Posted in Comics, Marvel, Spider-Man, Superheroes

Spider-Man! – The Horrors of Puberty

You’ve awoken one morning to find that things don’t feel quite right. You’re experiencing unusual feelings inside, something you can’t find the words to describe quiet yet. This sticky, white substance seems to be coming out of you. You just can’t explain it. You feel isolated and trapped, and yet you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about it. You feel like if you were to admit that something just isn’t right with you, then you’re putting yourself at risk. Exposing yourself somehow. Well, let me ask you this. Were you bitten by a radioactive spider recently? Because you might just be Spider-Man!

What? You though I was describing something else?

Spider-Man is a monumental figure in comic book history, and a pop culture icon the world over. First appearing in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. The figure of Spider-Man was first introduced to us in the guise of Peter Parker. An outcast, described as “midtown high’s only professional wallflower” [Lee & Ditko.1962:01] by his classmates and peers. Living with his elderly Aunt and Uncle Ben. Peter’s life is forever altered when he is bitten by a radioactive spider. He suddenly develops unearthly abilities, his body is changing, and when his uncle is gunned down by a criminal Pete let get away. He adopts a red and blue costume, and the moniker of Spider-Man!

Amazing Fantasy 015 (1962) asfafasfd

His creation in the 1960s is unique for the fact that the story starred a teenager in the role of hero, rather than just that of a side-kick. The resistance to such an idea can be seen, even in the fact that he was introduced in the final issue of a dying title. “The grand melodrama was offset by Lee’s snappy patter, Ditko’s stunning costume design, and, once again, the primary-colour palette choices of Stan Goldberg, who selected for Spider-Man’s costume a combination of cherry red and dark cobalt. None of these details mattered to Goodman, who cancelled Amazing Fantasy immediately” [Howe.2012:042]. Spider-Man’s status as a teenage superhero allowed him to connect incredibly easily with comic’s primary audience. Children and Teenagers. While other heroes, such as Batman, Superman, and Mr. Fantastic were heroes they could grow into, or look up to. Spider-Man was one of them. Perhaps for this reason, the origin of Spider-Man doubles as a very vivid, and descriptive metaphor for puberty. If an ordinary kid like Parker can get through it, so can they.

As described by Darren Hudson Hick in his essay, Horror in Long Underwear, “Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did the ‘50s horror movies one better, combining the horrors of radioactivity with the horrors of adolescence. In the event that you’ve sugar coated your memory of puberty, or simply forgotten what it’s like, for most teenagers every morning promises new horrors” [Hick.2006:09]. Prior to the inciting incident of the spider bite, Peter is considered the lowest of the low to his classmates. An ordinary, unremarkable, dorky kid, with a slight flair for science, but no real appeal to those around him. Particularly that of the opposite sex. He is essentially babied by his doting Aunt and Uncle at home, even dressed as though his clothes are picked out for him. A plain vest, shirt and tie, which is especially distinct compared to the more casual and colourful clothing of his classmates. Isolated from his peers even in appearance. The fateful event that lead to the spider bite, is even proceeded by a failed attempt to ask out, and being turned down by, his classmate Sally. Losing out to the clearly more mature and confident Flash Thompson. Basically, his transformation is triggered by an interest in the opposite sex.

The bite causes within him strange unearthly feelings. In the comics case, his Spider Sense. To others, he begins to appear in a somewhat more mature light. His clothing begins to slowly evolve. Showing more personality than parental constriction. Eventually, he develops a method of producing fluid through his own means. In the comics, this is mostly due to his own intellect, while in real life, this would be seen as the discovery of masturbation and self-pleasure. Both actions primarily involving the use of hand gestures. The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy [Raimi.2002 – 2007] makes the metaphor far more explicit when the webbing becomes organically produced. The organic webbing was also briefly adopted by the comic books in the mid-2000s. It’s undeniably clear however that this was no accident on the part of Lee and Ditko.

