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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Everybody Hates Peter

I've been a big Spider-Man fan since I can remember. He and Superman have always been my favorites, although I lean to the Marvel side of comics so Spidey is numero uno. So imagine my shock and dismay when (SPOILER ALERT) I read that Spider-Man reveals his true identity as Peter Parker to the entire Marvel Universe in the recently released Civil War #2.

Peter's had a tough year. First there was a really shitty comic "event" called The Other which was basically three writers trying to write one writer's not-so-great idea for a story arc. I'll spare you the details, just know that all of the issues blew chunks and, after turning into a Man-Spider thing and eating a vampire's head, Spider-Man "died," then hatched anew from a cocoon, then fought a new enemy made of a swarm of little spiders who promptly and conveniently disappeared. Yeah, shitty.

After that humiliation, Spider-Man was saddled with his absolutely horrible new costume. That combined with The Other was basically Marvel saying "we can't come up with any more interesting Spider-Man stories to tell, so we want to give him a bunch of new gadgets and powers arbitrarily to help our hack writers out." And now Spider-Man, a character whose secret identity is more integral to who he is (well, was), than pretty much any other superhero out there, has gone public.

This is not Spider-Man's new costume. The new one's actually worse.

I just want to break down some basics about Spider-Man then and now. You'll have to trust me that I'm getting to a point.

THEN: Spider-Man was Peter Parker, a geeky teenager with a doting aunt he lived with in Queens, New York.
NOW: Spider-Man is still Peter Parker (we think--there's been some clone confusion in the past), only now he's late-20s and lives in Avengers Tower in Manhattan. Doting aunt is still around.

THEN: Peter Parker was an independent-minded teenager with money troubles, girl troubles, a sickly old aunt and, oh yeah, he had to save New York on a weekly basis.
NOW: Peter Parker is a practically non-existant Yes-Man to Tony Stark (Iron Man). He's married, the finances are never mentioned, Aunt May hasn't sneezed in years and I can't remember the last time Spider-Man actually saved a day.

THEN: Gwen Stacy died tragically, a beacon of virtue and girl-next-door sweetness. A character you could genuinely like and be sad that she died.
NOW: Turns out she boned the Green Goblin and had two of his kids in Europe before he dropped her off of a bridge. Classy, Marvel.

THEN: Virtually no one, not even Peter's dear Aunt May, knew he was Spider-Man.
NOW: Everyone knows who Spider-Man is, including his murderous rogue's gallery. Smart move.

THEN: Peter guarded his secret identity with his life because the one time it was really compromised, the woman he loved most in all the world got dropped off a bridge and DIED.
NOW: Screw that! His wife and aunt live in Avengers frickin' Tower. Come try it, Dr. Octopus! P.S. - Death means absolutlely bupkiss in comics these days.

I ask you, dear reader, which version of this character sounds more interesting? I've got to say that the red-and-blue Spidey of old gets my vote. But even more to the point, do these two even seem like the same character anymore? Hell to the no.

Marvel, if you want an Avenger with a public identity who kisses Iron Man's ass, has a bunch of powers and gadgets you want to make up on a whim, and who has zero personality or character outside of his costume, why not just make a new one up? You can do that, y'know. Give us back Peter Parker. Believe it or not, some people actually liked him and still have the imagination to think of some really great adventures.

There's an entirely different rant I could go on about why it sucks that comic book writers have seen fit to declare war on the secret identity, but I'll resist the temptation for now. All I'll say is that there are a couple of very good reasons for a secret identity, even outside the context of the story. First, it adds character-driven drama, which a well-written comic book needs desperately. Let's face it, comics are soap operas with people in tights now and then. Second, guys in costumes hitting each other aren't relatable and, after a while, get boring. A secret identity gives you two characters for the price of one--one to punch bad guys in the jaw for a few pages, and one for your reader to, y'know, actually care about and root for. With no secret identities we inevitably see way more of the costume than the person under it, which is just not good storytelling in my opinion.

So who knows how long we'll be saddled with this Spider-crap. The only good news is that comic book companies love to change things in order to piss people off, then change them back and pretend like they just did us all a favor. That means that, hopefully, all of these Spider-shenanigans will go the way of the Spider-Buggy and Ben Reilly.

Photographed by Jason and Peter Parker.


Deitri said...

What? No links?

jenni said...

I added some links. Happy, lady?

jenni said...

Oh P.S., I loved Ben Reilly's "flashdance--what a feeling!" outfit.

Also, I think Civil War is an interesting concept that just kinda falls apart if you think about it too much, which is to say, at all.

Finally, Steve forgot to mention that Aunt May and Mary Jane wore old Iron Man outfits to storm Dr. Doom's castle during The Other saga. That was frackin' sweet.

Deitri said...

I am happy, thanks for adding them. Long live the links! Nice pics too.