Silver Surfer #14: The One With Spider-Man

silver-surfer-14Marvel Comics had two main tropes in the 1960s. The first was that everything happens in New York City. The other is that any time two super heroes meet for the first time will result in fisticuffs. The latter rings true in Silver Surfer #14.

Stan Lee chose not to have too much back story in this one. The two are flying (well in Spidey’s case web slinging) around the city, which causes the two of them to collide and carnage ensues.

As this is happening we’re introduced to a super hero obsessed kid named Henry who is watching the encounter from a rooftop. Things quickly get out of hand, and the army is called in to stop the mayhem. How they were able to get tanks and missile launchers into downtown Manhattan during rush hour is a special power all of its own.

During the chaos, Silver Surfer stops fighting Spidey to save Henry from certain death. This act of nobility is noticed by everyone; Spider-Man apologizes, as he certainly knows what it’s like to be considered a menace. The army retreats, as they realized that Surfer wasn’t a threat to national security.

The last panel has Surfer ruminating over what happened and he says this great quote:

No longer do  they seek…to slay me! Perhaps there is hope for them! Perhaps one day they will renounce all use of force for only then–at last–will mankind come of age.

In context of the story, Surfer has a rekindled mankind. But in context of the time, you really wonder if in fact it was Lee commenting on not only the Vietnam War but all the social violence that was happening in the United States at the time. The sixties were no fun decade in that respect.

Howard The Duck #1

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This is one of the comics in my collection that I was so happy to add. Growing up in the 1980s, Howard the Duck was all over the place, but got relegated to second-tier status, mostly because of the less than amazing film that he starred in. But that didn’t stop me from having a fondness to the waterfowl.

Howard the Duck #1 isn’t the first appearance of the character, but his popularity lead to him getting his own series. Howard comes across odd, even for someone living in the Marvel Universe. The story told here pretty much sets up the direction the series would take.

Howard just goes around the country solving mysteries and having adventures. He meets nude model Beverly Switzler who becomes his friend/travel companion and spends the rest of the issue trying to save her from the evil wizard/accountant Pro-Rata. The diminutive duck does get some assistance from Spider-Man along the way.

It’s a fun issue and I really want to read more of the character. Steve Gerber writes this character so well; there’s a certain absurdity and seriousness to it that reminds me of Dave Sim’s Cerebus the Aardvark.

Friday Fights #20: Doctor Octopus vs. the Octopus

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With all the talk about Doctor Octopus the last few weeks (seriously, when was the last time he was this relevant?), this week he gets his chance to be part of our Friday Fights by  taking on probably the only other octopus themed villain in the comic book world:  the Octopus.

We know pretty  much everything there is about the Doctor; he’s a genius who relies on his eight mechanical appendages to cause mayhem and wreak havoc on everyone who opposes him and his schemes.

The Octopus is a lot more mysterious a villain. In Will Eisner’s old The Spirit , he would terrorize people from the shadows, always hidden from everyone’s view, whether you were a character in the story or you as the person reading. He’s a master of causing mayhem out of everyone’s sight.

So who would win this battle?

Doctor Octopus has a history of messing everything up whereas Octopus is pretty bad ass. Plus his role was played by Samuel L. Jackson in the Spirit movie a few years. WINNER: Octopus. He would lure the Doctor into the shadows for a quick knock out.

Spider-Men: When Peter Met Miles

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Peter Parker has had a rough couple of weeks, with switching bodies with Doctor Octopus and dying and such. Spider-Men is a glimpse to a more lighthearted adventure, with him entering the Ultimate Universe and meeting the Spider-Man of that reality.

The only thing that I really wasn’t too keen on this story was how Peter winds up getting into the Ultimate Universe. Longtime illusionist and lame villain Mysterio has acquired some sort of trans-dimensional gateway that Peter accidentally activated, sending him to another reality where he meets Miles. Mysterio now has the opportunity to kill the two Spider-Men.

While dodging Mysterio’s robot avatars and such, the two bond. Miles really looks up to Peter, who himself is amazed on how respected the alternate version of himself was by the people of Ultimate New York. Knowing that he doesn’t belong, the Ultimates agree to help find a way to send Peter home.

The best parts of Brian Bendis’ story are when Peter meets up with this world’s version of Aunt May and Gwen Stacy, both of them who are still mourning the loss of their Peter. Things are also odd for Peter, as he’s talking to a version of a girl he was deeply in love with, but whose life was cut short in his reality.

