Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes - Posts Tagged "spider-man"

The Justice Introverts, The Fantastic Extroverts, and The Avengers

I've been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking which focuses on introversion and the power of Introverts. I always score very high on Introversion tests, so I find it interesting.

As I thought about this topic, I wondered where my favorite superheroes would lie on this Introversion/Extroversion Axis.

Of course, Superheroes can be tricky to pin down. The nature of the Superhero business requires characters to do things that are more naturally introverted such as keeping few close relationships less someone learn your secret identity. It also can require some more public outgoing behavior.

In addition, Superheroes are often dualistic with two identities with two very different identities. Where does Superman begin and where does Clark Kent end?

Introversion doesn't have to do with selfishness or necessarily shyness. It has to do with what energizes you. For introverts, it's time alone and in thoughtful activities like reading. For extroverts, it's time with people. Introversion can be accompanied by other traits such as thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

Thus, it's quite possible to be a Superhero AND an introvert. I'd say many of the DC heroes definitely fit that bill because their origins go back farther and original comics drew from an earlier time in what Susan Cain calls the culture of "Character." Oftentimes, early comic books didn't have our characters with a lot of flashy personalities and identity problems. We loved the original superheroes because of their character, their quiet strength and humility, and much of that has carried over to the present day.

One final challenge is that there have been so many versions of these characters and writers have changed personalities. I will only write about the characters as I know them, so no "New 52" stuff or other recent comic innovations.

The Justice League: Animated Series

Batman (Introvert): The coolest and most popular Superhero of the modern age is probably one of the most introverted in his modern version. The Justice League Animated Series makes this clear. Sometimes the other heroes will go about flouncing around, jumping into action with little thought or consideration. In the middle of all, Batman sitting down in the batcave, with an actual solution. Batman can hold his own battle, but he is the clear brains of the Justice League series. Like many introverts, he wears a mask (named Bruce Wayne) who does all the smiling socializing necessary to maintain a secret identity, but Batman is at ease and happy down in the Batcave figuring everything out.

Superman (Introvert): There's some debate over this, though perhaps it stems from a misunderstanding of Introversion/Extroversion. Someone on a comic forum argued Superman Adores his wife (that's back before DC made Superman unmarried so they could pursue a relationship with Wonder Woman)." Many introverts adore their spouses. That's not the point. There's a difference between an introvert and a misanthrope. I tend to think Superman is an introvert, partly due to nature (Krypton seems a place that valued personality less than Earth.) and nurture (being raised on a farm miles from others.) Superman's always been a bit of a loner and so has Clark Kent, even from childhood with few close friends and this has continued to adulthood. I mean Batman may have the Batcave, but when Superman needs to recharge he flies up to the North Pole to a place called, "The Fortress of Solitude." I rest my case.

Martian Manhunter: Maybe, he'd be more sociable if there were other Martians around, but he's a very quiet and thoughtful person who rarely says anything that's not important and is more given to contemplation than chattering conversation.

The Flash (Wally West) (Extrovert) : Ultimate extrovert, always joking around and having a good time, though it was once suggested by Unlimited hero that his jovial attitude was only a mask. I hope not because the Justice League needs some balance.

The rest: Green Lantern (John Stewart) (Introvert), Hawkgirl (Slight Extrovert), Wonder Woman (Extrovert).

The Fantastic Four

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that the team of Superheroes that forsook secret identities would be majority Extroverts (with one key exception).

Johnny Storm (the Human Torch), ever the outgoing lady's man who thrives on public speaking, social interactions, and public performances is the obvious Extrovert.

Sue Richards (the Invisible Woman) is far more outgoing than her Introvert husband and always up for going out and social occasions.

Ben Grimm (The Thing) may be self-conscious about his appearance, but when he gets out, he shows all the boisterous enthusiasm of any Extrovert.

Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) is the team's only Introvert. He's the guy that the rest of the team has to pry out of the lab. It is true that in one early issue of the Fantastic Four, he did encourage the Four to go to a reception held for them by Congress. But this was more out of a sense of duty and patriotism rather than excitement about a social outing. Ironically, it's the Introverted Reed who rises to leadership.

The Avengers

Here we base our perceptions on the two or (in the case of Iron Man) three movies containing the most popular characters as well as the other bits about them we've picked up from the Marvel Universe:

Iron Man (Ambivert): Tony Stark is kind of hard to figure out. On one hand, he's a party animal in social situations and loves being the center of attention and can be recklessly spontaneous such as blowing his secret identity at the end of Iron Man. On the other hand, he handles solitary activities and works well alone. He's not only a combination of man and machine, he's a combination of Introvert and Extrovert. He's an Amnivert (and that's a real word.)

Thor (Extrovert): Thor is not one for quite reflection. He's the pure man of action, ready to march into war. He's not stupid, not reckless, but he is a social leader, much more comfortable with comrades by his side than alone.

Captain America (Introvert): The Marvel heroes have huge respect for Captain America, but it's not because he's the most outgoing people person. It's once again that quiet strength of character and dedication to duty. He first appeared in 1941, and is come from the same cloth as Batman and Superman. He's not the life of the party, but its quiet strength and inspiration.


Due to the sheer volume of material I've read, I've got to offer an opinion on a couple of characters not usually included in any team.

Spider-man (Introvert): There have been some conflicting portrayals of Spider-man, whether this is due to him being an amnivert or him being an "Extrovert wannabe," or whether the writers have had trouble writing him consistently is a fair question. There are several things favor him being an introvert. His geekiness, his quiet enjoyment of science and solitude loom large. On the other hand, Spider-man can be somewhat impulsive and reckless in battle. While humor or comedy is not the sole province of extroversion, his flip, wise-cracking comments to all-comers may suggest extroversion to many.

I think Spider-man's extrovert traits are proof of a concept that Cain shared in the book. No one is a complete extrovert or introvert. Anyone who fell into either category according to Carl Jung would be in an insane asylum. Spider-man's multi-faceted personality makes him such a fascinating and engaging character and also keeps him sane.

However, I think the evidence is quite clear on Spider-man's introverted tilt. While Spider-man may be wisecracking with the bad guys, if we watch cartoons or read the comics, we see him having deep introspective sensitive thoughts in his private moments. And when Spider-man
has had a bunch of drama (either in or out of costume), there's nothing he enjoys more than swinging across the Manhattan skyline, enjoying the pleasure of peace and quiet above the maddening rush of the city.

Daredevil (Extrovert): Superman may retreat and enjoy the tranquility of the Fortress of Solitude but not Daredevil. As a blind man, he's expected to weak and helpless and it drives him nuts. In Daredevil Vol. 1, #25, he declared that it felt like being Matt Murdoch was a mask. At his best, he's a swashbuckling adventurer and outgoing lawyer. The limits of his handicap and the requirements of being a superhero notwithstanding, Daredevil is an Extrovert at heart.

So, of the seventeen heroes I looked at, eight are extroverts, eight are introverts, and one is an amnivert. With these diverse personalities, they all play key roles in keeping the world safe from evil.

In that way, superheroes may set an example for introverts and extroverts in the real world.
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Published on November 01, 2012 22:38 Tags: batman, daredevil, spider-man, superman

Spider-man in the Funny Papers

Spider-Man Newspaper Strips -Volume 1 Spider-Man Newspaper Strips -Volume 1 by John Romita

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a fun volume containing the first volume of Spider-man newspaper strips. Stan Lee takes care of the scripting after taking a six-year break from the character in the comic books. This first collection covers the first couple years of the script.

The stories themselves are great with Spider-man tangling with Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, the Kingpin, and Kraven: The Hunter. In addition, the comic strip introduces a unique villain in the Rattler.

These are a blast of 1970s Spider-man. They can be somewhat dated but I prefer to look at them as retro with reference to 1970s pop culture and one strip series that has Peter working at a disco for Norman Osborne and Flash Thompson.

