Thursday, February 08, 2007

Comics In My Classroom: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane



ISSUE: Volume 1 – Super Crush
FORMAT: Digest covering issues 1-5
PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics
COST: $7.99

TOPICS ADDRESSED
  • Relationships (friendship and romance)
  • Bullies
  • Adolescence
  • Brief Action-Adventure

STORY SYNOPSIS
Written by Eisner Award-winner Sean McKeever, this is the story of Mary Jane, the long time love interest of Peter Parker. In this volume, collecting issues 1-5, Mary Jane is in a pickle, several pickles actually. She just broke up with her boyfriend and she is in love with Spider-Man. Peter is fawning over here, using his role as algebra tutor to be close to her, which has worked as he has become her new best friend. That has caused problems with Mary Jane’s best girlfriend, Liz. How many best friends can a girl have?

Mary Jane has also decided to try out for the school play and has made enemies of long time drama queen, Lindsay Leighton (although Mary Jane doesn’t know she’s made an enemy) when Mary Jane beats Lindsay out of the title role. That’s just asking for some type of adolescent revenge. Mary Jane gets tired of waiting for Spidey and she chases him down to ask him out, leaving Spider-Parker in the lurch. What does he do, go out with her as his alter ego or decline and hope that his geeky true self can convince her to go on a date. This title is all about drama and the life of an adolescent.

AGE RECOMMENDATION
My Rating: 11 and older
Back of the Book: Teen Romance (12 and older)
Publisher’s Website: All Ages
Comics in the Classroom.net: 10 and older

There is some discrepancy as to the appropriate age of the reader for this title. The back of the book rates it as a teen romance recommended for ages 12 and older. However, the Marvel website rates it as an All Ages book. Marvel is the publisher mind you. ComicsInTheClassroom.net recommends the book for children ages 10 and older. The discrepancies are probably related to the romantic situations of teenagers. The characters are dressed in contemporary styling, but nothing revealing or sexual. The violence is mild and includes typical comic book action. As the story is about Mary Jane and not really Spider-Man, the action is kept to a minimum.

This is a book that will appeal to anyone interested in budding romantic relationships and the troubles caused by being in some form of love or like. This will appeal to both everyone, but I would think that girls would be especially interested.


STORY REVIEW
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is a perfect book to help kids make sense of their friendships, budding interests in the opposite sex, and the wide range of emotions that they are feeling or will be feeling. Characters, just like people in the real world, hide their feelings, are confused by what is going on, and are overwhelmed by their emotions. There is plenty of school drama here for anyone’s liking. The ebb and flow of friendships and the constant change that is the “first best friend” and “second best friend” hierarchy of relationships are all present. Jealousy and envy are also part of the mix, making for an interesting read.

This is not a typical superhero book. Told from Mary Jane’s point of view, and focusing more on her relationships with her many friends and love interest Spidey himself, this is considered a teen romance, thus the name Super Crush.

ART REVIEW
Illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, this is a digest sized, paperback compilation of the original comics. It is in color and printed on a high quality matte paper. The cover art is representative of the art inside in both style and coloring. The colors are bright and the illustrator utilizes a medium contrast. The art maintains a youthful tone by establishing a cartoonish feel, rather than more realistic works of other books. Yet, it is not a childlike nor is it in a manga cartoon style.



(NOTE: I had this book for a week and the pages started falling out. I will exchange it for another copy and see if it was an isolated incident or a problem with the overall construction.)



IN THE CLASSROOM
One of the jobs of an upper elementary and middle school teacher is to help students work in groups, develop relationships and communicate effectively with others. This would be a perfect book to discuss communication in its many forms. As children only develop empathy beginning around 12 years old, this book is a good way to explore the feelings of others and how one’s actions affect others. Other explorations can also be discussed as upper elementary children and teens are discovering their interests in extra-curricular activities, such as drama. Present in all Spider-Man comics is the issue of bullies. This book openly explores the issue of bullies from the perspective both from those that dislike you and those who pretend to like you. The rollercoaster ride that is the typical female adolescent relationship is also ripe for discussion. There are many avenues for a teacher to use in a classroom.


MY RECOMMENDATION:
I recommend this book beginning in fifth grade. At that age, relationships are developing and drama is setting in. It would be a boon for female readers, especially those that may be dealing with relationship issues (both good and bad) and those who struggle to read, as well. It would be very applicable on the middle school level.


FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on using comic books or graphic novels in the classroom, email me at fatjacksrants@blogspot.com. You can also read more at:

Comics in the Classroom.net
News-a-rama Op/Ed Forums (Look for "All Ages Reads" headings)

1 comment:

Larry Litle said...

I am so very excited that you are finding comics for your future classroom. I remember getting in trouble for bringing comics to school and not they are becoming accepted as a good reading source. I wish could see my old teachers' faces as they find out that comics are a positive thing after all. Bravo on picking Spidey Loves Mary Jane. It is a really good comic for the age range. Keep up the good work.