Comics : Spider-Man: The Adventures of Spider-Man

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

This is the teenager's version of the more adult Spider-Man: The Official Movie Novelization. This version is a bit larger in profile, namely 5" x 7.5", but has marginally larger font and a bit more spacing, and racks up at 144 pages to the adult version's 311.

This young-adult version also features an eight-page insert featuring glossy photo stills from the film. Great for adding atmosphere. I said "teenager", but maybe it's more "pre-teen". My eight year old would easily read it, but I'm sure any SpiderFan up to their early teens would find this book version pretty enjoyable. Mid-teens would probably prefer the more detailed version.

See also Spider-Man: The Official Movie Adaptation, the comic version.

In Detail...

Spider-Man: The Adventures of Spider-Man
Mar 2002 : SM Title
Find ISBN 0064410730
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Michael Teitelbaum
Photographer:  Peter Stone, Zade Rosenthal
Original Screenplay:  David Koepp
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While the adult version is "By Peter David", this version is "Adapted by Michael Titelbaum". The difference presumably being that PD mucked around with the story quite a bit, where as MT pretty much transcribed the screenplay.

That said, there are some notable differences between this book and the final move. Since most of these differences also appear in the Peter David version, I think we can be pretty sure that they were originally part of the movie story, but they were cut after the book went to press.

The key differences are:

  • On the first morning that Peter has his powers, on the way to school he is nearly hit by a truck - he jumps up forty feet, sticks to a wall, and crushes a drainpipe with his fingers. Then he inexplicably goes to school, as if nothing had really happened.
  • Much more weight is given to Peter's desire to apologise to Ben immediately after their fight.
  • We get to see the scene where Doc Connors fires Peter from his college job.
  • After the Thanksgiving fiasco, Peter comforts MJ on the steps outside the apartment, and Harry notices them. This makes a mockery of his later being upset when discovering them holding hands at the hospital.
  • There's an epilogue at the Daily Bugle where Betty Brant finds Peter's trousers in a cupboard, and tells Jonah (who doesn't even get suspicious).

Putting these aside, the rest of the story is a nice and simple transcription of the screenplay. This comes across just fine, and makes for solid reading. Titelbaum avoids the mistake PD made of demystifying the story by explaining every gesture and comment made by the characters. Instead, their words and actions are left to speak for themselves.

In fact, I only really have one complaint at all about this book, and here it is. It appears that Titelbaum had a strong opinion on the "Organic vs. Mechanical Web-Shooters" debate. As we all know, Sam Raimi made the call that Peter's webbing would be organic. Now, while I myself supported the mechanical shooters at the time, in hindsight I believe that Raimi actually made the correct decision. The mechanical webshooters were just too much to ask the audience to accept.

But Titelbaum, the guy given the job of transcribing the movie to text, is clearly a fifth columnist for the "mechanical web-shooters" rebel alliance. While he allows Peter his organic webbing, MT then explains that this webbing just doesn't shoot straight! So, Peter works all night, and finally invents a mechanical device which he straps to his arm to make the webbing go in the right direction.

Incredible! And totally lame. What a major cop-out, and what a glaring and un-necessary aberation from the other six movie tie-in books that were released at the same time! Having invented these mechanical shooters, there is no further reference to them in the story. Goddang it! If MT wanted Peter to have mechanical shooters so much, why not just give it to them. This middle ground just confuses the heck out of everybody! Now the kids reading this story won't be able to reconcile his webshooters with either the comic OR the movie! Way to go, MT!

Other than that, MT sticks to the story, with a few of the more adult jokes removed, and some of the more complicated concepts simplified. For example, the unemployed Uncle Ben is "on his butt", not "on his ass". And when Ben asks Peter to help paint the kitchen, there's no reference to Michelangelo. That kind of thing. And there's no tongues when MJ kisses Spidey...

In General...

Writing a kids version of a movie screenplay should be a pretty simple task. Titelbaum makes a pretty good job of it all, and his only real indescretion is the stupid web-shooters compromise.

Overall Rating...

Could have been closer to four webs without that lame web-shooters gaffe. But as it is, I can't give it more than three. Shame.