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.
Captain America has a new telescope. He invites his friends (Spider-Man and the Silver Surfer) to look through it and see the moon and the stars.
Silver Surfer, apparently, "can name all the stars and planets". Well, that's not so impressive for the planets, but for the stars, that's pretty good going. Assuming the heroes are a fair distance out of the city (to avoid light pollution) and there are no clouds, then they can see maybe 3,000 stars. If the Surfer can name all of them, that would take him a couple of hours.
On the other hand, taken literally to mean "all the stars in our galaxy", that would be an estimated 100,000,000,000 stars. That's roughly equal to the number of neurons in a human brain. So it would be physically impossible to store words for "all of the stars", even if they all had earth names, which they don't.
Of course, if you interpreted that as "all of the stars, period", then there are an estimated between 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 and 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in our universe. I'd like to see you "name all the stars" in that case, Mister Surfer!
The heroes decide to visit the moon. Spidey and Captain America put on their special suits (made by Iron Man) that help them breathe on the moon. Then they hop on the back of the Surfer's Silver Board and they all go to the moon. They see an American Flag (yay America!)
From the moon, the heroes can see the Earth.
And you couldn't see a city on that marbled bowling ball,
Or a forest or a highway, or me the least of all.
No, Joni Mitchell doesn't really get mentioned in this story. That's just the song that comes into my mind whenever I see the a picture of the earth from a distance.
This is an odd little story. It feels surprisingly "real" in parts. The color palette used for the artwork is quite austere, all dark blue and grey/silver. The earth seen from space is a real photo, and it provides quite a poignant moment. "The Earth is where you live," says the Silver Surfer. He tactfully decides not to say "...and you've done a crappy job of caring for it."
There's very little humor here (except for a silly moment where a bunch of moon-critters pop their bug-eyed heads out from a crater when the heroes aren't looking). There is perhaps a moral, but it's very, very subtle. That's OK though. I can handle "subtle".
Did you know the current world record time to get to the moon is 8 hours, 35 minutes. That was for an unmanned probe that didn't slow down at all. I guess we have to assume that the Silver Surfer's board projects a cosmic aura which protects its frail human contents against the forces of massive acceleration and deceleration. Either that, or maybe they went over the holidays, so they didn't miss out on school.