This activity book is part of a series of quirky Spider-Man fun books produced by "Elmer's Products, Inc.", a company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. What? A Spider-Man coloring book produced in America? Well... no. The book itself is actually made in China, like all good toys.
The book is a spiral-bound notebook 5.5" x 10". A "water-brush" is included, which is a "no-mess" brush with a squeezy water reservoir. The actual content consists of four (4) only cardboard "pages" in the notebook.
The first three scenes are apparently "mostly blank" pages. Spider-Man (in black and white) is visible, but nothing else. But if you paint with water... suddenly, the rest of the scene appears in startling, spectacular color! And then... as it dries, the color fades, and you can paint it once more!
Well, that's what the advertising says. And just to prove how committed I am to reviewing for Spider-Fan, I took my mint-condition copy and splashed it with water. And indeed, the color quality is very good. However, the actual quality of the content varies. Specifically:
Page One: Green Goblin. Image is good, features the Green Goblin, wide variety of colors.
Page Two: Spider-Man, with an abstract red & blue patterned background. This is terrible.
Page Three: The Lizard, and other villains. Another good image.
Page Four: A "code" page. Words are printed in different cells. The code sheet tells you to water up cells E2-D2-A1... etc., to reveal the messages "Spider-Man costume smell bad" and other similar super-secret phrases.
After ten minutes in a warm room, the page does indeed dry out again to become white once more. Well, it's nearly white. Like most "secret writing/art" books, close scrutiny will reveal the hidden image/text without the need to paint. But when you're eight years old, I would imagine you're prepared to forgive these little details.
The book is 1/4" thick, which makes the limited number of pages seem rather disappointing. But I presume that the technical details of creating a page which can handle being soaked and dried several times means that thick pages are essential. Even so, with a list price of US$13, that's over three dollars per page, and that's not cheap by my standards.
However the image quality is good, and the inclusion of a "code page" is a nice touch. The inclusion of a paint brush, and the tidiness of the packaging means that US$13 probably is a fair representation of what it costs to produce a specialty book like this one.
Overall, the gimmick works. Yes it's short on pages and long on price, but I would still say that "Spider-Man Water Wow Doodle Book" achieves what it set out to achieve. Three and a half webs.
Note that this book was re-released in 2010 with different styling, and about 20% of the material reworked. Specifically: The colour content on the first page was re-done. The black and white line-art (the art that is visible on the pages all the time even when they're not wet) was entirely redrawn as well. The original line art was rather heavy, and the new line art is noticeably cleaner.
Even so, I think the 3.5 web rating still stands for the new version too.
Elmer's Products "Giddy-Up" line isn't the only "magic pen" offering to hit the market this year. The guys at Lee Magic Pen (creators of the classic "Yes & Know" series) are also pushing a line of magic pen, puzzle and game books this season.