Marvel, stop killing Peter Parker!

If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read any further. Because I am going all out on Amazing Spider-Man 700.

amazing_spider_man_700_variant
Amazing Spider-Man #700 variant cover by Joe Quasada.

Still here? Cool, let’s get started.

I have known Peter Parker ever since I was seven years old. I think Spider-Man is Stan Lee’s greatest creation; everything about Peter Parker was spot on from the beginning. I love the guy; Spidey is my favourite comic book character of all time. Period. When I was young, Pete was the guy to look up to, because, no matter how hard things got, he would always do the right thing, he would always try his best and he would never give up. And, most of the time he would succeed.

Later on, Peter Parker became like a good friend I liked keeping taps on, see how he was doing. How his lovely wife Mary Jane was doing, and Aunt May and all the other regulars on the series. I’ve enjoyed a lot of great comics made by some of the greatest writers and artists in the American Comic Book industry, like Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Gerry Conway, Michael Straczynski, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr., Ron Frenz, and so on. But since the early ninety nineties Marvel seems to have lost some of its magic. The company doesn’t seem to know how to handle Spider-Man. They’ve been tinkering with the formula ever since, with mixed results at best. And somehow, they seem to try to get rid of Peter Parker while wanting to keep Spider-Man as a character. As if those two could ever be separated. We all know the best Spider-Man stories are about Peter and not the Webhead’s exploits.

And with Marvel Now! the company is starting a new series called Superior Spider-Man, without Peter Parker. Once again Marvel tries to kill its flagship character.

Another death in the family
In the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man Peter Parker dies. Well, not really. His archenemy doctor Octopus swapped brains, so now Doc Ock’s brain is inside Peter Parker’s body, while poor Peter is locked up inside Doc Ock’s body. That’s not a problem because Ock is overweight or because Doc Ock is a notorious bastard, but because he’s dying. And if Peter cannot make the switch back in time, he’ll die and Doc Ock will be Spider-Man/Peter Parker. And that is exactly what happens. But there is a small twist: during the final confrontation, the octobot that contains Pete’s brain patterns, manages to download Peter’s memory inside Ock. All the hardships and pain Peter has ever endured, all the sacrifices he has made and all the friend’s he has lost during his life as Spider-Man are shown as key moments in Parker’s life. But they are mixed with Ock’s personality, so it’s like Ock lived through all this hardship and pain. This emotional memory overload if you will miraculously changes the villain’s point of view on life. All of a sudden he believes that with great power comes great responsibility. Ock vows to dying Peter he will be Spider-Man from now on, keeping his family safe.

ams700_octopusflashback

And yes, knowing Doc Ock, the guy who tried to conquer planet earth numerous times and killed a zillion people, this is a totally believable plot twist. NOT. Sorry, Dan Slott, I just don’t buy it. You didn’t set this up properly: Doc Ock has always been a villain, and now he wants to be the good guy all of a sudden?

Spidey-writer Dan Slott really dropped the ball on this one. He and Spidey’s editor Stephen Wacker let Peter Parker die a dishonourable death. After 700 episodes of Amazing Spider-Man, he deserves a lot better. Why end the series in such a dour note? I thought in 2012 we celebrated 50 years of Spider-Man, not spit in the face of Peter Parker, and kick him while he was already down on the ground?

Dan Slott: © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons
Dan Slott: © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

Of course, I find solace in the idea that this death will not be permanent. Marvel has a history of trying to get rid of Peter Parker: Parker has died a couple of times already and he was replaced by a clone for a while, but those mistakes were always turned around after a while, because the audience, Spidey’s fans, didn’t like these changes. They want Peter Parker in Spider-Man’s suit. It is as simple as that, but a message the marketing people at Marvel do not seem to understand. So I am certain Peter will be back someday. That golden octobot that holds his brain essence or whatever will probably play a big part in the return of Peter Parker.

But that doesn’t mean that the way Marvel has ended Amazing Spider-Man, a series that started in 1963 and has been going on ever since, has left a bad taste in my mouth. It is heart breaking, really.

