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Hello There Ladies and Gentlemen

December 11, 2011

I saw a rather adorable editorial cartoon this morning, featuring Prince Charming trying to wake Snow White with a kiss while the old hag looks on in horror. A rather well done image with a simple message, except that, this being an editorial, the character of the old hag is labelled ‘1%’, the basket of apples she carries is labelled ‘Media’, Prince Charming is labeled ‘Occupy Wall St.’, and Snow White is labeled ‘Middle Class’. Perfect.

An old buddy of mine is getting himself worked up into a fever about how happy he is with the trailer for the upcoming reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. I’ve seen it, and the first two thirds are pretty good, though they look like they’re from a completely different film, and the last third is a rather busy bit of CGI involving a costumed Spider-Man doing the anti-gravity version of free running across rooftops and diving for the ground before whipping out his first spider web.

It looks fine, but I’m still thoroughly on the fence about rebooting the franchise so soon, and I’m definitely not sure I like the idea of Sony having the origin story rewritten in this fashion. I mean, I’m all for suspense, and I’m all for examining what really happened to Parker’s parents. But I’ve got this feeling that Steve Ditko would not approve of this twist they’ve introduced that seems to lead to everything else in the origin story.

See, we in the comics fandom world call that a Ret(roactive)Con(tinuity), and I’m not a big fan of retcons, because they have a tendency of getting really messy, really fast. There aren’t too many writers who can introduce new elements into a long-running continuity like that without flubbing it, and unless Steve Ditko gives this plot twist his blessing (which he probably won’t because he’s been notoriously quiet about the whole movie franchise thing), I don’t think I’ll be up for endorsing it myself. I may watch it, and I may enjoy it, but I wouldn’t in good conscience be able to approve it. I respect the original vision, and any jiggering with it has to be done well, and done with the blessing of the guy who wrote the original story, which in my mind means Ditko.

Sure, Stan the Man Lee wrote the words you see on the page, but his plotting style generally involved giving his artist a line or two of description and sending them off to figure it out for themselves. That was the classic ‘Marvel Method’ in a nutshell, and artists sank or swam by their ability to take Stan’s notes and effectively work them up into fully-fledged, dynamic adventures with all the pathos and action they could muster. That’s what made guys like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko masters of their craft. They were artists, but they knew how to tell stories and didn’t need a lot of input from the plotter/scripter.

So if Ditko is largely responsible for the classic story, and here we have to give Stan his due because his words in those early issues of Spider-Man were some of the best of his career, bar none, and after all, Spider-Man was in fact his idea first (although Kirby had an idea for a character by that name a decade earlier and had worked on the original story before Ditko was brought in to redo it his way).

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not some Ditko purist or anything. I just think that, when a creative person gets it right, you have to respect that and not futz with it too much, or you risk unraveling everything they achieved. It’s called respect.
Anyway, I’ve got sausage on a bun, my agent is playing flash mob videos at me, and time is up. Have a great day, folks.


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