SPIDER-MAN 3

The first in Raimi’s trilogy perhaps compounds this the most, by distilling the origin down to its most basic ingredients. With the addition of the organic webbing of course. Peter’s sense of self-gratification and satisfaction is undeniable. Gaye Birch of the Den of Geek draws particular attention to the first films primary romance. Particularly drawing attention to the first kiss shared by a semi-masked Peter, and a now safe from harm Mary Jane. “Whose first mid-puberty romances (if we can even call them that) were much more than flimsy, faltering attempts at something most of us had little skill at, and even less courage? That a first kiss was experienced upside down may not be the exciting atypical take some would take it for, but have a plainer explanation: that even that kiss was half-assed and backward. Intentional or not, the way Spider-Man the movie tackled romance captured that aspect of the half-assed crap of puberty pretty remarkably, when viewed through that particular peephole. At the very least, all this gives added meaning to tingly sensations and great responsibility being a necessary companion of great power, (or risk creating little companions of one’s own)” [Birch.2010].

Hick compares Parker’s origin with that of Franz Kafka’s novella, The Metamorphosis [Kafka.1915]. In short, the story follows Gregor Samsa, as he finds himself transformed into a giant insect. His body changing, an inability to communicate, and falling into a deeper and deeper depression, until he eventually dies. His family feeling an overwhelming sense of relief at his passing. With Peter, his body does indeed change, though not as drastically or dramatically as Gregor. His inability to communicate stems from a lack of understanding as to what is happening to him, and a fear for what would happen if people were to find out. His resulting depression is that despite gaining these abilities and sensations, his overall life is going from bad to worse. A feeling that many teenagers going through puberty can heavily relate to.

When gaining these abilities, Peter takes on a whole new identity. That of Spider-Man. During this tumultuous change in his life, he reinvents himself as a quick witted, fast moving, colourful figure, who is above all, a MAN. He presents to the world an ideal version of himself, and his naming is a heavily conscious choice. As Danny Fingeroth states in Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society, “DC’s Legion of Super Heroes chose an adult name for themselves but most of its members has a ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’, ‘Lad’ or ‘Lass’ suffix to their hero names. They were independently functioning, but always gave the sense of being an after-school club, officially sanctioned by some off-panel principal or the PTA. They were an adult’s fantasy of what well-behaved super teenagers would be like” [Fingeroth.2004:145]. This new, carefree face Peter puts on for the world, is undeniably that of a man. While he goes through his puberty, he puts on the face of someone who has already completed it. To those around him, or those he’s saving, he’s not just getting used to his abilities, he’s not untrained. He’s confident in them. Fully grown. Though if they could hear his inner monologue, they’d realise he was just as scared and confused as any other teenager. “A teenager who nonetheless still feels he has to disguise his youth completely with a full-face mask and to add the suffix ‘Man’ to his chosen public persona – his advent was truly a status quo shattering event” [Fingeroth.2004:140].

Semiotics, the practice of studying signs [Chandler.2017], tells us that by simply hearing the name ‘Spider-MAN’ we expect a fully-grown man to be in the position. Had Peter named himself ‘Spider-BOY’ or ‘Spider-LAD’, he would be forever tied with the idea of a child. One that still needs to grow, and still needs guidance. The very image of his classic red and blue costume would forever embody the idea of a child, even if his name changed in time. For example, the first Robin, Dick Grayson, decided to leave his old moniker behind, feeling that he had grown out of it. In Tales of the Teen Titans #44 [Wolfman & Perez.1984] during the Judas Contract storyline, Grayson reappears as Nightwing, a name inspired by a story told to him by Superman, of a Kryptonian legend known as Nightwing and Flamebird. With this new name, Dick also needed a new costume. To simply change one’s name was not enough. The red and green costume still carried the association of the name and child that is Robin. A role that has now been taken up by several other people, all sporting a similar costume. These new Robins have no need to hold a press conference, or send out a pamphlet declaring themselves the new Robin, the costume gives it away. If Spider-Man had established himself under a younger sounding name, he would find himself haunted by childhood. A reminder to himself at every turn that he’s still not an adult. The last thing you want to hear when your going through puberty. Or even as a full-grown adult, reminded of struggles you’ve already overcome.

