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Todd McFarlane’s Run on Spider-Man (Review/Retrospective)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Todd McFarlane is undoubtedly one of the best artists ever to work on Spider-Man. His take on the character is iconic and influential. He really captures the sense of Spider-Man as a character who should be unnerving or disturbing – a character who is part insect, whose limbs are able to bend and contort in ways that would seem unnatural to a casual observer. His run on The Amazing Spider-Man with writer David Michelinie is one of the most underrated Spider-Man comics ever produced.

McFarlane was working at Marvel around the time that the company was investing more power in its artists. More and more, artists were becoming more essential to the creative process – whether credited as “plotters” or “writers.” Jim Lee was wresting control of the X-Men franchise from veteran writer Chris Claremont. Rob Liefeld was writing and drawing on his popular X-Force, launched from New Mutants.

Holding it together...

Holding it together…

In this context, it made sense to allow Todd McFarlane to branch out and write his own Spider-Man title. Launched to run alongside The Amazing Spider-Man, McFarlane’s adjectiveless Spider-Man remains one of the comic book success stories of the nineties, selling 2.5 million copied on initial release. It remains one of the best selling comic books of all time, with the original artwork recently selling for over $675,000.

As with many of its contemporary artist-drive series, McFarlane’s Spider-Man is a compelling read. It’s a glimpse inside the mindset of the comic book industry, a snapshot of trends that were still developing. McFarlane’s writing might be a little over-cooked, his plotting a little weak and he may not have the strongest sense of theme or structure. However, McFarlane’s artwork is absolutely spectacular, and there’s something very fascinating about McFarlane’s attempt to write Spider-Man as a horror comic starring the iconic web-slinger.

A sting in the tale...

A sting in the tale…

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Requiem For a Genre Star: Michael Massee and Familiar Faces In Small Roles…

With Jamie Foxx in contention to play Electro in the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, I got thinking about the teaser in the middle of the credit sequence. In the small scene, a mysterious visitor confronted Curt Connors about what Peter Parker did or did not know about his father. He got a single line, and was couched in shadow. My less cynical side suggests that this was an attempt to play up the mystery of the character so his inevitable appearance in the sequel would make sense. My more pragmatic side figures that it was to leave the role open for the production team to hire a big-name actor for the character’s appearance in the next film in the series. That is, after all, why all the shots of Norman Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man were careful not to reveal any facial features. Perhaps they can be digitally reinserted into the first film when the role is cast next time around?

However, this short sequence is a bit disappointing, if only because I was able to recognise the actor appearing, only for a second, cloaked in darkness. He was Michael Massee. And I feel a little sad that this means he likely won’t be playing a significant role in the sequel.

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Stan Lee and John Romita’s Spider-Man – The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 2 (Review/Retrospective)

I loved Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man. In fact, I think it might be the most accessible Silver Age comic book that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. However, all good things must come to an end, and Steve Ditko left the title after thirty-eight issues. As such, the title went through a transitional period, with John Romita Sr. taking over the art on the book. Romita would arguably end up a much more proactive guiding light on Amazing Spider-Man, doing a lot of work outside the main title that undoubtedly helped cement the character’s place in popular culture. There’s a wonderfully “sixties pop” feelings to the issues collected here, even if they feel a bit more conventional than Ditko and Lee’s collaboration. Still, it’s easy to see why The Amazing Spider-Man is among Marvel’s longest-running books.

Reflecting on a fun run…

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Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man – The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

It’s hard to believe that Spider-Man first appeared fifty years ago. The character is arguably Marvel’s most iconic comic book creation, and his appearance and iconography is instant recognisable all around the world. As such, fifty years after his first appearance, it’s fascinating to look at just how much of Spider-Man is firmly rooted in the initial thirty-eight issues of the title, written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko. While I am normally quite wary of older material (Will Eisner’s The Spirit being the exception that proves the rule), it’s amazing how well Lee and Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man holds up.

Animated by Kerry Allen.

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Tangled Webb: The Amazing Spider-Man and Doing Twilight Right…

A lot has been made of the argument that The Amazing Spider-Man is a superhero movie for girls. Indeed, comparisons have been made to Twilight of all things, suggesting that The Amazing Spider-Man has been constructed in such a way as to appeal to younger female audience members. I think that’s a fair point, even if mentioning the “T-word” inevitably provokes fanboys to foam at the mouth. Gwen Stacy, as brilliantly portrayed by Emma Stone, feels like a much more central and important part of this film than any female character in any major superhero blockbuster produced over the past few years. However, there’s also a sense that while there are some quite conscious and deliberate similarities between the Twilight franchise and this “new and improved” superhero reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man manages to fulfil all these tropes and conventions without resorting to the uncomfortable sexism and stilted emotional responses that have prompted a lot of critics and viewers to so loudly criticise Stephenie Meyers’ vampire franchise.

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Non-Review Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man is a jumble of clever ingredients thrown into a pot, stirred for two hours and yet never managing to produce that ideal flavour. There are moments in Marc Webb’s adaptation that are fantastic, as good as anything Raimi brought to the best of his films in the series, Spider-Man II. However, there’s also simply too much going on here for its own good. Running for two-hours-and-a-quarter, the film feels like one-part origin to two-part stand-alone adventure, unsure whether it should it is trying to rush through the motions of one of the most iconic origin stories ever told or if it’s trying to bring something a bit deeper to the table. When it gets going, it’s a solidly entertaining piece of film that does try to do something just a little new with the superhero formula, but it suffers from the same identity crisis as its lead and struggles to really find its own voice.

Peter’s not quite on top on the world…

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The Amazing Spider-Man 101: Ultimate or Amazing…

Hey. With about a week to go until the release of The Amazing Spider-Man, we thought we’d publish a quick introductory guide to the latest adventure featuring the webcrawler, for those looking for a bit more trivia on the latest pending superhero release. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it and, while reviews are embargoed until Friday (unless you’re a major publisher like The Guardian or The Hollywood Reporter apparently), here’s the skinny.

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