This really was really made the book for me were these exchanges. Peter and Miles could have not punched a whole thing through it; the story was fine without any action. There was plenty; the Spidey’s and the Ultimates team up to stop Mysterio. The ending is a little odd; Mysterio learned a lot about Peter Parker’s secret identity and such by watching him through his device, and the Ultimates wound up imprisoning him in their world to keep Peter’s secrets safe. But mostly it’s important for Miles and the Aunt May and Gwen that he knows; they were able to get closure knowing that somewhere there is a Peter very close to the one that they knew who is living a wonderful life. 

When that Peter got home he Googled Miles, and we don’t know what he found online. But between that and Mysterio stuck in the Ultimate world there are two plot points to pick up at a later date. 

The art on this was by Sara Pichelli, whose work is really growing on me. I read that she does most of her work on a Wacom tablet and I’m amazed about how thin her line work is. It’s very clean and looks great.

Getting back to Spider-Men, I give it a glowing recommendation  It’s more a Miles than a Peter story, but it doesn’t matter which Spider-Man you prefer. It’s a great Spider-Man story all around.

Friday Fights #17: Marth vs. Martha Kent

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With today’s events, today seemed like the perfect day to do a more lighthearted Friday Fights. Today we are going to take a look at two of the best mothers (or motherly figures) in comic books: I’m talking about Spider-Man’s aunt May Parker and Superman’s mom Martha Kent. Who wins this battle to be the mother superior?

Aunt May is such an important part in Peter Parker’s world. She’s unwavering in her support and love of her nephew and would do anything in the world for him (as well as his girlfriend/wife/whatever Mary Jane is considered in this continuity). There’s a great issue during the J. Michael Straczynski/John Romita Jr. run on Amazing Spider-Man where she finally finds out that her nephew is a super hero. She takes supporting Peter to a whole other level, taking it upon herself to argue with internet comment posters who aren’t in support of Spider-Man. She really loves Peter and it shows.

However, if there is one thing against May, it would be that she always seems to cause some sort of huge distraction for Peter, like when the fact that she is a frail, elderly woman seems to be a common distraction in many Spider-Man comics. Aside from Uncle Ben, she also doesn’t have the best taste in men. Remember, at one point she wound up being married to the villainous Doctor Octopus, and certainly made things awkward by marrying J. Jonah Jameson’s father and making many awkward family get-togethers for Triple J and Peter. 

Marha is an awesome mother. She took in an alien baby, raised it as her own and he goes on to be the most important/powerful man in the universe. Living far away from Superman, she rarely gets too involved in his life, although she’s always willing to lend an ear to talk about things ranging from relationship problems to career goals to even how to stop the Parasite. Plus, she puts up with all the wacky things that Clark gets into like providing housing for his Kryptonian family members like Superboy and Supergirl from time to time.

The only thing that you can knock Martha for is that she’s too perfect. She’s like the Martha Stewart of super hero mothers; she does everything right and nothing bothers her.

So who is the winner in this battle of matronly awesomeness?

The winners are Peter and Clark, as these women have shaped them into kind, responsible adults. Go moms!

The Amazing Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield doing the sad Charlie Brown head-down walk in The Amazing Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield doing the sad Charlie Brown head-down walk in The Amazing Spider-Man

Oh boy.

I finally got around to seeing The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s not for a lack of interest in the character; Spider-Man has been among my favorites for as long as I can remember. The unfortunate combination of being really busy and being fearful of what a post-Sam Raimi Spider-Man film series would be like made me put off seeing the latest film until this week.

The new movie rehashed the whole Peter Parker becomes the Spider-Man plot with a few modifications. Peter’s dad was a research scientist for Oscorp who mysteriously was killed, with the assumption that this happened at Norman Osborn’s bequest. Peter goes on to be raised by his aunt and uncle as an awkward teenager, gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a vigilante after his actions indirectly lead to the murder of his Uncle Ben. This pretty much took up two-third of the film. From then on, it’s up to Peter and his girlfriend Gwen Stacy to stop an Oscorp scientist (who used to work with Peter’s father) that’s turned himself into a lizard monster from turning everyone in Manhattan into a lizard monster.

The plot was kinda flimsy but it worked. But the biggest problem was how unlikable Andrew Garfield was as Spider-Man. This I blame not so much on him, but no the writing and directing. One of the cornerstones of the whole Spider-Man mythos is how strong Peter’s relationship with Uncle Ben and Aunt May is. In the movie, they pretty much considered him a burden and Peter wanted nothing to do with them. Garfield’s take on

Peter wasn’t as much the shy, introspective type, but more so of a jerk. One of the reasons why that Peter is an enduring character is that he reminds us of how shy and insecure we are. But Garfield was just a too.There was way too much teenage angst in this film for my liking. I felt glad when Flash Thompson picked on him. Again, this isn’t to say that Garfield wasn’t an acceptable Peter Parker. There was just a lot of unfortunate dialogue and character development. If there’s anything to complain about Garfield is that he’s about ten years too old to be playing a character in high school.

