Book: Song of Spider-Man

"Song of Spider-Man"

As one can imagine, writing a Broadway musical has its challenges. But it turns out there are challenges one can’t imagine when collaborating with two rock legends and a superstar director to stage the biggest, most expensive production in theater history.

Song of Spider-Man is playwright Glen Berger’s story of a theatrical dream–or nightmare–come true. Renowned director Julie Taymor picked Berger to cowrite the book for a $25 million Spider-Man musical. Together–along with U2’s Bono and Edge–they would shape a work that was technically daring and emotionally profound, with a story fueled by the hero’s quest for love–and the villains’ quest for revenge. Or at least, that’s what they’d hoped for.

But when charismatic producer Tony Adams died suddenly, the show began to lose its footing. Soon the budget was ballooning, financing was evaporating, and producers were jumping ship or getting demoted. And then came the injuries. And then came word-of-mouth about the show itself. What followed was a pageant of foul-ups, falling-outs, ever-more-harrowing mishaps, and a whole lot of malfunctioning spider legs. This “circus-rock-and-roll-drama,” with its $65 million price tag, had become more of a spectacle than its creators ever wished for. During the show’s unprecedented seven months of previews, the company’s struggles to reach opening night inspired breathless tabloid coverage and garnered international notoriety.

Through it all, Berger observed the chaos with his signature mix of big ambition and self-deprecating humor. Song of Spider-Man records the journey of this cast and crew as a hilarious memoir about friendship, collaboration, the foibles of hubris, and the power of art to remind us that we’re alive.

This book was highly-recommended by a friend, and after having read it–I can see why.

Glen Berger takes us on the journey Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark began–from the moment he stepped on as the musical’s co-writer. As the book’s blurb already mentioned, we bear witness to everything the musical goes through– But, ultimately, we become privy to all the heart that was poured into the project by all the people involved.

Living in the Philippines, everything I knew about the Spider-Man musical fiasco, I learned online; and thus, I had taken everything with a grain of salt. After all, a musical that had a high rate of injuries couldn’t have been allowed to continue as long as Turn Off The Dark did. Right? So it was eye-opening to see just how much the online news got right… and how little was exaggerated, at least, as told by the memoir’s author.

But what happened behind the scenes weren’t just a series of unfortunate events. What really draws you in, if you choose to read this memoir, is the love that can be found in the words that Berger writes. Even at his lowest point, Berger shows the love he had–maybe still has–for the project and all the people who were involved in it.

What pushes you to read page after page is how much humor Berger puts into every paragraph, every chapter, even as the world they are building within the narrative is collapsing. It’s like that comic strip of the dog in a burning house. The one that doesn’t do anything, until the last box where he says “this is fine.”

The book recounts the events of a train wreck–and makes you like reading about it.

But what the book ultimately sells isn’t the insider story of how a promising musical became a spectacular failure; but rather how, against all odds, we will still risk everything for a shot at brilliance. At success. At an art that straddles the fine line between profitability and meaning. And the lesson that not everyone will make it, but it doesn’t mean we stop trying. Even when we fail over and over again.

The Song of Spider-Man is a must read for everyone who ever dreamed. The behind-the-scenes shenanigans and gossip that the book makes known to its readers are just icing on the cake.

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Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #18

"Superior Spider-Man 018"

I really do not like Otto Octavius as Spider-Man. And pitting him against a Spider-Man that is more like Peter Parker has made me decide on one thing. I’m dropping this title. Well, after this current arc.

It’s just that…

Well, I want my Spider-Man to be a hero. Flawed, yes. But a hero. With the right morals. A superhero is someone I’m supposed to look up to. The Superior Spider-Man isn’t someone I’d want to be my role model. I’ve stuck out this long because I keep hoping that the mystery would be unraveled by now. Or, at least, there would be some headway in that front. But the team behind the title have dragged it out to the point that… well, it’s ridiculous how badly paced the story is, in my opinion. We’d get bits and nibbles of the main arc once every four issues?

Well, I’m done.

I’m not even going to post about the next issue anymore. (Hell, it took me forever to get to this one.) I’ll just read and see the end of the Spider-Man 2099 arc, and then that’s it.

I really had high hopes for you, Superior Spider-Man. But ultimately, I think you’re a failed experiment.

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #17

"Superior Spider-Man 017"

I want to start by saying this: I have no clue who Spider-Man 2099 is. I must say though that this Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of Tomorrow, looks oddly a lot like Peter Parker. Although, from what I understand, he’s supposed to be Hispanic. But let’s not open that can of worms.

Now, let’s begin.

What I liked about the issue is the fact that we’re seeing the Green Goblin stewing and planning. It gives the series a sense of foreboding, of a promise that things are once again heating up. I also liked that we saw a bit of the life becoming a little more normal for Doc Ock as Peter Parker. Sort of. And I actually kind of like the idea that someone from the future comes to the past.

