Saturday, 24 September 2011

What to do when your son outgrows Spider-man and you still haven't...

And so it came to pass, in early December 1974 (when I was almost eight and half years old) that I trudged through the snow the mile and a smidge from my parent's house into town to the bakers to buy several large 'bloomer' style loaves of bread (don't laugh). My imagination is summoning up a recollection of deep snow drifts that probably comes from the movie the Thing rather than what I actually trudged through...anyway it was cold and even the big empty red shopping bag I'd been dispatched with seemed heavy. The most difficult part of the task was actually getting noticed and served in a busy bakers where the counter seemed to be a good two and half feet above my head and all the serving ladies seemed to think I was there with another adult who was being served rather than on my own. What seemed like an eternity later I lugged the now full shopping bag (full of still warm, beautiful smelling crusty bread) out into the street and towards home. Then it hit was a Saturday morning and it was still early. There would be new British Marvel Comics in the newsagents - and just to explain - they would not be there for long. There only ever seemed to be a handful delivered and they soon disappeared from the shelves. Getting comics at this time was entirely predicated on having a regular order with your newsagents - my regular order at this time was for Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives* (which contained little in the way of the superhero stories I longed for (and superhero stories were not approved of, well by anybody really. Admitting to liking superheroes was like admitting to having a low IQ: irrespective of the reading age that they were aimed at, they were universally condemned as 'being for babies'). I digress. So to recap: it is Saturday morning. There are comics. And I have the change from the bakers. Who can stop me? What can possibly go wrong? Nothing. The manager of the newsagent had once said to me "Hey, this isn't a library!" as I was reaching for a comic with the money to pay for it in my hand, er having not been reading the comic at any time. Idiot. The moron was not present. A pleasant lady served me. I trudged home through the snow drifts that you will have seen in both versions of the Thing (Hawkes and Carpenter) except probably bigger. The comic I bought was Spider-Man Comics Weekly #96 - offsale date December 14th 1974 - a reprint of Spider-Man's first encounter with The Prowler. Phenomenal John Buscema art and a backup Kirby Thor strip. My Mother was not impressed with the selection of this classic comic and the spending of the 7p of her change on it. "Well, I did walk through the snow," I offered lamely. She explained that if she had known I was going to spend the 7p she would've walked throught the snow herself. Yeah, right.

So I told you that so I could tell you this. My hypothesis is that you will not now find an eight and a half year old boy with that level of interest in Spider-Man any more than you would find an eight year old boy who is interested in Thomas the Tank Engine. My son 'outgrew' Spider-Man some considerable time ago (he is 8). In the UK vast majority of Spider-Man related clothing finishes at age 6. Why is this? Particularly when there are 12 certificate Spider-Man movies and there is nothing infantile (I would contend!) about the character. This is only a theory, but I think Spider-Man has become some sort of 'avatar' (or maybe poster-boy) for the beginnings of the sort of adventurous play in which boys first stray out of parental reach when climbing and jumping around ("Look at me! I'm Spider-Man!). And so, it has become somthing to grow out of rather than something to enjoy at any age (Like Star Wars and Lego now seem to be).

So to answer my own question: I shall continue to buy Spider-man comics even though my son has grown out of them. In particular, reprints of the classic Romita/Gil kane era. Last month I bought from the Works a bargain basement digest sized reprint vol of Spider-Man 86 onwards. The final story is a Prowler story and I haven't read it before. Son, you don't know what you're missing...

*NB my order for Planet of the Apes and Dracula Lives was at a different newsagent nowhere near the bakers. Glad we cleared that up.

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