The Amazing Spider-Man on Bullying Prevention #1
May 7, 2012
Somehow, becoming a bully yourself doesn't seem like the most effective way of preventing bullying...
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. And welcome, my friends, to "PSA Hell" Month!
("PSA Hell" title is shown, with the addition of "MONTH" plastered over it)
Linkara: "Miller Time" and "PSA Hell" can be rather infrequent because I've got a lot of other things that I schedule that I think are more interesting to talk about. But I've built up quite a backlog of PSA comics, so this month, we're gonna be talking about them. First up, let's discuss bullying.
(Cut to a shot of a Spider-Man comic on bullying prevention)
Linkara (v/o): You'll forgive me for using these same images for this introduction sequence since I don't really have any images I can use as voiceover for this episode. I was recently contacted by a health and wellness site for the nerd and geek community, and they asked me for...
(The link for "1Up Your Life" is displayed)
Linkara (v/o): ...a quote talking about bullying in my life. Honestly, I don't know what to say. Have I been bullied in my past? Yes, mostly back in elementary school for my last name, "Lovhaug", which, by the way, is Norwegian for "leaf hill". And I guess I got picked on in middle school, but not because of anything I liked or that I was a geek. It was because I was high-strung and would get pissed off and overreact easily.
(Cut to a shot of another Spider-Man comic on bullying)
Linkara (v/o): But otherwise, I was not really a victim of bullying. I got along with pretty much everybody in high school. The kids who made fun of me either moved on with their lives and stopped being jerks or they continued to be jerks and ultimately got screwed over for it. Do I have any advice for the victims of bullies? Certainly, but it's always going to be different, depending on the situation. Kids are still developing and don't know what to do oftentimes. Telling people about it is always important, and it's not a matter of being a narc; it's a matter of someone else's abusing you, and no one should have to deal with that. Eventually, if nobody listens, if no one's going to punish them, and you have no other support, you're probably going to have to fight back. It's the sad truth sometimes.
(Cut to a clip of Ghostbusters 2)
Dr. Venkman (Bill Murray): Sometimes shit happens, someone has to deal with it, and who you gonna call?
Linkara: That said, my thoughts on it are not the only thoughts, and sometimes there are just no easy answers. But I think we can all agree that with this one, that unfortunately the comic does not approach the subject well. So let's dig into (holds up comic of review) "The Amazing Spider-Man on Bullying Prevention #1".
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has "Loverly Spring" by Thomas Newman (from A Series of Unfortunate Events) playing; cut to a closeup of the cover)
Linkara (v/o): Our cover is... kind of confusing. This kid that Spider-Man is carrying? I don't think he ever shows up in the comic. And Spidey never carries any kid around like this. Otherwise, it's just a generic shot of Spidey swinging through the city while carrying a kid who looks kind of cross-eyed. Oh, and check out the billboard in the lower right. Apparently, someone decided that a generic picture of an airplane without any text would be a good enough advertisement. (the comic opens to the first page) We open on Spidey swinging in on a supervillain smashing through a car.
Supervillain: Outta my way, you little jerks!
Linkara: (as supervillain, flailing arms around, pretending to smash a car) Stupid jerks! Why'd you have to go and put a car in my way while I'm trying to rob a bank?! So inconsiderate!
Policeman: (a car having hit his foot) Youch! Not my ankle again!!
Linkara: (confused) Is this a sequel to some other PSA about workplace safety and not tripping on your ankle?
Spider-Man: (thinking) Well, this explains all the noise--better stop him before he hurts himself!
Linkara (v/o): I'm sure the writer meant for him to be talking about the villain, but I can't help but feel Spidey is looking right at that police officer who hurt his ankle.
Spider-Man: (thinking) Then again, it wouldn't be the city I love without the occasional weirdo in a power suit smashing up cars!