The other thing that didn’t work for me was how they really geared this film to a generation to a generation of teenage girls who grew up reading Twilight books. They were really pushing the whole romance angle between Peter and Gwen, more-so than Peter overcoming everything to become a hero and dealing with the ever-increasing dilemmas of having a secret life.

That said, I’m not completely down on this movie. The fight sequences and special effects (although over-relied upon) were really well done. Emma Stone’s Gwen and Dennis Leary as her father, Detective Stacy, really carried the movie, especially Stone.

Ultimately, The Amazing Spider-Man was a decent film that needed some improvements, mostly making its protagonist someone you could actually connect with on some level. Hopefully they will get that resolved for the 2014 sequel. And if they want to completely reboot the series, I’m sure Donald Glover would be interested. 

Amazing Spider-Man #698: Invasions of the Body Snatchers

Amazing Spider-Man #698 came out today, and it is definitely one of those issues that was designed to be a big deal. So what’s so special about this? Peter Parker dies.

Completely simplifying it, an ailing Doctor Octopus was able to switch bodies with Spider-Man. The eight-limbed villain switched bodies with Spider-Man, leaving poor Peter to die in his old body. Octopus gets to live on, having assumed Peter’s identity and life.

Amazing Spider-Man is getting re-launched as Superior Spider-Man in January, so I’m sure this storyline will have some sort of temporary resolution, with the long-term leading to Peter Parker returning to his status quo of being Spider-Man and you know, being alive.

So how does Spidey come back?

Someone, say Mary Jane or even Aunt May could make some sort of deal with Mephisto to restore the status quo. This would be a bookend of sorts to the One More Day storyline where Mary Jane made a deal with the devil to save Aunt May’s live in exchange for her relationship with Peter to have never existed. Is it possible that Mephisto would offer someone else a similar deal to save Peter’s life?

Spider-Man also has an outstanding favor due to him from Loki. In Amazing Spider-Man  #503-504, the trickster god needed the assistance of Spidey in saving his mortal daughter. Even though Spider-Man is technically dead at this point, Loki could decide to do him a solid and return him rightfully back to the land in the living. I am not sure if this is possible, since Loki himself was reborn as a teenager, but it’s a debt he owes nevertheless.

Regardless of how they bring Peter back, it has to be well executed and I have good faith in writer Dan Slott being able to pull it off.

Marvel Team Up #127: Spider-Man Teaches The Watcher The True Meaning Of Christmas

Yes, you’ve read that right

Marvel Team Up #127 is a Christmas story. It’s the night before Christmas, and Peter Parker is bringing presents to a holiday party with Aunt May and her geriatric friends. To get brownie points, he keeps telling the ladies there that they look like Elizabeth Taylor, who was a fashion idol to old ladies in the early 1980s. Much to his chagrin, these silver foxes wind up forcing him under the mistletoe.

Mr. Chekov–not the Star Trek navigator but an old beatnik–is very sad that his granddaughter Bette is missing. She was supposed to be in attendance but has been out of communication, much to her grandfather’s dismay. For whatever reason, Uatu the Watcher–a large alien that basically watches the Earth to record its history. He’s feeling the magic of the season, and has appointed Spidey to find Bette and save Christmas.

As an aside, I love looking at advertisements in old comic books. The best is a goofy Marvel comics subscription ad with Magneto, Doctor Octopus and Doctor Doom out Christmas caroling. What is even more amazing is the deal they are offering. Six dollars for an annual subscription. It gets even cheaper; the third and any other subscriptions you buy are only $4. That’s amazing.

It’s off to Brooklyn to find her. Apparently she’s gotten involved with a drug dealer named Buck who has a bunch of cocaine that they stole off of the mob. They’re on the run, and both Spidey and the mob have found them. While being chased, Bette drops a brick of cocaine into the snow, which leads to the mob gunning her down. But the whole scene looked like it was out of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

This is turning into the worst Christmas Eve ever, with Spider-Man standing over Bette’s dying body, scolding the Watcher for not doing anything to help save the woman’s life. Uatu decides to finally get involved in a way that didn’t interfere with his “observe only” life mission, helping stabilize her condition and directing Spidey to the nearest hospital. Better survives and is reunited in a touching scene with her grandfather.

The last page of the book is a monologue with Uatu describing what happend and how humbled he was that he could finally participate in the human condition, to the point that he was crying. It’s something when you can make a creature whose soul duty is to observe everything get emotionally involved. This issue was written by J.M. DeMatteis and it’s a great example on how good a storyteller he was.

This issue was a fun holiday tale and helps get you in the holiday spirit. After all, there are only 54 shopping days till Christmas!

