Feb 26, 2020

Spider-Rama: The Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1

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!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #63
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. and Jim Mooney

In this special double-sized black-and-white issue, Spider-Man must contend with a politician, Richard Raleigh, who has created a superhuman to menace New York to make himself look good in the mayoral race. And in a back-up tale, the origin of Spider-Man is retold.



POINTLESS TRIVIA

DUY: In 1968, publishers were trying out comics magazines and this is the first Marvel tried, which counts as the first Spider-Man spinoff (unless you count the Amazing annuals) and the first to hold the Spectacular name. (We'll get to the Spectacular series eventually.) This was just an experiment and would last two issues.

BEN: First Jim Mooney work on Spider-Man. First full retelling of Spider-Man’s origin.

DUY: Although it will never be revealed explicitly, this particular sequence is probably more important than it lets on.



BEN: How so?

DUY: I'm assuming George putting together that Peter is Spidey was a gradual process and didn't just happen overnight. It is revealed sometime in the 90s exactly when he put it all together, but I'm sure it was a process. Peter disappearing and then Spidey fighting the bad guy is too much of a coincidence for him to not take note of.

BEN: It makes sense he’d be looking at it differently than the kids too, since he’s a detective. Same with Robbie as a journalist.

DUY: In the backup retelling the origin, it adds a scene to Peter's origin where, after getting bitten by the spider, he runs into a couple of bullies and throws a punch. Peter lets the burglar go before he gets on TV. Probably doesn't make that much of a difference, but it's the exact opposite from later interpretations, like Ultimate Spider-Man or the Sam Raimi movie, where he would let the burglar go because he wanted to spite the promoter. What exactly is the point of this revision?




BEN: They probably couldn’t think of too many places to expand the most perfect story ever produced by mankind.

DUY: Wait till Bendis does it 33 years later.

BEN: What if... Uncle Ben had a ponytail?

DUY: What if... Spider-Man's origin took five whole issues?

WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN: The art looks great. I don’t know if that’s because of Mooney inking, or because Romita was putting all his effort into this instead of Amazing Spider-Man.

DUY: You know I'm not the biggest fan of Romita's art, but it looks so good like this with the graytones. I could really stand more black and white comics having graytones. Compare this to the black and white Essential volumes and they're worlds away..

BEN: Essentials are basically coloring books.

DUY: Artistically speaking, it must be Mooney's inks, because Bill Everett tries the graytones in the second story and it's not the same.

BEN: I can definitely see Mooney’s style specifically on Gwen. And speaking of Gwen, here's MJ taking digs at her.


DUY: JJJ is supportive of Raleigh, and Peter is instantly suspicious. That kind of behavior applies today to politicians, still. The ending of the main story is really good. Raleigh dies, it's his own fault, and JJJ is too stubborn to even consider the fact that he might be wrong about him. That's somehow so close to how people are actually like, whether it's 1968 or 2020.


WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

BEN: It should be clear to anyone Raleigh is evil.

DUY: Did that age well or badly? Because Donald Trump is still president, and it was the most obvious thing that he was evil.

BEN:  Shhh.

DUY: In 1968, this was fine. In 2020, it's "Nobody can move like that... except Spider-Man, the other Spider-Man, Nightcrawler, and probably some mutants we've never heard of."

BEN:  “Nobody can move like that, except 17 other known super humans!” Not as catchy.

DUY: It does not age well that all the women in the story are so easily taken in by Raleigh. Not Gwen so much, but everyone else. The only ones skeptical are Peter and George Stacy.

BEN: Don't be jealous.

NITPICKS

BEN: I don’t agree with John Byrne about much, but saying RR would be too awkward.



DUY: I think my biggest nitpick is the fact that this is the most predictable plot ever. You know from the start that the villain is a plant by Raleigh.

BEN: Yes, but you didn’t know he had a cyborg superhuman controlled by remote control.

FAVORITE PANEL

BEN:  Heh heh, polish my button, heh heh.



DUY: This panel is my favorite, since it makes me feel warm and fuzzy.



DUY: Artistically, though, this one is amazing.



WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY: I'm not sure who the biggest winner here is, but I know who loses, and that's the "Comics were never political" crowd. It's literally about being discerning of the officials you elect.





