Robot 6

The Fifth Color | You’ve got to have a gimmick

Cody Rhodes and the Superior Spider-ManThere’s a professional wrestler named Cody Rhodes. His family has been in the wrestling business for longer than he’s been alive, his father being the legendary Dusty Rhodes and his brother the offbeat Golddust, both working for the WWE. Following family tradition, he’s a fantastic wrestler, absolutely charming and has only recently gotten the crowd’s attention through a horrible-looking mustache.

Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.

As I said, Cody Rhodes is fantastic. He’s worked with legends, played mostly heel roles and tried to work the crowd against him. He even had a stint with a Doctor Doom-esque look, complete with mask, dark hood, minions and a hatred for the ugliness of WWE fans. I thought it compelling, at least, but most crowds seemed to find it lukewarm at best. He brought a sense of prestige back to the Intercontinental Title; it’s already moved on and stagnated once more. Nothing seems to stick with a guy who has so much going for him … until this mustache. After some time off for an injury, he returned to a tag-team partnership with — gracious, just look at it. It’s horrible. It’s laughable. Patchy in places, it just doesn’t fit his face quite right, making him look less like Tom Selleck and more like a guy with candy in his unmarked van. The very night he returned, the audience seemed to wake up. A spontaneous chant of “Co-dy’s mus-tache!” broke out and has followed him since. Other wrestlers can poke fun at it, he can be angry and indignant about it, bad guy wrestlers can support this horrible decision and somewhere down the line, there can be a “Mustache Match” or something where the thing is removed and we have story line closure.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Superior Spider-Man is Cody Rhodes’ mustache.

Confused? Read on!

WARNING: We’ll be talking extensively about The Amazing Spider-Man #700 and Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 as well, so grab your copies and read along!

I will admit that after reading The Amazing Spider-Man #700, I was confused. All the hype, all the death threats and the change and “Oh, man, wait until you see this!” excitement boiled down to a scenario we’ve seen before? I won’t deny that the premise is clever and well written, but the ol’ mind swap story between villain and hero doesn’t exactly make me want to run screaming down the streets for or against the book, honestly. It’s an interesting twist, a storyline that might have been a little header typed above the tile logo back in the day, now blown up to massive-event status, complete with new titles and new numbers. Go figure, right?

I can at least say this in all confidence: It’s MUCH better than “One More Day.” That was a major change in Spider-Man’s status quo that was written horribly and, while somethings might have been changed for the better, it left a horrible taste in fans’ mouths that some just have not been able to leave behind. The Amazing Spider-Man #700 is well-written, touching, smart and seems aware that this battle is familiar to comic readers. It’s the heart of the story, that one person’s life could be changed by walking in the shoes of another that really makes it stand out.

Let’s look at the issue: Peter Parker (trapped in Doctor Octupus’ dying body) is trying to stop Otto Octavius (in the body of Spider-Man). Octavius is a criminal mastermind and shouldn’t get a new lease on life in the body of our hero, right? And at first, they can’t help but be themselves despite the trappings of their new positions: Peter-Octupus won’t kill and goes out of his way to keep his fellow supervillains in line; Otto-Spidey keeps making things more dangerous in the name of pride and victory. During the story, both act on instincts they didn’t intend: Peter-Octopus deflects a bullet, hitting the innocent Carlie; Otto-Spidey jumps in the path of Scorpion to protect Aunt May. While Peter-Octopus’ deflection is blamed on Doc Oc’s mechanical arms, Otto-Spidey’s selfless act is inspired by a distant memory of Aunt May being kind to Peter Parker. And here’s where things start to get weird.

Their battle, for the most part, seems entirely inconsequential. They even acknowledge early on that they’ve done this dance a thousand times. What is important and dead central in the last act is the emotional values inherent to being Peter Parker. Peter-Octopus’s last effort doesn’t succeed, but it does create a mind meld between the two of them to show Peter’s life flashing before Otto’s eyes. It’s pretty intense and a great summary of essential Spider-Man ideals (his origin, losing people he loves, never giving up, great power, great responsibility) and it seems like Otto Octavius is genuinely moved. So moved, he promises to protect Peter’s loved ones as he quietly passes away.

“Farewell, Parker,” he says. “Know this, I will carry on in your name. You may be leaving this world, but you are not leaving it to a villain. I swear. I will be Spider-Man.”

