Spidey’s Back!

Spidey!In a move that really wasn’t all that surprising to us, Marvel Comics announced that Peter Parker will once again be Spider-Man this spring. The New York Daily News broke the story earlier today in a feature that included an interview with Spider-Man writer Dan Slott.

For anyone who doesn’t follow the latest happenings in the Marvel Comics universe, Peter Parker’s consciousness was removed from his body by his long-time foe Doctor Octopus in a mind swap. Doctor Octopus was dying and did the switch in order to survive. This all culminated in late 2012 with the final issue of the long-running title The Amazing Spider-Man, which was number 700. The title was replaced by The Superior Spider-Man, which featured Doctor Octopus masquerading as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his darker, meaner take of the superhero divided fans. Many decried the fact that their beloved nerd, Parker, was dumped in order to give new blood to the Spider-Man comic books. But a vocal number of readers came to like the new Spider-Man who wasn’t so noble or honorable. This divide will probably continue for the rest of the character’s history.

Still, fans who disliked the new ASm2Spider-Man are breathing a sigh of relief at the news, which isn’t truly surprising. Think about it, a big-budget movie is coming out in a few short months (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and it wouldn’t do to have a disconnect between the comic book and movie versions of Spider-Man. The idea of explaining to non-fans that the Peter Parker in the comic books isn’t really him, but the one in the movies is the real deal, can leave anyone confused. This is Marvel’s most famous and beloved superhero, after all. In the long run, that character change couldn’t be permanent. It’s all part of branding and marketing efforts to increase buzz and comic book sales. It worked in the past with so many other superheroes –Superman, Batman and Captain America have had similar storylines where they were replaced. But these marketing gimmicks, while they do work, create negativity and cynicism about the company, since the average reader knew that despite Marvel’s insistence in 2012 that Peter Parker was dying off, that things would go back to the status quo.

This doesn’t mean that The Superior Spider-Man was a flawed effort, it did have its merits and presented a fresh take on Marvel’s flagship superhero. But it is a bit of a relief that the happy-go-lucky Peter Parker is back in a new launch of The Amazing Spider-Man. If only it didn’t have to be relaunched as an issue number 1, but that’s the marketing department for you.

Lewis T. Grove

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End Of An Era For Spider-Man

spidey 700Marvel Comics has just released the 700th and final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man in a story called “Dying Wish: Suicide Run”. It’s publication can be seen as the nail in the coffin for the old Marvel universe as the comic book company re-launches itself with its Marvel NOW! comic books aimed at bringing in new readers. Their core titles have been canceled and relaunched with new number ones and new titles altogether. In Spider-Man’s case, an all-new comic book is set to debut in two weeks called The Superior Spider-Man.

Why such an unusual title? Well MAJOR SPOILER WARNING it turns out that this is a different Spider-Man. He’s actually Otto Octavius, yes, Doctor Octopus himself is now Spider-Man.

We have to go back to around issue 600 of The Amazing Spider-Man, in that issue it was revealed that Doctor Octopus was dying, in fact, his body is a shriveled, helpless husk kept alive in a mechanical cocoon. With his dying breath, Octavius has been obsessed with finally defeating his arch foe Spider-Man and making one big impact on the world. In issue 698, it was revealed that Doctor Octopus knew about Spider-Man’s true identity of Peter Parker (never mind that he learned this shortly before dying and forgetting it during the Clone Saga fiasco), then it was revealed that he had transferred his mind into Spider-Man’s body, while Peter’s mind was implanted into Octavius’ dying form.

In The Amazing Spider-Man # 700 Peter, in Doctor Octopus’ decaying body, desperately tries to undo the switch before time runs out. Written by Dan Slott and drawn by Humberto Ramos, this issue is a bonafide tour de force that touches on all aspects of Spider-Man’s life. uncle benThe highlights were when Peter has a couple of near death experiences and glimpses the afterlife populated by his deceased loved ones like Gwen Stacy and his Uncle Ben. These sequences and Peter’s failing struggles are very heartfelt and exemplify why Spidey has been so popular. It nearly undoes the bad taste that the infamous “One More Day” storyline has left with many fans.

The ending to this issue and story will be as controversial and radical as that of “One More Day” for one obvious reason.

DO NOT READ BELOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED

 

 

 

LAST WARNING

 

 

Peter Parker dies.

