[This fine piece of reporting is courtesy of my pal, Sean Whitmore - BC]
A comic book store was the scene of extremely brief mob violence this Wednesday, as dozens of fans arrived to protest the new release of their favorite comic.
"Well, at least it was a big turnout," joked Dan Slott, writer of Marvel Comics' Spider-Man series (yes, apparently they do still make them).
To promote the latest issue of Spider-Man, which marks a new chapter in the life of the popular hero, several of the book's creators appeared at Brooklyn's famous Rocketship comic store to sign copies of the latest issue. However, instead of the usual throng of happy, sycophantic fanboys, the writers instead encountered angry, psychopathic ones instead.
The source of their nerdly ire? A new story line that has Spidey fans climbing the walls. It seems that the web-swinger is more of a "swinger" than ever these days, having ended his marriage to longtime sweetheart Mary Jane Watson.
"It's bull****, man," opined one portly fan, clad in a disheveled T-shirt which read: It's Magic, We Don't Have To Explain It. "They're ****ing on decades of continuity!"
"It's just Joey Q, man, flippin' us the ol' bird," chimed in an even portlier fan, dressed in an even more disheveled Magic T-shirt.
"Just look at this garbage!" screamed 37-year-old David Morden, thrusting forward one of the four copies of the book in his possession. "Peter Parker [Spider-Man's alter ego] is nearly in his 30s, and he's still living with his aunt!" David had more to say on the subject, but then his mother arrived to pick him up from the store and take him home.
Suffice to say, the mood outside Rocketship that day was strained, and it did not improve when the doors were opened and both fans and protesters were let inside. The normal customers (if such a term can apply) were ill at ease in the presence of this hardcore band of Spidey worshippers. As they waited for the writers to appear, the topics of discussion--held in loud, obnoxious tones--ranged from the Civil War to World War One, which they pronounced "Hulk".
"One of them tried to tell me why the last Spider-Man movie was bad," stammered a visibly upset woman, who had been perusing a rack of Japanese manga. "Even after I begged him not to."
Before long, the beleaguered writers entered the shop. Amidst a hail of catcalls and hisses (and at least a few accusations of being "honky bastards"), the writers bravely crossed the picket line of fans and made their way to the signing table at the other end of the shop. The fans immediately formed a queue, copies of the new Spider-Man comic that was causing them so much grief clutched tightly in their hands.
"I'm buying five copies," one protester said. "Two to keep, but just for the art, and three to rip up and mail to Joe Quesada to show him what a mistake he made by pissing us off."
Although they had finally shut the hell up, the fans were still in dour spirits. In an attempt to lighten the crowd's mood, Slott made the fatal error of attempting humor. "Wow, if you guys are this upset now," he joked, "just wait'll we bring back Gwen [Stacy, Spider-Man's former girlfriend who was killed by his archenemy]!"
Nobody knows who fired the first shot, but within moments, the writer's table was being pelted with DC Absolute Editions and Marvel Omnibuses. Thankfully, the volumes' impressive weight combined with the general lack of athleticism amongst the protesters resulted in few serious injuries.
Police arrived on the scene quickly, but by then the protestors had already been frightened into submission thanks to a quick-witted Rocketship employee flicking the light switch on and off.
One of the Spider-fans still had some fight in him, however. A young boy charged through the crowd and assaulted one of the officers by spraying Silly String in his face, as a nod to his webslinging hero. The officer responded by smashing the young man in the face with his nightstick, cracking his mandible in two and leaving a deep dent in his nasal spine. The boy remains in critical condition at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
"The hospital bills are going to be hell," the boy's father later told us. "But I can't say he didn't deserve it."
Puzzlingly, the word "organic" was written on the side of the can (though misspelled). The police have yet to uncover any link between the mysterious phrase and any known gang terminology.
The ambulance also picked up a writer at the shop, but not any of the Spider-Man crew. Fellow comic scribe Warren Ellis, who was at the shop signing copies of the fifteen different series he had coming out that day, collapsed at the scene in an apoplectic fit of laughter. He was taken away by EMS workers, mumbling all the while about cellular phones and "the nerd prom".
Alex Cox, owner of Rocketship, was understandably disappointed by the outcome of what should have been such a fun day. "I just don't understand getting that worked up over one superhero comic." [He asked us to stress the term "superhero comic"; we're not sure why] "There's so much great stuff out there." Cox explained how he tried to turn the dejected Spidey fans onto new series, pointing out a collection of E. C. Segar's Popeye strips, and a display of Bone material. "They looked at me like I'd just sprouted a dick out of my forehead."
"Nobody ever attacked me when I worked on Law & Order," offered fellow writer Marc Guggenheim. "Did I mention that I worked on Law & Order? And CSI: Miami too. In fact, could you maybe not use my name for this story? I'd rather not be associated with all this."
As the protestors were escorted from the store by their respective parents and guardians, and the writers recovered from their shock, one of the officers perused the comics on the shelf. Ironically, he came upon the very Spider-Man comic where the marriage ended, causing a generation of readers to lose their minds.
"So this is the comic that caused all the ruckus," he sighed. "Not for nothing, but it really is awful."