Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #56
This story is part of a Lookback Series: British History
This review was first published on: Sep 2013.
These UK magazines produced original stories for ten or more years from 1999 until they were shut down following the Disney buyout of Marvel in 2012. Apart from the occasional reprint, each issue features an 11 page story produced by a UK-based creative team. The stories were out-of-continuity, but were loosely based on mainstream Marvel characters.
These issues are pretty hard to find, but I've managed to acquire nearly a complete set, and I'm catching up with reviews as I acquire them under our lookback section "British History".
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #56
Jan 2000 : SM Title
This is one of the earliest original stories from the series, back when Jason Quinn (editor and writer) was still setting trying to determine a suitable tone for the title. In the end, the tone he appears to have selected is "silly, with a hint of stupid".
A case in point, this month's story. Spider-Man is swinging through a New York winter while trying to fight off a massive dose of the flu. He blacks out and falls down and through the roof of a giant circus tent in which a flabby masked wrestler named "Killer Punch" is fighting all-comers.
The pudgy pugilist naturally fires up his fighting form, and easily pummels the super-sick Spider-Man into submission.
Coincidentally (don't you love them coincidences) Daily Bugle publisher and number-one anti-Spidey crusader Jonah Jameson is sitting right there in the front row of the show. As Spider-Man flees the scene and seeks his sick-bed, Jameson heads to the presses and prepares the next day's edition in which Killer Punch is declared a bona fide hero.
With his new-found fame, Killer Punch sees that he can use that heroic reputation to make some money, and so he immediately starts robbing banks. He then kidnaps Jameson and takes him hostage, demanding that the City pay five million dollars in ransom for the release of New York's beloved publisher.
No, seriously. That's the plot. Of course, Spider-Man the hero swings in to save the day. Despite being still a little sniffle-nosed, the web-slinger is at least well enough to convincingly win the rematch against his non-powered foe. Unsurprisingly, J. Jonah Jameson is far from grateful at being rescued by his nemesis and demands that the police arrest Spider-Man immediately. They don't.
Really, it's about as daft, contrived and infeasible as anything you'll see outside of a Scientology pamphlet. The characters are caricatures, the plot is potty, and the script is scrappy. The art is scruffy too.
But while it's easy to disrespect and discard this story, it's not so easy to despise it. Perhaps its purely a sense of nostalgia from knowing that these dopey British tales are the last we will ever see. Or maybe it's a sense of perspective because the Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man Kids TV tie-in stories coming out of the U.S. are so much worse on every level.
In any case, here's two-and-a-half webs for a tale which in hindsight is definitely "bad", but might not be "truly awful".