Emanata: Spider-Man Meets the Mayor

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The most widely circulated American comic book this week isn’t anything you can buy in comics stores: it’s Amazing Spider-Man, You’re Hired!, a skinny one-shot included with Wednesday’s New York Daily News, and distributed for free on Marvel’s iPhone/iPad app. (It doesn’t seem to be available on the Web, though.) Written by Warren Simons, drawn by Todd Nauck, and featuring a Phil Jimenez cover that bears more than a slight resemblance to the one he drew for Spider-Man’s meeting with Barack Obama, it centers on a down-and-out Peter Parker and his Aunt May meeting helpful New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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It is an odd, odd comic book, and not just because Peter’s meeting Bloomberg–this is a character who once met the Not Ready For Prime Time Players in a surprisingly good story. (It’s also entirely possible that, when ASM: You’re Hired! was commissioned, it looked like Spider-Man would be a Broadway star by the time it was released.) The premise of Simons’ story is that Peter has lost his job as a photojournalist–putting this story in the regular Amazing Spider-Man series’ continuity, somewhere slightly before last week’s issue of Amazing, in which he found a new job–and, after a chance encounter on the subway, Bloomberg teaches him to take advantage of New York’s resources for job-seekers, although he has to keep running off and fighting crime as Spider-Man. Also, despite the title, he doesn’t come anywhere near getting hired.

As a brochure for the Bloomberg administration’s Workforce1 program, it’s fun and colorful. (There are actually also two different Spider-Man posters that plug the program.) But coming at it from the superhero-comics side, the real world and the fictional Marvel world jostle each other for primacy on page after page. Peter complains of having been fired by the Daily Bugle–but in the same sequence, he’s circling a classified employment ad in the Daily News. The ad in question begins as a description of a lab-assistant job and dissolves into bad lorem ipsum, which might be acceptable in print but looks a little awkward when it’s isolated on an iPhone screen.

The Bloomberg sequences read as an endorsement for their real-life subject in a way that the Obama story two years ago didn’t: he gets to utter lines like “Well, they call me the Metrocard Mayor for a reason. New York has the best transit system in the world, and I ride it all the time.” The last page also features Bloomberg offering an out-of-nowhere plug for Jay-Z and Mikhail Prokhorov’s “new basketball team in Brooklyn”; whether or not it’s actually product placement, it sure reads like it. And seeing Spider-Man dealing with New York’s mayor can’t help but suggest the fairly major plot point in Amazing that J. Jonah Jameson is currently the mayor there.

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To make You’re Hired! a Spider-Man story–rather than simply a story about a gloomy former photographer running into the mayor –there are a couple of out-of-nowhere fight scenes: Peter darts away from his conversation with Bloomberg to change into Spider-Man twice, first to fight the Vulture and then to team up with Iron Man to fight some kind of generic mechanical dinosaur thing. (That’s not unreasonable, in its way, for a Spider-Man story–he is the guy whose raison d’être is acting against his most obvious interests to do the right thing.) Of course, that means the plot runs up against the problem that destitute, unemployed Peter is being called on to assist a billionaire industrialist who regularly relies on him for help. And the story ends with Bloomberg reminding Peter of the job-seeker counseling program’s information, which would be a little more impressive if last week’s Amazing weren’t about Peter getting an incredibly lucrative gig by being a super-genius.

But all that is quibbling from the inside of a subculture that this story is aimed outside. Most of the people who read You’re Hired! will never bother with Amazing Spider-Man proper, and it’s heartening that someone thinks a Spider-Man story is an effective way to introduce unemployed New Yorkers to services that can help them. If it’s true, that’d be pretty sweet.

More on Techland:

Emanata: The Final Eight

Emanata: Dimming of the Day

The Comic Book Club: “Batman” x 2 and “The Extremist”

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