Lodro Rinzler reflects on the death of Spider Man and what it might mean for those who follow heroes.
I canceled my subscription to Spider Man the other day. Because he died. And, unlike most other comic book characters these days, Marvel Comics has explicitly said they have no intention of bringing him back to life. And, unlike when Superman died, no one else is talking about it or cares enough to do anything about it.
For those of you who gave up on comics around age nine, here’s your 30 second recap: Dr. Octopus, after decades of getting beaten about the head, lays dying in prison. He hatches a plan: a robotic octopus slides over to Peter Parker (yes, Doc Ock knows Spider Man is Peter Parker) and stings him, implanting all of Doctor Octopus’ memories into Parker’s head, swapping Parker’s memories out and placing them in his own body. After several issues of readers saying “How is Peter going to get out of this one?” the grand reveal occurs: he doesn’t. Peter Parker dies in Dr. Octopus’ body, leaving Doc Ock with a new lease on life in a stolen frame.
For those of you with zero Spider Man knowledge it’s worth noting that Dr. Octopus’ last big “heist” wasn’t some paltry bank robbery; when he discovered he was dying he arranged satellites to fry the entire world population, thus taking all of us out with him. This man is capable of mass murder. And now Marvel Comics has him on the Avengers, fighting crime in NYC, and generally being an arrogant jerk slowly learning to not be the guy that wants to mass murder everyone. This is the hero Marvel thinks today’s youth needs to see.
There is so much aggression in the world. When I was a young reader the world was scary enough but it was simpler. Now we have rampant unemployment, wars on things that are as amorphous as terror, and it’s become a regular thing for the mentally ill to walk into our schools and shoot our children. This is the time that Marvel Comics has said, “Eh. Let’s kill off one of the last great role models for children. Better yet, let’s replace him with a villain and have them follow his exploits.”
It’s not just Spider Man that’s gone either. Almost every hero in the Marvel Universe has died, become a villain, or is at best morally questionable. Out of the original five X-Men three have died at some point (one repeatedly and is currently dead), one got corrupted by a “death seed” and became a monstrous villain that wiped a small town off the map, and one killed Professor X and is widely hated by everyone.
I need my fictional heroes fighting against aggression, not perpetuating it for the sake of a good plot line. By letting Dr. Octopus kill Peter and running the title with him as the lead, Marvel Comics is telling readers that crime does in fact pay. I have read published letters from fans who are similarly disappointed with what feels like a bait and switch in a Spider Man title and what appears to be a dismissive attitude from the editorial staff. That “don’t like it, don’t read it” hubris reflects Otto’s own and is the final straw that broke this camel’s back. It appears that Marvel Comics has given into the cynicism and aggression of today’s world, no longer offering a fictional solution, someone fighting for the good guys. Their idea of the world appears to be that there are no longer such things as good guys at all.
As a man in today’s world, someone looking ahead to when I may have children of my own, this is a heart-breaking development. Heroes should continue to exist. They provide the model for what we do not normally see in everyday life. We see morally ambiguous wannabe heroes all the time in society. I would like to see genuine, caring individuals with a heart of gold have a comeback so that young people have someone to look up to. Heroes should not go unmourned. With the death of Spider Man I mourn for Peter Parker, for sure, but primarily I mourn for those young people who grow up with a perverted sense of what a hero should be.