KETV, an Omaha, Nebraska TV station, recently aired a story about the mother of a 6-year-old boy who brought home a copy of a Spider-Man graphic novel from his elementary school in Millard Nebraska.  Physha Svendsen, the mother at the center of this dispute, contends that the book is not age appropriate for elementary school students and wants it removed from the school library. 


The book in question, which can be seen in the KETV report, but is not identified in the newscast, is J. Michael Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man Vol.2: Revelations, which was published in 2002 and rated “PG, Ages 12+” by Marvel.  During its report KETV showed panels featuring John Romita Jr.’s art depicting Mary Jane in a bikini and a short skirt (the graphic novel includes Amazing Spider-Man #39, the adventurous “silent” issue).


Donna Helvering, the school district’s head librarian, said that the school will form a committee to evaluate the complaint within 30 days and the committee will decide whether to keep the book on the school’s library shelves or not.  Ms. Helvering told KETV that books chosen for the district's school libraries undergo a rigorous selection process, but she also indicated that she welcomes complaints and parental input, since “we know that we’re not always perfect.” 


In this case Marvel’s own age rating indicates that the book is not intended for 6-year-olds and would be more appropriate in a junior high school or high school library.  This incident exemplifies the challenges faced by school librarians who have to deal with the difficulties (both internal and external) of providing age appropriate material to students of varying ages and maturity levels.  Marvel has produced Spider-Man comics targeting various age groups ranging from the all-ages Marvel Adventures Spider-Man to Marvel Knights Spiderman, which became Sensational Spider-Man with issue #23 and was designed for more mature readers, though it didn’t exactly feature the “adult” themes tackled in Marvel’s MAX imprint. To make things even more complicated for librarians who might want to cross-check comic book age ratings online, there is no single comic industry age-rating standard, and Marvel has changed its age-rating system since 2002 when Amazing Spider-Man Vol.2: Revelations was published.