October 11, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #28 (Pictures of Spiderman by Nick Gonzo)



See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

In the interest of full disclosure, this comic has not been officially rated by the almighty bestower of ratings as all-ages but, due to the actual content within these pages, there's a chance that it would meet the criteria. It marks creator Nick Gonzo's first foray outside of the Madius Comics banner, following the successful 50Signal and Funk Soul Samurai. Despite what the title may imply, this isn't a book about any Spider-Man, be they amazing, spectacular or ultimate; it is instead about the journalistic pundit, J. Jonah Jameson hunting for love in world that he doesn't quite understand. 

J. Jonah Jameson is a character that most people know, but not many people understand. While this comic doesn't require an in depth knowledge of the background of the character, as this is clearly a departure from the original source, it helps to have an idea of the kind of person that he's been before this: brash and self-serving, sure, but ultimately compassionate. Seeing this latter quality in him brought to the surface takes you by surprise. There's a vulnerability to the character that we haven't seen before that makes this comic feel unquestionably unique.

Similarly, Gonzo is a writer with an undeniably cynical edge to his work, but also a deep-seated desire to see the best in the world. Although this comic feels immensely bleak in some places, due to both the tone in the writing and the intense shadows in the art itself, there's a positivity to the overall underlying progression of the narrative that demonstrates what this story is really about: the light at the end of the tunnel.

Gonzo has a recognisable and, although unconventional, a very fascinating art style. Beyond the aforementioned use of shading, he understands the need for a page to stand on its own terms. In the same way that the best newspaper strips do, each individual page in this comic can be read as a complete statement such that only reveals its true brilliance when they're all put into sequence. There's also a sense of progression across the page that keeps the energy high, drawing you effortlessly from one page to the next.

Despite all of this, the driving force behind this comic is Gonzo's commentary on the intense and  yet very artificial intimacy that the internet can provide. Complementing JJJ's views with those of Pooter Peter Parker, Gonzo takes a very firm stance on the effects that a solely online presence can have on someone so inherently lonely. Saying that, as before, there's a reluctant, and perhaps subconscious, sense that everything is ultimately going to be OK. It's that bizarre and strangely satisfying combination of attributes that make this such an intriguing work.

It's best to enter into this ten page story knowing as little as possible to get the most out of it. It hews close enough to the original material to draw out the most important characteristics, but remains at enough of a distance that the knowledge doesn't become a hindrance. Pictures of Spiderman has been percolating around in my head since I first read it over a week ago and it will undoubtedly do the same for you. It's bizarre and bleak while still maintaining a strong sense of beauty; I love everything about it.

Pictures of Spiderman is only being printed in a limited run, so head over and contact the creator before it's too late.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at mark@thegreengorcrow.com or head over to check out the podcast that I co-host You Know What I Like...? on SoundCloud.