Spider-man's lovel life is put on hold as he and Mary Jane have a tiff and then Mary Jane goes off to Florida with Kraven the Hunter. Spider-man himself navigates a moral dilemma as he needs to provide some help to his ailing aunt May and in a moment of weakness allies himself with the Kingpin's mayoral campaign, but breaks off when he finds Kingpin breaking his word and hurting people.

In addition to the tremendous vintage comic strips, the book includes interviews with the great Stan Lee and John Romita on the development of the strip. On the written page, Stan Lee comes off as very humble saying that he doesn't take ownership of the Spider-man stories as he can't keep up with all the books and that when he does read a story, he always has the thought of, "Gee, that's a great story, I wish I'd thought of that." I've had thoughts quite a bit less charitable. :)

The only thing that's a bit of a challenge to get used to is three-to-a page format of the strips which is a minor issue in such a great collection of Spider-man by Stan Lee. I can't wait for Volume 2 to arrive via Interlibary loan.

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Published on November 10, 2012 10:44 Tags: comic-strip, spider-man

The Rise and Fall of the Superhero Marriage, Part One: The Fantastic Marriages

The earliest superheroes were not married and for the most part, romance wasn't on their mind. Superman, Batman, and the like were more concerned with doing the hero thing. The same could be said of the Green Hornet, the Shadow, the Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, Nick Carter, and many characters from the same era.

They were single minded in their pursuits. In the case of superheroes such as Superman, it was a single minded pursuit of justice and crime-fighting that left little time for romance.

Some of this lack of interest in the opposite sex probably fueled some unjustified charges of homosexuality against some comic book characters.

However, romance of sorts came to comics. As Superman waged a never-ending battle against the forces of evil, Lois Lane waged a never-ending battle to get Superman to marry her. This happened in the comics and on TV but all turned out to be a dream. Those annoying wake up calls didn't stop Lois. She even got her own comicbook in 1958 that pursued that goal.

It was mostly playful stuff right of a sitcom with Lois Lane much like Sisyphus constantly rolling a stone uphill only to have it roll back down saw her schemes go awry.

The Fantastic Marriage

In 1960s, the Superhero world changed for with the introduction of the Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four were first and foremost a family team from the beginning. They had amazing superpowers but they were real people as well. Like any family, they fought and had personality conflicts but beneath it all, they cared for each other. The team was made of Reed Richards, his girlfriend Sue Storm and her brother Johnny, as well as ex-football star and pilot Ben Grimm. They are hit with Cosmic rays and become (respectively): Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl (later Invisible Woman), The Human Torch,and the Thing.

While Sue's affections wavered during the course of their adventures with her crushing on Sub-mariner and Ant Man, she did end up marrying Reed in Fantastic Four Annual #3.

Lee had really captured the need for human companionship and marriage even among superheroes and he used it a lot in his work. It also occurred in the FF as Ben Grimm's rock hard personality is softened by the loving blind woman Alicia Masters. Not every romance story worked as well.

Other Superhero nuptials occurred in the 1960s including the Flash to Iris West in 1968, and another two superhero wedding between Marvel characters Yellow Jacket (aka Hank Pym) and the Wasp (1969).

However, as Stan Lee took a break from the torrid pace of writing, one character who had been on the road to matrimony was thrown off of it. Marvel killed off Spider-man's love interest Gwen Stacy because they didn't know what to do with the relationship other than marriage, which they weren't ready to pursue.

Other marriages weren't made to last as Superhero divorces started to occur. Hank Pym struck his wife in anger culminating a series of events that had him drummed out of the Avengers and leading to his divorce from the Wasp.

Other marriages broke up, but just as in the real world, marriages continued to happen. After years of heartache, heartbreak and frustration, Spider-man proposed to Mary Jane Watson leading to the marriage in Spider-man Annual #21, a marriage that fans would come to love and one editor at Marvel would come to hate. (More on that in the next post.)

