Spider-Man’s Greatest Moments, Part I

Marvel is celebrating the 50th birthday of their flagship superhero Spider-Man. He’s come a long way since appearing on the last issue of a failing science fiction comic book, but the minute he was introduced in Amazing Fantasy # 15, he became a sensation. Helping to usher in the so-called Marvel Age of Comics, Spider-Man was and is still Marvel’s most popular and iconic superhero. Over the years, our favorite Wall-Crawler has seen his highs and lows when it came to his storylines. There are too many to go through here, so let’s just highlight some aspects of them.

Insurmountable Odds

A hallmark of Spider-Man stories are those where he faces incredibly tough situations or foes. What makes them so special is that Spidey isn’t the most powerful superhero, he can’t shoot beams out of his hands, he can’t even fly. This makes him more relatable to us and is one of the reasons why he is so popular. He’s had to go up against villains that clearly outranked him in power and how he perseveres against them gave us some of the most exciting and hand-wringing stories. Who can forget that two-issue battle against the Juggernaut (The Amazing Spider-Man # 229-230)? Spidey fought this desperate battle against someone who could take on the Hulk. The Wall-Crawler tried everything but couldn’t make a dent against Juggernaut. Still, he wouldn’t give up, and somehow he stopped the Juggernaut by luring him into a bed of wet cement. Then there was his battle with the former Galactus herald Firelord (The Amazing Spider-Man # 269-270), where he shocked the late-arriving Avengers with his sheer will power as he managed to knock out Firelord.

But the best story that showed how determined Spider-Man can be was in the classic comic book The Amazing Spider-Man # 33. In the previous issue, he fought against Doctor Octopus at an underwater base and was left partially buried under tons of rubble and debris with water flooding. Meanwhile, inches away lay a canister containing a cure for his Aunt May’s latest ailment. He spent most of the issue struggling to free himself but failing. He berated himself, resigned to failure. But he couldn’t accept defeat not with his aunt’s life on the line. Spider-Man motivated himself and carefully maneuvered his body to free himself just in time. It was the most dramatic moment seen in a Spider-Man story and copied by others.

Marvelous Team-Ups

Ever since the very first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, our favorite Web-Head was shown to be an integral part of the Marvel Universe. In the first issue, Spider-Man tried to join the Fantastic Four and ever since, he has butted heads and teamed up with Marvel’s rich roster of superheroes. Some were interesting in that he had unusual pair ups (Howard the Duck, Frankenstein’s Monster, the John Belushi-era Saturday Night Live cast and even Superman in the classic cross-company story Superman Vs. The Amazing Spider-Man) or Spidey was way out of his element (Spider-Man Vs. Wolverine one-shot and Marvel Team-Up # 41-46 where Spidey time travels from the past and into the future).

The most natural friendship he’s had has been with Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. The two heroes tended to behave like college roommates and ranked on each other. Some of their best meetings included the Christmas-themed Marvel Team-Up # 1, Spider-Man/Human Torch #1-5,and most recently with FF # 17. The latter was a hilarious tribute to mismatched buddy comedies like The Odd Couple and Two And A Half Men, where Parker and Storm briefly live together with the expected disastrous results.

But Spidey’s best team-up stories were in J.M. DeMatteis’ run in Marvel Team-Up #111,112, 114-125, 126-133. In those comics, DeMatteis showcased his writing chops with fun, thoughtful, amusing and sometimes poignant yarns that were able to touch a reader’s  soul (Marvel Team-Up #119, 120, 127). The best part is that these issues can be found relatively cheap in comic bins. Continue reading

Remake The Black Hole!

Ever since I spotted that poster from The Black Hole in Tron: Legacy, I can’t stop thinking about that old Disney film.

The Black Hole was one of the earliest films I remember seeing as a kid back in 1979. The movie borrows plot lines from several classic works like Moby Dick and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. But the core story is rather simple and effective. The crew of an exploratory spaceship encounter a long-lost spaceship near a black hole in space, but it turns out it’s not abandoned. The commander of the huge derelict craft is obsessed with entering the black hole and finding out its secrets. As these tales go, the commander is insane and won’t let anyone get in his way not even the crew of the would-be rescue ship.

With all these pointless and gratuitous remakes being made (I’m looking at you Total Recall and soon Robocop), The Black Hole is one film that needs a remake or some kind of sequel at least.

Sure it’s got head-scratching flaws and scientifically it doesn’t make sense. For instance, why is it when the ship starts to get closer to the black hole, characters are able to survive outside the space ship without space suits, breathe air and even talk to each other? This is really confounding when earlier in the film, when the same characters are in a huge greenhouse, the structure is compromised, leading to air escaping and freezing temperatures. The robots they were fighting had visible signs of frost, yet the humans get along fine in the melee.

Then there is the ending sequence. It needed to be more spelled out. Is the black hole a gateway to heaven and hell? Then what happens at the very end? I guess it’s supposed to be one of those philosophical endings that can be debated but it throws off the tone of the film which was part mystery, part shoot-em-up.

The Black Hole is not the greatest movie ever made but it still fires up my imagination to this day. The special effects were great, it was even nominated for a special effects Oscar.  I really enjoyed the laser battles with the mad scientist’s robots and the film’s rousing score during those battles. It was an obvious swipe of John Williams but most sci-fi films in that era copied the composer. I also liked the characters, even the cute heroic robots. BTW, the head villainous robot, Maximillian, was pretty damn cool especially when he diced his claws into Anthony Perkins’ character. Too bad no blood was shown! Despite my misgivings about the ending, I liked that the filmmakers decided to be ambitious even if it was frustrating to watch.

A remake would have the same plot line: spaceship crew finds a lost spaceship with a nutty scientist bent on exploring a black hole; lives be damned, the gaining of knowledge is more important! But a remade Black Hole would be much more scientifically accurate. In this day and age it would have to be. The elements are right there for any enterprising filmmaker to improve upon the original. Combine that with some spectacular special effects and production design and we could wind up with a remake that surpasses the original.

Waldermann Rivera