Saturday, January 12, 2013

Overdue! The Flu! And Spider-Man: Eww!

So much for my trying to get in one post per week!  The flu shot that goal right out of the gate.  I am slowly recovering, but I'm not quite 100 percent just yet.  Part of the problem is that I take an immune system suppressant to help control my Crohn's Disease, and that gives me even less ammo than the average person with which to fight off the flu.

I am, however, quite convinced that things would have been far worse, and for far longer, if I had NOT been getting an annual flu shot for over a decade.  It's still not too late to get one, and I strongly recommend that you do so, along with regular hand washing, staying the hell home if you do get sick, and so forth.  It's BAD this year, folks, and every little bit helps.

Enough of that -- this was originally planned to be a comics/geek culture blog, and even though I have strayed far from that and journeyed to all kinds of places, there are times when I actually DO have something to say about comics.  And even though I consider myself a DC guy, this time around I want to comment on Marvel Comics, specifically, The Amazing Spider-Man's last issue, #700.

And when I say "last issue" I really do mean "last" as in "final."  The Amazing Spider-Man debuted in 1962 and has run for 700 issues.  Pretty respectable.  But as Marvel Comics tries to reboot its universe into what they are calling "Marvel NOW!" (even though in every press interview and commentary, they flatly deny that it's a reboot) they are changing titles, team line-ups, and of course, numbering most of their issues over again and starting with new #1 issues.  Because we nerdy collectors do love our #1 issues.

Amazing Spider-Man is the exception.  It will be reborn as "Superior Spider-Man" in the very near future.  And the reason why breaks my heart.  [WARNING!  SPOILERS AHEAD!  IF YOU CARE AT ALL ABOUT SPIDER-MAN AND DO NOT WANT THE REBOOT SPOILED FOR YOU, PLEASE STOP READING RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW!]

Thanks to the recent movies, even casual observers of pop culture generally know that Spider-Man's secret identity is science nerd/photographer Peter Parker.  And they know that one of his main villains is Doctor Octopus, a mad scientist who was accidentally fused to a set of four robot arms which make him a very formidable opponent even for someone with the proportional strength and speed of a spider. In the last few years of comics storytelling, Doctor Octopus has been slowly dying and withering from a mysterious wasting illness.  Mad scientist that he is, he devised a way to switch minds and bodies with Spider-Man.  Peter Parker finds himself in Doctor Octopus' dying body and Doc Ock finds himself in Peter Parker's powerful Spider-Man body, along with access to all of Peter's memories and secrets.  In the final issue, they fight.  And Peter, in Ock's body, loses.  And dies.

The new Superior Spider-Man is actually Doctor Octopus in his new body.  Somehow the mind transfer has made him a good guy again and he has resolved to be the best Spider-Man he can be.  Good Old Peter Parker is gone, baby, gone.

To which I say, what crap!!

Yeah, I know it's a ploy.  Marvel would NEVER dump Peter Parker as Spider-Man immediately after a successful movie reboot.  There is no way Peter Parker will stay dead, and in fact I expect him to be back in his traditional red and blue suit by the time the next movie opens.  Nobody ever stays dead in comics any more.  There used to be a couple of hard and fast rules about that, rules like "[Captain America's WWII partner] Bucky stays dead" and "[Peter Parker's] Uncle Ben stays dead" but even they both came back, eventually.

My objections to the plotline are not that they are killing off a favorite beloved character, it's that they are muddying the waters and the morality for all the kids who are fans.  Doc Ock in Spidey's body, while supposedly on the side of the angels, is anything but "superior."  He talks like a megalomaniac, he ogles Peter's girl's body, and he runs from a fight if it gets too tough.  Just to mention a few.  This is not the lesson I want to be taught to any kids I care about.  This is a fanboy "what if?" argument taken to extremes when it should never have left the comics store floor and made it into print.

The point of the superhero comic is that good overcomes adversity to triumph over evil, eventually.  Spider-Man is based on the concept that "with great power comes great responsibility."  That it is sometimes very hard to do the right thing.  That doing the right thing often comes with a great personal cost.  But you still have to do it.  That lesson, one of the most important and formative that I personally learned from comics and from Stan Lee, has just been thrown out, stomped on, cut up, shredded, set on fire, and then the ashes were peed on.

I don't care that Marvel will bring back the "real" Spider-Man eventually.  The damage is done.  And so am I -- done, that is, with Marvel Comics.  At the end of the day, I can only vote with my wallet and my feet, and that's what I'm doing, Marvel.  I'm taking my money over to the Distinguished Competition, and walking away from you and your Inferior Spider-Man.

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