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Monday, January 02, 2006 

Spider-Man gets caught in a web of political bias and propaganda

Steven Spielberg's Munich debuted last week, and has already gotten more than enough good people angry, with good reason (thankfully, it flopped at the box office). But two years before that, Paul Jenkins did something not unlike Spielberg, twisting reality to suit his favor in the fictional world of Spider-Man, and certainly by forcing his own personal political viewpoints onto a favorite character of mine. And where was that? In the currently discontinued 2nd volume of Spectacular Spider-Man, issues #6-10, that Jenkins was writing, and I'll do my best to provide an analysis of the details here.

The sin committed: a whitewashing, right under the noses of many, of the PLO (and if memory serves, this is coming from the same company that published a Transformers #15 issue in 1986 in which it was indicated by a shopper in an electronics store that the PLO is the terror organization they still are, when commenting about Robot Master that, "I'll bet the PLO is behind this!"), and in doing so, Jenkins has conjured up a companion piece to the lies being marketed by anti-Israeli moonbats, which includes even Spielberg's own scriptwriter for Munich, Tony Kushner.

First, in part one of the Countdown story arc, we have a complete turnaround of the editorial roles at the Bugle:
The next day at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson and Joe Robertson argue over headlines. Robbie is pushing the importance of a Palestinian delegation visiting New York, but JJJ overrules him and decides to run something about an explosion in Milwaukee.
Gee, how strange. Knowing Triple J, I'd surely think he'd be willing to run a story about the PLO in a jiffy, with Robbie Robertson being the one to oppose. And the part about the explosion in Wisconsin is as bewildering as it's ambiguous, since it seems as if Jenkins is trying to separate between terrorism and the PLO! Which is why, aside from wishing to suggest to Jenkins that he take a look at The Peace Encyclopedia, that he also take a good look at what's said on this page here:
On the night of March 2, 1973, PLO gunmen pumped 40 bullets into the bodies of the US ambassador to Sudan and two other diplomats held hostage at the Saudi embassy in Khartoum.

Almost exactly 24 years later, the man who ordered the killings was warmly received in Washington DC by the leader of the American people.

US ambassador Cleo Noel, US charge d'affaires George Curtis Moore, and Belgian charge d'affaires Guy Eid were among a group of diplomats held hostage by eight members of Yasser Arafat's Black September a faction of the PLO during a reception at the Saudi embassy in the Sudanese capital. The terrorists demanded the release of Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, the Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy, as well as other Palestinians being held in Israel and European prisons.

After President Richard Nixon refused to negotiate, Arafat's commander, Abu Iyad, in touch with the terrorists by high-frequency transmitter from PLO headquarters in Beirut, gave the instruction "Remember Nahr al-Bard. The people's blood in the Nahr al-Bard cries out for vengeance. We and the rest of the world are watching you." The radio messages were intercepted by Israeli intelligence, and transcripts later handed to the US State Department and Nixon.

"Nahr al-Bard", a reference to a terrorist training facility in Lebanon which had been attacked by Israeli troops 11 days earlier, was the code phrase ordering the gunmen to execute their hostages. At 9:06 pm on March 2, Noel, Moore and Eid were taken to the embassy basement, lined up against the wall and shot. "The terrorists fired from the floor upward, to prolong their agony of their victims by striking them first in the feet and legs, before administering the coup de grace," wrote Neil Livingstone and David Halevy in Inside the PLO (New York: Quill/William Morrow, 1990).
Is this the movement that Mr. Jenkins considers legitimate? One that would murder even American and Belgian diplomats in cold blood? One whose own "charter" calls for the murder of innocents and destruction of Israel?

It gets worse. In part two, while Spidey is swinging through town:
The next morning, Spider-Man is out web-swinging as Doctor Octopus calls a radio talk show. He declares that he's about to rob the Central Museum of Antiquities, and blows up the side of the museum while Spider-Man is nearby.
Is it just me, or is this a takeoff on that old moonbat gimmick, that it's not the actual terrorists committing the crimes, but rather, we ourselves?
The plot thickens when Spidey finds a hole in the floor of the building. Spidey hops through it down into the sewers, and after going a short distance, he finds another hole in the sewer ceiling. The wall-crawler crawls up through this one and finds himself in the Palestinian Embassy, when he realizes that Doctor Octopus has kidnapped the visiting Palestinian Foreign Minister (who was part of the delegation that Robbie Robertson mentioned last issue). And as the police arrive and see the web-slinger standing inside the wrecked outer wall of the Embassy, Spider-Man realizes that he will be blamed for the kidnapping...
As the Jews probably will for terrorism, I'll bet. This is as disgusting as it got. Especially as, when Doctor Octopus is speaking to the Cripps character...the angle at which Otto Octavious is drawn makes him look disturbingly like a racist/stereotypical caricature of a rabbi. Could it be...?