Finally, Superman himself got married. There had been Superman marriages before but in the twisted continuities of multiple alternate Earths and various characters on Earth One and Earth Two in the pre-Crisis DC Universe, it really is hard to track who was married to who.

The series tracked with Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman which was built on the growing relationship between the two characters. In the TV series, Clark was portrayed as a virgin who saved himself for marriage. While a lot of crazy stuff went wrong in the TV show, one has to admire their dogged determination to get married despite clones, witches, and all these sorts of obstacles.

There are three big superheroes that have the highest name recognition: Superman, Batman, and Spider-man. By the mid-1990s, whatever craziness happened in the rest of the Superhero world, two were quite happily married in the comic books. However, that wouldn't last for long.

To be Continued....
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Published on November 12, 2012 08:59 Tags: aquaman, fantastic-four, marriage, spider-man, superhero, superman

On the Death of a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man

So, it's on the news *spoiler alert* that Peter Parker dies in Issue #700 of the Amazing Spider-man.

Fans are outraged as Marvel continues its multi-year struggle with being able to properly manage its marquee character. I've written about the One More Day story line before but it appears that Marvel's gone even lower-killing Spider-man in the cancer-ridden body of Otto Octavius, Spider-man most dangerous foe going back to Amazing Spider-man #3. This same supervillain who has spent decades endangering human lives realizes how noble Spider-man really was after seeing all of Peter Parker's memories and becomes the "Superior Spider-man."


The appeal of Peter Parker as the hard luck every man who struggles and at times fails and comes back to do the right thing is replaced by Dr. Octopus, a supervillain who murdered Peter Parker and decides after it's too late that Parker's a noble guy after all and decides to carry it on but is determined that he will be superior in every way to the original Spider-man.

I mean really?

And if you go back to the horrific One More Day story line, you'll recall that the whole point of that was to make Spider-man younger by dissolving the marriage.

And what can make a hero younger than having him possessed by an elderly supervillain?

Of course, as my brother Josh mentioned, in the superhero world, the pearly gates have a revolving door. Some of the heroes that have died and returned have included Superman, Batman, The Flash (Barry Allen), The Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Captain America, and the Human Torch, so there will most likely be a return for Peter Parker, although right now Marvel's acting like there's some finality in this.

Marvel has taken a title that prior to "One More Day" sold 120,000 copies an issue down to one that sells less than 60,000. Once the hoopla over Issue #700 is over and the Superior Spider-man is launched, what will the sales be? I think Aquaman will be selling more copies. (Aquaman sells about 53,000 copies a month.)

To me, this re-iterates two key points. First, the comic book companies really don't deal well with characters like Spider-man and Superman who aren't meant to be dark anti-heroes. Marvel and DC respectively have managed to crash the comic books of two of the most popular superheroes on Earth.

Secondly, the comic book companies are poor guardians of superhero heritage. There's are a good reason why smart young comic book writers are increasingly going indie/creator owned. To aspiring young comic artists, the smart advice if you get about your character and world integrity remains the same: Go Indie Young Man.
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Published on December 26, 2012 18:25 Tags: death, spider-man

On the Good Old Days of Spider-man

My wife and I have been watching the 1980 Spider-man Animated series on Netflix.

It was a fun episode.

I remarked to my wife regarding the recent Spider-man Issue. "This was the good old days when Peter Parker was Spider-man."

She responded, "These were the good old days when Peter Parker was Peter Parker."
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Published on December 29, 2012 21:10 Tags: spider-man

Superhero Resurrections: Done to Death

My brother and I were having a conversation about the latest Spider-man issue. He commented that Peter Parker would be back as that in the world of superheroes, St. Peter has a revolving door.

He's not alone in this feeling. I read a comment on a website regarding this that "there are people in the Marvel Universe who can fix this." This, of course, referred to being transported into the body of a dying supervillain and then that body dying and that villain inheriting all your powers in your body. However, they talked about it like it was repairing a microwave oven.

