I just finished reading the excellent trade "Spider-Man/Human Torch: I'm With Stupid," and was clued into a recent development in the Spider-verse.
No, not keeping his mask on with his stickiness, something I've always wondered about. After all, he can stick to a wall with his butt, but it never occurs to him that his face can stick to stuff too? And his mask, no less? With the frequency that Spidey loses masks, you'd think he would have realized that by now.
Spidey has organic web-shooters now. Because he has them in the movie.
Well, gee golly jiminy-f***. Why not make that change over in "Ultimate Spider-Man," the story the movie's more based on? Why make the change in the comics that the kids *aren't* reading?
Jesus f***ing Christ. I cannot believe this. How did they explain this? Did he wake up one morning, scratch his butt, and squirt webbing down his backside? Because I want to see that issue, that's freaking hilarious.
And, apparently, he's now to Spiders what Aquaman is to fish, more or less. He can "receive primal messages" from insects and the like. Why insects? Because arachnid-based heroes somehow understand their prey? Hey, maybe every animal-based hero should have the ability to communicate with their totem animal. Vulture could settle down on a park bench to feed pigeons, Rhino could move to Africa to commune with his thick-skinned bretheren, and Dr. Octopus would drown in a tragic attempt to wed a friendly squid.
But there's more! Green Lantern now asks street lamps what they're knowin', having come to watch their flowers growin'! Batman annoys the Justice League with his frequent use of echolocation, and wait 'til you see the counsel's conversations with Ol' Scratch in "The Daredevil and Daniel Webster."
The justification for these changes? From Newsarama, referring to Tom Brevoort's comments, "at this point in time, a larger audience is more familiar with a Spider-Man with organic webshooters than without."
Well, damn. A larger audience is also familiar with a Spider-Man who isn't married to Mary Jane and is a college student, than the high school teacher who bedded the supermodel. A larger audience is also familiar with a dead Doc Ock. Do we rewind the last twenty years of Spidey history and kill one of his greatest villains to line the comics up with the movies?
Last I checked, the movie was based on the comic, not the other way 'round.
But I'd like to see the numbers. I want you to add up all the living people who have ever picked up and read a Spider-Man comic since 1962. 45 years worth of readers worldwide. Now, add to that the people who haven't picked up a comic, but have watched one of the Spider-Man cartoon series (I do this to remove overlap).
Now take the number of people who have seen the Spider-Man movies, but have never seen a Spider-Man comic or cartoon episode. I'm willing to bet the numbers aren't as different as people would have you believe. Spidey's been popular for two damn generations, the movies have been out for what, four years? I call shenanigans. Shenanigans!
And to make the change in the core Spidey titles! It's been what, ten, fifteen years comic time since he got his powers, and now he suddenly further mutates to be able to produce a substance that he himself invented? Isn't that a little convenient? They could do this a bit more believably over in Ultimate, where Pete's dad invented the webbing. Who knows, maybe working with chemicals caused his dad to develop a genetic mutation, etc. Why in the regular titles? Why in the ones that are, in no way, marketed toward the people who would be coming in from the movies with no comic background?
Let me tell you, Mr. Brevoort, there's a much greater number of people buying regular Spider-Man comics who know about mechanical web-shooters than people who don't.
See, what Spidey's writers have forgotten for several years is that Spider-Man is not a totally physical hero. Pete's brain made some valiant attempts to get into the plot under J. Michael Straczynski, but then some super-powerful Morbius wannabe would show up and start another epic fistfight.
Peter Parker is a genius, a scientist, and a little of a renaissance man (that boy can sew!). When it became apparent that he might need webbing of some sort, he whipped it up with a chemistry set. When he realized he'd need to carry extra webbing, he made a belt with extra cartridges. When they needed a convenient excuse to get Spidey away from his webs, some powerful villain would crush the shooters on his wrists. It was a convenient plot device, but more, it was a constant reminder that Spider-Man's greatest powers are his intellect and ingenuity.
After all, what else does he have? He's strong, but there are others who are much stronger. He's agile, but there are others who are more agile and faster, to boot. His only unique powers are stickiness (oh, sorry Nightcrawler, nevermind), and a spider-sense that warns him of impending doom. He wouldn't even make the cut for the Legion of Super-Heroes, by their 1960s entrance standards.
But he's smart, and that's what counts with Spider-Man. He can think himself out of situations when he can't punch his way out. His webbing was a constant, active reminder of that.
Not so, anymore. Why? Because this little change will apparently make Spider-Man more marketable? Bull. If Joe Average picks up a Spider-Man comic, he's going to have a harder time understanding why Peter is married to Mary Jane, why Aunt May knows his secret, and why the Parkers are living in the Avengers Mansion, than he is understanding that Pete has machines on his writs that shoot webs. Is it because the change adds to the character? I submit that it is not. Is it because it'll have major ramifications on Peter's average life? I think not. They admit that no one's really made a big deal of Peter's webbing in recent years (and I have noticed that few seem to remember that it dissolves after an hour).
Then why? Because it'll anger the long-time fans (hey, as Bill Willingham says, any reaction, good or bad, is equal. Right?), and because it's easier to write a quasi-mystic or thinks-with-fists character than a genuinely smart one. Quasi-mystics can be as naïve and inept as a plot dictates, and still be believable. Fist-thinkers can be painted broadly with the "brash and impatient" stroke as the plot requires (see: Wolverine). Smart characters don't have an excuse. Spider-Man made mistakes all the time when he started out, but that's 'cause he was a rookie. Now he's had a decade of in-comic experience, coupled with an intellect second only to Reed Richards (Sorry, Doom, you're number three. Although there is that fetching Hank McCoy fella...), he doesn't have an excuse to make the dumb mistakes that plots might dictate.
But if they make him a brash fist-thinker or a quasi-mystic who talks to spiders, that's like using plot hole putty. A writer doesn't have to work nearly as hard as he would to imagine how a super-genius might get himself out of a situation. Let the plot dictate the characterization.
Well, I call it crap. Plot-necessitated characterization is reserved for the extras, the museum curators and stereotypical scientists and grizzled cops who are there to give exposition and provide cannon fodder or the occasional emotional gravitas. Plot-dictated character doesn't work with established characters, because it requires the characters to act contrary to their nature to make the plot feasible.
So, if we remove Spider-Man's intellect, then we don't have to worry about making him look like the "world's dumbest smart guy" like Mr. Fantastic, we can let the plot dictate why he's a moron. Then, we don't look like lazy writers.
Spider-scribes, your shortcomings are showing.