Thursday, December 27, 2012

Marvel does it again: Another franchise hero "dies" for the sake of the almighty dollar

If we have learned anything from comics over the years, especially in the last 20, death is not permanent, but just an excuse for a publisher to give an iconic character a glorified vacation so they can try something different and hope the sheep (consumers) play along. What Marvel Comics is finding out, and quickly, is that if you go to the well one time too many, the sheep will turn on their shepherds.

The latest example is the "final" issue of Amazing Spider-Man, which hit comic shops yesterday. Issue #700 utilizes a morality play mixed with an oft-used plot device, but the results have created controversy, damaging the reputation of a writer who's done better work than this.

The plot is like this. Peter Parker's mind has been swapped with that of an old enemy, Dr. Otto Octavius, aka Dr. Octopus. Ock's in Spider-Man's body, while Peter is in Octavius', which is ravaged by old age and disease. Since the media has already spoiled the story, well, let's just say that the homily that fueled Peter Parker's quest for justice for 50 years, "with great power comes great responsibility", now has been passed to Octavius. Yes, they did the impossible. They killed off the classic Spider-Man.

A year or so ago, in the Ultimate line, Parker was killed off there, and the mantle of the Spider, shall we say, was passed to a younger boy of Hispanic background, Miles Morales. Apparently, that was done in the name of "cultural diversity", but all that was, really, was a test case to see if they could get away will killing off Parker in the core Marvel Universe, at least in the short term. Was it really bad enough that the latest Spider-Man movie didn't live up to the standards set by the earlier trilogy? No, not really, if you have been following the books (and I haven't). Writer Dan Slott has been around for some twenty years, and had worked on books based on cartoons (i.e. The Batman Adventures) before landing a gig at Marvel, and has piloted Amazing Spider-Man for nearly 100 issues, which, given the increased frequency of publication at Marvel in recent times, isn't 10 years worth of stories, but slightly less. Slott has talked about this being a case of Octavius now having to redeem himself for all of his past misdeeds, since he has all of Parker's memories.

This all makes former editor-in-chief Joe Quesada's equally brain dead decision to end Parker's marriage to model-actress Mary Jane Watson a few years back in the books that much more stupid, in this writer's opinion. At least they're still married in the newspaper strip, and, trust me, more and more people will turn to the strip than try out Superior Spider-Man, debuting in 2 weeks and starring Octavius as Spidey. That alone tells me that Marvel is still courting the violence-obsessed fanboys who want their heroes to be dark & gritty, instead of having someone use humor, as Peter Parker did, to offset their own personal foibles. No, I'm not going to give Slott the dreaded Weasel ears this week, nor a Dunce Cap. Instead, I recognize that he's working under an editorial mandate. Trust me, though, with Disney now in charge of Marvel, this won't last. I'm told it's supposed to be a year-long arc, but if sales fall, as I think they will, they will rush the resurrection of Peter Parker. After all, there's supposed to be another Spider-Man movie in about a year or two.........


magicdog said...

I heard the news this morning and I'm shocked!

I'm not a comics maven but there are things you shouldn't mess with and killing off Peter in the mainline universe is a big no-no.

Does Marvel really think this is what fans want? Or is this like New Coke, in which enough people will complain, Marvel says "Just kidding!" and we find out it was all a bad dream as MJ awakes to find [original] Peter in the shower?

Is Marvel too big to fail?

hobbyfan said...

Marvel, in the last 5 years, has killed off pro tempore Johnny Storm (Human Torch), Steve Rogers (Capt. America), and now, Peter Parker. It's all about the bottom line with these clowns, not tradition.

To paraphrase Stephen King, they always do come back. Like Jean Grey (X-Men) has been killed off at least 3 times in the last 32 years.......