That is a stupendous change of heart from a man who was content to let him die in the name of victory. It almost seems forced; maybe the idea of having Spider-man turn into a villainous mastermind was where editorial drew the line. It seems awkward, but that’s probably because this isn’t Otto’s book. The Amazing Spider-Man is ending because Peter Parker is “ending,” so this is the point of view we’re given. And honestly, after the grand drama of the whole thing, to have Octavius just turn around and say, “Well, that just happened,” and go back to being his evil self would be even more of a letdown. Here, we’re just left wondering, why the change of heart?

from Avenging Spider-Man #15.1Avenging Spider-man #15.1 does the confused one better and explains the shift in “morality” clearly and concisely. It’s an inner monologue from Octavius as he finally has a moment to crow about his victory. You see, he beat Spider-Man, so therefore he is the better man. Through fiddling with Spider-Man’s things and Peter Parker’s skills, he learns that Peter Parker hasn’t been living up to his full potential, bringing “being the better man” back into question. While trying to access one of his old super-villain laboratories, Otto is reminded that Spider-Man always beat Doctor Octopus. None of his grand plans ever worked … aside from this one. Now knowing he was beaten thoroughly by a hero only living at half potential, being the better man is no longer a foregone conclusion. The entire idea of winning is now called into question. So, he vows to be a better Spider-Man that Peter ever was, thereby retaining his win.

This version of motivation made a lot more sense to me; he may still feel the need to live up to Parker’s legacy, but he’s still retaining his own style and personality in doing so. Isn’t the best revenge living well? So we have a good story, a sound motivation, a bunch drama and story lines up ahead as Octavius tries to keep what he’s done a secret from his new friends and family, he can learn how the other half lives as a major super-hero and we’ll learn along with him how hard it really is to be Peter Parker as well as his alter ego. I see a lot of great comics up ahead in the new year and I can’t be the only one, right? Why is this death threat material and why are so many people, longtime comic fans, too, losing their minds on this?

It’s because we’re supposed to. Face value, this is a horrible idea. Who wants a villain, let alone one as honestly kind of dumpy as Doctor Octopus, in the body of the hero so many have grown up with? This is a travesty! As so many people are connected to the flagship character of the entire Marvel universe, we should be outraged! we should be mad! But we should keep reading too.

This is Cody Rhodes’ mustache, my friends. It’s a sour note, something that breaks up the flow of an otherwise stellar talent that makes you react. It changes the audience’s perception of a well-known character and breaks up that status quo for awhile. Mustaches can get shaved off. If you really think Peter Parker is for-realzies dead and we’ll never see him again, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. These are both gimmicks, serving their purpose and time before something else comes along. Cody’s mustache does not make him a new person, but it changes how we view him. Spider-Man will always be Spider-Man, but Octavius behind the wheel will change our perspective of him. Any actual outrage at this very well written and assuredly well planned out story line is what any professional wrestling fan would recognize as ‘heat’. Heat makes you root against the bad guy and more emphatically for the hero. Even if you’re not sold on Otto-Spidey, keep reading because when Peter Parker does return, we’ll be all the more glad to see him home.

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Comments

28 Comments

Great article, Carla!

People really are trying to do their best to put a good spin on this, aren’t they?

Really, I don’t think people are complaining they’ll never see Peter again. They’re just not a fan of how this story is unfolding. In that it’s a fairly lackluster and forced idea.

Horror of horrors, people not liking ASM# 700 might just be because it’s not that good of a story.

It’s still a writer with a dumb idea getting patted on the back for how dark and edgy it is. It’s just another round of grimdark BS that is turning this genre into an ongoing exercise in utter joylessness. So now the heroes nemesis is wearing his body like a cheap suit so he can go around being the asshole version. ..and I love how the “everyman” thing always gets trotted out as the defense for when Marvel does something completely stupid with Peter Parker no matter how outlandish it is.

Also, how many more times do people who enjoy a longtime favorite hero have to endure this long, tedious cycle of having a hero die in some gratuitous manner and taking him out of the book for a year or more? If every hero gets the big bloated death/return event clusterfuck it breaks the very concept of death itself. In the process makes that characters backstory convoluted to a degree that is ridiculous even by the fantastic standards of dreamlogic superheroes ideally work on.

Besides, if the creators working on Spider-Man are that tired of writing Peter Parker then maybe it’s time to change the creative team instead of the damn protagonist? Or even create a new hero entirely?

and for god sake it’s a BODY SWAP PLOT! This is something that would be tired for even a stand alone issue let alone as the new overlong multi-part event gimmick. How the hell is that any sort of way to celebrate or end the Amazing Spider-Man title (even temporarily)?

For once, I’d like a mainstream superhero book to Focus on good, solid writing rather than endless crossovers and endless 90’s gimmicks. It seems like we’re being fed the same tactics at made the 90’s market go belly up, all sparkle, no substance. To end a 700 issue run on one of the most popular charecters like this is just sad. Reminds me of all the hype and letdown that knightfall and the death of superman had back in the 90’s. Years ater, they’re seen as a gimmick. Yet you can re-read neil gaimans sandman, and its just as potent today as when it was originally released.

