Dec 30, 2019

Roundtable: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

This is how the Cube ends the decade! With our...

Roundtable: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker


KARA: Overall I actually really liked it!! I actually felt like the characters are really what drove the story, which is how I like it I thought Rey and Ben's journeys of self-discovery were well done. Honestly this was the first time I gave any shits about Ben. It was a nice little redemption arc that he had. The only thing there is that I'm not at all a fan of the Reylo ship, and I stand by the opinion that their team up moment and Ben's sacrifice would've been stronger if they had formed more of a sibling bond a la Luke and Leia.

NOAH: There was a strong theme about there being no difference in the strength of family of lineage and family of orientation. I think that's an important message to send out to kids, and they did a good job of it. The pace of the flick was a little fast for me (especially after almost 4 hours of The Mandalorian), but it's forgivable. I wish R2-D2 had a little more screen time.

SAMANTHA: Overall, I liked it a lot. I'm looking forward to watching it all in succession (you'd think I would have done it before opening night, but nah).

BEN: I thought the first hour was a standard quest for a magic map, pretty blah. When they get to the wrecked Death Star the story finally got going. I never cared much for Poe or Finn, I’ve never felt the same connection between the new trio as I did the old. Poe and Finn seem too redundant for me, though I do like their friendship as a duo.

KATHERINE: Ben, did you hear Ahsoka?? Haha it was great to see how many Jedi voices made it into that final battle.

BEN: I did! Kanan too. But Rey and Kylo are this trilogy for me. Poe I actively dislike, and Finn started out good until he became redundant once plans to kill Poe off were changed. Finn got a new love interest in every movie, which I’ve never seen before.

KATHERINE: I feel like Finn’s main love interest in all three movies has been Poe. Haha they didn’t make it explicit (I understand the frustration that people have with not making it officially canon, but the Star Wars fandom is clearly full of toxic bros and they would’ve burst into flames) but they didn’t disprove it either... plus Oscar Isaac seemed to be trying his hardest to make them a full blown couple. I think Finn’s super protective of Rey like a brother, Rose was his foil that taught him the true extent of his potential and how to be the best version of himself, but him and Poe have always had this flirty little bantery spark. I really enjoyed their scenes together.

KARA: I will say that Finn and Poe clearly both arced at the end of The Last Jedi, so we didn't get to see anything of that in this movie. But it was really great to see them being at their resistance finest, and also getting to enjoy their deep friendship with Rey.

LaMAR: Got dragged to it and I wish I'd have stayed at home, but I enjoyed the Droids and CGI characters more than the actual people (Leia and Lando aside, Billy Dee Williams picked up where he left off and didn't miss a step). I did find it interesting how the movie ignored the last one where it could, and how it handles the best parts of the trilogy alongside highlighting all the problems it has. One thing that sticks out to me is this need to end things that sits at the core of the last three films. It's not only off-putting, but honestly it's sort of weird.

JD: Delightful. So-so movie yet a good Star Wars movie.I think the film up to Rey trying to hide on Ach-To was a better episode 8 than episode 8. Think about it. It would have ended with Kylo’s turn, a “Chewie’s alive!” moment, and Rey in exile still believing she killed Chewie.

MATT:  I think it was fine. Not great, not awful. Top 6 Star Wars film (Skywalker saga). I primarily think they could've gone with a 3 year gap and worked out some of the kinks in the story. It's pretty breakneck, so you never really stop and think about it. Yes, there is fan service stuff, lots of blink and you miss it stuff (they linger on Wedge long enough to put 2 and 2 together if you suspect it's happening).

JEFF: Finally saw it. It's a good movie, not great, and had some nice touches of nostalgia with Lando and Wedge in this one and the Jedi voices.

MATT: Mostly it just seemed kind of safe and lazy. I would echo some other critiques that they just tried to please too many fans, but I would add this spin: because they wanted to include the original trio, they really never fully developed the old trio. We got Rey and Finn development in the prior two movies, but Poe remains a weak link in this trio. He got something other than being an asshole to do, but he was mostly sizzle in the others and only a little steak (good pilots being a dime a dozen apparently). Additionally, I think the trilogy would probably have benefited from sacrificing cool things to see with a focus on the character development. Basically, cut down to an A and B plot (intertwining or converging at the end because that's what they do) and build up Kylo and Rey. We got hints of that in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. They kind of crushed it down in this one.  I may be a little down on the film, but I did like many parts of it. Particularly the opening scene of Ren on Exegol. That worked well and connected with the arc.


BEN: The only thing I liked about The Last Jedi was the connection between Rey and Kylo, and that was solidified in this one. My favorite stories outside of the movies have involved characters that don’t strictly walk the path of the light or dark, so I always found the two of them forging their own path to be the most intriguing idea. I didn’t ship them after the last one, but I did in this one.

