So has anyone else seen this? It’s a magazine anthology reprinting recent (and some not so recent) Spider-man (and some not Spider-man) stories from various Marvel books. It seems aimed at kids, and it seems to be distributed through book stores. They seem to be on number 2, and there’s some fairly prominent advertising placement on the cover of the MarvelKids.com website.

Marketing wise, this seems like a really good idea; a clever way to break out of the direct market in a format that would be appealing for younger audiences (who are often more likely to be in book stores than comics stores) and for booksellers (Borders, at least, stocks a lot more magazines than comics.) It’s a little pricy (7 bucks) but there are a lot of stories included (5, all told) and a bunch of extras. It seems like a really good way to go.

Content wise, it was overall better than I expected. There was an old 80s Marvel Team-Up featuring the Thing and Sandman from the period just after Sandy and Hydroman merged. It was very low-key; Sandman was completely freaked out and just had a beer with the Thing and talked about how his life sucked. I’m kind of a sucker for super-hero comics that go out of their way to have nothing particularly super happen, I’ve go to admit.

Of the new stuff…there’s a story from Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, which is I guess the all-ages title, where Peter’s very young (he looks about 13, though I think he’s supposed to be a little older than that.) It’s a reprise of the Lee/Ditko Sinister Six storyline, though I don’t think it quite holds up to the original — the art certainly isn’t as good, and Peter’s angst has been dialed way down — which makes the whole thing a lot less interesting. Also, I’ve got to say — why not just reprint the original story? They really are for kids; my son likes them, and I remember liking them a lot when I was 7 or 8. Putting everyone in modern clothes…I just don’t see the point, exactly.

In general, it’s amazing to me how frequently not only the characters in super-heroes are reused, but how whole plotlines keep getting recycled. This is, I think, how work-for-hire really benefits the big two. You might get paid for a reprint of your title, but you don’t necessarily get paid, or even acknowledged, when your storyline gets endlessly repeated (often in other media, re: Tim Sale’s comics and the Batman movies).

Ultimately, though, I wonder if this is self-defeating. A magazine like, for all ages, in books stores, seems like a perfect place to try out some new concepts with new creators — to try for a new hit, in other words. There are in fact new super-hero concepts that do very well — Ben 10, for example. But they don’t come out of DC and Marvel, and the reason is that DC and Marvel aren’t really trying. Maybe it doesn’t matter — maybe you can just glide on the characters you’ve got forever. But it seems like, you’ve got this brand, you’ve got all these creative people working for you…why not see if you can come up with something new, something that might open up new markets and/or be financially beneficial? But, hey, what do I know….

On the plus side again, there was a reprint of a Spider-Man/Fantastic Four story (Silver Age) that I really liked quite a bit. The author is Jeff Parker, who has a nice way with low-key character interactions and dialogue. I’m thinking of getting the series…what say you Bryan? Tucker? Worthwhile, or should I pass?