And that's why, based on that lowest looking of a whole quagmire of stereotypical artwork, which made the book as largely unreadable as it was, one can only wonder if it's meant to imply that Jews are the ones committing acts of terrorism against "innocent" paleswinians. Is that it?

In part three of this story arc:
After Doctor Octopus' kidnapping of the Palestinian Foreign Minister, the Middle East has fallen into turmoil. The whole world waits to see what Octopus will demand, including the Amazing Spider-Man. Doc Ock finally calls into a radio show, where he makes his single, simple demand: at noon on Saturday, Octopus wants Spider-Man to walk into Times Square and take off his mask for the whole world to see. After terminating the phone conversation, Zarour speaks up, and tells Octavius that he is a fool to risk a war in the Middle East only to see Spider-Man unmask himself. Doc Ock simply tells Zarour to be quiet.
This is just a start in the ludicrous presentation of the Zarour character. Risk a war...started by whom? Would that be you, Mr. Zarour...or the nations you so despise, that being Israel and even America, certainly if you existed in real life? And what's this about the mideast falling into turmoil? It already has, hasn't it?

The following conversation is a real excersise in reduction into juvenility:
Back at Octavius' workshop, Zarour has started talking again. He asks why Doc Ock hates Spider-Man so much, and Octavius replies that he hates him because, despite the fact that Octopus is stronger and smarter than Spidey, the wall-crawler is still seen as his equal. But Zarour insists that Doctor Octopus is afraid of Spider-Man. Octavius flies into a rage, but gathers control of himself, declaring that no one will break him.
The way that Doc Ock is misused as a character here is bad enough (and to say the least, Doc and the Webslinger's rivalry was never based on equality, but rather, the fact that Doc became a villain mainly for the sport of it), but then, so is the way that Zarour is made to look sympathetic whenever he's around. And he's the one here who's "righteous".

Naturally, the writer ignores any questions such as why the organization/community Zarour represents hates Israel and the Israelis/Jews, or teaches to hate, just like Munich probably will too. As someone living in a country that's had war declared upon it, this was simply repulsive, ditto the part in the next issue (see more below) where Zarour sadly tells Doc Ock like this:
"Sniff...you're insane."
It's just totally disgusting as to how roles are reversed so blatantly in this sick little travesty, and doesn't get much better with the way the Israeli delegation is portrayed in terms of moral equivalence in the following:
Later that night, Spider-Man meets Detective Neil Garrett in Central Park. Spidey's hoping that Garrett has some clue about where Octavius could be, but he's out of luck. A moment later, Spidey notices a helicopter in the sky and assumes that Garrett has led the NYPD to him. But then Spidey turns around and sees a whole battalion of camouflaged soldiers along with one man in a trenchcoat. Mr. Trenchcoat tells Spidey that Zarour's safety is of the utmost importance, and that they know the general vicinity of where Octavius took him. After a closer look, Detective Garrett realizes that the soldiers aren't Palestinian, but rather Israeli Secret Service. Confused, Spidey asks why the Israelis would help to save the Palestinian Foreign Minister when their two countries hate each other, and Mr. Trenchcoat says that while the two nations have their differences, they don't want war. Trenchcoat says that due to security reasons they cannot explain how they've been tracking Zarour, but he does tell Spidey and Garrett that they lost the signal on the tracking device in an underpass in Brooklyn. Trenchcoat shows Spidey the location on a map and asks if that spot has any relevance. Spidey appears lost in thought...
And in a scriptwriter's own personal biases too, I'm afraid. That aside, while the Israeli security officials here may not be depicted as the cold figures they are in Munich, the problem is that this is exactly Jenkins' weapon in hoping he'll be able to evade taking really serious flak from detractors. And what's it called? Moral equivalence, that's what.

