What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? January – April 2017


If you’re here to follow the most recent storylines in Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man, the newspaper-syndicated comic strip version of the character, thanks! This link should bring you to whatever the most recent post is, at the top of its page.

The Amazing Spider-Man, 23 January – 23 April 2017

I last reviewed Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man at what felt like the one-third mark in the current story. Ronan The Accuser had crashed his spaceship in the Arizona desert and slurped up the contents of a diner. Peter Parker and Mary Jane Parker, on a road trip, couldn’t do anything about that, but they do witness Rocket Raccoon’s arrival. Rocket and Spider-Man complete the Ritual Battle of Superheros Meeting, and they pretended to be a costuming family for a motel owner. So what’s the story since then?

Rocket: 'Thar she blows!' Spider-Man: 'But at least there's no lava coming out!' Rocket: 'Yeah, but look what did!' Ronan: 'Hail - Sentry 714!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 15th of February, 2017. I’m not on my own here about thinking there’s something Stooge-ish about The Sentry, am I? Also, am I alone in being disappointed Rocket doesn’t explain that he’s thinking of space-whales in the first panel? Maybe say something like “Thar She Space-Blows”? … No, wait, that sounds really, really bad. Never mind.

Rocket warns that Ronan The Accuser is looking around for The Sentry, an 80,000-year-old alien-built contraption that looks faintly like a robotic Moe Howard. Ronan figures he can use this to unleash all sorts of accusations on the whole galaxy. Peter, Mary Jane, and Rocket deduce The Sentry must be somewhere in Petrogylph National Monument, as the road sign for it is clear and fills up nearly half a panel. Ronan The Accuser follows similar clues and he and Spidey punch each other until The Sentry wakes up. It goes off to blow up Albuquerque. Rocket remembers that Ronan (“please, my dad is Mister The Accuser”) is extremely vulnerable to Earth air. So he and Spidey try to knock his helmet off, which goes great.

Ronan: 'If I can't reach you at least I can HURL you off my back!' Spider-Man: 'Not with my WEBBING binding me to you!' Ronan: 'Then I'll SQUASH you!' and falls over backwards on Spider-Man. Rocket, to Mary Jane: 'Y-you think your significant other coulda SURVIVED that, Red? Red ... ?'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the for the 3rd of March, 2017. The scene shows off just how new Rocket Raccoon is to all this; if he’d been around he’d know that Spider-Man is very good at scenes that involve someone lying down.

Luckily Newspaper Spider-Man is extraordinarily good at taking blunt force traumas. He uses this to do a “why are you hitting yourself?”, using Ronan T A’s own large hammer to smack his helmet off. Spider-Man tries to put the unconscious Ronan’s helmet back on, on the grounds that he can’t just suffocate the guy even if he is trying to blow up the world or galaxy or whatnot. And I admire this idealistic bit from Peter Parker, who’s not going to be more cruel than he must be, however much trouble it makes. The resolve to be kind even when it’s hard, or worse, inconvenient is something we should take from superheroes. Anyway, Spidey accepts Rocket’s promise that Ronan isn’t dead, he’s just sleeping, and they go off to fight The Sentry.

Spider-Man: 'We'll race to town in the car so that we can stop that ROBOT from trashing the place!' Mary Jane: 'I'll drive.' Spider-Man: 'No, honey --- you've got to stay here and give us a call if Ronan shows any signs of life.' Mary Jane: 'You know, I really wish that didn't make so much sense.' Rocket: 'That's quite a mate you've got there, web-face.' Spider-Man: 'Yeah! I never could understand why so many superheroes stay single. I just hope we reach the city's downtown while it still has a downtown!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the for the 19th of March, 2017. I didn’t get the chance to highlight this, but Rocket and Spidey spend a lot of time telling Mary Jane to hang back and not do stuff. When they’re talking about who’s going to punch Ronan or The Sentry this makes sense, since Mary Jane is last I looked still a very squishable human. But they also toss off some casual “huh, you know, dames lines that make the sexism of the “you stay where it’s safe” that extra little bit less subtexty.
Also, regarding the line about superheroes getting married: a couple years back Comic Book Spider-Man made a literal deal with the devil to undo his marriage to Mary Jane in order that his 2000-year-old Aunt May would not die a little while longer. This was reflected in the newspaper comic for one story before it gave that up as too stupid a Spider-Man story to respect. And if you don’t know how stupid that must be, search for “stupidest Spider-Man story idea” and be awed.

