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PCR #487 (Vol. 10, No. 30). This edition is for the week of July 20--26, 2009.

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"  by Mike Smith
Terror of Mechagodzilla  by ED Tucker
Turning 600! .... Where It Began For Me .... The Mcfarlane Era .... Ross Factor .... Jsm .... It All Started With A .... .... ....  by Brandon Jones
Corruption In Jersey & Crazies On Fox .... As Healthcare Turns .... Slanderous Debate .... That's Senator Racist To You.... .... That's A Go Comrade .... Funny Lady .... Enemy In Nyc ....  by Brandon Jones
Ben Roethlisberger Is A Rapist? .... Vick .... Make Love To The Camera .... .... .... .... ....  by Chris Munger
Happy Birthday .... This Week In Baseball .... Movie News .... More From Greg .... Passing On .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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Splash Page by Brandon Jones

Turning 600!
Regular cover for Amazing Spider-Ma #600, cover by Romita Jr.
Spidey turns 600!

The Spider-Man flagship title reaches an amazing milestone with its 600th issue. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's creation from 1962 has endured and blossomed into an icon, movie star and a regular staple still in comic fans today.

The webhead has yet another sequel in development with "Spider-Man 4" slated for a 2011 release. The script is being sent to "Seabiscuit" writer Gary Ross for revisions as fans debate what villains would best serve another chapter in Spidey's film mythology.

Where it began for me

I learned to read from comic books, pestering my grandfather to pronounce different words as I rustled through page after page of superhero fodder. After church every Sunday my grandmother would take us to Arby’s and if we were lucky, to the local fire department’s thrift shop. Comics would often be donated and end up in a bin for the taking.

Avengers and Spider-Man were always amongst my childhood favorites and one issue, Spectacular Spider-Man #27 (1976), still has a special place for me to this day. It was my first exposure to Daredevil, a character that I’ve enjoyed into my collecting days. Frank Miller’s work on this comic was fantastic and key issue in my Spidey fandom for years and years to follow.

Spidey on The Electric Company connecting the Sesame Street universe on TV to the comic frames that Spidey was from.

So how did Spidey sneak into all of our lives?

"Hey you guys"...yep, The Electric Company appearances brought Spider-Man into my home daily at a very young age. I remember the sleep inducing Sandman as a villain -- great marketing by Marvel.

Marvel cemented Spidey as a staple in all of our lives with the late 70's TV incarnation featuring Nicholas Hammond. Spider-Man had a place on television with the likes of Hulk, Wonder Woman and Captain America.

To complete the trifecta of exposure was the animated series whose theme song is ingrained in all of our subconscious. The cartoon was boy's can't miss during this time and lyrics roll off the tongue of non-fans thirty years later. The incredible menagerie of villains made the show intriguing and engaging. The show made me appreciate the antagonists like Doc Ock, Mysterio and Elektro. During this time of the late 70’s and early 80’s, all a kid needed was Marvel Superheroes and Star Wars. Micronauts, Battlestar Galactica, Logan’s Run and the DC Universe (particularly the Super Friends) rounded out the blissful childhood of imagination and escapism.

For those of you that are too young or too old to be child in this nexus of comics, superheroes and of course, the Star Wars boom, let me paint this picture for you. Imagine the action figure utopia where Luke Skywalker would escape an Elektro trap and then be snagged by Spider-Man driving a Micronauts car launched into the action figure playland at the last second. Of course, the villain escape on a Battlestar Viper or with the help of an enormous Mego Riddler who is now rampaging through our imaginations.

Spider-Man was at the center of our playground games and still dear to our childhood hearts.

The McFarlane Era
Amazing Spider-Man #300, famous for the first appearance of Venom, was a huge milestone issue in my comic addiction.
Let me jump ahead to the late 80's with Todd McFarlane’s run on Amazing Spider-Man, a run that introduced the fan favorite Venom. I was reading comics religiously (which intensified in large part due to Tim Burton’s “Batman”) and this Spider-Man run was just what the title suggested – amazing.

Unlike the comics of today which are now six issue stories written to A) get you to buy more comics and B) sell graphic novels at the Borders and Barnes & Noble. The McFarlane Spider-Man faced different villains in nearly ever issue or had a cliff hanger into a second issue. McFarlane ventured into the multi-issue story arc, but we were reward with appearances by other comic characters like Captain America or the Hulk.

McFarlane's "Spider-Man" title took off in 1990 with the multi-issue story format. We were hooked, being suckered by a good story and artwork and, oh yeah, those variant covers, polybagged versions etc...

As we know Spidey, especially the Amazing Spider-Man title floundered along after that, adding Carnage (a popular offspring of Venom) and then the disasterous Clone story lines.

Ross Factor
The Alex Ross variant cover for issue #600.
In 1994, "Marvels" by artist Alex Ross and writer Kurt Busiek burst onto the scene with a painted comic history through the Marvel Universe. Ross has a distinct style of realism and issue number four brought Spider-Man to life.

Ross will be one of the featured artists delivering a variant cover. The 104 page anniversary comic, bolstering a $4.99 price tag, is lighting up the message boards. The realistic cover illustrating Doc Ock's tenacles pretty much guarantees his appearance but what else should we expect? The press release claims more surprises including an unexpected wedding.

How about Stan "The Man" Lee chipping in as writer?

Issue #600 will feature an all-star team with an arm length list of creators:

WRITERS: Bob Gale, Marc Guggenheim, Joe Kelly, Stan Lee, Dan Slott & Mark Waid PENCILS: Mario Alberti, John Romita Jr. & Marcos Martin INKS: Mario Alberti, Colleen Doran, Klaus Janson, Marcos Martin COLORED BY: Mario Alberti, Javier Rodriguez, Dean White

One name that is absent is J. Michael Straczynki. He's brought us one of the best recent Spider-Man stories in which there's a new villain, Morlun and a new character named Ezekiel who shares the same powers at Peter Parker. Morlun engages both Ezekiel and Spidey to feed on the life force.

After years of mediocrity, JSM made Spidey interesting again and I was hopeful to see his name amongst the creators.

It all started with a ....

Spider-Man is my favorite Marvel character and it's great to see the "600" milestone be reached. It's unfortunate that best stories have probably already been written.

So, fanboys and fangirls, it's time to rejoice and reflect as the webhead joins the elite group of 600 issues. Whether your favorite story is the Death of Jean DeWolff (which was actually in Spectacular Spider-Man), Kraven's Hunt or the Death of Gwen Stacy -- let's pause and appreciate Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's creation.

The cliche from Disney is that it all started with a mouse. Well, Marvel isn't quite a fairy tale, but it certainly took off with a spider.

"Splash Page" is ©2009 by Brandon Jones.   Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.