Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Shameful Truth:

Okay. I have a confession to make.

I don't like Spider-Man. (It IS supposed to be hyphenated, right?)

I can't really explain why. I usually like under-dog characters and everymen. But something about Spider-Man rubs me the wrong way and I can't put my finger on why.

I know he's popular though, so I have a request. Any Spider-Man fans I have here reading my blog, please tell me why you like him! I'm hoping a new perspective will change my mind! :-)

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  • At December 16, 2006 10:50 AM, Blogger Matthew Perpetua said…

    I'm not a big Spider-Man fan or anything, but I have been known to enjoy Spider-Man stuff now and again (especially the old Lee/Romita stuff), and a lot of the appeal is in the character's sense of humor, the way you can either play him for angst or wackiness, often in the same story. I think people go way overboard on Spider-Angst these days, but I guess you've gotta court those emo dollars.

    Also, I've favored Marvel since I was 5, and he's the pretty much the lynchpin of that universe.

  • At December 16, 2006 10:58 AM, Blogger Doctor Polaris said…

    So, finally you see the light! It was as Polaris prophesized!

  • At December 16, 2006 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm not a huge Spider-Man fan but I do enjoy the occasional Spider-Man story. I think the attraction has mainly to do with his powers. I think they're really. That's about it. I can't stand his wise-cracking is obnoxious. That's why I usually stick to Batman.

  • At December 16, 2006 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't like Spider-man the way he's being portrayed now. It's a flagship character, yet writers feel this need to disrespect him. When I was growing up (do we ever stop growing up?), I used to love Spider-man because, despite his self-doubt, he never gave up --and he was as neurotic as a real New Yorker. I've forgotten at what point did he become the mess that he is now. What pisses me off about the Civil War mess is that it really shouldn't have taken him so long to realize that he had been on the wrong side.

  • At December 16, 2006 11:11 AM, Anonymous Loren said…

    It's funny...I LOVE Spider-Man, but I don't necessarily love any of his books that are out. In fact, I wasn't really buying the titles until Civil War started (and, even now, it's still killing me softly).

    For me, I think I'm in love with the IDEA of Spider-Man as this awkward teenage kid coming into these amazing powers. Plus, that red and blue costume (while sorta impractical) is still one of the raddest costumes around. I love the early stories (even the early Ultimate stuff) when he was just getting used to his powers and learning that with great power comes great responsibility. But, over time, too much continuity, I think, killed the character.

  • At December 16, 2006 11:15 AM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    Spider-Man. Let's see, he's intelligent, but not overly so. Combined with an interesting mix of powers, so even though he's strictly middleweight (and by DC standards, probably a lightweight) he can defeat just about anybody.

    When he's written well (and isn't that always the qualifier) he never seems to have everything running smoothly at one time. If Spidey hasn't been needed much lately, then his grades are up, he can spend time with his aunt, girlfriends, and friends, but rent is probably an issue because he doesn't have Spidey pictures to sell. When he's saving the day as Spider-Man, he's either hated by the public, or the public loves him, but his grades are slipping, and he's missing dates. It's a sort of ebb and flow that seems relatable.

    Plus the humor is a nice touch.

  • At December 16, 2006 11:27 AM, Anonymous "Starman" Matt Morrison said…

    Personally, I think it ultimately comes down to one thing for me.

    Spider-Man showed me how to fight back at bullies when I was a kid.

    I liked Spider-Man for his sense of humor. But I learned something from all that wise-cracking that actually holds up pretty well in the school-yard; the bad-guys can't stand being laughed at.

    So despite being a curly-haired, non-athletic nerd with glasses (hmmm, why does that sound familar?) I was able to keep from getting harassed too much because I was able to cut down anyone who hassled me. The weirdest thing - most of the time, nobody wants to punch the guy who is making the crowd laugh.

    I only ever got backed into an actual fight once. Somebody had explained to one particular bully what it meant when I said "I don't wanna know about your sex life" and why everyone was laughing after he said "I eat punks like you for breakfast".

