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Marvel Kills Spider-Man Again

amazing-spiderman-700-superior-spiderman

Issue #700 marks the final issue of Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker’s run as that character. For now.

Guardian (“Amazing Spider-Man signoff hands surprise ending to comic’s fans“):

To mark the end of the 50-year-old Amazing Spider-Man series, the mind behind the webbed red mask will change from underdog Peter Parker to one of his most vilified opponents.

The dying, aging super villain Dr Otto Octavius switched bodies with the young researcher a couple issues prior and in a surprise move, Peter Parker won’t make it out of the switch alive. That means Peter Parker is no more.

Amazing Spider-Man author Dan Slott said he has been building up to this moment since the return of Doc Ock in issue #600, where the villain would be facing the end of his life and facing his “super-villain bucket list”.

“The coolest thing we could do would be to switch brains with your enemy and let him die in your withered, diseased, dying, battered body,” Slott told the Guardian. “That would be awesome.”

The series is part of Marvel Entertainment’s Marvel Now! revamp, which saw authors of comics like the Avengers and X-Men switching books to create new stories about other heroes in the Marvel Universe.

Slott was able to stick with the Spider-Man series because he already has this “internal hostile takeover” in the works.

“Very much like Spider-Man and Doctor Octupus, I got my brain swapped and Spidey’s now being written by this really mean-spirited guy,” Slott said of himself.

The last couple years of Spider-Man comics have seen the usually down-on-his-luck Parker catching a long-awaited break. He had his dream job, his aunt was healthy and he had become an official Avenger.

“So many of the fans said finally, finally, Spider-Man is getting a break, I really gave him the salad days,” said Slott, before erupting into a comic-like cackle.

Spider-Man will be a much darker character, but the Doc Ock takeover doesn’t mean the making of a villainous Spider-Man.

“By the end of the issue Spider-Man, Peter Parker does have a small victory,” Slott said. “He is able to get across to Doc Ock, the lesson of with great power comes great responsibility. Doc Ock now has a second lease on life.”

With an understanding of the classic Spider-Man ethos, Ock will still grapple with his own classic egotism and arrogance.

“He thinks to himself: ‘If I put my mind to it, if I’m going to be a hero, well of course I’m going to be the greatest hero of all time,'” said Slott. “This is a very strange Spider-Man we’re going to be reading about.

“This is not a down-on-your-luck Peter Parker, this is Doc Ock doing his best for superheroism.”

Killing off major superheroes, a bold and novel idea when DC killed off Superman twenty years ago, is now a tired shtick. Hell, Marvel killed off the Ultimate version of Peter Parker just a couple years ago.

The thing is, readers now know that, sooner or later, their heroes will return. Superman was resurrected in less than a year.  Batman took thirteen months. Captain America more than two years. Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern, was dead for almost a decade before being revived. Even relatively minor characters, including Avengers Hawkeye and Mickingbird and X-Men Colossus and Jean Grey, have died and been resurrected.

Because some of these characters have been around seventy years of more, backstories get complicated and writers are constantly looking for a way to reboot. Killing off one version of the character and having someone else put on the suit is an easy plot device for injecting freshness into a series. Inevitably, though, readers want their old hero back.

Advances in technology that have finally made comic book superheroes translate well to the big screen are another driver. Marvel has just rebooted the Spider-Man movie franchise with a high-school-aged Peter Parker. It’s going to be odd to continue making movies with Peter Parker if all of the comic book Spider-Men are someone other than Peter Parker.

For that matter, I’m not convinced that Amazing Spider-Man #700 will be the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man. While comic companies have an incentive to produce #1s, which collectors scoop up eagerly, there’s also a lot of pressure from collectors to continue the run. It’s true that it’s almost impossible now to assemble a complete collection of some of the pioneering books, simply because the older issues are so rare and/or expensive, but there’s still a lure to being part of that tradition. Quite some time back, toward the tail end of my collecting days, Marvel decided to reboot all of their series with first issues. Then, a couple years later, they did it again. Eventually, they resumed the old number system–going back to 1962 in some cases–and simply pretended that the books published during the intervening years were part of that continuity.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    Clearly this somehow has to be Obama´s fault….

    ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  2. PJ says:

    While I don’t care about the comic, never bought an issue nor do I think I’ve ever read one, I don’t understand the need to spoil what’s happening in the title of the post.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Tillman says:

    It’s going to be odd to continue making movies with Peter Parker if all of the comic book Spider-Men are someone other than Peter Parker.

    Ehh, I don’t know on this one. Maybe with the younger folks, but I reckon most of the movie-viewing population aren’t getting into the comic books afterwards.

    And this isn’t anything new, what with the death/resurrection of Sherlock Holmes in the 19th century.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  4. @PJ: Marvel themselves has spoiled the story by letting it be known in the press as a PR stunt (I read about it last night on what was probably an AP story).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Herb says:

    @PJ: C’mon, PJ……The book’s author was spilling his guts to the Guardian and he didn’t conceal the secret plot twist. He discussed it openly.

    Conclusion: the secret plot twist is not a spoiler. It’s hype.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. Herb says:

    As for the story twist itself……my only comment is “Whatever keeps stale bread fresh, I guess.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Woody says:

    Comics are simply another media that is adapting to a capitalist digital world.

    I’m nearly 50, and when I was a suburban kid, superhero cartoons were somewhat rare – few shows/few channels. Non-cartoon superhero stuff was always disappointing (particularly when you were raised on Marvel’s stunning splash pages).

    I have young’uns now, and I can get many seasons of superhero cartoons on demand/on DVD/on the net whenever I want. Superhero movies can be tremendously well made. And the videogames have taken superhero stuff to the next level.

    Comic books have to compete with this like all traditional print media. They can either go into a new form of literature (the graphic novel), or they can continue to milk the cash cow (the superhero brands). Problem is, where does one go after death and resurrection?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. MBunge says:

    @Woody: “They can either go into a new form of literature (the graphic novel)”

    A format change is not going to fix anything and that’s what the graphic novel is. A format change, not a “new form of literature”.

    As for Spider-Man, it will be interesting to see if this simply follows the path of the other three big deals of the past decade. The “Gwen pity boinks Norman Osborn” storyline, the “Magic, bitches!” reboot and the move to thrice-monthly publication basically reduced the sales of the book by anywhere from a third to one-half.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. C. Clavin says:

    Clearly this is a result of Democrats not passing a budget for 3 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Peter says:

    What’s the most pointless job in the world?

    Condom vendor at a comic book convention.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Chris says:

    Doc Oc’s ego will create a “super” super hero. Parker will come back and will not be able to live up to the “super” super hero image Doc Oc has created, therebye creating a new personal crisis for Parker to deal with…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0