For most of their history, superhero stories were simple and straightforward. A damsel in distress gets kidnapped? Batman tracks her down. A school bus filled with kids is rocking on the edge of a huge cliff? Superman flies in to save them.
In recent years, however, that’s changed. Having finally exhausted the traditional mode of storytelling, Marvel Studios decided to shake things up a bit. What started with the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie and came to full fruition in last year’s Endgame was the evolution of your average superhero film from dark and gritty to lighthearted, fun and even slightly self-aware.
Given the success that Marvel’s strategy led to, it was only a matter of time before other superhero storytellers, including comics, began following suit. And one of them is the beloved Spider-Ham comic strip.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the source material, Spider-Ham is like Spider-Man, but a walking, talking pig. Though the character is mostly known for his appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (in which he was voiced by comedian John Mulaney), his comics are equally delightful and in the fifth issue of the series, Ham confronts a trans-dimensional villain who showcases a new device that would allow him to, in his own words, use Spider-Man to “explore complex, mature themes like violence and mental illness.”
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The remark is an obvious jab at Todd Phillips’ Joker, which received widespread acclaim for its original take on the supervillain at the Academy Awards, but widespread criticism among the movie-going public. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, mental illness plays an important part in the story. But while Phillips tried to use it to give his Joker some depth, many critics have called his attempt misinformed and disingenuous.
Still, the pic was a pretty big success for Warner Bros. and DC and all signs point to Phillips getting to continue his story with a sequel at some point in the future.