In my last rant about the Superior Spider-Man, I had argued that what makes Spider-Man special is because of Peter Parker. Spidey is a character that we, fans, can easily relate to, and because of that, any heroic or positive qualities of his have more impact on us. He is an emphatic and charismatic fictional role model, and those qualities that make him such are derived from his alter ego, Peter Parker. Therefore, for Spider-Man to have this significant connection with readers, it is necessary for Peter Parker to be the one behind that mask.
That’s my main beef with Superior Spider-Man. Because, technically, it is no longer Peter Parker that is wearing the Spidey mask.
The Superior Spider-Man is Otto Octavius possessing Peter Parker’s body and memories. When I was still speculating who the Superior Spider-Man is going to be, one of my options was somebody using Doc Ock’s “body switching” technology (as what the villain had used in Amazing Spider-Man’s final storyline) to possess Peter’s body, but it’s NOT Doc Ock himself. My exact words were “Marvel is being stupid with this Superior Spider-Man development, but I don’t think they’re that stupid to indeed settle with Doc Ock possessing Pete’s body as the Superior Spider-Man.” Boy, was I wrong.
So in Amazing’s last storyline, Otto Octavius successfully stole Spider-Man’s body for himself while concurrently trapping the hero on his own dying body. All this time, it seemed Otto just wanted to live the life of Spider-Man (oh, really?!). For his own selfish reasons, of course. Spidey, in Otto’s failing body, made an attempt to take back his body but was unfortunately unsuccessful. Defeated and helplessly expiring in Otto’s body, Spidey now realizing that getting his body and life back is now out of the question opted instead to insure that he won’t be leaving the legacy of Spider-Man to a villain. As a desperate gambit to reform Otto Octavius, Spidey transferred all his memories to him. And it worked. This made Otto “live out” the life of Peter Parker, making the former empathetic to the latter’s experience and development. This made Otto realize what being Spider-Man is all about – there is a tremendous responsibility that goes with the terrific power. Peter Parker dies in Dr. Octopus’ body and Otto Octavius vowed to become a superior Spider-Man than Peter.
A great amount of people were, of course, pissed. Death threats were even made by some.
I was also greatly pissed. Doc Ock won?! Peter Parker didn’t deserve this! It made me sicker and madder than what I’ve felt after the horrible “One More Day” storyline. It actually surprised me that I can feel this strongly about a fictional character. That a development in fiction could draw out such amount of emotion in me. Oh, fiction has moved me before many times, but not this much. This kind of intensity was a first. I didn’t make death threats, but I was upset enough to kind of nearly understand why some did. (Important note: it doesn’t mean I commend or empathize with those fans that made death threats. In fact, I admonish the making of death threats. It’s actually a sadder thing when death threats arise because of a disappointment on a work of fiction. That’s ridiculous and terrible.)
To be fair, if I try to calm down and look at it in an open-minded, broader viewpoint, I would find that this Superior Spider-Man twist is actually brilliant and beautiful. Initially, it just seemed to be a gimmicky bad idea, but at a second thought, it starts to look striking and fresh. I’ve never seen this stuff in comics before. In fact, if this was not Spider-Man (a character I am so attached to) we’re talking about, I could have enthusiastically applauded this.
We can look at the (supposedly) last issue of Amazing Spider-Man, issue 700, as a unique and moving superhero origin story for the Superior Spider-Man and a bittersweet and powerful “shining moment” for Peter Parker.
A “heel-face turn” or a bad guy becoming a good guy is an impactful development in a work of fiction. But in comics alone, we have already seen former villains leaving their former ways and choosing the path of becoming heroes many times before. But in the case of Otto Octavius, his change of heart was unique. It was “forced” upon Otto by Peter Parker after the former had already beaten the latter! Here’s the bad buy winning against his mortal foe – the good guy – but it was through this victory that he had his change of heart. That is unheard of. Most of the time, the good guys needed to “break” the bad guys for them to see the error of their ways which would lead them to eventually decide to become heroes. Moreover, this bad guy’s conversion to good was a result of literally becoming the good guy that he had been fighting as a bad guy. If this was your usual “heel-face turn”, the supervillain Dr. Octopus would have just become the superhero Dr. Octopus. But in this case, the bad guy Dr. Octopus had not only become just A “good guy” but had become THE good guy – Spider-Man himself! That’s outrageous and original – a completely different use of the “heel-face turn.”
