Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spectacular Spider-Man #102 (Marvel Comics, May 1985)

Spectacular Spider-Man #102 (May 1985)Tuesdays and Thursdays, I update PC/MS. It's a web-comic. You might like it. I probably have no business having a... another daily blog, but I'm going to give it the old college try. Today, I'll try talking about a comic book. Which comic book? I have no idea. How about Spectacular Spider-Man #102? This comic book isn't part of any over-reaching story arc, really, nor is it part of any crossover, yet it's part of the mainstream Marvel continuity. Such things to be exceptions these days. Written by Cary Burkett, with pencils by... Larry Lieber? Well, shoot. Larry Lieber supposedly draws the Amazing Spider-Man comic strip, so this'll be interesting to see. I know he's done other things, mind you, but this is a chance to cross-advertise. I am shameless.

Anyway, the story is called "A Life for a Life". We'll see how this goes. It opens with minor villain Killer Shrike flying into a bank which has never known the touch of a criminal. He robs the bank, taking out guards, but it's only to keep him going until he gets a job. He decides that what he needs to do is advertise! However, he knows that if he makes himself too visible, then those superheroes will come down on him like a sack of hammers. As he makes his way home and hopes that the beings in Manhatten with powers far beyond the ken of mortal men ignore a bank robbery in the Bronx, we see a couple breaking up as it starts to rain. No idea if that'll have any bearing on anything, other than a segue to Peter Parker wishing the Osborns (in this case, Harry and Liz) farewell.

It may be worth mentioning at this point that Peter Parker seems to be channeling the fashion sense of Jimmy Olsen (click on any image for a larger version):Superman's Pal Peter ParkerAnyway, he hops on a bus from Jersey and meets Donna Gardner, who is moving to New York. As it turns out, her twin brother, Donnie, moved to New York earlier. Donnie, by the way, is the name of the guy who was being dumped earlier. I guess that bit did have a bearing on things, but how much of one? Considering how Peter is no doubt going to mysteriously hit it off with Donna and escort her to Donnie's place, probably a decent-sized one. As the bus ride ends, the pair say their farewells and...

Donna gets hit by a car pretty much immediately. Well, shoot. There goes my theory.

Peter dons his Spider-gear and he's off to catch the driver what done it. He catches him, finds out he was drunk, webs him to his car, and then heads off to find the ambulance carrying Donna. He switches back to Peter, finds out Donna needs a relative's kidney, and then heads off again to find Donnie. Donnie, who lives right across the hall from Killer Shrike. I don't see how this couldn't end well!

Spider-Man is busy trying to find out anything he can about Donnie's whereabouts, and to this end he breaks into Donna's apartment, goes through her personal belongings, and eventually finds Donnie's phone number. Unfortunately, Donnie is despondent over being dumped, so he's ignoring the phone. Eventually, he tears the phone off the wall and decides to go kill himself. Spider-Man is already off to Donnie's apartment, though.

So, sixteen pages into the story, we have Spider-Man swinging around town and trying to save the life of a girl he met on a bus by locating her brother, who is going to kill himself unless someone stops him, and who lives in the same apartment as a secretive super-criminal. Sixteen pages, folks, and nearly every panel is chock-full of story. Take that, decompression!

Anyway, Donna's condition is worsening, and Spider-Man is just finding Donnie's apartment. How he knows which apartment building is his, I have no idea. He's been web-slinging the whole time, and has only seen it from the air. Unless he can see the adress of the apartment building from two hundred feet in the air, or something. In any case, Killer Shrike sees him, and does his best Superman impression:The only thing that's missing is a phone booth.Yep, Killer Shrike is paranoid, which as we all know, makes him much more dangerous. While the two engage is super-fisticuffs, Donnie is still contemplating suicide, and decides to go through with it, writing a note first. In any case, Spider-Man runs out of web-fluid during the fight and lands on top of a truck. In a somewhat poetic turn, Donnie decides to jump off his apartment building. Spider-Man quickly finishes Killer Shrike, and then high-tails it to Donnie's apartment, begging the question of how he knew which one was Donnie's apartment. He notices Donnie climbing onto the roof, but pays it little heed. He soon realizes his error when he reads Donnie's note. He quickly makes his way to the roof, and tries to talk Donnie out of jumping. This proves effective, partly because Spider-Man knows how much life can stink, and also because of the danger Donna is in:In the end, Killer Shrike is arrested, Donna and Donnie are saved, and Peter waxes philosophically that, even if you think your life stinks, it's important to somebody.

