I’m Enjoying Spider-Man Now More Than Ever

It’s always personal. What we like, what we enjoy. It’s based on our personal preferences. Even more than that, those preferences are based on our personal

Two months ago, the founder and namesake of this community and my friend Captain Comics announced that he had stopped buying Spider-Man comics for the first time in 40 years. The sad truth is that he wasn’t enjoying Amazing Spider-Man

I’m not here to tell Captain Comics- or anyone else- that he’s wrong. I’m not here to change his mind. But I would like to share a different perspective. You see, I’m enjoying Spider-Man comics now more than I ever have before in my life. In my humble opinion, Amazing Spider-Man has never been more exciting or more interesting. It’s one of my favorite comics right now and has been for the better part of two years. It’s always one of the first comics I read when I bring home a stack of new goodies (it helps that the title starts with an A and my local shop puts comics into my pull file alphabetically). And I’m always happy to get a satisfying chunk of two or three issues of friendly neighborhood goodness. That’s right. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to reading Spider-Man as much as I do now.

In his column, Captain Comics shared the incredibly personal story of his relationship with Spider-Man.
He told us how l’il Cap’n first discovered Spider-Man while reading his older brother’s comic books. He told us how they grew up together. Spider-Man was always just a little bit older- in high school while Cap was
in grade school; in college when Cap was in high school; in grad school when Cap was in college. Peter Parker served as a mentor, imaginary big brother and, in Cap’s own words, “a life preserver.” It’s a story I had heard several times before but never with that level of passion. I truly think it’s one of the best things Captain Comics has ever written.

So I can understand why Cap feels like the current Spider-Man isn’t his Spider-Man anymore. I get why he feels like his Peter Parker is gone and never coming back.

I understand and sympathize with his need to grieve. Yes, grieve.

However, my experience with Spider-Man was completely different. I didn’t get to know Spider-Man
as he went through the natural progression of maturity. In fact, I didn’t even get to know Spider-Man as one person. I got to know several versions of Spider-Man at the same time. The first Spidey I met was the cartoon version from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. I was a kid when that show was on television and it was my introduction not only to Spider-Man but to the entire Marvel Universe. It’s how I met Dr. Strange and Iron Man and Professor X for the first time as well. Yet even as I was enjoying
a childhood cartoon classic, I discovered another version of Spider-Man. A different channel would air repeats of the Spider-Man cartoon from the Electric Company. So, as a kid, I had two different versions
of Spidey before I even read a Spider-Man comic book.

Then, when I was a little older, I met the Spider-Man of the comics in Spectacular Spider-Man #111. He was an older Spider-Man than what I was used to- out of college and part of the work-force- but that wasn’t a problem for me. I was becoming accustomed to the idea of different versions of Spider-Man. It wasn’t that one version was right and another was wrong. It was a question of whether each individual version was done well.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t develop the same kind of personal relationship with Peter Parker that Captain Comics did. I’ll admit that Spider-Man doesn’t mean as much to me as he does to Cap. I was a fan, not a friend. But I was a fan. I had Spider-Man pajamas and action figures. I still do. Uh, an action figure, not the pajamas.

My experience with Spider-Man was very different. I would watch Spider-Man cartoons or movies and read Spider-Man comics when they were being done well. But I had no problem walking away when they weren’t. I wasn’t following the natural progression of one person; I was searching for the best depictions of that character.

Based on those very different experiences, Cap and I had a very interesting contrast of opinions when it came to One More Day. Initially, Cap applauded the idea. I remember him writing enthusiastically about restoring a younger Peter Parker, who wasn’t married and would more closely resemble the character
he had liked in the first place. On the other hand, I was very leery. I thought that JMS had shown that an adult Peter Parker could work well. I liked that Aunt May and Mary Jane knew his secret. I thought it made for some great changes and some great scenes. And I was worried that the character would go backward and be frozen in amber.

Again, these reactions are personal. They’re a by-product of how we met Spider-Man- what he was like at the time and what we were like at the time. Captain
Comics had been introduced to a high school Peter Parker. He was a lovable loser. But when I met Spider-Man in the comics, Peter Parker was already an adult. I have no nostalgia for a teenaged Spider-Man. It’s one of the reasons why I never got into Kurt Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man despite the many assertions of others that it’s one of Busiek’s best books (trust me, I tried it) or, for that matter, into Brian
Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man. They may have been great depictions of the character, but they didn’t speak to me.

Despite his initial enthusiasm, Captain Comics detested One More Day. As he wrote so eloquently, this wasn’t his Spider-Man anymore. His Spider-Man wouldn’t have made these choices. As he saw it, this Spider-Man was “irreparably damaged.”

However, I skipped One More Day. I didn’t have a 45-year collection that I needed to maintain or a professional obligation to follow a story I didn’t think I would like. I had no reason to buy it if I didn’t want to. So I didn’t. That meant that there was no bad taste to wash out of my mouth. The faults of One More Day couldn’t spoil the success of Brand New Day.

Even then, I didn’t initially embrace Brand New Day. As I mentioned earlier, I had no interest in what seemed like a step backward. I was content to ignore Spider-Man once more. However, another friend and member of this board, Doc Beechler, took it upon himself to change my mind. He wrote enthusiastically about the new Spider-Man on multiple occasions. He sent me a gift: the first hardcover collection of Spider-Man: Brand New Day.

I read it, mostly to humor Doc. I loved it. It wasn’t a backward looking comic after
all. It was fresh and exciting. It was free and forward looking. Brand New Day introduced a new supporting cast. It brought back Harry Osborn as a friend and Harry introduced Peter Parker to his girlfriend Lilly and her friend Carlie and on from there.