The number of superheroes to take the big sleep only to get back up is staggering. Among them are Barry Allen (Flash), Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), Batman, the Human Torch, the Thing, Captain America, and of course Superman.

There had been hints that characters had died or were going to die but somehow they wiggled out of it before.

The death of Barry Allen occurred in 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, but probably what started the parade of deaths was Superman.

Superman's death in October 1992 was national news and sent millions to pick up a copy of the story. The story worked with Superman's long-standing Messianic symbolism as he faced off against Doomsday. Rev. H Michael Brewer described Doomsday "is as close to the personification of pure wickedness as comic books can evoke." The story couldn't help but bring to a mind a much greater story of sacrifice as Brewer relates in, Who Needs a Superhero?: Finding Virtue, Vice, and Whats Holy in the Comics:

Superman had taken it upon himself to be humanity's champion, and the one who came from above had to finally lay down his life to fulfill his mission. No lesser effort would have halted the onslaught of evil. No smaller sacrifice would ransom those in the path of destruction...

Behind the slumped figure of the dead Superman, an upright piece of broken timber juts from the wreckage. The tattered cap of the Man of Steel flutters in the wind. In my eyes, that heaven-reaching timber casts the shadow of the Cross over the scene. Superman is no savior, but his dying to rescue Metropolis points our hearts towards the True Savior who died for the world

One would be hard-pressed to ascribe any such power, beauty, or majesty to the on-going list of Superhero deaths and resurrections. What was a gripping, and well-written story of sacrifice two decades previously is losing its power even to attract a public which has become jaded to comic book's revolving doors.

It's to the point where no one expects any superhero to ever stay dead, which really does take the bit of the story and even out of death and resurrection. It's probably past time for a two decade or more long moratorium on superhero deaths and returns.

But is there really one in store for Spider-man?

One reason that it's been suggested is because of the Amazing Spider-man II. The suggestion made was that comic writers would prefer that the current comic book hero match with the one portrayed on the screen. There's little to suggest this is a serious concern. In fact, the entire clone saga in Spider-man was introduced smack dab in the middle of the Spider-man Animated Series and there was no effect on the story line. It had ended by the time the series finale ran and was referenced in an almost joking manner.

While Barry Allen died off in 1985 in the Comic Books but the Flash TV series aired five years later featured Barry Allen as the Flash. And while Peter Parker is dead in the Ultimate Universe and Miles Morales is the new Spider-man, the new Ultimate Spider-man still features Peter Parker.

The biggest reason I think we'll see a return of Peter Parker is that Spider-man is far more indispensable as a character than as a super-powered hero. Arguably, the most successful character changes in the mainstream universe have been the Flash and Green Lantern.

The Green Lantern is in fact a position in an intergalactic law enforcement agency and when Hal Jordan departed, John Stewart had all ready been in the comic books for a decade plus, so Jordan could be replaced.

Similarly the Flash's speed is indispensable in the DC Universe. His powers themselves are very cool, so anyone possessing them will have a big edge. Plus when Barry Allen died, Wally West became the new Flash and he'd been hanging around the DC universe for 25 years as a sidekick and member of the Teen Titans.

Things are very different with Spider-man. His powers are cool, but really not enough to make anyone who possesses them indispensable. In a fictional universe with Thor, the Thing, and Mr. Fantastic, there is no great need for Spider-man. When people cheer for Spider-man, they're not cheering for the uniform, they're cheering for the man.

And that's why ultimately, despite the fact that Marvel's been trying to get rid of him for years, Peter Parker will be back.
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Published on January 04, 2013 19:52 Tags: resurrection, spider-man

Review: Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks Volume 1

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. (Barnes & Noble Edition) Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. by Stan Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book collects Spider-man's first eleven adventures in Issue 15 of Amazing Fantasy and Issues 1-10 of the Amazing Spider-man in full color.

