This UK kids magazine is one of three regular Spidey magazine offerings from Panini. Spider-Man & Friends targets the 4-10 year old market, while sister publication Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) aims at the pre-teen and teen crowd. Finally, their Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine) hits the same mid-teen crowd but with a video game/movie angle.
But let's get back to Spider-Man & Friends. It features a distinctively drawn semi-Manga style kiddie Spider-Man, his cousin Spider-Girl, plus early school versions of Hulk, Wolverine, Beast, Storm and Captain America along with guest appearances from many other big name Marvel heroes and villains. Toy tie-ins are also available, plus in 2009 they produced a hardback annual.
Published every four weeks, this UK magazine features a toy taped to the front of each issue. Inside you'll find a four page Spidey & Friends story with three panels per page, captions of 8-20 words per panel. Then there's some nice simple kids puzzles, some coloring, a couple of competitions, and a page or two of Spidey merchandise. It's similar to the formats used for the older kids' magazines, just pitched for a much younger target audience.
This month's story is... "In a Fix!"
Doc Ock has put up posters offering to "fix anything in 24 hours". His advertisements are successful. Too successful... and he is flooded with toys and other items that need fixing. Broken bike chains, cellphones, flag poles, toasters, teddy bears, flutes, and more.
Undaunted by the flood of tasks, Ock launches into the job with all six arms. But unfortunately, he still has only one brain, and so the jobs become all muddled up. He creates a piggy-bank that cooks toast, a bicycle-mounted flute, and a teddy-bear with a built-in telephone!
It's up to his super-friends to save the day. With the assistance of their various talents (especially those of super-fixing-experts Iron Man and the Beast), Ock and his friends manage to repair everything as promised.
They're not quite finished yet, though. Although everything is mended, they still need to deliver the newly-working items back to their original owners within 24 hours to make the promised deadline. That's another job for Ock's super-assistants, which they complete just in time.
Ock admits that he would have failed, if not for his friends who came to his aid when he was "in a fix".
Spider-Man, Beast, Thing and Iron Man. Propping up fatally flawed business models since 2006.
I guess the moral of this story is "you can count on your friends". Or perhaps it is "don't try and do too many things at once, or you will fail at them all". Or could the intended message from this story be "never promise more than you can deliver".
No, wait, I think is could be "when you try and help people, they will be angry if you fail to meet an arbitrary and impossible deadline".
This is a nice attempt, and the piggy-bank toaster was quite amusing. But I felt that the "24 hour deadline" that drove much of the story was overly forced. The time-pressure requiring Ock to do everything at once was the foundation of the plot, but it seemed so arbitrary that it wasn't convincing.
Also, these tales generally have a nice clear take-away message, but not this time.
The primary message was probably "you can count on your friends". Frankly, that's such a tired old cliché for these kinds of kids stories that I felt compelled to search for an alternative moral. I found a few options, but none of them were particularly satisfactory.
Despite these weaknesses, the final result is probably good enough to do the job, and I'm going to give it a perfectly mediocre three-web rating.