Eight and a half years ago, our esteemed Editor reviewed Amazing Spider-Man Pop-Up Book The Schemer Strikes, 1982 in one of the earliest contributions to the Book of the Month Club section. What he didn’t tell you is that there was a second pop-up book released in 1982 by the same company with the same 5-inch by 6-inch dimensions containing six double-spread pop-up pages, using the same writer, the same “Paper Engineer” and most of the same artists. That one featured a Schemer who could have been anyone other than Richard Fisk. This one features a Tarantula who could be anyone at all for all the story cares. But the story’s not the point of these pop-up books, anyway.
Peter Parker is taking pictures of the “world’s largest ruby, on display at the Modern Museum” when the Tarantula arrives, toting a machine gun, intending to steal the gem. Fortunately, Peter is upstairs, allowing him to sneak away to become Spider-Man while Tarantula holds two guards and a museum-goer at gunpoint. The pop-up on this page is Peter himself, only barely extended from the page. If you look at the picture as a comic panel, it seems normal enough, with Peter only shown from (approximately) the waist up but I keep looking at the pop-up figure isolated from the background and it looks very strange with Peter’s legs cut off.
On the next page, Spidey web-swings down from the balcony. “Heads up, honcho!” he says, “I’ll take that toy, Tarantula!” And he kicks the machine gun out of Tarantula’s hands. This is the best pop-up in the book. The ruby and its case extend out as does Tarantula. Spidey stays in the background but moves with the opening of the page. He swings to the right as Tarantula slides to the left and the machine gun stays put. All of which gives the impression of seeing Spidey kick the gun out of the Tarantula’s hands.
The Tarantula retaliates by trying to stab Spidey with his boot toe spike but the web-slinger leaps out of the way. Seventeen museum-goers look on, some recoiling from the violence but all of them are consigned to the non-pop-up background. (Some are so indistinct and small, they only have little circles for heads without any faces drawn in.) The top half of the Tarantula’s body pops out from the page but not his bottom half. This is designed to emphasize Spidey’s leap since the webhead pops out from the page above the point of Tarantula’s boot, which does not pop out. An unremarkable page, all told.
The fight continues. Tarantula takes another leap at Spidey who again dodges him. Instead, Tarantula’s boot spike embeds in a museum statue. Of the five bystanders on this page, one is a museum guard and two appear to be workmen who are picking up frames from which the paintings have been torn or destroyed. Unless they are crooks taking advantage of the fight to make a quick profit. They and Spidey remain on the page as the Tarantula is the only figure to pop out. The opening of the page forces the Tarantula figure to move to the left, emphasizing his impact with the statue. A nice page.
Clearly, some action takes place between the previous page and this page. The statue has been reduced to rubble. Spidey has grabbed one of the frames from one of the workmen and swung it over Tarantula. “Bah!’ snarls the Tarantula, ‘I’ve been framed!’” Part of the rubble pops out here as does Tarantula and the picture frame, which surrounds him. A clever effect but I’m trying to figure out why a shattered statue and a picture frame is enough to immobilize Tarantula. Are his boot spikes supposed to be embedded in the statue? Sure doesn’t look like it. And his posture is cramped and confined as if the frame had him bound in a force field.
In any event, it does the trick. The cops come and haul Tarantula away. As they put him in the paddy wagon, Spidey takes a picture. “This will be a front page story for the Daily Bugle!” he thinks, “While I’m collecting my check, the Tarantula will be taking a trip to jail.” Great plan except that Tarantula, the cops, and three bystanders are all aware of Spidey taking his picture. One cop even waves at him! So, is he really going to palm that picture off as the work of Peter Parker? I think, once Tarantula gets out of jail, he’ll be paying Peter a little visit. Spidey is the only pop-up on this final page. Only half his body is shown so that, just as on the first page with Peter, it looks like his legs are cut off. Let’s do a further comparison of the first and last pages. On the first page, Peter is facing the reader (though is head is turned to look back at Tarantula) as he seems to be heading to the right with his camera in hand. On the last page, Spidey is in the same position on the page only he is facing away from the reader and facing left with his camera held to snap a picture. As I said, both figures are missing their legs. This, my friends, is called symmetry and it isn’t in here by accident. There are creators out there actually thinking of these things. It’s a nice stylistic “double-back” and it ties a pretty bow around the whole thing.
It’s a good thing they were thinking about art design because they sure didn’t think about the story. Tarantula tries to rob a museum. Spidey stops him. Tarantula is arrested. That’s the plot. Tarantula comes in with a gun, Spidey knocks it away, Tarantula resorts to attacking with his feet and never bothers to retrieve the gun. That’s the characterization. Don’t blame David Kraft since he only had 6 pages and about 200 words to work with. Plus, I’m pretty sure the whole idea of this book was to give the kids some cool pop-up moments. It does that…about half of the time.
Half of the time results in half a full rating. The coolness and collectible factor shoots it up some but not as much as it would if the Schemer book didn’t exist. Add a dash of credit for the symmetry of the first and last pages. The book as a whole is silly and small but you’ve got to have it. You just know you do. Three and a half webs.