Besides the records I’m reviewing from the box of Mystery & Wonder I want to write about other stuff on this blog.
So I’m going to rebrand the blog a little bit. The record blog will be “Wonder & Mystery,” and will continue my quest through that box of records. The next blog is “Hey Kids!! Comics.” This will focus on anything comic book-ish and I get the title from the signs on old spinner racks that populated drug stores and the like, back when comic book readers had to forage for their monthly fix. I have always wanted a spinner rack for my house and fill it with comics to read. I haven’t found one yet that I can afford as other collectors have the same idea.
Spider-Man comics right now are mostly creatively driven by Dan Slott and Dan has done some really fun stuff with the character. However it can be a little narratively dense for the casual reader to pick up. Peter has come a long why from getting bullied by Flash Thompson and two-fisting Aunt May’s wheat cakes during the 60s. The sweet spot for me was the late 70s to late 80s for reading the character and I love the original Lee & Ditko (and the later Romita) stuff because I was reading reprints of those stories in Marvel Tales at that time.
There have been updates of Spidey’s origin; a brilliant series by Kurt Busiek and Pat Olliffe titled Untold Tales of Spider-Man that returned to that time and filled in gaps in the story. There was Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, an alternate reality take on the character. There are TWO DIFFERENT cinematic retellings of the origin and a third version is Coming Soon to a Theater Near You.
I am also one of those curmudgeons that don’t want yet another retelling of the origin. It is unnecessary and superfluous. Everyone who is going to see a new Spidey movie knows the beats of the origin. Like Superman or Batman, Spidey’s origin can be boiled down to a few key points or story beats:
Nerdy outcast kid in high school gets super powers like a spider. He decides to use those powers and become a baller. This causes a major catastrophe in his life as through his own direct inaction he causes the death of his father figure, his beloved Uncle Ben. Now he is perpetually consumed with guilt over this and now uses his powers to help others. Extra Beat: Because of this his life is in constant turmoil, he can’t pay rent because he was Spider-Man and because he is Spider-Man he can’t pay rent.
SPIDEY #1 captures Spider-Man and reiterates his early days without regurgitating everything verbatim, it gets the beats and keeps going. The story by Robbie Thompson (writer of Supernatural TV fame) and Nick Bradshaw (artist) capture these beats in one page, enough to establish what you already know and then move on to their story.
It’s Peter Parker in high school, which for all the pissing and moaning we comic geeks do about this the character has been more not in high school over the past 50 some years than he was in it initially. We get Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn, new character Sajani, Gwen Stacy, Aunt May and Norman Osborn as supporting cast. We get a first encounter with Doctor Octopus (My NAME is Doctor Otto Octavius) and a glimpse of the Green Goblin. All of this without bogging down with the beats, we know this stuff they give a new, fun take on the characters and we are off and running.
I loved that.
The art is so distinctive and emotive; Bradshaw’s facial expressions remind me a bit of Kevin Maguire’s work on Justice League. His composition and panel layout are flawless. In a time when all comics are so damned cinematic that craft of comic book storytelling get swallowed up in wanna-be movie-ness. Yes, movies and comics DO share similarities but they are different mediums. It’s okay for a comic book to Comic Book. Our artist is decidedly artsy without unnecessary fartsy, solid 21st century comic book draftsmanship with a nice balance of telling a story. He keeps the panel breakage to a minimum so when he does use it, it pops.
And Thompson captures a Midtown High that reminds me of the Mark Waid and Fiona Staples new revamp/take on the Archie characters over there in Riverdale. His Spidey is witty and quick as Spidey is. When Doc Ock calls him a “cretin” Spidey’s response is: “Cretin?” Seriously, is your day job working at a Ren Faire? I’ve always wanted work at one of those. Could you put in a good word for me? I’ll take your lashing out in blind rage as a strong “Maybe.”
This book is an all ages Spider-Man book, the title does come from the old Electric Company TV show, but like any good all ages book the kids will have to pry it from the grubby hands of those big kids called adults.