Superior Spider-Man will be all about Doc Ock’s exploits as Spider-Man, until sales drop and Peter returns once more.

This is not Mary Jane
This is how I would have liked to end the series. Let’s go with Slott’s crazy plot, because up until Amazing 700 it is a pretty good read, and ignore the fact that Slott’s characterisations are way off sometimes. Apart from Doc Ock seeing the light all of a sudden, Mary Jane is very poorly written. Slott reduces her to a one women Spider-Man fan club that talks in over used clichés like: ‘Go get them Tiger’ and ‘You hit the jackpot!’ I find it hard to believe that Mary Jane hasn’t picked up on the strange way Peter/Octopus talks to her and treats her. He snaps at her, calls her ‘woman’ numerous times. Come on, these guys have known each other for ages, Pete would never address her in the way Ock does. Mary Jane must smell something fishy about Peter’s behaviour. But somehow, because Slott doesn’t allow it, she doesn’t. No, she gives him another pep talk and confesses her love to ‘Peter’. Mary Jane was written totally out of character.

Humerto Ramos and his trouble with anatomy.
Humerto Ramos and his trouble with anatomy.

‘No one dies’
But following Slott’s plot, I would have liked it if during the final confrontation Peter succeeded in transferring his brain patterns back inside his body. After Ock died in Spidey’s arms, Peter and MJ would get back together again, nullifying the whole Brand New Day nonsense and we would be back on track. Even if Peter decided after the transfer to lay low as Spidey for a while, it would have been a better ending for Amazing Spider-Man. Give Pete and us a break, Marvel, and give him a happy ending for once. Don’t try to get rid of Parker all the time to rejuvenate Spider-Man. You killed Ultimate Peter already, you replaced Peter a number of times. Try to think up something original. Marvel used to be called the house of ideas. When it comes to Spider-Man calling Marvel the house of bad ideas seems more appropriate.

Humberto Ramos
There’s one last bone I have to pick: I really don’t like Humberto Ramos’ artwork. His drawing style is a cross between Disney and manga. I always believe Spider-Man is best served with a lot of realism as possible. Sure, Slott uses a lot of humour in his stories, and that’s great fun. But to keep Spidey relatable, he needs to stay realistic for the most part. So a semi-realistic style would counterbalance the sci-fi and humourous elements perfectly. The greatest artist on Marvel, like the Romita’s and Steve Ditko always drew Spider-Man that way. Ramos’s cartoony drawing style would fit the adventures of the Spectacular Spider-Ham better than Amazing Spider-Man.

Not only is his style too cartoony for my taste, it seems that Ramos fell asleep during anatomy class, or maybe he’s never seen a girl naked, because the way he draws the human form is simply appalling. Check out this panel from an earlier Amazing Spider-Man comic and look at Spider-Man’s torso. Spines don’t work like that, unless it is Mr. Fantastic in the Spidey suit- which it isn’t – I’d say Ramos has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to human anatomy.

Humberto Ramos clearly doesn't know the limits of the human spine.
Humberto Ramos clearly doesn’t know the limits of the human spine.

Most of the time body parts are out of proportion. The faces of a lot of characters look alike. And besides that: Ramos couldn’t draw convincing facial expressions if he wanted to. Look at how he draws Mary Jane in this panel:

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The Spidey cast act like bad actors when they come from Ramos’s pencil. And what’s with all these stripes on everybody’s noses? Is everyone having a cold in the Marvel Universe nowadays?

Maybe they are getting as sick of the nowadays Spider-Man stories as I am. Oh, well, there are always the reprints of Spider-Man’s golden age. Maybe I’ll pick up the current story when Peter Parker has returned from the grave and Ramos has taken a permanent position at Disney drawing cartoon characters.

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Michael Minneboo

Michael Minneboo is een freelance journalist gespecialiseerd in popcultuur, fancultuur, strips, film, online media en beeldcultuur. Hij schrijft over onder andere comics, Nederlandse strips & animatie en interviewt makers uit binnen- en buitenland. Daarnaast geeft hij lezingen en adviseert hij particulieren en bedrijven over bloggen.

