This UK kids magazine is one of three regular Spidey magazine offerings from Panini. Spider-Man & Friends targets the 4-10 year old market, while sister publication Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) aims at the pre-teen and teen crowd. Finally, their Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine) hits the same mid-teen crowd but with a video game/movie angle.
But let's get back to Spider-Man & Friends. It features a distinctively drawn semi-Manga style kiddie Spider-Man, his cousin Spider-Girl, plus early school versions of Hulk, Wolverine, Beast, Storm and Captain America along with guest appearances from many other big name Marvel heroes and villains. Toy tie-ins are also available, plus in 2009 they produced a hardback annual.
Published every four weeks, this UK magazine features a toy taped to the front of each issue. Inside you'll find a four page Spidey & Friends story with three panels per page, captions of 8-20 words per panel. Then there's some nice simple kids puzzles, some coloring, a couple of competitions, and a page or two of Spidey merchandise. It's similar to the formats used for the older kids' magazines, just pitched for a much younger target audience.
Two things must ye know about today's story.
The heroes set up their tents for the night. It gets dark and they light a camp fire.
Spider-Man reads from his book. He tells his friends about giant dinosaurs. He shows them the picture of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and the Triceratops.
Suddenly, The Thing dashes for his tent and hides. He heard a noise, and he is scared. He thinks that maybe he heard a Triceratops coming to eat them!
Silly Thing. Spider-Man explains that the Triceratops is a vegetarian, and he doesn't eat people!
Moral of the story: Books are great, because you can learn a lot of things from them.
Second Moral: Dinosaurs look scary, but they are just big softies. Like The Thing.
There's a decent story lurking inside this plot. All the key elements are present. Unfortunately as an adult reader, I can see some alternate lessons lurking in the background which dangerously undermine the simple, superficial positive sentiments that we are offered.
Moral #3: When danger threatens, the strongest among us will run and hide, and leave the weakest alone... exposed out in the open to be eaten.
Moral #4: A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Moral #5: Ignorance is bliss.
Certainly, Spider-Man comforted Thing by explaining that the Triceratops was a vegetarian. But he neglected to mention that the other dinosaur from the book (the Tyrannosaurus Rex) was a voracious carnivore who would just love a nice snack like the Thing...
Crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. Yum, yum... ROAAAAR!
There's two completely different ways to read this story.
So I'll give it two completely different webs.