away Cannonball’s hat. “Aw geez, not again!” Sam whimpers and blasts off. He succeeds in grabbing the hat, but suddenly he sees he’s running into a building; that’s valuable property! He urges himself to turn! Ultimately, he manages to turn – barely – but then crashes into a statue instead. He hopes it wasn’t an antique! At least, his force-field makes whatever he’s carrying as invulnerable as it makes him or his momma’s hat would be a goner! He realizes he’s got to straighten out. The subways are down below; if he smashes into them, people might get hurt. He wonders what he’s going to do.
He suddenly sees the monster below in the street: the helicopter got him but he’s pretty near melted his way out of that net. Spider-Man alerts Sam to the water and urges him to remember what happened with that hydrant. He asks him to tackle that monster before he falls and get him into the Hudson. The river water will drain his power. “Uh… right!” Sam mutters. He tosses the hat to Spidey and tells him that, if this doesn’t work out like they hope, he sees that his mama gets the hat!
Peter realizes that’s a shot Robbie will pay him big bucks for. He’d better grab his camera… fast. “Gotcha!” Cannonball exclaims and hits the Incandescent Man, making him lose a barrage of lightning so spectacular that the hovercraft’s shielding cannot withstand it. It spirals down – motor burning, threatening to spin out of control – while its pilot fights it every inch of the way.
Below, Spider-Man is exhilarated: he’s getting some spectacular shots! Just then, Cannonball, practically pushing the Incandescent Man, asks Peter to tell him which way the Hudson is! Spidey points him at the way, while realizing that shooting pix of Cannonball wasn’t such a hot idea. He got so involved in recording it all, that he almost forgot to do anything. He realizes that chopper pilot made a game try at stopping the monster. He deserves better than to crash into Times Square while the would-be-rescuer records his descent! He wonders how Cannonball is making out.
Meanwhile, Sam violently shoves the monster all across the city, in effect crashing through several buildings. Sam hopes that’s the river up ahead. He doesn’t know if Manhattan can take much more of his rescuing!
Up above, Spidey leaps to the wobbling hovercraft. The pilot wonders what he’s doing; trying to get killed to? He should get away! Peter asks her how they can get this crate down safely. The occupant of the chopper insists they can’t. The lightning shorted out the ship’s electrical system and the stabilizer’s shot. The doors are stuck shut, manual override’s out, too. She is trying to get this thing to crash where it won’t kill anyone… and Spider-Man is not helping so he should get off!
Spider-Man replies he’s getting off all right… and she is coming with him! Has he never heard the fabled strength of the spectacular…“You idiot! Don’t!” she screams, seeing Peter tearing off part of the ship to provide her with an escape. She shrieks it’s unstable! It’ll roll! And just then, she is hurled out of the falling helicopter.
Meanwhile, Cannonball finally gets the Incandescent Man above the Hudson River and tosses him there, joking that it’s the end of the line; everybody out! With a spectacular flash, the power drains from him and the Incandescent Man is no more! Holy cow! Not again! Sam ponders, as he realizes that now he’s rocketing straight into stuff on the Jersey side of the river. What would Spidey tell him to do now? Professor X and the Nightcrawler have both been trying to get him to practice his power and flipping and that move he saw Spidey making back in town… if he can copy it… just a little… it just might do the trick! Struggling, Sam manages to turn before crashing onto the building. Exhilarated, he realizes it worked; he did it!
Back in Times Square, Spider-Man sees the pilot wobbling like mad and losing altitude. He immediately aims his web right and eases her down gently. Panting, the woman thanks him. Spider-Man sees the ship veered over the center of Times Square. The pilot’s out of harm’s way now. Nobody and nothing but a statue directly below them… and Cannonball’s already smashed that. There’ll never be a better time to try this than now. Peter shoots his webs on the helicopter’s propeller, thinking that this ought to stop the blades from spinning… and make that copter drop like a stone!
Indeed, the helicopter crash-lands and explodes. The explosion knocks loose the movie marquee. Spidey realizes he left Cannonball’s hat there! He’ll never reach it in time. Suddenly, the woman springs to the hat and rescues it from the flames. Her face now revealed – that of a beautiful, blond woman – she asks Peter if this is what he was worried about. Pretty – but she’d never have guessed pink was his color!
Later, at the pier, Spider-Man and the woman see Cannonball swimming to their way. Peter wonders what Sam is doing in there. He urges him to come on out. Sam explains he dropped the glowing guy in here somewhere… and now he can’t find him! What if he drowned or… The woman tells Spider-Man that his friend is stubborn. She tells Cannonball that it’s no use: he’s gone. That “glowing man” was transformed as a result of an experiment with bio-conductors by a government research facility called Project Pegasus. They were trying to give him the power to draw electricity to himself, to channel it through his body and by virtue of his human intellect, use it directly as a tool. They called him the Incandescent Man.
At first he was okay, but eventually all that electricity coursing through his system drove him mad. He escaped by shutting down all of Pegasus’ power as he almost shut down Manhattan’s and disappeared into one of the rivers upstate – which drained his body out of his electrons as his maneuver did a little while ago. She knew he wasn’t dead then – as she knows it now. She’s been tracking him for months… and she knows he’ll never find him. She urges him to come on out; he’s done all he can do.
Spider-Man wonders: what’s her interest on the Incandescent Man? Sam remarks it sounds like she’s looking for him a good long while. She explains he is her brother. Her twin brother! She’ll continue to track him and one day, when he’s not as powerful as he was today, she’ll capture him and somehow she’ll harness all his power to destroy the place that created him!
Sometime later, after the woman leaves, Sam admits that was some lady; really determined. Spider-Man explains she saved Sam’s hat, while Peter grabbed his clothes. Sam thanks him. All that’s happened here makes him want to go back to the school and try again. He didn’t ask to be born a mutant, but he’s one anyhow, so maybe he’d better just be the best one he can be and stop worrying about the competition. He tried a move he saw Spider-Man do earlier. He was pretty clumsy but it gave him the idea that maybe if he just practices some more he can make it… and he has to thank Peter for it! Spider-Man assures him that after tonight Sam’s going to be a star. Some reporter’s bound to have gotten pictures of him saving New York.
Enthused, Sam asks him if he really thinks so. His mom would love it and it’d prove to the Professor that he can do something right! But Lord, he sure hopes not! He might get recognized as one of Xavier’s students and with all the anti-mutant feeling in the air now that could endanger the New Mutants and the X-Men alike. Spider-Man argues that Professor Xavier should be proud to have a student like him. If he’s dumb enough to kick him out, he can work with Spider-Man any time! “Really? Golly! Okay!” Sam exclaims and shakes hands with him.
As Sam takes leave, Peter tells him it’s a great hat. He knows a lady who’d like one just like it. He knows Sam got it at Saks; it looks pretty expensive. Fifty four dollars and eleven cents, Sam clarifies. Not enough to bother a guy like Spider-Man though. Sam himself worked weeks and barely had enough money to cover it!
Sam leaves. Peter thinks that maybe he was right. If you decide to be something, it makes sense to be the best you can be. Peter decided to be a photographer and, for once, he knows these shots are good – really good. But before being a photographer, he can work on being a human being. That’d be a better present for Aunt May than the hat these shots would have bought her, he decides and tosses the camera film into the Hudson River.