Peter Parker needs to pull a Barry Allen (but not come back).
The world is ending and when the world ends I tend to look for comfort and I find that comfort in the form of comics. I’m sure I’m not alone.
As I was rereading some of my favorite comics, I decided to check in on some of the characters I’ve since stepped away from, in this case Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-man.
One of the things I realized as I was looking at years and years of Spider-man comics is that Spider-man isn’t as popular as he used to be. And it’s not just that, he’s also not a much of a comic book brand anymore, and that’s really surprising.
The (Lack of) Spider-Family
Let’s look at Batman. How many Bat books are released every month? More to the point, how many of them are connected to Batman? How many of them would be drastically changed if Batman went away?
Well, we know. Grant Morrison killed off Bruce Wayne a few years ago and the entire line of Batman books was altered. Bruce Wayne is essential to Nightwing, Batwoman, Batgirl, Catwoman, the Outsiders, and on and on. With the possible exception of Harley Quinn, every Bat branded book connects with Bruce Wayne.
It’s amazing, really, how DC has been able to franchise Batman the way they have. Whenever people wonder if DC will fold for some reason or another, the answer will always be “no” if not just to maintain its IPs, but because books with a bat on it will always sell.
I mean, the Red Hood has had his own book for nine years!
The longest running Spider-man spinoffs have always been other books starring Spider-man. Spider-woman is getting yet another new title. Ghost Spider has been through more than a few. There have been a number of Spider-girl comics starring different characters. And most of those titles had very little to do with Peter Parker.
Venom’s popularity ebbs and flows, but at least there’s a connection to Peter.
The title and character that have had the longest run and have managed to maintain a fairly consistent level of popularity is Miles Morales. But how much does Peter Parker really have to do with Miles?
At this point there’s more of a Wolverine family than there is a Spider-man one.
Old Man Spider-man
The other problem that Peter Parker has is that every other iconic superhero is eternal. None of them age, not to any real extent. They might mature and grow, but you can stretch their entire histories out over the course of a few years. They’ve always been static.
That hasn’t always been the case for Peter.
Consider the Peter Parker we see in other aspects of popular culture, namely the movies. We always get the high school version, maybe the early college years. But we always get a young Peter Parker, not one who has found his place in the world.
That’s the thing about current day Peter Parker: he has a full life. Whether he’s a scientist, the head of a company, an author, or married to a supermodel, he hasn’t been the lovable loser of his origin in decades. Even when his marriage was erased by the devil, he was still old enough to have options. He’s successful. The Parker luck just isn’t what it used to be.
So if the version of him in mainstream media isn’t at all the version of him in comics, and given that people who see the movies don’t actually go buy the comics, anyway, why are we holding on to him?
He’s not essential to any spinoff titles, at least not in a way that requires him to be alive.
He is the epitome of superhero comics inability to just move the hell on.
He offers nothing but nostalgia at this point. There’s nothing that he does that can’t be done by dozens of other characters. They had him make a deal with the devil in an effort to make him relatable again! He’s an Avenger, he’s an adult, and he’s run his course.
Just let him go.
Heir to the Throne
When the current Spider-man movies end we will again find ourselves in a situation in which people will try to figure out how to bring him back to the big screen. And at this point, hasn’t Peter Parker been done to death? Wasn’t one of the best movies of last year Into the Spider-verse?
It feels like Marvel is holding on to Peter Parker because they are afraid to lose the stunted fanboys who will swear up and down that they will never read another Marvel comic again if Peter dies. But they won’t do that, will they? They never do.
Yes, I realize that the Miles Morales Spider-man comic currently sells half of Amazing Spider-man, but a lot of that is the fact that the book is called Miles Morales Spider-man and not Amazing Spider-man. Make Miles the main character in that book and I ‘d be shocked if the drop in sales was really that drastic.
Besides, Marvel could (and would) turn the whole thing into a huge event. They did it in the Ultimate universe and it sold really well. Imagine what would happen if they did it to the real deal.
Miles Morales would become the only Spider-man, a teenage Spider-man that would have relevance again. Because that’s the thing about Marvel in general and Spider-man specifically: success comes from relevance to the real world. It’s what made Marvel different from DC.
And it’s been gone for a long while now. Making Miles the only Spider-man makes the character relevant again.
Then Marvel can do what it’s been dabbling at for a while now: expanding the Spider-man universe with Miles as the center.
Spider-woman already has a relationship with Ghost Spider, Ghost Spider has a relationship with Miles. Bring in Silk, bring back a Spider-girl, connect with Venom, and go. Get bold creative teams, make a big deal about the relaunch, and introduce the world to the new Spider-man family.
Suck it up and do the right thing, Marvel. Send Peter Parker off into the sunset and make Spider-man relevant again.