This news gave me goosebumps. (Sorry. I had to.) Noted children’s Horror author R. L. Stine has announced that he will be writing a new MAN-THING series for Marvel, set to debut in March. To quote Mr. Stine: “I’m going to do a lot of action and a lot of great violence and make it creepy, but I’m going to make it funny at the same time. It’s what I try to do in my books.” Sounds like a recipe for some great comics to me!

I’ve loved Man-Thing since I was a wee tyke. It was a natural fit. I loved old monster movies, and I learned how to read from comic books (true story), and here was a monster starring in his own comic series! Yes, as an adult I can appreciate that Manny has always been a tough sell; it’s hard to keep readers engrossed with a character that has no personality and never speaks, but if anybody call pull it off Stine can. He’s so groovy, there was once a crusade to have all his books removed from Walmarts across the land because they were spreading satanic propaganda. (This was back in the days when people were really, really stupid. They’re not any smarter nowadays, but we have snopes.) And Stine is making one big change to the character to fix that problem I just mentioned. This new version of Man-Thing can TALK.

There are a bunch of high school kids in New York who spent three days in the presence of Spider-Man, and they never even knew it. Spidey even tipped off one kid, revealing his secret identity, but the kid didn’t believe him. How close were the experiences of actor Tom Holland to those of Peter Parker? One hopes Tom wasn’t bullied and that there was no equivalent of Flash Thompson running around. The whole secret identity thing, though, that was the same.

Holland, who played the new Marvel Studios version of Spider-Man in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and who gets to headline in the perfectly named SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING in June of 2017, spent three days undercover as a high school student to research his role. How cool is that? “…I was enrolled in a high school in New York, in the Bronx, as a secret,” says Holland. “No one knew who I was or what I was doing. I had a fake name and a fake accent.” Just imagine all those poor high school girls, who missed their chance to mack on Spider-Man. Think they’re liable to be kicking themselves right about now? What I wonder is, were the teachers and the principal in on it? How exactly does one go about enrolling in high school undercover, anyway? In 21 JUMP STREET (the show, not the godawful movie) the police department always set things up for them. Did Stan Lee make a few phone calls? Or maybe Tony Stark set the whole thing up?

It’s a challenge, no doubt, but there’s no doubt that Marvel is up to it. The challenge is how to update Spider-Man after—how many movies has it been, now? Five? And two of those five REALLY sucked. Fortunately Marvel is golden right now. I suppose it’s inevitable that Marvel Studios will make a bad picture at some point, but right now they sure got the juju, and I entertain no uncertainties that their version of Spider-Man will be the best yet, and the most accurate to the character’s origins and depictions in the comics. Those folks at Marvel Studios know what they’re doing.

As far as faithfulness to the comics, we can say one thing for certain already: this rendition of Spider-Man will be the most accurate ARTISTICALLY. They’re basing the design for his costume on the original artwork of Steve Ditko, back in 1963 when he and Stan “The Man” Lee first introduced Spidey to the world. What’s different about that, you ask? Aren’t all Spider-Man’s costumes the same? Nope! This one is gonna have the traditional UNDERARM WEBBING! As in, web wings! As a longtime reader who always enjoyed the “webbings” part of Spidey’s costume, I am stoked to see them as part of the Wallcrawler’s onscreen get-up. What, you’re not?

Somebody with a hand on the gravy tap must have rapped author Bret Easton Ellis (most famous as the writer of AMERICAN PSYCHO) on the knuckles. First Ellis starts a rumor that Warner Brothers has lost all faith in the upcoming film THE BATMAN, which is set to star, be written by and be directed by Ben Affleck, and are in fact actively trying to sabotage the project. (One has to wonder why they, or anyone, would choose to cost themselves money. It seems a tad implausible.) Then he immediately turns around and announces that nope, he didn’t know anything after all, that he was misquoted (maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t; you never know with interviewers), that it was all just a rumor and probably untrue to begin with. I’ll go one further and say that it IS untrue. How can we know this? Because it doesn’t make sense. If you had a dueling set of studio bigwigs, and each one was trying to cut the legs out from beneath the other one, then it’s possible that yes, you might end up with a situation like what happened to JOHN CARTER over at Disney, a decent film offered up as a sacrifice to petty business bickering. But there’s no evidence this is going on at Warner Brothers.

