The Spider-Man IP is one of the most recognized and profitable the world over. He and his web-slinging offshoots headline in blockbuster movies, best-selling video game adaptations, and the character is still the reigning champion in superhero merchandise sales.
On top of all that, his comic is currently the top-seller at Marvel as well. But if you ask me, it’s time Marvel retired the main ongoing Spider-Man comics for good. Why?
Put simply, the series is intellectually and creatively bankrupt, seemingly beyond repair.
It’s an ongoing publication that not only seems to despise its readers, but also condescends to them. Take the most recent run (the 6th relaunch at #1 of the main title that began in 2022, written by Zeb Wells). A magical mystical entity as a big villain, magic-created children for Mary Jane and the man she was randomly trapped in another dimension with (because these types of storylines just scream ‘Spider-Man’), a cringeworthy and regressive take on Felicia Hardy as the rebound sex doll again now that Peter and MJ are no longer a couple; a run that hinged its central mystery of Peter being seen in ads in a smoking crater with the tagline “What did Peter do?” (turns out, he didn’t do much of anything to cause the crater). Oh, and they randomly decided to kill off Kamala Khan in the pages of Amazing this week because, reasons?
Spider-Man has had plenty of runs in his long history that either didn’t deliver or were handled badly. Longtime readers are well used to it. But Amazing Spider-Man, the longest-running title featuring the character who just celebrated his 60th year of publication, is now an enervating and joyless reading experience. The title is clearly being controlled by a clutch of creators who want to pander to their own cynical and limited ideas of who the character is and should be (incidentally, including members of the same group of writers and editors who basically hijacked the title back in 2008 after the despised story reset of One More Day and Peter’s pact with Mephisto, and really began the regression of the character).
Writer Chip Zdarsky stated in an interview recently that he didn’t want to take on the main series as a writer because when the “fan’s expectations” aren’t met, there is a backlash. But that could just as easily be read as Zdarsky not wanting the title because Marvel would limit him as a writer and require him to do things that fans wouldn’t like.
The problems with the title go well beyond the fact that Marvel stubbornly decide to keep Peter and Mary Jane apart over increasingly convoluted and boring reasons. Peter himself is largely a weak and cowed excuse for a hero. He needs his former archnemesis Norman Osborn to build super-suits for him to take on the likes of the Vulture (the Vulture!). Peter under the pen of Zeb Wells is a hotheaded idiot who won’t take two minutes to explain to the Fantastic Four or Captain America why Mary Jane is trapped in another dimension and why he needs their help, Wells would rather just have him punch them and steal their tech. Peter is less of an inspirational hero as Spider-Man, and more of a neophyte D-bag, who probably wouldn’t have survived his first few years of crimefighting if this was always how he was portrayed.
These poor portrayals, along with Marvel’s insistence that the character remain in this stagnate form, against the wishes of anyone who may desire to write him or his cast otherwise, shows that the company have lost sight of who the character is supposed to be, and that he will likely remain in a closed loop of bad characterizations, increasingly puerile stories that please no one except apparently Marvel themselves. For these reasons, Marvel should probably go ahead and end Peter Parker’s ongoing story. They have two dozen offshoot Spider-characters including Miles Morales to Spider Gwen Stacy to play with, in addition to the numerous symbiotes and their offspring from Venom to Carnage. The outside media adaptations from the movies, games and cartoons, have created their own continuities based on the characters that in some ways have transcended the long-running main title. The Marvel movie company or game developers will never be short on IP or new ideas. Because of Marvel publishing’s shortsightedness and low bar for quality, the title as it is has certainly run its course creatively, and doesn’t appear to have anywhere else to go.
One could simply write these off as the grumblings of a disgruntled fan, and there is some truth to that. But Marvel have displayed an astonishing amount of antipathy and contempt for its fans. It is also widely speculated that Marvel inflate the sales of Amazing Spider-Man with dozens of variant covers per issue, which retailers must buy increased quantities of the book in order to receive (a recent estimate on one such rare cover was 200:1). It would seem Marvel publishing are more interested in selling variant covers than they are telling good stories.
Peter Parker as a character has had a good run, in an epic comic book narrative spanning some seven decades. His story as a hero was once about growth and progression, learning from mistakes, leaning on his loved ones, and overcoming seemingly insurmountable threats while being an inspiration to many both inside the world of the book and in real life. But that character seems long gone now, and it doesn’t appear that the very cynical editors or writers currently working at Marvel have either the wherewithal nor the desire to bring him back.