SAMANTHA: Ben and Rey... it was weird, but to ride off of what Antonio had said when we were discussing it, they'd had that odd sexual tension from The Force Awakens, so. Okay.

KATHERINE: I’m not much of a Reylo shipper either, but they do have a very compelling bond... I was also hoping they’d ultimately be more of a brother/sister bond, but I must admit they did end up having a certain chemistry together that would’ve made that creepy. Haha. I wouldn’t have been for them actually having a relationship, but him healing her, sharing one kiss and then him dying actually ended up feeling perfect. I always thought the only way he could be redeemed was to sacrifice himself, so maybe that was predictable but it was satisfying and felt right. And there was something really beautiful about Leia’s spirit seeming to wait for him before disappearing with him together to become one with the force.

KATHERINE: Also, did you guys catch all the little mannerisms he had that seemed to echo Han Solo once he became Ben again? Someone pointed it out online and they’re so subtle but great. Most notable is the little shrug he does when he’s fighting off the Knights of Ren. Also, I had full blown tears when he talked to Han again. “Dad...” “I know.” 😭

JEFF: I was very surprised to see Han's ghost. I don't think Harrison Ford comes back to do that if Carrie Fisher was still alive.

SAMANTHA: Tying Ben Solo's exit to his parents (like Leia stayed long enough to cross him over with her) was so bittersweet. It mirrored the way Carrie and her Mom passed, so maybe it felt more poetic to me than it actually was.

BEN: But I was also hoping Ben would get to live, but like Dark Phoenix, he had done too much to not pay for his crimes.


SAMANTHA: Wrapping up Leia's arc was painful for me because a) she's no longer with us and b) they had bigger plans for her and the way they worked it out felt a little disjointed. I loved the way they addressed the whole "How did Leia save herself in space when she's never used the force!?" cries. Of course she trained with Luke, of course she was meant to be a Jedi. It makes sense to think it took place off screen during all the years that passed. I guess folks just needed to see it. I'd love to see what others thought of it, because it was sensical and satisfying to me. Her death, however... I really would have loved to see Leia go down in a blaze of glory as opposed to the whisper it was. But then again, that's how Carrie left, wasn't it? It was somehow oddly quiet and not at all the way we thought it would be.

BEN:  I was worried the end of Leia’s story would be a mess of editing old footage to force in an unplanned death, but it ended up coming together really nicely and beautifully. Her sacrificing herself to finally get through to Ben was perfect.

TANYA: With Carrie Fisher's untimely passing I always longed for a Ben/Leia heart to heart.

MATT: Yeah, I can definitely have seen him getting a force ghost Leia visit if she had been around.

LaMAR: Do you guys think that was Leia's doing, or Ben's?

JEFF: I think that was Leia, probably took everything she had to bring Han back like that

BEN: I think it’s unfortunately a byproduct of Carrie’s passing, as she couldn’t have a more substantial conversation with him. They probably would have still brought in Harrison somehow. The part that got me was Chewbacca’s reaction to Leia. (Typing that sentence makes me really weird.)


BEN: Of course all the good stuff is erased by the mental image of Palpatine having sex. When I first saw the Emperor was going to be in this one, I thought it was another desperate ploy for nostalgia, but it ended up adding a needed through line for the entire series, making it about the rise and final eradication of this ultimate threat. I was watching The Force Awakens again, and she has the same saber fighting style as Palpatine, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that was always the plan. I never hated the idea she wasn’t a legacy character, but if they were going to make her one, this works better than her being some secret Skywalker. I had Rey’s “nobody” reveal spoiled for me in the previous movie, and the Palpatine reveal spoiled in this one. Subsequently, neither of those reveals bothered me that much. .

KATHERINE: I think it’s a more interesting, different, equalizing idea that she was nobody and the power can come from anywhere, but it also didn’t bother me that she was a Palpatine. Maybe because that felt consistent with general Star Wars mythology, considering how the entire original and prequel trilogies were about how the Skywalker family was intertwined with Palpatine / the Sith. I wasn’t offended by either route

MATT: The stronger choice is no one. The weak one being lineage. A twist would be Palps taking a page from his master and creating life.

ANTONIO: My big theory had been that Rey was a clone of Palpatine, and that in the third movie he’d be coming for what he figured was rightfully his. I was pretty close.

MATT: This is an interesting option.

BEN: How could she be a clone of him, you idiot?

ANTONIO: She’d be a test tube baby, obviously! Gave himself some male and female skinsuit options!

BEN: So how do we know Palpatine died this time?

MATT: He went full Raiders of the Lost Ark. works on Nazis and Sith!

KATHERINE: It’s the rule that if you fall from a great distance / down a big hole but the audience doesn’t actually see a dead body (either dead with eyes open or watch it crumble and disintegrate), they’re not dead!

BEN: I may be letting the old comics influence me, but I think we’re supposed to assume that Palpatine clones himself. So why would he be gone this time?

