The Ballad of Peter Parker: Hannah Blumenreich’s Spidey Zine
Back in March, a bunch of people on Twitter retweeted a comic. What caught my attention wasn’t that it was a comic — I see a ton of short comics/illustrations every day — but that so many people retweeted it in such a short time. So I clicked on it…
aunt may does right by her nephew. pic.twitter.com/AP5zgjhgw4
— Hannah Blumenreich (@hannahblmnrch) March 12, 2016
this is aces https://t.co/mjcqmNLd2J
— I'm a rebel just for kicks now (@ArdoOmer) March 30, 2016
I'd autobuy a Spider-Man comic by @hannahblmnrch.
— I'm a rebel just for kicks now (@ArdoOmer) May 24, 2016
Hannah Blumenreich is an illustrator and comics creator who’s currently working on a kid’s science book, Heroes of Science, for Craigmore Creations, scheduled for a May 2017 release. She has webcomics on her site, such as Paper & Glass and a series of mini journal-like comics (both very good) but we’re here to gush about her free comic: Spidey Zine.
I have a long history with Spider-Man. While DC dominated my television viewing (Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans), X-Men and Spider-Man were the two Marvel properties to make it into my childhood. I’ve seen almost all of the Spider-Man animated shows growing up – 1964’s Spider-Man (via reruns), 1994’s Spider-Man, 2003’s Spider-Man, and 2008’s The Spectacular Spider-Man – and when the 2002 Spider-Man film came out, I was mesmerized. He was funny, dorky, and was a hero because he thought it was the right thing to do. I loved Peter Parker. I couldn’t really say the same for his comics, but I did enjoy the books led by Mary Jane, Spider-Woman, and Silk. So it meant a lot that I read a Spider-Man comic led by Peter Parker that made me feel like I was watching the animated shows I enjoyed. It got to the root of Peter and removed the big universe stakes (and intrusions). It’s why I love Silk and Spider-Woman, two titles that focus on their characters and their supporting cast but aren’t invaded by crossovers too much.
There are seven short comics in this free zine. It starts off with the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, where Peter puts on his earbuds and listens to the song of the same name performed by Leonard Nimoy as he swings around New York. It’s in black and white and feels mundane but it sets the mood of who Peter is. He’s a teen dork who is also a superhero. The next three comics showcase the hilarious and adorable relationship between Aunt May and Peter. Whether it’s getting Peter to drop the Kardashian viewing to go out with the Aunt May-approved Mary Jane Watson, Aunt May giving a homemade sweater to Peter to wear while crime fighting, or Peter helping Aunt May with her knitting while watching Gilmore Girls, I couldn’t help but smile and think of how precious these two people are (Peter’s reaction to the homemade sweater is priceless). The art develops throughout the zine, going from black and white to the blues of the MJ comic to full colour for the rest of the zine.
There are two comics that focus on Spider-Man’s community. In one, a woman is being catcalled and followed by two men when she sees Spider-Man. She asks him to escort her home and it was great seeing teen Peter 1) surprised that men were following her* and 2) asking her what she wanted him to do. It was great to see a problem that women actually face and having Peter deal with something that isn’t beating up the Vulture. The other comic, which can be found pinned on Blumenreich’s twitter, is the one that I read after checking out that retweeted comic. In it, group of women playing basketball invite Spider-Man to join them not thinking he’d actually agree…but he does! If those last two panels don’t make you feel happy, I don’t know what will.
Smack in between those last two comics is a gut punch. You thought you were going to escape Uncle Ben, didn’t you? The way the zine is organized was intentional and I’m glad that the community basketball comic was last because it would have ended in a bittersweet note if it was Uncle Ben. I think it was the strongest comic in the zine. It relied completely on the art since it was a silent comic and played with colours more especially in the memory sequence. It also jammed with so much character and relationship-building that you’re practically bawling by the end of it. But Blumenreich doesn’t leave it there. She allows for a moment of joy in the midst of tragedy which is kind of what Spider-Man is, in the end. Uncle Ben’s death and that guilt will always be the foundation the wise-cracking hero is built on, but it’s kinda hopeful. The world can be tragic but it’s not just tragedy.
Blumenreich’s art in the Spidey Zine is young, expressive, dorky and loose. Her storytelling is delightfully fun but can just as easily handle the tougher subjects and she’s willing to tackle these subjects. It’s also great to see the racial diversity as well. I really hope Marvel takes notice but in the meantime, check out the zine and support her Patreon.
*If you follow me on Twitter, you know how much I want a woke Spider-Man in the new movie. This comic made me VERY happy.