Spider-Man Part 1: The Legacy of Comics

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 29, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 99 comments

This game needed to have a different title. I know it’s a running joke about how many products are named Franchise Colon The Subtitle, but there’s a good reason for that. The alternative is what we have here, where we keep reusing the same title again and again. The title of simply “Spider-Man” was already used in 1982. Then in 1991 we got Spider-Man: The Video Game. Then the title Spider-Man was used again in 1995.  Then again in 2000 followed by another game of the same name just two years later. Which means that this new game is either the fifth or sixth game to re-use the same name, depending on if you want to pretend the 1991 entry is different enough from the others to avoid confusion.

Technically the full title of this one is Marvel’s Spider-Man, but that obviously doesn’t help us avoid confusion since all of the games were licensed by Marvel. I really wish we could have gotten one of those fancy colon-based subtitles like Spider-Man: Amazing Graphics or perhaps Spider-Man: The Swinging is Pretty Good in This One.

Also, it would be really nice if we had a clear way to differentiate between Spider-Man (the person) and Spider-Man (the game) the way we can clearly differentiate between Batman and the Arkham series. We already have books named Amazing Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Superior Spider-Man, so it would make sense to give this videogame a similar title. It’s a foregone conclusion that – assuming it doesn’t tank at launch – this game was created with the expectation that it would become an ongoing series, so long-term branding is important. They could call it The Splendiferous Spider-Man. Then people would still know what you’re talking about when you informally refer to the Splendiferous games, and nobody will confuse this game with any of the games or movies that came before.

Whatever. I’m sure we’ll muddle through somehow. It just baffles me how little thought publishers put into this sort of thing.

Why I Love Superhero Stories

I love comics a lot less these days. The dang things have gotten EXPENSIVE!
I love comics a lot less these days. The dang things have gotten EXPENSIVE!

I’m hardly the first person to say it, but Marvel’s [no descriptor] Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 is a triumph. It’s fun, gorgeous, occasionally witty, and very faithful to the tone and style of the source material. The latter item is actually a sticking point for me because I’m very ambivalent about comic books.

Since a young age, I’ve been keenly aware that we live in a world with intractable problems. People can often be cruel, greedy, selfish, stupid, reckless, thoughtless, arrogant, pushy, ignorant, and obnoxious. In short, there are bad guys in the world. Some of them are world leaders that threaten millions, and others are just petty jerks that annoy their coworkers. Nobody can really fix the problem that some people are awful.

Sometimes people do the right thing and get punished. Sometimes people do the wrong thing and get away with it. Sometimes nobody can agree on what “the right thing” even is. The world sucks. You can’t fix this by just punching the bad guys and sticking to your principles, but… wouldn’t it be nice if you could?

For me, superhero stories take the diffuse, abstract, and confusing struggle against the ills of the world and make it into a literal fistfight between a clear good guy and an unambiguous bad guy where I can enjoy the reassurance of seeing good overcome in the end. We create a villain to embody all of the evil and cruelty of the world and a hero to represent our collective desire for justiceAnd maybe just a dash of vengeance. and we have the hero punch the bad guy in his stupid evil face. I use these stories as escapist fantasy so that for a few moments I can imagine a world where you can defeat or forestall evil with something as simple and straightforward as an uppercut.

To me, the Joker is the embodiment of every criminal who engages in recreational cruelty. Arson. Destruction of property. Doxxing people for laughs. The Joker can’t die because the world is never really rid of those people. But through Batman’s story I can enjoy the catharsis of seeing those ills held at bay in a world where the lines are clear and all you need to overcome evil is strength and fortitudeAnd meticulous planning, and years of training, and billions of dollars, and….

Does this mean that comic books pander to a childish and simplistic fantasy? A bit. But that’s true of a lot of art.

I never gave Cap a second look as a kid. I thought he was for super-patriotic types and that wasn't my style. The Marvel movies have really sold me on his big blue boy scout routine.
I never gave Cap a second look as a kid. I thought he was for super-patriotic types and that wasn't my style. The Marvel movies have really sold me on his big blue boy scout routine.

There’s a bit of a tug-of-war within escapist fiction like this. If it’s too perfect and nothing bad ever happens then it’s no longer a world we can get immersed in. At some point you cross a threshold and it feels like the writer is patronizing you. As Agent Smith famously said, “The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from.” If the hero is too strong and too perfect and the problems are too clear-cut and too easily overcome then the lack of tension and conflict makes the story boring. Worse, if the world is too perfect then the story stops being a metaphor for overcoming the evils of this world and instead becomes a daydream about living in a different one.

At the other extreme you might have a story where the heroes are too physically weak, too encumbered by human frailty, and too morally compromised to feel like aspirational heroes. If the line between good and evil is too jagged to make sense of anything then the story-world just becomes our ugly flawed world, but with capes. The world is easier to believe in, but maybe less satisfying as escapism.

We all have different tolerances for how pandering we want our fantasies to be. For me SupermanTo be clear, I’m more familiar with Superman through the Richard Donner movies and old cartoons. I’m sure the spectrum of Superman comics is pretty diverse in terms of tone. often strays too far into the realm of a saccharine daydream and Watchmen is too far into the abyss of nihilism. Other people’s preferences are calibrated a little differently. For some people, even the conceit of “the hero will win in the end” is too indulgent and for others having a hero with basic human frailty is too dark. Thankfully, the spectrum of comics is incredibly wide and there’s a little something out there for just about everyone.

I don’t mean to suggest that superheroes only inhabit a single axis that runs from “Captain Mary Sue” to “The Frank Miller Vigilante”. People are attracted to comics by a lot of different elements. There are a lot of reasons we keep creating these myths for ourselves and I’m not suggesting that using superhero stories as escapism from the injustice of the world is the One True Way to enjoy comics. I’m just explaining why they struck a chord with me.

Why I Love Spider-Man

We're both awkward, a disappointment, and have trouble paying our bills. I'm halfway to being Spider-Man already!
We're both awkward, a disappointment, and have trouble paying our bills. I'm halfway to being Spider-Man already!

On the spectrum between “too saccharine” and “too grimdark”, Peter Parker’s Spider-Man falls right into the goldilocks zone for me. His personal life struggles give the world a bit of grit and realism as he realizes that being able to shoot webs and climb walls doesn’t magically pay his electric bill or make people love him.

You need a solid rogue’s gallery to provide the excitement and escapism to balance out all that the personal drama, and Spider-Man has one of the best villain lineups in the business. He lacks the strong singular matchupGreen Goblin used to be his fave foe, but I get the impression Goblin isn’t as big a deal as he used to be.I know Venom is really popular. But despite his iconic design and cool concept, I’ve never been into him. Maybe it’s just bad luck on my part, but I’ve never read a Venom STORY that was all that interesting. as you get with Batman vs. Joker, Fantastic Four vs. Doctor Doom, or Superman vs. Lex Luthor, but he has a large cast of notable freaks to tussle with. Most of those freaks are almost as old and as recognizable as Spider-Man himself. The Amazing Spider-Man began its run in 1963. Between 1963 and 1964, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko came up with Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Lizard, Electro, Mysterio, Green Goblin, and Kraven. Over the next few years they added Scorpion, Rhino, Shocker, and Kingpin. That’s a long list of really cool villains and also KravenActually Kraven’s Last Hunt was pretty cool. It’s just that that’s the only Kraven story I dig. The best story about Kraven is the one where he dies..

When I was young, I felt a deep connection to the character. In fact, those memories go all the way back to the beginning for me. I literally don’t have any recollections that pre-date my Spider-fandom. I certainly don’t remember seeing the character for the first timeI’m willing to bet it was the famous 70s cartoon., so for me it feels like I’ve always been a fan. Here was a character that tried hard and did his best, and yet he was always making people angry and letting them down. As someone who had a lot of social dysfunction and even more anxiety, this resonated with me deeply. Sure, Spider-Man was fighting bad guys and I was just trying to navigate simple day-to-day conversations without getting scolded or offending anyone, but the recurring theme of “Try your best, disappoint people anyway” made me feel like I had something in common with this superhero.

But while I love superhero mythology and Spider-Man in particular, I’ve never been a serious comics collector.

The Problem With Comics

Years later, this issue was used as a starting point for the Clone Saga, one of the most unfortunate episodes in the character's history.
Years later, this issue was used as a starting point for the Clone Saga, one of the most unfortunate episodes in the character's history.

Read the wiki of your average superhero and it’ll probably tell you a story that goes something like this:

The hero got their powers, fought some major villains, turned evil for a time, turned good again, changed their costume and powerset, fought an evil clone of themselves, retired, came out of retirement, fought a darker version of themselves from another dimension, was replaced by that darker version, did another costume change, died, reverted to the pre-darker version via time travel, fought their nemesis, died, got replaced by a perfect robot replica, fell in love, got turned back into a flesh-and-blood human by a wizard, consummated that love in a comics-friendly way, fought an evil version of themselves from the future, killed their future self, scorned their love for fear of becoming future-evil-self, retired again, passed the name onto a younger and hipper person, un-retired, teamed up with their former nemesis to face an even greater threat, died, and has now been replaced by that clone they defeated years earlier who has since turned good.

This kind of stuff drives me crazy. Like, who is this character at this point? They’ve been replaced with other versions of themselves and gone through so many twists and turns that you need a flowchart to tell all the different iterations of this character apart. The hero has undergone a major personality shift every few years as new writers took over the character. The whole thing is a fever dream of random disjointed turns and surprise reveals that don’t make a lick of sense in terms of continuity or characterization.

This is not because comics writers are dumb! In fact, some of them are incredibly inventive and talented. The problem (assuming it is a problem for you) is that this is how the comics business works. It has to. I loved my 1970s Spider-Man comics, and for me those will always represent my One True Version of the characterAlthough I really prefer the modern eye shape and dislike the old eyes shaped like bent teardrops.. But comics are a business and you can’t stay in business by telling the exact same story over and over again for sixty years. Every time Spidey and Electro face off there needs to be a new twist to keep it interesting. You need to update the look of the character as the decades go by to avoid them looking weirdly anachronistic in a modern setting. You need to do surprise reveals and shocking turns to keep the fans guessing and create all those tantalizing covers that compel the next generation of fans to pick up the book.

I have a personal preference for stories with clear arcs, sharp characters, strong themes, big finales, and satisfying closure. None of those elements are possible in a story that by design needs to regularly pass from one writer to the next and can’t ever reach anything resembling a conclusion.

Maybe a hero has a strong sci-fi vibe, but not every writer will be interested in sci-fi. Sooner or later your science fiction character will get mixed in with wizardsI always thought that sci-fi Iron Man and the Chinese space wizard the Mandarin was an odd choice for a default matchup., ninjas, werewolves, Greek gods, space aliens, pro wrestlers, a demon, an undead monster, a genie, ex-military assassins, a coven of sexy witches, a ghost, a cosmic horror, and some giant robots. The character may have started out with some sort of science fiction-theme, but after a few decades their world will be a kitchen-sink mess of random tropes, just like all the other superheroes. Maybe you dig this cool mixtape of wild ideas and watching how these different genres of fiction bounce off of each other, or maybe you’re like me and this hodgepodge feels like a stew made of chicken, ice cream, watermelon, and toothpaste. It doesn’t matter. This is just how it works. If you can’t handle a little weirdness, then comic books are probably not for you.