MATT: They erased so much of the EU, no way Dark Empire survived.

BEN: Then how is he alive???

MATT: Sith spirits. He killed the Sith who could create life from nothing, must’ve picked up some tricks. That or horcruxes

BEN: So they could recreate him?

MATT: I think it would surprise no one that the Sith like to bone down. And/or he just copied from his masters playbook and caused life to exist creepily.

BEN: They are fueled by their passion.


TANYA: A lot of reviews I've seen said this movie made them question whether they ever liked Star Wars. Another said they wished they never asked for more Star Wars. Has a fan base ever really reacted like this before? Neverending Story was a watershed movie of my childhood. I hated the sequel, but that doesn't mean I don't love the original or my feelings have changed 'cause the sequel sucked badly.

BEN: It’s become quite sad. Sci-fi and fantasy used to be something that united people, signaled to each other a kindred spirit. Now we separate into imaginary lines of quality

TANYA: I never understand people who say a movie ruined their childhood.

MATT: I do think it’s too much Star Wars too fast, so you let people realize that things were never perfect a lot faster. That being said, the movie was still largely entertaining and had some good visuals. The story is just a mess

BEN: Lucas famously hated The Force Awakens, and it was likely because it rehashed his movie. Say what you want about the prequels, but he didn’t remake the originals.

MATT: True. He did not. And that is why he failed. Now that I’m 1.5 hours out of the movie,

BEN: They could have been good, if someone else did a second draft of those scripts

MATT: Second draft would’ve cut the bacteria-induced force powers and possibly made Episode 1 less racist. Like a 12% chance of the second.

BEN: Considering his plan for the last three involved diving deep into the whills, probably not on the space bacteria.

MATT: God, just no. He has kids, he knows that you can create something, but once it’s out in the world, you can’t control it. No matter how many times you’re tired of reading the same books over and over or something generally applicable to other people.

TANYA: I've always felt the problem with the prequels are that we don't need the first two films. Who cares about child Anakin? We just need the third film, Revenge of the Sith.

BEN: I was far more interested in the idea of Vader hunting down all the Jedi.

TANYA: I would have liked an Obi-Wan Kenobi backstory over what we got.

BEN: But yeah, we didn’t need kid Anakin. It makes the Padme romance weirder, and child actors are so hit or miss. The only reason I can think of for why he did it that way is because of his Jedi training rules, that he invented.

MATT: The prequels suffered from knowing where they ended and then just muddling the execution with spectacularly odd choices, bad dialogue and a wooden Anakin. And now I’m mentally tagging all the Return of the Jedi references in Rise of Skywalker. Man, they really did trip to crib as much as possible from the original 3. Maybe this whole trilogy learned the wrong lesson from the prequels. That lesson was take George’s galaxy, but ignore many of his ideas.

BEN: Which I now realize, why wouldn’t they welcome in any force sensitive being, regardless of age? Would they rather them get seduced to the dark side out in the world? Not even one of the top incompetencies of the Jedi council, unfortunately.

KATHERINE: That’s a thing I loved about The Last Jedi, that they called out the inadequacies and failures of the Jedi and questioned whether it all needed to be abolished and rebuilt from scratch, and then they literally burned it down. I can see how that would be controversial if you really need to see that world in black and white, but it was bold and it’s true with what we had seen in the prequels especially. My favorite scene was Yoda burning down the ancient texts and telling Luke how important it is to grow and learn from failure - “Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, hmm… but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes: failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

BEN: It’s probably the scene I liked best from that movie.

KATHERINE: I’ve liked all of the new trilogy, and also enjoyed them all more on the second viewing. For whatever reason these movies suffer from a high burden of expectation and anxiety perhaps more than other franchises. I’ve found the second time watching is easier to sit back, have fun and enjoy what it is. And to be fair I felt the same way about Infinity War and Endgame because of all the expectation and anxiety around them.

BEN: Me joining the Rey and Kylo shipping wagon makes me want to try The Last Jedi again. But I’m also really interested in sticking to my “only watch it once” streak.

JEFF: The Last Jedi doesnt get better with a second viewing, though skipping all the Rose and Finn scenes helps.

KARA: I did walk away with some questions (about how the Force works, for instance) and had a few qualms here and there, but I still had a great time watching it. It did seem to ignore a lot of what happened in The Last Jedi, only a few quiet character things survived... and honestly my assumption there is that it was a response to fandom's disappointed outcry (to which I honestly say "boohoo cry more"). I would've loved to see more of Rose and Finn interacting, but alas. Thanks, fanboys.

BEN: Rose getting sidelined was unfortunate. I didn’t hate or love her, but it’s hard not to feel like a bunch of fanbabies won on that front.

LaMAR: I just found out recently that people actually believe Lucas was some mastermind that planned all of this stuff out to be the way it was, I always thought it was clear that he was winging it.