What I didn’t like was the fact that the threads opened up in the last issue, the ones connected to Carlie Cooper’s investigation, is once again dropped. And I really don’t give a flying shock (to borrow the expression of Spider-Man 2099) to the clash between the Spider-Man of now and the one of tomorrow. It’s a new plot horned into an existing plot that’s just about to take off. If that doesn’t scream “filler,” I don’t know what does.

The issues have a lot more happening, I’ve noticed. I just hope the team doesn’t forget what makes the Superior Spider-Man different from other Spider-Man titles. The fact that our hero is actually a villain trying to reform.

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #16

"Superior Spider-Man 016"

No synopsis this time around. Spoiler-y, I guess.

The one important thing I have to say about this issue, is this: it doesn’t disappoint. Thank goodness.

Last time, Spider-Man upped his game by revealing who the Hobgoblin was. I don’t know what the directive is for Dan Slott, writer of the Superior Spider-Man, but he definitely doesn’t shy away from really changing the game. Which is good, because that’s what we signed up for when Otto Octavius became the Superior Spider-Man.

And it took a lot of issues before we finally got the ball rolling. And roll it does.

The best part about this issue? The ticking bomb. We have two characters who finally figure out that the Spider-Man we have now is not the Spider-Man we knew. Now, it’s all a matter of confirmation.

Sure, it’s a little infuriating that two non superheroes are the ones figuring out Otto’s little secret, especially considering the fact that the Avengers have some of the smartest characters this side of the comics industry. And yet none of them have tuned in to the fact that Peter Parker had a sudden personality transplant. Otto isn’t even trying to pretend to be Peter, come on.

But I’m putting that behind me now. Especially since the storyline is very strong right now. Even though we’re still obviously setting things up. Until when, I don’t know. But there’s nothing to complain about right now. So we’ll stick with the good.

The reveal of the Hobgobin, and how they dealt with the aftermath was really brave. The reactions were a little hyper-realistic, but that’s understandable. The part that makes it interesting? How Otto is twisting the image of the friendly neighborhood superhero. He’s no longer the bumbling accidental hero who almost everyone adores. He’s competent now, with self-confidence, and a focus that’s never been seen before. He’s no longer just Spider-Man, he’s the superior version. And he doesn’t care that people are starting to fear him. Otto might actually be relishing this.

And it’s so in character that I find it particularly delicious.

Otto is such an amoral character, and he’s completely destroying Peter Parker’s decision. And this is making me root for Peter’s return. However impossible. And the writer, I think, is doing his job well. Because we’re no longer rooting for the villainous Spidey. We’re rooting for our hero. We want our Peter to come back. And, ultimately, I think that’s the main goal of this team. For us to want what existed before. But he (and they) have ruined the world enough that we’d want our Spidey to clean it up. And that would make for very interesting drama.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Let’s just tune in, a couple of weeks from now, what Dan Slott and the Marvel team have in plan for the Spider-Man franchise.

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #15

"Superior Spider-Man 015"

Roderick Kingsley, the original Hobgoblin,has agreed to lease the mantle to Phil Urich, the current Hobgoblin and right-hand man to Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of crime.

The Kingpin had set his operation up in Shadowland, a giant fortress in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen. Shadowland was thought tobe impenetrable. However…

Otto Octavius, the Superior Spider-Man decided it was time to finish Shadowland off once and for all. He laid siege to it and destroyed it, while both Fisk and Urich were still inside.

Now Shadowland is no more and the Kingpin is apparently dead. But a new power is rising in the city… And it’s led by none other than the Green Goblin!

Now this is how you spin a tale. It’s just frustrating how it had to take how many issues for us to see actual plot movement.

Carlie Cooper is back on the case; both Mary Jane Watson and Aunt May have become suspicious of our erstwhile Peter Parker. The only character I don’t really care for is the new love interest, but I get how she is important. Heck, if I were the writer, I know how I would use her to further spin the web of lies Otto Octavius is spinning, or how to wreck it.

But what I really love about this issue is how we Spider-Man’s tale is told while our main character focus turned to the Hobgoblin. Heck, we can even say that he’s the protagonist if our story. The Anti-Hero, if you will.

In this issue of The Superior Spider-Man, we see movement that we haven’t seen since… Heck, since the mind war fought between Peter Parker and Otto Octavius! It’s been that long!

I’m really tired of how Otto Octavius is ruining the image of Spider-Man. I’m very much ready to see Otto develop into a more rounded character, or have Peter come back already.

Seriously.