Amazing Fantasy 015 (1962)

Speaking of costumes, the fact that he does indeed wear a mask helps to compound his own feelings towards his age and status. As mentioned in The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction by Barbara Brownie and Danny Graydon. “As Peter, his concerns are emotional and intellectual (family, friends, relationships), but as Spider-Man he is devoted to his physicality” [Brownie & Graydon.2016:034]. The literal and figurative face he presents to the world, hides his fears and insecurities, while bold and heroic. Battling through this time in his life as though it was just another day, when in reality, he could very well be losing his mind, without anyone seeing it. Further explored by Hick, “an adolescent’s body is an out-of-control thing – changing shapes, sprouting hair, and forever breaking out in pimples. The mirror is rarely the teenager’s friend: just when he’s most concerned about looking his best, the teenager is cursed to look his absolute worst” [Hick.2006:09]. The mask not only allows him to hide his pain and struggle, but even the natural imperfections of simply going through puberty. A secondary benefit it seems. To Peter, his mask is also a way for him to channel his anger and frustration during this confusing time, as a hero in the eyes of others. A much-needed ego boost at a fragile point in time. “Through time and across civilizations, the mask has had much power and magic associated with it. African and South American shamans and priests wore ceremonial garb to perform their rituals, often with a mask as part of their costume. Clearly, the mask in such cases is not intended to fool anyone as to the identity of the wearer. It is simultaneously intended to make the wearer special and nondescript, the Everyman raised to the level of interlocutor with the holy. The mask is recognized as bestower of power as well as disguiser of identity” [Fingeroth.2004:051]. This is perhaps most evident in the film The Amazing Spider-Man by Marc Webb [Webb.2012]. In which during a scene where Spider-Man is attempting to rescue people on a bridge, he uses the majority of his strength to pull a falling car back up to safety. The only person left inside, is a young, frightened child. However, Spider-Man can’t reach him without letting the car fall. He tells the kid to climb up, but he’s too afraid to move. In the moment, Peter removes his mask, revealing to the boy that he himself is just a scared kid underneath. A little older, but still very much afraid. He throws down his mask to the boy, and tells him to put it on. Telling him, “it will make you strong” [Webb.2012].

Peter’s struggle to cope with the hardships of growing up, and his tales of navigating everyday life, resonates deeply with his audience. Through reading Spider-Man and following his struggles across multiple titles, the reader essentially experiences a form of catharsis. “Catharsis is a form of emotional cleansing, brought about by an indirect exposure to one’s fears and anxieties. Catharsis is not a matter of soothing fears, but of engaging them so that we can look them in the eye and walk away unscathed. Readers experienced through Spider-Man what they feared experiencing themselves” [Hick.2006:14]. This catharsis is particularly strong with teenagers going through these struggles, or children preparing themselves for it. As well as bringing back memories for the adults retroactively reliving their own experiences through the stories. In Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man series [Bendis.2000-2011], he takes full advantage of this by focusing primarily on Peter in his high school days through almost the entirety of the series run. Making clear allusions to the parallels of puberty, particularly when it comes to Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane, Gwen, and the other women in his life. Including his female clone. During the second issue of the book, aptly named ‘Growing Pains’. In the middle of class, Peter finds himself overcome by strange urges and feelings. Not helped by the fact that the art clearly shows his fixation on the lovely red head, Mary Jane. In a moment, his strength freaks out as his body unconsciously reacts, breaking his desk. Despite the knowledge that he has super strength, and could inevitably take down all of his class bullies, the moment still leads him to be the butt of their jokes, and an overall sense of embarrassment. In Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving toward Our ‘Optimus Prime’ [Carter.2007], J. Carter explains conversations with his own students about the book in question. “Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 1: Power and Responsibility (Bendis) is a variable metaphor for puberty and teenage angst as Peter Parker undergoes rapid changes in attitude, appearance, and social status. […] The older students often experience a time warp back to their middle school and high school days, which they say the book accurately portrays, and my sixth graders have been more than willing to enter into long discussions about how they empathize with Peter now that they have left the comfort of elementary school and have entered the “big time” middle school universe” [Carter.2007:50].