BEN: The originals had just as much inconsistency between movies as these did, we just view them as gospel. Vader was not Luke’s father in the first draft of Empire, Anakin even appears as a force ghost. Obviously, Leia was never his sister. Vader was a minion in the first movie. Part of this is the fiction perpetrated by George that he wrote the whole saga in one long script that he then had to divide into ninescripts. The difference is that none of them worked so hard to completely erase a prior movie

JEFF: Lucas said he wrote one movie that was too long, he took the first have and it was Star Wars, he said he hoped to come back to do the rest if it was successful. The interview was on the THX editions on the original trilogy, he wrote the one script and some backstory but there was never 9 scripts. I think the only thing that got changed was Leia being Luke's sister.

BEN: The first draft of Empire had Anakin’s force ghost talking to Luke.

RICH: Yeah, it's obvious he had nothing planned out. In the various early scripts of A New Hope, Leia and Luke were different ages, Darth Vader and Luke's dad were very clearly separate individuals, Han Solo was a lizard, Luke was an old man, Luke was a young girl, Mace Windu was a main character, and so forth.

MATT: I was rewatching Empire and was refreshed by how humorous it is. It’s broad and for kids, but you laugh with the cast and not really at them, C3PO excepted. In the new trilogy, it is you laugh more at the characters than the situation. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. It’s definitely a comment how broad audience movies have changed their comedic approach in the last 30 years. People can like what they like, it doesn’t affect my appreciation or ruin my experience.

KATHERINE: It’s bizarre to me to see the reactions where people who hated Last Jedi loved Rise of Skywalker and how it “fixed” its predecessor, then people who loved Last Jedi hated Rise of Skywalker and how it ignored its predecessor. Such a weird rift in the fandom what makes me wonder how they could have possibly made everyone happy.

MATT: A movie cannot serve two masters. Look to the next generation of fans, not mine or the one before me. We'll be there regardless of reviews (largely).

KATHERINE: But the critical divide makes sense to me because Last Jedi was attempting to be different and a departure from the original trilogy (especially with how it handled Luke), which critics love but is part of what pissed off a bunch of fans. Then critics come down hard on more purely popcorn movies that lean a lot on nostalgia, which is probably what those same fans wanted and expected. I feel like I’m in the weird minority that enjoyed them both for what they are (movies!), but I’ve also never taken Star Wars so seriously and had it define my identity, so I don’t take any of it personally. Star Wars fandom seems unique in that some people really take it like a religion.

BEN: George had been actively making even the good movies worse for 20 years now, and after the prequels I won’t get thrown by a bad Star Wars movie for very long.

KATHERINE: Also, I don’t know what your experiences have been online, but personally it’s been super annoying to see every comic and movie blog on my FB feed literally alternating headlines about how “Rise of Skywalker saves/honors/redeems all of Star Wars” with headlines about how “Rise of Skywalker insults/dumbs down/destroys all of Star Wars.” Sooo much clickbait tailored to appeal to all kinds of nerd rage. It’s just so extreme in both directions which feeds into all the weird toxic discourse about how it’s definitively one or the other and anyone who disagrees is not a real fan.

LaMAR: Right, if it was all about fandom these people would welcome others and be open to learn more, as well as help others learn more about what they all love. It's increasingly more difficult to pretend that's what it's about.

MATT: We forget that people are the worst

BEN: I saw a fan comment that “real cinema fans” understand and love The Last Jedi. Quality aside, a movie that has Luke sucking blue milk from a space cow is for the real “cinema” fans?

TANYA: What this shows is filmmaking by committee equals a crappy movie. I felt like this trilogy nobody had an idea of where this was going. They didn't have a complete arc for most of the characters. Unfortunately I think there is something to having one unified vision. I think that's why the Marvel films were successful despite having different directors.

BEN: Ideally at least one person should have a plan.

TANYA: Are the Jedi still monks? Are parts of the prequels still canon? I felt like this wasn't really addressed in the new trilogy. I think it sucks to be a Jedi if you can't fall in love or have to remain a virgin for the rest of your life.

KATHERINE: I feel like they are still supposed to be monks with no attachments, which is why they didn’t go with the EU route where Luke had a wife and kids.

BEN: I don’t know if sex was ever explicitly defined, but the Jedi forbade attachments. So casual encounters might be okay. But the Jedi were wrong about most everything, and considering Luke and Rey were given strength by their friendships, they probably wouldn’t be as strict on that to their pupils

ANTONIO: I don’t think the Jedi have to be monks. It’s probably a rule someone made up a long time ago and few really argued the point because padawans were normally trained from an early age. Rey and Ben were stronger together, obviously, even to the point of using the Force in new and inventive ways.

KATHERINE: There probably isn’t really any way to enforce “rules” now that they’re post Order 66 and there is no more Jedi council, it’s like, just Luke and a handful of failed students. I liked the idea of burning down the old school texts because now theoretically the future generation can build what it needs to be without living by any arbitrary outdated laws.

