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 or five 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 issue... "The Free Gift!"
After last month's entirely mundane non-effort, I'm really hoping for something a bit more quirky this time around. I consider the magazine the Magic Roundabout of the Spider-Man world. If you never saw the show. Basically it's a kids program where you'd swear the writers smoked a massive spliff then dropped an LSD chaser before ever picking up the pen.
Anyhow. Give me something to work with guys. Ah... that's more like it. Spider-Man is eating his breakfast cereal (he pulls up the mouth of his mask to do so). His free gift drops out of the packet. It's a spinning top. Then another. Two free gifts! Spacey, man!
Spidey decides to trade his extra top for something else. The guys at school all think it's cool. Thing offers sweets (candy for you U.S. types), but that's not good enough. Captain American's american flag pencil topper, Ock's octopus poster, or Spider-Girl's pretend spider? All great, but just not quite good enough for a cool spinning top!
Poor Lizard doesn't have anything to trade. Altogether now...
So Spidey has a great idea. He'll give Lizard his spinning top for nothing, just so that they can play together.
What the hell is wrong with you Spidey? Are you some kind of gosh-darned Socialist?! You're gonna have Glenn Beck and the Tea Party sending you hate mail if you carry on with that kind of thinking! It was your hard work that earned you that extra top. Nobody should be able to guilt-trip you into having to give it up!
Sheesh! Grow a spine Spidey, and take what's yours!
Just kidding. Seriously, this is an awesome story. It starts out unexpected, heads off at full pace, then gently offers us a lovely twist which is lightly but effectively spiced with a moral.
All kids stories should be this good. Five webs.