The recently christened Mayor of New York City, Wilson Fisk, is obviously a thinly veiled analog for the man currently calling the White House his home. Just as this era of American communication has become defined by “fake news,” a phrase thrown around so rapidly and furiously that it’s almost lost its meaning, the same appears to be happening to the “normal” residents of the Marvel Universe.
Such things happen when an egomaniac is calling the shots in the most important city on the planet. So often, the tales across Marvel’s publishing line are of an otherworldly quality, dealing with issues that could not be further from what an actual human being deals with. Maybe the themes of those stories are universal: isolation, grief, anger, the endless struggle of good against evil. The thematic elements writer Mat Johnson coveys in Amazing Spider-Man: Daily Bugle, however, are concrete.
A simple scroll through a Twitter timeline can easily be filled with news of the buying and selling of classic pillars of journalism between hedge funds that are indiscernible from one another. Veteran reporters are laid off at a moment’s notice due to continuous budget cuts while begging their followers for leads on new gigs, all in the name of being able to separate fact from fiction for the good of the public.
Ben Urich and “Robbie” Robertson are representative of this old-school journalist archetype, the writer whose career path was etched in stone after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate-era reporting. These are men who feel increasingly obsolete in an age of page clicks, pivoting to video, pop-up ads and social media beef. As Johnson illustrates through Chole, Robbie’s niece, however, there is still hope for the power of the press with a younger generation of writers fed up with the status quo set by their elders even though throwback journalists in the Urich mold can’t see it.
Though Peter Parker himself takes a backseat in this issue to Urich and the Roberston family, Johnon’s storytelling is a reminder of what made Spider-Man so compelling and revolutionary upon his debut: he felt like a fully realized person dealing with real world problems that readers could instantly empathize with. Even in a comic book landscape that has an innumerable amount of spider-related books, there are always more characters out there who deserve a chance to shine. Johnson has found a cast of journalists to spotlight in a time in American history where good reporting has never been more essential.
Just as copy editors are frequently the unsung heroes of news publications, staying out of the limelight as writers with tens of thousands of online followers reap the publicity that comes with pristine reporting, the same could be said for artists in the comic book industry. An important piece of news is a collaborative effort that goes beyond the main byline. This is true as well in Amazing Spider-Man: Daily Bugle.
With a whole host of artists on this debut issue that include Mack Chater, Franceso Mobili, Scott Hanna, Dono Sánchez-Almara and Protobunker, this team provides the backdrop that allows Johnson to spin his webs and create a comic that is as pertinent to today’s society as anything the Big Two publishers are putting on the shelves.