Thursday, July 12, 2007

Spider-Man Never Used Suction Cups

Spider-Man Never Used Suction Cups
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Kids today have great movie toys. When I was a kid, we never had Spider-Man movies, video games, or shampoo and conditioner sets. We just had the cheaply-made cartoons. The ones that showed Spider-Man flying past the same cityscape so many times, I thought he was swinging in circles. (For those of you who don't remember, this is the show that gave us the theme song, "Spider-Man, Spider-Man/Does whatever a spider can/Spins a web any size/Catches thieves just like flies.")

But schlocky effects and theme song notwithstanding, it was still a cool show, so I wanted to be Spider-Man. I wanted to climb walls, shoot webs from my special wrist web shooter, and catch my sister in a giant web and leave her stuck there for the police to find. I asked my mom whether being bitten by a spider would, in fact, give me super powers.

"Absolutely not!" my mother gasped, considering banning me from TV forever. "People can die from spider bites."

At nine years old, I figured my mom's grasp of comic book science was pretty shaky, and took her claims with a grain of salt. But since my plan also had the possibility of death, I decided to wait for a magical genie to grant me superpowers instead. Unfortunately, that doesn't get you anything either, so my dreams went unfilled, until that Christmas.

That's when I received the gift that I thought would change my life forever, and start me on the road to crime fighting: my very own Official Spider-Man Wrist Web Shooter. (In the Spider-Man cartoons, Spidey used a chemical cartridge to shoot his webs. None of this namby-pamby "I create my webs from my own wrist" crap.)

This is it! I thought to myself as I unwrapped the first step on my quest to becoming a superhero. With the Official Spider-Man Wrist Web Shooter, I could swing from the ceiling! I could climb walls! I could catch thieves just like flies!

Turns out, I couldn't do jack squat.

This wasn't a web shooter, it was a suction dart on a string. I put the strap on my wrist, pressed a button, and a spring fired the dart. It was just a glorified dart gun.

Now, don't get me wrong. I loved the gift. I kept it until I was 15, when it disappeared (and is still in my dad's attic, for all I know). But I was very disappointed when it didn't give me the super powers I craved, or let me suspend my sister from the ceiling. (Lord knows I tried enough times.) I couldn't climb walls, I couldn't swing from the ceiling, and the dart didn't capture my sister in a giant web. All it did was activate her power of screaming "Moooooommy!!!!Tell Erik to quit shooting me!!!!" (There's no defense against that either.)

You just can't do much with a run-of-the-mill dart gun dart. The only thing it stuck to was the refrigerator, the window, or the TV. Otherwise I couldn't figure out how to make it actually do anything. Any time I pulled on the string, the dart popped off, so I certainly wasn't going to swing around the room with it. The only thing I could do was use it to pull a pop can closer to me, assuming the dart stuck after the first twelve tries. And since the string was only two feet long, it was usually just easier to reach for the can.

"It's the string!" I declared one day. "The string is too short!"

Obviously, if I wanted to make the dart fly farther, I had to untie the string.

Unfortunately, this created its own problems, because while the dart did fly farther -- 12 feet, in fact -- I had to chase it down every time I fired it. And while this increased the dart's effective range, like when shooting my sister, it had its drawbacks, like when she grabbed it and took off.

It's pretty hard for budding superheroes to explain to their mother why shooting their sister with a dart is less bad than her stealing the dart, and thus the superhero shouldn't be punished. But parents don't recognize "saving the world" as a viable defense, so I usually got in trouble for my attempts.

But despite its lack of super powers, the Official Spider-Man Wrist Web Shooter was a great toy, whether I was taking potshots at the TV, pop cans, or my sister. It just didn't do much beyond that. So I resigned myself to a life of normalcy and blandness, until I found the product I was convinced would change my life forever and make me one of the coolest superheroes on the planet.

"Mom, I want the Official Aquaman Face Mask and Swim Fins for my birthday!"

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