Nope, still a well-worn cliche plot exectured badly. The article evne mentions that it “might’ be forced? There’s no ‘might’ about it. Otto’s turn around at the end was very forced.

Good article.

Here’s where I desagree with you: “very well written and assuredly well planned out story line.” You say i’s well written and yet, you yourself points out the flaws, like the “stupendous change of heart from a man who was content to let him die in the name of victory.”

It’s doesn’t seem forced, it is forced.

Like RDMacQ, it’s how this story is unfolding that is the problem. Which is the same problem that One More Day had. But, due to One More Day, we now have jurisprudence: Mephisto can show up and say something like: “no more Doc Ock as Spidey and puf! Everything is back to normal and Marvel can just scream: “that’s how we roll, suckers. Keep buying!”

@Meta4

While this Spidey story just doesn’t interest me (like, at all; I was hoping this would lead to the return of Ben Reilly, a character with actual potential that SHOULD be around and getting developed), I bristle at you calling out DOS and KF – first, DOS is a solid story, from the Death to the Return – it was VERY well plotted out, drawn well by overlooked artists, and overall lived up to its hype with great drama. It wasn’t a story about Superman dying, it was a story about a world without him, and why the world needed HIM, not knockoffs. Seriously, there is nothing wrong with that story. I’ve found that most people who criticize it haven’t even read it, they just go, “90s? Hero dies and gets replaced? Must suck, amirite?! lolololol”

And while I’ll give you Knightfall kind of turning into a bloated mess in the middle, it also had a great opening arc, from Bruces fall until Valley really turns the Batman role into his own. You had the great Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle drawing chapters in addition to overlooked greats like Mike Manley and Graham Nolan. The conclusion was satisfying and it lead into the Prodigal arc, which was also great. You can diss the costume, but like the Scarlet Spider costume, it was SUPPOSED to look that way to reflect the times; they were always meant to be temporary and contemporary looks that serviced the story, just read interviews with Denny O’Neil or Glen Greenberg if you don’t believe me.

The 90s may have had its moments, but people need to try actually READING some 90s comics before they decide to write off every crossover from that decade; DOS and KF work, in addition to X-Cutioner’s Song, AoA, and hell, even a good chunk of the Clone Saga and the build-up to Onslaught.

I agree with everything you said, Anonymous. Some of these 90s crossovers were rather fun and well-plotted. Especially, Death of Superman. Though, that may be my nostalgia speaking.

@ Anonymous

I agree with you on Knightfall and Death of Superman. They were both well plotted and well thought out stories that were about what would the world do about the loss of the respective characters.

The difference- as I stated before- was in the execution (no pun intended). Death of Superman, Knightfall- we’re supposed to feel loss at these events. There was quite a bit of time devoted to these characters not being around anymore, and the inherent tragedy within.

ASM# 700, we’re supposed to be on board with Ock essentially stealing Peter’s life and believe that he’s turned over a new leaf. Now, I don’t believe for a second that this is GOING to be the story. Just that- for what is supposedly meant to be an “ending” for Peter’s story (as people are arguing) it’s a rather disappointing way for him to go. It doesn’t keep with his history. And, it’s more about setting up Ock than it is about appreciating Peter’s passing.

I personally like where this is going. To me, the addendum of the motivation in Avenging to Otto’s behavior is to not only be better than Spidey, but himself. He has two hurdles to jump over and move on now.

Doc Ock has been to me, Spidey’s main nemesis. Yes, yes, Green Goblin, but the Doc Ock stories seemed more, personal. Perhaps it’s just me.

As far as Peter coming back. Oh yeah, he is. I even see the back door Slott has written in.

I haven’t read the issue but I can guess a back door being Pete’s still inhabiting his own body. he is just really deep in his own psyche and he’ll pop out around the time the next “Spiderman” movie comes out.

I can’t believe all the hate (or should I say “heat”?) I found this story line a gripping emotional roller coaster ride. Well written and haunting and contained in only three issues. This is a classic Peter Parker story. He’s thrown into an impossible situation that would crush the spirit of any one else but because he’s Peter Parker, he presses on no matter how hopeless it is. And because he’s Peter Parker, he can’t catch a break no matter what he does. And this time around it’s his ultimate undoing but also his salvation. That is good stuff. That is definitive Peter Parker. It’s not about whether or not he wins and saves the day (see Gwen Stacy) it’s about whether or not he does everything in his power to stand up to adversity.

