Dan Slott was a man hated a little less than a year and a half ago. With the final arc of Amazing Spider-Man he brought about the end of an era when he killed Peter Parker. Well, sure, he didn’t kill him per se. This is one of the more esoteric deaths in comic history being that technically the body of Peter Parker did not die yet his soul apparently was lost in the corpse of Doctor Octopus.
If you have ever once tried to explain that storyline to someone who doesn’t read comics you quickly will realize just how strange the situation is as they cock their head like a confused dog wondering why humans use the source of drinking water as a latrine. At that point in time we assumed Peter was gone. And I’ll admit even after traversing the spoiler filled jungle of the internet and actually reading the issue it still had a strong emotional impact on me.
I have a few things in my life that I don’t remember not knowing. Many are from the Bible taught to me at Sunday School as a baby (Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham!) and then there is that Luke is the son of Vader (sorry if I spoiled that). As the same with those stories, the origin and life of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is synonymous with my life. I’ve never not known about the radioactive spider bite and Uncle Ben. Heck, “With great power comes great responsibility” might as well be on my family crest. So my entire life has been about Spider-Man. I don’t think it was until I was seven or eight that I stopped saying I wanted to be Spider-Man when I grew up.
But the same with anything you carry with you for the majority of your life, apathy and callousness can sink in. I stopped reading Spider-Man comics during the clone saga (less to do with the bad storyline and more to do with learning guitar to pick up chicks) and honestly never thought about picking them back up until almost ten years later. I loved the movies (yes, even the third) and own all of them, but even with those movies I had a disconnect. I enjoyed watching a live action childhood hero beat up villains I’d only seen in four colors.
I dropped Spider-Man comics again shortly after A Brand New Day started after picking the series back up around the time Spider-Man joined the New Avengers. I am only now going back and reading the Gauntlet and Spider-Island. My wife eventually got me my first mailed subscription which started shortly after Spider Island, and she renewed it until issue 700 was my last. I read each issue and thought they were fun, but there wasn’t anything amazing (pun intended) about those issues until the last arc started.
I read issue 700 and at the end was struck by the void I felt. Sure Spider-Man was still around. They announced Superior Spider-Man at the end of the issue. But I still felt loss. By the end of issue 9 I realized that I missed Peter Parker. I won’t say I didn’t realize it ever, maybe I had grown uncaring, but Peter Parker is the real reason why I (and most likely you) love Spider-Man. He is a nerdy guy who is quick witted and as much as he loves what he can do with his powers still has a very bipolar relationship with them based both his self-imposed heroic standard and the disdain heaped upon him by the public (mainly JJJ).
With the recent return of Peter Parker (issue 30 came out when I wrote this) I think I’m beginning to see and appreciate Dan Slott’s great scheme. I have always loved Spider-Man and of course Peter Parker, but Slott showed us that we really love Peter Parker. Peter Parker is us and is who we would hope to be with power (sadly some of us would be more like Doc Ock) and through the story of thirty some odd issues Slott brought that out. He showed us that it does matter who is behind the mask. In the post-modern age of superheroes where everyone has dirty secrets and ulterior motives, Peter Parker is still a pure hero. Literally the death of his soul/consciousness couldn’t stop his sense of heroic responsibility and his fight for justice. And that sense of responsibility and heroic nature is not a power received from a spider bite (I know a few jerks bitten by brown recluses, and they’re still jerks), that is part of who Peter Parker is. With or without powers, Peter Parker is a hero; with powers he just happens to be a superhero.
After 700 issues Slott has helped us understand that we miss Peter when he’s gone and no one can really completely take the mantle the same way. Maybe many of us Spidey-fans had grown complacent after the deluge of issues that had hit the shelves of our local stores over the past 50 years. And maybe many of the knee-jerk reactions we felt towards Slott we uncalled for (especially the death threats, seriously).
Dan Slott deserves our gratitude because with his run on this series (a love letter to Peter Parker and Spider-Man) he has shown us why after 50 years and 1285 solo issues (ASM vol 1 + vol 2 + SSM + SM + FNSM + PPSSM + MKSM vol 1 = 1285) Peter Parker is who we want to be when we grow up.