Spider-Man: Masques

Let’s remember 1991! I just finished reading Spider-Man: Masques, which collects a bunch of issues from the adjective-less Spider-Man book from the Todd McFarlane era. And by judging the art and story in this collection, he’s already got his mind set in the direction he would take with Spawn.

That said, Masques features two stories set in darker, supernatural world. The first one has Spider-Man facing off against Hobgoblin, who is now a demon on a mission from God to rid the world of sinners. The plot gets a little wonky at this point, as Hobgoblin has abducted the son of a woman he murdered. Little Adam believes Hobgoblin is an angel of some sort. Taking a child is enough to get Spider-Man’s attention.

Ghost Rider takes interest in this for two reasons:

  1. Hobgoblin is killing innocent people, which always get his dander.
  2. It’s 1991. Ghost Rider’s popularity is at its peak and he has to make as many cameo appearances as inhumanly possible.

Our heroes wind up chasing Hobgoblin all over New York, with the biggest problem being that Ghost Rider is more concerned with killing Hobgoblin than ensuring the boy’s safety. The story ends kind of abruptly with Spider-Man stopping Ghost Rider, who intends on beating the villain to death. The story ends with Spidey giving a lecture on justice not necessarily meaning vengeance, Ghost Rider blowing him off and McFarlane getting to draw two issues worth of chains all over the place.

The second act is Spider-Man donning the old’ black Venom style suit, as he literally goes underground to investigate people disappearing all over Manhattan. It turns out the homeless people living in the subway have been feeding “sinners” to on-again, off-again hero/villain vampire Morbius to quench his bloodthirsty.

Unfortunately, Spidey has to inform him that he’s been fed people who aren’t criminals. Morbius is pretty upset about this revelation; he goes nuts attacking the homeless people and then runs of on his own, presumably to start his new solo series. Again, this is from the early 1990s, so it’s the second height of Marvel’s super natural hero popularity.

These stories really look like they could have been out of Spawn. The backgrounds, the panel layout, even the homeless people who resembled the Vindicator all show up. The ties between Spider-Man and Spawn aesthetically speaking are really strong.

The final story is a crossover with X-Force. You can’t get much more 1990s comic art then this, with both McFarlane and Rob Liefeld teaming up. This comic just might be the birth of “widescreen” comic books, as the art is laid out on the page lengthwise. This is pretty much what you would expect; its sheer visual mayhem.

What you might not expect is the story; longtime mutant terrorists Juggernaut and Black Tom team up some mercenaries in an attack leading to the destruction of the upper half of one of the World Trade Center’s towers. It’s very uncomfortable reading this story in a post 9/11 world, as the background imagery is eerily similar to the actual. I hadn’t read this since college, and completely forgot about this.

Spider-Man: Masques is a nostalgia book, for anyone who grew up reading comics during the 1990s. It sums up everything in comics at that point on the Marvel end: superstar artists, X-Men characters, supernatural plot lines, everything.  It might not hold up that well, but it’s a great look back at that era.

Venom Moves To Philadelphia

Finally, Philadelphia gets a super hero! Entertainment Weekly reports that the city of brotherly love has a new resident in Venom. His ongoing series moves from New York City to Philly starting in December 19′s issue #28.

This move is the idea of the series’ writer Cullen Bunn who is a Philly native.

“I found the City of Brotherly Love to be a character in and of itself that I thought more fiction should explore,” Bunn said in the previously mentioned peace.

“I’ve always liked that Marvel superheroes are adventuring in the ‘real’ world. Certainly, there will be some fictional elements popping up in stories, but I’ll try to keep it as grounded in the actual city as possible. It’s time Philly gets a little Marvel Universe face-time. Local landmarks, neighborhoods, legends, and history will play a role in the book.”

Being a super fan of the city, I think this is awesome. I love everything Philadelphia and will love to see it prominently featured for what I think is the first time in comic books.

Bunn said that the book is going to show Flash Thompson balancing his personal life with his responsibility of being Venom symbiote-powered black ops agent for the United States government. And something else about his new girlfriend Valkyrie from the Thor comics.

This certainly sounds interesting and will definitely wind up on my pull list.

 

Avenging Spider-Man #1

What makes up a “must have” book for me? Any combination of Spider-Man, Red Hulk, Wolverine and Spider Woman works. Or anything with Joe Madureira art. Better yet, combine all of that together and you have Avenging Spider-Man #1.

I’m also giving Zeb Wells some credit, as the script was awesome, too. This new Spidey team up series has our favorite wall crawler teaming up with the Red Hulk. The New York Marathon has been stopped by an invasion of the Moloids, and its up to them to stop the subterranean little people.

