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 Daily Bugle Stories, and this book here - "Spider-Man 2: The Joke Book".
This is the cheapest of all the seven kids books in this series in terms of printing format, and the cheapest-equal on price. Basically... it's a bunch of "jokes" about Spidey and Doc Ock. Hey, Joke Books are a pretty well proven concept. What could possible go wrong?
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.
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, but with only 48 pages. Glossy cover like all the other books, but inside this one is different - it's printed on cheap cream newsprint. There are some grainy B&W photos scattered here and there. Other than that, there's just jokes... an average of about three per page. Probably 100 or so jokes all in all.
But are they funny?
Well, having just started writing the new Fans : Spider-Fun weekly cartoon strip, I know how tough it can be to write one funny joke in a week - let alone half a dozen. Fortunately the writer of this book, Thea Feldman, has clearly enlisted the help of her two close friends - Susan, a three year old child with the hiccups, and Neville, a retarded former train-spotter just returned from a two month prison sentence in South Wales. Together, here's the kind of thing they came up with:
Q. "What did Doc Ock drive to the bank?"
A. "An armoured car!"
Q. "What did Doc Ock do at the bank?"
A. "Commit armed robbery!"
Q. "What did Spider-Man do to the bank customers?"
A. "Keep them out of arms way!"
Q. "Where does Doc Ock keep his arms?"
A. "In the armory!"
Q. "Why isn't Spidey afraid of Doc Ock now?"
A. "Because he's armless!"
Q. "How did Doc Ock make the bomb armless?"
A. "He dis-armed it with his arms in the armory!"
Look. There's a fixed number of times I can laugh at a sentence with the sound "arm" in it somewhere. That number is less than or equal to one.
Sure, there are a couple of giggle-worthy jokes in here, but they're few and far between. I can almost feel the pressure of somebody being forced to create 100 Spidey jokes in a fortnight. The vast majority of the jokes here are basically the same joke again and again.
On one hand, with the right delivery my eight year old kid would probably laugh at half of these gags. That's probably the right age. Any younger won't get them, and any older and you start to get a better understanding of what really makes a joke funny.
But in fact, I can quite easily drive my eight-year old into hysterics by sticking my fingers in my ears and walking around making "Dweeek! Dweeek!" noises at random intervals. I'm going to push my luck here, and say that I can still tell the difference between a truly clever, funny joke for eight year olds, and a yet another freakin' stupid pun on the words "arm", "bug", and "web". This book is almost entirely filled with the latter.
One and a half webs, just because I appreciate Thea's charitable nature in attempting to provide work experience for retarded former train-spotters.
Laugh? I almost did.