Peter Parker has a hero’s heart till the end. He was defeated. He was dying. But still in the last moment of his life, he gave his all. By giving all his memories to Otto, he gave Otto complete capability to live out the life of Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man! Peter gifted his enemy a “second lease in life” – a gift to start over as a good guy by living his life. This is the same enemy who just stole his entire life away from him in the first place and imprisoned him in a diseased, dying body. But Pete did it anyway. All that matters to him in the last moment of life is he would leave the world a Spider-Man that would remain as a hero; it doesn’t matter if he’s letting the same person who took his life away from him get what he wanted. It’s as if Peter just went, “so you want to be Spider-Man? Fine, you be Spider-Man. It sucks that you would be living my life now. It’s not that I have any choice anyway. But not so fast, buster. Here are all my memories. Understand the moral obligations of being Spider-Man!” Peter Parker was spectacular till the end. In a sense, it was still a victory for the Amazing Spider-Man in spite of getting defeated.
As a Spider-Man fan, I hated ASM #700 and the fact Otto took over Pete’s body to become Superior Spider-Man. Again, Pete doesn’t deserve this crap to happen to him! But as a fiction fan, looking at it in the light I’ve mentioned previously, I have started to appreciate at least the concept.
Besides, I have to admit, the Superior Spider-Man has been, so far, kind of a kickass. He has been significantly more efficient, calculative, and organized, albeit darker and colder. He now has cybernetic goggles, spiderbots, retractable talons on his fingertips, and raptor-like claws under his feet – significant upgrades of Spider-Man hardware.
The Superior Spider-Man has the feel of Batman. But if you tell him this – despite the fact that comparing him to Batman was meant as a compliment – he would probably be insulted; and would then point out how flawed, substandard, and stupid Batman is compared to him. That’s what this new Spider-Man is all about.
In fact, despite being “brainwashed” into becoming a superhero, Otto still possessed his villainous qualities. Scheming and cunning. Has a massive superiority complex. Conceited. Arrogant. Impatient. A first class A-hole. But a brilliant A-hole. Will remind you of Dr. House. And will charm you the same way Dr. House did.
Anyway, in spite of his sincere desire for redemption and heroism, he is being a superhero in a Dr. Octopus way – ruthless, menacing, and self-seeking.
HE EVEN KILLED!!!
And I don’t like it one bit. Killing has never been Spider-Man’s thing. He’s not the Punisher. He’s Spider-Man. And Spider-Man doesn’t kill!
The creepiest thing about Otto occupying Pete’s body is he has the opportunity to take advantage of Mary Jane.
Fortunately, it was Otto himself who broke things off with MJ (in issue 2) after logically assessing the situation between them – the “Pete-MJ-Spidey” relationship – and concluded that being a couple won’t work within them.
(I don’t quite agree with Otto’s analysis. But that’s okay. As long as it’ll keep Otto away from MJ)
So here we have Otto living the life of Peter Parker and is seemingly living it out better than Pete did. “Peter Parker” is now almost always on time with appointments since he can now balance his time well between being Spider-Man and Peter Parker. As Spider-Man, he has become anti-heroic, more cunning, more intelligent, and operates and fights more efficiently – gone are the jokes and childish antics. And as a fictional character, he displays magnificent depth and appeal because of the unique nature and concept of his persona.
Still, I would prefer Peter Parker back. And, thank God, that in the last page of the very first issue of Superior Spider-Man, it was revealed that the “hope” element is part of Superior Spider-Man.
Of course, with Peter actually still existing inside his own body’s consciousness, a battle for Peter Parker’s body is inevitable between Pete and Otto (with regards to the implication of the last Superior issue as of writing).
And, as what’s suggested by the previews of future issues, this battle would lead to another Spider-Man costume change, with Otto still in control in the end?!
Just have to wait and see.
So in summary: Superior Spider-Man is not as bad as I’ve thought it was going to be, BUT – a big BUT – I would still prefer for Peter Parker to win back his body and return as Spider-Man ASAP!
More thoughts coming up as the Superior Spider-Man drama progresses.