CONTINUITY

BEN: So this has to be somewhere around where we are, with all the Osborn setup, and Romita is obviously busy doing something else.

DUY: But Peter gets along with Gwen here, so it has to be before the brainwashing stuff.

BEN: Oh, the Goblin shows up in the second issue.

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 Wednesday!

Feb 25, 2020

Margot Robbie Is Harley Quinn, AKA The DCEU's Best Player

Ben and Duy saw Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), and we had thoughts. Foremost among those thoughts is...

Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn

BEN: In The Book of Basketball, writer Bill Simmons reconfigured the NBA Hall of Fame into tiers, with the best players ever in the highest tier, named “the pantheon.” If we were to separate every actor to play a superhero character in a movie into tiers, Margot Robbie has undoubtedly made her case for the pantheon.



DUY: Who's in the pantheon, would you say? Just looking at the protagonists, I've got Christopher Reeve, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and maybe Chris Hemsworth. It's not a long list. My criteria would be irreplaceability, a natural charisma to handle the character, and also a degree of difficulty. I feel like all the characters they handled would have faltered under lesser actors. But also, even within that tier, there's a clear divide between Reeve and Downey versus Evans and Hemsworth.

BEN: Evans and Hemsworth don’t get enough credit for how badly those characters could go, but they’re also not as showy as Stark.

BEN: I’ll give an honorable mention to Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, who I think falls just below the pantheon, and I can’t even say why, because he *is* Deadpool

DUY: No, I'll concede it, let's put Deadpool in the Pantheon.

DUY: Any case for Hugh Jackman? I know he's not the ideal Wolverine, but he was also Wolverine for 20 years, and I think he wore me down like Duncan and Kobe.

BEN: If we’re sticking with basketball analogies, he’s Karl Malone. Really good for a really long time, but never great.

DUY: He did go out great though, so it'd be like if Malone left on a title.

BEN: Maybe Jason Kidd, he left on a title but it wasn’t all because of him. The villains include Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Heath Ledger’s Joker, and (sigh) Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker.

DUY: I hate mentioning Phoenix, but I'd like to believe that in the hands of a lesser actor, the movie would have been — people would have realized it wasn't a good movie. He elevated it. What about Thanos?

BEN: He’s a pantheon villain, but I can’t give that credit to Brolin.



DUY: So now we're saying Harley has made a case for the Pantheon. Some DC fans might be annoyed that we didn't mention Gal Gadot and maybe Jason Momoa. To you what sets Robbie apart?

BEN: In Suicide Squad, Margot stood out despite some bad writing and bad directing. She didn’t get any good punchlines or memorable moments, but she was so magnetic it didn’t matter. In Birds of Prey she got all the best moments and lines, but the rest of the movie literally couldn’t reach her level. So, I’d say Momoa and Gadot were equal to Margot in Suicide Squad, but in Birds of Prey she became Harley Quinn.

DUY: To me the difference is simply that Margot is much better at acting than the other two, and that as much as Gadot embodies Wonder Woman and Momoa has made Aquaman his own, their abilities and limitations will eventually hit a dead end and it won't be sustainable. Margot may be playing a cartoon, but she has moments of genuine emotion and drama and she can switch so easily between the two modes.

BEN: When Roman slaps her while she’s tied up, you can feel her anger radiate off the screen. It was a moment I was looking forward to see pay off later, but it’s a Warner Bros movie so of course it didn’t.

DUY: I liked how Harley plays dumb, but then she'll say something that reminds you she was a psychiatrist, and Margot makes you believe it. Birds of Prey to me was such a cartoon — Kurt Busiek called its Gotham an R-rated version of Adam West's — and only Margot was dialed up enough to really make you feel the cartoonishness of the whole thing.

BEN: If Warner Bros could ever give their lead stars a competent movie to be in, they’d start making some noise. Because Momoa, Gadot, and Robbie can’t do it all alone. (Wonder Woman is a very good movie, so this is a generalized statement.) If anything, I wish Birds of Prey had less plot, because I could have watched Harley try to get egg sandwiches and stuff like that for the whole movie.

