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This 5.25" x 7.25" paperback book (144 newsprint pages) is an Evangelist Christian tract entitled "The Soul of Spider-Man". According to its cover, it will reveal "Unexpected Spiritual Insights found in the Legendary Super-Hero Series".
You know those kinds of people who spend their weekend cycling around the suburbs and knocking on doors asking to come in and talk to you about Jesus? Well, this book is the print equivalent.
When you sit down with this book, it's just like sitting down around the coffee-table with one of those door-knocking purveyors of salvation. You can take a sip from your cup of tea and kick off with any topic of conversation you like. But two minutes later, you can bet your bottom dollar the subject of the conversation is going to be "Jesus, and how he is the most awesome thing in the world."
Let's take Doctor Octopus. He created his brain-controlled mechanical arms, right? But then there was that terrible accident, and his arms started controlling him. Well, that's just how the apostle Paul felt when he wrote Romans 7:18-20. "My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time."
There are thirty chapters in this book, and they are essentially identical in structure.
Let's be clear. There's no philosophy here. There's no critical analysis of Spider-Man as a character - in fact there's no critical analysis of anything at all. God's Love and Salvation is the fundamental assumption of the book, and there's no need to go around asking questions. The "spiritual insight" promised on the cover is nothing but the endlessly repeated claim that "Christianity is the only truth" and if you won't agree, then you're an evil sinner doomed to eternal damnation.
Spider-Man's sole role in this publication is to act as the sugar in the kid's cough mixture that helps it go down with less fuss. Spidey's identity isn't particularly critical. The writers could easily have chosen a different front-man for their show - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Justin Bieber, or Thomas the Tank Engine. Basically any character that can start a discussion with a target child... a discussion that will suddenly, inevitably and incongruously take a right-angle segue and become a one-sided lecture on the subject of Jesus.
In fact, the front cover shows how irrelevant the Spider-Man choice was - it shows a picture of a raised red arm and fist which looks like the Red Hulk, and not like Spidey at all.
This story is without doubt the most egregious, cynical and self-interested hijacking of Spider-Man that I have ever seen. I give it our rock-bottom half-a-web rating.
It is painful and saddening to see the defenceless web-slinger be co-opted as an unwilling stool-pigeon in a product primarily designed to assist Christian parents who need a little extra help indoctrinating their children.
To those parents, and to the writers of this book I say: Kindly leave our Spider-Man out of that discussion.
By confining their discussions purely to the 2002, 2004, 2007 movies the writers conveniently avoided having to consider the One More Day storyline in which Peter makes a pact with Mephisto.
Oh well, I guess there's no chance that the writers would have actually performed any real examination of that conundrum. Instead, we would have gotten yet another one-sided lecture about how only Jesus offers a real deal.