So my 4-year old son is absolutely, completely, ridiculously obsessed with Spider-Man. I feel this is probably some sort of punishment for my sins as a comics critic. In any case, it has its ups and downs. Specifically, the downs are when he throws himself at my legs every, oh, 15 seconds, shouting, “I’m Spider-Man!” causing me to lurch chinward towards whatever piece of furniture is placed nearby. The ups are when he explains as he’s sitting on the toilet that Spider-Man doesn’t poop real poop; he poops webs.

But actually, the real worst part is the children’s books. Has anyone ever seen these things? There are several series of them. One’s published by DK Readers, and is written and I guess drawn by someone named Catherine Saunders. I’m sure she’s just the front name for a whole committee apparatus, but I must focus my ire somewhere, so I will hate her on general principles. Christ these things are horrible. The art is just ridiculous; the anatomy is so completely fucked up that even my son makes fun of it (one picture where Spider-Man’s leg ends in what appears to be a traumatized zucchini always causes him to look up at me hopefully and ask, “That’s a foot, right Daddy?”) And furthermore — and this is the kicker — there’s no story. None. I guess they just couldn’t be bothered with little things like plot, so instead it’s set up as a kind of Thrilling Encyclopedia of Boredom . “Spider-Man usually works alone, but sometimes even he needs help from his Super-Hero friends.” Now try reading that. A. Hundred. Times.

There’s another series based on the third Spider Man movie put out by HarperCollins which does in fact have a moderate effort at creating a story, and that’s a little better though, really, not much. My son does love them…but why do they have to be so, so bad? He likes Spider-Man videos too, and those are perfectly watchable; decent animation, entertaining action, etc. etc. Why do the books have to be such pieces of crap? I’ve actually been reading some of the old Lee/Ditko comics to him; he loves those too, and reading them doesn’t make me want to scrape out my eyes. If Marvel wants to get parents on board…or, for that matter, kids on board for the long haul…maybe they might consider putting a little imagination, or at least thought, into their customers first contact with their product. I mean, if they can’t find any artists, why not use some of Ditko’s original drawings? Please?