Peter Parker Killed Off?

Reading & Writing

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Or just an attention-seeking plot line? Spiderman’s alter-ego has been wiped out in the 700th issue of ‘Spider Man’, knocked off at the hands of Dr Octopus. But experts say he’ll be back; DC Comics revived Superman less than a year after his “death” and the Flash eventually came back two decades after his demise. Captain America was killed off in 2007 — only to turn out to be lost in time, courtesy of a high-tech ray gun blast. And another version of Peter Parker – in Marvel’s alternate “Ultimate” universe line – was killed off last year and replaced as Spider-Man by a half Latino, half African American teenager. Minor characters are regularly announced as gay or get killed.

Comics are turning to increasingly desperate gambits in order to stave off plummeting sales. With the advent of big CGI movies detailing their exploits, who needs bits of coloured paper? Trouble is, that’s where the good writing is, so the comics companies are facing a dilemma – kill the goose and where do the eggs come from?

Going back into Marvel and DC recently, I was surprised to find that comics haven’t really moved on in decades.’Alternative Worlds’ replaced ‘Imaginary Stories’ to raise creative freedom, but the basic storylines are identical to the ones I read as a child, albeit with more social diversity. European comics and US comics remain planets apart from each other, and the UK still shows little interest in either. The days when children would not be seen without a comic in one hand are past. Nor do they work very well on the internet.

Instead we’re left with a handful of old titles fighting for supremacy in an ever-shrinking market. There are two approaches to the superhero field – you’re either an apologist, as the recent Batman films have been, virtually hiding away your man character from fear of ridicule, or you embrace the silliness and run with it, as Marvel do. What surprises me is the malleability and sturdiness of the superhero concept, which was already dated in the 1940s when Captain Marvel first hit cinema serials.

But perhaps that’s a good thing. Last night I returned to Barcelona from London and watched two small boys in an airport lounge playing at being Peter Pan and Captain Hook. Heroes and villains will always be with us.

8 comments on “Peter Parker Killed Off?”

  1. J. Folgard says:

    I’ve been enjoying this run (written by Dan Slott) for several years now, including the most ridicule aspects of it -they’re part of the whole fun! So yes, it’s a stunt, but it’s also coherent with plot lines established some 100 issues ago by the very same writer: it was quite rewarding as a long-term payoff, and pretty well executed. The online community looks only at the broad strokes, out of context, but this ‘last’ issue, when you actually read it, had some nice character beats and moments, and fed off well upon previous storylines (once again, written by the same guy).

    Another sad truth is, even when a comic-book periodical holds up a good level of quality, you get standard sales attrition beginning as soon as issue # 2, so it’s no wonder the ‘Big Two’ resort to this from time to time. As long as I like the execution (sorry Peter), I keep reading -or I skip the whole thing until another creative/editorial team is given the reins. It’s also a sign of the current state of the entertainment industry, where increasingly fleeting audiences keep adoring, then criticizing, then dumping favorite ‘franchises’ all the time, not only in comics -you have to keep the ADD crowd on its toes. You don’t know how much you love things (or think you love) until they’re -seemingly- gone, eh?

    Creator Mike Mignola is doing a nice riff on this right now: he’s recently killed off Hellboy, who’s still fighting demons in his own version of Hell. And come to think of it, I’ll probably still keep buying & enjoying ‘2000AD’ even if old Joe Dredd finally kicks the bucket! Cheers!

  2. Bob Low says:

    In clearing out my late mother’s house this year, I’ve come across a lot of my old American comics from the seventies. I was an almost obsessive comic reader as a child, and loved the American super hero comics particularly. They were in colour, they were comparatively expensive, and it was difficult to follow on-going stories in any particular title, but they had an exotic allure about them. My favourite hero was Daredevil,mainly because this was the only comic our local newsagent was able to get any consecutive runs of. I think I read somewhere that American comics were brought over to the UK at that time as packaging, so you never knew what you were going to get, from week to week. The Marvel comics still stand up pretty well, as they were the most fun. Even forty years ago, Batman was starting to get a bit po-faced.

    I stopped reading comics as I got into my teens, mainly because I found the experience of reading a comic less immersive, and so less satisfying, than reading a book, but I still have a sentimental attachment to the super-hero comics, and it’s good to read that the main titles are still out there, and that the writers are still coming up with ingenious ways to keep the stories fresh. It’s also refreshing that adults can admit to reading them-in the UK in the seventies, comic reading was seen an the exclusive preserve of young children, and the mentally defective.