I'll be frank with you: I've owned this comic for about six years now and never read it, so this was my first time through. I had no idea it was an anti-suicide PSA when I cracked it open, and I would have appreciated the message of this comic a few months ago. All in all, though, pretty decent. A good bit of decent story, a second-tier villain who gets taken out pretty easily, and the sort of personal drama which makes Spider-Man such an enjoyable hero. Best of all, it was self-contained. You could give this comic to some guy on the street and he wouldn't be left wondering what the heck was happening. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be thinking, "I gotta check out more of this Spider-Man" either. So, in the end, a pretty all right piece of comics.

Soon, I'll review the Spectacular Spider-Man from May 1995, and then from May 2005. We'll see what difference ten and twenty years can make.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Secret Origins

Wednesdays are days when I write Choose Your Own Blogventure, which you should totally check out. I will rant:

I've always been a Spider-Man and Batman fan, but for the longest time I refused to read comic books from either company. However, I've been reading comic books since 1990. What did I read if not Marvel or DC, you ask? Well, it wasn't Archie, at least not the main Archie books. I've nothing against Archie, but I could never get into his antics. No, I read Disney Comics. The closest thing to a superhero comic I got for a long time was an issue of Archie's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is also the only comic book I've ever lost.

My very first comic book was an issue of DuckTales, shown to your left. I read that thing ragged, and it's now a sad and without a cover. I also regularly read Donald Duck Adventures and Uncle Scrooge. As time went on, I became exposed to other companies' comics. My first real exposure to a Marvel Comic was Spider-Man, Storm, and Power Man which I got for free, and was an anti-smoking PSA. It also served the purpose of introducing me to Luke Cage before any of the X-Men (except, of course, Storm). I liked it, but not enough to do anything more than page through the occasional Spider-book at the grocery store. My first foray into DC Comics was the adaption of Batman Returns. Once again, I liked it, but not a lot. I still watched the old Adam West Batman whenever I could. Time continued, as time does, and I gradually branched out from Disney Comics and began reading an action-oriented comic book. That book? Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog, which is so far the first and only comic book I've ever held a subscription to. I also avoided the initial run of "Batman: The Animated Series" like the plague. I've no idea why I did that. It was quite foolish of me, in retrospect.

Eventually, an event occurred which changed my life: the launch of the 1994
Spider-Man animated series. Not only did I begin watching that show, but all the other superhero shows Fox Kids had to offer. What's more is that it left me wanting to see more of this Spider-Man, and so the next time I went to the grocery store (for a long time, the only place I bought comics) I sought a Spider-Man book. Unfortunately, at the time, I had an aversion to jumping into a comic mid-storyline and all the regular Spider-books they had were mid-storyline. Most of them involved the Scarlet Spider and various other clones, and I really had no chance of figuring out what was going on. Instead, I opted for an issue of Spider-Man 2099. It looked safe enough, and had the words "Spider-Man" right there on the cover! How could I go wrong? Once I actually read the book and was totally confused as to what was happening (except for one specific page where it was painfully obvious what was happening), I decided to wait until one of the main Spider-books had a stand-alone story. The issue I picked up featured one of the first appearances of the Phil Urich Green Goblin, and I was content, and decided to say "screw not picking things up mid-storyline". From that point, I picked up back-issues wherever I could, resulting in me knowing about ROM and the New Universe fairly early in the life of my new hobby. I started reading new comics in earnest right after Peter Parker started being Spider-Man again, focusing mainly on Spider-Man and Batman. This served me well, and then I just sort of stopped, probably because the friends I would talk about comics with and whatnot abandoned me and left me feeling quite hurt.

I would pick up a sporadic book until I graduated high school, and then I started reading them in earnest once again. Right now I'm in another lull, but I'll probably start reading comics pretty soon again. At which point, they'll cancel or radically change every single book I buy. Ah, and do endless crossovers, but that's a rant for another time. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nifty Book Review: The Science of Discworld

I was wondering what I was going to do for today's update. Then, I finished the book I was reading and thought, "Hey, I will review this book!" We'll see how that goes.

The book in question is The Science of Discworld, with prose bits by Terry Pratchett and science bits by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. The Discworld, for those of you who don't know and can't bother to look it up, is a flat world that rides through the space on the back of four elephants, which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle. Magic is more common there than any sort of organized science, and events there are driven by an inherent desire to follow narrative causality. While the Discworld has a cast of magnificent characters, this book deals with the wizards of the Disc's premier school of magic, Unseen University. This includes Rincewind, his Luggage, and the Librarian. Through a series of events involving a magically-charged squash court, faulty heating, and an ant-powered computer a miniature universe is created. Initially put-off by the universe's lack of giant turtles and elephants, as well as its tendency to put everything into balls, the wizards eventually create Roundworld.