DUY: The action scenes with Harley were great. Very refreshing to see something well choreographed, but also really funny.

BEN: The smile on her face as she raids the police station, she was having so much fun.

DUY: Scrambling among the deadly weapons, so happy when she spots the baseball bat, is something straight out of The Simpsons.

BEN: So how does she compare to the best? Ryan Reynolds is the easiest comp, but as much as I love the Deadpool movies, I think Margot is doing more acting than Ryan is.

DUY: I think it's because Deadpool is a clear, clear comedy, but Harley thus far, while a comedy, has had moments of genuine emotion. Another thing is that compared to Gadot and Momoa, she kind of really stands on her own. Gadot can be compared to Reeve and Evans. Momoa to Hemsworth. Margot can only really be compared to Reynolds, and even then it's not the same.

BEN: Ryan Reynolds probably doesn’t get enough credit because Deadpool happened to be so similar to the comedic style he’d been famous for his whole career. Speaking of Evans, he’s arguably the most faithful character translation from comic to the screen, until Margot Robbie.

DUY: I kinda wanna say that Robert Downey Jr. is the best comp for Margot, but I don't really know how to defend that.

BEN: I think we could separate the pantheon into two camps; those that brought the comic character to life, and those that made it their own. Evans, Gadot, Reynolds brought the characters to life. RDJ, Hiddleston, Momoa, Ledger made it their own. Hemsworth did both. Oh, and Reeve definitely brought comic book Superman to life

DUY: Robbie is definitely in the second camp, which makes my RDJ comp more indefensible.

BEN: I’d say she’s both. The difference with RDJ is that he’s been the best actor in great superhero movies, while Robbie has been the best part in otherwise pretty bad movies. If we were to continue the NBA analogy, Margot is the great player that drags a bad team into the playoffs on her own, while RDJ is the best player on championship teams. NBA players always say the second is harder to do.



DUY: RDJ has been both too. Let's not forget Iron Man 2, and, as much as I like Iron Man 3, a lot of people don't. So Margot I think has the necessary chops to still headline a great movie.

BEN: Hopefully we’ll see it in Suicide Squad 2. So what’s your ranking, as of right now?

DUY: I go 1. RDJ, 2. Evans, 3. Reeve, 4. Margot, 5. Hemsworth and Reynolds. I also think I might be undervaluing Hemsworth on purpose because I know I'm biased.

BEN: 1. Robert Downey Jr., 2. Margot Robbie, 3. Heath Ledger, 4. Chris Hemsworth,
5. Tom Hiddleston

DUY: It's generally hard for me to rank villains along with the heroes. It's not the same job.

BEN: Harley is a villain!

DUY: Fine, protagonists and antagonists. Also when you're the less evil villainin the story, you're not the villain.

BEN: Fair. Does Cate Blanchett make it?

DUY: I don't quite think she gets there. Does Killmonger?

BEN: Tough call, his performance seems to be polarizing for some reason.

DUY: Let's talk about Birds of Prey in particular. Overall I'd say the movie is decent, not bad. It's the execution that was lacking. But Margot brought it, and brought it some more, and what's more, the first third of the movie where she was narrating it and it was jumping around was some pretty innovative storytelling for superhero movies.

BEN: I thought Jurnee Smollett-Bell was pretty good as Black Canary, but pretty good looks worse next to greatness. The rest of them were in a different movie, to the point you mostly want to get back to Harley the whole time

DUY: I think my problem with Canary is that she looked like she was in a serious movie. Huntress at least was played for laughs. That also makes Canary the one who I thought would transition the best to a serious movie, though. And teah, every time Harley was off the screen, I thought "Where's Harley?" like Poochie, but cool.

BEN: How much does faithfulness to the source material matter for you at this point?

DUY: If you're going to deviate, you can still keep me by making me care. I tend to see them all as Elseworlds.

BEN: I’m less critical of DC characters because I don’t know them as well, and frankly you can’t honestly point to a definitive version of most DC heroes, they reboot so often. I’ve always said the MCU gets the spirit of the characters right, but RDJ wasn’t really any version of Iron Man we had ever seen before. Holland is the closest I’ve seen to the comic Spider-Man, but everything else about his movies is not faithful. So I guess the key is to just be good.