Miles Gwen

Spider-Man as a character has endured due to his ability to connect with his readers. His origin resonates with us on a compelling level, and while he’s moved on from his high school day. Now the head of Parker Industries. We still read through Peter’s everyday struggles with life. For a teenage perspective, we now have Miles Morales, the half Black, half Latino, Ultimate Spider-Man [Bendis & Marquez.2014 – Present]. As well as the alternate reality Spider-Gwen [Latour & Rodriguez.2015 – Present]. Even through 50 plus years of adventures, at the end of it all, Spider-Man is still an ordinary kid, trying to navigate the confusing feelings, and unusual biology of life.


  • Bendis, B. & Bagley, M. (2000) Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 Power and Responsibility. Marvel Entertainment: New York.
  • Bendis, B. & Marquez, D. (2014 – Present) Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man. Marvel Comics: New York.
  • Birch, G. (2010) The sexuality of Spider-Man and how opinions grate. [Online] Den of Geek. March 3rd. Available from: http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/spider-man/15464/the-sexuality-of-spider-man-and-how-opinions-grate [Last Accessed: 07/12/2017]
  • Brownie, B. & Graydon, D. (2016) The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction. Bloomsbury Academic: London.
  • Carter, J. (2007) Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving toward Our ‘Optimus Prime’. English Journal, pp. 49 – 53.
  • Chandler, D. (2017) Semiotics for Beginning: Introduction. [Online] Visual Memory. April 7th. Available from: http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/S4B/sem01.html [Last Accessed: 10/12/2017]
  • Conway, G. (ed.) (2006) Webslinger: Unauthorized Essays on your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Bendella Books, Inc.: Dallas.
  • Fingeroth, D. (2004) Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society. Bloomsbury Academic: London
  • Howe, S. (2012) Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Harper Collins: New York
  • IGN (2016) Spider-Man – The Lessons of Heroism (A Kaptainkristian Video Essay) [Video] YouTube. June 1st. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fO1sY_Dg-M [Last Accessed: 03/12/2017]
  • Kafka, F. (1999) The Complete Short Stories. CPI Cox & Wyman: Reading.
  • Latour, J. & Rodriguez, R. (2015 – Present) Spider-Gwen. Marvel Comics: New York
  • Lee, S. & Ditko, S. (2006) Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man 1962 – 63. Panini UK: Kent.
  • Peaslee, R. (2005) With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Central psychoanalytic motifs in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. PSYART: An Online Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts.
  • Spider-Man (2002) Film. Directed by Sam Raimi. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004) Film. Directed by Sam Raimi. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007) Film. Directed by Sam Raimi. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Suciu, A., Pedersen, M., Falk, N., Blomsterberg, S., Lucas, V. & Pecic, Z. (2013) Understanding Spider-Man: Your Everyday Superhero. Roskilde University. Fall 2013.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) Film. Directed by Marc Webb. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Wolfman, M. & Perez, G. (1984) New Teen Titans #39. DC Comics: New York.
  • Wolfman, M. & Perez, G. (1984) Tales of the Teen Titans #44. DC Comics: New York.
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Posted in Comics, Film, Marvel

