The road to comics is littered with purveyors of other, more successful mediums taking some of their free time to write up a couple of comic book stories. Kevin Smith, Damon Lindelof, Patton Oswalt; they, and many others, have all turned their longtime admiration of comics into brief stints as writers. Bill Hader and Seth Meyers, writers and stars of late night comedy television’s S”aturday Night Live,” are the latest examples of this phenomenon.
One would naturally expect these two seasoned comedy writers to turn out a hilarious romp through Spider-Man’s classically calamitous corner of the Marvel Universe. “The Short Halloween,” it turns out, is a simple story; focused on a couple of sarcastic twenty-somethings as much as it is on Spider-Man. It’s not overly hilarious or really terribly clever (although a few of the five newly created super villains occasionally reach the witty heights usually reserved for Ben Edlund’s better Tick background players), it’s just pretty straightforward. The concept is certainly not very high. It’s Halloween and the real Spider-Man is confused with a guy dressed up as Spider-Man. You can guess pretty much everything that happens next.
To their credit, Hader and Meyers do a great job of portraying regular people (which is rarer than you’d think in contemporary comics), which helps the story move along greatly. Spider-Man is more of a bit player in the story, so it’s a good thing that the regular folks are believable and non-grating. But the story itself is predictable and rarely laugh out loud funny. One wonders if their sensibilities might be better suited to a longer form work. A story where equal attention could be given to their interpretation of super-heroes as well as the regular slacker types that populate their Manhattan environs could work incredibly well. As it stands, “The Short Halloween” is a little too short. The story’s success is also a bit hampered by the fact that, currently, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a frequently clever and hilarious comic book in its own right, so Hader and Meyers aren’t really breaking new ground.
Art-wise, Kevin Maguire’s work is unsurprisingly fantastic. In a story that’s more focused on regular folks than the big name marquee heroes, it’s critical to convey the right emotion behind the delivery of the lines. Maguire has always been a master at facial acting, and this story is no exception. His storytelling is also fantastic, especially in a brief panel-to-panel sequence where someone attempts to thwart Spider-Man with a bookcase.
“The Short Halloween” is a brief glimpse at what could be an enjoyable sensibility if given just a bit more room to play around in. So, while this time the final product might be ultimately underwhelming, I’m holding out hope for Kristen Wiig’s “Dr. Stacey Strange, Sorceress Supreme.” Maybe a whole “SNL Secret Wars,” with Justin Timberlake as The Beyonder. That could totally work.