Let’s face it. The average, everyday comic is not much unlike a soap opera. Drama unfolds, bizarre elements are thrown in and the stories continue on in a never ending serialization. Of course, comics have the potential to be so much better, and they have been, but they’re normally the same. People even make fun of them for the same things. In soap operas everyone has an evil twin, people fight over who gave birth to what baby, everyone has amnesia, and people come back from the dead.
These gimmicks are trademarks to the soap opera genre and these gimmicks are what keep the general population from seeing them as anything other than a joke. In comics, people are cloned, babies come in and out of continuity, there’s amnesia and comas, and people come back from the dead. Those are the gimmicks that make many people think comic books are a joke.
Spider-Man doesn’t help that image. Spider-Man is a gimmick. Not Spider-Man himself, but the stories he appears in. Think about the most well known Spider-Man stories in the last 20 years. The ones that got either a lot of attention from the media, or just stick out like sore thumbs in the ongoing story of Peter Parker. There was “the Clone Saga”, where Peter was cloned and a new character, Ben Reilly took his place for a time. That went on for several years during the ’90s. Then a few years later, with the release of Spider-Man in theaters, there was “The Other”, where Peter Parker was turned into a giant spider, died, and gave birth to himself just so he’d have organic web shooters like in the movie.
Then there was the “One More Day” debacle that was so unpopular, where Peter made a deal with the devil in order to save his Aunt. That was a major turning point in the story of Spider-Man. Peter and Mary Jane were no longer married, his secret identity was no longer public knowledge, Harry Osborn was now alive. Everyone hated the story and the new status quo. A few years later and it looked like Spider-Man was finally starting to make sense again. Amazing Spider-Man was shipping three times a month, story lines would come and there were no problems. Then Superior Spider-Man happened and I can only imagine how people will react to that.
The dying Doctor Octopus transfers his mind into Peter Parker, and unable to reverse the procedure, Peter allows Ock to take his memories along with his body. The ‘real’ Peter Parker dies in Ock’s body and now Spider-Man is Doctor Octopus. So he will now toe the line between hero and villain, pretend he’s really Peter Parker, since he has all his memories, and generally lie to everyone he knows. Sure, the idea is an interesting storyline, but the heart of it is yet another gimmick. Mind swapping, mind control, memory transfer. Another gimmick to create a more violent Spider-Man. This is the new status quo, and it is more permanent than “The Other” and even “Brand New Day”. Amazing Spider-Man has ended based around another comic book gimmick.
How will this get new readers into Spider-Man? Someone coming from the outside, who knows nothing about comics, other than the gimmicks that have made the medium so laughable to them for years, is told that Spider-Man is now possessed by Doctor Octopus. Who wouldn’t find that stupid? I find that stupid and I actually read comic books. That new reader, someone who is familiar with soap opera gimmicks, someone who probably scoffs at those same gimmicks, is supposed to take the idea that Doctor Octopus now possesses Spider-Man’s body and memories seriously?
Now think about the most well known Batman stories in the last 20 years. There’s “Knightfall”, when Bane broke Batman’s back. There’s also “No Man’s Land”, where Gotham is destroyed by an earthquake, there’s “War Games”, where a giant gangwar erupts. Then more recently there has been Batman RIP. Those are not so gimmicky. No clones, no mind possession. Those are well regarded stories. So is it better to stay away from goofy comic book gimmicks? Maybe. Superman has the “Death of Superman”, and that’s about it. There was that time where he became blue and electric and split into two people, but no one remembers that. Superman has mostly laid low since the ’90s, doing a whole lot of nothing and staying away from any gimmicks, or really anything interesting at all. Maybe Superman suffers from a lack of gimmicks, while Spider-Man has too many. Or perhaps they just need better storytelling.
Good stories are always remembered. They might not always sell well on lesser titles, but at least they’re not remembered for being awful. Marvel has really kicked their line into high gear, pumping out genuine good stories with Marvel Now! so why would they rely on such a cliche storyline on their flagship title at a time where new ideas are being embraced? Dan Slott is simply feeding off a generation gone by, a time where it was acceptable to have clones and body snatchers and whatever other random sci-fi cliche you can think of. People are getting sick of super-heroes dying and coming back to life. It isn’t exciting anymore, so who is supposed to be excited about Peter Parker dying?
Obviously, this is a comic book and nothing but Uncle Ben,
Bucky, Jason Todd are permanent, so things will change one day. Peter Parker will eventually return as Spider-Man, even if his title has ended. Amazing Spider-Man will always be remembered as THE Spider-Man title. What will Superior Spider-Man be remembered as?