    Spidey saved me again. I didn't know squat about fighting but I knew enough basic physics to know this guy out-classed me in height and weight. As as he was charging me, I figured that my one advantage was being faster and smarter. As he ran, I side-stepped at the last moment and stuck my foot out. He tripped and skidded across the blacktop.

    It was like Spider-Man fighting The Rhino, only with 14 year olds.

    He went to the nurse, came back the next day with stitches and never bothered me again.

  • At December 16, 2006 1:41 PM, Blogger Brett said…

    I go for the whole with great power comes great responsibility thing. Spider-Man knows he is no match for the Hulk for instance, but he will always try to get between the Hulk and the general populace because he knows he can take it a lot better than they can. It isn't that the others are weak, it is just that he can do more in the spot than they can. I can't claim to always do so, but I try to do the same in places where I know I can help out. I am never thrilled to be stuck there, and in good Spider-Man stories he isn't thrilled either, but he does what he can.

  • At December 16, 2006 1:42 PM, Blogger Filby said…

    I'm with Loren -- The reason I don't like Spider-man (or any Earth-616 Marvel) is that there's just too much continuity. It took me three years to figure out the Distinguished Competition's history and I don't want to go through it again with the House that Stan Built.

    There's also the fact that his life = Teh Suck. I don't like reading about people whose lives suck worse than mine. It's why I prefer Superman over Batman.

    Oddly enough, I do enjoy Ultimate Spidey -- it's the only Marvel book (other than Nextwave) that I read. Which is odd, because his life is as sucky if not moreso than his 616 counterpart.

    I guess I just like the Bendis Stutter.

  • At December 16, 2006 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Spider-Man is one of the few Marvel characters I really have an affinity for. (The others are the Fantastic Four, and I like to keep an eye on Daredevil, too.) It's the hard luck aspect of him that I really like.

    The early Lee-Ditko and Lee Romita issues are pure soap opera with superheroes thrown in. But my favorite dilemma -- part of the very essense of the character, to me -- is that Peter has to sell photos of himself to a guy he knows will do everything to defame him. He needs the money too badly, and any more reputable publisher would ask too many questions as to how he got the photos in the first place. So, whenever Peter's lucky enough to get great photos, his luck is alo turning for the worse because of who he has to sell them to.

    Man, I love that.

  • At December 16, 2006 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Filby, you like Superman and Batman because their lives are so much better than ours? Are you somebody who also likes to watch one of those Hollywood programs where they show the viewers how glamorously the stars live?
    I like Spider-man because he is a schlub who does the right thing... at all cost to his own welfare, physically and financially.

  • At December 16, 2006 7:34 PM, Blogger Elliot said…

    Spider-Man has a number of things that made him interesting.

    He was a textbook nerd, from the glasses, to sneaking around behind his elderly aunt, to being picked on by the jocks, to having no luck with girls (marrying him to a supermodel was a terrible thing to do). He was a scientific genius who invented his own web shooters.

    He had a very human reaction to gaining power. His first thought was, how can I use this to make money. He wasn't automatically filled with the desire to do the right thing, instead it took terrible tragedy to show him the error of his ways.

    He was scared. When he saw a powerful villain, he was scared, a very human reaction. His wisecracking and quips were the defense mechanism he needed just to be able to function in the face of mind numbing terror. This too is something that was lost along the way, as former fanboys started writing Spider-Man and lost sight of the reason for the quips, thinking he just did it to be cool.

    It is interesting, Spider-Man is arguably Marvels greatest creation, and yet when you ask someone to name thier favorite Spider-Man story, they tend to come up blank. Kravens Last Hunt is usually picked, but that story barely even featured Spider-Man, and could have had a half dozen different protagonists. On the other hand, most people can spend an evening rattling off their favorite Batman stories.

