Pipeline #1051: Maybe I Don't Like Spider-Man, After All?

Wait, Do I Not Like Spider-Man?

My comics life began in the spring of 1989 with "The Amazing Spider-Man" #318, which I picked up off the comics rack at a local stationery store. I probably chose it because it wasn't in the middle of a storyline, I knew who Spider-Man was despite never reading a comic before, and the art by Todd McFarlane on the cover looked pretty cool.

I liked it enough that I started to also pick up "Web of Spider-Man" and "Spectacular Spider-Man." "Amazing" was always the best of the bunch, but I liked the soap opera of all the series, as a whole.

Ever since, when someone asks me who my favorite superhero character is, I default to Spider-Man.

Nearly 30 years later, I'm a different person now. And, just recently, I came to the conclusion that maybe I don't like Spider-Man anymore.

How did that happen?


I Always Liked the "Wrong" Spider-Man

Amazing Spider-Man #318 by Todd McFarlane
(Photo: Todd McFarlane)

Coming into Spider-Man at that time period meant that "my" Spider-Man has always been a grown man married to a supermodel, attending a local university, and working as a photographer for the local newspaper. I was 13 years old reading that, so I clearly saw something more aspirational than representative.

People who had been reading comics for twenty years before that thought most everything I just described was a betrayal of the character. Spider-Man is a teenager. He's a luckless loser. He would never "get the girl," let alone a red-headed supermodel.

I came in with none of that baggage.


Then I Got Old(er)

Obviously.

But at 41 years old now, my perspective on life is far different from what it was as a teenager.

Today, I don't want to read as many stories starring whining teenage brats who don't know what they they're doing and whining that life never goes their way and they never win.

The "lovable loser" stereotype just doesn't appeal to me anymore.

"Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!"

I'm much more interested in reading stories about people who are at the top of their game and doing the best job possible. That doesn't make for boring stories, because the villains need to rise to the occasion and there's always an Achilles heel for every situation.

It drives me nuts when a writer so obviously handicaps a strong character for the sake of weakening him to make the inevitable final battle more even, or less in the control of the hero. It's such an obvious plot device every time.

I'd much rather read about the Peter Parker who sold the IP to his web shooters or web fluid for some industrial purpose and used the money to buy better material for his costumes. I'd rather read about a superhero who knows how to work his powers and out-think his opponents in the face of overwhelming odds in an almost calm style.

I want a superhero who is married, not hiding his dual identity from his wife, and whose biggest concern is his next mortgage payment.

It's not that I don't like Spider-Man anymore. I just like grown-up Spider-Man more.

I'm not saying the original way isn't valid. No, it's a perfectly good version of that character for many people. I wouldn't want to take that away from them. He's great. Enjoy!

It's just not my preference.

It's also the Spider-Man character most people would describe. It's the classic version of the character and the one they always eventually return to, whether in the comics, the movies, or the animated series.

The next time they reboot the Spider-Man movie franchise with Peter Parker, let it be with married Peter Parker. That would throw 'em for a loop.


Am I a Complete Hypocrite?

Ultimate Spider-Man by Joe Quesada
(Photo: Joe Quesada)

I've long held that the best superhero series of the 2000s was "Ultimate Spider-Man" by Brian Michael Bendis/Mark Bagley/Stuart Immonen. When it got too caught up in the events of the extended Ultimate Universe, that's when it went a little off the rails and never fully recovered for me. Then they killed Ultimate Peter Parker and started all over and created the perfect jumping-off point for me.

This all also came at a time I was getting married and buying a house and had neither the time nor the money to continue reading everything.

Convenient.

But those 120 or so issues of Bendis/Bagley/Immonen are pure superhero comics fun to me. And while it hews closer to the classic version of the character, the Ultimate Peter Parker is --

-- yeah, OK, maybe I am a complete hypocrite on this one.

Or maybe it's just that I don't like the "classic" comics? That style of storytelling is so alien to me that it rubs off on the character?

The more I think out loud, the less sure I am on all of this.

Spider-Man As He Should Be

In the end, however, I'm not the person who Marvel should be aiming its comic books at. I'm part of the dead end market: the older reader who's been there for twenty years or more and is accelerating Marvel's growth by a factor of zero. I'm part of that baseline they take for granted, and usually pander to in an effort to milk every dollar out of the market that they can.

Marvel needs to attract a newer and younger market. They need to turn over the generation of readers they have, the way comics traditionally did until the 90s when they chased so much of it away.

They need Spider-Man to more closely resemble the type of readership they want. That's why they have Miles Morales on one side, and Peter Parker the CEO on the other, and another book with Peter Parker and his entire family, including his daughter.

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Then the question becomes, "Can Marvel have its cake and eat it, too?"

Only time will tell…