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.