Rocket and Spider-Man leave Mary Jane to watch Ronan just in case he wakes long enough to gasp out something plot-relevant. And hey! So she flags down a truck and buys it and a bunch of day laborers to bring Ronan to the big Albuquerque fight, because she always travels with that kind of cash. Using the unconscious Ronan — whom The Sentry can’t harm — as body shield Spider-Man teases The Sentry mercilessly. Meanwhile Rocket climbs inside and punches stuff until it breaks.

Spider-Man: You're programmed not to hurt a Kree - but you're so eager to blast ME into atoms - you're darn near short-circuiting yourself, aren't you, Robot? Well, maybe it's time I gave you a HAND at that!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 12th of April, 2017. Now, gotta say, teasing the robot with the one thing on Earth it must not destroy? Good idea. Giving the one thing on Earth the robot must not destroy so it can go off and put it somewhere safe? Kinda dumb. It works out, because the story was near the end, but sheesh.

Mary Jane: 'There's Peter - but it looks like that robot's getting the BETTER of him! And - where's ROCKET?' [ Deep within the sentry: ] Rocket: 'Got to DISABLE this thing from the INSIDE! But HOW? It's got more parts than STARLORD has pop TUNES!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 18th of April, 2017. Don’t fear, True Believers. Back in February Rocket Raccoon also name-dropped Groot in a way that was no less awkward or inorganic. I love this sort of thing. Also I love that while comic books have grown many different styles, the comic strip still draws “heaping piles of alien technology” the same way they did in Like 1980. Sincerely. I like those webs of lines drawn against a solid blue background. It gives me nostalgic enough vibes to not worry what’s going on with Rocket’s face there.

So that looks like it’s ended the Ronan and The Sentry menace: this Sunday’s comic teases that coming next is “Farewell to a furry comrade!” A shame, since I’ve loved Rocket’s time on the strip. I mean, all his guest stars insult newspaper Spider-Man relentlessly. And Rocket’s depiction has varied from “pretty raccoony” to “maybe a small, bug-eyed werewolf” to “EEK! wasn’t that the deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare Tommie brought home to Apartment 3-G that one year?”. (Here’s the Apartment 3-G deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare for comparison. Warning: deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare content.) But they really click as the effective and the put-upon members of a team. It can’t last, of course, and I’m sure Rocket is about to deploy some suspiciously vague explanation of how he needs to be … elsewhere, with … other people, soon enough.

Also, yes, Spider-Man did pretty near nothing to drive the story. Rocket did most of the heavy lifting and Mary Jane overcame plot-related sexism to do something too. Peter Parker was mostly there to, I dunno, get hit with stuff. This is healthy.

Peter and Mary Jane Parker were in Arizona to start with as they were taking a driving trip to Los Angeles. I don’t have any guesses who’s going to be the Hollywood antagonist. And I hope it’s not long before they bring Rocket around for another session.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index continued its downward slide as investor confidence was shaken by the realization that after so much hype about the testing of the state’s tornado warning system nobody actually heard any sirens. That’s even more suspicious than the earlier things we were suspecting.

118

Statistics Saturday: What The Full Moon Reveals About You


Source: The C E Hooper Radio Survey of the 2nd of June, 1939.

Werewolf, werebea, weredragon, werecat, weremeerkat, were-oh-were-has-my-little-dog-gone,were-gym-teacher,were-Dave,were-off-to-see-the-wizard,were-robot.
I’m as alarmed as the rest of you by how many people, even ones pure in heart who say their prayers by night, may become someone who can’t distinguish homonyms when the autumn moon is bright. Still, I’m refreshed that we don’t see significant numbers of were-abstract-concepts, like someone who turns out to be a were-supererogatory-behavior or a were-purple or a were-number or something. You’d think you’d see more of that just from how many abstract concepts there are. The only one I can think of even in fiction is Romeo, who spent so much time as a were-4 named “Art”.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose sharply as everyone took the what-the-full-moon-reveals-about-you test and more people came out “were-dragon” than even they had secretly hoped. Even Mopey Pete who figured he couldn’t hope to do better than were-hyena and would have been okay with that came out were-sea-serpent and yes, that ranks below were-dragon but it’s still pretty cool, especially if it comes with a bay or major lake to were- in.

129

When Do I Get To Sing _My Way_?