Thor: Ragnarok – the film that finally got me to laugh at THAT Avengers joke

Contains spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok

Comedy is said to be very subjective. Something I completely agree with. What you find funny, may very well not even register with the person sat next to you. When it comes to comedy, I’m fairly used to being the only one not laughing at times. Either I don’t get it, or I just don’t find it funny. On the flip side, I’m also used to being the only one laughing. When Avengers Assemble hit theatres in 2012, I happily sat there along with hundreds of others. Excited to see what was the culmination of several solo films. Eager to see the Avengers finally team up on the big screen. I thought back to the animated Ultimate Avengers film. So eager to see a bigger, better, live action film. By the films end first time round. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was I happy? Was I satisfied? Why did it feel like something was missing? The only conclusion I could draw, was that the structure of the film felt a little off. It is, but it doesn’t ruin the film. After a few viewings, I happily admit that I like the film, and it’s something I put on from time to time when you just want to watch something fun.

After losing count of the number of times I’ve seen the film, and having seen it often in the theatre, I love sharing this film with people. That moment in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, when Ego reveals the fate of Star-Lord’s mother, is still one of my favourite cinema experiences of the past 10 years. That moment of complete silence, even with a packed IMAX screen. When it comes to Avengers Assemble, there are some wonderful group moments in the film. The audience cheering for the Avengers finally assembling. The gasp when the Hulk starts to transform. And the one I’ve never managed to take part in, the Hulk smashing Loki into the ground.

It’s a moment that incredibly iconic to the film. A rallying point for fans, and something, I have never found funny. Even on first viewing, I’ve never laughed at it. To the point that it actually used to bother me. On paper, it’s hilarious. It works great as a Hulk moment, and as a moment of revenge against Loki. It’s set up is great, the reaction perfect, and especially the timing. And yet I’ve never laughed at it. Until I saw Thor: Ragnarok.

Thor Ragnarok is easily the best Thor film. It’s incredibly funny, the characters are great, the main weakness of the film seems to be Hela herself, but even then, it’s a fun, action paced film. Though at moments, a few jokes seem to skew older than you would imagine. Not to mention a brief, but wonderful cameo from Matt Damon. The film contains multiple call backs to jokes and events in previous films, and easily, one of the best moments, is a call back to this iconic scene in Avengers Assemble. During the Contest of Champions (a cute call back to what is considered the first Marvel comics event), Thor and Hulk battle it out, with a nervous Loki watching on. In a moment of calm, Thor attempts to calm the Hulk down and talk to him, only for the Hulk to grab Thor and mimic the original scene frame for frame, while Loki cheers on. Screaming, “That’s how it feels! How do you like it!?” It’s a fantastic moment, and made the audience roar with laughter. Including myself. This was it, the pay off to a joke that never managed to grab me.

Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok is an incredibly funny film. Filled with laughs and great action pieces. When it comes to comedy, it is subjective. But just because you don’t find a particular joke in a film funny, doesn’t mean that it won’t stay with you. I eagerly await seeing this film again. I’m certain there are more jokes and references to be spotted, but even so, I’m eager to witness Ragnarok a second time.

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)

Film is available for pre-order here: Thor Ragnarok BD [Blu-Ray] [2017]

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Marvel, X-Men

In Memory of Len Wein

On September 10th, 2017. We lost a beloved and respected member of the comic book community. Writer, and editor, Len Wein.

Co-creator of Swamp Thing with Bernie Wrightson for DC, and Wolverine with John Romita Sr. for Marvel. As well as serving as an editor for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons with Watchmen. It’s hard to deny his impact on the industry. Having left his mark on characters such as Batman, Spider-man, Superman and the Hulk, Len leaves behind a legacy that should never be forgotten. The man who began the restructure of the X-Men in 1970s, along with Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, many children of the 80s and 90s have him to thank for those days of running around the playground, putting themselves in the shoes of Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, and of course, Wolverine.

Len Wein on Wolverine:

In 2009, X-Men alumni and comic book legend, Chris Claremont, had this to say of Len’s work on X-Men:

“The history of modern comics would be incredibly different if you took Len Wein’s contributions out of the mix. The fact he doesn’t get credit for it half the time is disgraceful. We owe a lot of what we are – certainly on the X-Men – to Len and to Dave Cockrum”.

