This UK kids magazine was 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) aimed at the pre-teen and teen crowd. Finally, their Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine) targeted the same mid-teen crowd but with a video game/movie angle.
But let's get back to Spider-Man & Friends. It featured 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 were also available, plus in 2009 they produced a hardback annual.
Published every four weeks, this UK magazine featured 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.
I'm speaking in the past tense, because the series was cancelled in 2011 (along with every other original Marvel story content created in the UK) after Disney purchased Marvel. This was the final issue.
Doctor Octopus has created a giant octo-bot so that the heroes can train their combat skills.
Everybody has a turn practising with the octo-bot. When the octo-bot starts to overhead, Ock decides to switch it off so it can cool down. But of course instead the octo-bot decides to go crazy and attack everybody.
Spider-Man leaps in and distracts the robot while Ock turns the giant switch on the back of the robot's head from "On" to "Off".
The final panel features all the heroes, with Spider-Man at the front of the pack. The caption reads:
"Spidey helped everyone test their powers and made sure no one got hurt. No wonder he's the number one Super Hero."
What a disappointment. There's nothing funny, clever, silly, or educational here.
This final story is insipid and staid, which is a damn shame.
I've had some really good laughs out this magazine over the last seven years, and I'm really rather sorry to see it go. Sure, recent issues have been a bit disappointing, but these things come in cycles, and there's every chance it could have picked up again.
It's just a real shame we had to go out this way... not with a bang, but with a whimper.
I want to say a person "Thanks" to writer Rik Hoskin and artist Nigel Dobbyn for all the giggles over the past few years. If you're reading this, amigos, then I want you to know that despite any criticisms I may have churlishly hurled in your direction, the good definitely outweighed the bad!