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Saturday, May 4, 2002

By Andrea L. Buchanan ~ Southeast Missourian

Claiming to be a fan since birth, Neil Shockley was dressed for the opening day of the "Spider-Man" movie based on the popular comic book superhero.

Shockley caused a mild commotion when he arrived at a Cape Girardeau theater Friday clad in a Spider-Man mask and T-shirt and claiming to have similar powers to the superhero.

He explained that the only reason he traveled in a friend's car instead of swinging in on spiderwebs was due to the woeful lack of skyscrapers between his home in Mount Vernon, Ill., and Cape Girardeau.

Shockley's friend, Anthony Hughes, said he drove all the way from West Frankfort, Ill., to view the movie.

Ticket sales were brisk Friday at Town Plaza 5 with evening shows sold out.

Ken Murphy, owner of Marvels & Legends, a Cape Girardeau comic book store, joined the crowds in line at the ticket counter Friday.

Murphy planned the opening of his new store at 1027 Broadway to coincide with the opening of the film. The store closed promptly at 6 p.m. as Murphy and the majority of his customers headed in the direction of the theater.

Steve Higgins drove about three hours from Olney, Ill., to see the film and to attend the opening of his friend's new comic book store.

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University with a master's degree in English, Higgins is adapting his thesis into comic-book form.

Although mostly a D.C. Comics fan, Higgins said Friday his loyalty lay with Spider-Man, the flagship character of Marvel.

"It's his day," he said.

Brad Leimbach, a fan of Spider-Man comics, brought his two sons, Christian, 5, and Coley, 2, to the show. His wife, Beth, said she became a Spider-Man fan after Christian chose the superhero as his new idol.

"He made me into a fan," she said.

The creation of Marvel Comics writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, Spider-Man is a teen-age superhero whose personal woes outnumbered his cosmic battles.

Unlike the invincible Superman or the super-rich Batman of rival D.C. Comics, Marvel's Spiderman was a geek turned scrappy crime-fighter.

Murphy said the movie was "extremely true to the original 1963 storyline."

The film stars Tobey Maguire as the superhero and his alter ego, Peter Parker, in a plot that revisits the original story of the nerdy schoolboy who gains the power to climb on walls after being bitten by a peculiar spider.

Like the original story, Parker dismisses heroism and decides to use his new strength to make money as a pro wrestler. But when a robber that Parker had earlier decided not to chase kills someone he loves, the boy decides to become a crime-fighter.

Moviegoers at the 7 p.m. show, however were let down when a technical problem stopped the film about 40 minutes into the show.

Theater representatives issued raincheck tickets to about 200 people.

Sarah Pruden had purchased advanced tickets and arrived 45 minutes early for the show. Her 3-year-old son, Lance, donned a Spider-Man T-shirt and sported a temporary Spidey tattoo for the event.

"I'm disappointed, but he's taking it well," Pruden said. "I think it's going to be tough to get back this weekend," she said. "That's why I bought advance tickets.

John Fischer, manager at Town Plaza 5, said the movie is showing on three screens for a total of 13 shows a day this weekend, so seats should be available.

He suggested moviegoers arrive at least 30 minutes early.

Fischer said the last film to draw this much attention at his theater was "Monsters Inc."

Friday also marked the first day of ticket sales for the latest installment in the Star Wars saga "Attack of the Clones." About 10 people were waiting in line when tickets became available at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

abuchanan@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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