Roundworld, for all intents and purposes, is our world. Utilizing magic and special suits, Rincewind (and later the other members of the staff) observe the Roundworld and try like the dickens to get some sort of intelligent life to evolve, and it's this sort of conflict which drives the prose bits of the book. Interestingly enough, Death never makes an appearance, though this might be because no new major characters are introduced and Pratchett didn't want to kill off any of the wizards.

You may be wondering why I kept saying prose bits, and where the science comes in. Well, the way the book is set-up, there's a chapter of prose, and then a chapter of science which relates (sometimes tangentially) to it. These have no formulas in them, and basically deal with how things got to be the way they are. Ah, and space travel. They're pretty good, the science bits, sort of like an exceptionally personable teacher who knows you're only taking their class because it's required.

All in all, a pretty good book, both for the Discworld bits and the science bits. It has Rincewind in it, after all, and he's one of my favorite characters from the series. Only thing about the book is that you have to get it from the United Kingdom, or get it from someone who got it from the United Kingdom, so it'll cost you about $10, plus shipping. It's worth it, though.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Modus Operandi

There's a few things I have to hammer about for this Blog. First off, update schedule.

Well, I'm usually up until 4AM anyway, and I'm in the groove of doing the Spider-Blog every night, so I might as well make it a daily update schedule. Easy as pie.

Now, the difficult part: what do I blog about?

I like comics a lot, and would sort of like to blog about them. Two problems with that. One, there's already a heck of a lot of comic book blogs about there, covering all sorts of comic books. Which is really only a minor obstacle. Two, I haven't bought a new comic book since April, for various reasons. While this trend is bound to change eventually, I also don't have the resources to get any number of new comics on Wednesdays. Therefore, all of my musings would be out-of-date by the time I get to them. I could just talk about old comics, of course. Sure, every single era and genre and character from comic-dom is already covered, but that's no biggie. Plus, any musing I had will be, by design, out of date but out-of-date enough that no one will mind. Done, then. Until I can buy new comics, I shall discuss old comics.

I also like books. Only thing with that is that my initial reading of a book usually takes a little while and I have no idea what the newest greatest thing is, so doing nothing but books with a daily update schedule is folly. However, I already decided on doing comic books, too. So perhaps I can comment on a book when I finish it, whenever that may be. Sounds good. I shall discuss books I read.

Video games are out of the question, because my friend and I are trying to do another Blog to just talk about video games. I spend entirely too much time on the Internet.

Movies, though? Yes, there's blogs about movies. Many of them. Plus, I lack video capture technology, so I'd be limited to talking about movies and showing no pictures of them. Well, when I can get that remedied, I will talk about old movies. New movies, though, which are in theaters? Those are fair game, because other than those dastardly pirates, no one has pictures of them yet! Except for the media, of course.

Television shows? Oh my goodness. Same problem with the movies, really. No video capture technology, but then again, you can watch television shows on the Internet everywhere and with the right software, you can just take picture of them right from the feed. I could probably handle a television show, or two.

Music? I have bought about five CDs in my entire life, so music is pretty much out.

I suppose I could also put in random anecdotes from my life, if I have one that's interesting enough.

So I guess I'll be talking about comics, books, movies, and television shows. Ah, and my life, occasionally. With that, I've completed my second daily post. Hooray! Tomorrow, perhaps some pictures. Spartan blog so far, eh?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Obligatory Introduction

I took a good long look at what I do on the Internet recently. Here's a list, for future reference:

At the Amazing Spider-Blog, I comment daily on a comic strip which always fails to meet my admittedly low expectations. I should not have low expectations for Spider-Man, written by Stan Lee and with art by Alex Saviuk and Larry Lieber. I feel like Prometheus, except instead of getting my liver torn out each day by a hungry vulture this comic strip tears out my heart. Also, other than an unsettling low-level pyromania, I did not steal fire from the gods.

Choose Your Own Adventure is a bit better, as it's prose. I can do prose. I can make it as happy fun as I'd like. However, the main thing about CYOB (as I call it) is that the readers choose where the story goes. They have a knack for choosing the paths which put the heroes of the story through all sorts of trials. It makes for good reading, perhaps, but sort of makes me sad sometimes.

PC/MS is a web-comic. I've been doing web-comics since I really got onto the Internet nearly ten years ago. While the comic itself isn't depressing at all, despite featuring genocide and violence, the fact that I've been actively making web sites few people see for ten years makes me sad.

I'm not sure what all of these have in common, other than me. I do know that I intend for this Blog to be about things which make me happy, rather than things which drain me emotionally and leave me depressed. So stay tuned, folks, for probably about two weeks of updates and then absolutely nothing.