A View from Atlas Park: Covered in Spiders

Given the short distance to Spiderman 2‘s release and the topic I’m covering, this column is going to be focussing on spider-related topics. My apologies to any arachnophobes out there for this, but spiders just seem to be everywhere at the moment.

I received several emails from people about the last column (and thank you to everyone who wrote to me) about how Lord Recluse is named after the Brown Recluse Spider, not because he’s a hermit. As an Australian with little to no knowledge of the spiders of North America, I would never have made the association.

For those who don’t know (and for that, there’s Google), the Brown Recluse Spider (aka the Fiddleback or Violin Spider for it’s markings) is a particularly nasty type of spider that can be found in central midwest of North America . It is a nasty type of spider due to its poison, which causes necrosis (ie death of tissue) in the area surrounding the bite. This is very painful and drawn-out for those who get bitten as the wound can take a long time to heal. For those who wish to know more, take a look at this information about the spider.

This does make Lord Recluse a bit more imposing as a villain… but not by much. I completely appreciate Cryptic going for a spider whose name hasn’t been done to death in the comics (eg Black Widow, Tarantula, etc), but perhaps the Brown Recluse Spider is a little bit too uncommon once you leave the midwest. Besides, he’s not Lord Brown Recluse – he’s Lord Recluse. The term “recluse” has a much broader meaning than just in relation to spiders. For most people in fact, when they think “recluse” they will be thinking “a person who withdraws from the world to live in seclusion and often in solitude”, to take the first defintion from Dictionary.com. Or perhaps they’ll be thinking he’s the lord of Recluse, Wyoming… or perhaps not.

I think my big problem with Lord Recluse is the aristocracy bit. If he called himself “The Recluse” he’d be a bit more menacing and mysterious in my opinion. The whole “Lord” title just opens comparisons to other pompously titled villains like Baron Zemo and Doctor Doom. Villains with titles often talk about themselves in the third person, act like they are infallible (often right before they are defeated) and are generally just annoying due to their high-class upbringing. I may be tarring Lord Recluse with the same brush – he may be the exception to the rule – but the terms “aristocrat” and “villain” are just a bit too cliched to be taken seriously by me.

That said, it does open up some potential to their being other spider-named villains on the way. Perhaps Arachnos is full of internationally-themed spider-men and -women. I can’t wait to see Australia’s Lady Redback, Lady Funnelweb and Lord Whitetail battling it out with Paragon City’s finest.

If you have only recently emerged from your Y2K bunker, you’ll know that Spiderman 2 is about to be released into cinemas. It’s got blockbuster written all over it, and this is in a time where every film is hyped to max. I’m looking forward to seeing it, but it makes me think back to the first film which, in my opinion, was only okay.

I was very surprised when the first modern Spiderman film broke box office records. It wasn’t a bad film, but it really wasn’t great, with many things that were questionable. The Green Goblin costume was iffy at best – though I respect what they were trying to do in terms of story and design, it just looked stupid. Using Mary Jane Watson in the famous “Gwen Stacy necksnapping scene” cheapened things a bit in my opinion – that is a touchstone Spiderman moment, not something that should have just been used as a throw-away rescue (pun not intended). As for the citizens of New York throwing stuff at the Goblin from the bridge… well, I just rolled my eyes at that.

But what it got right – like the 1978 version of Superman – was the sense of freedom in flying. Okay – Spidey doesn’t fly so much as swing – but the sheer joy that was presented in those scenes as you whiz through the streets with Spiderman was fantastic. It was these moments that showed you why Peter Parker may actually sometimes enjoy being Spiderman, rather than his powers being a constant reminder of his failure to live up to his responsibility to his Uncle Ben. It also gave the audience a different experience – most movie heroes are earth-bound, unable to travel at high speeds (except when being chased, then it’s sports cars all round).

From the trailers, I know there are scenes in the movie where Spiderman goes for a swing. Given that it’s a Spiderman movie, I be very surprised if there wasn’t! What I’m hoping for is that this movie also manages to capture the joy of being able to achieve extraordinary freedom in between the moments of tragedy that haunt Peter Parker / Spiderman.

The hype suggests the sequel will be better than the first movie, and in less than a week we’ll know for sure.

– UnSub [email protected] 28 June 2004

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