The introduction by Stan Lee is well worth reading. Perhaps the most amazing fact about Spider-man is how people at Marvel didn't want to green light Spider-man. Some feared he'd have too many problems to be heroic or that Spider-man was originally a teenager and that teenagers could only be sidekicks. Perhaps the strangest objection was that people didn't like Spiders. (Note to: Ancient Marvel editors: People aren't too thrilled about Bats either.) So Lee wrote the Spider-man story in the last issue of the anthology series Amazing Fantasy. With Spidey on the cover, Amazing Fantasy sold like crazy. Seven months later, Spidey hit as an every other month magazine in March 1963 before becoming monthly.

Reading through the book, it's easy to see the appeal of Spider-man to young readers of the time. Peter Parker was a quiet kid who had been orphaned and lost his Uncle. He was picked on by his peers and misunderstood both as Peter Parker and Spider-man.

I was surprised to find that even I had a misunderstood Spider-man along with the Fantastic Four. I read an extended version of Spider-man Attempt to join the Fantastic Four in Amazing Spider-man #1 in Fantastic Four Annual #1. The FF Annual version tells the the tale strictly from the Fantastic Four's perspective and it has Spider-man looking money-hungry as his interest in joining the Fantastic Four fades when he finds out there's no money in it. The context in Amazing Spider-man #1 tells that he needed money because his Aunt May was in bad financial straits.

The word relate-able was used often to describe the character and it fits. He is an every kid struggling with life, that's often hard, and is at least once left sobbing. And not without good reason. His Aunt who is constantly concerned with him and is broke and ill. Peter Parker can get money, but only by selling Spider-man snapshots to a man who will use them in crusader to turn Spider-man into Public Enemy #1.

However, what makes the character is heroic is that somehow or another after each defeat and hardship, Peter Parker and Spider-man come back again. It's truly reminiscent of the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" song.

The key foundations of the Spider-man world are introduced: This book includes the introduction of J Jonah Jameson, the Chamelon (though a pathetically low tech version of that character), the Vulture, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Dr. Doom, the Lizard, and Electro. Most of these characters have been around for years in one form or another to torment Spider-man. There are many memorable battles in here including Spider-man playing hurt against the Vulture and a kind of throwback against the Vulture.

The interaction between Spidey and the Fantastic Four is interesting as well. While Spidey is inspired to try again after Johnny Storm speaks at the school, he clearly envies their respectability and this book chronicles tensions between Spider-man and Marvel's First Family that would last well into the late 70s.

There are negatives in the book. J Jonah Jameson is really too much of an unsympathetic villain. If his mustache were the right style, he could twirl it. He admits to his staff that he's only crusading against Spider-man for money and then later admits to himself that he does it because he envies Spider-man and knows he can never be as good a man as him, so he has to bring Spider-man down. Both are unlikely admissions and most people would practice some self-deception on that point. As it is, Jameson worst than most of the criminals Spidey faces.

In addition, there are a few amazingly unrealistic occurrences such as Peter Parker collecting six months rent for a picture of Spider-man. (Stinginess would be worked into the Jameson character later.)

However, Spider-man gives us a 360 view of the danger of a heartless media persecution. Jameson's crusade ruins Spidey's show biz career which he desperately needs to help his family financially survive. It also speaks to the dangers of judging and unkindness. Jameson was going after a "faceless menace" but was really hurting an orphaned boy.

Overall, this is a great collection that highlights Spidey at the beginning of his silver age run.

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Published on January 25, 2013 22:08 Tags: spider-man

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks Amazing Spider-man, Volume 2

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2 Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2 by Stan Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some of the finest Comic Books ever are collected in this book. This 2nd Masterworks Collections collects the Amazing Spider-man Issues 11-19 and Annual #1.

The book begins with a two part arch against Dr. Octopus and then issues #13-15 introduces Mysterio, Green Goblin (with guest stars the Enforcers and the Hulk), and Kraven, staples of the Spider-man universe.