Ultimately, Peter was unsuccessful in switching back to his true body, and the effort made him consider doing the unthinkable such as attempting to willingly kill a person. However, his efforts weren’t in vain. While Doctor Octopus took Spider-Man’s body, his mind absorbed Peter’s memories and behavior. In the end, after Peter dies in Doctor Octopus’ body, Octavius finds himself learning about responsibility, empathizing with Peter and promises to take up Spider-Man’s heroic cause. The story has an epilogue in the comic book The Avenging Spider-Man # 15.1 where Octavius slightly alters the Spider-Man costume and leads to next month’s new title of The Superior Spider-Man.

death of peter

It’s always sad to see Spider-Man die (usually in What If? stories and most recently the Ultimate Comics version) because he always seemed so vulnerable compared to other superheroes. But this time it felt sadder than normal since this is the true Spider-Man that dies not an alternate version. It does feel like the end of an era, the comic book had its highs and lows but The Amazing Spider-Man was one of Marvel’s most consistently good titles. At the same time, this story celebrates all that is good and noble about Spider-Man and does set up a very intriguing direction for the character. Being that these are comic books, of course, this development will be undone in some way and Peter will be resurrected. If they could revive Steve Rogers and Barry Allen they can bring back the true Spider-Man. new spidey 2In the meantime, this new take of Spidey (is it even proper to refer to him as that? The new Spider-Man seems much less happy-go-lucky than the original.), offers a new way of looking at Spider-Man and brings up new questions. How will he fit in with Peter’s life? Can he really become a hero? Can he leave behind his former villainous life? Will anyone catch on to what is going on? Is Peter Parker truly gone? Careful readers will spot an escape hatch or two. One certainy is that Doctor Octopus has elevated himself to become Spider-Man’s greatest foe. He accomplished what others failed to do by killing him but now he has to pay the price by assuming Spider-Man’s heroic role.

The rest of the oversize comic book features two back up stories and artwork including a complete gallery of every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Hopefully by the time the next anniversary arrives, TPTB at Marvel will decide to resume The Amazing Spider-Man and with the original numbering. As to how readers will react to the new title and hero is open to question. While these new changes are a good jumping on point for new readers, “Dying Wish: Suicide Run” also serves as a bittersweet goodbye for older fans who may not want to follow the adventures of the new Spider-Man. At the same time, for cynical readers who have read countless stories about dying superheroes (only to see them resurrected), this can be more of the same even though it was well done in “Dying Wish: Suicide Run”. The fact that the new title will be called The Superior Spider-Man belies its transient nature of this new Spider-Man until the proper hero makes his eventual return.

Until then, long live Spider-Man.

José Soto

Spider-Man’s Greatest Moments, Part III

As Marvel celebrates the 50th anniversary or birthday of their greatest superhero Spider-Man, here are some more elements that has best defined everyone’s favorite web-slinging hero. These aspects and many others are the reason why Spider-Man continues to captivate many fans.

A Doubtful Everyman What makes Spider-Man such an endearing hero is the fact that he isn’t the most powerful superhero. He isn’t even the smartest. He gets by with his pluck and determination and sometimes by knowing when to retreat and come back to fight another day.

While he is quite a powerhouse when he puts his mind to it, often he fights more powerful foes or the villains just happen to gain the upper hand. This usually led to bouts of severe doubt. This happened very early in his career in The Amazing Spider-Man # 3, which was the first appearance of his arch nemesis Doctor Octopus. Early in the issue, Spidey easily captured some robbers and he mused to himself that his crimefighting career was too easy. Little did he know that a few pages later he would get a major thumping when he first fought Doctor Octopus. He was so humiliated by his defeat that he considered hanging up his costume until a high school lecture by the Human Torch about not giving up, inspired his alter ego Peter Parker to get back into the fight and eventually defeat Doctor Octopus.

There was another moment when he had to prepare to fight Doctor Octopus in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man # 78. Most of that issue dealt with Spidey coming to grips that he might not survive the oncoming battle with Doc Ock and was mentally preparing for the ordeal. It was notable because in that issue, Peter took time to say goodbye in his own way to his loved ones. Of course, readers knew that he would come out the winner but he didn’t and his fears and doubts made him very relatable to readers.

Often Peter winds up berating himself over his choices and the consequences from them. He blames himself for his Uncle Ben’s death, for causing his Aunt May so much stress over his disappearances, and so on. The sad thing is that many times Spidey is correct in blaming himself. One of the more boneheaded things to happen to him is that he failed to graduate college (The Amazing Spider-Man # 185) because he didn’t have the required credits and didn’t notice this due to his superhero activities.

