Comics : Marvel Heroes: Movie Theatre (Funtasic)

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This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

Funtastic is a UK/NZ/Australia publisher who has produced quite a range of coloring and activity books. This "Marvel Heroes Movie Theatre" is certainly their most technically ambitious offering to date.

The whole assembly is 13" wide by 12.5" high, solid hardback cover. As you can see from the photo, the book portion is actually 8.5" wide, and the remainder holds the battery-powered projector (which slides into a bracket on the book) plus the 10 scene disks (8 photos per disk).

The book itself contains 46 full-colored pages, featuring five stories. The first story is the Spider-Man tale.

In Detail...

Marvel Heroes: Movie Theatre (Funtasic)
Year 2007 : SM Title
Find at Amazon.Com
Summary: Projector & Picture Discs (Spider-Man Appears)
Publisher:  Funtastic Publishing
Adaption:  Michael Teitelbaum
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Heroes: Movie Theater

The Spidey story is 8 pages long. Each page features some original artwork which illustrates this retelling of the Spider-Man Origin story. Each paragraph in the story has a number indicated the associated picture to display on the movie projector as you read the text.

The origin story generally follows the comic-book version. Spider's bite, fight Crusher Hogan, TV Star, Burglar, Uncle Ben dead, Warehouse. That pretty much covers the first disk of 10 pictures.

Disk Two introduces two villains - Doctor Octopus and Green Goblin. The Green Goblin story is rather watered down to "G" rating. Quote: "Spider-Man finally used the Goblin's own Goblin Glider to defeat him." Fair enough, no need to mention the whole messy "impaling and agonized death" business.

In General...

There's no plot here - simply a sequence of events and superficial characterizations. But that's not a complaint at all. I really didn't expect any depth of story here. This isn't that kind of product. This one is all about the features and the quality of presentation. I mean for goodness' sake, it comes with its own movie projector!

Let's talk about features and quality then.

First up, the production of the book is top-notch. The pages are thick, satin paper with rich colors. The font and presentation of the text is clear and appealing. The artwork inside the book is clearly computer air-brush shaded, and doesn't really tie in with anything at all. It's not like the movie art, or the Ultimate comic books, or the mainstream comic books classic or modern. It doesn't even match the artwork on the cover of the book itself! That's not to say that the artwork is bad in any sense at all, but it just feels a little disjoint.

"Yeah, yeah," I hear you saying. "Screw the book... tell us about the projector!"

OK then, let's talk about the projector. This is the heart of the product, and the whole thing stands or falls on this gimmick. And... it's pretty good actually. Nice solid construction, the picture reels click in place nicely and turn well. The bulb is nice and bright, and the focus wheel on the front works well allowing you to produce a decent image on a flat white surface at a distance of up to about 18" away. At that distance, the projected image is about 4" x 3".

The artwork on the projected images is absolutely superb, though once again it's a different look and feel from the cover and from the inner printed artwork. The projected images have a fantastic 1970's picture book sort of feel, with muted middle-tone colors and a painted look. As a long-time Spidey fan and collector of Spider-Man books, there's an instant retro appeal on those projected images.

Overall Rating...

On the plus side, the production quality of this product is superb. The projector is well-made and gives a high-quality image. With 80 projected images, five stories, 46 pages, this book is excellent value for money.

On the downside, the story itself is a bit of a non-event. And while the interior printed art is good and the projected artwork is delightful, the cover art is rather recycled. More confusingly the cover, interior and projected art are all in three radically different and contrasting styles, which significantly reduces the overall impact.

Still, overall the coolness factor is too great to ignore, and I'm going to have to give a hefty four-web rating for this way-above-average item.

Footnote...

I paid NZ$15 for this book at a local store. That's about 5 GPB or US $10 at current exchange rates. It was a real bargain at that price.