This is one of the most thoughtful pieces i’ve seen out of a huge amount of dirty & inaccurate ones being written by people who claim to be comic journalists….i’ve been a spider-man fan for around 20 years now, and i always enjoy seeing something new, because i know it’s not a permanent change, it’s a new wrinkle that will allow us to further explore peter parker & his world, which include enemies like doc ock….one part that is getting me though is this article & many others claiming that ock’s change of heart felt forced…..to me it’s a natural progression for a character that since his debut hasn’t been easily thrown into the ‘evil’ box…sure he’s arrogant, and he’s been downright nasty at times, but that stems from the character’s innermost desire to feel appreciated…..he’s always hated spider-man because, even though he has been branded a menace, ultimately he is more appreciated than otto, for his talent, for his intelligence, and most importantly, for his selfless heroism….there is a part of ock that is secretly (or in some cases openly) jealous of spidey, that has been the character’s voice for as long as he’s been around, and it stands to reason, that given the chance and the proper push, he’s finally able to achieve his dream of being accepted….he feels like peter squandered his chance, so he’s going to be an even better hero, hence the superior spider-man….anyone who knows this character as well as any spidey fan should, would have to understand that this is no change of heart & nothing is being forced here, it’s the most natural progression that the story could’ve taken, it would never have taken much to push otto to being a hero, only someone truly believing in him, the creators brought up the nature vs. nurture debate, and it applies in so many great ways here…..the backlash from critics & fans is completely unwarranted…add to that the fact that the vast majority of people that are vocal about this haven’t even regularly read spider-man books since the last ‘fan freak-out’, and you have a lot of people making a big stink about absolutely nothing, trying to be armchair journalists & throw around vitriol in the false name of objectivity…..but i didn’t see any of that in this particular article, you were able to state your point clearly w.o bashing the creators & fans for ever following these stories, and for that i thank you. Thanks for being a professional & a voice truly worthy of being heard in a sea of anger & negativity that does nothing but tear down the progress comics have made as a medium. Change is what will keep comics going for the next few decades, not stagnation.

Okay, I haven’t read Spider-man in quite some time but out of curiosity I bought and read 698-700 just to see how bad it really was.

Some of the writing is so laughable that you wonder if the book is actually edited at all. “I just swapped bodies with you!”, BAM! it’s done! I bet you can’t figure out how I did that! No and neither can the reader or the writer, I guess he’ll come up with that part later. I am paraphrasing the dialogue but that was how it was handled. Later Octo/Spidey punches Scorpion’s jaw off but the artist doesn’t draw that so I’m glad the writer told me that is what happened. People can joke about 1970’s Spider-man that I grew up with but that’s Shakespeare compared to this.

And yes, we know that Peter will be back in his body in time for the next film to come out.

Don’t hate! This is the ultimate spidey story, this is what spider-man is all about.

By far this is the best article I think I have read about this paradigm shift. I’m excited to see where this series goes and am a little sad to hear that Slott’s life was threatened over a fictional character. I understand that many have grown up with Spider-man and my self included, but to threaten death over this is trivial and juvenile. I hope that Superior will wow me and people will start to relax about the whole idea.

I think the entire idea is great! (If the book wasn’t $4 for 20 pages I’d pick it up. But I refuse, no comic book is worth that much for that little IMO. Not when I can pick up Morning Glories for $3 for 27 pages.)

But.

That’s not why people are upset I don’t think (I really don’t care one way or the other so I’m trying to be empathetic here). They are upset because whatever this character decides to call himself, he is not THE Peter Parker. However great the stories might be, however awesome the motivations, the actions, the consequences, the thrill of what could happen if he is found out, he is not THE Peter Parker.

If Peter had managed to stay around in some capacity, any capacity, in any role I think this would have been a much easier pill for people to swallow because that would mean that fans could still read about THE Peter Parker and his adventures. Even if Marvel really intends to keep this change as the status quo ad infinitum, at least the fans of THE Peter Parker could still read about him in whatever new way Marvel could have kept him around.

Not to mention that the first thing I thought of when this idea leaked was “Clone Saga 2.0″. Didn’t Marvel learn anything from the last time they tried to shuffle Peter off into oblivion?

Marvel won’t allow Peter to mature again. I couldn’t stand reading the character after the Unmasking. I read it several times, but after you put out the worst issue ever and reduce your character to a child-man after promising so much to the readers without any pay off, you’ve essentially ruined the character for your older fans. I did read through Amazing 700, yet how can a guy who would alter the universe to help his dying aunt (who has already died and thus changing the universe can cause people to die prematurely or even not even be born because of one character’s selfishness) preach about morality?