  • Paul ,

    Ze hadden het andersom moeten doen, een stervende Ock die zijn herinneringen in Peter upload zodat hij beetje kloten krijgt en eindelijk eens iemand om zeep helpt. Now that’s believable. Jammer dat Marvel wederom een giant crap op deze serie neemt. Het enige goede aan ‘Brand New Day’ was voor mij dat ik toen afgehaakt ben en dit mij nu eigenlijk niet meer pijn doet. Marvel blijft beetje speelbal van de commercie. Of ze gaan keer op keer bijna of tijdelijk failliet of ze maken bagger met het oog op de pegels. Which is worst?

    • Jules Calis ,

      Heb zelf nooit echt marvel of dc gevolgd, maar ik kan het maar al te goed begrijpen. De serie DMZ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMZ_%28comics%29) Volg ik dan wel, maar die begon ook bij het 8e deel te ontsporen! Heel jammer als dat ingrijpende veranderingen plaatsvinden in een sterke serie!

      • Gabriel Shepherd ,

        Well written! I was searching the web for an answer to the question of why Marvel constantly tries to get rid of Peter Parker.

        The bosses at Marvel really seem to hate him. I bet they wish some other hero was more popular instead of spidey.

        Bendis really pissed me off. Not only did he make Ultimate Spider-Man a joke. He couldn’t keep his identity a secret to anyone. He never won any fights with super villains and then he died like a tool.

        But did it stop there? No of course not. Bendis had to replace him with his idea of a better hero.

        I could live with all that since it was an alternate timeline but then he had to do a crossover to make his new spider-man look superior versus the original 616 Parker.

        When Marvel is not trying to replace Peter they’re busy changing his personality.

        “Marvel hates Peter Parker” is becoming a joke much like the bias in favor of Captain America.

        Sadly it’s not just Spider-Man anymore either. After reading the AvX “event” I’m convinced there’s not much competence left working for Marvel.

        I used to like movies but hollywood the last decade has only produced crap. Gaming is dumbed down (although there is hope with the indie scene and kickstarter projects) and now I fear comic books will soon be nothing but trash either. I’ve got to get myself some new hobbies.

        • Interview met Spider-Man-tekenaar Alex Saviuk - Michael Minneboo ,

          […] Toen ik in de jaren tachtig als tiener voor het eerst kennismaakte met zijn werk, was ik er zeer mee in mijn nopjes. Je had Sal Buscema die de serie Peter Parker tekende en Todd McFarlane deed toen Amazing Spider-Man. Beide stripmakers hebben een heel uitgesproken stijl, terwijl Saviuk meer teruggreep naar het klassieke tekenwerk van John Romita Sr. Net als Sr. maakt Saviuk heel strak geïnkte tekeningen en is zijn storytelling heel duidelijk. Enig nadeel is dat hij nog wel eens bij het tekenen van Spider-Man teruggrijpt naar eerder getekende houdingen maar dat kun je een tekenaar die met een zeer strenge deadline werkt en minstens 22 pagina’s per maand moet tekenen, eigenlijk niet kwalijk nemen. Je zou Saviuks stijl als degelijk kunnen omschrijven en weinig avontuurlijk, maar als je het vergelijkt met de meuk die hedendaagse Spidey-tekenaars als Humberto Ramos op papier kladden, kies ik toch voor Saviuk. Zijn anatomie klopt en hij tekent een verdomd mooie Mary Jane. Beide kwaliteiten bezit Ramos absoluut niet. […]

          • Minneboo leest: Superior Spider-Man (liever niet) - Michael Minneboo ,

            […] Spider-Man #9 digitaal dichtsloeg, voelde ik me niet lekker en daar wil ik het even over hebben. Weet je nog dat Doctor Octopus in het lichaam van Peter Parker zit en Peter is gestorven in het oude…? Peter zweefde de laatste maanden astraal naast zijn oude lijf terwijl Doc Ock de ene […]