If you’ve listened to any of the podcast episodes in the past 4 years where we discussed comics, then it should come as no surprise that I am a strong proponent of legacy and letting character development evolve forward. As such, I was not the biggest fan of some of the choices that have been made around some of the biggest characters in comics: DC took a step forward with Batman’s legacy by killing him off and having Dick Grayson take up the mantle with Damian as his Robin, but they later undid that; they took another stab at it with Batman bringing Duke into the fold after “We are Robin”, but he seems more like just another Robin than a new divergent path forward; Marvel seems to be skirting the idea by having a new, young Iron Man replacement, Hulk being replaced by a younger, different version in Amadeus Cho, and by having Carol Danvers take the Captain Marvel name leaving room for Kamala Khan to take her old name; but there’s little confidence that with at least those first two that there won’t be a rollback to the prior status quo. Even Captain America’s seeming death then de-powering which both left room for his replacement seems to be a tenuous arrangement that could revert.
My point is this: I think some of these properties would be well served with some more permanent changes that would show a willingness to reflect changing times in the lives of these characters we love to relate to. And I can think of no better starting point than Spider-man.
In the past decade or so, we’ve seen Spidey grow in fits and spurts as well as seen his world grow around him. Peter himself now has a PhD and a real, successful company (mostly thanks to Doc Ock – read Superior Spider-man to understand better). And via the recent events of “Secret Wars II”, “The Spider-verse”, and “Dead No More”, he has an array of new similarly-powered cohorts in the world. So I think there is a logical next step for Peter at this juncture: to step down.
I know it sounds crazy, but consider this: he is no longer the only spider-powered hero in NYC. Due to SW2, Miles Morales is swinging around 616 now. The Spider-verse revealed Silk, brought back Arana, and gave access to a number of other world spider people (e.g., Spider-Gwen). In the aftermath, Peter has started using Prowler as an ersatz Spider-man from time to time to maintain his double life now that he has to jet-set around the globe for his company. And “Dead No More” revealed a still living Ben Reilly. This doesn’t even account for the Iron Spiders, Spider-woman, Spider-man 2099, the Scarlet Spider, and the various Venom-type characters running around. Further, whereas he started as a nerdy teen who barely scraped by as a photographer, he is now a successful entrepreneur with a global company which produces high-end tech and already does so partially as a benefit to Spider-man’s efforts.
All of this, in my mind, lays the groundwork for Peter to successfully hang up the tights in favor of a new role in super-heroism as a team leader and mentor. If he were to gather these heroes to form a spider-team – something separate from the Avengers, Defenders, Champions, etc. – he could offer them multiple bases of operations via his company, spider-based training facilities to help them keep their skills honed in down times, and possibly find a way to work with local law enforcement and global security forces to allow most of these heroes to be on the payroll and not have as much need to juggle their double-lives. He can leverage his decades of experience as THE Spider-man to train all of these heroes to be better spider-people, to know their enemies strengths and weaknesses, and to focus their own strengths on the types of threats only they can best deal with.
This would also allow an opportunity for Peter to grow up, settle down, and really have some version of a family (rather than such a continuity just being an else-worlds situation) without making the Spider-man comics lose interest. Kids could follow the adventures of the younger heroes on the team as “their Spider-(person)”, and adult fans could relate to Peter on whole new levels. I wouldn’t expect that he’d never don the tights again – I’m sure there’d be events or big boss fights where his expertise would be needed. But for once his sense of duty wouldn’t continue to be an excuse for keeping his life on pause.
He has the power to do all of this, and with that power comes responsibility.
I wrote the above before this video was released by Marvel Entertainment which seems to suggest vaguely that they are potentially going down a similar path.