So you leave comics for a few years, come back and everything’s changed, and not necessarily for the better. I’ve been a fan of Spider-man since… well, since I was younger than he is now. In the good old days, Peter Parker bumbled through life, jobs, education, ulcers, women, other superheroes and a whole raft of unlikely villains who, truth told, should have cleaned his clock at every outing. Still, being possessed of weird powers derived from a creepy-crawly, a genius-level intellect (his own hard work, not a mutation or the after-effect of being bitten by a radioactive Stephen Hawking) was enough to dispatch enemies with fearsome names like The Rhino, the Scorpion, Doctor Octopus, and the somewhat less fearsome Tinkerer; there was even a super-villain called The Fly; things were never going to end well for that fella.
Yup, the good old days.
Fast forward a few years, after the wilderness period of high literature and arty hats, and I’m back reading comics, and Spider-man has changed beyond all recognition. Well, I say ‘all recognition’, but that’s not strictly true. I do recognise him: he looks a lot like Batman.
Exhibit A – Like Batman, Spider-man is now a multi-gazzilionaire
Don’t ask how it happened (I’m still working through the back issues), but Peter Parker now has more money that Tony Stark. He’s the jet-setting head of Parker Industries which seems to have its finger in just about every industry and technologica sector you can think of. And with great profits comes great gadgets…
Exhibit B – Like Batman, Spider-man has cool crime-fighting toys.
And like Batman, he can afford to destroy them in every issue. So what kind of gadgetry are we talking about here?
Well, we have the Spider-mobile…
We’ve even got some sort of Spider-r0cket (don’t even ask).
“Aracho-rocket”? We’re going with that are we? Okay then…
Anyway, pretty much everything your upwardly mobile superhero needs in his ceaseless battle against the forces of evil.
Exhibit C – Like Batman, Spider-man has a backup team.
Yes, on the days that Batman is feeling off-colour, he has people like Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl and the Huntress who can pick up the slack. So quel supris, Marvel Comics has introduced a whole cast of Spider-folk who can patrol New York while Mr Parker is off doing other things.
We have the Scarlet Spider (a clone of the original).
Silk (no idea).
Spider-man 2099 (from the future; reckons he’s a bit of a badass).
and Spider-woman (now she’s been around for a while, but doesn’t really get a lot of air play).
And there could be others I haven’t come across yet. Anyway, New York is covered.
Now this is my opinion of course, but I have never thought that Marvel Comics had much to learn from DC. I’m not a huge Superman fan, and everyone after him seems pretty superfluous because Superman can be everywhere at once. Still, one exception might be the Batman series. This is the most human, gritty comic that DC produces, and now that we have the comedy interplay between Alfred and Bruce Wayne then the comic has got a whole lot better. Small wonder that Marvel thought it might be fun to lift a few elements and try them out in the Spiderverse. As an experiment, I’m all for it, as long as the folk behind it don’t mistake gadgetry for good writing.