Many comic book legends have taken to Social Media in the past 24 hours, sharing stories and words of kindness for the legend. Showing support to his family, and keeping his legacy alive. Len was known for his stories. His characters, and his ability to work seamlessly with both DC and Marvel. But above all, especially looking at all the comments from the people who knew him well. His kindness.

Rest in Peace, good sir. May your legacy live on.

Posted in Comics, History, Marvel, Review

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe (2012)

History can often be written in a fairly boring, and straight forward manner. This happened, followed by this, leading up to what you already know. Often, it can feel like a text book, forcing you to focus like your studying for a test. Even when the subject is something of interest to us, you can find ourselves feeling bogged down by information that feels flavourless. Almost redundant.

With Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, this is never an issue.

When diving into Marvel Comics, we find a delightfully well written book, that comes off as inviting and invigorating as a genuine Marvel comic. Presenting what could be mundane facts and events, as earth shattering moments in history. Culminating in what we know as modern-day Marvel. While it’s tempting to simply focus on the larger figures, such as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. Howe uses interviews, statistics, reports, articles, and a wonderful writing style, to breathe life into the mythical Marvel Bullpen, while shedding light on the cut-throat industry as a whole.

Covering a pre-World War II industry, right up to modern day Marvel, as part of Disney. It’s hard to find an aspect of Marvel’s history that Sean Howe does not cover.

While set out mostly in chronological order, the use of time skips or jumps in places, work to emphasise the importance of figures or events. Through it, you can gain a greater appreciation for Marvel, as well as feel a slightly different perspective on some of the figures or events. Stories from different time frames, or events within the comics, become stronger, when you begin to understand the reasons behind choices.

While the book may seem intimidating, given its massive size, with almost 500 pages. It’s manner and style make it easy to read, not only with how it’s written, but with the way it sucks you in. Engrossing you within the history of such an important company within the industry.

For those with little time to read, the book is accompanied by a wonderful 18-hour Audio Book that truly immerses you while on the go.

For those curious of Marvel’s fascinating history, or simply want something engaging to read. Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is a wonderful read. Truly worthy of your time, and attention.

Available here: Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (P.S.)

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC Comics, Documentary, History, Marvel, Spider-Man, Superheroes, Superman, The Flash, Video, X-Men

Spotlight on: Nerdsync Productions!

While the properties are everywhere in the 21st century, comics are still one of the hardest mediums to get started with. Especially if you want to dive into the mainstream stuff, such as Marvel and DC. With the use of the internet, you can make the job a little easier for yourself. You can look up character history, cool stories, and maybe get an idea of what you want to read. But it can still be over whelming, with nearly 100 years of comic book history. Enter, YouTube! Through YouTube, it’s never been easier for you to stumble across great comic book content. There are countless Comic Book channels, giving you brief histories of key characters. Run downs of major or recent storylines. Tips on collecting and preserving. Even channels doing fun comic related games, and dares. All you have to do is quickly type ‘comic book’ in the YouTube search engine, and there you go! However, these channels can start to blur together after a time. The same brief histories, of the same characters, feeding back the same information till you can recite it from memory.

Enter Nerdsync.

Since launching their first Comic Misconceptions video on March 26th, 2013. Scott and the Nerdsync crew have worked hard to deliver quality, fun and informative videos for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a well-read veteran, who can recite ever single Lantern oath from memory. Or a movie going fan, who wants to break into the source material. Nerdsync breaks down their material to be completely accessible to even the newest of readers. Beyond that, their choice of subject is far and wide. Giving nice little twists on the now stable Comic Book/YouTube formula. You want a history of Superman? Not only will they give it to you, they will go through the real-life reason for his creation, and the story behind that. When a film comes out, and every channel is scrambling to bring you a funny story or origin relating to the characters involved. Nerdsync proves their nerdy worth by talking about science, history, mythology and psychology. There is a reason why the Nerdsync slogan is ‘helping you grow smarter through comics’!

