Stan Lee, visionary creator of heroes such as Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four, turns 90 this week. This year is also Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary. In the world of comics, that’s as good a time as any to kill Lee’s greatest creation.
In an editorial decision so controversial Spider-Man writer Dan Slott has received death threats, Peter Parker dies in Amazing Spider-Man #700. In any other medium, the death of the title character might be the end. At the very least, it might slow the story down. In comic books, it’s a reason for a brand new title. Marvel is launching Superior Spider-Man, revealing another Spidey – kind of.
Here’s where I try to make a long and convoluted story short. Spider-Man arch enemy Dr. Octopus recently found out he was dying. As his final master plan, he swaps bodies with Peter Parker. The hero dies in Doc Ock’s frail frame, but not before sharing his memories with the villain. Dr. Octopus vows to take his second chance at life and become a “Superior” Spider-Man. As the title indicates, Otto Octavius may be a good guy now. He still considers himself to be better than everyone else, which is one of the primary reasons Spidey generally kicks his butt.
This isn’t the first time Peter Parker has taken a back seat in his own comic. During a storyline now known as “The Clone Saga,” Parker believed he was a clone, and that another man was the real Spider-Man. It generated a lot of publicity, but the overwhelming cries of readers led to the true Peter Parker’s eventual return. Despite a lot of tough talk from Marvel staff, I’m sure that’s what eventually happens with this story. Come on, what would you expect them to say? “You got us, guys. This is a total cash and publicity grab capitalizing on a new movie and the character’s 50th anniversary. Peter will be back in six months.”
Several main characters have gotten the boot from their books long term. The best example is probably DC Comics’ Flash, Barry Allen, who died during 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline. He was gone for 23 years. Another DC hero, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, got replaced in his book and actually became a villain for new GL Kyle Rayner. There’s a significant difference between those guys and Spider-Man though. They were waning in popularity. Thousands of Flash readers voiced disapproval at Barry Allen’s resurrection, calling the character boring and outdated.
Spider-Man is as popular as he was when Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created him 50 years ago. Sony rebooted his film series even though its last trilogy was only a couple of years old. It did so to avoid losing the lucrative movie rights to Marvel. There is no way one of the most beloved characters in comics doesn’t cheat death as so many of his cohorts have. The only question is how long the resurrection will take. I’ll gladly hand out the “No-Prizes” Stan used to offer in his letter columns if Otto Octavius is still wearing Spider-Man’s skin in five years.
Amazing Spider-Man # 700 is available now. Superior Spider-Man will be available Jan. 9, 2013.
Site [Superior Spider-Man]