Thursday, June 14, 2012


Mary Jane: Who are you?
Spider Man: You know who I am.
Mary Jane: I do?
Spider Man: Your friendly neighborhood Spider Man.

Send in the clones
The title to this is actually misleading. I really like the character of Spider-Man. And for a long time I read and enjoyed the comics. The problem is what Marvel Comics has done to Spider-Man was ghastly and destroyed the character, not just for me, but for thousands of fans.

The original Spider-Man concept was brilliant. He was a geeky, gawky teenager that everyone picked on who got incredible powers, but was weird enough that people never really liked him all that much either. J. Jonah Jameson, editor of the Daily Bugle spent every waking moment trying to portray Spider-Man in a bad light. The general mood was that he was a bad guy, and the cops tried to catch him quite often. Yet despite it all, he was fun and interesting and heroic, and he rarely let it get him down.

The concept worked, for a long time. Then writers got bored, or sales dipped a bit and the editors demanded exciting story lines to boost sales, or someone went insane.

The first really crazy bit was the Clone storyline. In an earlier issue of Spider-Man, a bad guy named the Jackal managed to somehow clone a copy of Spidey, but the clone apparently died. Years later, writers tried to make Spider-man grittier and more exciting by having him become increasingly violent and unstable until he simply called himself "The Spider," never took off his costume, and drove away his wife and aunt.

Terry Kavanagh saw an opportunity here, and wrote a story line which proposed that the present Spider-Man was actually the clone all along, who didn't die. He just thought he was Spidey, and for years carried out the role, but was degrading mentally and psychologically. The real Spider-Man, now calling himself Ben Reilly, decided he had to step in and wore a costume very similar to the original one Peter Parker had created to fight in the wrestling match. The two spider-men fought and eventually medical testing showed who was the clone and who was real. I'm massively simplifying the story, which was much more complicated and had many extraneous side issues and characters which made matters even worse.

The entire series was apparently driven by several dead ends that continuity had gotten the series into, mainly that a college graduated Peter Parker with a stunning wife and child had removed almost every single challenge and problem that the original character concept had made so interesting. So by doing this they could erase that entire storyline and reintroduce the older version of Spider-Man without all that baggage. But fans hated it. They hated the very concept, they hated having Peter Parker all these years being a fake and a jerk to boot, and they hated having someone take over Spider-Man.

So then it was revealed that the original Norman Osborne, who'd been dead more than a decade, had been behind it all manipulating everyone and Peter Parker really was the original and the Ben Reilly clone died, decaying like the clones did way back in the 1970s story.

But the same problem remained for the writers: a baby? Married to a super hot model? No school problems? Where's Spider-Man in all this, again? To make matters worse, in the woeful "Civil War" storyline had Spider-Man whipping his mask off and revealing his secret identity to the world on live national television.

So they had another brainstorm. I'll let the writer at TV Tropes describe this one:
Spider-Man made a deal with Mephisto. You, know, big demon guy? Makes deals with people and then screws them over? The deal in question? He wiped his and his wife's minds, aborting their unborn baby in the process, just so his aunt who, even in terms of comic book aging is older than the Bill of Rights, can recover from a gunshot wound to live for a couple more years before finally kicking the bucket. And to add insult to injury, she only got shot in the first place because Spidey revealed his Secret Identity to the public, making the exact scenario he has been harping about for bloody years as to why he specifically shouldn't take off his mask.

In other words, Aunt May was shot because of Peter's mistake and he was unwilling to take responsibility for his actions. And we were meant to think this act is heroic somehow. The Moral Dissonance? Spider-man not taking responsibility for her death goes completely against the saying "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility."(read: THE MOST DEFINING PART OF HIS ENTIRE CHARACTER) Yes, before you ask, Joe Quesada is a moron.
You read that right. Spider-Man made a deal with Marvel's version of Satan to remove all those annoying story elements and continuity such as a marriage, a child, his public identity, and so on. Now he's suddenly back in high school, he isn't married, nobody knows his identity, and he's a geeky kid being picked on again.

Which would be good, if it hadn't been done in such an idiotic, bizarre, and character-violating manner. I like Spider-Man, the character. But what Marvel Comics has done to him over the years is akin to letting an army of monkeys write the stories and then use the scripts for toilet paper. I don't even care what they do with Spidey any more.


Eric said...

I "came into" Spider Man during the mid 80's, when the Hobgoblin, Black Cat, and Kingpin were the major story lines. I was a consistent and avid reader of all the Spider Man titles during that time. I started tuning out a few years after the Secret Wars, about the time when Peter & MJ got married, right as the Venom story was ramping up...

I think I picked the right time to jump ship.

Christopher R Taylor said...

Yeah I didn't even get into the venom story line, I couldn't stand it, but at least it was better than this horrid crap.

Anonymous said...

In fairness, Peter's not back in high school. Otherwise, dead on and this is still the stupidest thing since they decided to make Iron Man a teenager. (Terry Kavanagh again. Maybe people should stop hiring that dude...)