Your eyes are not deceiving you — the website has fallen through a time warp and landed in the year 2007!
Over the summer, I went through my directories of archived WordPress stuff. I have hundreds of themes downloaded, the vast majority of which I never, ever used. Sometimes there was something unique about them that I liked, sometimes I just liked downloading a theme to look at the code. Sometimes, I was just hoarding, and I really wish I had the code for WordPress’ official MLB themes but those were premium themes on WordPress.com.
Some I built from others’ code, like when I ported the popular Blogspot theme Rounders to work with WordPress. (The post shown in the screenshot is this one. The LEGO webcam tower does not look like that now.)
And then there were Sony’s official Spider-Man 3 themes for Blogspot, LiveJournal, and WordPress. I downloaded all of these I could find a few months after the film came out and filed them away. I have no idea if the Blogspot or LiveJournal themes worked — or still work now — but I fixed a few issues in the WordPress themes (like serving the images from Sony’s servers), and in June I threw one up on my website just for the kicks.
This is vintage web design, circa 2005! Fixed width tables! Poor color choices! Barely readable text! And, as Gandalf says of Samwise Gamgee, I was “possessed of a magnificent madness.” There’s a new Spider-Man film coming out this week. Rumor has it previous Spider-Men Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will appear — though Garfield has been so adamant in interviews that he is not that I suspect those rumors are mere wishful thinking on the part of fans. What if I tweaked the theme for 2021?
And tweaks it needed!
The theme was not built for images. (Rounders, even though it’s older, ironically was!) Either they stretch out the margins of the table or they blow out the right. (It depends on which editor was used to write the post.) The theme is barely aware of categories (a basic WordPress feature going back to the beginning) and completely unaware of tags (which I seem to recall were fairly new at the time). And, of course, it wasn’t responsive.
I settled on the theme I wanted to use as my base — Style 3 (out of 8) — and started to work.
I thought about forking it, but decided, no, it would be much cooler to run the original 2007 code with a child theme.
I did have to fix some errors I had introduced to the base them in 2007. I had, at the time, confused
stylesheet_url, so I corrected that. (I should do the same for the other seven Sony themes and correct that coding error.)
Then, for the child theme, I wanted to do the least possible damage. I wanted this Spider-Man theme to be as 2007 as possible with a couple of concessions for modern web design — media content, larger typography, responsiveness.
Then I set to work.
Perhaps this is why I had a strange dream about Adam West’s Christmas album, which is not a thing.
In any case, when I wasn’t writing the four hundredth issue of Diamond’s PREVIEWS or solving the Rubik’s Cube using the least efficient method known to man, I spent some time working on the CSS, making graphics to replace those of 2007, and making limited changes to the PHP templates. Of the PHP files, the sidebar required the most work. I wanted to add a tags list, I added a call to my Shire Reckoning plugin, and I coded an
if statement to hide the page list and monthly archives on single post pages. I had to create a functions.php file so that, while I’m using this Spider-Man theme WordPress will continue to save images in the sizes I use. I made a couple of page templates as well to link up with pages I use in my site. When I needed code, I went to the original Classic theme or some of Brian Gardner’s old designs like Vertigo.
The Chromium developer tools in Vivaldi got a workout, let me tell you.
I made a few concessions to WordPress’ Gutenberg editor — wide width and full width images will stretch beyond the margins of the content column to the borders. A mere 26 pixels on each side! But it’s a concession nonetheless.
I also made the typograhy bigger. Small fonts were a thing in the mid-aughts — I deal with this every day, as Diamond’s retailer website still uses 8pt Tahoma like it’s 2005 — which made it a little more readable. I didn’t want to touch the link color (red), though, or the black background, because that’s just how things were.
I went back and forth on replacing the header graphic. It’s clearly Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man suit — of course it is, since the theme was made to promote Spider-Man 3 — but I couldn’t find any artwork that was better.
The final step was to write responsive CSS code, which was a matter of putting a
display: none on the sidebar table cell, adjusting the widths for the appropriate display, and resizing the header graphic.
This will win no awards, but it has that 2007 aesthetic.
I’ll keep this up for a week or so, until after Spider-Man: No Way Home comes out. Considering how minimal the changes are, I will probably go ahead and fork the theme, merging my child theme changes with the original Sony theme, when I retire it to make something standalone. Oh, I will never use this again, but having a complete package will be nice. If a bit pointless.
Like I said on Twitter, sometimes you do stuff for the sole reason of amusing yourself. It doesn’t have to be important. It doesn’t have to be impressive. I only has to bring yourself some joy and that’s enough.
Go, web, go!
Something to remember when we’re talking about Spider-Man — there’s more important things happening in the world than a super-hero film. We’re less than a year removed from a coup attempt in the United States, the evidence for what happened and who was involved grows daily, and the threat to American democracy grows unchecked.