Rave : 1997 : A Word From Al
How old is Peter Parker? Well, according to one correspondant on the Spider-Man Message Board, Erik Larsen once established Peter's age at 30, but I have been unable to find that reference. Lately, the powers that be have decided that Peter, Mary Jane, and the gang are all about 25 years old. Which means that Peter has fought an awful lot of battles, seen a lot of death, and swung on a lot of webs in a very short period of time.
Second question: In what year was Peter Parker born? This, strangely enough, is a somewhat different question than the first one. Let's see now... it is 1997 and Pete is 25. That means he was born is 1972, right? Not necessarily. It seems to depend on which writer is doing the writing.
Consider if you will, the flashback issues of Sensational Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, and Peter Parker: Spider-Man. In the first of these, Todd DeZago has crafted a tale in which little Peter is reading pre-hero Marvel Monster comics. All of the monsters in his dream are actual characters from pre-1962 issues of Journey Into Mystery, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, and Tales of Suspense. Peter is somewhere between 5 and 10 years old. He doesn't seem old enough to be collecting these old books at current prices (and, he didn't get them from Uncle Ben, as we know from Amazing #-1). So, it appears that Peter is 25 in 1997 but 5 in 1962.
(But wait a minute... is that a copy of Where Monsters Dwell underneath the copy of Journey Into Mystery that little Petey has? Could this mean that Pete is actually reading the reprint books of the seventies instead of the originals? Those books were published between 1972 and 1975, making Pete anywhere from 27 to 35 in 1997. Close enough not to quibble, I guess.)
Meanwhile in Amazing Spider-Man #-1, a 10 to 12 year old Pete finds Uncle Ben's golden age comic book collection which includes a copy of Marvel Comics #1! That book came out in 1939. Now, if we assume that Pete is 10 in 1982 and Ben is 10 in 1939, then everybody's favorite Uncle is 55 when Petey finds these comics and about 60 when killed by the burglar. OK, that works for me. Does that work for you?
Over in Untold Tales of Spider-Man, the adventures take place, as Nathan Chattaway put it in his review of UTOS #22, "ambiguously between the sixties and the eighties". And you know what? I can handle this. In fact, I prefer to think of Peter as older than me in the sixties but almost young enough to be my son in the nineties. (So, actually, I would rather Pete read the 1962 Journey Into Mystery in Sensational #-1 than the 1970s reprint book of the same name.) You see, I still need my childhood link to Pete if I'm going to continue my interest in him. As soon as he becomes a product of the eighties and nineties, I can no longer identify. And yet, Marvel certainly doesn't want to alienate the young readers by implying that Pete could have gone to a Beatles concert. So, the compromise, the notion that Peter was actually born in something like 1947 and has lived all of the subsequent 50 years but only aged at half that rate, is just fine with me.
Unfortunately, there is always a joker in the deck and this time his name is Howard Mackie. Howard is so determined to convince everyone that Peter and MJ and Flash are young, young, young, that he is defining them as products of the last two decades. So, in Peter Parker # -1, Capt. George Stacy and his brother Arthur, both carry pagers! (Capt. Stacy, who was retired and sixty-ish when he died in Amazing Spider-Man #90, November 1970, appears to be thirty-ish in this story that is now apparently taking place in the mid-1980s. How old was he when he died, then? Forty? Sure, that's it, all of us 40 year olds look that old, right?) The Osborn Industries I.D. belonging to Nels Van Adder lists his date of birth as 10/24/64. Surely, Van Adder has to be at least 20 in this story (and is probably a number of years older) making the year at least 1984. (And, more likely, something like 1989.) So, now, what? Peter and the gang grew up in the 1980s? Why bother to pin down these specifics at all?
(And, just to add a little fuel to this fire, Roger Stern, in the latest Amazing Spider-Man Annual tells us that Peter first encountered Sundown ten years before. Well, I guess that's right if Pete is only 25 now but seeing Giant-Man and the early Marvel heroes fighting in a scene that is now supposed to be 1987 just makes my head hurt.)
Finally, a moment to examine Howard's work in Peter Parker #83, wherein Mary Jane is visiting her therapist and says (at different moments) "We're young... just starting out in life.", "I... wondered if we rushed into getting married too young.", and "I really don't think we're any different from most other young married couples in the '90s". OK, Howard, we get it, we get it. In other words, "we're young, everybody, we're young! We didn't get married ten years ago after Peter first proposed twenty years ago. We didn't first meet each other in High School thirty years ago! We are not worn-out refugees from the sixties, people, we're nineties all the way!"
You know what I say to all Spidey creators on this issue? Don't sweat it. So, Spidey made quips about Spiro Agnew and David Frye. So what? You don't have to remind us but don't try to hide it. It can all get along. And my advice to Howard Mackie... "Howard, cut it out, will you? You're making me feel old!"