COMICS EDITORIAL: The Absence of Peter Parker
The news is out. Peter's out, someone else is in! The comic community is up in arms! The general public has next to no idea what's happened! This editorial contains spoilers, but read on to find someone ready for change.
When it comes to Dan Slott, I can say I know next to nothing about him. I read Lee Spider-Man and McFarlane Spider-Man the most, but I never latched onto Slott's. That's not to say anything about the writer himself, because as I understand it, he's hit some major highlights and had plenty of ho-hum issues with his The Amazing Spider-Man run, and apparently a few that were just downright bad. But I was out of Spider-Man before he got his start, so as far as actual writing goes, I can't stand on the curb and praise or condemn him with a bullhorn.
However, Slott's new direction has my full attention. The way I see it is that Spider-Man can finally join the legion of superheroes that have a very special place in the heart of comic books. Peter Parker passed his initiation to A) die and B) pass on the mantle. He might be the first to do both at the hands of the same person. And that's big.
I have a defense when it comes to comic books. When I talk to people who find it laughable, it's easy to point to superstar films and say, "Well, considering how three of them have made over a billion dollars at the box office..." but I never slip into that. Normally, I like to tell them that these are long withstanding characters who've lasted up to sixty or seventy years to the public. And their stories are still continuing. Logically, it makes more sense for me to keep reading comic books than it does for a Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter fan to just reread the books or rewatch the films. Because my select of stories is not complete. There's more to say, more to learn, and that's literature at it's finest.
Not to mention that comic books pretty much combine almost every artistic medium there is. It's set up into storyboard frames and "shot" just like film. The writing is often incredibly expositional and full of flavor, just like live theatre. These are characters of choreography when they go toe-to-toe, so it's not as if an art of dance is entirely absent. And, of course, you have your art to tell the rest of the story. So, long withstanding stories that apply every artistic medium? I'm in. And it doesn't embarrass me. But to get back to the point, Slott's new direction is exactly the shakeup we need as a comic book community of readers.
Look, I get it. No one wants to invest their time and money on a cold shoulder, and at first glance, that's exactly what seems to happen in ASM 700. It feels like a shirk away from a character that's been one of comics' staples since his debut. The loss of Peter Parker and the transformation of Doc Ock into Spider-Man, when looked at surfacely, is by all means an abomination of a tale.
But only if Peter Parker makes a triumphant return sooner rather than later.
You read that right. This story only works if Peter's gone, if not for good, for a very long time. I don't want Parker out of it just to return and spend fifty issues reclaiming his life. Attempting to remedy all the lost time with his friends and family. And then go back to normal? No. That is something that would anger me as a reader. Because this story is too big to be an arc. It's already committed its biggest taboo in the switch, it just unfairly has a negative connotation because it seems as if people aren't thinking straight. This isn't an arc, and it can't afford to be. This has to be a debut to a milestone. And if that's the case, you should be excited. Because this is Spider-Man completely fulfilled.
This is that radioactive spider biting somebody else. But this is that spider biting somebody else and taking Peter Parker home. This is foil writing at its finest. This is not the Joker becoming Batman. This is not Lex Luthor becoming Superman. This is not just anyone stepping into the Iron Man suit. This is exactly the kind of thing a superhero, deep down, could be most proud of. Peter didn't want to die. But dying to pass on the mantle to a reformed villain? It's a scary thought, but at its essence, that's what makes it such a beautiful thing. That's really what defines Peter's place in the world. In history. If with great power comes great responsibility, then isn't this very moment where that rings most true? That's poetry, guys. That's your worst becoming your best. That's great power succumbing to responsibility.
It's hard to let Peter Parker go. But it does remind me of one of my favorite films. In 2006's Stranger Than Fiction, you find an author who has penned a story about a man who becomes aware of his imminent demise after hearing someone narrate his life. The author, upon hearing that her fictional character is actually someone real becomes torn on how she plans to finish her book. The author, Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) finally breaks down and shouts, "Because it's a book about a man who doesn't know he's about to die. And then dies. But if a man does know he's about to die and dies anyway. Dies... willingly, knowing that he could stop it, then- I mean, isn't that the type of man who you want to keep alive?" And at first glance, it feels like a quote that we might say for Peter Parker. If Peter is a superhero, knowing he could die at any time, and he constantly risks his life in order for someone else to be saved...isn't he the type of man you would want to keep alive?
But it isn't us who has control of Peter Parker's life. It's not us saying that quote about Peter at all. It's Peter living it to Doc Ock. It's Ock reborn and remade. Ock's chance to be a defined, true hero. The kind of man you want to stay alive.
And maybe, just maybe, it's Peter's turn to rest.
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