This uprising is a little bit different then the other times the Moloids have attacked the surface world; they have a new leader.

There’s a great scene with the Moloids taking New York’s mayor J. Jonah Jameson below the surface to find out that Mole Man isn’t running the show any more; a large Warcraft Orc looking creature rules the literal underworld. While this is going on Rulk and Spidey are fighting a monster that Jack Kirby would approve of. The art in this book is phenomenal; Madureira is just so dynamic and uses some awesome splash panels and two page spreads very well.

Sadly, Wolverine and Spider-Man didn’t appear to much in the issue, save for the opening scene with Spidey and Rulk having to go back to New York and no one really  wanting to spend time with them. What made this book so awesome was Wells’ well placed humor, making it a fun read accompanying the explosively cartoony art. This issue was a visual masterpiece and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

And to all my techie readers out there, I actually read this on an iPod touch and I have to say that it looked really awesome, especially the zoom feature which shows how detailed the original artwork is.

Amazing Fantasy #15

So let’s talk about the first appearance of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15, which I am so proud to have in my collection. Well not the original, but one of the thousands of reprints they’ve made over the years.

Anyway, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee launched Marvel’s most recognizable character with this. I’m not going to talk about the story, because everyone and there mother knows it. So why is Spider-Man one of the most enduring characters in comics?

It’s because his origin and makes so much sense. Superman is just a super-powered alien who feels he has to be helpful. Captain America is fighting the good fight, a holdover from World War II. Batman is just motivated by revenge. This was all expanded over the years.

But Amazing Fantasy #15 fleshes out the character instantly. Peter Parker is constantly bullied, but winds up with these amazing (no pun intended) powers. And his arrogance disrupts his life; it’s his fault that Uncle Ben died. Peter takes it upon himself to make sure no one ever experiences the loss of a loved one to a criminal.

The beauty is that you get all of that out of one issue. After you read this, you know everything about Peter Parker, his life, his motivations, everything. This just might be the best debut of a character ever.

Amazing Spider-Man #1

So who saw Amazing Spider-Man for the fourth of July? I didn’t. But I did read the first issue of Spidey’s ongoing series from March 1963.

Amazing Spider-Man #1 wasn’t the first appearance of the wall crawler; he debuted seven months prior in Amazing Fantasy #14. This first issue by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee sets up the tone and direction the character would take.

Basically it really sucks to be Peter Parker. He’s still grieving the loss of Uncle Ben, and him and Aunt May are dealing with some serious financial hardships.

In the first story, Peter get super depressed after finding out that Aunt May has been selling her jewelry and such at the local pawn shop. She can’t pay the bills since Uncle Ben was murdered, which he still blames himself for. Peter plans a stage show with a promoter to get some money quickly. Unfortunately for him (and leading to an absolutely hilarious scene) Spider-Man can’t cash the check because he doesn’t have a Social Security card. I couldn’t stop laughing about this.

As this goes on, we meet J. Jonah Jameson for the first time and he hates Spider-Man.. How much? Even though Spider-Man saves his astronaut son from cashing to his demise, the elder Jameson makes the cover of the Daily Bugle have the headline “This Newspaper Demands That Spider-Man Be Arrested And Prosecuted!”

With the public fearing Spider-Man, Peter will never be able to make any money to support his family.

The second feature continues this “must find money” theme with Spider-Man attempting to join the Fantastic Four. Unfortunately he goes about that the wrong way; breaking into their headquarters at the Baxter Building and then asking them about the financial compensation they get for being heroes wasn’t the best way to go about winning them over. This day only gets worse as he has to stop the Chameleon is masquerading as him in order to steal missile defense plans to sell to the Soviets.

What Ditko and Lee did in this issue was get across how much it sucks to be Peter Parker. Nothing in his life works out. It’s his fault his uncle is dead. It’s his fault that his aunt is just scraping to get by. He has these great powers and abilities, yet everyone fears him. Not only that, but he does so much to help the world and gets nothing to compensate himself. Yet he has to, as he is compelled to do so.

This is why Spider-Man is so likable; he’s down on his luck and anyone can relate to that. Peter Parker is an every man underdog. This was such a fun issue to read; it still holds up nearly fifty years later.

Where I Learned To Love Spider-Man

I’ve been a life-long comic book and super hero fan. But where did it begin? Let’s take a trip in the way back machine to the early 1980s…let’s say 1983. A toddler version of myself  encountered his super hero not in the comic books, but on the television show The Electric Company.

Just listen to that theme song. How awesome is that. According to my mother, I would sing that for hours and hours. It only got worse when I was given my first ever Spider-Man toy: an action figure from the Secret Wars line in 1985.

