My original idea for this week’s column was to write about the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of Spider-Man. But, I guess I’ll save any talk of that for the inevitable Amazing Spider-Man movie column that I’ll write around its July 3rd release date. But, in thinking about that I thought about a friend of mine. For the purposes of this public record, let’s call him, oh I don’t know, “Eric”. This gentleman loves comic books, but he loves Spider-Man in particular.
For his birthday one year, I tried to get him something I thought he would enjoy but was certain he didn’t have. I figured a collection of Ultimate Marvel Team-Up would be a safe bet since it features Spider-Man getting paired with various other superheroes. When I gave him the gift, while he was thankful, he wasn’t exactly thrilled. Eric, you see, didn’t actually like team books. He wants his superheroes solo or sidekicked, but not ensconced with a bunch of other solo heroes. I found this odd, as I pretty much exclusively get team books.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got my fair share of solo books. Some Hulks, some Superman, some Batmans, some Wolverine, but the titles I get most consistently are team books. In fact, right now the only solo Superhero book that I get on a monthly basis is Greg Rucka’s Punisher. Other than that, I get almost all of the Avengers titles, Fantastic Four and FF, and Ultimate X-Men. I also get X-Factor in trade paperback. It’s actually kind of sad how predictable I am in this regard.
My longboxes are populated with team books. I’ve got an extensive run of Justice League International, pretty much all of Exiles, and I’m building a good run of Ninja Turtles back issues. Many of the solo books I have are actually more like team books in disguise. I collect Avenging Spider-Man which features Spidey teaming up with different Avengers every issue. My favorite Ultimate Spider-Man issues are the ones where he’s living with Iceman and The Human Torch.
I’ve started to wonder at the psychology of this, and I’m not quite sure what it says about me. I get the love for Spider-Man. He’s a wise cracking, middle class guy who tries to do the right thing, but life routinely shits on him. On top of that, he’s kind of a geek. That’s something most comic book fans can relate too. So, this guy who we can all see ourselves as also manages to kick ass and attract quite a few beautiful women. I can totally see the appeal, and the wish fulfillment involved. It doesn’t really click with me, though. No matter what happens, his stories always end up the same way. He manages to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. He beats Doctor Octopus, but he’s late for dinner and Aunt May is mad at him. He gets rid of the alien costume that was taken over his life, but then it attaches itself to a guy who hates him. And the biggest one, he gets awesome powers but doesn’t use them to stop a thief who ends up killing his uncle. It’s kind of depressing and repetitive.
With team books, there’s a constant clash of personalities. And, with the ever changing rosters of most teams, you get to see new mixes every few issues. If you’re tired of seeing Captain America and Iron Man argue, you can see Luke Cage and Jessica Jones fret about their baby. Just when you think you’ve seen all the Cyclops you can handle, he leaves the team. So, I guess what I’m saying is that I have a short attention span and team books offer enough change to get me to stick around. I don’t know if that’s the exact right answer, but I guess it’ll have to do for now.
Graham Becksted’s adventures can be read in Ultimate Graham, Spectacular Graham, Dark Graham, Red Graham, Graham International, and The Graham Of Steel. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 68th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.