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-by Andrew Goletz

Does Whatever a Spider Can

Just to be different, I’ll do the obligatory introduction in the next column. For now, we have more important things to discuss, namely Spider-Man.

At the risk of sounding like a geek (as if that hasn’t been confirmed by now), I’ll admit that Spider-Man is the one character whom I’ve managed to go fan-boy over. There are a lot of great comics and characters throughout time: The Question, Cerebus, Badger, and WildDog (be quiet) but Spider-Man is the one that made me start collecting comics over 15 years ago. I have every issue of the core Spider-Man titles: Amazing, Spectacular, Web of, Sensational. I stuck through the bad times (and over the last several years there have been a lot of them) just because of the love of the character and to be a completest.

Where did Spider-Man go wrong? Some people claim it was when he got married, but they’re probably all single themselves. The appeal of Peter Parker was that he was like one of us, except with the super-powers. He had good days and bad, and his triumph over the odds at the end of all of the hardship was what drew us back to the comic issue after issue. Getting married is a realistic part of growing up and when Peter married Mary Jane, it was just natural step in his growth as a character.  The problem wasn’t that Peter was stifled because he became a husband…Peter got boring, stale, whatever because the writers didn’t get creative enough to tell compelling stories of a married Spider-Man.

The greatest measure of criticism came recently, though. Easy ploys like bringing Peter’s parents back from the dead and then revealing them as androids followed by the return of the clone, then popularity of the clone and then subsequent death of the clone didn’t do much to instill faith in the readers. Aunt May died in one of the most poignant moments in Spider-Man history and one of the greatest ‘death’ scenes in comics. A short time later, after they apparently killed Peter and MJ’s child and returned Norman Osborn from the dead, May was revealed to be alive. The woman who was killed was revealed to be an actress. Must have been a very good actress. The comic had turned into a farce, a parody of itself. Revamp after revamp followed with the fans getting angrier with each subsequent story. Mary Jane apparently dies, although anyone who actually looks at the pictures in comics can see that some sort of object was jettisoned from her plane before the explosion. It was as if the philosophy was, ‘hey, killing Gwen Stacy was a historic moment in Spider-Man, let’s kill his kid, wife and everyone else we tire of writing about and we’ll be even more legendary’.

‘Okay big mouth, so how would you fix Spider-Man?’  Glad you asked, conscience. My plan is quick and easy. It risks alienating the few fans that stuck around the last few years, but within a couple months it would probably bring the old ones back in droves and add new ones, too. Before the revamp, in PP: SM #75 Peter Parker awakens after being drugged, dressed in his costume and facing Norman Osborn, long thought dead. At this point a suspicious doctor has claimed that baby May is dead, Ben Reilly is still alive and Aunt May is still dead.

Turns out Mysterio (the true person behind the grief in Peter’s life) has given Peter and Ben a near fatal dose of his hallucination drugs. Ben and Peter are in a dream like state, believing their adversary to be their deadliest enemy come back to life, when in truth, it’s all Mysterio’s doing.

Ben recovers from the drug first, and eventually aids Peter in snapping out of Mysterio’s spell. They battle and beat Mysterio, while at the same time discovering his plot to kidnap baby May and rescue her just in time.

‘Are you saying?’  Yes, it was all a dream or rather a hallucination. ‘The past four years?’ Yes. ‘Are you insane?’. Would revealing the past several years to be a dream be any worse than saying the last four years really happened? Would we be losing any great moment in the character’s history that happened lately? I don’t think so. But we would have Ben Reilly back as a popular supporting character, Peter and MJ with their child and the next logical step in the character’s evolution and Norman and May would stay deceased, their classic death scenes untouched. It would also tie into how Mysterio became such a bad ass, so fast during Kevin Smith’s Daredevil run.

Joe Q knows my number, but until I have a writing deal, I’ll sit back safely and be cynical.

The books are showing signs of life now, though Paul Jenkins is breathing new life into the Peter Parker title, although he’s been constrained by having to take part in the horrendous Maximum Security cross-over and tie up 2yr old plot ties from the old regime. I do have faith, based on Jenkin’s previous work, that when these storylines are over, he’ll be free to tell some wonderful stories.

The announcement of J.Michael Straczynski on Amazing Spider-Man this Spring also makes me excited about the future of the character. While I haven’t been greatly impressed with his work on Rising Stars (which has more to do with the over-hyped publicity over the book)  JMS is a talented, accomplished writer who will bring a much needed fresh take on the character. Straczynski recently revealed some plans for the character and the mythos of Spider-Man and it’s apparent that at least his heart is in the right place.

Finally, we have the 2 Ultimate books: Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man Team Up (which will premier next year). Both books are written by Brian Michael Bendis. Ultimate Spiderman is illustrated by Mark Bagley (the one good thing about the run in the 90s) and USMTU is going to be illustrated by various artists from Terry Moore to Mike Allred. You can check out my take on Ultimate Spider-Man in this week’s comic reviews, but suffice to say, I think that Spider-Man has a bright future once more.

Copyright©2000 Andrew P. Goletz