Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fifty Years Of Web-Spinning

Amazing Fantasy #15, featuring the debut of Spider-Man courtesy of writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, was cover dated August 1962. That means it was probably actually on sale in June of that year but as August was the month on the cover, Marvel is honoring Spidey's anniversary this month with Amazing Spider-Man #692, on sale this week.

I won't go into a long lecture about Web-head's history - with fifty years of adventures across various comic titles and across various mediums, I wouldn't have the time to do Spidey justice - but I will say that Marvel's flagship character remains my favorite superhero many years since I first encountered him on the children's show The Electric Company.

I'll also take a moment - since I neglected to do so back in July - to say that I really loved the recent big screen reboot. It wasn't perfect, no, but I think that in most respects it was the best treatment the character has recieved on screen to date and I say that as someone who really enjoyed the Raimi films - even the much-reviled Spider-Man 3! Raimi's original Spider-Man was solid for the time and it stuck to the comics in a commendable and gratifying way but it came at the dawn of the comic book movie era and ten years later, it shows. Mostly in a charming way (to my eyes) but it's undeniably dated.

The action elements of the new Spider-Man film are its weakest component (in this regard, Raimi's panache is especially missed) but the characters and the emotions are dead-on and as much as I liked Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, I much prefer Andrew Garfield's portrayal. And Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy is arguably the best love interest in any superhero film to date. I also loved how effortlessly Spidey's mechanical web-shooters are introduced. In the Raimi films, they were replaced with organic shooters because Raimi feared mechanical web-shooters would stretch credulity too much and it would take too much time to convince an audience that this high school kid could concieve of such a thing. In the new film, it only takes about a single scene to show the invention of the web-shooters and it never seems like it's asking the audience to buy into anything outrageous. Which, mostly, I think is due to the fact that audiences have become that much more accepting of comic book material over the past ten years. You don't have to work so hard anymore to get them onboard with the same stuff the fans have accepted for years.

I also loved that Webb and co. weren't in any rush to get to the fight scenes and special effects. It didn't feel like the film was ever trying to cater to the blockbuster crowd, which is pretty brave for a film that really did need to grab that audience as far as being able to recoup its massive budget. But it was really more about conveying the emotional quality of Peter Parker's journey than about bells and whistles and I appreciated that. There was a lot of loud grumbling in advance of the film's release about the fact that the origin was going to be retold and while I wasn't convinced going in that it was needed, the film won me over. I liked the tweaks that were done. They made it just different enough to not seem like a rerun while perserving the core elements of the story.

So, yeah, I liked The Amazing Spider-Man a whole lot. It got more than enough right to please this old-school Spidey fan, at least.

As for this week's anniversary issue, Spidey scribe Dan Slott takes things back in spirit to Amazing Fantasy #15 with Peter attending another scientific experiment on high school grounds but this time as a professional scientist giving a demonstration.

Of course, the famous Parker luck holds true to form and one accident later, Peter has inadvertently created a new young superhero - one who isn't cut from quite the same cloth that Peter was. As the story continues over the next issue or two, Peter will have to take on the responsibility of training this latest hero and something tells me it won't end well.

Luckily, Spidey himself is in good hands. Slott's tenure on Amazing Spider-Man has been exceptionally good and he looks to continue on the book for some time to come - even if he promises a major shake-up in time for issue #700. Spidey's movie reboot was a success and even in animation, Spidey's doing good with Ultimate Spider-Man on Disney XD. Some fans hate this cartoon for its irreverent and some say too-juvenile humor but all I can say is that my seven-year-old son loves it and I do too.

It's a safe bet that I won't be around to celebrate Spidey's 100th anniversay but it's an equally safe bet to say that the character will be every bit as popular when that date rolls around as he is today.


Unknown said...

Still haven't gotten around to seeing the new SPIDER-MAN film but I figure I'll catch up with it on video.

Like yourself, I remember ol' Webhead on THE ELECTRIC COMPANY and even the short-lived live action TV show but, for me, I will always have fond memories of watching reruns of the '60s animated incarnation with that insanely catchy theme song a trippy backgrounds courtesy of Ralph Bakshi. Not to mention some of the truly bizarre villains Spidey fought throughout that particular incarnation's short run.

Jeff Allard said...

I'm also a huge fan of the '60s Spidey cartoon, J.D.. I used to catch it in reruns after school and even if the animation wasn't slick, it was great fun with that unmistakeable '60s vibe. And until Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends came along in the early '80s, it was the only animated Spidey fix in town!

Anonymous said...

I loved the new Spidey film for all the same reasons you do. Garfield was fantastic and so was the relationship between him and Gwen. It felt real and genuine, something the Raimi films, IMHO, lacked with Peter and Mary Jane.

Jeff Allard said...

Yeah, I wouldn't want to slag the Raimi film too hard. They were, for the most part, pretty badass but they can't touch the way this film handled the Peter/Gwen relationship.