The show’s host, one Scott Niswander, brings a fun, passionate and energetic feel to the show. Encouraging his audience to get involved, create their own content, and start discussions. The show prides itself on its community of ‘loveable nerds’, banning together to help pool together resources, create on going jokes, and sometimes, just taking to the internet to spread their love of comics. Over the 4 years since Nerdsync burst on to the scene. Other shows and creators have taken to the channel, and added their own little segments, connecting to their own work. Giving us an even greater variation, to an already wonderful channel. We have Hass with Comicana, bringing us insightful looks at how comic pages work. Exploring the flow of panels, pacing and tone, using recent books, and well-known classics. We are given a dose of legal history with Joel in Super Suits, breaking down the insane history of comic book lawsuits. Not to mention the fantastic cameo and cross over appearances from the like of Auram, Ricky of Stewdippin, and Mike of PBS Idea Channel.

What makes Nerdsync stand apart, is its dedication to education through comics. In the world of academic, comics have a surprising and glorious history. They have been the subject matter when talking about so many real-world events. Including politics, genetics, physics, mythology, and pseudoscience. While these concepts, books and papers, may seem dry and none accessible to outside readers. Nerdsync delivers compelling, interesting, and outright fun material, that inspires and entertains the audience. It’s hard to deny the number of comics, characters, theories, and principles you will be exposed to, without realising it. And, you will enjoy every second of it.

“Holy here we go again Batman!”

Posted in Comics, History, Marvel, Spider-Man, Superheroes

The Legacy of Gwen Stacy

Gwen first appearance Amazing Spider-Man 031 (1965)
First Appearance of Gwen Stacy – Amazing Spider-Man 031 (1965)
When introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter Parker’s described as “Midtown High’s only professional wallflower!” We see a lonely kid, stood apart from the rest, dressed in noticeably uncool clothes. With the only stand out being the foreboding shadow dwarfing poor Peter. Something only we are treated to. A page later, we see him attempt to ask out the beautiful, raven haired, Sally. Only to be turned down for what is apparently the “umpteenth” time. Even after gaining phenomenal Spidey powers, his life is still a mess. He’s still a troubled neurotic teen, who can’t catch a break. Before the end of his high school career, he starts dating Betty Brant, the first girl who was kind to him. Only to break off the relationship because he doesn’t want someone he cares for to be hurt from his super heroics. Harkening back to Uncle Ben, and foreshadowing the rest of his life. We see him continue with his life, growing as Spider-Man, going off to college. And then Gwen Stacy walks into his life.

When we talk about Gwen Stacy, the defining moment is her death. Discussion of Gwen starts at her end. The reason for this is simple. She’s incredibly bland. She is wish fulfilment. As former Spider-Man writer, Gerry Conway puts it:

“She brought nothing to the mix. It made no sense to me that Peter Parker would end up with a babe like that who had no problems. Only a damaged person would end up with a damaged guy like Peter Parker. And Gwen Stacy was perfect!”

So if she was so bland, and the only interesting point is her death, than why do we still talk about her?

Writers and Artists, such as Gerry Conway, and John Romita, have frequently pointed out Gwen’s true role in the Spider-Man comics. Wish fulfilment for the readers. Peter Parker was created by Stan Lee to stand in for the readers. A nerdy teen, riddled with anxiety and problems. Even when gaining incredible strength and abilities, he’s still burdened by the same everyday problems as the reader. The introduction of Gwen, and later Mary Jane, was Stan’s way of adding a little light to Peters life. And there for, us. Conway describes the look and creation of Gwen as:

“It was basically Stan fulfilling Stan’s own fantasy. Stan married a woman who was pretty much a babe – Joan Lee was a very attractive blond who was obviously Stan’s ideal female.”