The Problem With Me

I've decided to quit being Spider-Man and dedicate my life to being a loser full-time.
I've decided to quit being Spider-Man and dedicate my life to being a loser full-time.

I want to stress that I don’t think comic books are bad because they tell endless stories with inconsistent charactersThat is, inconsistent on a macro scale. Within the run of a single writer we can usually count on a character being true to a particular version of themselves. where the stakes are diminished because major plot turns are constantly being undone.  That frustrates me sometimes, but it’s a necessity of the medium. In fact, a lot of people enjoy comics specifically because they’re structured like an endless freeform improv. You can enjoy seeing major events like deaths and allegiance changes without needing to change genres or bring the story to a close. The writer can give us “The Death of Jimmy Sidekick!” storyline, and then a few issues later they can bring Jimmy back to life and we can continue to enjoy having Jimmy around.

This system will allow you to have your cake and eat it, provided you can roll with the weird twists and you’re not the sort to get bogged down with questions like, “If Doctor Invento can use the life-ray to resurrect Jimmy, then why can’t he use it to X?”  I’m the sort of person who literally can’t help thinking about X, so these kinds of twists often drive me away from the comics.

During my Grand Theft Auto V retrospective I was careful to make it clear that I wasn’t faulting the game because it broke from the three act story structure. I faulted it because the structure it did have didn’t work. There wasn’t a strong threat driving the action, we were rarely given a reason to care about a character beyond, “this person is a main character”, and the story was a tangle of mostly-disconnected plot threads that always seemed to be getting in each other’s way. The problem isn’t really the structure, it’s the lack of emotional connectionAlthough changing the structure is often one of the ways you can remedy these sorts of problems.. Comics don’t follow the three-act structure, and they often do a really good job of making us care about characters and establishing clear threats. That is, unless you’re like me and you find the overarching plot of constant deaths and resurrections to be weird enough to put you off the issue-to-issue drama.

Ripped From the Comics

It's not really RIPPED from the comics. It's actually licensed.
It's not really RIPPED from the comics. It's actually licensed.

All of this means I’m a huge fan of superhero myths but I don’t care for comic books as a medium. That’s a really strange place to be as a fan. That’s like being someone who loves big-budget action movies but hates celebrities. What’s the matter with you? Are you trying to be unhappy?

I consider myself a bit of a Spider-Man fanboy, but I’m mostly disconnected from what the character is up to these days and what’s happened in the story over the last quarter century. I bring this up because this game is very clearly drawing from comic books in terms of structure. Spider-Man 2018 isn’t trying to be a movie, it’s trying to be a dozen or so issues of a comic. It’s got a lot of the “weird stuff” I complained about above. Some characters die, even though I really feel they’re central to the mythology. Some major events happen with little justification and their ramifications aren’t really explored enough for my tastes.

I want to make it clear that I’m going to do what I can to not hold this sort of thing against it. It’s hard to review a hamburger if you don’t like eating hamburgers, but at the very least you shouldn’t fault it for being a hamburger. I’ll do my best to be fair to what the story is trying to accomplish, but I’m also an old-school Spidey purist who likes self-contained story arcs, so a lot of my preferences and biases are bound to sneak into this review. Adjust your expectations accordingly. Just remember that regardless of my gripes, this is still one of my favorite games and I consider it to be an instant classic.

Next week we’ll begin the now-familiar routine of working our way through the story while stopping to analyze the gameplay at opportune moments. We’re also going to occasionally stop and talk about the long-running mythology of the character and the challenges inherent to adapting such a sprawling work to such a constrained medium.

 

Footnotes:

[1] And maybe just a dash of vengeance.

[2] And meticulous planning, and years of training, and billions of dollars, and…

[3] To be clear, I’m more familiar with Superman through the Richard Donner movies and old cartoons. I’m sure the spectrum of Superman comics is pretty diverse in terms of tone.

[4] Green Goblin used to be his fave foe, but I get the impression Goblin isn’t as big a deal as he used to be.

[5] I know Venom is really popular. But despite his iconic design and cool concept, I’ve never been into him. Maybe it’s just bad luck on my part, but I’ve never read a Venom STORY that was all that interesting.

[6] Actually Kraven’s Last Hunt was pretty cool. It’s just that that’s the only Kraven story I dig. The best story about Kraven is the one where he dies.

[7] I’m willing to bet it was the famous 70s cartoon.

[8] Although I really prefer the modern eye shape and dislike the old eyes shaped like bent teardrops.

[9] I always thought that sci-fi Iron Man and the Chinese space wizard the Mandarin was an odd choice for a default matchup.

[10] That is, inconsistent on a macro scale. Within the run of a single writer we can usually count on a character being true to a particular version of themselves.

[11] Although changing the structure is often one of the ways you can remedy these sorts of problems.



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99 thoughts on “Spider-Man Part 1: The Legacy of Comics

  1. Jabberwok says:

    Can’t speak to this particular game, but what the lack of a subtitle usually communicates to me is that the product has no hook to differentiate itself, which means it’s unlikely to bring in any new ideas. Like every super hero reboot that’s only interested in telling the same origin story over and over, but with a younger actor.

    The Arkham games have done a great job of maintaining their own identity while still being totally Batman, and that starts with the title.

    1. Isaac says:

      This take isn’t accurate at all

    2. noga says:

      I think in a way you’re correct. it’s trying to be the pure, vannila version of the thing, without any gimmick or specificity.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        I think it’s better to think of it as the definitive version, at least for now, than the vanilla version. And you know what? After the Clone Saga, One More Day etc, give me vanilla Spiderman over whatever newfangled idea that mangles his character.

        Just as 70’s Spiderman is THE Spiderman for Shamus, and 90’s cartoon Spiderman is THE Spiderman for me, I think it’s an attempt to create significance for this specific version. It’s kind of like trying to set an association that will serve as a cornerstone for future nostalgia, even if it’s unintentional. Adding a prefix or even a subtitle denotes deviation from the ‘true’ Spiderman – and also might confuse some into thinking that it’s a continuation of a story and not the first entry.

        Of course, it doesn’t really work because we’ve had so many spidermen, including MCU Spiderman who probably is THE Spiderman of the moment, But I think this is THE Spiderman of videogames, probably of all time.

        The obvious reasoning that Shamus missed is that the internet complaining of nitpickers (justified or otherwise) is like a turd in the wind compared to the almighty power of branding. Clear, concise, simple, definitive – that’s what Spider-man is that ‘Splendiferous Spider-Man’ just isn’t.

    3. Zak McKracken says:

      It’s either that, or the authors want this game to be the definite one. This time, for sure! There’s others with the same name, but this will be the only one anyone is going to remember, so the other ones should go and change their names!

      It’s also in keeping with the deth/resurrection/evil twin thing that Shamus talks about: Yeah, it has the same name but it’s also completely different :)

  2. Yerushalmi says:

    I dislike comic books for many of the same reasons you do. (The only comic book series I was ever able to get into was Exiles, because it had a rotating cast of characters to avoid the sort of continuity snarl you described – until one day it started sucking.) But we clearly aren’t alone. The ridiculous popularity of the MCU seems to imply that there is actually quite a large number of “huge fans of superhero myths who don’t care for comic books as a medium”.

    1. Jabberwok says:

      I liked comics as a kid, but I always thought super heroes were kind of stupid. Of course, I mostly grew up on Image comics, which meant a lot of anti-heroes and stories about nihilistic losers. Or the Marvel story arcs where everyone dies…

      I dunno, maybe that constitutes escapism for a sheltered suburban kid.

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      On a more personal note, I really loved the setting, themes, worldbuilding elements and potential story hooks of the Animorphs, but I would never ever recommend it to anyone because it’s poorly structured, with tons of interesting characters and concepts showing up one book and then never appearing again, and a severe “none of this matters because you’ll all be back to your high school status quo by the end of the week” syndrome.

      Which is why I love Animorphs: The Reckoning, probably for the same reasons Shamus likes the MCU.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        I’m kind of the same with Power Rangers. I find the shows to be often poorly made, poorly acted, poorly written and porrly shot/edited. But I also find them fascinating from a creative perspctive, and when they do something great, it’s all the more enjoyable for me (in a meta sense more than anything else) because it’s succeeded in spite of the many limitations it’s made under.

        And that’s probably why the more mature Shattered Grid comic storyline is so popular, just as I like everything about comic book stories apart from the, you know, comic book part.

        Some stories are better to think and talk about than they are to experience as normal viewers. It’s weird to think of that but I’d think that’s kind of self evident, given where we are.

    3. Ditto for me. The mythos of comic books is one of the few places where unabashedly Romantic art is accessible to the young. You can also find it in genre fiction, but that doesn’t tend to be as accessible to young people these days.

      1. Imma do a lengthy Ayn Rand quote that I think is apropos. Feel free to ignore, it’s not directed as any sort of criticism at anyone in particular. From “Art and Moral Treason” in The Romantic Manifesto

        Man is a being of self-made soul–which means that his character is formed by his basic premises, particularly by his basic value-premises. In the crucial, formative years of his life–in childhood and adolescence–Romantic art is his major (and, today, his only) source of a moral sense of life. (In later years, Romantic art is often his only experience of it.)

        Please note that art is not his only source of morality, but of a moral sense of life. This requires careful differentiation.

        A “sense of life” is a preconceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence. Morality is an abstract, conceptual code of values and principles.

        The process of a child’s development consists of acquiring knowledge, which requires the development of his capacity to grasp and deal with an ever-widening range of abstractions. This involves the growth of two interrelated but different chains of abstractions, two hierarchical structures of concepts, which should be integrated, but seldom are: the cognitive and the normative. The first deals with knowledge of the facts of reality–the second, with the evaluation of these facts. The first forms the epistemological foundation of science–the second, of morality and art.

        In today’s culture, the development of a child’s cognitive abstractions is assisted to some minimal extent, even if ineptly, half-heartedly, with many hampering, crippling obstacles (such as anti-rational doctrines and crippling obstacles which, today, are growing worse). But the development of a child’s normative abstractions is not merely left unaided, it is all but stifled and destroyed. The child whose valuing capacity survives the moral barbarism of his upbringing has to find his own way to preserve and develop his sense of values.

        Apart from its many other evils, conventional morality is not concerned with the formation of a child’s character. It does not teach or show him what kind of man he ought to be and why; it is concerned only with imposing a set of rules upon him–concrete, arbitrary, contradictory and, more often than not, incomprehensible rules, which are mainly prohibitions and duties. A child whose only notion of morality (i.e. of values) consists of such matters as: “Wash your ears!”–“Don’t be rude to Aunt Rosalie!”–“Do your homework!”–“Help papa to mow the lawn (or mama to wash the dishes)!”–faces the alternative of: either a passively amoral resignation, leading to a future of hopeless cynicism, or a blind rebellion. Observe that the more intelligent and independent a child, the more unruly he is in regard to such commandments. But, in either case, the child grows up with nothing but resentment and fear or contempt for the concept of morality which, to him, is only “a phantom scarecrow made of duty, of boredom, of punishment, of pain . . . a scarecrow standing in a barren field, waving a stick to chase away [his] pleasures . . .” (Atlas Shrugged).

