I don’t follow the mainstream Spider-man right now for several reasons which started a few years ago. But I have hope one of my favorite superheroes will finally get a creative team that gets the character and can write some good stories without the burden of stupid, misguided editorial mandates. To that end I occasionally check up on the interwebs to find out if the story is going a direction I might be interested in following full-time and perhaps purchasing. And currently I just want to cry.
I’ve ranted on Peter Parker before both on why he’s a hero and why he’s a loser. The fact that he is both I think is the source of his appeal. He’s a guy who can’t get anything right and just keeps trying over and over and over and over… He’s also screwed over by the creative team on a regular basis who can’t let their little Peter Pan-Parker grow up (although there have been several valiant attempts). Currently Peter Parker is dead and Doctor Octopus is inhabiting his body and is dedicated to being a “Superior Spider-man.” I even ranted that of course Doc Ock would be a superior Spider-man because part of Peter’s appeal is that sometimes he still really screws up.
But I should clarify that statement. Doc Ock technically makes a better superhero. He has been more systematic about understanding and fully utilizing Peter’s powers than Pete ever did (for crying out loud, Peter never bothered to learn any kind of formal fighting training, which he was scolded for by Captain America [that was in the Civil War run but I really thought Cap had a point there; it is dangerous for someone with super-strength to have no formal training on how to control that strength]). Doc Ock also built a lot of new gadgets to be a better Spider-man, including armor and mechanical legs because he’s still Doc Ock. Frankly, the Superior Spider-man is seriously overpowered from the Peter Parker model.
That said, Doc Ock still has the morals of a supervillain. Oh, the idea is he suffered the same crisis of conscience as Peter did when he took over his body but the expression of the resolution of that crisis is still distinctly villainous. He’s running the Raft (a villain prison) and has personally executed three prisoners and one with only the permission of the mayor. Hey, Marvel, mayors cannot order executions. In fact, I’m pretty sure no civilian can be summarily executed. The death penalty has to be decided in the courts. Even a prisoner sentenced to death can’t just be executed at any time. The chomper logic makes my head hurt. Do the damn research writers! Superior Spider-man has also turned into Big Brother by flooding the city with spider-tracer nano-bots that transmit information to his brand new heads up display, which is in no way like the moral dilemma facing Batman in The Dark Knight. This is completely different. Totally different. In no way a Batman rip-off… And I won’t even get into the fact that his personality has completely changed and the only people who seem to have noticed are Carlie (why is she still here; no one likes her except her daddy Joe Quesada…wait, I answered my own question) and @#$%ing Norman Osborn! I can only assume Aunt May has at last gone senile considering she’s 134 years old or something, but that doesn’t excuse anyone else in Peter’s life for not noticing the change. That sound you hear is my hand smacking into my forehead.
Hey, speaking of Batman, remember that time when Bane broke his back and Bruce Wayne couldn’t be Batman any more? And a crazy guy called Azrael decided he should step up and take over the role of Batman because Dick Grayson was not available for some reason or another? And remember how totally dark and edgy Bat-Azrael was because he’d totally kill criminals (okay, that may not be technically true but that’s the route he was going down and he did let criminals die)? And how Bat-Azrael built a totally sweet battle suit for himself to be a more effective crimefighter than Bruce Wayne? And how he made more and more gadgets to prove he was a better Batman than Bruce Wayne? So here we are, 20 years later, with another tired re-tread of the Dark Ages of Comics. This rip-off is so blatant and unnecessary I have no words to express my dismay. That sound you hear is my forehead smashing into my desk.
I am not amused by both DC and Marvel’s crush on Batman. Batman sells and I get that but Marvel has basically decided to turn the flagship character of the franchise into a psycho-killer because it’s so dark and edgy and never been done before as I just explained above. Just like Bat-Azrael was eventually defeated and Bruce Wayne was returned to the cowl, (hopefully) Superior Spider-man will be defeated by Peter Parker (yeah, I know he’s dead; so what?). My theory as to why Bat-Azrael didn’t stay Batman is because despite the darker and edgier trend of the early ’90s, it turned out fans didn’t like the idea of Batman killing criminals and didn’t like the idea of some delusional psychopath as Batman. Weird, right? So eventually fan outrage was great enough and sales were poor enough that DC figured they’d better give Bruce Wayne the bat-mantle back. Or, if I’m feeling generous, the idea was never to keep Bat-Azrael as Batman at all but to showcase how much of a hero Bruce Wayne really is. Perhaps it was meant to be a way to silence all the annoying people who kept saying, “Batman doesn’t kill people and that’s lame,” by showing them why Batman doesn’t kill people and why that’s not lame. (Truthfully, I think it was always meant to be a limited run since I think sales were pretty good; however, that means even in the Dark Ages, the creative team of the time understood the core of the character was NOT killing).
And so I predict the same thing will happen here. At least I hope so (although I’m leaning more towards fan outrage and poor sales being the driver to end this rather than some long-term plan to reinstate Peter Parker but I could be wrong). The people in charge of both companies have made such astoundingly bad decisions in the past few years I am surprised they haven’t combusted from the sheer amount of white-hot fan hatred directed at them (or at least lost their jobs). The inmates are still running the asylum after all. Narratively, the moral of the story is as subtle as getting hit in the face with Thor’s hammer. Doc Ock is, technically, the Superior Spider-man, but it’s the heart of Peter Parker that truly makes him the better superhero. Ugh.
Here’s why I want Peter Parker back – in my superhero fantasies, I want to be Superman or Captain America or Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel (pre ret-boot for the DC characters of course). But I know that I couldn’t be any of them. I’m just not made of that kind of stuff. If I were a superhero, I’d be Spider-man. I’d try my hardest and I would make mistakes and I would constantly worry if I was doing the right thing after all. Peter Parker is most like me; he’s a regular person trying to find his way in the world. I like having the aspirational icons I listed above as heroes, but they just aren’t me, and I can never be them. But Peter Parker, even though he has extraordinary powers, is someone like me.
So for all the grief I give Peter Parker for being an irresponsible loser, I want him back. I’m so tired of dark anti-heroes I could just scream. Please, give me back the bad puns, the witty one-liners, even the constant worrying about paying the bills and the whining about always disappointing people. Give me back the guy who tries so hard to do the right thing because he doesn’t know any other way to do things. Give me back the guy who tries and fails and picks himself up (after a bout of self-pity) and tries again. Give me back my Spider-man.