    I think the reason for this is people (specifically the young male people who tend to become comic writers) more closely identify with Spider-Man. Anyone can look at Batman as an awesome creation, and while you can say I could be him, if I just had the drive and resources, we all know that isn't true. He has a level of dedication or even fanaticism no real person could ever match. As a result, he maintains his distance in the minds of any writer. No one can really be him, so they don't try to be, and don't project themselves onto him. Therefore, authors write the hell out of him when they get the chance.

    Spider-Man still resonates with the writers. Anyone could get bit by a spider. They can still see themselves in him, so they avoid the trickier, unpleasant stuff like the paralyzing fear that made him real. Bullies no longer kick sand in his face. They tone down the intelligence so now he just seems a little smart. They have Nerd-Boy happily married to a supermodel, because who wouldn't be if one happened to be living next door?

    The end result is a character with worlds of potential who just doesn't resonate like he used to. I think this is why the Ultimate version is popular, even though those stories are just rehashes of old stories, he's a kid with real problems younger readers can sympathise with. As opposed to the guy married to a supermodel living a Kato Katelin lifestyle as Iron Mans guest.

    Spider-Man could have grown up well. He is a teacher, revisiting old classroom politics with him trying to mentor young kids and help them deal with growing up could have worked. He could have been an inspirational teacher like Roberta Guaspari, and he could have connected to a new generation of young readers. Instead he just tries to "out-cool" Wolverine.

    Boy, that was long. So anyway, yeah, there are lots of things to like about Spider-Man, but they are easy to miss these days.

  • At December 16, 2006 7:47 PM, Anonymous david brothers said…

    Oh no. Oh no, no, no.

    I... I don't think we can hang out any more :(

    I heart Spider-Man (it definitely has a hyphen!) for a number of reasons. He did the loner outcast thing better than the X-Men when it was his thing to do, he was my first comic hero, he was married to Mary Jane, and his comic showcased real change. Within the first 100-odd issues, he'd graduated high school, gone to college, and done tons of other things. Adding in John Romita Sr's romance comic-influenced art and you have a pretty good cross-section of awesome teen comics.

    I dunno. Even to this day, he's the hero who speaks to me more than anyone else. He's the ultimate everyman, to the point where DC has tried to emulate him multiple times (Firestorm, for one high-profile example). The soap opera Claremont was known for on X-Men was much, much more literal in Spider-Man, to boot. Gwen or MJ, who will he choose? WIll they accept him? What's the deal with Harry?

    In a way, the Marvel "style" was perfected while Lee was on Spidey, too. "This is your hero. He is just as human as you or me. He is not perfect, but he has the internal strength to overcome whatever he faces. He is an example to us all."

    Spider-Man's connections to his supporting cast and villains. Peter's father figure dies and is replaced quite quickly with Norman Osborn, his greatest enemy. Captain Stacey was another father figure, but he died, as well. There is a very real and permeable drama to Peter's relationships that work on a lot of levels. His best friend becoming his worst (greatest?) enemy is another good bit.

    Man, I am probably not making any sense. Spidey rulz, DC droolz!

    (On a more productive note, would you like recommendations for great Spidey stories? Kraven's Last Hunt is a great read that showcases both his relationship with Kraven and the fact that MJ is his anchor to reality. Paul jenkins did some incredible work with Spidey, particularly in Revenge of the Green Goblin. I talked about that on the blog last year I liked it so much.)

    (dc droolz)

  • At December 16, 2006 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Spidey is by far my favorite character in comics, hands down. I haven't been that keen on his direction in the past few years but I have to admit that I'm excited to see where they take him post-CW, although if they do kill MJ, I'm going to be mightily pissed.

    Aunt May, on the other hand, I think is way past her sell-by-date. She already had one great death in ASM#400 so I don't mind her going.

    But I digress. Spidey's the everyman. He's what Kyle Rayner was - the flawed hero with a crappy personal life. I'd recommend diving into some early Essentials!

  • At December 16, 2006 8:20 PM, Anonymous david brothers said…

    That was the other DC Peter Parker I couldn't think of. Kyle Rayner is pure Spidey.