        This type of upbringing is the best, not the worst, that an average child may be subjected to, in today’s culture. If parents attempt to inculcate a moral ideal of the kind contained in such admonitions as: “Don’t be selfish–give your best toys away to the children next door!” or if parents go “progressive” and teach a child to be guided by his whims–the damage to the child’s moral character may be irreparable.

        Where, then, can a child learn the concept of moral values and of a moral character in whose image he will shape his own soul? Where can he find the evidence, the material from which to develop a chain of normative abstractions? He is not likely to find a clue in the chaotic, bewildering, contradictory evidence offered by the adults in his day-to-day experience. He may like some adults and dislike others (and, often, dislike them all), but to abstract, identify and judge their moral characteristics is a task beyond his capacity. And such moral principles as he might be taught to recite are, to him, floating abstractions with no connection to reality.

        The major source and demonstration of moral values available to a child is Romantic art (particularly Romantic literature). What Romantic art offers him is not moral rules, not an explicit didactic message, but the image of a moral person–i.e. the concretized abstraction of a moral ideal. It offers a concrete, directly perceivable answer to the very abstract question which a child senses, but cannot yet conceptualize: What kind of person is moral and what kind of life does he lead?

        It is not abstract principles that a child learns from Romantic art, but the precondition and the incentive for later understanding of such principles: the emotional experience of admiration for man’s highest potential, the experience of looking up to a hero–a view of life motivated and dominated by values, a life in which man’s choices are practicable, effective, and crucially important–that is, a moral sense of life.

        While his home environment taught him to associate morality with pain, Romantic art teaches him to associate it with pleasure–an inspiring pleasure which is his own, profoundly personal discovery.

        1. And so:

          Just as Romantic art is a man’s first glimpse of a moral sense of life, so it is his last hold on it, his last lifeline.

          Romantic art is the fuel and the spark plug of a man’s soul: its task is to set a soul on fire and never let it go out.

    4. Echo Tango says:

      Movies can have a lot of the same problems as comics, though. A long-running movie series (or world, set of characters, etc) can also have just as many time-travel, re-incarnations, evil-clones, or whatever, for its characters, just to keep the stories consistent with some level of canon. I prefer the alternate solution, which is what the Mad Max movies did – just give us an interesting story with a guy named Max, and don’t bother trying to make it officially connected with the other films. They could all be in the same universe, or they could be considered different worlds every time. The point is, none of that stuff matters, as long as the story you’re actually watching, is entertaining. :)

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        The thing I just don’t get about this: “regular” movies have no problem being different from each other without requiring weird contorted stories to maintain “continuity” by through death/revivals, evil twins and space doppelgängers to justify the change — no, you just make a new movie with the same characters, except the movie is different, the story is told in a different way and it’s fine!

        There was no backstory to explain the 1996 Romeo & Juliet movie within the Shakespearean theatric universe. No time-travel scene to explain why they suddenly had cars and guns. It’s just what it is, and that’s fine! …but maybe there are just too many comic book fans who have encyclopedic background knowledge, and who would be very dissappointed if their previous knowledge became irrelevant every time the rules of the universe were updated because a new writer took over?

    5. Asdasd says:

      I thought I wasn’t gonna find it, but I found it. It’s an old article by nerd superstar Brian Clevinger on print comics, especially Superman. Touches on a lot of the structural issues inherent to the medium that Shamus brought up. Good further reading.

      Apologies in advance if anyone finds themselves re-reading 8-Bit Theatre again.

  3. Christopher says:

    I feel you on a lot of those issues you have with comic books, and definitely share the stance of “I like superheroes, but mostly I don’t like superhero comics”. I’ve got other reasons besides plot inconsistencies. Most of these heroes have decades worth of retconned lore and it’s difficult to keep up with and hard to feel like it’s coherent, as you mentioned. I like it when a story has the same creative staff rather than a rotating chair of artists, so in addition to a similar tone it’s also got the same artstyle. I find that superhero comics tend to be pretty bad at the actual superheroic action part. Power Girl will throw out a punch that can level buildings while flying at several hundred kilometers per hour, and it will just look like a light little jab, a climactic showdown between Spider-Man and a villain at the end of a big arc will just be a spread page of them doing different kung-fu moves while a voiceover talks, that kinda thing.

    These comics keep changing their look, their tone and their lore, they’re at the whim of other authors or editors who want to introduce or crossover with different characters or company-wide events at inopportune times, and when it comes to the actual superheroics I’m here for they aren’t much exciting to read on a panel to panel basis.

    But I still love superheroes. So besides reading the occasional recommended arc(I really liked Superior Spider-Man, Blue Beetle was basically alright and the old Grant Morrison’s Animal Man run was pretty fun) I just largely get my fix elsewhere.

    Some of this is in comic book adaptations into other media. This game and the Arkham series are obvious examples. Despite their faults, they’re still great depictions of the source material, and it feels awesome to play as these characters in a video game setting. The cartoons also help a lot. While a bit too kid-aimed to work on me these days, I used to love the 90s Spider-Man animated series, and the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon I watched a few years ago remains one of my favorite depictions of Spidey ever. And of course there’s the DC Animated Universe, which, having watched it for the first time in my twenties, is uneven but still quite amazing. The movies also count in this category, and while I have my issue with them being too toned down and desaturated and dull compared to the vision of the comic books, like all of the rest here the MCU really eliminated the constant resurrection and backstory retcon bullcrap, and with a fairly consistent tone despite their constant changing of staff. Well, we might get some comic book bullcrap galore with Infinity War part 2. We’ll see.

    The other outlet I’ve found is manga and anime, really, of the shonen fighting variety. The setting is mostly different from superhero stories(although it doesn’t have to be ), but I get the same thing I like from those. Superpowered, good-natured people beating up bad guys with either fantastical powers or regular abilities drawn fantastically. It doesn’t really matter if they’re pirates, ninjas or grim reapers. What’s important is the industry differences that result in more pages and panels per week(so you get a few chapters minimum rather than a page spread for a climactic fight, for instance) and a consistent creative voice(’cause it’s gonna be the same author forever unless it’s immensely popular but also ended and they decide to get a newbie in to do a spinoff/sequel after the fact). Unlike American adaptations, with a few notable exceptions, anime tends to be exactly like the anime but with bits of filler inbetween, and I definitely prefer that when the works themselves are works of one vision rather than a patchwork of authors and artists made throughout decades.

    edit: Messed up some link tags and got marked as spam, which hindered me from editing it or even requesting it for deletion, it looks like. So I just reposted this.

    1. Hal says:

      The DC animated universe of the 90s and 00s (i.e. the Timm-verse) was really great. Batman took place in this gothic, art deco wonderland. Superman was more of that streamline, 50s futurist dream world. Then the Justice League came along and it capitalized on everything built there. Really, really enjoyed it.

      The modern DC animated movies, I don’t have too much of an opinion on them, but largely because I haven’t seen much of them. They’ve been very slow to come to the streaming services. Those I have seen were interesting, but the writing was . . . spotty.

    2. King Marth says:

      Another benefit I find in manga (and by extension anime) is that it can end. Sure, there’s evergreen series which seem to go forever, but there’s no mandate to continue using the same characters we had at the beginning of the industry, and there’s new series cropping up all the time. The status quo can change, where there is a status quo to begin with. It means that you can’t find your one favorite character and be assured you’ll get infinite content about them, but it sounds like you can’t get that with comics already as they’re telling dozens of stories with the same names.

  4. John says:

    I’ve never read much Spiderman, but I really like ol’ Kraven the Hunter when he shows up in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, even when it’s just a dream sequence and he appears as Kraven the College Administrator. He has a van, you know. It’s the Kra-Van. This will never not amuse me.

    Speaking of Squirrel Girl, I should go find out if the library has the latest trade paperback yet. To the library web page! Away!

  5. TLN says:

    As an aside, for anyone who wants to check out Spider-Man comics, now is actually a pretty good time since Dan Slott (who has been the main writer for the past decade or so) called it quits just earlier this year. New writers have brought in their own ideas so it’s been kind of a new start.

    1. Redrock says:

      Eh, I think Dan Slott’s run was nice. Superior Spider-Man was fun, and Amazing Spider-Man arc after that was also pretty cool. I actually think that the kinda high-tech take on Spidey in the Parker Industries arc was an influence on Insomniac. And they included the suit from that run, which I actually used for a lot of the game. Spectacular Spider-Man was also a cool run, especially in terms of Jonah’s portrayal. What I’m saying is, even though Slott was around for a long time, there are several decent jumping-on points in his run, all of which are suitable for beginners.

      And, once again. Superior Spider-Man was a bold idea and goddamn badass.

      1. Kyle Haight says:

        Superior Spider-Man was a batshit-insane fanfic idea that somehow turned into one of the most brilliant comic book runs I’ve read in years. I can’t believe they actually did it, and I doubly can’t believe that it worked as well as it did.

      2. TLN says:

        I liked Dan Slotts run, but if you’ve been out of comics for a long time I feel like large parts of his run would be weird jumping-on points. “Wait a minute Peter Parker is like Tony Stark mk2 now, how did that happen?” “What do you mean he never married Mary Jane, i distinctly remember that happening in one of my old comics!”. The current one is a bit more back to basics which I imagine to be more comfortable to ease into, whereas if you had picked it up a year or two ago it would be more like diving into the deep end of the pool right away.

  6. Darren says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with you about the mess that is the comics medium. Plot, tone, and theme are generally very inconsistent, and worse, there’s never any kind of conclusion. I don’t need to see the main character die or anything, with some grand reflection on the scope of their career. I just need to see a point where it’s clear that their story is wrapped up and I can stop and reflect on the narrative.

    That’s why, when it comes to the few comics I do read, I prefer creator-owned works like Mike Mignola’s. At this point, the Mignolaverse comprises something like five or six different series that are published with no particular schedule (other than BPRD, which long ago became the spine of the whole setting), but which maintain consistent lore and tones because at the end of the day the guy who started it all has final say over it. It’s a sprawling continuity, but he is under no pressure to tread water and is continually pushing the story forward. Serialized storytelling makes it slow-going, but it’s obvious that the stories are always moving towards actual resolutions and turning points, and that makes a huge difference for me.

    Which is a long way of saying that I find the standalone continuities that we’re getting from video games a breath of fresh air for long-established characters. Say what you will about Arkham Knight, it wrapped up that version of Batman in a way that felt coherent and fitting. Not everyone liked that series’ emphasis on the Joker, but with it all wrapped up you can clearly see that the Joker is kind of the lynchpin of the continuity, adding throughlines for plot and theme, and the rejiggering of other elements of the Batman mythos were clearly aiming to make virtually every villain a reflection of some part of Batman’s persona. It made the entire series very thematically strong. I don’t think that Spider-Man quite pulls off that angle, but it situates Peter in the world so well that it really anchors the experience in a way that the comics can struggle to do. Hopefully Insomniac continues to refine their storytelling to build off of that.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Say what you will about Arkham Knight, it wrapped up that version of Batman in a way that felt coherent and fitting.