DUY: As you've said elsewhere, the least faithful character here is Cassandra, and she's great. The most faithful is Huntress, and she's the worst. Also, let me just get this out of the way quick. There's a bunch of people who think this movie sucks on principle because they call it SJW propaganda. First, women need representation. Second, they get mad at it because they don't think Margot is sexy enough. What world do we live in where Margot Robbie isn't sexy?

BEN: I think they mean naked enough. They don’t know the difference.

DUY: They've never seen a real live woman?

BEN: They truly believe comparing a half-naked drawing of a woman to a real live beautiful woman makes sense. But the drawing won’t tell them no, I guess.

DUY: To close this off, you know, I wrote back in July a long, detailed analysis of why the DCEU should give the keys to Margot Robbie. Just center the universe around Harley Quinn the same way the MCU revolved around Iron Man. After watching her performance, I'm going to stick by that.

BEN: Man, you write one thing the entire last year and you think you're Jesus.


Feb 19, 2020

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #62

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!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. and Don Heck

The Inhuman Queen, Medusa, is approached to be the model for a hair spray brand. Tiring of the modeling work, Medusa trashes the agency's office. Spider-Man goes after her, because comics are awesome.




POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Here's another Mary Jane Watson thought balloon.



DUY: Just realized this is one of MJ's only and early thought balloons, and it's her being surprised that Peter actually misses Gwen, and I'm sure that says something about her character.

BEN: Are you calling her dumb?

DUY: It's either dumb or self-centered.

BEN: Let's say self-centered. Don't want the hate mail.

DUY: Maybe I do.

BEN: Okay, she's both.

DUY: About Medusa, at this point in time, Medusa has been a part of the Frightful Four (featuring the Fantastic Four villain The Wizard, the Human Torch villain who would eventually be a Spider-Man villain, and the Spider-Man villain the Sandman. The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man are inextricably linked). She suffered from amnesia. Then she rejoined the Inhumans in Attilan, got trapped, got out, and now she's here scouting out the human race.

BEN: Finally, this is number 3 on the "Gwen Stacy cries" consecutive issue count.



WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN: I've got nothing. The Inhumans have always sucked.

DUY: I thought this was a fun issue because it's so silly. The fact that a hair spray agent causes all this trouble just so Medusa can make him millions is some much-needed comic relief after the events of the last few issues. Also, between the wrestling promoter, JJJ, and this guy, pretty much anyone working in the media, entertainment, or advertising industry up to this point in the series has been a shark.

BEN: What’s weird is I do like some Inhumans individually, like Medusa.

DUY: I tend to like them in concept.

BEN: Black Bolt looks cool.

DUY: Crystal is fun in other titles.

BEN: I do love Crystal.

WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

BEN:  Angrily exploring a possible relocation into human society? That hasn't aged well.

DUY: "Didn't they ever tell you not to broadcast your plans? But that's the trouble with women -- they just can't keep their mouths shut." Sadly, this is a typical Stan Lee line where women are involved.

BEN:  Different times. It was probably bad at the time, but Stan was already old by then.

DUY:  Yeah, but even then it doesn't work -- all his villains monologue, but he'll only say a sexist line for Medusa.

NITPICKS

BEN: I know his spider sense is inconsistent, but he’s technically in no real danger here.


FAVORITE PANEL

DUY: I have two. One is the Mary Jane panel we posted earlier, because Peter putting off MJ is great. But the other one is Medusa cracking her hair like a whip:


DUY: Because it reminds me of WWE NXT wrestler, Bianca Belair:


BEN: Stop sending me wrestling stuff that's not Becky Lynch.

DUY: Medusa kinda looks like Becky Lynch, The Man.



BEN: They should cast her in the Inhumans movie they'll never make. Because the Inhumans suck.


WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY: Peter blowing off MJ at the end makes this issue a Gwen Stacy win.

BEN: Everything is a Gwen Stacy win..

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 Wednesday!

Feb 12, 2020

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #61

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!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #61
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. and Don Heck

With Captain Stacy still under the influence of the Kingpin, Spider-Man has his hands full trying to save both him and Gwen!




POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • Doctor Octopus: 9
  • Green Goblin: 7
  • The Kingpin: 6
  • Kraven the Hunter: 5
  • The Vulture: 5
  • Sandman: 4
  • Mysterio: 4
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • The Lizard: 3
  • Professor Smythe/Spider Slayer: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
DUY: “Gwen Stacy cries” consecutive issue count: 2.


WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

DUY:  I think Gwen being a good daughter who accompanies George even though it's dangerous, like going with him even as he's clearly being kidnapped, is stupid, butpretty cool.

BEN: Everything Gwen does is cool. She need a better comic to be in.

BEN: This is such a slow turn. The low moments of the Ditko run were at least interesting because of how weird they were and how it seemed he and Stan weren't even communicating. This is just like everyone has been phoning it in. "Peter realizes he loves Gwen! Let's take three issues!"

WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

DUY: Kingpin needs to use Norman Osborn's resources behind his back, and it really downplays his wealth and the amount of resources he would be shown to have eventually.

BEN: He’s not much of a Kingpin so far.

DUY:  And "There are more than two billion people alive today, and half of them are males," at this point, is MJ's defining quote.


NITPICKS

DUY:  Peter used to solve things by inventing cool stuff. This time he.... makes a mask out of his web.


BEN: Who’s got the time to invent?

FAVORITE PANEL

BEN:  Chubbins!



DUY: Osborn remembering the Green Goblin is some nice foreshadowing... and happens in the same story where Peter realizes he loves Gwen.


BEN: Are you suggesting there’s some sort of foreboding connection between the two?

DUY: Why, not at all. What would make you say that?

BEN: I'm not interested in your spoilers. I'm sure she'll be fine.

DUY: Of course she'll be fine. She's a Spider-Woman now, y'know.



WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY: I guess Osborn wins. We're reminded he exists, we're reminded the Goblin exists, and we're reminded of the internal conflict within.

BEN: Gwen survived her first death trap, she wins.

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 Wednesday!

Feb 5, 2020

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #60

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!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #60
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. and Don Heck

The Kingpin is revealed to be the Brainwasher, and he's hypnotized Captain Stacy!



POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • Doctor Octopus: 9
  • Green Goblin: 7
  • Sandman: 4
  • Kraven the Hunter: 5
  • The Vulture: 5
  • The Kingpin: 5
  • Mysterio: 4
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • The Lizard: 3
  • Professor Smythe/Spider Slayer: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
BEN: Peter realizes that he loves Gwen.

DUY: And unlike him being "in love" with Betty, this time it's for real. But this is also the first time Gwen will "never forgive Peter" for something that she would eventually forgive him for.



BEN: This looks like it might be the beginning of her melodramatic turn, which is much later than a lot of haters would have you believe. In fact, let’s get a “Gwen Stacy cries” consecutive issue count going.

WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN: I’m glad they skipped past Harry being mad at Peter for never being around and made him a supportive friend. He’s always giving him the benefit of the doubt when he disappears, and sticks by him when the two thugs wreck their apartment.


DUY: It's a nice moment for Harry. Character growth.

WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

BEN: The Kingpin is way more hotheaded than he would become.

DUY: He's clearly a prototype of what he'd later become. But my answer is still Aunt May. Holy crap, she's so damn unbearable. "Isn't he a pussywillow, Anna?" Ugh.


BEN:  There’s a dark story where Peter finds May’s murdered body and written on the wall in blood is “For the last time, it’s pussycat!”

NITPICKS

DUY: Kingpin being strong enough to basically be invulnerable to Daredevil makes sense. But for him to overpower Spider-Man is just.... he has to be superpowered, right?



BEN: Kingpin’s strength doesn’t make sense. I’ve been trying to get so fat that I’m super strong, but it’s not working.

FAVORITE PANEL

BEN:  A teenager?!



DUY: I have to give it to Harry telling Pete he's gonna stick by him, posted up above.

WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY:  No one. Look, we get a lot of flak these days for writers decompressing too much. Sure. But that was around even back then, and this story is running too long and it's not even engaging.

BEN: This is what it sounds like, when doves cry.

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 Wednesday!