  • At December 16, 2006 9:33 PM, Blogger Filby said…

    Filby, you like Superman and Batman because their lives are so much better than ours? Are you somebody who also likes to watch one of those Hollywood programs where they show the viewers how glamorously the stars live?

    No, I hate those shows. And I resent being characterized like that.

    And I said I like Superman better than Batman.

    What I meant is that I like reading comics as escapism. I don't read Batman and Spider-man because they're constantly wallowing in angst.

  • At December 16, 2006 9:40 PM, Blogger Filby said…

    I should add (and I hate double-posting, for which I apologize) that I don't really have a problem reading about characters worse off than myself as I implied, so much as I dislike it when writers constantly heap issues on characters and then have them bitch about it constantly. It's why I love Superman, JSA, the Wally West Flash, JLI, and Young Justice; and why I can't stand to read the Bart Allen Flash, the current Green Lantern book, or most Marvel comics.

    I don't mind it in high literature, but not in pop lit.

    If makes me superficial, then so be it.

  • At December 16, 2006 10:10 PM, Blogger Dan Jacobson said…

    Spider-Man is definitely one of my favorites as well, which is why I haven't been able to read any of the actual Spider-Man books that have come out in at least 15 years.

    I like that he's got his personal life and his hero life, and a victory in one doesn't necessarily guarantee victory in the other. There's also always something going on in about the first 20 years worth of stories, and not all of it is easy, and not all of it is stuff he wants to deal with, but he always does anyway.

    I like the fact that he always keeps going. He could get horribly beaten or shot or lose his powers or be completely exhausted from a prior fight and not let up until the bad guy gets stopped (though there are any number of superhero characters that's true about). He'll go up against a villain who is absurdly out of his league and basically stall them by acting as a punching bag until more capable help arrives.

    He also resents the hell out of the public for not appreciating him, which is funny.

    I think part of the reason that no one can ever really point to a specific great Spider-Man story is that he's written such that it all really is just one story. Kraven's Last Hunt is sort of the exception to that, and I know during McFarlane's run as writer-artist he tried to break it down, but that's where it really all started going wrong with Spidey, so maybe he just doesn't work that way.

    Lee, Conway and Mantlo are probably the writers whose work I'd most recommend, and Romita, Romita Jr. and Andru are probably the best artists. Seriously though, anything published after 1991 should be avoided completely.

  • At December 16, 2006 11:02 PM, Blogger Chris Sims said…

    I like Spider-Man becuase, when written well, he is the single greatest character in comics history.


  • At December 17, 2006 1:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like Spider-Man off and on. I think my favorite Sidey stories are the Peter Parker: Spider-Man run of Paul Jenkins. JMS early issues had me for a bit, but really, the mystic stuff just doesn't flow with the character.

    Never bothers with the classic stuff. No real reason really, I just tend to like to read current versions of Marvel characters.

    Ultimate Spidey I've tried and there is so much I can take with stories decompressed for the trade. I've read enough books like that and I couldn't support one more like that. Now I really don't even care to pick up the trades.

    I'd recomend the digests of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. It's basically becasue it keeps Peter limited to his appearences mask or no mask and you get an excellent story about him from MJ PoV. Really, it's MJ's book about how her life and how her she falls for Peter/Spider-Man.

    The classic cast is all there up Gwen Stacy—who just recently got introduced—this is the only Spidey related book that I read and enjoy every month.

    I think the recent Marvel Adventures Spider-Man books are supposed to be good as well.

  • At December 17, 2006 1:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    P.S. and why I like Peter? Because like everyone states, he is the everyman that you can relate to. It also gives you hope that you can marry/be with someone that's attractive and with a personality. That is possible and I don't think it takes me out of his story at all. Besides Peter is pretty cute and not ugly ;) hehe.

  • At December 17, 2006 2:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Spider-Man (essentially) = Naruto + brains - arrogance.

