Friday, May 30, 2008

Tom Beland on Spidey

Many comic writers have had runs on Spider-Man lasting several years. Tom Beland has only done a handful of Spider-Man stories but from what I've read, he's still in the big boy's league.

The first story by Beland that I ever read was the 2006 I Heart Marvel Web of Romance. Marvel was selling a ton of Valentine's Day special issues with the company's various characters. Now I despise Valentine's Day as much as the next guy. Greeting card companies and any other stores that profits from this day make a killing and let's admit it; Sweetest Day is the ugly cousin of Valentine's Day that some peon invented to to get some extra bucks. All that side, I felt a need to pick up Web of Romance because it stared my favorite couple, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker.

In this story Peter is struggling to come up with a gift for MJ on Valentine's Day. MJ has more clothes than most people know what to do with. Anyone that's been reading Spider-Man is also well aware that MJ has some of the sexiest lingerie you've ever seen, so that's out. Peter also doesn't want to do the usual candy and roses bit, because really, how many times can you do that before it gets old? MJ had a blast playing around with Peter's web-shooters in this story in the beginning. At the time, he had no use for them because organic webbing was all the rage. Later on it finally dawns on Peter what to get his wife. With Tony Stark's help, he modifies his old web-shooters into bracelets that still function as web-shooters. Best gift ever, anyone?

Tom really knows how to write MJ. As J.R. Fettinger, founder of said in one of his articles, the MJ in Web of Romance in the kind you hardly see much of anymore. She's a little goofy here, but in a good way. She has no problem paling around with guys in this story and she's fascinated with Peter's web-shooters and thinks its incredible that he invented them when he was a teenager. The Peter/MJ moments in Web of Romance are all kinds of awesome, but the rest of the book is also rock solid. Spidey exchanging witty banter with Mandrill after he's defeated him at the start of the issue, Spidey helping out his fellow Avengers in a fight against Dragon Man, really there isn't a down spot in this book. You may come for the Peter/MJ scenes but not only will you stay for those, you'll stay for everything else as well.

Tom is also one of the few comic writers who isn't stuck in the past, believing Spidey should always be single, blaming what was "wrong" with Spider-Man on the Spider-marriage.

The second Spidey story that I've read from Tom comes from Avengers Classic #11, a side story titled "Along Came a Spider." This story takes place in the early days of Spidey's wall-crawling career. In a fight with Electro, Spidey sprains his ankle and just as sparky is moving in for the kill, good old Captain America steps in to save Spidey's bacon. What follows is a good old fashioned super hero heart-to-heart. Spidey is new to the super hero business and Cap is still adjusting to what is basically a new world to him. I think Cap and Spidey play extremely well off each other in this story. Even though Spidey is a bit nervous in the super soldier's presence, he still retains his wit and takes in every word of what Cap has to say.

No catastrophic events, no end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario. Just plain old, simple, heartwarming story telling, the type that's nearly extinct because of the overabundance for shock value in comics these days. Hey, I like the aforementioned stories as much as anyone else but I really do think the comic industry could benefit from more stories like these.

I've seen some of Tom's post on message boards and he sounds like an all around great guy. He really gets Spider-Man and isn't trapped in the mindset that MJ can only be seen in lingerie, worrying about Peter, or whining because Peter has to go out as Spider-Man. I'd love for Tom to get placed on the Spidey books someday but even if he only chimes in with a side story, that would still be 26 different flavors of cool.


spideyfan said...

That page is on the teenage Spider-Man? Is it a flashback in that issue, or happening in that issue or was that a different issue than the one you placed it cover?

Seemingly this is in a different Marvel Universe, not in the 616 universe.

It's masterful how Cptn.America figured what Spider-Man is under the mask, and the joke on Captain America's origin is funny as well

Reggie White Jr. said...

"Along Came a Spider" is a side story that's only about 10 pages long. Every now and then Marvel will tell new stories set years in the past. This is one of those stories. Yeah, I liked Cap figuring out Spidey too as well as the Batman reference. Great stuff.

PerfectDru said...

I was just rereading my copy of Web of Romance a couple days ago. That's a good one.

Tommy said...

That cover is funky. MJ Soufflé.

I haven't read it yet, so the only Valentine-themed story I've got is from the Valentine's Special back in 1996 or 1997.

The Cap story is cool and is a lot better than Cap and Spidey meeting up against the Hulk in Fallen Son: Spider-Man. My brain hurts just thinking about where that's supposed to fit.