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.
"Spider-Man's teacher has promised Spidey something special. Spider-Man and Spider-Girl use their special webs to swing to their teacher's house."
Two points already. Firstly, Spider-Man has always been a massive teacher's pet, and Spider-Girl is always treated second-rate. Note how it as "Spidey" who was promised something special. Spider-Girl just tags along for the ride.
Secondly, a fundamental mistake you see in so many "out of continuity" stories. Spider-Man and Spider-Girl are happily swinging through suburbia, high above the rooftops of the houses. What on earth are they swinging from, may I ask? Suburban skyscrapers? There's a reason why Spider-Man hangs out in Manhattan, ya know!
The Spider-pals arrive at the teacher's house. The flowers smell nice. Nobody answers the door, but Spider-Man spots... a SPACEMAN! The spaceman is wearing a white suit, and is carrying a smoke gun.
Spider-Man and Spider-Girl hide from the spaceman, and instead go to find their teacher. But there is no sign of her. Perhaps the spaceman knows where their teacher has gone.
They ask the spaceman. But the spaceman says "KEEP BACK, or you might get hurt!"
The "spaceman" then removes the helmet on her beekeeper's suit. She is of course, the teacher. They all go inside for some honey.
Full marks for the idea! This is a story which is entertaining, educational, and quirky. I can just imagine this story forming the basis for a fascinating discussion for a group of four year old preschoolers.
There's a couple of glitches that I feel compelled to point out, in my typical curmudgeonly fashion. Firstly the whole "web-swinging on thin air" thing really bugs me. But secondly, the teacher shouts "KEEP BACK, or you might get hurt!" but then immediately removes her own helmet anyhow.
Thirdly, the story doesn't explain what the smoke gun is for. A sentence explaining that "This gun shoots out special smoke that makes the bees sleepy and safe" would have been a tidy resolution to an otherwise potentially confusing aspect of the story.
Despite a few flaws, this is still a fun and worthwhile tale. Four webs.