    His stories take the character into pretty different waters from the little ninja fellow, but the reader result is generally the same. There are charming moments, times of woe, and bits of inspiration, but the real reason Spider-Man is cool is that he is just fun to read. Ideally, anyway.

  • At December 17, 2006 5:01 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Thanks guys! I really appreciate your input. Not sure I'll ever be much a Spider-fan myself, but I'll give him a shot one of these days. :-)

  • At December 17, 2006 6:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kalinara, I recommend that you start from the beginning. The Ditko days (to date, the coolest Spidey artist). There, you will appreciate what he was all about.
    Filby, it was the impression you gave. I'm sorry.

  • At December 17, 2006 2:19 PM, Blogger The Fortress Keeper said…

    Spidey is the only super-hero that can stand next to DC's trinity with pride - mainly because he is the only true HERO THAT COULD BE YOU.

    And, yeah, even though 616 Marvel can't produce a good Spidey comic to save their lives there are still great titles like Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, Amazing Spider-Girl and the Marvel Adventures Line.

  • At December 17, 2006 2:34 PM, Blogger Marionette said…

    I'll second Anonymous there. If you want to see what's good about Spider-Man, go pick up the Essentials collections and start at the beginning.

    Spidey young and niave. Spidey trying to get into the Fantastic Four because he reckons it might pay well. Aunt May's life constantly hanging by a thread. J. Jonah Jameson. Flash Thompson being an unredeemable bully. Peter Parker desperately trying to get out of a blind date with his aunt's friend's niece, while warding off the flu to fight Doctor Octopus. Spidey having to wear a store-bought Spider-Man costume because the original is in the wash, and then it shrinks in the rain. Spidey pushing himself to achieve the physically impossible because it is the right thing to do.

    It makes me remember why I used to read Marvel comics.

  • At December 17, 2006 7:26 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said…

    Hi Kali,
    Mr. Reads is the drooling fanboy for Spider-Man, while I merely tolerate the Webbed Wonder. I enjoy the movies immensely, but that, I think, is due to good writing rather than character.
    That being said, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane makes me want to read more Spidey, as does Jim Butcher's novelization of an older, married Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Perhaps those two might work as an entryway to Your Friendly Neighborhood You-Know-Who?
    Good luck!

  • At December 17, 2006 11:17 PM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    I'm coming late to this; sorry.

    I'm no kind of a Marvel fan, but I think Spider-Man is a very well-conceived character. His secret identity is a sound and writable character, with a good supporting cast both personally and professionally, and his job relates to his superheroic activities.

    Plus. In superhero role-playing games they'll tell you that to be useful your character has to be able to do three things: move, attack and defend. Spidey's powers cover all of those, and they also give him a couple of extra advantages, and some versatility, and (best of all) they all fit into a single theme: spiders. And spiders are creepy, but not too creepy.

    So pile that on top of what everyone else said.

  • At December 18, 2006 11:39 AM, Anonymous matthew said…

    The reason you don't like Spider-Man is because the people who are currently wrting Spider-Man comics don't get Spider-Man. They keep talking about "Back to basics" when they obviously haven't read any Lee/Dikto issues.

    Well, Peter David might have...

  • At December 18, 2006 9:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wasn't for the longest time, mainly because of the mask. I can't connect to someone in the full-face mask.

  • At December 20, 2006 11:44 PM, Anonymous Nobody said…

    I haven't read all 30 comments so I don't know if others have mentioned this, but I always liked Spider-Man because no matter how much he got the crap beat out of him he always responded with a wisecrack, whether making fun of his enemy's costume or name or whatever.

    Physical force is usually the last recourse for someone trying to get power over another, and to mock them even as they beat you up renders them completely impotent.

    So for me Spidey is like the Tyler Durden of superheroes, kind of like Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. He's the ultimate anti-bully hero.

    That said, I haven't read an in-continuity Spider-Man title since JMS took over, so I don't know if Spidey is still like this. I was also disappointed that the movies didn't feature more comic insults during his fights, because when I was a kid (80s) that was his best feature.


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