Thursday, June 22, 2006

On Spider-Man Unmasking

Considering how many posts in the past I've devoted to comics, even those I hadn't read at the time, I don't think I'd be able to live with myself if I didn't write even just a blurb about the fact that my favorite superhero of all time has, in the pages of Marvel Comics' Civil War #2, revealed his secret identity to the public, at a press conference, no less.

To make a long story short, Peter Parker shows his support for Tony Stark(aka Iron Man), who in turn is the point-man for all superheroes advocating the Superhero Registration Act that was introduced in issue #1, by showing that he is not afraid to reveal himself to all. In the course of a concurrent issue of Amazing Spider-Man, he has a conversation with Mary Jane and Aunt May about all the repercussions of his revealing himself, and essentially, they talk him into it.

The attention this move by Marvel has generated is quite massive. Not since the death of Superman has a comic-book character gotten this much mainstream media exposure for reasons other than the box-office performance of his latest movie adaptation.

Of course, the naysayers are saying that it's bullshit, that it's completely out of character for Peter, and that it will all be voided down the line anyway by some simple story device (considering the vast range of superpowers that Marvel's characters have).

I say it's actually a good idea.

Although I am a self-confessed Marvel fan, I am not a Marvel apologist. They've had some pretty terrible ideas in the past, a lot of them having to do with Spider-Man. The clone saga comes to mind, as does the notion of Norman Osborn retroactively siring children by Gwen Stacy, as well as the whole John Byrne retooling of Spider-Man's origin. Yep, they've come up with some real stinkers.

But this isn't one of them, not in and of itself.

This isn't like the death of Superman, which no one (myself included) realized was nothing but a huge marketing gambit on DC Comics' part. There are a number of reasons for this.

1. Mark Millar is a much better writer than Dan Jurgens.

2. Steve McNiven is an EXPONENTIALLY better artist than Dan Jurgens.

and most importantly...

3. When Superman died (as would be the case with any character) there were only two directions to go: a) keep him dead or b) bring him back. The only creativity involved, really, was how to bring him back. I know there was the whole big deal about it being a great opportunity to introduce "cool new characters" like Steel (whose true redeeming value is that he killed Shaquille O' Neal's movie career) and Superboy (whom DC recently killed, strangely enough), but really, there really wasn't much else to do but bring him back.

By unmasking Spider-Man, Marvel has opened the door for all kinds of stories to be told. There are so many directions they can take the character that it can boggle the average fanboy's mind. Even assuming some future writer or artist manages to put the genie back into the bottle at some point, these stories will still have been told, and their impact will still have been felt, certainly by Peter himself, who may realize, depending on what he goes through from here, that it wasn't such a good idea after all. The gravity of his decision will not be diminished, especially if he suffers for it in the meantime. And in the meantime, readers will get a glimpse of what Spider-Man's life would be like if all his enemies, not just kooks like Norman Osborn, knew who he was when he took of his tights and who he went home to at night.

THIS has POTENTIAL. I don't know if Marvel will fully exploit that potential, but it's undeniably there.

And to think, Civil War is only on issue #2...of SEVEN.

1 comment:

fatfingur said...

I agree with you Jim. Spider-Man really made a really big decision that will affect the Marvel Universe.

By the way, I've put a link on your post on my Civil War fan blog. Thanks man.