What have the British ever contributed to comics?
Well, there's Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. Plus don't forget Chris Claremont, Mark Millar, and Paul Jenkins.
And... oh yeah, there's also the "other guys" - like Alan Cowsill, Ferg Handley, Jim Alexander from the "Marvel UK" stable.
Although, if you're based in the U.S. then you probably never ever heard of those guys. So let me explain.
You see, for many dark decades in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, you couldn't easily buy "American Comic" books. I'm talking the 70's and even the early 80's before "Forbidden Planet" in London launched a revolution of "proper" comic book shops.
So the skeleton team in "Marvel UK" was kept pretty busy in their well-meaning but somewhat pointless attempt to provide UK reprints of as much of the "important" Marvel comic books as they could.
In 1995 they launched Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) as a vehicle to reprint some of the "kids" content that was increasingly coming out of the US, such as the Spider-Man Adventures title. But after fifty-odd issues of doing so, they developed a sudden rush of blood to the head and decided to create their own local Spider-Man stories.
Like this eleven page Christmas "masterpiece."
Kingpin needs to "clear" a hospital. On Christmas Eve.
Not just any hospital, but the "Stan Lee Children's Hospital" – a hospital for kids, operating in grand old mansion in park-like grounds, presumably somewhere within web-swinging distance of Manhattan.
As the children cower behind the night-nurse, Spider-Man tackles the Enforcers. Aided by Mrs. Parker. His Aunt. Who for some unexplained (and probably inexplicable) reason is also working night shift in this hospital.
The Kingpin is Furious at the Failure of his Feeble enForcers. Wilson Fisk has promised his wife that he will abandon his criminal activities at midnight. And yet... instead of packing up and cashing out his profits, he has decided to... assault a hospital?
Fisk's lieutenant "Turk" is sent out to gather the Sinister Six. But the Sinister Six are all busy with Christmas, and so the Kingpin's man gathers five second-rank villains instead. They are Doughboy, Trapster, Toad, Vanisher, and The Living Brain! Plus himself, of course. Although he doesn't have a particularly villainous name, nor any powers.
But five seconds into the (second) fight of the night, Kingpin himself turns up and explains the urgency.
If this hospital is emptied by Christmas Day I can buy it cheap, tear it down and build a casino in its place!
And if that makes any sense to you, then you probably need to check yourself into a hospital.
At this point, Mrs. Fisk turns up to ask what's going on. Spider-Man explains that Kingpin was here to help "put on a show for the kids." A full-action fight show. At midnight. In the hospital. For sick kids who are so sick that they can't go home.
Spider-Man convinces Kingpin that in order to avoid trouble with his wife, he needs to add verisimilitude to the fiction by dressing up as Santa and giving out the presents. Presumably using the spare XXXXXXXXL-sized Santa suit that was sitting in a cupboard somewhere.
I really don't know where to go with this. It's all so stupid that I literally just want to cry.
Frankly, if a child is old enough to read this comic book, they're old enough to be treated more intelligently than this nonsense.
It's pap. It's just wilful mistreatment. There's not a single idea in this story that isn't stupid.
Look, don't get me wrong. I'm totally fine with comics being fun. And silly. And light-hearted. I'm not saying that ten-year-old's should be given "V for Vendetta" or "Watchmen" to read [although sixteen-year-old's definitely should be!]
It's OK for kids to read kids stories. That's fine and natural. But stories for a tweenager should be on a pathway that leads them towards adult reading. i.e. at the very least, these stores should have some internal consistency and basic internal logic that at least connects with day-to-day reality on some vague way.
Sick kids shouldn't be awake and dressed at midnight. The police should have arrived after the first fight. The bad guy's motivations at least make some basic sense. Peter's Aunt May doesn't work at a hospital. We should at least understand why Spider-Man is at the hospital at midnight. Kingpin shouldn't be a complete moron. et-cetera, et-freaking-cetera!
This sort of story is like feeding your kids shitty processed food, full of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavourings. It's not a pathway to something better – it's a wrong-turn down a side-road. It heads off on a tangent and takes a U-Turn.
Indeed no, this kids magazine is not a step on the road to adult reading, it's a step towards illiteracy.
Kids deserve better than this.