They were all over eBay for a while. Copies of this Village Voice issue with a tearful Spider-Man on the cover. But what exactly is in them? And is it worth buying a copy when they came out in Manhattan for free?
The cover copy says, “Spidey Exits NYC (Forever?),” but that’s just an eye-grabber for the non-fan. The contents page is a little more accurate, with, “Assassination of a Superhero” and “Spider-Man is gone. And Mary Jane might never be the same.” But the article itself is titled, “The Man Who Killed Spider-Man” and is all about Dan Slott, complete with a large photo of Dan wearing a Thor t-shirt (in what the photo’s caption calls “full geek regalia”).
So, article writer Alan Scherstuhl meets Dan at one of the many Manhattan (presumably) locations of Le Pain Quotidien where Dan has quiche Lorraine and revels in the “terrible things he has done to Spider-Man.” Alan hits the highlights for those of us not in the know: that “Spider-Man’s brain is trapped in the dying body of Doctor Octopus – while Doctor Octopus’s brain has taken over the virile, swinging body of young Spider-Man,” that Amazing Spider-Man #700 was “surprisingly expensive,” that being in Peter’s body “grants Doc Ock access to…Parker’s supermodel ex, Mary Jane Watson,” that the dissolution of the Peter-MJ marriage “has been a cause taken up bitterly by the comic-shop faithful for 155 issues now,” that Dan is getting death threats on Twitter and YouTube even though “even his detractors admit the actual comics themselves are good.” Alan quotes a review from Ain’t It Cool News that “Maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that Dan Slott isn’t a total douchebag.”
Dan, for his part, seems to take it all with good-humor and the conviction that he is doing something worthwhile. “We’re a crazy medium where people put on skintight costumes, climb up walls, fly, and shoot things out of their eyes,” he says, “If there’s any part of you that goes, ‘You can’t do a brain swap!’ then you should go read Great Expectations.” (Of course, Great Expectations requires you to believe in Magwitch, Estella, and Miss Havisham.) Dan adds, “remember this is the Marvel Universe. We have mutant children raised by talking cows. We have teleporting dogs. It’s fun.”
But some people take it too seriously to see it as “fun” and Alan has a theory about that. “United by a ComicCon-bred-intimacy, the creators and readers share a subculture distinguished by two quirks: 1. Dedication to a print art form that remains the headwaters of the superhero digital pop-culture flood, which means it’s possible to believe that Spider-Man being ruined in a comic might, via some trickle-down mechanism, ruin him everywhere. 2. The awareness that comics readers are the pool from which future comics creators emerge, which means readers angry at a story’s shittiness naturally assume they could do better themselves. At the end of that Ain’t It Cool review, the critic – KletusCassiday – pleads with Marvel to replace Slott, adding, ‘Contact me if you need to. I have a couple stories up my dirty, whiskey-stained flannel sleeve!’” The problem with this, according to Alan, is that “The stories up Slott’s sleeve aren’t shitty, though. If you read them unencumbered by pre-existing opinions about Peter Parker’s marital status, and with an acceptance that wildness is much of the medium’s appeal…Slott’s issues…are as fresh and lively as any in the wall-crawler’s half-century.” After letting Dan speak for himself about some of his changes, Alan wraps with, “The cancellation [of ASM] – which is certainly temporary – has incensed the incensible, who are (honest to God) arguing over the permanence of changes to a character worth billions to his corporate owners. Reminding them that even Spider-Man’s marriage didn’t stick would probably just set them off more. This month marks the debut of Slott’s new Superior Spider-Man, an ongoing series about the mad Doctor Octopus’s adventures in Spider-Man’s body – and, quite possibly, in Mary Jane’s.
Eight Legs, Five Boroughs: The Arachnid Tour of NYC follows; a short interview with Dan Slott who mostly ticks off various New York locations that are tied together with Spider-Man (along with some Spidey-New York illustrations from previous ASM issues). Also reprinted is the famous John Romita full-page illo of Spidey’s costume in the trashcan. The caption reads, “Peter Parker trashed Spidey in No. 50 (drawn by John Romita Sr. and Mike Esposito), but there were no Internet trolls in 1967 to trash writer Stan Lee.” The article closes with Dan saying, “If I ever wake up and think, ‘I have to write Spider-Man’ rather than ‘I get to write Spider-Man,’ that’s when I stop. But I am a long way from that. You walk into my apartment, and it looks like Spider-Man’s head blew up.” Yeah, I have one of those apartments, too.
There’s more in this issue than the Spidey stuff, of course. There’s Michael Musto sizing up the Oscar contenders, an article on the Silent Barn; the DIY show space and collective, and a list of the 10 best hot booze cocktails in the city. And don’t forget this week’s installment of Tom Tomorrow’s brilliant cartoon strip, “This Modern World.” But you’re reading this for Spidey so who cares about that stuff.
It’s a measure of how far comics have come within the widespread popular culture that Spidey is cover-featured in the Voice and that the Voice figured the change from Amazing to Superior was worthy of a cover article. Alan Scherstuhl does a nice job of filling in the casual (mostly movie but also Broadway and newspaper strip) fan on what’s what, using their frames of reference of JJJ and Doc Ock and Mary Jane to anchor them. (And I love this aside: “How many times have even non-Spidey fans had to sit through Uncle Ben’s death?” Hear, hear!) And Alan is very respectful of the creative process and Dan’s work. But the article tends to dismiss and ridicule those so geeky that they take all of this stuff seriously. I get it. Guys like “the equivalent of ‘Leave Britney Alone’” on YouTube, “screaming ‘Why have you done this to Spider-Man?” and the tweeter who “expressed a desire to ‘shove a pencil’ in Slott’s eye” are tough to defend. But let’s not make it seem like they are the majority. I agree with Alan’s point that a lot of the outrage comes from comic readers who believe they could do better and I love his point that Spidey is worth too much to his corporate owners to mess with on a permanent basis. But, really, isn’t that what writing a continuing character is all about? Making the reader believe there is peril even though we know the hero will win in the end? If you can’t suspend that disbelief, then you aren’t reading comics. So, let’s take it easier on those who are afraid that Spidey will always be Spidey-Ock but let’s not let them ruin our fun either. Remember what Dan said in that quote up above? “It’s fun.”
For my part, I love what Dan is doing in Superior. Alan quotes more of the Ain’t It Cool News review, with “Killing off Peter Parker and replacing him with a megalomaniac is quite possibly the worst idea since the clone saga.” Well, I loved the clone saga too. From the way Dan Slott talks here, it looks like he’s prepared to tune out all the outcries and tell his whole story. Too bad Marvel didn’t do the same with the clone saga. Here’s hoping they allow Dan to do it this time.
A cool little addition to your collection. Worth the buy. But don’t pay too much for it!