They never address that moral issue in the comics or even interviews. Peter did a selfish, stupid thing. What was the real cost. I always hope that this guy is a clone and the real Peter is out there somewhere, maybe riding a motor cycle growin his hair out. Does the Marvel think the Other was a good story. What was the idea? The UNmasking was a complete put on. Marvel is better than this, what’s wrong over there?

The amount of hysteria over this comic book storyline, this *plot device* is just ridiculous. Read the bulk of these complaints closely and you’ll see that most of the people complaining haven’t read any of Slott’s run outside of these three issues, and that their main gripe is STILL with One More Day.

What’s really going on is that marvel is trying to downplay Spiderman right now. Hence why he has two books and is feature in a third. They want the character to have low value so that Disney can buy the rights frm Sony at the end of the new movie . It’s a vulnerable property and they have no interest in making worth more money. Slott can do whether he wants because they honestly WANT the book to fail.

@Comicfan…You can’t be serious? That makes no sense at all. Sony will never return the film rights when they are making money off the films. Makes completely no sense. The amount of comics Spider-Man is in or their level of sales have nothing to do with film rights.

Note: I’ve not read the story, just the articles like this one.

I see two ways of going with this.

1) Otto tries to be the Superior Spiderman/Perfect Parker and fails. He finds that Peter’s ‘holding back’ is needed and he doesn’t have the self control. His old ways start to manifest.

2) Otto tries to be the Superior Spiderman/Perfect Parker and succeeds. He gets the hero, gets the girl, Peter becomes profitable at Horizon etc. From here, either we see Peter ‘dead’ in both 616 and 1616 or we see Peter return as Otto gets frustrated that ‘he’ (Peter) is getting credit for Otto’s actions.

Either way generates different stories.

(And I miss Ben Reiley too)

Kinnickinnic Ave.

December 31, 2012 at 8:56 am

Peter Parker will be back. It’s hard to imagine another Movie or Toy Line coming out and a young child says “Hey it’s Spider-Man.” and then Comic-Book dad says “Actually it’s Dr. Octopus’ mind inside Spider-Man’s body.”

The author of this article is right, it’s a GIMMICK! If all you die-hard, I-Hate-Every-Comic-Idea-That-I-Didn’t-Think-Of will just calm down and give it a year of your artery-clogging lives then your little wiener of a hero Peter Parker will come back.

ps. In my opinion Peter Parker = Milhouse Van Houten

SO with Slott on this. This is the continuation (and culmination) of his entire Big Time run, and I’m so happy he took this to it’s logical conclusion. Peter is a hero, even when there’s nothing left for him to go on for.

@ David in SF

I was thinking the same thing w/ Clone Saga 2.0, because it really does rip-off the whole “new guy as Spider-man while Peter Parker disappears” bit, but at least back then you had Untold Tales and some minis showing what was going on with Pete, before they made him a supporting character near the end. Here, you get none of that. The biggest problem with the original was not having Ben Reilly as spider-man, it was saying that he was the “real” Pete and then getting rid of the supposed “clone” that had been in the books for like 20 years.

What they SHOULD have done was say that it didn’t matter who was the clone and who wasn’t, Peter would keep his life with MJ and would retire because he had to take care of a baby (although he’d still go out as Spidey occasionally, enough to justify his own Spidey book that was a little more heavy on the subplots) while Ben took over full-time as Spidey and hung out with Pete because they were essentially brothers. Marvel missed a huge opportunity then, and has missed the boat again by doing this Octo-spidey bit when they could have taken a second shot at Reilly by twisting OMD a bit to bring him back.

I figure this is how the Ock thing will play out – we’ll get a full arc with Ock as Spidey, and six months from now we’ll get an announcement that ASM is coming back as a series with Peter headlining it. SS, Venom and Scarlet will then go into a crossover that explains why and how he’s coming back. Ock will still stay in Superior as a hero with his costume, maybe going by the name The Spider, or whatever, and Dan Slott will continue to write it because he’s a great writer and has done an Amazing job with ASM (pun obviously intended). I’m sure this Superior book won’t suck with its writing, but I agree that Peter is too important a character for them not to bring him back.

Good read, man. I personally am down to ride this status Quo shift out and see where things go.

A gimmick is only good if it DOESN’T come from corporate. Save that for toy companies, geniuses.

At this stage it really doesnt matter. Spider-Girl wrapped Peter’s story up so well I don’t care if he’s brought back, I know it’ll take a complete creative overhaul to make him matter again, which would mean getting him married to MJ and make him a father. Until thay day happens and we see something truly creative, daring and different, I am done with this creativly bankrupt franchise.

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