And what's this about there being "two countries"? As if an Arabic country called "palestine" already existed at the time this was published? That's not being very honest with the readers, I'm afraid. No, that's telling the readers what to think/believe. "Palestine" if it matters, was a name originally given to the state of Israel by the Roman empire for political purposes following the Bar Kochva revolution, and later on, a British diplomat named Christopher Mayhew manipulated it for deligitimizing Israel as a country. All that Jenkins is doing here is, like I said, telling/implying what to think/believe.

In part four, it gets ridiculous:
...at Otto Octavius' childhood home, Hayyan Zarour awakes to find himself tied to a mattress next to a dummy with a bomb strapped to its chest, with Doctor Octopus lurking overhead. Doc Ock tells Zarour a story from his childhood, about how his cruel father was injured at work, but instead of going to the hospital, he insisted on coming home. So Father Octavius laid in his bed for weeks while his injuries slowly killed him, and after Mrs. Octavius was driven away by her husband's anger, her son was left alone in the house. It was that night that Mr. Octavius finally died, and young Otto sat in his room all night, terrified, staring at his father's corpse. With his story concluded, Doctor Octopus leaves, but not before starting the timer on the bomb next to Zarour.
Is it just me, or does it seem that quite a lot of conventional explosives are being employed by Otto Octavious in this storyline here, ones similar to what could be used by...a terrorist?
At his apartment, Peter looks out the window, waiting until it's time to go meet his fate. But before he goes, he tries his best to comfort his wife, Mary Jane, who is terrified for her husband's safety. After doing all he can to restore MJ's faith, Peter dons his mask and crawls out the window. At Times Square, we hear of the escalated fighting in the Middle East that has resulted from Zarour's kidnapping.
Well now, there's a real pip. Mary Jane - a coward?!? Yawn. But aside from that, the way they write the mideast as descending into chaos when it already has, and certainly has it lurking around any corner at any moment, is downright insulting.

And in part five, the nail in the coffin for this, after Zarour is undeservedly rescued:
Unseen on the video screen were a number of Israeli Secret Service agents, lurking in the shadows, who were also instrumental in the safe recovery of Zarour.
And why is that? Because they don't deserve any credit? Or because they despise the enemy that's not even referred to as such here so much that they'd rather not be embarrassed in front of the camera? I'm not sure, but either way, it's just so bewildering and insulting to the intellect that it doesn't work.
Back at Times Square, now that they know that Zarour is safe, the police attempt to capture Doctor Octopus. But Doc Ock freaks out and starts throwing cars around, and before the cops or Spidey can really do anything about it, Octavius has fled into the sewers. Spidey pursues him underground, as does a lone NYPD officer. Just when it looks like Spidey's about to get the upper hand, Doc Ock grabs hold of the cop. Spidey tries to persuade Doctor Octopus to let the cop go, but Octavius instead breaks the cop's neck right in front of Spidey. With that, Doc Ock attacks the shocked wall-crawler, and before long, Spidey is wrapped in one of Octavius' tentacles and completely at his mercy.

But Spider-Man refuses to give up and head-butts Doctor Octopus, and then breaks a couple of his arms off. Spidey then proceeds to pummel Octavius until Doc Ock begs Spidey not to kill him, and Spidey then proceeds to web his foe up and leave him for the cops.
Man, talk about really subjecting even a crook to character assasination! How many people has Doc Ock really put to death in his whole criminal career? George Stacy, I know, but that may have been by accident, and other than that, Doc Ock has never tried to kill anyone in cold blood as he does here.

And since when did just one police officer think to go after a supercrook of Doc's standing without backup? Even if Spidey's got the strength of ten men, that's still very awkward from a real life perspective on how the police work, and the murder of an officer here was in very poor taste.

That aside, I tried to look around on the internet for some other opinions on Jenkins' work, specifically on Spectacular Spider-Man. Curiously enough, as of now, I haven't been able to find anything giving a genuine opinion of the book. But even if not, that could give a clue to that he's not as popular as may seem.

And after the disgraceful little propaganda script he forced into a Spider-Man book and foisted onto the audience, he most certainly won't be popular with me, that's for sure.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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