Point/Spider-Point 2: Point Harder — What does Parker being ‘erased’ mean for Spidey?Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jim Beard and Jeff McGinnis
In the most recent issue of the controversial (and bestselling) “Superior Spider-Man,” villain Dr. Octopus — current occupant of Spider-Man’s body — erases all remaining pieces of Peter Parker’s consciousness from his brain. In the process, he puts Parker though a series of wrenching emotional set pieces where everyone he loves is killed around him, he condemns Peter’s policy of not killing villains and then makes him out to be a hypocrite for trying to save his own life at the expense of the life of a young girl.
Everyone (except Marvel) keeps saying that Parker will eventually come back, of course. The question is, will this story do more harm than good to Spidey in the long run? Writers Jeff McGinnis and Jim Beard discuss it:
McGinnis: It’s clear that author Dan Slott is keeping perspective on fans’ distaste for his latest storyline in the “Spider-Man” comics. Any guy whose Twitter profile features a picture of Spidey with the caption “Haters Gonna Hate” knows that what he’s doing is going to draw fans’ ire — and still, he’s going to tell the story he wants to tell. The problem is, I wonder if that attitude is blinding him to legitimate criticism aimed at his work, and the damage it may do to the character he loves.
Beard: Dude likes to be in the center of the web, that much is certain, and he enjoys his role as web-spinner. I believe that the response to his Spider-Man storylines also spurs him on to new levels of deviltry — but, yeah; is that a good thing in the long run? It’s hard to utterly ruin a character with the cachet of Spider-Man, but a long-term, unpopular story arc can taint even a legend and drive people away with the scent of purposeful mayhem.
But, two things: every last word he sets down has been sanctioned by his Marvel bosses so that brings them into this web of evil, too, and, maybe most importantly, this is selling. People sometimes like to watch a train wreck and I’m gonna guess a good dollop of the sales are from the fans who are sitting there saying, “What will this guy do next?”
McGinnis: Yep, this is selling, at a time when comic sales are weak, so on that level this is a success. But then, the Clone Saga was a big seller, too — and few will try to argue that was a positive in the web-slinger’s career. When an idea spurs sales, of course the higher-ups will endorse its continuation.
The question is, though, is the execution of that idea detrimental to the basic character? It’s one thing to have a character die and explore what the world is like in his or her absence. It’s something totally different to do what “Superior” is doing — not only have the hero be “replaced” by a major villain, but to have the replacement completely undermine his predecessor and have the former hero act completely out of character to justify the change.
Beard: My own personal Spider-Sense isn’t going off, so for me we haven’t hit critical mass yet. That’s most likely because I’ve lived through so many Comic Book Dark Times and survived them…as did the characters.
I have to tell you: there’s an aspect of this that really appeals to me and that’s the idea of a villain as protagonist. The villain-centric book is a tiny corner of the overall fiction genre and has usually failed as sales-generator, unfortunately. Marvel pretty much lead the way with villain-as-star series, something that DC followed along later with. Never proved successful at either company. So, now Marvel’s trying a villain book again but with a twist: villain as hero in hero’s body. But, as you say, potentially undermining said hero’s street cred. Vexing, to be sure…if this wasn’t comic books. Comic book characters are often made of rubber and this is a story, one that will end and be relegated to history, either reviled or remembered as just another stunt.
McGinnis: The biggest problem is, however, I think Slott and Marvel are expecting us to sympathize with and root for Octopus — most of the time, anyway. The new book’s tone is all over the map, to the point where I think your average fan is simply confused by what they’re supposed to feel. If you’re supposed to like Otto, why have him be such an insufferable jerk? If you’re supposed to hate him, why have moments where his character gets softened and he wants to be a hero? And why even introduce the whole “Peter’s consciousness is still alive” thing if the only purpose was to junk it nine issues later, humiliating the character yet again? It’s hard to believe the creators have a solid battle plan when it seemingly changes moment to moment.
Beard: Can agree on the bipolar tone. One might think that they’re still finding their way with the storyline, but before we know it, it’ll probably be wrapped up. There’s still time, though, for Otto to come through as near a hero as someone like him can get – and perhaps justifying the entire storyline.
Emphasis on “perhaps.” Hope springs eternal, but reality often bites.