Thursday, July 04, 2019

Captain Spider-Man

Given that today is Punch a Nazi Day…er, Independence Day we decided to pen a tale of two of our favorite iconic heroes; Spider-Man and Captain America.

In the beginning, there was the Hero, and the Hero was with man, and the Hero was man. This is the way it was in the beginning. There is a reason that we worship Heroes. We love and adore them, and we know that as much as we admire them, we will never be them, but still we not only aspire to be like them, we choose to emulate them. Then when they fail, we abandon them to the fates. As it turns out, every generation throws a Hero up the pop charts, only to wait to watch when they inevitably fall.

By this I mean that as a people, we aspire to work towards a greater good. We want to perceive the world as allegory, with a higher power or powers directing us, or even acting in concert with us. We want to believe that there are those among us who will rise up and lead or protect and rescue us in our hour of need (i.e.: The 7th Calvary, The Marines, A White Knight, if you will).

It is my contention that there are, and always have been, those who take up the mantle of patrón, those who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect those of us who are weaker. Joseph Campbell talked about the Hero’s Journey; that path that an ordinary individual must take to become the person that are destined to become. I believe in destiny not so much as a force of nature, but more as a character — one of many actors on the scene — than as an immutable path that can never be altered.

So, yes, there are heroes, and yes, sometimes those heroes fail, but that doesn’t not stop us from either believing in them, or continuing to craft stories about them, whether real or fictional.
As for me, I am a member of the cult of Heroes. I am, at my core, a Heroist. That is to say that I, perceive myself to be a founding member of the cult of Heroes, because of this, I find that I must misquote Voltaire and say that I truly believe that if Heroes did not exist, then we would have been required to create them. Obviously, both sides of that last statement are true.

Captain America is one of those heroes. Created by Jack Kirby in 1940, Captain America has grown to become the living embodiment of America. A symbol of how we perceive ourselves. There is this great story about Kirby, when he was working at the Timely/Marvel offices, Jack took a phone call. The voice on the other end said, “There are three of us down here in the lobby. We want to see the guy who does this disgusting comicbook [Captain America] and show him what real Nazis would do to his Captain America.” To the horror of others in the office, Kirby rolled up his sleeves and headed downstairs. However, by the time he arrived in the building’s lobby, the callers were gone.

Cap is a one-of-a-kind hero who understands that he is more than just some guy in a suit who fights crime. He is an icon in that he is the embodiment of the very ideals upon which this country was founded. You want to talk Truth, Justice, and The American Way? Let’s talk about Captain America; a trans-generational hero who will stand his ground and “Do this all day” if need be. He is the guy who rushes into a building with an active shooter when everyone else is running out. A Hero’s hero. A rallying cry to the downtrodden and to those who will sacrifice everything for those without a voice.

And yet, he isn’t the only one.

It has long been my contention that Spider-Man is the Captain America of my generation (I came of age during Stan, Jack, and Steve’s launching of the Marvel Age of comics), and I wish to take a moment or two of your time to expound my theory. Like Steve Rogers before him, Peter Parker was born a skinny lad with a pure heart. As a young man, Steve trended towards the arts, while Peter was intoxicated by science. What links both of them is that each had a strong sense of obligation and duty to others.

While not much is known of Steve’s parents, the little we do know is that Steve was born July 4, 1922, to Sarah and Joseph Rogers, Irish Catholic immigrants. Rogers grew up a frail youth in New York City during the Great Depression. His father passed away when Steve was a child and his mother died from pneumonia when Steve was in his late teens. Other than these few facts — and that he had a strong sense of duty, honor, and humility instilled in him by his parents — precious little else is known about Rogers’ early life. Truth to tell, Steve’s real story began when he was injected with the Super Soldier formula and exposed to Vita rays, becoming Captain America.

Much more is known about Peter Parker’s formative years, he’s the son of Richard and Mary Parker. The Parkers were a pair of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who died on an assignment while fighting the Red Skull. Peter in turn, was raised by his uncle and aunt, Ben and May Parker. When Peter was 15, he was attending a science exhibit and was bitten by a radioactive spider which gave him his powers. Shortly thereafter his uncle was killed by a burglar that Peter later realized he could have stopped prior to the assault on his uncle, if only he acted. This incident transformed Peter into Spider-Man for real.