What’s playing at Karaoke Night:

  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by the first person who got to pick anything, and also everyone else there.
  • R.E.M.’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, performed by someone who starts two bars late and has to give up about twenty percent of the words each verse to return to the chorus anywhere near on time.
  • Let It Go, from Frozen, performed by someone who loves the song but doesn’t realize that it’s awesome because it’s an incredibly hard song to perform.
  • Bill Joel’s Piano Man, sung by everybody when the person who had signed up for it is nowhere to be found when it’s their turn.
  • Weird Al’s Yoda, performed by someone horrified there isn’t anything by the Kinks in the catalogue somehow and trying to reconstruct the real words as best as possible in the circumstances, which include nerds crying out to do it “right” with the Weird Al version.
  • P F Sloan and Steve Barri’s Secret Agent Man, done by someone who figures if he’s loud enough about the key phrase “Secret Agent Man” it won’t matter that he sings it in a different, yet still previously unknown to humanity, key every time. This someone, dear reader, is me.
  • Wings’s With A Little Luck, performed by someone who forgets it has an instrumental break about as long as fourth grade in the middle and stands with wide-eyed terror through three-quarters of it before awkwardly trying to dance, and then remembers the fade-out is even longer still.
  • Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, performed by someone who has pretty solid voice control and seems out of place in the proceedings.
  • Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, unenthusiastically performed by someone who tries to use the close to say he wanted to do the Wall of Voodoo version, although this explanation gets lost underneath the DJ calling the next singer up.
  • Some Kinda Romanticky Gushy Ballad I Guess, from the closing credits to the film Any Given 80s Movie, Which You Could See Any Time, Day Or Night, In The 90s By Turning On Any Cable Channel Including The TV Listings, sung by someone mumbling so you can’t make out the words anyway, but the glurgey music alone brings back great memories.
  • A-Ha’s Take On Me, until it gets to the first “I’ll be gone” and the performer’s voice locks up at the high pitch, and she runs off stage and can’t be coaxed back up however much everyone promises it’s okay. Post-karaoke-night discussion focuses on whether that was a deliberate joke, and never reaches a definitive conclusion.
  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by someone who came in late and also everyone else there.
  • Somebody or other’s Unintelligible Hip-Hop Song, performed by a most white guy who is neither hip nor hop, who possessed no idea this would require having a strong sense of cadence and rhythm, and also didn’t realize there were three spots where the verse uses the n-word, something he had failed to establish the necessary policy for well ahead of time.
  • Don McLean’s American Pie sung by a guy who realizes twenty minutes in that he’s still not even halfway through, though everyone feels great joining in the chorus.
  • Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, performed by someone who picked it just to complain about the reference to South Detroit, also everyone else there.
  • Nena’s 99 Luftballoons, sung by someone who just assumed the karaoke machine had the English-language version. Live and learn, huh?
  • Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit without any inflection or change in tone, possibly by me because there’s no way of controlling what note my voice has chosen to sing in this time.
  • U2’s With Or Without You performed by Ron Mael of Sparks after he found, to his disappointment but not surprise, there isn’t anything of his in the karaoke catalogue.
  • Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ Little Red Riding Hood done about two octaves low so it sounds 226 percent more pervy than normal.
  • Any Given Indie Band’s Song With A Lot Of Whoa-oa-oa-oaaahoos In It, sung by someone using his pretty good voice to do it as if by Fozzie Bear for some terrible reason.
  • The Champs’ Tequila, by someone who figured this would be funny and had no idea everyone was going to groan like that when it was announced and now he’s stuck with it.
  • Let It Go, from Frozen, as sung by someone who either just came in or didn’t learn the lessons from earlier.
  • The Who’s Pinball Wizard, sung by someone snarking about how there hasn’t been pinball since 1982 and can’t be convinced to look over in the alcove where there’s like eight tables and six of them are even turned on. Seriously.
  • Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire, by someone who was sure she knew the lyrics, and then saw what the karaoke machine has, which was apparently transcribed by YouTube’s automated-worthless-closed-captioning. So the screen’s giving stuff like “Denny footfall rocky cockerel unsteamed chess team brook lamprey snotty beam” and now she has no idea what to do.
  • Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf, picked by someone who was thinking of Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London because he wanted to do the wolf howl part, but recovers pretty well with the DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-doo part and doesn’t look too disappointed by the end of it all.
  • The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, sung by someone who once again just assumed he was the last person performing for the night and who is confident this will be funny when he finally is.
  • Queen’s We Are The Champions, picked by someone making way too big a deal over the Tigers beating the Rays 5-3 this early in the season.
  • George Michael’s Faith, by someone who didn’t realize how tricky the meter could be, but has a friend who jumps on on stage for the last third to guide her through safely.
  • The Theme To M*A*S*H, selected by someone who wanted to show off he knew the words to it, and wasn’t thinking how the karaoke machine was going to give him, and everybody else, the words to it anyway.
  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which is just signing itself up to play at this point.