Linkara: You know, I would so read a Law and Order-style police procedural series about cops and lawyers in the DC or Marvel Universes. Just imagine the kind of cases they would have, like insurance fraud, superhero culpability, or parallel universes that would crop up.
Linkara (v/o): The officers radio in for backup and state that the supervillain named "The Brace" just stole a bunch of money from a gold reserve. Spidey comes in and kicks The Brace.
Spider-Man: Hey, pal! Didn't you hear-- the auditions for "super-villains gone crazy" aren't until next week!
Linkara: (as The Brace) Oh! Oh, oh, really? Oh, goodness me! M-My sincerest apologies! Oh, here's the gold back. Oh, boy, is my face red! I'm sorry about the ankle, dude!
The Brace: Ah-- right on time! I knew this little charade of mine would bring you running!!
Linkara: "Charade"? Is he faking the robbery?
Linkara (v/o): Spidey, listening to the Brace's voice, realizes that he recognizes who he is.
Spider-Man: He's older and weirder but-- it was that kid from the first year of high school...
Linkara: (massaging his forehead) Aw, for crying out loud, is everybody that Spider-Man ever knew a supervillain?! His friends, his professors, his friends' fathers, his girlfriends, his girlfriends' boyfriends, his coworkers, his boss... Peter Parker is a magnet for crazy people!
Linkara (v/o): We go to a flashback, where we see bullies picking on the Brace as a kid.
Bully: Hey there, Danny-boy! Is it true what I heard about your mom, ya fat little jerk!
Linkara (v/o): Wait, was that a question? It doesn't end in a question mark, and they never follow it up. What did they hear about his mom, exactly, and why is it worth bullying him over? Peter was there witnessing it the whole time.
Bully: Ain't no one gonna try an' try to help you or I'll make 'em eat their nerd books! That goes double for you, Parker!
Linkara (v/o): The kid, Danny, cries and runs off, promising that he'll make them all sorry.
Bully: What'sa matter, nerdberger? You gonna cry to your mommy now, crybaby!
Linkara: (as bully) Yeah, go and cry to your mommy, who has some rumor floating around about her that we will never elucidate on!
Linkara (v/o): Peter thinks about how he felt sad about how he couldn't help, since he lacked his powers back then, and what's more, he was just too terrified to intervene anyway. Back in the present, he evades the Brace and tries to reason with him.
Spider-Man: Listen! It doesn't have to be this way--just because you got pushed around doesn't mean you have to do the same thing to other--
The Brace: What're you my shrink?! WHO SAID I GOT PUSHED AROUND--?!
Linkara: (as the Brace) I'M DOING THIS 'CAUSE I NEED DRUG MONEY, YOU IDIOT!
Linkara (v/o): By the way, I also noticed that The Brace does not have any kind of helmet on. So all those police officers could probably get off a head shot or something on the poor dope. But no, instead, he manages to rip out a streetlight and knock Spidey unconscious. He remembers back to when he was bullied by the same kids, but fortunately for him, a girl caught site of it and told the teacher it was happening, leading to them to stop harassing him, but Danny was not so lucky.
(A panel of Peter Parker in another comic is shown, where he says they will be sorry for laughing)
Linkara (v/o): Mind you, if you'll recall my review of "Amazing Fantasy #15", that didn't stop Peter from swearing murderous revenge on other bullies later in life, but whatever.
(Back to the current Spider-Man comic)
Spider-Man: (thinking) I wonder if I could have ended up embittered and twisted like The Brace if no one had helped me... I-- wait-- where am I--
Linkara: I love how it took him that long to realize he had been knocked out. He went through a full flashback before this point, with completely consistent thoughts, right up until he woke up.
The Brace: How was your nap? Boy, you must have been worn out. You slept right through the ride up here.
Linkara: (as The Brace) I didn't unmask you or kill you when I had the chance, because, as you can probably tell, with my lack of head protection, I'm not the smartest villain out there.