      Well, see, the problem is that what I will say about Arkham Knight is that it precisely fails to do such a thing. Arkham series’ Batman was a clever, smart, quick-thinking detective that always managed to stay one step ahead even when the odds where squarely against him, and he did it all through cunning and perseverance. That is, of course, until Arkham Knight, in which the entire plot only works because Batman is turned into a complete idiot. He feels like such a different character from before that I kept expecting the older games’ Batman to suddenly show up through a portal from a parallel universe.

      1. Darren says:

        The entire plot of Arkham City requires Batman to be able to learn nothing about Arkham City itself until it’s nearly too late, even though the plot hinges on it all being perfectly legal and approved by the city council presumably months beforehand. He doesn’t even figure out that Ra’s Al Ghul is behind everything (or at least does absolutely nothing about it), even though he meets Ra’s in Arkham City in precisely the nexus point where the Arkham City staff is cooperating with Joker’s gang to enable the legal extermination of all the residents of Arkham City.

        As with virtually all Batman media, his precise level of “genius detective” is very contingent on what the plot demands.

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          There’s a difference between not having information and being an idiot. Batman doesn’t learn all that stuff about Arkham City because it’s all kept under wraps. Note that he suspects something is up, so he makes plans to visit the place (which is what kickstarts the plot), but until he’s in there he can’t possibly know anything about Strange’s actual intentions. All he can know is the stuff that they tell the public. And why would he suspect Ra’s? He has no reason to believe Strange even has a boss.

          Meanwhile, in Knight, it seems like he’s entirely forgotten basic knowledge that has been available to him for years, such as not believing everything he sees when he knows for a fact that Scarecrow is gassing the city and that he’s literally hallucinating the Joker. There’s no comparison.

          1. Darren says:

            In Knight, he spends essentially the entire game under the influence of a psychotropic toxin, with several points being precisely about his difficulty maintaining control of himself in the face of that reality. And he knows full well that Joker is a hallucination, and he does not engage with it.

            And of course, Joker isn’t exactly a hallucination. He is a secondary personality developing within Batman’s mind who is actively trying to take control, so while he’s not physically there he is indeed an actual presence and not merely a figment of Batman’s imagination.

            I assume your chief complaint is the Barbara fake-out, but at the end of the day if it was OK for Batman to not piece together the Joker/Clayface scheme in Arkham City for the sake of surprising the audience, it’s OK for Batman to not fully consider the ramifications of a mind-warping poison on his perceptions for the sake of surprising the audience (although the nature of comic book storytelling means that there was really no scenario in which the audience would have believed that Barbara was actually dead, so it’s kind of a moot point). I mean, there are far more clues paraded in front of the audience regarding Clayface, so if our criteria isn’t “what’s good for the story” but “what would the World’s Greatest Detective pick up on,” then Arkham City fails even more miserably than Knight. The player can flip on Detective Mode and see exactly what’s up with Joker when Batman fights him! Why would Batman not notice that?

  7. Redrock says:

    I have a very on-and-off relationship with comics. I’d occasionally go and read an especially celebrated story arc that’s already finished. But whenever I try to keep up with an ongoing comic I end up frustrated, annoyed, and lose interest. As for Spidey, he’s a problematic character for me. I really like a lot of stuff about him. He’s easily one of my favorite superheroes. But I also think that the whole “Spider-man causes problems for Peter’s life” trope is extremely overdone by now. There’s a reason so many comics have moved beyond the usage of secret identity as a source of conflict. The whole “his loved ones get angry at him for being late or absent while he’s saving lives” schtick only works the first 9000 times, and after that starts to feel like a very manipulative source of cheap drama. You could still get mileage out of the dual identities thing, but it has to be more themactic, I think. Like with Daredevil, where there’s an ideological conflict between the Catholic attorney and the violent vigilante. But that’s just me, of course. I’m not saying that Spider-Man should go full Tony Stark (and, well, he did at one point, didn’t he?), but I certainly think that he should go the CW Arrowverse route at least and have a circle of confidants. That way, at least, we’d be spared the “Pete is late for dinner with Aunt May because of Spidey-related stuff” bullshit.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      To be fair, the comics have addressed this complaint of yours several times, making the character grow and improve. The problem is that every few years some dipshit in charge decides to roll back all changes and go back to square one because he can’t understand that people can still appreciate the character if he’s not the exact same all the time.

      For instance, currently in the comics J. Jonah Jameson is aware of Peter’s identity and working with him as his confidant, despite resenting him for his lies. It’s a pretty neat shake to the status quo, readers are loving it and I know, for a fact, that it won’t stay there for long, because that’s how Marvel’s dumbass Editor in Chief rolls.

      To be clear: no other character suffers from this as Spider-Man does. Yes, there are occasional reboots for every character out there, but most of them still manage to keep popular changes around. But this is the one character that they still refuse to keep updated.

      1. Redrock says:

        I think it’s not quite that simple. This tug of war between Peter’s personal life and his life as Spider-Man is for many an inherent part of the character. Spidey is a more struggling superhero than most, and that constant struggle is part of what makes him unique. Putting him in a more sensible and comfortable position, while a logical move, would also take away some of the unique appeal his stories have. But, I think the JJJ thing is a good start. I absolutely loved that move, and the issue with the interview was fantastic. It’s especially interesting in contrast with the videogame version of JJJ.

  8. Karl says:

    Franchise Colon The Subtitle names are a bugbear of mine. I find them really ugly. Spider-Man just looks and sounds nicer than Spider-Man: Ascension or whatever. It gets even worse when you have spin-offs from a series with a colon already in it’s name. Look at the state of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines or Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr!

    I recently bought Diablo 3 on my PS4, and it insists on calling itself Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition (English). I’ve got that word salad on my dashboard forever now instead of just, you know, Diablo 3.

    This is all very important, of course.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      What about parentheticals instead? “Spider-Man (a Voyage to Arcturus)”?

  9. Chris says:

    I always thought titles like these were to a) make sure new people don’t feel like they have to work through a big backlog of older games (like Doom 4 being called doom so people arent confused they are missing some kind of big legacy and just buy the new game) b) to make sure the newest product overrules all the older stuff on search engines (so if you type in spiderman videogame you get the newest game, not the older ones due to popularity and newness being favored by google) and c) show it isnt a continuity of the older games. If they called it spiderman 3 people expect it to fit with spiderman 2.

    Personally I’m glad games like halo: CE and dragon age origins had a unique title so you can at least search on them without getting your results scrambled by the newer entries. But I guess this sentence alone makes a marketing guy’s skin crawl.

    As for the superhero stuff, I agree, thats the issue I have with superheroes as well. For me the arc is like this “superhero gains his powers, he learns the ropes while somewhere else a supervillain is emerging, the superhero gets an impetus to be a good guy (uncle ben) there is a big showdown which is inconclusive, the superhero has to learn some valuable lesson or deal with issues, then with that knowledge he can tackle the villain and be the good guy. The problem is that after he beat a couple of villains he kinda learnt all his lessons. If lets say batman at some point got over his parents’s death, so at that point the writer as to either redo that (which defeats the arc the first time he confronted his issues) or he has batman just stomp out badguys the first go since batman doesnt really doesnt have any issues to work through. Also each time the hero gets more prestige, at a certain point it just seems silly that any supervillain comes up or that the people do not immediately stand behind the hero and make it an easy wrap.
    The result is that either you get those crazy moments where the hero dies and gets revived or goes into another dimension. Or you just start over again. You could see it well with the spiderman movies. The 200X ones had spiderman deal with acouple of issues and then in the end he was basically grown up. Then they did the amazing spiderman and that allowed them to start from square one again. But that always has to happen. Either spiderman has some crazy moment that wipes him clean, or they start it up again and retell his story.

    It actually makes me think of love arcs in stories. It always has the same beats, and if they suddenly extend the story the author doesnt know how to continue, after all romance arcs are about the couple getting together, never about them just happily supporting eachother. Which either causes him to write stupid drama or kind of ignore it.

    1. Viktor says:

      They’ve started to figure out how to fix the arc problem you mentioned, and it’s to steal their structure from sources other than Star Wars Original Trilogy. Venom(the movie) is focused heavily on the relationship between Eddie and Venom, so it uses a romcom arc rather than an action movie one. The Fast and the Furious is basically a D&D campaign with a special effects budget. Marvel(Disney) won’t make that call, since they are clearly extremely risk-adverse at this point, but look for other franchises to do things beyond a Hero’s Journey trilogy where each individual movie is also a Hero’s Journey.

    2. Ander says:

      The Persona games use their numbers and colons to mean something.
      Persona 4 Arena tells you “Fighting game, primarily in the setting and environment of Persona 4.” Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight tells you “Rhythm game, with the P5 setting and cast.
      Most series couldn’t do this, since they are joined from entry to entry with more character and plot continuity than Persona games have, but it is very useful in my experience.

  10. Hal says:

    Basically everything you wrote about Spider-Man and comics resonated with me, albeit offset by a decade or so. The X-Men cartoon drew me into the world of comics, but Spider-Man is always going to be the king of Marvel heroes.

    I think the problem you’re identifying with the comics comes from the story-telling models being used. If you are to the serial story model, you have to build on so many decades of stories that came before, with all the baggage that entails. That means constantly upping the stakes to maintain any drama or urgency, and it means having to pull wilder and crazier twists to keep people interested. You can start over and re-tell the story in a modern setting, but this does result in telling basically the same story over and over; there’s only so much you can do in that regard. You can move over into other mediums (cartoons, live-action TV, movies, etc.) but that still ends up in the same place.

    One of the ways that baggage can build up is the effort to put all of these heroes into the same world. Team-ups, cross-overs, shared universes, etc. It’s exciting when Daredevil and Spider-Man cross paths. It’s fun when Spider-Man tries to join the Avengers. But then you have to deal with this world where there are gods and magic and aliens and blah blah blah. You start asking questions like, “Why doesn’t Tony Stark share some of this tech with law enforcement? ‘Cause the police could really use some of those things.”

    I love this game, but that’s one of the things that happens over and over. As you cruise through NYC, you pass Avengers tower any number of times. It’s a cool little reminder that Spider-Man exists in this larger world. But then you are forced to wonder why, amidst all the chaos Spider-Man is dealing with, the Avengers don’t come help. Yeah, they have their own things to deal with, but no one is available to help? C’mon, I’d settle for the Great Lakes Avengers at this point.

    1. John says:

      That means constantly upping the stakes to maintain any drama or urgency, and it means having to pull wilder and crazier twists to keep people interested.

      I am not convinced that a serialized story has to keep “upping” the stakes in order to stay interesting. I think that, in general, the audience will care about whatever the protagonist is doing as long as (a) the audience cares about the protagonist and (b) the protagonist cares about what the protagonist is doing. For example, I think you can follow an arc about “oh no, the world is in danger!” with an arc about “oh no, my friend is in danger!” and it’ll work just fine. The trick is that the story needs to be at least partly character-driven. It might not work for, say, an action-movie franchise–Mission Impossible, for example–where action and stunts are the whole point and the characters are only loosely sketched at best, but it’s just perfect for comics and particularly for Marvel comics like Spiderman, where relatable characters are part of the draw.