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Gwen Stacy by John Romita – Amazing Spider-Man 050 (1967)
When John Romita took over on the art for Amazing Spider-Man, his experience with romance comics, brought a stunning beauty to Gwen. As well as finally revealing the outright bombshell that is Mary Jane Watson. With Steve Ditko’s moody style pushed aside, we could fall in love with the truly stunning Gwen. We fell for her alongside Peter Parker. Meaning that when she was taken from us in that moment of tragedy, it meant something.

When Gwen died in 1973, comic deaths for heroes were rare. The most significant deaths in comics at this point, were Uncle Ben, and Bruce Wayne’s parents. Deaths that have not been undone. In a post Death of Superman, Blackest Night world. A comic book death is almost an everyday occurrence. Something that is almost certain to be undone in a few months to a couple of years. We would have walked away from the event with only the mildest of annoyance or empathy, taking to the internet to predict how and when the death would be undone.

However, it wasn’t originally Gwen Stacy who was up for the chopping block. Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, originally planned for Aunt May to die in this arc. Something that, to be honest, could happen at any moment simply by the look of her. It was artist John Romita who suggested to the pair, that they kill Gwen Stacy instead. As Romita put it in an interview:

“Yes, I’m the murderer.”

ASM2-Death-of-Gwen-Stacy
The Death of Gwen Stacy – Amazing Spider-Man 121 (1973)
The tragic circumstances of Gwen’s death, adds to her legacy. Being kidnapped by Spider-Man’s arch enemy, The Green Goblin. As the Goblin throws Gwen from the George Washington Bridge, Spidey grabs her with his web. Only for the smallest sound effect of a ‘Snap!’ by her neck to appear, as he catches her. As he pulls her pack up, he cradles her in his arms. Forever feeling responsible for the death of another person he loves. Gwen died never knowing of Peter and Spider-Man’s connection, providing an extra layer of tragedy to her end.

Our attachment to Gwen Stacy, comes in hindsight. Stories such as the beautiful Spider-Man: Blue by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, have retroactively given us more detailed, and touching reasons to love the blonde beauty. In Spider-Man: Blue, the entire story retells Peter and Gwen’s meeting, and their short time together, in the form of an audible letter from Peter, as he spends his valentine’s day felling blue and thinking of her. At the end of it all, her death brought us two things. An overly referenced but iconic death. And the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Both Romita and Conway have spoken about their feelings on Mary Jane vs. Gwen Stacy. Romita, the man who suggested the death, states:

“The reason I said we should kill Gwen Stacy was Mary Jane was an airheaded comedy character at the time. She was there to jazz the place up. She was not his girlfriend. His girlfriend was Gwen Stacy.”

Conway mirrors this by saying:

“I think Gwen was simply Stan replicating his wife, just like Sue Storm was a replication of his wife. And that’s where his blind spot was. The amazing thing was that he created a character like Mary Jane Watson, who was probably the most interesting female character in comics, and he never used her to the extent that he could have. Instead of Peter Parker’s girlfriend, he made her Peter Parker’s best friend’s girlfriend. Which is so wrong, and so stupid, and such a waste. So killing Gwen was a totally logical if not inevitable choice.”

The relationship of Mary Jane and Peter Parker came into being because of Gwen. The issue after Gwen’s death, Peter is distraught. He goes home, and finds Mary Jane waiting for him, having just heard about Gwen. He lashes out at her, arguing that she wasn’t sad, she doesn’t know how to care about ‘straights like me and Gwen’. He tells her to leave, not wanting to spoil her fun. And with that, their relationship starts, with the clip of a door. She closes the door, and stays to comfort her friend.

On the second to last page of Spider-Man: Blue, it’s revealed that Mary Jane has heard the entire story. That she has just heard her husband pouring his heart out to the deceased Gwen. Instead of resorting to anger or despair, she turns to him and smiles, simply saying:

“Will you do me a favour, Peter? Say ‘Hello’ for me and – tell Gwen I miss her, too….”

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