When it comes to his anguish nothing could top the aftermath of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy’s death in The Amazing Spider-Man # 121. In that infamous issue, the Green Goblin kidnapped Gwen to lure Spider-Man to the George Washington Bridge. At one point, the Green Goblin tossed her off the bridge and Spidey snagged her with his webbing. As he pulled her back up, he was congratulating himself on having saved his girlfriend. But what he didn’t realize was that his action actually snapped her neck and killed her. The issues that followed illustrated his rage and grief and to this day, he’s has been shown to be still haunted by her death as would any one of us.

Supporting Cast Unlike many superheroes Spider-Man has been blessed with an excellent supporting cast. Starting with his Aunt May, always on the verge of death until recent writers realized that plot point was used once too often. She first came off as an overbearing mother type, but over time, May Parker learned to let go of Peter and became supportive of him. May had an intriguing development where she learned of her nephew’s secret identity following a brutal battle he had with Morlun (The Amazing Spider-Man # 35, Volume II). However, her knowledge of Peter’s secret identity was undone by the infamous “One More Day” storyline that rebooted the Spider-Man universe.

The most glaring casualty of the reboot was the dissolution of Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson. Aside from Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane is Peter’s greatest love and ever since her first full introduction (The Amazing Spider-Man # 42) she rocked his world and won over many readers with her flash and verve. Mary Jane was there to pick up the pieces after Gwen died. Her most shocking revelation came at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man # 257 when she admitted to Peter that she always knew he was Spider-Man. This knowledge was a barrier to their on-again-off again relationship, but they eventually married. Naturally, his Spider-Man activities conflicted with his domestic life to the point that she left him at one point (The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2001), though they later reconciled. Foolishly, TPTB at Marvel Comics decreed that Spider-Man couldn’t be married because they felt the marriage plot line was stale. Hence the “One More Day” story where Spider-Man made a deal with Mephisto to save his Aunt May at the cost of his marriage. But even though they aren’t married in the new timeline, it was shown in recent issues that they still have feelings for each other, so it may not be over. Continue reading

Top 10 Marvel Movie Villains

With Marvel’s superheroes blazing their way across movie screens, one factor for the films’ success is the supervillain(s) the heroes face. As any good storyteller will tell you, the vital ingredient for a gripping yarn is a formidable foe to put the story’s protagonist to the test.

marvel movie villain

Being that the Marvel superheroes have such memorable enemies and that they translate well to the screen it’s one reason why the Marvel films have been successful. Naturally, with future Marvel films coming up, this list will change, but that’s part of the fun in making up these lists. So for now, these are the top ten villains to appear in Marvel movies…and the five worst.

Ivan Vanko10. Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2 (Mickey Rourke): Combining elements of Whiplash and the Crimson Dynamo for the big screen, Vanko is a cold, deadly and enraged Iron Man foe who was much more engaging than the original film’s Obadiah Stane or this one’s Justin Hammer.

9. Emil Blonsky/The Abomination in The Incredible Hulk (Tim Roth): Come on, the guy had the balls to go up against the Hulk man to man! That’s one tough SOB, and yes when he becomes The Abomination and fights the Hulk it looks like something out of  a video game. But it was a lot more fun than that turgid Ang Lee film.

8. Bullseye in Daredevil (Colin Farrell): One of the bright spots in that film, Bullseye had a maniacal sense of energy, ego and deadliness that upstaged Daredevil and gave him a personal motivation for trying to defeat the title hero.

7. The Red Skull/Johann Schmidt in red skull hugo weavingCaptain America: The First Avenger (Hugo Weaving): A bit one-dimensional but well-played by Weaving  as an uber Nazi whose ambitions elevate his evil to another level altogether.

green goblin spidey 16. The Green Goblin/Norman Osborn in Spider-Man (Willem Dafoe): The outfit stunk otherwise the Goblin would’ve ranked higher. Dafoe, however, gives Osborn his all as a crazed CEO with fantastic gadgets and (aside from the outfit) largely works as a villain.

5. Col. William Stryker in X2 (Brian Cox): Despite not having any powers, Stryker is one terrifying person whose bigotry and fear of mutants is a driving force that threatens the lives of the film’s mutants whether they’re hero or villain.

4. The New Goblin/Harry Osbron in new goblinSpider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 (James Franco): A true tragic villain, Harry doesn’t become bad until the end of Spider-Man 2 where the agony of his father’s death and his own inadequacies unhinge him. His hatred for Peter Parker/Spider-Man, the means he goes about seeking vengeance and his final tragic redemption are the best things in the third Spider-Man film.

doctor octopus3. Doctor Octopus/Otto Octavius in Spider-Man 2 (Alfred Molina): The best of the science-driven-mad villains. Molina gives us a very dimensional Doc Ock who isn’t driven by world conquest or revenge but to achieve a scientific goal. Never mind that trying to create his version of fusion threatens the world. Calculating and arrogant even before his accident, Octavius paid the price for his arrogance and was a formidably tough foe for Spider-Man.