      1. Syal says:

        I don’t think you have to raise the stakes* every time, but you do have to make the conflict something the character hasn’t already overcome, and greater conflict naturally lends itself to higher stakes.

        And you can’t perpetually lower the stakes or the new stories will start feeling like long epilogues for the old ones.

        *(stakes in fiction are weird anyway; the bigger the stakes, the lower the tension, so low stakes actually become more compelling. Obviously the villain will fail to destroy the world, but destroying the hero’s favorite disco bar is an actual possibility.)

  11. Daimbert says:

    As a kid I was never into — or actually had — all that many comics until my mother ended up getting a few boxes of them from a friend who was getting rid of her son’s old collection. Most of the ones I had — and/or kept — were Marvel ones, so I was a fan of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Avengers, and Spider-Man for the most part. I then sometimes bought them myself from the drug store, but that was pretty much limited to X-Men, Wolverine, and Transformers. In university and after, I bought a bit, but the big problem with comics for me is this: I like the stories, but hate getting the stories little bits at a time with a month off in-between. What I ended up doing at one point was buying them, tossing them in a drawer — literally — and then reading them all in a burst at one point. When the comic store I went to closed, the guy running it started doing comics outside of the storefront and would keep them for me and then deliver all of them one shot a few months down the line, which was my Golden Age of comics because it meant that I got my favourites AND all the relevant tie-in arcs since he knew what they were and brought them to my attention. Then he stopped doing that due to family concerns, the new person wouldn’t do it, and so I stopped again. Then I went to subscriptions, which worked pretty well especially since Marvel was pretty good at letting me swap books out if I didn’t like one or wanted something else. But they kept canceling books I liked and starting up new ones, so that started to require too much management on my part, especially since they would shift any canceled book to another one without actually telling you directly, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it really, really didn’t. So I stopped — I’m running out Deadpool right now — and now am focusing more on TPB, where for that price is the big potential problem but it has the advantage that I always get a more or less complete story.

    For me, what I like about comics is that in general there’s something for pretty much everyone. If you take in the different books and different arcs, you get a wide variety of stories in genres in a relatively easily digestible format. So the “weirdness” for me tends to be a benefit as long as it’s well-done, and if it isn’t you can usually suffer through it for a while until something newer comes out. Even in terms of heroes, just in the X-Men I liked both the Boy Scout Cyclops and the darker Wolverine, and even enjoyed the clash between them. That’s hard to get in any other media.

  12. Allen says:

    I’ve decided to quit being Spider-Man and dedicate my life to being a loser full-time.

    Sass aside, the thing that always attracted me to Spidey was the concept that being a loser is the price he pays for Doing The Right Thing. It seems to be generally established that if he wasn’t compelled to run and save the day, his personal life would be far better – and he knows this. And it’s the only “mainstream”/”classic” title that takes a moment to show that having to run off to fight evil in your secret identity has an actual cost. (Supes always played it for laughs, which annoyed me.)

    For the long-term problem, I’ve personally been attracted to the self-contained runs – Transmetropolitan, Saga, Wicked & Divine – where you know you’re in for X issues and then the story finishes.

  13. ccesarano says:

    As others explain, I have a similar issue with comics. For me, however, I simply wish there were more stories or collections that were as easily stand-alone as Batman’s The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and Year One. On one hand Year One served as a sort of reboot for Batman in the 80’s, but it works as a stand-alone not just as an origin for Batman but also as one for Commissioner Gordon. The Long Halloween is a murder mystery tied in with Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face. Dark Victory is a lesser sequel story that uses the events of the prior story to give greater meaning to the origin of Robin (where Bruce learns to trust again etc.). Each of these rely on the reader having basic, common knowledge of Batman, but you don’t need to keep up with the greater universe. The story is the story and it works out of context of whatever continuity the comics deem important.

    Contrast to Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet. The main character is Thanos, really, and as a product of being his story it’s a fun enough read. But only comic readers know who Adam Warlock is or his compatriots, which left me rather confused at times. It’s also a weird story that acts as a sort of alternate universe fan-service, where tragedy of great consequence occurs only to reset to the status quo at the end with minor adjustments. It was a fun read to prepare for the films and ponder how the MCU is going to adapt it, but I cannot say it was as enjoyable a read as Long Halloween because it’s clearly not the same sort of story being told.

    Which is what sours me on comics. A lot of comic book readers will recommend “really good story arcs” for, say, Spider-Man, but none of them are written in that style of The Long Halloween, and perhaps part of it is because every reboot/retcon needs to be a major, cross-issue world-shattering event, whereas Batman Year One and Long Halloween were just vague rewrites of continuity. “Oh, this is his origin now”. “Oh, this is how Harvey got burnt now.” In order to have a really good, stand-alone Spider-Man story, it effectively needs to exist without caring about what follows, but it needs to be free to make significant changes to the universe that push the character through an arc.

    Comics are not just structured this way, especially considering how each issue feels a bit like a commercial for another comic (I recently began getting the trades for Gwenpool because I wanted to support Chris Hastings post-Dr. McNinja, but volume three was effectively nothing but promotional guest spots from other comics that it turned me off to the whole thing). So I view collections like Long Halloween as anomolies, and the closest thing you can get are all the alternate universe stories or far-future stories that are intended to be fun concepts done outside the current timeline. The problem is, even if Old Man Logan is good, I don’t want to be forced into reading a story where a character is old/dying or fighting zombies outside of continuity.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      If you like Long Halloween, you should REALLY read Spider-Man Blue. It’s the same team of creators. I think you’d get a kick out of that one. Some other stuff you could get into Spider-Man wise without knowing everything:
      -The beginning arcs of Ultimate Spider-Man. It’s the start of the whole Ultimate universe and each graphic novel in the first 10 or so generally tells a novel style storyline that the next one picks up from. Same creators in the first part, so no adjustments to art changes required.
      -The two volume series “Spidey”. It’s about young Spider-Man and intentionally written for fans who don’t really follow the character, but know of him.
      -And finally an oddball suggestion, but Spider Island or Spiderverse should be fun to read as a one off story. In Spider Island, all of New York gets knock off spider powers as part of an evil villain plan. What makes Spider-Man stand out when everyone can act like they have radioactive blood? Listen bud… the story will tell you. Spiderverse is the basis of the new animated movie coming out next month and while it of course has a lot of characters from other stories in it (every universe’s version of Spider-Man in a massive team up!), most of these characters are invented for the story itself, so you’re in the same position as everyone else when you read it. Key knowledge to know about going in to that one: Spider-Man had a clone made out of him by a villain one time who is essentially the black sheep of the group (Kaine) and also there was a storyline where Doctor Octopus switched bodies with Spider-Man and masqueraded as him for a time, insisting he was the “Superior” Spider-Man. The story will explain everything else.

      1. ccesarano says:

        Thanks for the recommendations! I will look into Spider-Man Blue next time I visit my local comic shop. I actually began collecting Ultimate Spider-Man some number of years ago in an effort to get in on the ground level, but I had to stop around #10 or 11 because of funds and other hobbies taking priority. I also was kind of turned off by how… lame they handled the death of Ultimate Gwen Stacey. I mean, that’s the best you could come up with? Something about it felt super cheap. Add to that the fact that the Ultimate series ran long enough that it possesses the same problems that the regular comics had.

        While I already knew some of what you wrote about Spider-verse, all of that extraneous info is enough to turn me off of it. Spider-Island I might give a look, though. Spider-Man Blue is a definite, though. Is Spidey sold in trade? Or is it just two issues you gotta hope to find?

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Some follow up notes. Ultimate Spider-Man isn’t regular Spider-Man, so things with Gwen went very differently. You’d have to keep going to see what I mean. And yes, Ultimate did lose some accessibility from going on for a long time, but I think USM is readable as a single title its entire run without too much problems.

          I knew that Spiderverse might have enough going on to bug you, but I still think it was such an interesting and creative story it might be worth a look anyway. It introduces a lot of very fun characters (Spider Gwen!) and has a lot of homage to weird Spider-Man stuff, like the newspaper comic strip and the old cartoon.

          Spidey is two graphic novels long, not just two issues. They’re sold like normal trades in bookstores or online.

      2. Baron Tanks says:

        Kudos to the stealth Tenacious D reference. I dig.

  14. BlueHorus says:

    …The hero got their powers, fought some major villains, turned evil for a time, turned good again, changed their costume and powerset, fought an evil clone of themselves, retired, came out of retirement, fought a darker version of themselves from another dimension, was replaced by that darker version, did another costume change, died, reverted to the pre-darker version via time travel, fought their nemesis, died, got replaced by a perfect robot replica, fell in love, got turned back into a flesh-and-blood human by a wizard, consummated that love in a comics-friendly way, fought an evil version of themselves from the future, killed their future self, scorned their love for fear of becoming future-evil-self, retired again, passed the name onto a younger and hipper person, un-retired, teamed up with their former nemesis to face an even greater threat, died, and has now been replaced by that clone they defeated years earlier who has since turned good.

    And that was just Tuesday!

    I quite like this aspect of comic stories. There’s a good ‘Bwahaha! What were they thinking/smoking?’ aspect to it all.
    … Not that I’d read the actual comics, but I enjoy the summaries of the stuff people have come up with. If iwas gonna read something, I’d stick to a now-concluded run.

  15. Dreadjaws says:

    To be clear, I’m more familiar with Superman through the Richard Donner movies and old cartoons. I’m sure the spectrum of Superman comics is pretty diverse in terms of tone.

    For the better version of Superman and, well, pretty much every DC hero, I suggest taking a look at the DCAU Justice League animated series. Hell, the entire universe is worth a watch (Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond), but Justice League shows how all these characters are better together, so you can see their best versions there, and while some stories certainly benefit from having watched the previous series, it’s not absolutely necessary.

    I don’t know if you’re the kind of person who resists the idea of watching a cartoon on your own at your age. I hope you’re not, but in case you are, I’ll have you know that there’s better characterization, nuance, fun and all around writing in this series than in almost the entire landscape of superhero movies.

    For a Spider-Man version of this there’s the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon. Avoid everything made after Disney’s purchase of Marvel in the animation department if you don’t want to rage yourself into oblivion.

    1. Viktor says:

      Yep, everything in the Timmverse(except a couple specific terrible decisions late in Beyond that I won’t get into here) is incredible. Batman:TAS specifically got mined heavily by the comics since it was so good. Rough order of quality IMO:
      Batman Beyond
      Batman: The Animated Series
      Static Shock
      Teen Titans
      Justice League/Justice League: Unlimited
      Superman: The Animated Series

      Really, all of DC’s animation has been pretty good. Green Lantern:The Animated Series was incredible, Young Justice was good*, and even the stuff I haven’t brought up like The Brave and the Bold has high points. Their animated movies ATM are far better than their live action ones, but be careful, there have been definite stinkers among them. As mentioned, avoid all Marvel animation, it is…not quality.

      *I gave up on it in a rage, but it’s at least worth a look.

      1. Hal says:

        Season 1 of Young Justice remains one of my favorite cartoon runs.

