April 14, 1998
by Chuck Miller
"Face it, Tiger, you've hit the crap-pot!" It's no secret that Marvel's Spider-Man titles have been lousy for some time now. Some would point to the clone thing as the low point, but the fact is, these books were in trouble long before that. I recently obtained a large stack of Spider-Man comics from the last ten years or so for a quarter a piece from one of our local comic book stores. I felt ripped off.
The quality of these books has been pathetic for years. Why is this? I don't know. It seems like they just don't care. It seems like, in Marvel's opinion, Spider-Man is nothing more than a corporate logo which they take about as seriously as Cap'n Crunch. The stories don't matter as long as the Underoos and lunchboxes are selling. Well, I still care about Spidey. And here's what I'd do to fix him if Marvel gave me the chance:
Norman Osborne has no business being alive again. When Norman, a/k/a the Green Goblin, died back in -- gosh, when was it? 1973? -- it was a wonderful, dramatic moment. I still vividly remember reading that issue as a child, the chilling image of the Goblin impaled against a wall by his own bat-glider. Something that powerful shouldn't be diddled with. He was resurrected as an attempt to apologize for the clone saga, but two wrongs, etc. Peter Parker has got to take Norman out, but quick. The maneuver I have in mind here would kill two birds with one stone. Axe Norman and ...
Spider-Man is supposed to be smart and tough. Would he let Norman Osborne walk all over him the way he's been doing for the past few months? No way! Peter's going to have to take a "no more Mr. Nice Guy" approach. (You might say that beating the hell out of Norman, as Spidey did recently, wasn't so nice, but see how much good it did!)
I have a couple of different scenarios in mind. In one of them, Peter Parker threatens to do the one thing that would break Norman's hold over him: Reveal to the world that he is Spider-Man. Norman has known this for years, of course, and has held it over Peter's head. If Petey were to come out of the closet as it were, Norm would be up the creek. Peter could go on to tell Norman that he is entering the witness protection program and is going to testify about what he knows of Osborne's activities as the Green Goblin. Whether Pete would actually follow through with this, I haven't worked out. But it would sure make a good threat. Then we could see Norman frantically trying to prevent Peter from revealing his secret! In my other projected scenario, Pete runs a sort of "Gaslight" operation on the already-unstable Norman. He could call in some favors from some of the other Marvel heroes and show up in Norman's office in, say, Iron Man's armor and then a Daredevil costume, and before you know it, Norman is publicly ranting about how Peter Parker is every superhero in the world! And then, somehow, Pete convinces Norman that he, Norman Osborne, is really a clone! (But he ISN'T a clone, okay? Read my lips: "No more clones!")
I have yet to work out all the details, but the ending is the same in both cases: Norman dies. For real and for good. Maybe Peter kills him, maybe not. But Norman dies and his body is burned for all to see and his ashes are scattered on unhallowed ground, end of story. I just want to see Peter get tough with somebody AND WIN.
Bring back Aunt May. Spider-Man without Aunt May is like Batman without Alfred or Nixon without Agnew. It just don't work. I have turned this over and over in my mind, and I can't think of a way to do it credibly. So it will have to be done INcredibly. The details are unimportant. Have Dr. Strange resurrect her. Reveal that it was really an Aunt May clone that died (I know what I said earlier about clones, but I guess one more wouldn't hurt if it was in a good cause). Hell, as far as I'm concerned she could just show up one day, no questions asked, and we could pretend the whole death thing never happened (oh yeah, it's just a comic book; it DIDN'T really happen!).
Mary Jane Watson-Parker serves no purpose whatsoever. If it is possible for a character to be less than one-dimensional, she is. About all she's good for is generating some writer's gooey, mushy, utterly stupid and embarrassing idea of dialog between a husband and wife. Reading some of that stuff makes me seriously wonder whether these writers have ever had a real romantic relationship with a woman because none of this slop comes from real life. I guess it's supposed to be witty or something, but these writers ain't exactly Dashiell Hammett, and Peter and Mary Jane aren't Nick and Nora Charles. Have the couple divorce, or kill her; I don't care. Maybe Norman could toss her off a bridge before buying the farm himself.
This expands somewhat on point #2. For many years now, Peter Parker has been a whining, neurotic, ineffectual loser. This is a man who has the "proportionate strength of a spider," whatever the hell that is, and all kinds of other awesome super-powers. In short, he is a bad, dangerous dude. So why does he act like such a putz?
In my view, a guy like that would be a little WEIRD, a little DIFFERENT from you and me. After all, he is in effect part spider. I would have him act more like someone who is a little apart from and perhaps a little above the general run of humanity.
The "hero-with-problems" schtick was a wonderful innovation when Spidey was introduced in the early 60s, but Peter Parker has run it into the ground over the last 35 years. I would like to see him get the better of someone or come out on top of a situation JUST ONCE!
So there you go, an abridged version of my Spider-Man Manifesto. I have more ideas, but space does not permit me to share them with you. For example, I have always entertained a desire to see Doctor Octopus reform and become Spider-Man's buddy (which was satisfied, in a way, in 1996's "Spider-Boy" Amalgam comic).
I intend to send a copy of this article to the Spider-Man editors at Marvel Comics, and I imagine they will soon be calling me with a lucrative job offer. So I may not be around here much longer. Sure, I've said some rather uncomplimentary things about Marvel, but I've never been one to bite the hand that feeds me, so, to the Marvel editors: I WAS JUST KIDDING ABOUT ALL THAT STUFF, OKAY??? I LOVE MARVEL COMICS!!! YOU GUYS CAN TAKE A JOKE, RIGHT!?!
Hell, I'll even sweeten the deal a little. I'll do it for a year FOR FREE. That's right. I see it as my civic duty to restore a great superhero to the glory he deserves. And I GUARANTEE I'll increase sales. If I don't, pay me nothing. Face front, true believers, and until Smilin' Stan Lee actually closes a movie deal, MAKE MINE MARVEL!!!
I have a little more space here, so I need to tell you a few quick things. Kevin Smith ("Mallrats," "Clerks" et al) will be writing DAREDEVIL for Marvel and GREEN ARROW for DC later this year, the lucky S.O.B. He gets to make movies with hot chicks AND write comic books! PREACHER and HITMAN are still excellent books, and I'll tell you more about them and their creator, Garth Ennis, in a future column. I asked his editor about getting an interview, but nothing has come of it yet. We'll see ... Rather than just sitting here envying Kevin Smith and Garth Ennis, I have decided to try and get into the game myself. I am currently trying to peddle a concept of my own to some gullible publisher. I have submitted a proposal to the first company on my list and am now waiting for my rejection letter. I'll tell you all about it when it comes. Some of you might have similar aspirations and find the process interesting, so I'll try to document it for you in this column as it unfolds. Maybe you can profit from my mistakes.
See you next time!