Tuesday, December 28, 2004


I've been going very slowly through the Essential Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 6 collection, because, despite the fact that I think these stories may represent the height of Spidey's comic book popularity, encompassing many landmark events (like Gwen Stacy's death and the introduction of the Punisher), and may well be the era during which most long-term comics fans were first introduced to the character (I know the first issues I ever read as a kid are contained in this book)... where was I going with this?

Oh, yeah, despite how popular and iconic these issues are, they are just horribly, horribly, horribly written. Gerry Conway has to be one of the very worst writers in the history of comics. And I say that even with the painful memories of Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man still poisoning some small corner of my mind.

But what's worse, the way Conway writes Spider-Man, Spidey comes off as a world class asshole. He's always snubbing his friends, insulting Mary Jane when she's trying to cheer him up, abandoning his best friend Harry, who's in heroin withdrawal and whose father has recently been killed. But what's more, rather than stopping crime, he exacerbates it, actively preventing super-villains from curing themselves of their powers.

In two comics released the very same month (cover dated June, 1974), Amazing Spider-Man #133 and Giant-Size Super-Heroes featuring Spider-Man #1, Conway's Spider-Man stops Molten Man and Morbius (respectively) from obtaining the potential cure for their conditions.

In the former, Spider-Man basically pieces together what the Molten Man has been trying to do (gather ingredients needed to recreate what originally made him the Molten Man in an effort to halt the radioactive decay of his body -- radiation which, by the way, is far more deadly than he ever was in his pre-decaying state), but still engages him in battle, endangering police and other innocent bystanders along the way. (In one scene, Spidey actually clobbers two policemen who confront him, sending them into unconsciousness with, "Pleasant dreams... creeps!") As the Molten Man's death approaches, he cries,

"I only needed time--! Time to reverse the deterioration-- but Spider-Man wouldn't stop hounding me! [...] Now you've attacked me, when I was so close to success! I had all the elements I needed to cure myself-- all but one, and that one I stole this evening--! If I'd escaped, I could have rediscovered the formula that created this accursed golden shell... I could have saved myself if it hadn't been for--"
And what is Spider-Man's thoughtful response? "Sure you could have, Raxton-- and my name's Santa Claus!" What a Spider-Dick. Oh, by the way, in the ensuing fight, Spidey throws the Molten Man's precious ingredients into the river, which the Molten Man dives after; upon hitting the freezing water, the Molten Man explodes. Nice. Real nice.

In Giant-Size Etc., Morbius, "the Living Vampire," is trying to reach Professor Ward, a hematologist who has "developed a process to completely replace a person's blood". Clearly, Morbius is seeking a cure for himself. When he enters the professor's lab, he says, "I've been in Hell, Professor Ward... and I've come to you to release me!" Enter Spider-Man, who jumps in, fists swinging, rather than letting the completely non-threatening, non-violent Morbius use the prof's knowledge to help himself. In the fight, the professor's lab equipment is destroyed, leading a stricken Morbius to lament,
"Ward said that without it, his experiment was useless-- [...] You've caused me to destroy what might be my last chance, Spider-Man..."
And Morbius flees. But it turns out the professor's equipment is not destroyed; Spidey switched out the real stuff with spare parts. He planned not only to prevent Morbius from obtaining a cure, but also to make him lose all hope that a cure might ever be found. And then he blithely allowed Morbius to escape. In fact, he must have expected Morbius to escape; if he thought he could capture him, the elaborate ruse wouldn't have been needed. Dude! What is the point? Rather than cure him, or catch him, you deprive him of hope and set him loose? That won't cause any trouble, I'm sure. Dumbass.

In the past couple days this site has been getting scads of hits from Johanna's Cognitive Dissonance. And I can't figure out why. I assumed she had linked to me (possibly to my year-end TV roundup, which seriously, that took a long time, do me a solid and at least skim it if you haven't already, and what, are you allergic to commenting?), but nope. No link, other than the sidebar. I guess she just gets a ton of traffic that also visits her sidebar links. Well, regardless of the reason: sweet. Hell, why don't you go check out her site when you're done here? Very nice comics reviews and links to be found there!

I'm a little hesitant to continue the top ten lists this week, because for one thing, other than TV, I'm not sure what other field I could really make a definitive list for. I could go through all the movies I've seen this year (like Monty just did), but 1) I haven't seen all that many, and 2) I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. I mostly saw mainstream, blockbuster-type fare. Even Fahrenheit 9/11 was a blockbuster of sorts.

Books? I doubt I've read many more than ten books total this year. (Exclude children's books, like the Lemony Snicket stuff, and I'm probably down to single digits.) I've been very lax about my non-comic reading. I still haven't read that last damn Dark Tower book! I've only been waiting for the conclusion to the series for twenty years; what the hell is keeping me from getting to it?

And speaking of comics, I guess I could cobble some kind of list together, but I think I don't read as wide a variety of comics as I should to make a very interesting list, and I don't really have the recall to single out specific issues or landmarks from longer than about a month ago. I could name Street Angel and Eightball and American Elf and She-Hulk and Ex Machina and Girl Genius and Fables and We3 and Scurvy Dogs (and indeed I will, should I crack down and get to that list), but I can barely remember what happened last month in Y: The Last Man, let alone recall comics highlights from January. I'm a poor excuse for a comics fan.

Hey, I think I may just have written my top ten comics list, right there. Counting Y... yep, that's ten. Welp, that was easier than I thought! What, I should maybe do more commentary on those titles? Okay, maybe I will have a list to post tomorrow, after all.

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