        I never finished Season 2; kind of lost interest.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Yeah, well, nothing is perfect. As much as I love Timm’s work, his ridiculous obsession with pairing up Batman and Batgirl reaches high levels of rage-inducing creepiness, and it seems that he doesn’t care much for certain characters that are otherwise popular, such as Bane. Those small grievances aside, it’s a whole fantastic universe that actually manages to have a start and an end (which is rare for animated series) and make us care for characters we would have otherwise entirely ignored.

        The movies are a mixed bag, yeah. The ones actually set in the DCAU are, for the most part, excellent (I haven’t seen the Batwoman one, mostly because I saw a small part in which Batgirl was discussing her relationship with Batman and I was already turned off, so I don’t know about that one), but the newest ones based on the New 52 comics are hit or miss. They can be great or terrible.

        They’re still miles better than the Marvel animated movies. Well, they say the new Spider-Man one is pretty good, but their direct-to-video offerings are just awful.

        1. Viktor says:

          I was specifically not mentioning Bruce/Babs, but YES, that was weird and wrong. Bruce/Barbara and the whole Waller and Terry thing were bad decisions that I still don’t get. Just goes to show, no matter how good a writer someone is, you always want an editor who can go through and say NO where needed.

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            The Bruce/Barbara ship is so bad it doesn’t even work out in the story he specifically wrote to make it a real life thing and not just a fanon ship he had. Both characters are embarrassed and uncomfortable about it and they break it off instantly. Timm, how is your favorite ship one that even the characters don’t like, WHILE YOU’RE WRITING THEM???

      3. Boobah says:

        Static Shock is a weird fish here because at the beginning of the series it was set in it’s own universe, though much of the staff were veterans from Batman: TAS and Superman. As I recall, the so-called Boom Babies were pretty much the first superhumans in the setting. Then suddenly, Batman, apparently, although the crossover I remember was Green Lantern John Stewart.

        Teen Titans isn’t in continuity with the rest of these shows, and the Robin in that show isn’t exactly Tim Drake or Dick Grayson; there’s a whole rabbit hole on that subject.

        Missed: The Zeta Project, a Batman Beyond spinoff about an assassin droid on the run because he doesn’t want to kill anyone else.

  16. Adamantyr says:

    I think my first introduction to Spider-Man was the Electric Company skit, followed by the Amazing Spider Friends cartoon on Saturday morning. And somewhere my dad got a small graphic novel book which collected Amazing Fantasy 15 and the first six issues of Amazing Spider-Man.

    Most of my steady reading of Spider-Man comics occurred after Secret Wars and before the appearance of Venom. I re-read what I still had of my collection recently (The first couple dozen of Web of Spider Man) and I noted that while the plots were very juvenile, the character’s reactions and motivations are well defined and very adult.

    As a side point, Peter Parker as a character is so infuriating to anyone who doesn’t know his secret. He’s charming, handsome, intelligent… but he’s completely unreliable, never showing up when he’s supposed to, and he makes the worst lame excuses you ever heard for why he wasn’t there. At his job, most of his fellow reporters think he has a deal with Spider-Man to take photos to sell to Jonah, so he’s not the most popular guy. He is actually a mediocre reporter at best; at one point one of his co-workers points out to him that a reporter’s job is to get the news and publish it, to expose the bad guys of the world to public view. This is pretty much what Spider-man isn’t; he always has to leap in and try and save people, even when it’s not the best time or place. (Such as he’s sick, it risks exposing his identity, etc.)

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      As a side point, Peter Parker as a character is so infuriating to anyone who doesn’t know his secret. He’s charming, handsome, intelligent… but he’s completely unreliable, never showing up when he’s supposed to, and he makes the worst lame excuses you ever heard for why he wasn’t there. At his job, most of his fellow reporters think he has a deal with Spider-Man to take photos to sell to Jonah, so he’s not the most popular guy. He is actually a mediocre reporter at best; at one point one of his co-workers points out to him that a reporter’s job is to get the news and publish it, to expose the bad guys of the world to public view. This is pretty much what Spider-man isn’t; he always has to leap in and try and save people, even when it’s not the best time or place. (Such as he’s sick, it risks exposing his identity, etc.)

      This got an interesting twist with the events of Civil War (the comic). Since Spider-Man’s identity was revealed to the public, suddenly everyone realized why Peter was so unreliable. Teachers finally knew why he was always late or sleeping in class. Friends realized why he missed so many events. Doctors figured out why he wasn’t always there to take care of his aunt. And Jameson… well, that’s a whole other level of realization.

      Things were suddenly getting really interesting with this shake-up in Peter’s life, so of course they retconned it away.

  17. Cat Skyfire says:

    “It’s hard to review a hamburger if you don’t like eating hamburgers, but at the very least you shouldn’t fault it for being a hamburger. ”

    Thank you for that. I once read a review of a local musical, and the article opened with “I hate everything this guy does.” And then sort of ripped it apart because of that. And my first thought was : Then why are you reviewing it? Or if you are going to review it, why can’t you focus on things that are separate from your issues. (Ie, the singing, acting, stage form, etc.)

  18. GoStu says:

    I feel the same way about comic book characters. I like the characters themselves but don’t want to wade into the swamp that is their continuity. Video game and movie adaptations are great chances to tell “a Spider-Man story” or “a Batman” story without losing yourself in the quagmire.

  19. Joshua says:

    Was there ever an explanation for what was wrong in the screenshots from the last Spiderman post?

    1. Guest says:

      They changed the time, and adjusted the set. It’s one of the bigger set piece missions from like, a third of the way through?

      The first shots were at one time, so it’s lit differently, and the later shots are at a different time-missions are locked to specific times, you can start them whenever, but they take place at a specific time, seemingly so they’d have more control over the look.

      That’s why the colour temperature and appearance are different. The game still looks fine, and they saturate so much of the damn thing in golden hour tones (It looks like a never ending sunset at times, or, like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre if you’re familiar with it), I can’t say I’m bothered that they changed that.

      Whole thing was a massive storm in a teacup. “Oh no, they want smaller puddles for rendering” Oh, is it still 2005? Oh, and the title in question cheats on reflections mostly anyhow? “He looks a different colour, I’m not sure if the textures are there” Oh, well, if he looks different, that’s it, we’ll need the pitchforks. In progress footage looks different from release footage, as far as presentation, this game was an exemplar. Some folks just aren’t satisfied unless there’s something to get salty about, and somehow, a majority of those weirdos took up gaming as a hobby.

      1. Joshua says:

        I was referring to Shamus’s riddle, not the puddle controversy.

    2. Hal says:

      It looked to me like Spider-Man’s webs never showed up in screen shots.

  20. Jason says:

    I was sorely tempted by the $200 PS4 with Spider-Man deal on Black Friday, but didn’t end up pulling the trigger. I don’t really have a good place to set up a console. All of my gaming is on PC these days. I have a PS3 and a Wii (and a ton of other older consoles), but haven’t played on them in years. The family TV is basically relegated to TV watching, and our only other TV is in our bedroom, and my wife would not appreciate me gaming in there all night.
    Is there an easy way to hook a PS4 up to a PC monitor that doesn’t have HDMI? If that deal comes back around, I just might do it if I know I can hook it up in the office with my PC and just share the monitor.

    1. Ander says:

      I pulled that trigger and set it up to my PC monitor, no issue. Speakers are a bit of a pain, because they need to plug directly into my monitor. But, well, PS4 has HDMI output only.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      You’d need a HDMI to DVI adapter (assuming your monitor has that connection, I guess it probably works with VGA too). For the sound, I recommend a headset. There are good ones for really cheap (I got a set years ago for $17 or so and they still work wonderfully).

      1. Geebs says:

        That, or at a pinch you can just plug headphones into the PS4 joypad

  21. Stuart Worthington says:

    Gonna throw my hat in the ring and say I agree with Shamus (and pretty much every other comment) saying that while I like superheroes, I don’t much like superhero comics. I don’t think I’ve actually read more than a handful in my lifetime.

    Anyway! I’m excited for this series. Spider-Man 2018 was a real surprise hit for me. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, and it’s the first game in a long, long time that I’m going to hold on to so I can play through all the DLC. I am truly invested in a sequel or a spin-off, since I think the groundwork they’ve laid in the first game is dynamite. Here’s hoping Insomniac Games get the time and funding necessary to realize that vision.

  22. Liessa says:

    The hero got their powers, fought some major villains, turned evil for a time […] and has now been replaced by that clone they defeated years earlier who has since turned good.

    I’ve sometimes wondered why superhero comics don’t allow each writer to conclude their own story arc when they decide to leave, and then start afresh with the next writer, rather than trying to tie all these disparate versions of the character together. They could even have several different ‘lines’ running in parallel, so the grimdark fans can enjoy their dark-and-gritty storylines, while the people who like crazy sci-fi stuff can read that instead, and so on (in fact, doesn’t that already happen to some extent? I’ve never really read comics myself, so I’m probably not the best person to comment.)

    1. Guest says:

      Because they have, both of the big houses have multiverses from this very concept. Which wasn’t necessarily great for them, it’s easier to market one Spider-man line than a dozen, almost inevitably, they decide they need to keep the good new stuff and roll it into continuity, so they have some massive shakeup event, which condenses the multiverse or reboots stuff with the changes they want in place, and there is a backlash, and then it’s revisited. It’s a whole mess.

      They want long running lines that are popular so they have regular readership, even if that means the character makes less sense.

  23. Joe Informatico says:

    All of this means I’m a huge fan of superhero myths but I don’t care for comic books as a medium. That’s a really strange place to be as a fan. That’s like being someone who loves big-budget action movies but hates celebrities.

    But I think this is true of most people. I loved superhero cartoons as a kid, which in my day included Challenge of the Superfriends and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, then later the early 90s FOX Kids X-Men and Batman the Animated Series. I liked the short-lived 1990 Flash TV series. I loved the Christopher Reeves Superman and the Tim Burton Batman. I even liked the made-for-TV Hulk movies with Thor and Daredevil. But I didn’t like reading superhero comics as a kid or a teenager because they felt so messy and impenetrable. I read other comics–Larry Hama’s excellent GI Joe, most of the big 90s Vertigo titles, Wildstorm because it was a big superhero universe without the decades of cruft and continuity bogging it down. But I didn’t read Big Two superhero comics until well into my 20s, and even then I never developed a massive love for the format.

    Millions of people have watched the MCU and DCEU films and other superhero comic movies. Millions of people watched the DC Animated series or other superhero cartoons growing up, or played Marvel vs. Capcom or the X-Men beat-’em-up arcade game. But these days if a superhero comic sells 100,000 copies it’s considered very successful. Most people aren’t getting invested in these characters through the comic books any more than most of the audience of the Star Wars films even knows the Expanded Universe novels and comics even exist.

  24. JDMM says:

    I never really got the problem you’re talking about, that of inconsistency. Part of it is that when I got into comics I also got into manga and small runs ala Transmetropolitan and sort of took both as a continuum. My problem with comics is simply that most just aren’t good enough to hold my interest. Too many comics fill all their panels with dialogue and then the dialogue isn’t well written

    To comment on something else the problem with Spiderman for me is that his villains are all coloring book people[1]

    That is everyone can agree on what Dock Ock looks like, what Norman looks like, what Venom looks like but who are they?
    Is Doc Ock a dark reflection of Peter, some mob boss, a tragic villain? Is Norman an evil man encumbered by a Green Goblin, a flawed man with a split personality or some dark reflection of Peter? Is Venom an evil stalker, a man delusioned to believe Spiderman is a bad guy, some avenging antihero?