MATT: If the prequels teach us anything it’s that the Jedi are kind of bad. Not take over the galaxy and enslave Wookiees, but ignore Hutt slavery bad.

TANYA: Anybody else feel that we could have used more of Keri Russell?
BEN: But then we would have missed out on all that Poe wonderment

MATT: It took me a while to recall it was her. I enjoyed her character, but it irritated my observation of the lack of actual character development for the triad

BEN: I was being sarcastic about Poe, if that wasn’t clear.


TANYA: Big question. How would you rank the saga?

BEN: 5, 6, 7, 3, 4, 9, 1, 2, 8.

MATT: I would rank 5, 4, 8, 6, 7, 9, 1, 3, 2.

BEN: If we’re including the spinoffs, than I rank Rogue One first

MATT: Yeah, and Solo so low?

BEN: Solo is in the middle. I liked it better the second time.

LaMAR: Rogue One is the Winter Soldier Star Wars film. There isn't anything wrong with it from end to end for the most part and on its own merit it's a helluva movie.

TANYA: My ranking is 4, 7, 3, 6, 9, 5, 8, 1, 2.

BEN: Not an Empire fan?

TANYA: I just can't dig it like other people.

MATT: Clones vs. Menace was hard for me. I just can’t get over I have to skip 30 minutes of the movie because the “romance” is so awful. Portman sold loving a doofus in the 2010s. She has the chops if the writing and directing are there.

BEN: The Maul fight is the difference for me.


BEN: So what would you do with Star Wars going forward? The Marvel model? Focus on contained stories on Disney+ like The Mandalorian? Finn and Poe solo projects? Personally, I think they need to go further into the future. No more relying on the past or telling stories of the past.

KATHERINE: I saw Jon Chu is advocating for a Rose Tico series on Disney+! I would love to go into her past with her sister and show the impact of all these wars on the working class worlds. I’d be totally into a nonpowered heroes show about how the spark of the rebellion inspires the normal people on the ground. It can all culminate in the regular folks answering Lando’s call at the end of Rise of Skywalker.

BEN: That doesn’t sound like an Ahsoka series.

JEFF: I'd like to see them use Disney+ to focus on the post RotJ years, creation of New Republic, Rogue Squad, fringe elements like The Mandalorian. As for movies either far into the future or long into the past, perhaps the first Jedi or begining of the Jedi Order

MATT: If they want that sweet merchandizing money, TV shows. But yeah, they need to get away from the historic time if they want space to try new things. Since they junked 95% of the EU, I don’t think the Marvel model is viable.

JD: I’d like the films to go way forward or way back in the time line. Also, give Favreau and Filioni free reign on Disney+.

BEN: The one exception I’d make is a Darth Vader movie.

MATT: To what end though? Murdering Jedi?

KATHERINE: Weren’t the prequels all Darth Vader movies? Haha. I’m definitely excited for the Obi Wan series.

ANTONIO: Going forward? Mayfield’s Marauders show on Disney+. I hate giving Bill Burr work, but maybe he can get punched in the face each episode and that’ll be our compromise. Keep the movies to one-and-done “A Star Wars Story” concepts like Rogue One and Solo.

MATT: There are a couple of gaps left by having them be in the novels. But I still think leaving the Skywalkers behind and going into the future gives the stories the best chance to breathe. It’s the same advice Paramount ignores when I offer unsolicited Star Trek advice.


MATT: I think the last line would've been better as "Just Rey"

BEN: I don’t think I’ve ever introduced myself with first and last name, except in formal settings. It’s a nitpick of mine in fiction. It’s extremely hard to balance nostalgia with something new, especially if you include some of the most iconic heroes ever created. I was thinking about this with Last Jedi, narratively they almost had to make Luke a spineless coward hiding on an island, because if he joins the fight, he immediately steals the movie away from the new characters. He’s that iconic.

MATT: In a way, Carrie dying could have freed them from that. I can understand not doing it because then their option was basically real-life fridging. But 60 year olds aren’t 20 year olds. I would compare to the extinct EU books, but those had dozens of titles of extreme variation in quality to establish and grow characters. The original was classic "hero with a thousand faces" storytelling. Did the new trilogy learn from it or copy enough to not get caught totally plagiarizing (The Force Awakens excepted)?

KARA: It did feel very much like closing the book, and personally I found it really satisfying. The final shot of the movie really brought that home for me.

Dec 18, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #55

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

Colonel John Jameson is tasked to protect America's Nullifier Weapon from Doctor Octopus, by transferring it to where it would be safest — the factory of Tony Stark!


BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • Doctor Octopus: 8
  • Green Goblin: 7
  • Sandman: 4
  • Kraven the Hunter: 5
  • The Vulture: 5
  • Mysterio: 4
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • The Lizard: 3
  • The Kingpin: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
DUY: Ock breaks into Stark's factory, and there's a footnote that explains that Tony is recuperating in another part of the factory after fighting the Grey Gargoyle in Tales of Suspense. It may be one of the first examples of "Wait, a reader's gonna ask where Character X is, so let's explain in a footnore", and goes into that shared universe building.


BEN: Robertson’s calm rational demeanor provides the perfect counterbalance to Jameson’s over-the-top bombast.

DUY: I've seen Stan say that he based JJJ on himself and Robbie on Sidney Poitier. I dunno if that's true, but it does seem like JJJ's even more over the top here than usual. Meanwhile, this has aged unintentionally well for 2019: it almost looks like Ock is using a smartphone as a flashlight.


BEN: There's a joke about Louisa May Alcott. I did not get that reference. And  I know we’ve been harping on this, but with the recent movement in Homecoming, Far From Home, and Into the Spider-Verse to make May not only supportive but helpful, this fragile naive version is completely unbearable.

DUY: This isn't really something that "aged badly" or anything, but Romita draws a panel of Spider-Man being angry and the only way to know is because Stan says so in the narration, and it's just one of those "Wow, Ditko really is off the book" moments.


BEN: The way Romita draws Ock’s goggles still looks weird to me.

DUY: It's almost like he's trying his best to not make it into a mask.

BEN: Spider-Man makes a comment about having never decisively beaten Doc Ock, but he did, in their second fight (Amazing Spider-Man #3).


BEN:  I love the “acting” Romita depicts on each face here:

DUY: My "favorite panels" answers for the entirety of Spider-Rama may as well be a clipshow of JJJ:


DUY: My answer will depend on the answer to this question. At this point, is Ock still Spider-Man's number one adversary? Did he ever — up to all 55 issues — actually lose it to the Green Goblin? If Ock is still or has always been Spider-Man's number one foe, then my answer is Ock.

BEN: It’s hard for me to say because he has never been my favorite Spider-Man villain. It’s always been a Goblin.

DUY: I think at this point that it's still Ock, and I don't think he ever really lost it to the Green Goblin. The Goblin's big advantage over Ock is that he's someone who's connected to Peter's best friend, and it could be argued that that one story has higher stakes than any of the Ock stories, but not by much I think. The first Betty Brant/Ock story, putting together the Sinister Six, and now winning over Aunt May still keeps him ahead. I don't think Norman's actually going to take the top spot until much, much later.

BEN: Norman is the most threatening villain.

DUY: They've never actually teamed up, have they?

BEN: There'd be too much arguing about who's in charge.

DUY: That seems like it'd take a lot of restraint on the part of the creators to not put them together.


DUY: Hey, we got a comment last week!.

BEN: As expected, we got some reader “questions” based on our comments about Mary Jane last week, and we felt compelled to respond. Arthur wrote to us with this:
1) Spider-Man is a controversial character unlike Superman.
2) He's not popular with the public.
3) He's disliked by many neutral supporting characters such as Betty Brant, Aunt May, and yes Gwen Stacy.
For Mary Jane to like Spider-Man at a moment when he's unpopular and controversial would negate any sense of her liking of Peter being driven by fame or any such thing.
BEN: I’d like to reiterate what I wrote, which was that there’s no way knowing his identity before they ever met wouldn’t color his opinion of him, which is a fact. I didn’t say it would be negative or positive, just it would inform her opinion of him, which is indisputable.

DUY: Also, women are never attracted to controversial men, ever, apparently. Women are attracted to many different things, just like men.

BEN: As far as fear goes, the majority of the reason people fear Spider-Man is because they don’t know who he is. If Mary Jane knew he was his Aunt’s nerdy next door neighbor, she would not have that fear. That’s not to say definitively she would find it appealing, but in my personal opinion she would, while also being scared to meet him. I’m not trying to claim she was a fame chaser — that’s simplistic — but if superheroes are an allegory for what makes each of us special, she got a clear glimpse of one of the things that makes Peter special. That would be intriguing to her. It would.

DUY: She wants to be an actress. I think at least a part of her is a fame-chaser. But even taking Parallel Lives into account (and I choose to ignore it because I don't like the book), at 13/14, MJ has an opinion of Peter: he's cute in a nerdy sort of way. But she admired Spider-Man, and there's no way that doesn't change your opinion of a person. Now this may be hard to believe for some, but lots of girls find lots of guys cute, even nerdy ones (actually, especially nerdy ones), in passing and don't really think much of it. They wouldn't just watch any guy on TV.

BEN:  I really hate Parallel Lives. I’d much prefer she liked Peter without knowing he was Spider-Man. Comics are a weird thing where she didn’t know as those comics were being created, she did like him solely as Peter, but one story can change the context of 20 years of comics.