Linkara (v/o): He says he's waiting for the news choppers to arrive before he kills him, but I don't buy it. Unmask him and snap him in half! There will be enough witnesses on the streets to corroborate it.
Spider-Man: What's this all about...?
The Brace: Oh, yeah, I forgot-- this is the part where the villain tells the hero his plan and origin and all that kind of stuff... I'm sorry-- I'm really very new at all this...
Linkara: He's the polite murderous thief.
Linkara (v/o): He explains that indeed, he used to be picked on, but then got tired of being a victim and eventually just joined in with the bullies when they were picking on someone else. One thing led to another, and he eventually joined up with other villains who absolutely hated Spidey, and they hooked him up with the suit. Naturally, he's doing all this exposition while not looking at Spider-Man, which allows a cop, who has snuck up onto the roof they're on, to get in closer and get one of Spidey's arms loose. The Brace sees her and knocks her away, but it lets Spidey get free. Spidey once again points out that all he's done is become a jerk like all bullies. He smashes a water tower on top of The Brace, and they both fall to the ground. In a stunning display of chivalry in the Marvel Universe, random people start digging through the wreckage to help get Spidey out. However, when they get him out, he remembers The Brace and starts digging him out, too.
Civilian: Who cares about that guy after what he did?!
Linkara: (as this civilian) I mean, all you did was knock over a water tower, and that act will potentially hurt the people inside the building, and you forced it over the edge where it could have hurt innocent people.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, but I kid.
The Brace: Why even help me...?
Spider-Man: Because I can. You could do the same with your pow-- (he gets interrupted by something smashing down beside him)
The Brace: Ha!! Sucker!! OUTTA MY WAY, YOU PUNY LITTLE JERKS!!!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Daria)
Daria: (to Tommy Sherman) Congratulations, you must have worked very hard to become such a colossal jerk so quickly.
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The policewoman who help Spidey tells him he did all he could.
Spider-Man: You might not believe it, Officer, but there was a time when I didn't help someone I should have-- I thought I couldn't...
Linkara: (as Spider-Man) But now I can! I'll get on the hotline to Mephisto! He's really good at fixing this kind of stuff!
Spider-Man: But now I'm afraid that because no one helped The Brace, it led him to this-- to being the one making more victims...
Linkara: (massaging his forehead in frustration) Oy, Spider-Man and his friggin' guilt complex. The dude seriously needs a therapist or something for all the crap he puts on himself.
(Cut to footage of Spider-Man 3)
Linkara (v/o): If I may go off on a tangent for a second, you know, one of the reasons why I like Spider-Man 3 while the rest of the universe hates it? Because the problems that Peter blames himself for are legitimately his own fault! It's recognizing his own flaws and mistakes, as opposed to making them up so he can have more guilt on his already-heavy conscience.
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): He's implying in this comic that it's his fault that the guy turned out the way he did, which is just bullcrap! And thankfully, the cop points it out to him.
Policewoman: I've heard that song a million times on this job--every creep blames other people for bad things they do--I'm not buying it.
Linkara (v/o): She explains that she was bullied as a kid, and nobody ever stepped in to help her, but that just encouraged her to always to help out others since she never had that help herself, and it's what led her to becoming a cop.
Spider-Man: I guess some people will just never learn.
Policewoman: No, everybody learns eventually. Sadly, bullies usually find out the hard way, that... there's always a bigger bully.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with The Brace arriving to meet his other cohorts: Spider-Man villains Rhino, Sandman and... I don't know who the third guy is. Actually, the symbol on his chest makes him look like Nightwing from the DC Universe, but whatever. They tell him they're pissed off because now Spider-Man is onto him, so they're going to take back the suit.
The Brace: The-- the suit?! But-- it-- doesn't come off--
Guy who looks like Nightwing: We'll see about that...
Linkara: (excitedly) Happy PSA, kids! Murder! (suddenly makes a disgusted face)
Linkara (v/o): Wait, it doesn't come off? Is it like a space suit that he has to empty the bags for when he has to go to the bathroom? Anyway, the two final panels are of the cop and Spider-Man giving a press conference.