What I Forgot To Write In What I Couldn’t Write In March 2016


Oh, phoo. I had a fine little “scrap” for yesterday’s March Scraps File post. I was so delighted by it when I thought of it, while putting the dishes away, that I went on and completely forgot to actually include it. And I liked it, too. Well, let me shove it out here and pretend it was part of yesterday’s thing.

He’s a were-moon. Every full moon, he turns into a moon. Yes, it’s something of a self-sustaining problem. No, he can’t actually bite you, but you’d be surprised how many grown adults don’t realize you can see him during the day. — Cut because I never actually got around to thinking of a reason this might have been cut. Anyway I’m too busy giggling by the third sentence there to carry on. Maybe that’s why I forgot it yesterday. Ah, too bad.

Separately, over in my mathematics blog, I’ve got another comic strips roundup. Please give that a try, if you don’t mind.

You know, I kind of like the last sentence of that too. It grows on me, anyway.

What I Have Learned About Curing Werewolves And The Danes


First I should warn it was idle curiosity. My love and I were not looking up werewolf cures out of any need. We’ve had no trouble with the werewolves in the neighborhood. The ones down the block even took down a diseased tree before it could become an eyesore, never mind a menace. It’s left a sad unshaded spot on the street, and it’s enraged the squirrels who were still using the tree as a major traffic route. But it is responsible property management from the neighborhood werewolves. If all our neighbors were like this our neighborhood would be set for gentrification.

What we had done was start idly talking about werewolf remedies. Silver bullets, sure, everybody knows that. But what did people do before they had bullets? And there’s no way that’s a universal cure, because there isn’t even a universal treatment for vampirism. The thing to do with a vampire depends on what cultural tradition the vampire comes from. It had to be the same for werewolves. So I could find some dubiously-sourced, arguably grammar-based explanations I dashed off to Wikipedia. Well, not dashed, because I’m scared of making my back angry again. But off to Wikipedia and I wasn’t disappointed.

And, yes, the silver bullet thing is a modern movie-created thing. Of course it is. Stuff is never as old as you image. The concept of zombies is actually newer than the Battlestar Galactica reboot. The first-ever reporting of the Loch Ness Monster dates to six years after Rerun van Pelt was added to Peanuts. There are no references to the legendary “Jersey Devil” from before March of next year. Most of the spooky creatures of our imagination are the result of scenes padding out Rankin/Bass specials.

Werewolves aren’t so completely new, though, if you believe Wikipedia. I choose to accept what Wikipedia says because that’s easier than doing research. I’m not disappointed.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans, allegedly, “believed in the power of exhaustion in curing people of lycanthropy”. Apparently, if you just put them to a lot of effort the werewolf would conclude it was too much work to go on being a werewolf and they’d go back to human. Or maybe they’d go to wolf, if that’s what they were better at being. I don’t know if the Ancient Greeks and Romans would be fine with a werewolf who stuck to being a wolf. I suspect so. I mean, yes, humans have always gone off hunting and persecuting wolves. But they’ve always gone off hunting and persecuting humans, too. Someone who won’t commit to being human or wolf must be particularly ire-raising. If they’d settle to one thing or another then society would know what to persecute them for.

But exhaustion as a way of curing lycanthropy. It suggests society could handle an invasion by werewolf hordes just by setting them to raking the leaves and painting the houses. We could save society and raise the property values all down the street. Of course I don’t know that the Ancient Greeks and Romans cared about raking the leaves. They got into some weird things, all the weirder when Pythagoras got involved. And now I’m sorry that I don’t know anything Pythagoras said about werewolves. It would surely have been among the ten funniest things humanity has ever expressed.

Wikipedia keeps delivering imagination-capturing data, though. I started reading: “In the German lowland of Schleswig-Holstein” and right there I stop and say, “The German lowland? I wonder what Danish Wikipedia has to say about that! I certainly recognize the territory Otto von Bismarck used as a cats-paw to manipulate Austria out of German unification! Nor have I forgot how the Schleswig-Holstein plebiscite Prussia agreed to hold following the 1866 war with Austria got repeatedly postponed until after World War I!” I’m not a history major. I’m not Danish. I’m not Austrian. I’m a mathematician. I took exactly six credits of history in college and that was all United States history. I have absolutely no reason to care about Schleswig or Holstein. I admit having enjoyed some products of the latter territory’s cows. This is why I wasn’t cool enough to get into the Dungeons and Dragons circle back in middle school.

