This long-running three-weekly UK Magazine started out by running reprints for 51 issues. But starting with issue #52, it launched a string of original out-of-continuity Spider-Man stories created in the UK which was to last for more than a decade, until Disney pulled the plug in 2011.
The stories changed their tone throughout that time. The early original stories followed in the style of the preceding reprints, which is to say, similar to Spider-Man Adventures, or the Spider-Man TV (1994) television series. Much later, the stories shifted sideways to become more like a watered-down imitation of Ultimate Spider-Man.
In any case, the original Spider-Man stories occupied eleven or twelve pages of this 32 page publication, which was aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories featured classic Marvel characters and villains. While they often echoed plots from the mainstream comics, they did so in their own special style. The remainder of the content was filled with puzzles, coloring, posters (reprinted art), fan letters, and promotions for DVDs and computer games.
I'm currently running catch-up reviews for all the back issues I've managed to find in the past twelve months, in our Lookback section... "British History". Currently I'm up to 2001, which seems to have been a tough year for this title, with the publication schedule temporarily extended to every 8-weeks instead of every 4-weeks.
Spider-Man attends the aftermath of a hotel bombing in New York. The explosion occurred "five minutes ago". Already the police and fire department are present, and have put up cordons. Spider-Man is helping to pull victims out of the burning hotel complex.
Specifically, Spider-Man has just rescued a pyjama-clad "King of Pagadora".
The elderly king is so grateful, he immediately declares that Spider-Man is his heir, and the next day sees Spider-Man accompanying the King back on a private flight to the Eastern European kingdom.
When the king dies en route, Spider-Man is immediately crowned the new King of Pagadora, and is transported by royal carriage back to the oversized royal marble castle.
That night, the king's valet attempts to poison Spider-Man. When that fails (thanks to a handy Spider-Sense), the butler commits suicide with the same poison.
Things become marginally clearer the next day, when the forces of Hydra swing down to invade the palace during the royal banquet. Spider-Man helps the palace security guards to defeat Hydra. Shortly afterwards, the original King Rupert re-appears, no longer dead of his heart attack.
Rupert reveals that Spider-Man suggested faking the king's death in order to "flush out the terrorists who sought to destroy [our] land." He then grants Spider-Man a knighthood. "Arise Sir Spider-Man."
Spider-Man then decides to return home. By ship. He boards the ship and set off. But before the ship is even out of sight of the shore, it explodes in a great fireball.
...to be continued?
As with most recent issues of this title, the underlying concept for the story is so ridiculous as to have risen beyond the range of rational criticism. It has transcended any meaningful rational debate. And so if I wish to find fault, I must instead turn to complaints about basic common-sense details within the plot.
For example, it's hard to ignore the aforementioned ability of the fire and police services to arrive on site, fight the fire and set up security barriers within 300 seconds of the explosion having taken place. Furthermore, for some bizarre reason the fire engine is illustrated as being placed at the top of a giant sweeping flight of stairs. Since when did fire engines climb stairs?
On the other hand, I have no objections to the invention of the fictitious kingdom of Pagadora. I'm even prepared to assume that it's placed in the Adriatic, which is pretty much the only part of "Eastern Europe" from where you can usefully travel to America by boat... assuming that Peter Parker actually has a reasonable excuse for taking 10 days to return by ship instead of 10 hours by plane.
I would ask, how does Spider-Man intend to actually enter America at all? Does he have a passport in the name "Spider-Man"? Or will Spider-Man step into his ship's cabin, and Peter Parker emerge with no questions asked? In fact, how did he even leave the U.S. as Spidey, with no passport in that name?
There's also the problem that everybody in Pagadora speaks fluent English, including the announcement of the king's death being made to the Pagadoran people in English. In fact, the Pagadoran peasants call out "Long live Spider-Man!" in English too, which Spider-Man has no trouble understanding.
As for the "Knighthood". Well, that's a bit of a stretch as well. Chivalric orders are mostly a Western European artefact. Among Eastern European countries, only Poland, Romania and Hungary still give knighthoods. There is no modern tradition of such honorary titles down on the Adriatic Seabord where Pagadora is placed.
I could go on. There's Peter's extra-ordinary ability to conjure up a mini science lab in his royal chambers with which to analyse poisons, plus the irrational palace design which is twice as tall as it is wide, in total disregard of any fundamental medieval design capabilities. But I think you get the gist already.
There are thousands of frustrated writers in the UK who would crawl a mile over broken glass to be allowed to write a Spider-Man story. Surely the vast majority of them are able and willing to perform basic fact checking on their stories. So how come the job got given to somebody who doesn't give a damn?
If you're going to get paid to write a story about a Superhero who lives in Manhattan and goes to Eastern Europe, is it too much to ask that you spend an hour or two reading an encyclopaedia about Manhattan, and Eastern Europe? Am I being extreme when I suggest that you might spend ten minutes proof reading the story to ask "Does this story even make sense?"
'cos I regret to say, this one came off the presses screaming "NO I DO NOT MAKE SENSE!"
One and a half webs.