DUY: Even the favorite MJ moment of a lot of people — when she closes the door and consoles him after Gwen dies, which we'll get to in 67 issues — that moment is more powerful if she doesn't know. That's character growth, as opposed to a retconned explanation as to why she stayed.

BEN: It takes away far more than it adds.

DUY: Arthur further wrote:
And Gwen Stacy was killed because she was unpopular with readers, not because she was serious. And Gerry Conway said that had there been no plan to kill off a major supporting character (for which he nominated Gwen), he would have broken them up anyway. He said this at a 2016 Podcast at Spider-Man Crawlspace. So there was never any Peter-Gwen marriage on the cards.
BEN:  I never meant to imply there were plans, only that the next step in the characters relationship was marriage, which I got from, you guessed it, Gerry Conway!

DUY: Yeah, we weren't clear about it, but it wasn't that they wanted them to get married, so much as the logical next step was marriage and they didn't want to do that. (Which, by the way, read What If...? volume 1 #24, a comic where they did indeed get married, and I quite frankly would have probably found the stories arising from the setup of that issue more interesting than most of the rest of 1970s Spider-Man.)

BEN: In the trade paperback series The 100 Greatest Marvels of All Time, Bob Greenberger recalls a meeting with Gerry Conway when Conway planned to kill off Gwen, and Conway said that "She and Peter are terrific together and make each other happy. But that's not what Spider-Man is about. It's about pain and power and the responsibility that comes with it. There's nowhere to take the relationship without betraying what Spider-Man is all about."

DUY: So he doesn't explicitly say marriage there, but come on, what else could it be? Living in together happily? It's funny because that's what a lot of the anti-Spider-marriage types would say about Mary Jane (not me, I just thought the marriage made both characters boring), but here Conway is saying it about Gwen Stacy.

BEN: Funny how it applies to Gwen but not Mary Jane for them.

DUY: We should probably save the rest of this conversation when we get to #122.

BEN: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

DUY: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

BEN: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

DUY: And hey, Happy Holidays, Cubers! We'll be back on Wednesday, January 8!

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you in three weeks!

Dec 11, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #54

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

Things get really awkward when Dr. Octopus answers Aunt May's ad for a boarder!


BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • Green Goblin: 7
  • Doctor Octopus: 7
  • Sandman: 4
  • Kraven the Hunter: 5
  • The Vulture: 5
  • Mysterio: 4
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • The Lizard: 3
  • The Kingpin: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
BEN:  I was going to say this was the meeting of May and Otto, but they met in the annual.

DUY: Where she stupidly thought he was a nice man.

BEN: Head trauma will eventually be a problem for Ock.

DUY: It must be remembered that beyond the arms, he's physically a regular human. This is a plot point Dan Slott would heavily leverage in his decade-long run on the book, which for my money is the third-best Spider-Man run of all time.


BEN: Friends — Peter Parker and Harry Osborn in this case — becoming roommates and hating each other.

DUY: To be fair, Peter really is a terrible roommate. And if at this point Harry is the "best friendship he's ever had," well...

BEN: Food is the biggest issue between roommates. We have no evidence Peter is eating his frozen pizzas.

DUY: I always thought equal parity of rent and bills was the biggest issue. Norman pays for theirs, so I guess roommates will just find something to argue about.


BEN: Aunt May is the dumbest human being that ever lived, and the most fragile.

DUY: Good God, she's an idiot. She's the worst. She even calls Ock "Dr. Octopus"! Why is she like this?

BEN: I know Stan was going for "old and out of the loop," but they’ve gone into senile or even Alzheimer’s.


BEN: It’s got to at least be 30 minutes of Spider-Man waiting for Ock to come out if he had time to call his henchmen and they get there.

DUY: Did Ock really say "Listen, you punk kid... and listen good"? Ock?

BEN: It’ll be curtains for both of you! And speaking of curtains, Ock breaks the Parker residence wall and leaves a giant hole in it, prompting May to faint. Dr. Bromwell asks what caused her shock. I don’t know, whatever put a giant hole in the wall?


BEN: Ock looks so happy lighting that cigarette:

DUY: This, three reasons: (1) It's a nice drawing of Gwen, (2) Peter is acknowledged as actually being handsome, meaning we're really officially out of the Ditko era, and (3) Who the hell are those guys in the background? These characters never talk to anyone else!


DUY: Anyone not named May Reilly Parker.

BEN: If you made a Venn diagram that said "You can't kill Aunt May" and "She's completely unbearable," she would fall right in the intersection


DUY: It's been a year in publishing time now since Mary Jane was introduced. In 1989, Gerry Conway and Alex Saviuk would write Spider-Man: Parallel Lives, which retroactively changed continuity, or retconned, to make it so that Mary Jane Watson knew that Spider-Man was Peter Parker since the night Uncle Ben was shot.