But anyway, Spider-Man was regularly featured on PBS’s kid show The Electric Company. The series was a kid friendly variety show that originally was made from 1971 through 1975, but ran as reruns way into the 1980s.

One of the recurring skits  was the adventures of Spider-Man (with that amazing intro song). Spidey would solve mysteries and fight crime. It may look campy by today’s standards, but as a little dude in the eighties, that was mind-blowing.

So thanks to this, I have a life-long love of comic books. All thanks to public television!

 

Spider-Island

Spider-Island was writer Dan Slott’s massive epic storyline from 2011 that somehow manages to be very subtle at the same time. The result is a fun story which has a butt load of fun. Peter Parker thinks that the least of his troubles is going to be Aunt May shipping off to moving to Boston when everyone in Manhattan–every day citizens and street criminals alike–winds up gaining spider powers.

So who is behind this arachnipowered mess?

Slott drudges up the Jackal (the green monstery looking fellow behind the ridiculous Clone Saga of the 1990s) and the even more obscure Spider-Queen. The duo has planned to turn everyone in New York into some sort of mindless spider/human hybrid that she conveniently has control of. There’s also two giant monster-sized spider creatures that are the transformed versions of Steve Rogers and Kaine (the sometimes villainous Peter Parker clone that has survived all these years).

As Spider-Man has to team up with the Avengers and the rest of the NYC based heroes to stop this, Slott does a great of balancing how this effects Peter personally. Peter’s girlfriend Carlie dumps when she finds out he’s really Spider-Man. He also has some weirdness with ex-girlfriend Mary Jane along the way.

The collected edition contains a few tie-in issues from the Venom series, with Flash Thompson having to balance his duties as a super hero with spending what little time he has left with his terminally ill father. There are also a bunch of scenes with both Flash-Venom and the Anti-Venom (the original host of Venom Eddie Brock now has a symbiote called Anti-Venom), and there is a bit of a weird love triangle between the two of them and the venom symbiote. Eep.

Ultimately the story ends with both Spidey and Anti-Venom being the heroes of the day, as the symbiote could cure Jackal’s mutations. The best scene in the story by far is when Peter records a viral video of himself encouraging everyone to use their powers for good and to not use them to loot the city.

Art on this was handles mostly by Humberto Ramos and Stefano Casselli, who I’ve been a huge fan of since his days on the Devil’s Due GI Joe stuff. I can’t describe what it is exactly  that I enjoy about his work, but it just does it for me.

Spider-Island was definitely a fun read. A great book to bring along while on vacation or at the beach.

Web of Spider-Man Annual #6

Let’s talk about Web of Spider-Man Annual #6. I remember getting this back in 1990 at a Caldor promotional event where they had some sort of special appearance with a guy in a Spider-Man costume and this issues was the “gift” for showing up. The cover may show a battle between Spidey and Psycho-Man but the best part of this annual was the back up story!

That story features a day at the mall with Mary Jane and Aunt May which gets interrupted by a gang of terrorists taking them hostage.

It’s up to the Punisher to save them, and with a little help from Aunt May he does just that. I’ll give you a small hint: there’s a fake heart attack involved.

There’s even a bit of fun trivia: this story is written by Gerry Conway and pencilled by Ross Andru. This is the same creative team that did Amazing Spider-Man #129–the first appearance of the Punisher!

The book has two other back-ups; one with Mary Jane on a trial jury and another about a baby getting the Captain Universe powers, but really everything in this book pales in comparison to the Aunt May/Punisher adventure. That alone makes this worth purchasing.

Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #14

Who better to write a comic about Spider-Man’s experiences as a professional wrestler than an actual one? 100 Bullets creator Brian Azzarello teamed up with Scott Levy (better known as wrestling veteran Raven) on Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #14.

Tangled Web was an anthology series that was about Spidey but didn’t necessarily feature the wall crawler. Remember how Spider-Man made his public debut winning money at a professional wrestling show? This issue tells the sad story of Crusher Hogan, the wrestler that lost $10,000 in a challenge against Spider-Man.

Hogan is a really sympathetic, down on his luck character. Against his (and his wife’s) better judgment, he still works for a small-time wrestling promoter out of a sense of loyalty. How loyal? He’s willing to mortgage his small house in an effort to bankroll a big show, highlighted by the main event of him putting up $10,000 in an open challenge to anyone in the audience.

By the end of the book you really empathize with Hogan and his attempt at saving the business. Unfortunately, the book ends with a young masked Peter Parker entering the ring and we know that what happens from that point.

Azzarello and Levy do a great job with making Hogan a sympathetic protagonist. He really wants to do right by everyone, and unfortunately we’re reminded that nice people don’t always finish first.

DIY Thanksgiving Parade?