    With Batman Joker is a jokester, Riddler is a riddler, Ra’s is a megalomaniac, Scarecrow is the fear guy. Lighten or darken any as you see fit, only really Bane has the same problem although they seem to be drawing a bead on him (charismatic superstrong foreign mercenary type)

    [1]Well Harry Osborn and Black Cat have good archetypes, the former as the friend who has to be the dutiful son to a legacy of evil and the latter as the playful thief/seductress

    1. Felblood says:

      Venom in particular has usually been one of those characters with a great, well-defined appearance, but no well-established story about what’s going on inside his head.

      He’s a pair of pajamas that makes you evil and angry, except not really, because the writers really want you to like him.

  25. Guildenstern says:

    I’m not sure that “I like superheroes but don’t like comics” is actually all that strange of a place to occupy these days. I’m definitely in the same boat. Many of the folks in the comments seem to be as well. And you can’t tell me the massive swarms of Marvel movie audiences are all flocking to dwindling little hole-in-the-wall comic shops on Thursdays. The characters themselves are hugely popular but their native medium is, as you describe, bordering upon incomprehensible. It’s not “wrong” like you say, and some folks do indeed like this format. But for new fans the barrier to entry is almost insurmountable.

    I remember trying to read the source material for Guardians of the Galaxy around the time the first movie came out. It went something like this:

    “Okay, so Guardians of the Galaxy. I’ll just pick up some… wait, this doesn’t look right. Who’s this crystal dude? Oh wait, the movie is based off of a different team with the same name but written like… 40 years later? Okay, well, I’ll just read some of that then. Issue #1 seems like a good place to sta-why are they talking about this Annihilation thing? Why aren’t they introducing any characters? I’m supposed to know everyone already? Okay, that’s… fine. I’ll adjust. I’ll just keep reading and wait Drax is the bald girl’s dad? But he doesn’t seem to care at all? And the magician girl is sleeping with bald girl? Or was? Oh, I guess Drax is like… reincarnated? So he’s her dad but not? Okay, whatever, let’s just ignore that and follow along with okay so now somebody has Captain America’s shield. But it’s not Captain America. I guess it’s one of the guys from the 60s? Should I have read that after all? And one of that guy’s villains is here but like… gender-flipped? And that’s not cosplay or anything that’s just… what happened? Ugh, fine, maybe if I just forget about these side characters. This warlock guy seems kind of legit aaaaaaaaand he has an evil twin. But wait, it’s not a twin it’s… him? Who like… manipulated time… so he knows everything that’s going to happen… or something? And now he’s dead? Hell with it, I give up.”

    Admittedly this is the Marvel cosmic stuff which is definitely the weirdest slice of the comic book pie, but still.

    And this is fairly typical stuff. They try to “re-boot” the setting of every comics universe every few years, like some kind of drive reformat to give everybody a clean slate to work with and clear out all the nonsense that the writers got up to in the interim. Only this doesn’t *really* provide a clean slate because you usually need to know what happened in the reboot storyline to follow what’s happening now. And to read that you need to be up on 50+ years of comics lore. Crisis on Infinite Earths was utterly and completely incomprehensible to someone who hadn’t followed every dang storyline in existence up to that point. And trying to follow all of that is expensive as heck. I did the math once and it would cost something like $2-300 to read all of the Civil War storyline alone. And it’s not like you can opt out of that; even if you just want to read one characters own self-titled series, that series will be a part of a larger whole in the interconnected comics universe, so other characters are popping in, talking about their plots and how they all connect and it is exhausting.

    This is why things like the Marvel movies (though it’s showing some signs of the same problem now), Arkham games, and animated series and movies (Batman/Superman TAS/JLU, Young Justice, etc.) can get such a following: they have all the advantages of working with established characters but don’t tend to get too bogged down in lore, or if they do then they’ll at least take the time to explain it to the audience. They make for great little self-contained stories that can carry all the strength of 50 years of tradition without 50 years of baggage. Basically, comic book continuity is a dumpster fire, and any properties that more or less ignore it (like Marvel’s Spider-Man here) in favor of telling their own isolated story are better for it, and infinitely more accessible and marketable to an audience that doesn’t have the time, money, or inclination to stay abreast of every last thing in the world of published comics.

  26. Asdasd says:

    A coven of sexy witches, you say? Maybe I should be reading more comics.

    1. Felblood says:

      You are about to encounter so many sexy witches.

  27. Geoff says:

    We already have books named Amazing Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Superior Spider-Man, so it would make sense to give this videogame a similar title.

    I can say, colloquially, this has been a turn off for me getting into the comics. I’ve always been interested in Batman but didn’t have lots of comics growing up, so back in 2011 when DC made a big public stunt of “resetting” their universe with “The New 52”, I was excited at the thought of being able to start from scratch and get in at the start of a Batman comic run.

    I walked into my local store to buy my first Batman issue and was confronted with a wall of options. Batman. Batman and Robin. Batman: The Dark Knight. Batwing. I feel like there were half a dozen or more Batman titles, though that’s not what Wikipedia tells me was the case at the time (maybe they were legacy titles still on the shelves?). I tried to parse what might be the best fit for me to start with, but eventually I left, frustrated and empty handed.

    It just baffles me how little thought publishers put into this sort of thing.

    Maybe it’s overconfidence / hubris? Though the Arkham games have that identifier, they’re also big enough and successful enough that if someone asked you about “the Batman games” you would probably assume they were talking about the Arkham series. Maybe its more of a “If our game is so good it eclipses all previous games in your memory, then we can claim the best title!” mentality.

  28. Khazidhea says:

    I think my main issue with superhero comics is a lack of a framework to fit all the ongoing changes into. It’s fine if I’m just after a few good stories of a particular character across the decades, I’ll just happily jump around through top 10 list recommendations. But for anything more than that, if I start off reading a character I’ll want to keep on reading that character in the most straightforward manner possible (I know, not the best decision when it comes to Marvel & DC). It’s really bugging me now that I’ve gotten into Spider-man and Daredevil comics. I did some research and found a few recommended authors or arcs as a starting off point and have just wanted to read through everything that follows continuously.

    But recently I’ve hit a few road blocks, I’m midway through Spider-man’s brand new day arc, but am now waiting on about 50 issues to be reprinted before continuing with the Big time arc (I think). And with Daredevil I started with the Bendis run, but have stalled with 10 issues missing before Mark Waid’s run. Things aren’t reprinted often because they’re just not that good, or they’re available otherwise but not in the format/price point/availability I’m after, but I don’t want to skip ahead to find out that Spider-man’s actually Doc Ock possessing his body (I know that’s not what comes next, but just for example), or leave off Daredevil becoming the leader of the hand then picking up the next volume and see him strolling happily down the street like nothing’s happened.

  29. camycamera says:

    I don’t like super hero comics either because all of the stuff that you mentioned just seem completely stupid, plus I have no idea where I was to start if I were to even get into comics in the first place. But the movies are (mostly) great, and superhero movies can make great games.

    And for Spider-Man specifically, the movies Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming are both fantastic and are up there as some of the best Marvel movies. They both do the whole juggling the personal life with the hero life the best out of all of the movies, and they’re just great.

    Wish I could play Spider-Man PS4, I’m gonna be pissed for eternity that Marvel decided to miss out on all of that cash by going PS4 exclusive. Like c’mon, what the fuck were you thinking?! I really hope PC at least will get a port some day. I mean, Sunset Overdrive came over to PC recently. It’s too bad Sony funded the damn game, so it’s unlikely, but I really hope Marvel could work something out.

  30. Dragmire says:

    My interest in the comics died just as I was getting interested in them. I was a fan of the 90’s Spider-Man(with the terrible into music and bad cg buildings) and wanted a comic to see more of him. The one I got established that Peter was now homeless after a clone took over his life and married MJ. It wasn’t what I expected or wanted so I never went looking for more.

    I did get given another comic, a comic that confuses me to this day. I can’t remember the name but I starred a rock monster person reminiscent of The Thing from The Fantastic 4. The entire comic was his internal monologue musing about…. I have no idea. There was a giant half man half woman(vertical split) who ate trees and, if I remember this fever dream correctly, hand fulls of cattle. It was weird…

  31. John says:

    Shamus, sounds like you’d love JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s got the whole “timeless legacy” thing going on but every so often the cast and setting does a full turnover. But it’s still JoJo: it’s still about members of the Joestar family fighting evil with their psychic powers. Each protagonist is a different character with different environmental upbringings, different psychologies, wants and needs.
    Then there’s the settings and genres. Victorian Gothic horror, Asian continental road trip, small-town murder mystery, a horse race across America. There’s a little something for everyone.

    1. Redrock says:

      More than any other anime, JoJo’s fans are suspiciously cult-like, popping up all over and ever so politely suggesting you try it. Whenever you show some sort of vulberability, some kind of slight dissatisfaction with a given element of pop culture, they are right there, ready to prey on your weakness. I imagine burly men in peaked caps approaching sobbing widows at funerals, and in a soft baritone going: “So sorry for your loss, ma’am. I know it seems that all hope has gone out from the universe for you, but, believe me, there’s light ahead. Let JoJo into your heart, and all your sorrow will vanish”.

      1. John says:

        On one level, that’s what happens when a series runs for almost 30 years before it even makes a real headway in your country’s pop culture, but also refuses to become stagnant and embraces reinvention. Niches work like that.

        On another level, when it comes to internet discussion, it’s like the more subtle cousin of 40K: knocking on your door instead of crashing through a wall, but dammit they’re here again! It’s the JW of anime and manga: “Hello, sir/ma’am, do you have a minute to talk about our fashion lord and industry savior Hirohiko Araki?”

  32. Mephane says:

    Sometimes people do the right thing and get punished. Sometimes people do the wrong thing and get away with it. Sometimes nobody can agree on what “the right thing” even is. The world sucks. You can’t fix this by just punching the bad guys and sticking to your principles, but… wouldn’t it be nice if you could?

    For me, superhero stories take the diffuse, abstract, and confusing struggle against the ills of the world and make it into a literal fistfight between a clear good guy and an unambiguous bad guy where I can enjoy the reassurance of seeing good overcome in the end. We create a villain to embody all of the evil and cruelty of the world and a hero to represent our collective desire for justice[1] and we have the hero punch the bad guy in his stupid evil face. I use these stories as escapist fantasy so that for a few moments I can imagine a world where you can defeat or forestall evil with something as simple and straightforward as an uppercut.

    For me it is exactly the opposite, and the reason why superhero stories mostly bore me. Now I don’t mind the cliche hero vs nemesis setup, as long as the story makes it clear – or at least leaves the interpretation to our imagination – that this fight is not literally about the fate of the whole planet/galaxy/universe. Hence the premise of Infinity War leaves me completely cold, whereas the fight between Batman and Joker, constrained to the setting of a single city, works well for me.