2. Loki in Thor (Tom Hiddleston): One loki in thorof the biggest surprises wth Thor is how subtle and crafty Loki came off. It would’ve been easy with a title as God of Mischief to have him be a Norse god version of The Joker and be cackling and chaotic. Instead, thanks largely to Hiddleston’s quiest expressions, Loki is seen sympathetically as the seemingly less-favored son who holds a secret grudge against his brother Thor. The film successfully shows why Loki detests his situation and why he turns on his family; it’s more layered than him finding out his true origin. Rather his envy and anger are due to his own insecurities, Thor’s arrogance and is his validation for taking over Asgard through crafty means.

old magneto1. Magneto/ Erik Lehnsherr in X-Men, X2, and X-Men: The Last Stand ( Ian MacKellen): As one of the deadliest and most powerful villains, Magneto is someone you can’t help empathize with considering his background; he’s a World War II concentration camp survivor. He developed a hatred for non-mutants who persecuted his own kind,  thus making him feel justified in his actions against society. Magneto was usually one step ahead of Professor X and willing to go the extra distance to achieve his goals whether it involved harming a young girl or firing a gun point blank at a cop with his magnetic powers. Despite his age, Magneto was someone to take seriously as a foe and was also the mirror image, in terms of idealogy, of Professor X’s dream of peaceful co-existance with humans. Sadly, many of humanity’s actions throughout the original trilogy only added fuel to his cause and made viewers wonder as to who was truly evil or misguided.

new magnetoSpecial shout outs in no particular order go to Mystique (Rebecca Romijin Stamos) in the X-Men films, Venom/Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) in Spider-Man 3, The Kingpin/Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan) in Daredevil, Jared Nomak (Luke Goss) in Blade II, and Magneto/ Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) in X-Men: First Class.  Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto was good enough to make the top ten list but for most of the movie he is actually an anti-hero who only becomes truly villainous by the film’s end.

And now for the five worst. Before getting to the these turds let it be noted that all it takes to sink a film (sometimes singlehandedly) is a poor villain. When coming up with a screenplay attention must be paid to the villain’s motivation, execution and threat level. It’s a hard thing to pull off; when it works you have a great movie when it doesn’t you have a franchise killer. So here they are, the Marvel movie villain Hall of Shame inductees:

5. Howard Saint in The Punisher (John Travolta): You know as a villain you’re in trouble when the colorful assassins you send after the Punisher like the Russian are more interesting than you.

4. Toad in X-Men (Ray Park): Talk about hamming it up! That scene at the Statue of Liberty when Toad tries to mock Storm with his silly dancing earned him a good lightning strike that ensured that he didn’t return in the sequels.

3. Blackheart/Legion in Ghost Rider (Wes Bentley): Boring, boring, boring! Generic demonic foe that looks more like a goth reject than the son of Mephisto. His father was a more intriguing foe yet this film chose to focus instead on this bratty emo.

doctor doom 2005

2. Dr. Doom/Victor Von Doom in Fantastic Four (Julian McMahon): This is miscasting at its worst. McMahon was terrific as the narcissistic plastic surgeon in Nip/Tuck but lacked the gravitas to be Marvel’s most infamous and regal villain. Everyone expected an Eastern European despot but got your standard egotistical CEO and coming so soon after Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin performance it just drew unfavorable comparisons. In trying to tie his origin with the Fantastic Four and making him a mutated being, this film robs the character of his rich backstory and menace. In this film he’s just a poor Goblin/Magneto/Electro knock-off. He was more like his comic book counterpart, power-hungry and more Machiavellian in the sequel but that film’s awfulness wiped out any improvement made to Doom’s character.

1. Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Destroyer of worlds, nearly omnipotent, a force of nature personified by a giant being with that wonderfully whacky Kirby outfit, that is how fans conceive of Galactus. Do we get this on film? No! We get a cloud. A stormy cloud. Seriously how lazy is this? What’s equally laughable is the filmmakers’ attempt to explain why they went with a cloud, apparently they wanted to leave it up to whoever did a Silver Surfer film to have a free reign designing Galactus. All this did was help to scuttle that film and any followups to the Fantastic Four. The execution reeks of not being imaginative and/or having a limited f/x budget. It was the ultimate payoff that never happened and signified the film’s problems. There was too much going on in the movie to adequately explore the most famous Fantastic Four story, it would have been better to end it with a cliffhanger even if it never happened. It would have left less of a bad taste.

José Soto