In the future, Bret, try to remember the sage advice offered by the Timex Social Club: “How do rumors get started? They’re started by the jealous people. They get mad seeing something they had and somebody else is holding…Stop (Stop) spreadin’ those rumors around! Stop (Stop) spreadin’ lies!”

If it was any other character, I’d think it was a stupid idea. If it was any other writer than Brian Michael Bendis, I’d dismiss the whole thing as a tacky publicity stunt. Doctor Doom replaces Tony Stark as Iron Man. It’s ridiculous. As ridiculous as having Doctor Octopus replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man. As far as the latter goes, though, by now we all know that SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, despite all the grousing we did when we heard about it, actually worked. Likewise, if we’re going by the first issue of THE INFAMOUS IRON MAN, that idea is going to work, too.

We don’t even know, thanks to Marvel’s screwy scheduling, WHY Tony Stark is no longer wearing his armor, but that really isn’t necessary to enjoy INFAMOUS, as it is Doctor Doom’s story. Doom is my favorite Marvel villain, although I have argued in the past that he doesn’t truly deserve to be labeled as such. Megalomaniacal? Sure. But he isn’t EVIL. I don’t doubt for a second that he has ulterior motives for playing the part of the hero now; hell, I’d be disappointed if he didn’t. But it’s a kick watching him try to be good. I expect it’ll be even more fun as he discovers that he’s actually GOOD at it.

It’s funny how the event that serves as the low-water mark for the comics industry (not counting the flotsam that was produced during the “glory days” of Image), or if not the entire industry then at least for Marvel as a company—I’m speaking of the Clone fiasco of the 90s, although you probably could’ve guessed that—has not only been embraced by creators today but is being successfully revisited. You might thing Marvel would want people to forget that it ever happened; you might expect Marvel itself would like to forget that it ever happened. Yet we have seen Kaine the Clone brought back as the Scarlet Spider, and even given his own series, which wasn’t half bad, in all honesty. Now we are seeing another major clone storyline, courtesy of Spider-Man writer Dan Slott. Perhaps most surprising of all, the new storyline is actually good.

For newbie fans who weren’t around for the original clone trainwreck, they brought back a clone of Peter Parker from way back in the history of the series, then tried to convince everybody that the clone was the original Spider-Man, the REAL one, while the Spider-Man whose adventures we’d all been following for decades was in reality the clone. It was a classic fake-out that got way out of hand and transformed Spider-Man into a bad SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit. Let’s hope that Slott can avoid having that happen again. Thus far he’s doing fine.

When I first heard that Benedict Cumberbatch had been cast as the Sorcerer Supreme for the mega-budget Marvel film, I said that he was the perfect choice, and I was right. I’m now convinced there isn’t anything the guy can’t do, and he delivers a downright Oscar-worthy performance as the arrogant surgeon turned selfless magic-wielder. DOCTOR STRANGE is the thinking man’s superhero movie, or the film snob’s, but that doesn’t mean it is any less enjoyable in any way for the casual fan. It just means it’s good enough, its quality is high enough, that one need not feel inferior when comparing it to any highbrow cinematic effort. Acting, pace, storyline—it’s perfect.

Oh, and those effects! Mind-bending, trippy, like watching an M.C. Escher painting come to life. This one will require successive viewings just to catch everything; on video, if you wanted to guarantee you miss NOTHING that is there. You’d need to go frame by frame, freezing the image, and study each shot in-depth, like the complex work of art that it is. Don’t wait for the video release, though. This one needs to be experienced on the big screen. Preferably on IMAX. In 3-D. If you’re on the fence, consider this the not-so-gentle nudge needed to get you to the theater. Do not miss DOCTOR STRANGE. You will be the poorer for it.