Suddenly, Peter had a circle of acquaintances again. And these acquaintances were roughly my age- Gen X’ers at the early stages of adulthood, embarking on relatively new careers. Suddenly, I could relate to Peter Parker in a way I never could before.

Brand New Day also brought a bushel full of new heroes and new villains. There was Jackpot and Screwball, Menace and Mr. Negative, Anti-Venom and Paper Doll. The stories were fast-paced. The plots were constantly over-lapping and impacting each other. It was a great read.

Even better, Brand New Day didn’t stay in place. That had been my biggest fear- that Peter Parker would be placed in the so-called perfect stage and left there, frozen in time. But that’s not what happened at all. The status quo was shifting. The Daily Bugle was sold, turned into the DB and destroyed. Peter’s newspaper friends navigated their way to Frontline and then to internet blogs. Aunt May dated and got married. J. Jonah was hospitalized, released and elected mayor. There’s movement, there’s progression, there’s always something new to explore and enjoy. And I love it.

That’s not to say that every story has been perfect. I thought that Amazing Spider-Man hit a rough patch last summer with a clone story and a Deadpool guest
appearance. But it’s back on track this winter. I’ve enjoyed “Gauntlet” and the way that the Spider-Man comic has been updating his cast of villains. I loved the new look for Electro, the new take on Mysterio and the clash between the new Rhino and the old one. I also like the way that these seemingly separate stories tie into a greater whole.

This is great stuff. And I can’t wait for the epic confrontation with Kraven’s daughter.

So yeah, I’m enjoying Spider-Man more than I ever have. I’m excited to see what’s happening now. And I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next. Spider-Man is fresh and fun. It’s one of the best comics I’m reading right now. And, in my humble opinion, it’s the best it’s ever been.

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Comment by The Baron on April 9, 2010 at 8:41am
It's true that when you come to a character affects how you relate to them. For example, Gwen Stacy has always meant very little to me. She was gone by the time I started reading comics in the mid-to-late 70's, and was hardly mentioned at sll in those days. For me, Mary Jane was Peter's girlfriend, and always had been. I later found out different, but Gwen always seemed bland and underdeveloped as a character - one who had been killed off and did not seem to be mourned or missed all that much.
Comment by Alan M. on April 9, 2010 at 9:05am
Thanks for writing this, Chris! I, too, am enjoying Spider-Man now more than ever, and your experiences seem to mesh pretty well with mine in terms of why. Although...

Something about the art in this comic, ever since the Deadpool issue (or thereabouts, I think) has seemed a bit...off to me. Darker, more angular, less fun...which, I admit, better fits where the stories have been lately, but it's been dampening my joy for this book just a bit, even as the stories have been very compelling.
Comment by Chris Fluit on April 9, 2010 at 9:24am
I agree, Alan. The art has been darker and more angular lately. I think it fits with the recent villain-focus in The Gauntlet. But it looks like some of the more fun artists like Chris Bachalo and Marcos Martin are coming back in April and June so that's something to look forward to.
Comment by Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man on April 9, 2010 at 9:33am
Agreed completely, Chris!

The only clunker for me so far was that one about Ben Reilly earlier in the year.

I'm always wondering what's going to happen next, but I know that Peter Parker will never quit fighting crime with his trademark humor intact. It's fun watching him in his various situations and against classic and redone versions of his villainous rogue's gallery.

Every time I think I have a new favorite, another one comes along! I couldn't agree with your assessment any more than I do, Chris!
Comment by Luke Blanchard on April 9, 2010 at 9:46am
My Gwen experience was similar to the Baron's. My formative Spidey reading included local reprints of Steve Ditko's stories, but they, of course, featured Betty Brant (they didn't get to the Gwen issues).
Comment by Philip Portelli on April 9, 2010 at 9:51am
The problems with boosting the menace of longtime Spider-Foes is if you make them TOO dangerous or psychotic, they lose their "charm". They turned Kraven into a complex, depressed and obsessed individual and killed him off! Also making them more dangerous in "Spider-Man" won't work if they're portrayed as clowns again somewhere else.
Comment by The Baron on April 9, 2010 at 9:56am
They turned Kraven into a complex, depressed and obsessed individual and killed him off! Also making them more dangerous in "Spider-Man" won't work if they're portrayed as clowns again somewhere else.

I dunno, I kind of like the idea of "Kraven the Clown". ;)
Comment by Luke Blanchard on April 9, 2010 at 10:18am
I was given the recent Sandman two-parter for my birthday. It's a fun story, more decompressed than I like, with a funny, smart Spider-Man. It also powered the Sandman up enormously, leaving him really too powerful a foe for Spidey.
Comment by Dagwan on April 9, 2010 at 10:49am
I have Superman pajamas for wintertime, and Spidey boxers for summertime sleeping. I've also been known to wear either my Green Lantern or Captain America t-shirts to bed at times.

Baby Bean's favorite t-shirt of mine that she likes to wear to bed is an old Mr. Spook shirt that no longer fits me.

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

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Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on April 9, 2010 at 10:52am
I'm enjoying this Spider-man run as well. I just started on "The Gauntlet" though, so it is a bit premature to really rank it. What really hurts it for me, and I know I have mentioned it before is the art. Especially, Paul Azaceta's. I just find his art bad.
Some of the supporting cast doesn't really do it for me, and sometimes they seem to jam them into the comic. For instance its like they forgot they haven't shown MJ in a while, so they need to force her in there somewhere.

BUT, but. let me clarify I am really digging what is going on.

I am the flip side of Chris. I have Spider-man pajama bottoms, but no action figure. :D


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