McGinnis and Beard: The Superior Superman?Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jeff McGinnis and Jim Beard
WARNING: The following column contains spoilers for “Man of Steel” and “The Superior Spider-Man”
JEFF: So, Jim. You have made very plain your distaste for how “Man of Steel” ended, with Superman killing General Zod in cold blood to save lives. An understandable reaction, if a debatable one. But I have to ask — in the recently released “Superior Spider-Man” #13, the climax saw Doctor Octopus, still masquerading as Spider-Man, killing yet another villain in cold blood himself — the Spider Slayer. Are you as disturbed with this turn of events, in actual comic continuity, as you are with the choice to make Superman a killer?
JIM: The difference, I think, is one of choice. In the film, Superman made a choice to kill Zod, for debatable reasons. In the comic, Peter Parker is not able to make a choice — because of Doc Ock’s invasion, he quite literally is out of his mind. That’s a big difference to me. And I also believe we’ll see the Spidey situation addressed as the story continues. Will we see Superman’s choice addressed in the next film? I tend to doubt it. Superman was both the gun and the trigger; Peter Parker’s body was the gun and Ock squeezed the trigger. Do we blame the gun? Do we arrest the gun? Not usually. We go after the murderer, most times. The question is if we ban the gun. Do we stick Peter in a deep dark hole because he was used by a criminal to commit murder, like the people of the Superman universe should contemplate doing with the guy from the stars who snapped someone’s neck? Huge questions.
JEFF: The problem is, we aren’t talking about Peter Parker. According to everything Marvel has said over the past six months, Spider-Man is and forever will be Otto Octavius now. I know it’s nonsense, you know it’s nonsense, but everything coming out of the Marvel hype machine says this is the new status quo, and that the company’s flagship hero is no longer Peter Parker, it’s Doc Ock.
OK, let’s accept that. For the time being, there is no Peter Parker. Let’s judge this Spider-Man by what he has done since taking over the mantle of “hero.” On two separate occasions he has killed enemies without remorse or moral qualms. And this is the new representative of a heroic legacy that has lasted over half a century — one which has been as much about the morality of using power responsibly as it has been feats of daring do.
JIM: I guess it’s just too difficult for me to see this as anything but temporary and nothing to get too shagged out about. Of course, someone could be justified in telling me that a movie Superman is not the real Superman and that’s something I should have just rolled with. I can throw that argument right back by noting that the times that Superman has killed in the comics and on film were minor blips on the radar, made even more superfluous by the fact that they didn’t work as story elements and we moved past them.
I feel the same about the current Spider-Man saga, though I feel there’s much more of a purposeful investment from Slott and Marvel to tell a long-range, good story than “Man of Steel”‘s scripters and director. Plus, the people who are truly upset at Ock’s shenanigans will, I trust, wait it all out, watch for Peter to return, and write it all off the same way they did the Clone Saga.
JEFF: And there’s the rub. The idea that “no permanent damage” could possibly be done to the Spider-Man mythos by any of this. Slott himself has said time and again on Twitter that no one can “break” Spider-Man. To a degree, perhaps he’s right, because the next writer can come in and totally undo everything, and the public is quick to forget.
Usually. But something’s different this time. I’m seeing many posters online making the argument that Ock really is a “Superior” Spider-Man because of the extreme measures he takes. A lot of readers apparently see a story that, thus far, seems to be making the point that Peter’s tactics really were the wrong way to go, and then deciding that they support the extremist vigilantism of Ock’s escapades.
Do I believe that’s Slott’s intent? No. But I think he’s riding the line of moral ambiguity very tightly. And given that he’s worked so hard to make Ock into the protagonist, readers naturally start to see things Ock’s way — because it’s the only view they hear. So if/when Peter does come back, who’s to say there won’t be pressure to make his new adventures “more like Superior?” There is the potential for real damage to the core of what makes Spidey who he is — just like you found in “Man of Steel,” I’d say.
JIM: I sincerely HOPE that these characters are “too big to fail” and that they’ll survive not only writers who are servicing alien agendas, but also us fans and our fickleness. The key here is what survives in the eye of the greater public and what the greater public doesn’t know from Dan Slott. Spidey will always be Peter Parker and Superman will always have a code against killing. The experiments will come and go, but the real icons will rise above them. I have to believe that. It helps me sleep at night.