The “Alpha” teaser that Marvel released two weeks ago has already been paid off. This morning, Marvel gave Fox News the scoop that Alpha will be the name of a new character introduced in the pages of Spider-Man: A sidekick for the webhead whose story “will pay homage” to Spider-Man’s own, so that just in time for the character’s fiftieth anniversary, he’ll get to play Uncle Ben to a young hero.
“Part of it is that Spider-Man is grown up,” Axel Alonso, editor-in-chief of Marvel Entertainment, told Fox Nation. “He’s older, more seasoned, but young at heart. He’s still a young man, but he’s been around. It’s interesting because it flips the paradigm. Teen hero Spider-Man is now responsible for this teen hero sidekick. He’s responsible because one of his inventions caused this kid to get his powers. He’s directly responsible for the responsibility this kid now has with his new powers. He feels he has a responsibility to make sure this kid walks the right path, which won’t prove easy.”
While the trend for the last several years has been away from giving characters sidekicks, the Batman and Robin/Captain America and Bucky dynamic remains one of the defining ones in superhero storytelling, and the introduction of Alpha might be a way to try and grab hold of some of the younger readers who publishers always hope will wander into a comic book store after a movie hits (The Amazing Spider-Man is in theaters on July 3). Either way, series writer Dan Slott is identifying Alpha not as a tragic character (like Robin, for instance, or like you might expect from a character whose origin mirrors Spider-Man’s), but a source of fun for the readers.
“If you put Spider-Man and Batman in the same situation, you’re going to have way more fun with Spider-Man,” Slott told Fox. “With Batman, he never really screws up the way Spider-Man does; he always seems to make the right decision. But with Spider-Man, he always screws up. He’s us as a superhero. Batman is a paragon of what we’d like to be, but in reality, we’re more like Spider-Man. He makes all the mistakes we make.”
One such mistake leads to the creation of Alpha; since the comics right now have Peter Parker employed as a scientist (as he will be in the forthcoming movie), the young superhero is created when a high school student on a field trip is inadvertently “zapped” by one of Parker’s machines.
All of this is well and good, of course, but it will be surprising if the character sticks around for very long. Aside from the aforementioned trend away from teenage sidekicks, there’s the fact that with the fiftieth anniversary connection and the callbacks to Spider-Man’s tragic origin, this issue has “a very special episode of The Amazing Spider-Man” written all over it and it wouldn’t be surprising to see this character either killed or at least depowered by the end of the issue.
Which would give Peter another tragic and meaningful death to wrestle with, just in time for non-readers to be introduced to Gwen Stacy for the first time.