The in Spider-man Annual #1, we meet perhaps the greatest supervillain team ever led by Doctor Octopus and with the Vulture, Kraven, Mysterio, and Sandman. In addition to this, Stan Lee works in a cameo for nearly every hero in the Marvel Universe from Thor to Dr. Strange and Captain America. The Human Torch gets two: one to promote the Fantastic Four and one to promote his own stories appearing in Strange Tales. We also see J Jonah show a little bit of humanity with some thinly camouflaged concern about Betty Brant leading him to put aside his feud with Spider-man to enlist Spider-man's help. He even talks to a Spider in desperation to get the message through! In addition to the main feature, you also get some nice early descriptions of Spider-man powers and some fantastic art portraying Stan Lee at work.

#16 features Spider-man fighting daredevil under the influence of the ringmaster.

The book ends with a final story arch from #17-#19. Flash Thompson has started the Spider-man fan club and Green Goblin decides to crash the party. During the fight Spider-man hears that Aunt May has taken ill and rushes away from the fight creating confusion with many believing him a coward. Issue 18 is an absolute nightmare for our webslinger as he for the first time considers hanging them up in a story that's resolved wonderfully in Issue #19.

The book has everything. Great fight, great drama, some pretty good comic relief as usual via the writing of Stan Lee. Peter Parker is growing and learning as a character, becoming a real hero in the face of media cynicism and his own self-doubt. This is Spider-man at his best and Stan Lee at his best as a writer.

There are two minor negatives. First, Steve Ditko's original drawing of Kraven is rather crude compared to other more polished work on the Hunter. Secondly, Daredevil guesses Peter's exact age in Issue 16. But 5 months later when they tangle in Daredevil #6, DD guesses merely that Spider-man is under 20.

Minor points to be sure, but this is a great collection to own either is this book or part of
Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1.

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Published on July 10, 2013 22:15 Tags: masterworks, spider-man

Book Review: Spider-man Fights Substance Abuse

Spider-Man Fights Substance Abuse Spider-Man Fights Substance Abuse by Marvel Comics

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title makes the book sounds like its chalk full of boring PSA comics, but for the most part, this isn't true.

The book begins with the landmark Spider-man Issues 96-98. Stan Lee ran the books without the Comic Code Authority blessing so that he could discuss how drugs were a plague not just on the lower classes, but on all of society. The story features the Green Goblin and Harry turning to drugs to deal with the rejection of Mary Jane Watson.

Overall, the story is okay, but certainly not up to the highest standards of Goblin stories, but it is a true Spidey story featuring Peter Parker dealing with real life problems while having to keep a supervillain at bay. While the battle with the supervillains aren't memorable, Peter Parker has his best moment as he gets medieval on the drug dealers who sold his friends drug. The story has heart though its been reprinted elsewhere. Grade: B+

Next up was Spider-man, Cage, and Storm battling Smokescreen in anti-smoking story that was just silly. While the book arguably works the best in terms of communicating actual information about the dangers of drugs, the story is absurd as three of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe battle one guy trying to make a fortune by rigging the betting on high school track meets. And Storm disappears for three days after being knocked out by one of the henchman. Oy vey. Rating: D-

Next up are two Canadian promo comics that featuring Spider-man going to Winnipeg on the trail of Electro and illegal drugs being shipped to the country. These comics flow well with some good Spidey action against Electro and the Chameleon. These aren't the toughest battles Spidey ever faced, but it's still good clean Spidey fun. Rating: B+

Next up is a four part 32 page insert called, "Fast Lane" that Marvel did with an anti-drug message as Spider-man battles Mysterio, while one boy tries to follow his idol, a drug-using star and quickly learns that things aren't quiet what they seem. The battle with Mysterio is decent and the character development with even Jonah showing some depth of character. There was a two page spread with a weakly explained cameo by most of Marvel heavy hitters. Still, pretty fun with a good message. Rating: B

Finally, we have Spectacular Spider-man #1000. (No, there weren't really 1000 issues of that magazine. Marvel was just trying to tell comics.) This out of continuity tale has Spider-man and the Punisher teaming up to take on Russian drug dealers, while a young jock has to make some tough decisions about life. This was a good character study in the boy. Not really sure this was a story worthy of an Issue 1000, but since I didn't actually buy the comic, I'll take it for what it is. There's some violence, some tension, and some pretty mature material dealt with decently as our teenage focal character discovers a lot about himself. Overall, I'll give this a grade: B-

One additional complaint I'll add goes to the book's editing. The first 129 are numbered. The rest aren't. Come on, that's just sloppy.