Like Steve before him, Peter was also instilled with a strong sense of duty, honor, and humility courtesy of his aunt and uncle. Perhaps the most well-known hero mantra in all of fiction are the words uttered by Peter’s Uncle Ben to him as a youth, “With great power must also come great responsibility.” It was these words that propelled Peter, as Spider-Man to help others in need.
We have long contended that the only real difference between Peter and Steve is that Steve had the unique and dubious advantage of having been wrapped in the flag and trained by the military. Peter, for his part had to figure out his powers on his own. It was then Peter’s ill fortune to inadvertently run afoul of Daily Bugle publisher, J. Jonah Jameson (when Spidey rescued Jameson’s son, astronaut John Jameson on an ill-fated space mission). It was this selfless act that caused the self-aggrandizing Jameson Sr. to decide that Spidey was a show-boating glory hound taking fame away from “real” heroes like his son John.

Had it not been for Jameson’s massive ego, and over-blown sense of self-importance Spider-Man wouldn’t have had to wait so long for acceptance and credibility among the general populace (heroes like Cap, Daredevil, and others tended to believe in his heroic nature from the start). Still, one can only wonder (and we have) how different would Peter’s life have been if he too had had the advantage of a military experience. Well (without going into too many specifics) consider the following, if Peter had acquired military training, coming to the attention of Col. Fury, who had just been installed as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. recruits Peter as both a scientist and super-agent. Then when Steve steps down as Cap

(In Captain America #153 (1972) Steve Englehart determined to close the gap on the 1950s reboot of Cap as a commie smasher (something that Stan eradicated with Cap coming out of the ice direct from WWII into the then present in Avengers #4. This led to Steve’s disillusionment of maintaining the role of America’s hero, causing him to step down as Cap and taking up the role of Nomad. Steve eventually took up the role of Cap in Captain America #184).

During this interim period, Fury taps Peter to become the new Captain America. Having already established his Spider-Man persona, Peter determines to maintain a bit of his own history even as he steps into his new role as America’s Captain, and adapts the stars and stripes of Cap’s Iconic costume to his own Spider-sensibilities. Needless to say, when Steve determines to take up the shield once more, Peter becomes, well, Captain Spider-Man.

To be sure, as a life-long Spidey fan, I have thought long and hard about this particular incarnation of my webbed hero, but clearly I’m not the only one who has considered this version of Spidey-Cap, as the accompanying photo and article of an actual cosplay costume indicates.

Monday, July 01, 2019

The Kinder Avengers

Some years back (2000) a book I wrote about fast food toys and collectibles hit the book shelves. That book was entitled Kiddie Meal Collectibles. It was a fun book to write and I rather enjoyed not only doing the research, compiling the data, but actually writing. Over the years since them I've continued to write about and collect toys attached to food products, mostly superhero-related toys, to be sure, but still.

Recently I have become aware of the presence of Kinder Eggs here in the U.S. Now, they are not the same as the Kinder Eggs that are found in Canada, but that actually matters less to me than the toys themselves. Last year I found out that the U.S. Kinder Eggs started licensing the toys that are included (still not sure if the Canadian eggs do as well).

So far I have found Barbie, Star Wars, and Avengers. I scored just a single Barbie Kinder, and a few Star Wars figures, but my best find were complete sets of Avengers:Infinity Wars and Avengers: Endgame figures.

First up the Avengers:

Avengers Infinity War

In this set we have Iron Man (L),
(Back row) Captain America, Groot, Ant Man, Star Lord,
(front row) Black Panther, Wasp, and Spider-Man


The second image is the front of the instructions to the left we have one of the Kinder Egg shells,and then to the right we have five of the assembly instructions.

Avengers Endgame

This set gave us (L) Spider-Man
(Way Back) Iron Man, Captain America, Groot, Ant Man,
(Middle) Black Panther, Thor (who seems to be laying down on the job),
(front & center) Hulk

Here we have the instructions for assembling the Black Panther as well as the front view of the full team (sadly, Wasp, Gamora, and Captain Marvel are pictured but don't appear in the toy set).

An Avengers: Endgame egg shell, and Iron Man

Spidey and Ant Man

Hulk & Groot

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I don't recall how many characters were in this set, but here is R2D2, A Sith Lord, and an Imperial Trooper (If I remembered their names I'd certainly tell you).

One of the Star Wars egg shells


Only picked up a single Barbie Kinder Egg

Candida Kinder Eggs

These are the Canadian Kinder Eggs I picked up (the difference is that in the Canadian eggs the toy is inside the chocolet egg, while in the American versions, the toy is in half the shell and the chocolate is in the other half with a scoop to get at the chocolate.

These are the two toys that I acquired from the Canadian eggs. 

I know that I have some other random Kinder eggs (Including some from Jurassic Park), but they will have to wait for another post (once I can find them).