The tables have turned for the Hobgoblin and the Superior Spider-Man. I’m actually rooting for the Hobgoblin, from the little we’ve seen of his life in the panels of Issue #15. That’s how badly Spidey needs redemption. And he’s not even doing any villainy! So next issue–

Next issue will be a game-changer for me. If we’re going back to status quo, for plot advancement to happen three issues later again, I’m dropping the title. But if we keep with this issue’s pace, then I guess I’ll sign up for another issue.

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #14

"Superior Spider-Man 014"

When Otto Octavius exchanged bodies with Peter Parker, he gained the amazing skills of Spider-Man — and all of Peter’s memories. Otto has become the Superior Spider-Man and now carries on Peter’s mission of great responsibility.

However, Otto isn’t above resorting to old tricks. He has blackmailed Mayor J. Jonah Jameson into giving him free reign as Spider-Man. His efforts as Spider-Man are now uncontested by the law.

The Kingpin’s stronghold, Shadowland, continues to stand in Hell’s Kitchen.

The Kingpin commands the ninjas known as The Hand and the murderous maniac known as The Hobgoblin.

If it weren’t for the Green Goblin, I think I’ll be ending my not very superior journey here. Two hundred pesos is two hundred pesos, and I can spend it better elsewhere.

But I’ll hang on for an issue more to see where they’re going to take this Green Goblin arc. Because, seriously, I have no sympathy left for Otto Octavius and the Superior Spider-Man. As a hero, he succeeds in doing a lot of good, yes. But as a character, he fails so much.

Yes, I imagine it’s hard to make a super villain likeable–but the title was heading there when it started. We saw Otto changing. Becoming good. Or, if not that, at least being more conflicted about what he’s doing. Up to the point when he had to face off against the memory of Peter Parker, that is.

Suddenly, we’re back to villain mode for Doc Ock.

Now, if the plan is to keep Otto as the Superior Spider-Man until the next great reboot of Marvel, and you know, not have him become a better person, then just show me the exit please. But if the plan is to make Otto even more devious so you’d root for Peter Parker when he returns, then… Well, then please hurry the eff up.

If I wanted a soulless action flick, I’d watch a Transformers movie. And it’s cheaper too at a hundred and fifty pesos for a copy of the original DVD at the bargain bin. Add twenty-five pesos and I’ll be able to catch the fourth installment when it comes out in theaters. It’s still going to be cheaper than one very thin issue of the Superior Spider-Man.

Rant aside, I just want one thing for this title, really. Make our hero likeable again. Please. Because Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. But at the rate Dan Slott is going with his character assassination, Spider-Man’s already fighting Aquaman for the top spot in my list of heroes I really see no point in existing.

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #13

"Superior Spider-Man 013"

Otto Octavius is a man who cheated death, but at a price. When he exchanged bodies with Peter Parker, he gained the amazing skills of Spider-Man–and all of Peter’s memories. Otto finally understands Peter’s mission of great responsibility.

Mayor J. Jonah Jameson had asked the Superior Spider-Man to supervise the execution of Alistair Smythe – The Spider-Slayer who killed Jameson’s wife.

Moments before his execution, Smythe used his slayer-bots to free himself while healing and upgrading Superior Spider-Man’s deadliest foes: Vulture, Scorpion, and Boomerang!

With Scorpion hunting down Jameson and Vulture making way for the innocent civilians, Spider-Man has made it his sole mission to slay the Spider-Slayer…

Outside of the synopsis, there is no longer any trace of Peter Parker in the Superior Spider-Man title. On the one hand, it’s gotten better. Story-wise, you really see the odds stack up against this new Spider-Man, and how not having a conscience is making Spider-Man more efficient. But the title seems to have lost its humanity.

I’m a fan of Spider-Man more because of Peter Parker than because of the superhero persona. I look up to Spider-Man because I related to Peter Parker. And now that he’s really, truly gone, my view on the Superior Spider-Man is bordering on clinical now. I see the parts I liked, the parts that can be developed further, and the parts that the title really could do without.

And that’s all the title is to me now. A routine.

Something I can live without.

The problem is, I do believe that there is a story to be told still. One that can be engaging. If the team behind Superior Spider-Man steers Otto back to where something would be at stake for him, and for the readers. Because when you’re protagonist is too smart, too powerful–why else would we root for him? What’s the payoff when you know he’s going to win anyway in the end?

Looking back on the issues I liked, it’s the ones where they humanized Otto. The parts where you see Peter breaking through to him, seeing the boy before he was broken. And if we’re sticking with Otto for the rest of the title, then we better go back to the part where he wants to be a hero.

Because, right now, Spider-Man is not acting like a superhero. He’s acting like a super villain. And it frustrates me to no end that no one who actually knows Peter Parker (and Spider-Man) is calling him out on it!

Otto is not beyond redemption. But the team behind this title will soon be if they don’t plot out the next few issues better.