Whether you missed the Thanksgiving parade because you were out partying late last night, busy cooking your thirty pound turkey or had to get ready for tomorrow’s RETAIL ARMAGEDDON 2K11, don’t worry. I’ve scoured the net to find some great clips of Thanksgiving parades of yesterday, with all of your favorite Ridiculously Awesome stars!

We’ll start out with this great clip from New York City’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from way back in 1940. About 1:30 into it, the first ever Superman balloon makes his debut. Two years into his existence, the last son of Krypton was already a huge cultural icon.

This clip is from the 1987 Macy’s Parade, which has all kinds of random characters that you would never expect to see in a parade, including White Queen and Luke Cage. Things get really weird when Robocop comes out to make an appearance, and Captain America has to throw the Hulk off the roof! Also, the whole sequence is choreographed to John Williams’ theme from Amazing Stories.

They brought out the Marvel Universe float again in 1989, this time in a really creepy dance number featuring Melba Moore singing “Holding Out For A Hero.” The less said about this the better.

Speaking of Marvel, it seems every year the Spider-Man balloon comes out. Having volunteered at the 2005 Boscov’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia by helping “pilot” a giant sized Pink Panther balloon through Center City, I can vouch for how difficult it really is.

1985 brought us the debut of the He-Man and She-Ra themed Masters of the Universe float. Growing up in the eighties, I can only tell you how awesome this was to a four-year old Chris. “Night of the Valkyries” was never this cool.

The next year, He-Man and company were back, this time with special guest narrator Dolph Lundgren who at the time played the role of our super macho hero in the Masters of the Universe film. Poor Dolph seems to have needed some aquavit to get through this script.

Anyway, I’m off to go play some Mortal Kombat vs. DC! Have a great Thanksgiving!

Politics of Super Heroes

Today, like millions of others across the United States, I’m heading out to my local polling station for Election Day. What if super heroes could Let’s look at the political leanings of our favorite super heroes. Information about the labels used in this article are courtesy of the Pew Institute’s political typology study.

We’ll start our examination with Superman, the first super hero. Ultimately, he’s guided by what he feels is right and wrong, so I think he would be extremely moderate when it comes to the ballot. He always wants to do the right thing, so I can see him reading and making charts comparing the candidates. The main factor in his decision is if it is the right thing to do.

Batman is firmly on the conservative side of the political spectrum. His advanced interrogation techniques, warrant-less investigations and physicality would drive the ACLU nuts! Not to mention the fact that he likes spying on people for no reason (the whole Brother Eye story) and secretly collecting databases on his friends’ weaknesses (in case he ever has to, well, kill them), Batman is a firm believer in national security over personal rights. When he takes the mask off, Bruce Wayne is a billionaire industrialist, so obviously he would be pro-business. Not to mention that he inherited everything through investments, so I would imagine he’s happy with the way the capital gains taxes are as is.

Captain America is the ultimate populist hero, so like Superman, he would be a moderate independent. He would never publicly endorse a candidate. Cap feels that feels that he is the self-appointed guardian of the American dream, so he would vote against anyone who threatened that. At times he might skew a little liberal economically; he’s a product of the New Deal you know! Captain America is also a strong advocate in civil liberties, as his defense of them was a big part of the Civil War event. For more insight into his political beliefs, look no further than Captain America #250, where he mulls running for president.

If you’re looking for a super progressive/liberal type super hero, look no further than Mr. Fantastic. One of the–if not the–world’s foremost scientists, he would absolutely go nuts listening to someone argue why creationism must be included in education. In the current Future Foundation book, he’s empowered a global task force of the world’s greatest minds to fix problems before they get out of hand. He’s an advocate of being a world citizen and thinking globally.

His Fantastic Four teammate the Thing is a bit more conservative than him. Thing takes pride in being a self-made man. What would annoy a 500 pound rock monster of a man? High taxes and ridiculous government spending. You try explaining to him why his tax dollars are needed to build a bridge to nowhere!

So what would everyone’s favorite Green Lantern political type be? Obviously Hal Jordan is too busy with his super hero business and personal life to vote. I would bet money that he probably isn’t even registered to vote. Well, he was registered to vote at one point, but that was probably so he could hit on some girl who worked in the city election office. At least that’s what post Green Lantern: Reborn wants us to think.

Meanwhile, Hal’s BFF Green Arrow is a well-known super liberal super hero. He is a strong advocate for pretty much all of the traditional liberal causes (just remember the Hard Traveling Heroes stories if you don’t believe me).  If he were a real person, he would probably pal around with other progressive billionaires like George Soros and Warren Buffet.

Hawkman is Green Arrow’s longtime political counterpoint in the Justice League. This winged super hero has been portrayed as being a super conservative over the years. He proudly supports the death penalty, is socially conservative and believes that people themselves are accountable for their personal success. No soup for you unless you work for it!