Anyway. Back to stuff that does not make people want to slug me. Allegedly, a Schleswig-Holsteinian werewolf can be cured “if one were to simply address it three times by its Christian name”. And “one Danish belief holds that simply scolding a werewolf will cure it.” That can’t be all there is to it, can it? Or maybe Danish scolding is particularly chilling. But how are Danish werewolf parents supposed to keep their children in line?

“Jaan Damian Tage, you get in here right — oh, now he’s not a werewolf! Honey, run to the store and get some Lycanthrope Powder.”

“What, Jael?”

“I said, run to the store — ”

“I’m upstairs, Jael, I can’t hear you.”

“Run to the store — ”

“Let me get downstairs, Jael.”

“Oh, now we need a double case! Oh, Radolf, Radolf, Radolf, what are we ever going to — ooop!”

Anyway. I guess this all is why I don’t know any Danish werewolves. I can’t say I’m any wiser for all this, but it’s good to know.

It Turns Out I’m Unreadable


I’m not saying my brother was trying to sabotage me. I would understand if he were, considering the times when we were young and I dropped a heavy glass cake pan on his head. But I’m pretty sure he can’t remember that, or much else from before 1994, so I’m supposing this was all coincidence. But he mentioned me in a tweet that mentioned this web service that tests how readable writing is. It reports the grade level of your writing and counts adverbs and passive voices and all that. It’s got to be reliable because it highlights stuff in different colors and it’s got a beta version of a new system dated 2013 and all that.

I poked around some to figure if I could make anything funny out of the tweet. There’s nothing amusing to be drawn from it at all, alas. But I submitted some of my writing to the service. My guess was that I wrote somewhere around a high-school reading level. And I’d have some fancy paragraphs of college-level text. It turns out my writing normally comes in at about grade level 26. It also has the occasional paragraph so complicated that the web service runs away screaming and jumps off Editors Leap, onto a pile of sharpened blue markers and misplaced apostrophes. The reason that last bit was funny is that editors used to use blue markers to highlight misplaced apostrophes. This was before editors got replaced with spelling checkers and little green squiggles underneath sentences containing the word “were”. That’s “were” as in “used to be”, not “were” as in “wolf”. Very few werewolves are detected by automated grammar systems, which is why you should not use them during full moons.

I was stunned. Gobsmacked, you might say, if the spell checker knows that word. I admit I’ve used overly complicated grammar in the past. That was mostly when I was on a student newspaper, and would annoy the copy editors by crafting sentences that read fine, but were about 1600 words long and turned into complicated gibberish if you tried breaking them up into shorter ones. I had good reason for doing this: we didn’t have much staff, so we had to annoy the people who were doing the tedious but necessary work. In hindsight maybe this is why we didn’t have much staff. Or readership. But I assumed I was done with that and just wrote like normal people do except that it’s not on a cell phone.

I did try diagramming some of my sentences, because I’m in the last age cohort that ever learned how to diagram sentences. One that I thought was a clear and punchy bit of text turned out to have the same structure as the caffeine molecule. Yeah, I was stunned too. Like you, I would have guessed theobromine. But I never imagined I could be so rococo. It’s not like I try to write the way, say, 18th-century people did, when everything read like a subleasing arrangement between two people who didn’t like each other, or themselves, and who didn’t want to make an arrangement anybody could decipher. It just happens.

So now I’m trying to check my text against this automated editor. I hope I can get the reading level down to any grade level that actually exists. It’s hard. Right now the service says 26 of the previous 29 sentences were hard to read, 14 of them were very hard to read, and four of them require they send someone over to crush my wrist underneath a rusted-out satellite TV dish. I gave them my brother’s address.

The service doesn’t like adverbs. It routinely gives me advice like that I have three adverbs and for a text of this length should aim for zero or fewer. The beta version is even stricter: it counts me at four adverbs and wants me to keep it to negative six adverbs or fewer, eliminating adverbs I encounter on the street if need be.

So I’m trying to write to the approval of a web service created by people I don’t know to enforce rules of grammar I might even agree with if I knew what they were. I trust that it must be measuring something reliably since its word count doesn’t agree with my text editor’s, and the beta version’s word count doesn’t agree with either. I don’t know why it’s impossible to get two programs to agree on how many words are in a thing, but at least I know I have to eliminate twelve uses of the passive voice before someone drops a cake pan on my head.

Aw, man, grade 18? Again?