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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The Problem with Spider-Man

Photo courtesy of Marvel Comics.

Last February, I wrote an article about my problems with superhero romance, specifically in comics. I talked about Spider-Man and his relationship with Mary Jane and how Marvel’s refusal to make them a committed couple is indicative of a larger issue with the character, Peter Parker won’t grow up.

Some of you might say “Well yeah he’s supposed to be a teenager” which is completely understandable…… if you know nothing about Spider-Man. 

Despite common belief, Peter Parker was only a high school student for three of his 61 years of history. That’s right, he was only in high school for three years after his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15. He graduated from high school not even ⅓ of the way through Stan Lee’s original tenure on the character. To put it in perspective, he was in college for 13 years in the comics.

Unlike most other heroes, Spider-Man is a character who experienced constant growth and shakeups to his status quo. Peter graduated high school in 1965, Green Goblin and Gwen Stacy were killed in 1973, Peter graduated college in 1978, he got the black suit in 1984, got married to MJ in 1987, Venom was introduced in 1988, and Harry Osborn died in 1993. Through all of this, you saw Peter grow from a self-centered and bitter teenager into a responsible and caring young man. There’s a definite sense of progression to his character between 1962 and 2007 despite being written by dozens of authors.

In 2007 though………. They essentially pulled back 20 years of development in the story, One More Day. In this story, Peter and MJ’s marriage was wiped from history and since then he has completely stagnated as a character. Being one of the most hated creative decisions in comic history, the consequences of this story are still felt to this day.

Since 2007, Peter has not grown. He has not changed. He’s essentially been in limbo for 16 years with each new run being the same unoriginal schlock. The reason Marvel wiped all of Peter’s development was because they felt that a married Peter would be too old to be relatable to younger audiences. I resent that for two reasons. First, kids aren’t the only demographic for Spider-Man, especially in a medium like comics. Second, there is another character who fills the role of a young Spider-Man perfectly: Miles Morales.

If anything, I think keeping Peter in a constant state of limbo where you can’t really make many major changes to the character hurts his overall relatability because he never changes or grows. 

This problem has also infected nearly every adaptation of the character. Every single cartoon sets him exclusively in high school, The Amazing Spider-Man movies were both with a high school Peter, and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man spent his entire trilogy in high school. 

I realize that everyone wants to give their own take on the character but I feel like this constant turnover of Spider-Man media has forced the character into a cage where he can’t ever really grow up. I won’t even say all the stuff with him in high school is bad but it is tiring to see every single adaptation of the character be set in the same period of Peter’s life when there is so much more to explore with the character.

Thankfully, a lot of adaptations recently seem to somewhat fix this problem. Insomniac Games started right off the bat with a 23-year-old Peter who’s been Spider-Man for eight years, the Spider-Verse films show Peter in his 30s dealing with divorce and having kids, and even the Marvel Cinematic Universe is advancing Peter past high school with the end of No Way Home teasing that he’s going to college.

And yet, despite all these great adaptations, the comics still insist on having Peter act like he’s straight out of high school. As an avid comic reader, you’ll almost never see me saying that comic book adaptations are better than the source material but at this point, every single adaptation of the character currently is better than the comic version. They all feel like they give him a sense of growth and development while the comics are scared to let him mature. 

While the main Amazing Spider-Man book looks bleak, there seems to be a bright future for the Spider-Man of the alternate Ultimate universe. Marvel just recently announced that legendary comic writer, Jonathan Hickman, will write the new relaunch of the Ultimate Spider-Man book; which will focus on Peter and MJ of this universe creating a family together.

His name is Peter Parker, not Peter Pan, and it’s about time that Marvel lets him grow up and become a true Spider-Man.

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    ChandlerNov 12, 2023 at 11:52 pm

    100% Agree The Spidey Office needs to have a clean out and have younger People come in as we actually like MJ and Peter. Give the man back his life in the book the creator of the franchise made. Stan Lee wanted Peter married and kept him married in his news paper strips until he died and it’s ridiculous that an arrogant self entitled editor thought he knew better then the guy that made the character.