W0hile the book doesn't contain the greatest Spider-man stories, it does contain some rare ones (other than Issues 96-98) and it's worth a look for Spidey fans.

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Published on November 06, 2013 20:44 Tags: spider-man

Book Review: Spider-man Newspaper Strips Volume 2

Spider-Man Newspaper Strips - Volume 2 Spider-Man Newspaper Strips - Volume 2 by Stan Lee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This second collection of Spidey strips didn't leave with me warm feelings like the first. While this covers 2 years of newspapers strips, we only get to see 2 Spider-man classic rogues. The Kingpin (twice) and Kraven the Hunter.

What happened with the rest of the story lines? 1979 marked the time of the Jim Jones cult, so the Amazing Spider-man featured a cult leader named Loomis and the battles between Spidey, Loomis, and his cult take up months of story line. There's also the appearance of the Prowler (Hobie Brown) a character that had been created in the comics 9 years before.

Most of the stories worked from 1979, but the stories began to drop off in quality with the 1980 strips. Spider-man's girlfriend Carole Jennings had joined the Loomis Cult and then fled when cult members thought she'd betrayed them. Mary Jane returned and Peter was going with her. Then when Carole came finally back, Peter dropped Mary Jane to resume his relationship with Carole, who he'd only started a relationship with because Mary Jane had left town to work for Kraven the Hunter in his act. So are the days of our Spider-man.

There were three things that made this collection not work as well as the first one. The first was Carole Jennings. She became a driving love interest in 1980. Peter was ready to propose to her and actually told her his secret identity. Though she fainted and he figured she couldn't handle it. What Peter saw in her is a mystery.

The second is the balance between crimefighting and personal problems. The personal issues make us relate to Peter Parker, but we really like to see Spidey in action. Spidey is best as a hard luck hero who is misunderstood and struggles with life. If you have too much action he's not relatable. if you have too many struggles and too much self-pity he comes off as a bit of loser.

Unfortunately, this error dogged Lee particularly late in 1979. After an uptick with Spider-man taking on a neighborhood extortionist called the Protector, Spidey decides he needs to get some money and calls himself a Schlemiel and a Schnook for not having done so sooner. (Apparently that's what New York White Anglo Saxon Protestants chide themselves with.) So he tries to make his money in show biz. Reverting to the basic plot Amazing Spider-man #1 even to the point of being unable to cash his check because it's made out to Spider-man. The whole station gets in an uproar and refuses to issue him a new check made out to "bearer" because the Daily Bugle doesn't like him.

I honestly hated the plot because what's somewhat cute or even endearing for a confused sixteen year old kid looks kind of pathetic on a twenty-something year-old college student. From there, The plot did manage to get worse as Spidey decided to turn crook. Had this been at a time when there was a legitimate financial need, there might be a sympathy factor. Instead, it's just ego and greed.

He wants no one to get hurt, so he swipes a priceless gem and is shocked when: 1) local fences aren't willing to sell the gem as is because it's too recognizable and 2) that the theft of the diamond sets off an angry response from the Saudi government that threatens America's oil supply. The actions are that of an idiotic clod, not the intelligent mind of Peter Parker.

The book is worth reading for Spidey superfans and the 1979 strips are pretty good. However, the 1980 strips are much weaker and may kill any chance of future releases despite featuring two cameos by former President Richard Nixon.

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Published on November 21, 2013 17:27 Tags: newspaper, spider-man

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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