In 1963 the duo of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko brought to life one of the greatest fictional characters ever. This was a superhero by the name of Spiderman. Issue #1 of The Amazing Spiderman hit shelves in January of 1963. Written and created by Lee with original artwork done by Ditko this series of comic books became the longest continuously published series ever. The Amazing Spiderman ended its 50 year run in December 2012 with issue #700. While it is worth noting that other heroes like Superman, Batman and Captain America have been around longer that Spiderman none of these have had one flagship series last for 50 years. There have been many relaunches of all of these heroes over the years but The Amazing Spiderman has been around since 1963. That was until December.
I bring this up because as a kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s Spiderman was my favorite. I always loved The Amazing Spiderman adventures and the teachings of Spiderman are embedded in generations of Americans today as a result of this franchise. When Spider-Man first appeared in the early 1960s, teenagers in superhero comic books were usually relegated to the role of sidekick to the protagonist. The Spider-Man series broke ground by featuring Peter Parker, a teenage high school student and person behind Spider-Man’s secret identity to whose “self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness” young readers could relate. Unlike previous teen heroes such as Bucky and Robin, Spider-Man did not benefit from being the protégé of any adult superhero mentors like Captain America and Batman, and thus had to learn for himself that “with great power there must also come great responsibility”—a line included in a text box in the final panel of the first Spider-Man story, but later retroactively attributed to his guardian, the late Uncle Ben. He was really the hero for those of us who were raised as latch key kids.
As the character grew we learned more, mostly from the teachings and memories of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben. For example we learned that it is OK if you fall short from time to time as long as you remain true to yourself and always try to follow the right path. Spiderman did not always come out on top but he always followed the right path.
Over the years I had stopped reading comics and had thus not followed the history of Peter Parker and Spiderman. Oh I did watch the movies and I always told people he was still my favorite superhero when it came up in discussion but I did not read all the comics for the last 30 years. However, recently I have started reading them again because my son loves them and we read one every night at bed time. Because of this I learned that The Amazing Spiderman #700 was coming out and that the series would be ending. My son and I both wanted to get the last couple of issues to see how it would end. Then I found out the shocking news. Rumor had it that Peter Parker died in the last issue. WHAT! How could this happen? Surely it was a joke right? Then even worse news came out. Spiderman’s arch enemy Otto Octavius or Dr. Octopus (Doc Ock) had found a way to switch brains with Peter Parker so Peter would die in Doc Ock’s body but Doc Ock would live on as the new Spiderman. This sounded like the worst ending ever. After all Spiderman and Peter Parker are the same. You can’t have one without the other right? Furthermore, Doc Ock epitomizes all that is bad. He has great power and abuses the great responsibility that comes with it. He is a power hungry bad guy. He can’t be Spiderman. So with that knowledge I decided to boycott the last issue. There was no way I was buying issue #700 of The Amazing Spiderman. Furthermore, I would not even look at the new series The Superior Spiderman because I do not want to live in a world where Doc Ock is Spiderman.
Fortunately for me my son broke my resolve. December rolled around and issue #700 was out. Empire Comics in New Albany had a ton of the issues on hand and we walked in and did not get it. Then it sold out and I thought we were done. We had made it without getting that last issue. However, last week we went in and I told my son he could get whatever he wanted. He looked at the shelves for a few seconds and found one last copy of issue #700. They had been out of it for weeks. Where did this one mystery issue come from? “Daddy this is the one I want” he said. I told him I did not want it. He said “Dad we have to see how it ends.” So we got it. I have spent the last two nights reading it to him and I must say it was not easy to read. As you read it you see flashbacks to all the things that have happened over the last 50 years that made Spiderman great. When Doc Ock’s body dies for a few minutes in the beginning Peter Parker goes to heaven and he is met by all the people he has helped or tried to help over the years. They all thank him and tell him he has unfinished business. His Uncle Ben gives him some more wisdom and he is brought back to life to make sure Doc Ock does not get all the powers of Spiderman. Then we get to the final part of the comic. You are really torn because you are not sure if you are rooting for Spiderman to beat Doc Ock or if you want Peter Parker to beat Otto Octavius. Peter has one last ditch effort to swap the brains again using the same device Otto used the first time. However, Otto has planned for that and put a plate in his head that will prevent the switch. It looks like Doc Ock has won because his body only has seconds to live and Peter Parker’s mind will die with it but then Spiderman screams and says “You can’t do this.” Peter Parker says “That is right Otto, you may keep my brain from coming back but you cannot stop all of my memories from becoming part of you. You are now Spiderman and as Spiderman you must know that with great power must come great responsibility.” Otto screams and Doc Ock dies. The Amazing Spiderman ends with Spiderman standing over the dead body of his greatest foe and he says “Peter you are correct and I promise you that I will become Spiderman and use my powers for good. With your powers and my superior intellect I shall become a better superhero. I will become The Superior Spiderman.”
Guess which comic book Liam and I will be getting when we visit Empire Comics next week.