An entry from my old Marvel blog, this one reprinting a letter from a Spider-Man fan.
A little bit of a rough one this time:
You guys have no idea what you’ve put me through the last three weeks. I mean, maybe you do, because I’m sure my story bears much similarity to others you’ve read in the last four months. But here’s mine. I’ll warn you — it’s long. You might not even read it. But it’s been on my heart for a while now, and I want to share, so here it is.
My not-at-home dad gave me three paperback books when I was a kid. They contained reprints of the first 20 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man spread out over the three volumes. Some of my earliest memories are of reading these books. Specifically, laying in bed with the chicken pox and keeping me company were the Lizard, Kraven, the Green Goblin, and let’s not forget the Scorpion. The romance between Betty and Pete, the tragedy of Betty’s brother’s death, the machinations of Doctor Octopus, and the splash page of an over-sized Chameleon trying to grab Spidey from the New York skyline.
These are some of the happiest memories of my young childhood. And they created in me a deep love of Spidey from an early age.
Well, come along 1990, and I discover that comic books are still around and making kids happy everywhere. And lo and behold, Spider-Man has FOUR SERIES now!!! Well, I picked up the first two chapters of the Powerless story from c. ASM 360 and was gob-smacked at all the nuances of Spidey’s life that I had memorized — that had been drastically changed. Flash Thompson (“I admire your taste, doll! Get lost, bookworm!”) was throwing frisbees with Peter Parker. And Peter was married! And to one of the best-looking redheads I’d ever seen drawn on a page. Holy cow! (Although she may have been beaten out by Jessica Rabbitt…)
And one of the greatest joys was sharing this with my dad, with whom I was now living. He paid allowance, I spent it on comics, and not only could I tell him about the gambits of our favorite web-spinner, but Dad would fill in the gaps of other heroes’ natures and origins….at least those that were old enough for him to remember.
Over the next two years, Spidey’s life became my own. I read all his series, including the premiere of Todd McFarlane’s title. And this new version of Spidey quickly became my home base, filled with characters and relationships I grew to love immensely. bought up so much Spider-Man stuff you wouldn’t believe. There were the trade collections (especially the Alien Costume Saga…loved it!), the 2099 series, and of course, the never-ending quest for back issues. The hero who had been woven into my imagination from the most formative years was now a part of me in a way I had never imagined.
But right around the start of Maximum Carnage, I was starting to lose interest in comics. (I understand now that I probably jumped ship just before Carnage jumped the shark..?) And though my collection ended, I always maintained an interest in Spidey and would frequently browse the covers even though the money would be spent on “real” books, girls, and other things teenagers do. So I was marginally aware of the clones, Ben Reilly, Aunt May dying but not really, estrangement in the marriage between Peter and MJ, and I always felt emotionally invested.
You see, even though I didn’t collect him anymore, I felt a strong connection to Spider-Man. And for all the reasons you’d probably expect — I was always picked on by other kids, I was the nerd, I always dreamed of marrying a beautiful redhead, etc. But the source of it all was a happy connection to my dad… in a relationship that didn’t really have too many happy connections.
When I was 16, my dad committed suicide. He did this after shooting and killing my stepmother and 4yo sister. I had moved back in with my mom before this because my dad was non-abusive for only about the first nine months of my residency with him. He was a much better father when he had rarely or never been around. And now he was dead.
I really stopped reading comics, even stopped browsing them. I don’t really know much about Spider-Man from 1996-2006 beyond the movies. There was never a conscious thought that, “Oh, Dad is dead, so now I can’t enjoy Spider-Man.” It’s more of a 12-years-later self-psycho-analysis thing than anything else.
And speaking of movies, I’ll confess that when the first came out, I wasn’t the first in the theater. Actually, I saw it on DVD. Maybe there was still underlying emotional difficulty. But I saw the second and third in the theaters. And although I would have done things differently here or there, I still loved them all. It didn’t get me back into collecting comics. But I could feel the desires lurking.
And then something else happened, just recently. Marvel Studios released Iron Man. And if that wasn’t the best superhero movie I’d ever seen, I don’t know what is. And it made me want to know more about Iron Man. So you know what I did? I bought the DVD-ROM. And I started reading. And then I found out there was a DVD-ROM of Spider-Man, so I bought that too. And I started reading.
And all the comic joys flooded back into me. I’ve felt like I’m returning to a first love. And you know what comic joys do….they make you want to buy more comics.
But first…what’s been happening in Spidey’s life? I had vague inklings of a Civil War, but I didn’t really know. So I started browsing wiki for storylines so I’d have some idea.
You know…those guys at wiki (and by this I mean, the public at large), they decided to list their Spidey storyline synopses alphabetically. And you know….there aren’t that many things that come in the alphabet before “Brand New Day”. And the first paragraph of the “Brand New Day” synopsis says it’s a sequel to “One More Day”.
So I read the synopsis of “One More Day”. And as I read, a knot began to build inside. A knot of shock, appallment, hatred, and disgust. If I could believe my eyes, you were taking the hero I had loved so dearly as a child, that hero I had left in your trust while I went and grew up, and you had destroyed everything about him that was good and worthy of the name Spider-Man.
I called everyone I knew. My wife had to listen to rants and raves about a character I hadn’t even read for over 15 years. I felt hurt, betrayed, and just shocked that such a thing would even be done.
But…of course….I had to know what you had left. If I had any hope of reading current Spider-Man, and with issue 561 beckoning from the shelves, I really wanted to…I had to know. So I managed to get copies of Amazing Spider-Man 546 and on — and I read them.
Wacker, Gale, Slott, McNiven, and everyone else who doesn’t get mentioned cuz you’re too cool, thank you.
This….this is the Spider-Man I missed. This is everything that is good and great about Spider-Man. This is the mystery bad guys, the crummy luck, the funny jokes, the picture-grabbing, the web-swinging and the fist-fighting. This is Spider-Man.
And the whole time I’ve been reading, I’ve wanted to thank you. You’ve almost choked me up a couple of times from just how great it is. But I didn’t want to write until I had the latest issue read, and I finished last week’s 563 tonight. Speaking of choked up, I flipped through the One More Day hardcover tonight, and got all emotional. I haven’t read it yet, but I will. I have the Back in Black trades and the One More Day book waiting for me once I finish reading through the Civil War DVD, so it may take just a little bit, but I’ll get there.
A couple things I want to say now that I’ve dragged you through my autobiography. First: This work you’ve been doing with Brand New Day — this is great Spider-Man. If there are fans out there who loved the pre-BND stuff and don’t love this, then they have lost sight of what makes great Spider-Man. And I’m sorry for them.
Second, you have a great thing going on with MJ. Personally, I suspect that Mephisto left her with knowledge of the “track-jump”, which means she’s the only one who realizes things are different now. That seems to be where the bread crumbs lead that you’ve been leaving. Adds an extra dose of tragedy to the whole thing and some great opportunities for storytelling…and I hope you don’t lead us there too quickly.
Third, a thrice-monthly title beats three or four parallel titles all hollow.
And finally, bring on the ASM Annual! Will this be the first since 1999? Can’t wait!
Thanks for reading. Feel free to print or not, although I understand editing for length if you decide to print it at all.
Thanks for listening,
Jon M. Wilson