Policewoman: Everyone has great power-- use it on the right side-- to help. Don't be a passive witness to a bully.
Linkara: (as reporter, pretending to hold a microphone) Uh, officer, we were asking about how much gold was stolen, not about bullies.
Linkara (v/o): Spidey gives the standard spiel about great power and great responsibility, and he swings off... where, the next day, Jay Jonah Jameson no doubt printed a new article about how Spider-Man was behind the gold robbery and creating The Brace, and they were no doubt cahoots.
Linkara: So remember the important lesson of this comic, kids: if you don't speak up when there's bullying, the victim will end up becoming a supervillain! (beat) Wait, the cop proved that that wasn't the case. Uh... Oh! If you don't speak up, you'll riddled with guilt about it for the rest of your life, and it will haunt your– (stops abruptly, confused) Actually, not really. I mean, Spidey never thought about that incident until the guy became a villain. What was the message here again?
(The cover of the comic is shown again, its title clearly misleading in retrospect)
Linkara (v/o): The title is also kind of a lie; it's not about bullying prevention; it's about bullying reaction. The comic is short, at only eleven pages, though admittedly I don't want to say it sucks, since it's not too bad of a short story.
(Shots of the comic are shown now)
Linkara (v/o): It's just I'm not too sure what it's trying to say when the comic ultimately admits it's the responsibility of the victim to how they respond to bullying, and that speaking up in defense doesn't necessarily mean anything. That's not exactly a strong message, and there's no moral redemption for the villain, who is implied to be MURDERED BY THE OTHERS!! This is a sad ending!
Linkara: And as such, let's take a quick look at another Spidey bullying PSA put out a few years before the one we just read: (holds up the comic in question) "Spider-Man: How To Beat the Bully!".
(Cut to a closeup of the cover of this comic)
Linkara (v/o): Spoiler alert: You do not learn how to beat the bully. Well, not exactly. (the comic opens to the first page) Like pretty much every Spider-Man comic, it begins with him swinging through the air.
Spider-Man: Look at all the people in Central Park skating the afternoon away! So who needs in-line skates? It's a beautiful day for web-swinging!
Linkara: (as Spider-Man, looking down) Enjoy gravity, losers!
Linkara (v/o): He thinks to himself about how he's changed since he was younger.
Spider-Man: (thinking) I had to rely on my brains and communication skills. Boy, have things changed. I wonder if I've lost the art of communication? Are there better ways to solve my problems than with my fists?
Linkara: (as Spider-Man) Of course! (holds up one of the Green Goblin's weapons) Challenge them to a children's card game!
Linkara (v/o): He watches teenagers skating in the park, and one asshole is skating around wildly until another kid runs into him. The asshole promises vengeance on him for "making him look bad"... Dude, with the way you were skating, and with that haircut, you didn't need any help in that department... and the kid runs off, where Spider-Man suddenly feels the need to get himself involved.
Kid: Why's everything have to be so hard!
(A snippet of "Untitled" by Simple Plan is heard)
Simple Plan: (singing) How could this happen to me? / I made my mistakes...
Linkara (v/o): The kid, Daniel – and that's a different Dan from the other bullying comic – worries that the jackass is going to kill him.
Daniel: That guy Jason is crazy.
Linkara: (as Daniel) He's gonna put on a hockey mask and chase me around Crystal Lake!
Spider-Man: For starters, I'm sure he's not crazy. Jason was probably startled and he was too mad to think straight.
Linkara: Hmm, maybe. (looks offscreen) Jason, your rebuttal?
(Cut to a clip of Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, in which Jason Voorhees angrily kicks a boombox as he walks past some youths)
Linkara: Yeah, I don't think that's it.