BEN: The militant Mary Jane fans are going to blow their tops at me, but there’s absolutely no way, after Parallel Lives, that her knowing he’s Spider-Man doesn’t color her opinion of him. Based on their intermittent ten-second interactions, she shouldn’t really have any interest in him. He’s got zero time for any other human being.

DUY: I think the retcon went too far back. Her finding out at this point in time and just keeping it a secret may have been good too. Changing it at the origin is too much.

BEN: I’m not in favor of retcons going that far back. It changes too much, and it’s too easy for the comics to contradict. I can’t think of any I’ve been a fan of. I think it changes her character too much. I know the rabid MJ fans like to say it’s why she was so hesitant to meet him and didn’t want to date him and such. But the other side of that coin is she was interested in him because he’s Spider-Man. There’s no way to deny it; it’s the first thing she knew about him. Both of those are true.

DUY: I still ignore it in any story that lets me do so. That's how much I don't like it. I bet we could find multiple points between now and when she's revealed to have known who he is, that would serve the same purpose and be more logical as the key retcon point.

BEN: It's funny because they (spoilers) killed Gwen because she was too serious and the only way to go with them was marriage. Mary Jane seemed more interesting because she was aloof and fun and didn’t stress out over anything. Flash forward, they give her a tragic back story and make her serious and make her stressed out about him being Spider-Man, and have them get married. The qualities that pushed MJ over Gwen were eventually negated, is what I’m saying.

DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!

Dec 3, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #53

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

Dr. Octopus returns, and Peter and Gwen go on their first date!


BEN: We were never going to read all the annuals, so we're skipping #4. But Mysterio appears in it, so we'll still update his villain appearance count:
  • Green Goblin: 7
  • Doctor Octopus: 6
  • Sandman: 4
  • Kraven the Hunter: 5
  • The Vulture: 5
  • Mysterio: 4
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • The Lizard: 3
  • The Kingpin: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
BEN: The first date for Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy.

DUY: Complete with chaperone. At a science fair. It's so... nerdy.

BEN: Speaking of the chaperone, Professor Miles Warren, this gets creepier later.

DUY: There's really no way to read any Miles Warren scene without the foreboding of what happens to him eventually.

BEN: Almost to the point I wonder if there was always a plan.

DUY: Warren tries to psychoanalyze Spider-Man in the issue, and it feels like foreshadowing too.

BEN: Jackal was way too creepy for me as a kid but now I’m kind of looking forward to him as a villain. He’s still creepy, and his actions are repulsive. Don’t @ me.


DUY: They finally remember that Gwen goes to school too. I still don't think you can major in just science, but this is something that really got Emma Stone over as Gwen Stacy — she was as smart as he was.

BEN:   I was beginning to wonder if Gwen being a “science” major was something retconned in later.

DUY: The Flash/Peter rivalry is pretty solidified here, with them bickering, and then ending with Flash going "Ah, he's okay if I can just punch him." And is it just me or is Romita really getting the regular cast's look down around these issues?

BEN: Romita is absolutely nailing the regular cast right now. His depictions would dominate the characters until Toddy Mac.

DUY: Sounds like the perfect spot to put this image from the annual that we skipped:


BEN: Romita hasn’t quite locked down Ock’s look.

DUY: Ock wearing a costume is always weird, but him wearing a cape is just really, really off.

BEN: I was going to mention the cape but I think that was purposefully temporary.

DUY: "Aren't you the one who picked a peck of pickled peppers?" Does anyone actually do tongue twisters anymore? Why do I feel like this probably looked like it was trying too hard to be cool even back then?

BEN: At least he stopped with overdoing all the lingo. Too bad it marred a transcendent era of the book, as his supporting cast was blossoming.

DUY: Actually, between this and Fantastic Four, there sure are a lot of jokes in the dialogue about how someone talks too much, most notably with the Thing berating Reed Richards. So it's like Stan is aware that he's overdoing the dialogue. Did he just not trust the audience enough to figure out what was going on?

BEN: Overcompensating?


BEN: I can’t speak for others, but I hated wearing my military dress uniform and avoided it whenever possible, so Flash Thompson coming back and wearing it in public is showing off.

DUY: Ock's arms never struck me as something that would be fast enough to spin like propellers.

BEN:  I would definitely hit myself in the back of the head if I tried that.

DUY:  You should try it.


BEN: This may be my favorite Gwen image yet:

DUY: The splash page, because as a kid I had an image in my head of JJJ yelling at Spider-Man through the window, and it might be this one. Probably not, but then I don't know where I got it.


BEN: Gwanda.

DUY: Yeah, I think Gwendolyn wins this one. I'm not sure who else it'd even be.

BEN: I'm not sure why you continue to resist.


BEN: Here's another image from the annual we skipped.

DUY: That's such a good encapsulation of Peter's role in the larger Marvel Universe.All these guys stronger than him (including Hercules, a D-level character), and he's the flagship. And that's what Marvel is.

BEN: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

DUY: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

BEN: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!