If the PC police are the nice ones, the ones who waste much sound and fury lamenting all the imagined wrongs in the media world (usually while ignoring the real ones), then the nasty ones can be called PC vigilantes, or maybe a PC lynch mob. They’re all losers, but the latter are the most annoying if not the most dangerous. Writer Chelsea Cain has deleted her twitter account after being attacked by trolls. You may remember that Joss Whedon also deleted his account after AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and the pile-on he received from PC vigilantes who felt he wasn’t feminist enough. Cain seems to have been targeted not by wannabe PC wankers, though, but by plain old garden-variety trolls, who are picking on her because she IS feminist.

I have a helpful suggestion for folks like Cain and Whedon. It’s a handy little two-word phrase, useful for dealing with both PC vigilantes and trolls in general. The first word is the vulgarity “fuck,” and it should be followed immediately by the word “you.” An exclamation point may be added for emphasis, but this is rarely necessary, as the term, when used correctly, seldom needs clarification. For simplicity’s sake, one can simply copy and paste the term, to use it over and over again. It is a one-size-fits-all reply to any online hater. I’ve found it works splendidly. Oh, and in those instances where some cowardly troll makes a physical threat, erroneously believing the Internet grants them anonymity and carte blanche? Just report the threats to the police. I had a guy threaten me not too long ago because I wrote something disparaging about Donald Trump. I replied back to him, informing him that the authorities had been notified and an official complaint had been made. He seemed surprised that I had actually taken that step, and didn’t seem to realize that online threats ARE admissible as evidence in a court of law. In most cases, if the threat were to be followed through on, they are tantamount to a confession. Trolls, and end even self-righteous PC vigilantes, don’t much cotton to the idea that they could actually be prosecuted for something they posted online.

See, here’s the problem with being PC. There is no cut-off point. If you start making concessions, you just have to keep right on making them. Because there’s alaways going to be SOMEBODY who is offended over SOMEthing. Always. It’s as certain in our modern world as death, taxes, and shipping-and-handling charges. Give the devil an inch, as the old saying goes, and he’ll take a mile. The “devil” in this case is censorship—which is really what Political Correctness amounts to. It’s about censoring things so somebody somewhere doesn’t get offended. Anyone who thinks being PC is simply about being respectful and polite fails to grasp the results when such a philosophy is taken to its extremes—and philosophies and movements are ALWAYS taken to extremes by SOMEbody. Again, death, taxes, and shipping. It’s inevitable.

I would tend to agree with Marvel on this one, though. They pulled a J. Scott Campbell cover featuring the Big M’s latest in a series of token characters, RiRi Williams. Not just because it is “sexualizing” the character, as was the case with complaints about that Spider-Woman cover a couple’a years back. In this case, since the token, I mean “character,” in question is supposed to be underage, then I agree that it isn’t a good idea to draw her in too sexy a manner. Not that I find the cover image particularly sexy, but it’s better to err on the side of caution where sex and underage girls are concerned.

Or “Meow-Meow.” Depends on who you ask. Either way, the joke is that Kat Denning’s character in the Thor movies, Darcy, can’t pronounce the name of Thor’s enchanted Uru Hammer, Mjolnir. Thanks to the films, all of which have been hits for Marvel Studios, aka Disney, all the rest of us know how to pronounce it, though. That could’ve come in handy to me when I was a little kid reading the comics and trying to pronounce it with the J sounding like a J and not a Y. “Mih-Jol-ner” is how I thought it sounded. I didn’t know the Vikings pronounced the J like a Y and the final three letters more like “near.” (To be technically correct, I should say it is pronounced like “nyr.”)

After decades of use and having its name mispronounced, Marvel writer Jason Aaron has revealed that Mjolnir has its own personality. Like, it can talk. One wonders why it never has, but then maybe it’s just never had a reason. Like Thor, perhaps it is the strong silent type. Except Thor tends to be braggadocios when he gets in his cups. Mjolnir, then, we can assume, does not drink. A logical conclusion, wouldn’t you say?