Linkara (v/o): By the way, the art on Spidey in this story is terrible. He looks like a weightlifter instead of a nimble, agile acrobat. Daniel wants to be able to fight back against Jason, but Spidey says violence will only make things worse. Daniel says he's probably right and Jason was just fuming, especially since other people were trying to hold Jason back. The next day, during lunchtime, Jason tries to confront Daniel. Daniel tries to talk his way out of it, but Jason insists that he's "dead meat!" But then Daniel's friend Juan inter– HOLY CRAP!! Juan just tossed Jason into the tables there! Look at that impact!! For crying out loud, that was one-handed! Juan has frickin' superpowers!
Linkara: So... yeah, I guess don't answer with violence unless someone else does it for you.
Linkara (v/o): Jason's friend gets him to calm down, too, so they can all talk about what happened. Daniel talks to him about how he wants to be a better skater and could use some of Jason's pointers.
Jason: Nobody pushes me around. The next time you try a turn, do it when you're not in my way. And look... I'm not your teacher, but if I see you, I'll give you some advice.
Linkara: Here's a thought: don't hog the road with your lame-ass (makes a kicking motion) kicking skating.
Daniel: Thanks. And next time I'll find some open space.
Linkara: Wait, they're on friendly terms, but Jason never apologized about being a dick and threatening Daniel. This is a happy ending?
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Spidey swinging off and saying everything is a-okay.
Spider-Man: The sun is shining. The birds are singing. It's a wonderful day for web-swinging.
Linkara: (singing) Yes, it's a loverly, loverly spring. (stops singing) And a loverly day for jerks getting away with being jerks. (holds up both comics) These comics... (hesitates slightly) are not very good.
Linkara (v/o): I still hesitate to say they suck, but man, oh, man, let's get their main problems out of the way. "On Bullying Prevention" is very confused about its message. It's just downright horrible for what it suggests happened to The Bracer. It's fairly competently put together otherwise, and probably more realistic, but this was a book trying to convince kids to not be silent in the face of these things, but doesn't get any ways of actually PREVENTING BULLYING! "How To Beat the Bully" does not in fact teach you how to beat the bully, since Jason is not a bully! Seriously, he's just an asshole who threatened to beat up Daniel for running into him. If he hadn't, there wouldn't have been any situation. He's just some jerk who got overemotional about friggin' roller skates. I will say this, though: it's a much more entertaining story in how overly positive Spidey is and how goofy the situation gets.
(Cut to a shot of the end of the Spider-Man comic, which also features a Jubilee comic)
Linkara (v/o): The flip-side of the comic also has a Jubilee story about peer pressure, but today was about bullying, so we stuck to bullying.
Linkara: (holding up both comics) Bottom line: I can't tell you how to deal with a bully. Then again, neither can these comics. (throws down comics, gets up and leaves)
Daniel the Brace survived his encounter with the villains, only to come back in a storyline fifty years later that nobody remembered except for the most die-hard fans. Nobody cared, then, either.
Daniel the skater later had to talk down his friend Juan when it was discovered that Juan was developing telekinetic powers and super-strength and the two became a duo of world championship rollerbladers.
Jason went on to have a title match with his mortal enemy Freddy. The outcome was uncertain.
(Stinger: A Public Service Announcement from... SNOWFLAME!)
(Snowflame (played by Will Wolfgram) is seen in Linkara's room, reading (upside-down) a book called "The Feminist Philosophy Reader")
Snowflame: Snowflame wants to talk to you about an issue that all kids face: peer pressure. If somebody dares you to do something, to see if you're cool, ask yourself: Would Snowflame do this? You're damn right Snowflame does that! Somebody dares you to smoke a cigarette? Smoke fifty! At the same time! Somebody dares you to jump over a bench? Jump fifty! At the same time! Somebody dares you to eat the last cupcake? Eat fifty! At the same tiiiime!
(Cut to black)
Snowflame (v/o): This has been a public service announcement from... SNOWFLAME!