I think that it is universally accepted that Professor X is a card-carrying liberal. He’s a civil rights icon and a strong advocate against discrimination. He would be the first in line to stand up for Affirmative Action.

But Charles Xavier can never run for office, and it’s not because he’s a mutant. It’s because of his immigration scandal. You know the one I’m talking about; look to the right.He brought Colossus, Storm and Nightcrawler into the country 36 years ago with student visas–and they’re still here! Plus, bringing a known criminal illegally into the country in Wolverine?

Lex Luthor seems to skew towards being a staunch conservative. I’m not saying that staunch conservatives are super villains; just look at the facts. Aside from wanting to get rid of Superman and occasional thoughts of world domination, Luthor has been one hell of a business man. The DCU is dominated by LexCorp and its various subsidiaries, and as its owner/CEO, Lex would totally support any candidate who championed less government regulation over the business and finance sectors.

So what kind of political views would the Punisher have? Anarchistic tendencies aside, its anyone’s guess. He would agree to a certain extent with libertarians that the government is too large and ineffective, and that people should have more control over their lives. That works for him; he thinks the legal system is corrupt and spends his days hunting down criminals. Plus they don’t believe in gun control, and the right to carry a concealed Uzi or M-16 is something that is near and dear to his heart. But as soon as they start saying that things like drugs and prostitution shouldn’t considered crimes anymore, you lose him.

Spider-Man’s whole “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra leads me to believe that he would be pretty mad about the country’s current financial boondoggle. Spidey would agree with the Occupy Wall Street crowd’s view that many big businesses have been abusing their financial power. He would probably skew liberal on many social issues, especially education. As a product of New York’s public schools, and later a teacher there, he sees the importance of having a well run public school system.

Iron Man’s family has made its fortune as a military contractor and through inheritance and investment. Fiscally and defense, he is very conservative. But in some ways, he’s also very liberal. The employees at Stark Enterprises are treated extremely well. He’s a big supporter of global welfare and the environment, even if it’s against his business interests. Plus, championing the Super Hero Registration Act to create a new government agency to administer super heroes nationwide only gives the federal government more power. I don’t think you can pigeonhole Tony Stark to a certain ideology.

Happy Birthday Steve Ditko

Today we celebrate the 84th birthday of one of comics legend Steve Ditko! The ever-elusive creator of Spider-Man enjoys his privacy and probably wouldn’t want us to acknowledge his birth, but that won’t stop us from talking about some of his best contributions to comics!

Let’s look at some of Ditko’s better known creations.

You can’t argue that Spider-Man isn’t Ditko’s most successful project. Here’s a clip from an interview with Stan Lee where he talks about what he feels was Ditko’s best work from their run on Amazing Spider-Man.

Ditko’s run on Spidey was semi autobiographical

Over at DC, Ditko created the super hero brother duo Hawk and Dove. One peace-loving, the other war mongering, the Hall brothers made their first appearance in June 1968′s Showcase #75. Dial B for Blog has a great account of their creation.

Ditko also created the Creeper, an outspoken talk show host who moonlights as a psychotic super hero. Simply put, the Creeper is insane. HyperDave at Data Junkie put together a great retrospective of Ditko’s run.

Also during this run at DC, Ditko created Shade the Changing Man, a new Starman and the Stalker. I’m not going to go too much into them, as I really haven’t been exposed to them enough.

During this time, Ditko did some phenomenal stuff over at Charlton, creating the original Captain Atom and the Ted Kord version of Blue Beetle, both of which became key staples in DC’s Justice League International books. He also created reporter turned faceless vigilante the Question. Eric Newsom runs an invaluable resource on the character, filled with analysis, interviews and commentary about the faceless hero.

Ditko went on to create a more hardline, Ayn Rand influenced version of the Question called Mr. A. The great people at Dial B for Blog have a much better description of the character.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; there’s much more non-super hero work in his bibliography. Keep in mind, Ditko’s career began in 1953, and he’s still creating stuff to this day. He remains super elusive and doesn’t give interviews. If you would like more information about Ditko’s career, there was a great book Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko that chronicles his career, as well as the BBC documentary In Search of Steve Ditko. You can find clips on YouTube.

On a final Ditko note, when you research his works and his life its hard to miss mentions of the influence of philosopher Ayn Rand. At one point, he even pitched adapting her novel Atlas Shrugged to Marvel. So in a bit of Ditko magic, my work day began with me taking a pile of Rand’s books–including Atlas Shrugged–from the free book pile in the staff room. I think its fitting; if Ditko had a birthday party, I’m sure that would be his party favor of choice.