The Goggler Pull List #6: The Boys and Spider-Man: Life Story

Dept. of Comic Book Compulsions

In this week’s edition of The Goggler Pull List, we look at Garth Ennis’ The Boys and another Chip Zdarsky entry, Spider-Man: Life Story.

Here we go!

The Boys (Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson)

So you’ve seen Amazon’s incredible adaptation of The Boys, now why not try your hand Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s gleefully violent subversion of the superhero comic!

The Boys is a series that’s rooted in one basic concept: all superheroes are assholes. The individuals within these pages don’t behave like those selfless and altruistic characters we read about in comic books. Not at all. These are omnipresent and dominating forces that rape and pillage and loot and plunder. Why? Because they can. Because they get away with it. Because with great power comes great debauchery.⁣

The Boys

This is a series that asks what happens if the gods among us are also plagued by the very same, very human foibles that taint us lesser mortals. Who watches the watchers? Who are the heroes and who are the villains? Do the anti-heroes tasked with policing these false gods deserve our worship instead? This is melodrama at its best.

But don’t let the dirty jokes and juvenile humour fool you, because there is a tremendous amount of depth here. The reason this series works so well isn’t because of its shock value but because of how well Ennis writes his characters. This is a cast of living, breathing characters, all of whom have faces marked by experience and personalities coloured by heartbreak and horror. Characters that speak to the larger theme about the allure of power and the nature humanity.

By now, you’ve probably seen dozens of headlines proclaiming how The Boys is the perfect remedy to superhero fatigue. They are, for the most, superficial hot takes based on an incredibly shallow reading of the source material. Yes, this is a deeply satirical book that unashamedly rips apart all the sacred cows of the genre – with thinly veiled stand-ins for The Justice League, X-Men, and the Teen Titans, to name a few – but it does so by being deeply rooted in medium. The Boys is a study – albeit a skewed one – of the very same issues that are often explored in your average superhero comic. These are conversations about life, love, violence, war, homophobia, horror, psychosis, corporate greed, corruption, and the limits and excesses of power.⁣

This is a work that wouldn’t exist without a comprehensive understanding of what the superhero comic is and how it functions. What’s more, this is a work that cannot truly be enjoyed if you didn’t already love that which it parodies.

Spider-Man: Life Story (Chip Zdarsky, Mark Bagley)

With almost 60 years of story behind him, Spider-Man can be a daunting comic to try and jump into. From being bitten by a radioactive spider, to losing his uncle and first love, to getting married and divorced, cloned, taken over by an alien, killed, having a villain marry Aunt May, resurrected, and making a deal with the devil (it WAS Mephisto!), there is very little that the teenage Peter Parker has not been through.

And that was partly the problem. With Peter and, to be honest, all comic book characters. They remain in stasis, never truly aging and growing. 

But what if the story of Spider-Man was told in chronological order? That is exactly what Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley attempt to do, by telling the entire 60 year story of Spider-Man over the course of his lifetime and through the different real world events that he’s lived through.

With each issue covering a decade of his life, what Zdarsky and Bagley have done is to retell the entire 60 year story of Spider-Man in just 6 issues, giving the reader an introduction to the many different storylines of the character. There is an elegance to what the writers have done in tying in all the different characters and stories into one cohesive arc, that grows more complicated as Peter ages and as life gets more and more in the way. That struggle to achieve a balance between Spider-Man and Peter Parker has always been at the crux of the Spider-Man story and Life Story does it in a relatable way without getting too bogged down with all the different permutations.

Think of Spider-Man: Life Story as an abridged version of Spider-Man. Which is just perfect for the new comic reader of any age. The best part about this approach is that if any of the story lines in Life Story catch your fancy, then you have 60 years of comics to dive into.

We get our comics either from our local comic book store, The Last Comic Shop, or on Comixology. What do you think about Superman: Red & Blue or Y: The Last Man? Have you read them? Are you interested to check it out? Let us know by getting in touch with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Check out our previous installments of The Goggler Pull List here.

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