Comics : Spider-Man 2: The Daily Bugle Stories
Among the bundle of small-format "kids story books" created for the movie tie-in, there are three books which have taken a slightly more off-beat approach. Those three are Spider-Man 2: Friends and Foes, Spider-Man 2: The Joke Book, and this book here - "Spider-Man 2: The Daily Bugle Stories".
This is the longest of all the seven kids books in this series, and it's all built around a single gimmick. It's a bunch of "articles" and "letters" extracted from the Daily Bugle. It's a fun idea, but like most gag books, it's easy to take things too far...
Note: There are probably U.K. and U.S. versions of this book, probably with separate ISBNs. We'll catch up with that info all in good time. But for now, let's just open up and have a look inside.
Spider-Man 2: The Daily Bugle Stories
Jun 2004 : SM Title
These books are the same size as most of the other HarperCollins movie tie-ins, namely 5" x 7.5". This one is square binding, with a whopping 144 pages. That's over twice the length of any other books in this series. Glossy cover. The paper stock is white, but thinner than the other books, to avoid bulging too much at the seams. In the centre of the book there's an insert of eight pages of high-quality glossy still photos of key movie scenes, not really tied in to the story, just to add a bit of color. Other than this, the book is B&W with some grey for variety. Approximately 24 lines per page.
Anyhow, let's look at what we've got here. As mentioned, the book is essentially a bunch of Bugle extracts. There are stories about Spidey's adventures... "Spidey Foils Bank Robbery", "Spidey Blameless in Experiment Disaster". Most of the Bugle reporters tell "the facts" in their own cutesy way. Of course, Jonah then launches his editorial broadsides... "Osborn Had It Right!", and such. Interspersed with these are bunches of "Letters to the Editor", normally supporting Spidey, and often written by May Parker, or Flash Thompson. Even Spidey writes an "Open Letter to Doctor Octopus". Agony aunts and society columnists cover other aspects.
It's a nice concept in theory, but there are several major problems in practice.
- There's no way Jonah would let all this positive stuff be published. C'mon, think Rupert Murdoch, think Fox News. When the head of a media outlet chooses an editorial direction, everybody else toes the line! OK, maybe I'm expecting too much realism. Let's move on.
- The text of these stories is almost without exception sickeningly preachy, and or unsubtle. Now, the concept of one of Jameson's biased editorials is quite amusing in the abstract sense. "Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?" is a great one-liner. But having to read one in full is a different story. In order to be bearable, the same cleverness would have to continue throughout the text. I don't know if that's even possible, but it's certainly not achieved in this case!
- The real goal of the book is to recap and explain a number of scenes from the movie. This frequently conflicts with the goal of "making the format work". In the attempt to cover the film content, the flow and feel of the fake newspaper article is completely ruined.
- It just goes on toooo long! The same kind of concept was sort of used as a side-gag in one of the books from the first film, "Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man", and it worked kind of fine there. But you can't sustain 144 pages with just this concept, it's just spread way too thin by the end.
The writer, Ben Gunter, seems to be a bit of a real Spidey fan - at least judging by some of the sub-jokes and references. There are letters from Flash Thompson, head of the Spider-Man Fan Club. There's a letter from Max Dillon (pre-Electro), from Wilson Fisk (upstanding community and business leader), and even one from Irving Forbush!
But overall, the whole thing is just laid on so thick that I felt rather nauseous reading these massively contrived stories. Spidey writing to a newspaper agony aunt for advice with a girl (let's call her "Jane"). Otto writing letters to the Bugle, signed "...yours in poisonous hatred, Dr. Otto Octavius". It's kind of like butter... nice on bread, but eating a couple of slabs leaves you with a rather unwell feeling.
Funny for twenty second, but doesn't last 144 pages. Sustained reading will cause risk of nausea. Two webs.