One of the hottest debates right now is Superior Spider-Man. I have argued with my co-host on All Things Good and Nerdy (along with a few guest hosts) and was asked to come on Comic Book Legends podcast to continue the debate. I’ve talked to numerous people in the comic shop, in conventions and on Twitter on their thoughts. I’ve even talked to the writer himself, Dan Slott, about this series. Well, through Twitter anyway! This column is going to touch on the spoiler side, so if you’re trying to avoid them, there are a lot of articles to read on this site!
A little backstory on Superior Spider-Man if you have not read anything about it, or know anything what I am talking about. Superior Spider-Man is the where Amazing Spider-Man left off. ASM ended with a bang, Doctor Octopus is dying when he places a device on Peter Parker during one of their final battles. Right before Doc Ock dies, the device activates, switching brains between Peter and himself. When the body of Doc Ock dies, it is Peter’s mind that dies with it, as Doc Ock has taken possession of Peter’s body. Doc Ock then declares that he will be the Superior Spider-Man, exchanging his evil ways for good.
Now the argument that is had is if it is good, or bad, that this has taken place. SSM to me is one of the strongest books that Marvel has going for them. I enjoy reading it, its different from what ASM was. By the end of ASM I was completely bored with Peter Parker. I found him whiny, boring, dull…he just won everything. Characters like that is what makes me back away from the Superhero Clique of the comic book world. There are two things that I hear that are the complaints with why SSM is a bad move: It’s a Gimmick and Spider-Man Kills People. There are other arguments; the fact that it goes back and forth in feeling, and there are better ways to make Spider-Man gritty, but hopefully my points in the two big points that I hear will help clarify why I feel people need to give SSM a chance.
It’s A Gimmick
Welcome to Marvel. Everything happens and nothing sticks. What has actually stuck in the 616 universe when it comes to Spider-Man? 1. Uncle Ben is dead. 2. Gwen Stacy is dead. That is it.
The point that I am trying to make is everything comes back to normal eventually. Something that Marvel excels in is their marketing of their characters, and part of why they are so marketable is the fact that they are always the same. The good guy wins, and everything continues on. It shakes people to the core (whether or not they chose to admit it) that Spider-Man lost. Peter Parker lost, and now Doc Ock is in control. It probably could have been introduced in a less abrupt way (the feeling of Amazing Spider-Man ending felt almost tacked on) but in the end it made for a new comic book with a safety net: Peter Parker can always come back. In the first issue alone (this actually angered me) Peter Parker already returns as what has been referred to as Force Ghost Peter. He is present in Doc Ocks mind. Later on there is a battle between the two, completely wiping Peter from the brain of Doc Ock, which is beautifully done and one of the best issues in the series. But back to my point, it was totally set up as a gimmick.
But looking past that, getting into the real grit of the story, there is a man who is struggling with the power of good and evil in his hands. On one hand, he is Doc Ock. He is one of the most evil villains that has ever been created in the Spider-Man universe. He’s a genius, he’s got it all. Except a body of his own. In the other hand, we have Spider-Man. He is the pinnacle of all that is good, the golden child of the Marvel Universe. Doc Ock wants to be better than that. But at his root, he is an evil man. This is the fluctuations that we see, that we see the complaint about. He is someone who struggles with the Good vs Evil fight, completely trying to change into a new person to fill the golden child persona and he just doesn’t know how. That’s the Marvel books we know. That’s the emotion that Marvel brings in people. That’s why I enjoy this book. Good vs Evil doesn’t have to be about the powers, the costumes, the whole shebang. It can literally be one persons internal struggle, and that is what is happening here.
Will this end and Peter Parker makes a triumphant return as Spider-Man? Sure, its going to happen. People in the universe are already aware that Peter has not been himself. But what needs to be remembered is that these are stories. These are stories built with already established characters, and the writer is given practically free will with them. What Dan Slott has done was create a new story with Spider-Man, done something creative and different. Something we haven’t seen before. I embrace things like this. Change needs to happen, Peter needs to evolve as a character. What they have done by switching the brain out is basically said “Okay, now Spider-Man is able to do things that he couldn’t do before, because he is released of Peter Parkers moral code. But we can always switch it back if it doesn’t work.” Doc Ock is basically a safety net. There can always blame put on Doc Ock if they screw it up too much! You will get your precious Peter back, and he’ll go back to being the golden child. But for now, let the Superior Spider-Man play.
Spider-Man Kills People
Something that is the most common of arguments is that Spider-Man is going around doing these things that Spider-Man doesn’t do. He’s trashing the essence of the character by doing these things, such as killing people and using spider droids to monitor the city so he can go about a daily life. “Spider-Man wouldn’t do that.”
You would be correct. Spider-Man doesn’t do that.
Doctor Octopus does.
This isn’t Spider-Man. This is Doc Ock in a Peter Parker and Spider-Man suit.
Yes, Doc Ock is trashing Spider-Mans good name. In the most recent issue, he even threatens Jameson. He kills villains instead of letting them live to rot in prison. He is doing what he thinks Spider-Man should have done. He thinks he is right.
Doc Ock is evil. He knows of nothing but evil. So yes, to him, killing people is the right thing to do. People in the universe haven’t quite figured out what is wrong with Spider-Man.
Now think about this.
Would you, reasonably smart human being, think right away that someone has switched brains with someone else?
Because I wouldn’t.
Spider-Man is having an off month. He’s coming through some really bad times, he’s dealing with things. Those are my first thoughts. Not “oh, well obviously he switched brains with someone. Quickly, to the helicarrier!”
Give them time to figure it out. Let them think about it. They didn’t know Doc Ock like Peter did, they don’t exactly know what he is capable of and what he has done. They aren’t thinking about that. We’re only 13 issues in. Thats not very long, considering how long Amazing Spider-Man was. 700 issues of Peter Parker vs 13 issues of Doc Ock.
So that is my argument for Superior Spider-Man. I enjoy it. I think that a lot of fans did not give this series an honest chance because they just gave up on the gimmick. I understand your reasoning, but I feel like you are missing out on what could be the best Spider-Man story. If you haven’t been reading, or even cared about it, maybe I just gave you reason to pick it up. Issue #13 just hit stands this week, so be sure to stop by your local comic shop to pick it up!