    Incidentally, my favourite super-hero film is one that Admin recommended in one of his Black Static columns-Georges Franju’s ”Judex”. I await the English language, 3D re-make with interest.

  3. Reuben says:

    I don’t think you have to be an ‘expert’ to know that the latest headline grabbing superhero story line will revert back to the status quo in the near future.
    I think that’s what is considered the appeal to many, superhero comics don’t really change. There is only so much you can do with the idea after all.

    I think there is a big gap between superhero comics and comics full stop. Lots of people who read Manga wouldn’t dream of reading anything but. Also I believe the best selling US comic, certainly in it’s collected editions, is The Walking Dead (a post-apocalyptic soap opera with some added zombies.)

    There will always be a huge difference between say US and French comics purely as the attitudes are completely different. The US is geared up to a monthly production line process for comics, whereas in France it’s more like a creator doing a 48 page hardback book a year. (I am generalising quite a bit there I know) Superhero isn’t king in Europe, there seems to be room for more genres.

    In America Marvel/DC superheroes still rule. This can be most clearly seen when you see creative teams creator owned usually non-superhero work sell a fraction of the sales that their work for hire corporate superhero books do. Mainly because they aren’t working on established characters.

    Sorry could ramble on about this for ages but I’ll spare you.

  4. Reuben says:

    I’d never thought of Judex as a superhero film, although along with Nuits Rouge it’s one I like a lot.
    I’d guess those two films are amongst the influences on the American comics creator Richard Sala whose work I love.
    http://richardsala.com/
    http://richardsala.tumblr.com/
    http://hereliesrichardsala.blogspot.co.uk/

    If I had to pick a favourite comicbook movie then it would be Danger: Diabolik (it has Terry Thomas in it & a score by Ennio Morricone), but I’ve never read the comics I have to confess.

  5. Bob Low says:

    It’s probably stretching it a bit to categorise ”Judex” as a superhero film-but it does have that mythic quality I remember from the comics I loved growing up. Although, if I’d seen ”Judex” as a child, I’m sure I would have been quite baffled! ”Nuits Rouge” is a great film as well.

    I loved the Richard Sala work-thanks for putting up these links.

    ”Danger Diabolik” is a film I’ve always meant to get round to watching-maybe next year. Have a good New Year when it comes.

  6. Ken M says:

    Diabolik was 50 years old at the end of last year – there was a commemorative exhibit in a museum in Milan.
    My own favourite British comic book artist is Terry Wiley. His latest work Verity Fair can be seen at http://www.idcm.net

  7. ChrisE says:

    An awful admission… I’m a real comic book geek and have tens of thousands all poly-bagged and boxed, but I’ve stopped my standing orders with my local shop ‘Cheap Thrills’ (a great shop) simply because I feel I’ve read it all before, and the DC reboot of all the characters, thus nullifying what I’ve read was the final straw. I’m sure many people felt that way in the late50s/early 60s in the silver age when the characters were modernised and replaced but I was too young to realise what was going on.

    There are however some really good trade paperbacks out there if you look. Some I’d recommend are: –
    Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore (self-published)
    Bone by Jeff Smith (Independent publisher)
    Y the Last Man by Brian K Vaughan (DC)
    Civil War by Marvel was very good in places also

    Of course there are also the staples like ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Camelot 300’.

    I’ve always been annoyed as people have called comics childish, and often they are the innovators of many things. But they haven’t developed as I’d hoped. They almost seem to have regressed, but maybe that’s just me reaching 50 years old. I do however remember the excitement of Superman in the 70s, and marveling (pun not intended) at a super hero movie. Now, it seems every other movie is super-hero based, and a few honourable (grr… this yank spell-check!) exceptions aside like The Avengers it does sadly seem like more is less… at least in my humble opinion.

  8. Bob Low says:

    The comments and links on this thread have been very interesting-the links posted by Reuben and Ken have been particularly enjoyable, and I’ll look out for ChrisE’s recommendations. I think that many of the people who created the comics I’ve been re-discovering recently were unsung geniuses-that should probably be genii, but it looks funny. People who still write all comics off as childish need to open their eyes and minds. Of of the seventies comics I’ve enjoyed re-reading, a few stand out-DC’s reinvention of the Shadow,a Marvel character called the Black Panther-a Black hero, menaced in one of his adventures, by the Ku Klux Klan(quite daring for its time)- and a DC title called Weird Adventure Comics, which featured one of the furthest out characters of this era, called The Spectre-an ”earth bound ghost” who metes out bizaare, surreal retribution to evil doers.

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