Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #58
This long-running three-weekly UK Magazine started out by running reprints for 51 issues. But starting with issue #52, it launched a string of original out-of-continuity Spider-Man stories created in the UK which was to last for more than a decade, until Disney pulled the plug in 2011.
The stories changed their tone throughout that time. The early original stories followed in the style of the preceding reprints, which is to say, similar to Spider-Man Adventures, or the Spider-Man TV (1994) television series. Much later, the stories shifted sideways to become more like a watered-down imitation of Ultimate Spider-Man.
In any case, the original Spider-Man stories occupied eleven or twelve pages of this 32 page publication, which was aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories featured classic Marvel characters and villains. While they often echoed plots from the mainstream comics, they did so in their own special style. The remainder of the content was filled with puzzles, coloring, posters (reprinted art), fan letters, and promotions for DVDs and computer games.
The first few stories have been, well... rather unusual. And not necessarily in a good way.
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #58
Mar 2000 : SM Title
Splash page... Spider-Man is dealing with a few muggers in New York when suddenly... Dinosaurs!
For the next too pages then, Spider-Man swings around tackling a T-Rex and a Pterodactyl, all the while spouting inane lines to himself. For example... to the Rex...
"What do you think I am - a Spidey-Snack!?"
"I reckon you could do with losing some weight."
"Please fasten your webbing and have a pleasant journey."
This kind of stuff sits right up there in the "most inane and pointless blathering" rankings for the year 2000. Sadly, "inane drivel" is basically par for the course in these out-of-continuity UK spin-offs. You kind of just have to learn to live with it. There are much worse things to worry about. The lame-ass plot, for example.
Let's follow Spider-Man as he trails the dinosaurs back to the Museum of Natural History, and there he finds... the Lizard! The Liz-man is holding court in front of a few cavemen, a couple of extra dinosaurs, and a giant teleporting gateway that looks something like the "Stargate-1" portal, but with lizards engraved around the outside ring.
And... here we go again. Yet another damn dimensional/teleporting/mystical/whatever-portal. Yeah, they're a good idea now and again. But relying on them as often as this title does is just plain lazy. Another current UK title Spider-Man Heroes & Villains Collection (UK) title is an even worse offender.
Lizard heads through the portal, and Spider-Man leaps through after him, arriving in... the Savage Land. The Lizard then conveniently explains his entire "plot", such as it is. I have to warn you, it's not a good one. The story goes like this.
An ancient 20-foot tall ring-shaped "monument" was recently been unearthed in Central Park. Really. It's a popular spot for archaeologists, didn't you know. Doctor Connors was called into investigate it, presumably because he's a biologist, and biologists are experts in ancient history.
Connors found a ring hidden inside the monument. It called to him and possessed him. As soon as he put it on, he became the Lizard. The monument was then revealed as a gateway to the Savage Land. The Lizard lead the dinosaurs back to New York, and there you go.
With everything explained, Spider-Man fights a few more dinosaurs, then leads the Lizard back through the portal to New York. Then he simply grabs the ring off the Lizard's finger, and throws it back through the portal. Connors returns to human form and the portal is closed forever... just as Spidey somehow knew it would be.
Just reading this story has made me physically angry. It's the kind of anger a hungry, homeless man might get while watching a fat kid buy three burgers, eat two, and throw one away.
Another part of me is ready to surrender my resistance. Does it really matter that these stories are exploring aspects of stupidity that were hitherto unknown to literary science? Perhaps not, in the big picture of the world. But in the world of a Spider-Fan, this is just a sad and sorry waste of 11 pages that otherwise could have been a showcase for something far more worthy.
There might be enough "Oooh! Spider-Man is fighting Dinosaurs!" cool-factor in here to amuse an undemanding pre-teen reader, assuming they had not been cursed with an overly high level of literacy.
For the rest of us, this issue just brings on a kind of weary despair. Half a web.