    However, I can buy a planetary threat if it is presented such that Earth/humans are not somewhat special than all the other planets and civilizations; if Earth just happens to be one of many targets of some cosmic supervillain, or the story doesn’t even touch any concepts outside Earth and villain is “merely” a human trying to achieve world domination, then that works for me. Doctor Strange, for example, the movie, was really nice. It’s clear that Earth is not the first nor the last world Dormammu is after, we just happen to be the next one in his conquest.

  33. Skyler says:

    A lot of these points were why I liked Ultimate Spider-Man so much. Granted, part of it was me being 11 when the series launched, so Peter Parker was close enough to me in age through the run that I related pretty well. But another important point was that Brian Michael Bendis was the writer for Ultimate Spider-Man. Full stop. He originated the series (and the whole ultimate universe, by proxy), and continued to be the writer until the very end. While other sections of the ultimate universe were written by other authors (and vary wildly in quality), the other series were basically only required reading if you WANTED to know more about the universe. It was entirely possible to read through ONLY Ultimate Spider-Man, and have the feeling (more or less) of a complete story told by one author. Peter Parker was always written by the same person, so the character didn’t have that same dissonance you get with other comic series. It really helped me connect with the character and his world.

    Granted, much of this fell apart for me when he killed Peter, introduced Miles Morales, and then BROUGHT PETER BACK FOR NO REAL REASON other than to “officially” pass the Spider-Man mantle onto Miles and then retire out into the wilderness (which is basically being dead to the story, but at least now it’s happy? Idk.) I don’t mind Miles as a character or his story, but I do wish they would’ve just let Ultimate Peter stay dead. His story was relatively complete, and bringing him back didn’t really serve anything except to undercut that.

  34. Grampy_Bone says:

    I agree that comic Captain America seemed really boring but he’s by far my favorite MCU character. I think The First Avenger is their finest single film.

    I do like this game however one thing I will say is that this version of Mary Jane is so far off from anything in the comics she’s basically a whole new character. That’s okay, but it’s not quite “true to the comics.” I wish in these cases they would just make an actual new character. Turning MJ into yet another boring action girl is lame.

    1. Christopher says:

      MJ in this game has that effect on me too. I’ve seen people’s opinion on her vary a lot, from people feeling she’s like the clingy girlfriend of a fire fighter wanting to go with him to firefight, to people really enjoying her. I think she’s pretty great, all in all, but I also totally think she’s just Lois Lane now. Or alternatively, Peter Parker’s old job spun into Mary Jane’s new personality. It just leads me to wonder why you go with MJ if you’re gonna change her so much. If you wanna keep her ’cause she’s the iconic girlfriend, then keep her iconic. It’s extra weird ’cause you’ve got so many options from 60 years of publication.

      If you want him to date a journalist at the bugle, do the Betty Brant romance. If you want him to have a partner in crime fighting than can hang with him, do the Black Cat romance. If you want his girlfriend to be working in a dangerous crimefighting profession on the streets, go with Carlie Cooper. She actually knows Watanabe, so you get some stuff there. Or alternatively, just have it be Gwen Stacy, since she died so long ago that there’s nobody left to care how faithful you are to whatever original personality she had and she gets a new one every adaptation. Like what is this, Homecoming? Dark Knight Rises? There’s no point in slapping the name of a beloved character on someone else that has little in common with her.

  35. Sartharina says:

    Part of the appeal of comics, to me, is the completely non-linear metanarratives. Comics aren’t merely an escape from human limitations (Through super-powered individuals), they’re also an escape from the rigid, linear advance of time. I don’t think you’re supposed to care about the overarching narrative of comics – It’s about taking a character, and throwing them into crazy situations to explore how the persona acts and reacts. If you don’t like a particular comic or its premise, you don’t have to care about it.

    “How would Lex Luthor act… as PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES?” How about Lex Luthor behind the wheel of a massive doomsday device? Let’s explore what happens when we have Lex Luthor actually use his wealth and power to better the lives of the citizens of Metropolis? (Superman fucks up there… badly. And it’s kinda awesome).

    What really bothers me is when critics fundamentally don’t get the point of a medium, genre, and piece of work, and use it to completely dismiss a work because of it. Some comics do tell linear stories – like the Squarriors and Autumnlands comics I was collecting back when I lived near a Comic+Games store… (And here’s where my train of thought takes a detour)

    And on that note – there’s a reason Comics are more affiliated with Gaming – As in, tabletop games – than novels and movies. If you were to play dozens of games of Settlers of Catan, and frame a narrative around them, the narratives of each game may be linear and self-contained, but you’d have the Continuity Snarl you’re complaining about here when you try to tie a series of games together. Comics are like games – Each series is a self-contained playthrough with friends. Even though every game is a ‘reset’ to the base, the experiences and jokes with that group continue to carry through.

  36. Dev Null says:

    Surprisingly OK Spider-Man.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Mediocre Spider-Man.

      While that may or may not fit the quality of the story, I think the marketing department might have a few notes on that title…

      1. Syal says:

        Thought-He’d-Be-Taller Spider-Man

  37. pedanterrific says:

    As to the name thing, for me this game will forever be known as “(Really Makes You Feel Like) Spider-Man”.

  38. ElementalAlchemist says:

    I never gave Cap a second look as a kid. I thought he was for super-patriotic types and that wasn’t my style. The Marvel movies have really sold me on his big blue boy scout routine.

    To me, MCU Cap pretty much embodies what 21st century Superman should be. Of all the things Warner Bros completely screwed up in their attempt to “me too” the DCCU, it’s baffling that they so completely screwed up Superman. I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising since they couldn’t even follow the basic template Marvel established, but at least in that case you can give them the excuse of not wanting to fall too far behind. With Superman it seems like they just had no idea what to do with the character. I guess they reaped the rewards of letting Zak Synder have free reign.

    When the MCU first started, I thought for sure that Cap would be the absolute worst character, much like your childhood self. But god damn if he isn’t pretty much the absolute best of the lot. Iron Man is still probably my favourite, if for no other reason than Robert Downey Jr has so thoroughly made the role his own (he really is Tony Stark – there is no way they can ever replace him). But I have to salute Chris Evans’ portrayal of Steve Rogers, and the work of the various writers of the movies he has appeared in over the last decade. It is going to be a damn shame to see him finally bow out in Avengers 4, and the MCU will be poorer for him being gone.

    1. Viktor says:

      Warner Bro’s live action film division has one very key, core problem: They’re embarrassed by comics. They don’t want to be making silly comic book films, they want stuff that’s gritty and real! Oscar-worthy, artistic, all those words that filmmakers use to feel better about themselves. You see it in the Nolan Batman* movies, the new Justice League stuff, basically everything they’ve put out in the last 15 years except Wonder Woman**. I suspect it’s them overcompensating for the Batman Forever backlash, but clearly the DC movies do not like bright colors, saving lives, or clean divisions between good and evil. You can’t do a good adaptation when you hate the source material, which means the DCCU was doomed from the start.

      *Batman Begins and TDK were great movies, but Begins was a terrible Batman movie, and Rises was a disaster. TDK is the only good live-action Batman movie, and I’m pretty sure Nolan stumbled into that accidentally by starting with the conflict between what people need and what Bruce was capable of giving them.
      **There’s a reason Wonder Woman worked well, and it’s at least partly because the whole movie is a love letter to the character. That sort of thing resonates with people.

  39. @Shamus totally offtopic, but in case you haven’t seen this video you gotta see it:
    Tim Cain, Obsidian Entertainment / Building a Better RPG: 7 Mistakes to Avoid*.

    *Tim Cain worked on Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, The Temple of Elemental Evil, Vampire The Masquerader Bloodlines, South Park The Stick of Truth, Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      You forgot the most significant point – he is one of the three fathers of Fallout.

  40. Stanislao Moulinsky says:

    One thing I occasionally wondered is…do superheroes still do the superheroes? Back in the old days there were a lot of stories where the good guys were foiling the plans of the bad guys for money or power. Nowadays whenever I skim through a comic book, or watch Linkara, or hear of arcs that gain mainstream notoriety I always find stories about:

    -a villain attempting to kill the hero (like the Hush storyline)
    -a hero dealing with personal problems (like the One More Day storyline)
    -stories dealing with super-hero related issues (like the Civil War storyline)
    -team up arcs

    Do the kind of self-contained small scale stories where the hero foils “normal” crimes still happen in comics?

    1. Dev Null says:

      The problem with depicting heroes bashing up normals is that it isn’t really very heroic. Batman swooping in and dangling some banker out the window for embezzlement kind of makes you realize that he’s just a rich thug who beats people up because he can get away with it. At the very least you need them to be terrorists / cultists / otherwise inexplicably violent normals, to give our hero an excuse to be breaking all the rules.

  41. RCN says:

    My introduction to Spider-Man was the 90s Fox Kids cartoon.

    Which is a weird introduction. In it Spidey has already been a hero for years and is already out of High School, but somehow hasn’t met most of his rogue’s gallery while already been kind of established. Then it gets a cross-over with X-Men and have weird inter-dimensional stuff.

    Then he went to a twin earth on the exact opposite of the solar system where people are furries and he was an outlaw.

    Hmm… now that I’ve spoken about it out loud, it does seem to follow the comics chaotic structure pretty well in the end.

    Anyway, the thing that drew me and made me like it was that Spidey was always monologuing with the viewer and explaining his plans and his goals. It was nice and made me appreciate when he was clever (despite the fact it was the version that was made through such a moral panic that he wasn’t allowed to LAND A PUNCH on screen. Hell, maybe that was for the best because it forced the writers to always have spidey find another way to defeat his villains). It also made him more approachable than Batman or Superman (Batman the Animated series was still great, but Batman himself was always the least interesting aspect, his tragic rogue’s gallery taking the spotlight).

    Spider-Man 2018 was pretty good at channeling that 90s spidey (though admittedly with a whole lot more punching than the series was ever allowed to have). One of my favorite aspects was chasing the odd knick-knacks spidey left around New York and having Peter comment on each one. It brought up one of the core aspects of the character. He is clever and resourceful. When a battle goes bad, he retreats, examines what went wrong, and tries to correct it. It brings me a lot of joy when he finds an old pierced lenses of his mask and remarks that it taught him to reinforce the lenses so that Vulture couldn’t break it into his eyes again, or that he got the idea to insulate his costume after being electrocuted by Electro.

    Heck, at some point I was even asking “wait a minute. Peter, you were dirt poor. HOW did you manage to lose so many backpacks throughout the city? I’d take a lot of care about where I left them just like I did with my real backpacks. Fighting villains is no excuse when you have no money.” And then I found one with his science fair prize and the comment “I forfeited the money prize… though I did keep the life-time supply of backpacks side prize.” Rarely do I get a question aimed at a piece of fiction and have it answered right after.

  42. Lun says:

    Wait a second Shamus, so you can play PS4 games too? Someone like you reeeeeaaallly should play Detroit: Become Human. I’d be very curious to read your comments on it.

    Speaking of this article – your approach to superheroes is actually not weird at all. It’s my same approach, for example. (And I think it’s probably the approach most people have with superheroes – not that many fans of the concept behind a character and their story are also fans of following 100000000000 completely different versions of that character. Or so I like to think.)

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