Remembering Superior Spider-Man
WARNING: This article contains the spoiler for the Superior Spider-Man storyarc and the first issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers, and was written at the publication of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1
Controversy is often related to the sales in the comicbook industry. The big reveal of Captain America being the long time Hydra agent angered the considerable part of the Marvel Comics Fan Base. This was shocking and even disturbing to some devout fans who came to regard Captain America, or Steve Rogers, as the symbol of the American ideal. It was even more infuriating for some fans considering this was to be 75th anniversary of Captain America, and only about a month from American Independence Day. Imagine the American War Heroes was secretly Nazis, if non-comic reader or those who are not fans of Captain America to feel the same cringe. The editor Tom Brevoort explained in his interview with Time that this story was to explore how people who seem normal can hide a terrible secret. It also has been confirmed that this “Hydra” Captain America is neither clone or brainwashed. Fans are starting to be worried whether the writer Nick Spencer can turn this shocking twist into a story worthy of Captain America’s 75th Anniversary.
But the shock and awe tactics has been Marvel’s favorite method to draw attention, and readership. A few years ago, Marvel and the main Spider-Man writer Dan Slott shocked and infuriated the comicbook fans in a similar way. When online news reported of this decision, Slott received a death threat for his decision. What caused all this controversy?
Well, Peter Parker was murdered by Doctor Octopus who took over his body, and the body-snatcher became Superior Spider-Man, for the 700th issue and 50th anniversary of the wall-crawler. It gave a tremendous shock to the comicbook fans, in a way similar to Captain America’s controversial reveal. Marvel and the writer Dan Slott constantly made fun of the flamboyant fans by announcing that Peter was gone permanently and Otto Octavius was the one and only, and even better, Spider-Man. With the fan’s anger, came the boost in the sales; Superior Spider-Man series became Marvel’s top-selling series! Everyone seemed to be deeply engaged in Superior Spider-Man’s malicious adventures, and many Peter Parker fans cringed as the Marvel creators continued to taunt the fans.
But it was all a ruse. A very, very clever ruse.
Peter Parker returned triumphantly after one year, with Doctor Octopus admitting that Peter was the “superior Spider-Man”. With Peter’s return, the main title returned as Amazing Spider-Man once again, and #1 of the relaunched series made another high sales.
It is possible that Captain America may go through the similar process. But how would it look? Examining the run of Superior Spider-Man may provide some insight.
The Seed: Body-Swap
It all started with Dan Slott’s question. Throughout the stories after Brand New Day, Peter Parker continuously used Doctor Octopus’ helmet to control Octo-Bots(little robots made by the cancer-afflicted Doc Ock to do his bidding) in tough moments, such as in The Spider-Island. But Slott began to think that it was a stupid idea; Doctor Octopus was the one of the oldest enemies of Spider-Man(and the first to give the taste of defeat to young Peter Parker), and Peter would use his gadgets without a question? What if Otto was planning something sinister with it? So the seed of body swap idea was sown. It was later revealed in Amazing Spider-Man #698 that the helmet enabled Doctor Octopus to switch the brainwaves of Peter Parker and himself, eventually taking over his body while Peter was trapped in the cancer-ridden body of Otto Octavius. To make things worse, Doctor Octopus now had access to all of Peter’s memory, making it virtually impossible to reveal his trickery.
This seemed to be really dire moment for Peter Parker, and many were wondering how Peter was going to get out of this one. 700th issue of Spider-Man was approaching, and the fans thought that Marvel would not let Peter die miserably in the old man’s body while his enemy stole his life. But soon they knew the answer; Peter did not get out of this one. Doctor Octopus foresaw Peter’s every move, and the young(now old and sick) hero’s attempt to reclaim his life was foiled, and Doctor Octopus gave Peter Parker a fatal punch that would blow out the flame of his life.
But Peter Parker made one last act of heroism in his last moment. Peter and Otto’s psyches were linked during this battle, and Peter managed to re-write Doctor Octopus’s memory, forcing Otto Octavius to relive his painful moments such as the death of Gwen Stacey to learn the same lesson of “With the great power, comes the great responsibility”. Otto faced excruciating mental pain, claiming that all these painful memories were “too much” for him.
Before this, Doctor Octopus was planning to continue his villainous career posing as Spider-Man. But Peter’s last gambit forced Doctor Octopus into the way of heroism, and thus Otto Octavius swore to become “Superior” Spider-Man and protect the people like Peter did. In a way, it was possible because Peter used this on Doctor Octopus. Otto Octavius was sometimes considered as what Peter could have been without the lesson responsibility, so flooding Otto with the painful memories could have the same effect as on Peter, right? Several What if titles related to the alternate history of Spider-Man shows that Peter can be very petty and egotistic without learning the lesson of responsibility. Modifying Otto’s memory was the last thing Peter could do to make the situation better, leaving a reformed hero rather than a villain.
Of course, things did not go as well as Peter would have hoped. Such is the typical case with the Parker Luck.
Otto’s superhero career can be summarized as the ex-villain’s attempt to become a better hero than his nemesis ever was. Many fans had skeptic opinions regarding the story, and many were infuriated with the Marvel’s constant praise for Otto being better Spider-Man than Peter. In addition to this, many were frustrated to see the characters only slightly annoyed than seriously suspicious of Peter’s sudden personality changes. In the early story arcs, the remnant of Peter’s consciousness tried to reclaim his body but was defeated and humiliated by Otto, then erased along with his memories. This was like pouring oil to burning fire; not only Peter was defeated, he was now considered “inferior” Spider-Man. To see the Marvel’s beloved superhero for the last 50 years humiliated and crushed like this, was like seeing Captain America the sentinel of liberty becoming the double agent for the fascist secret organization. Not only the character was destroyed, the value they stood for was trampled and the heroes became nothing more than hypocrites. Imagine the sentiments of the fans who regarded Peter Parker as the relatable young man who represented regular people like them.
Without Peter’s memories, Otto proceeded to incorporate his own brand of justice; he would build the army of henchmen, spy on the citizens of New York to detect crimes using the Spider-Bots. At the moment, it seemed like New York’s street was finally cleansed of crime under Otto’s reign…on surface.
Green Goblin managed to hack the Spider-Bot and re-programmed it to ignore any individual with the goblin face. Green Goblin started to take over the Underworld by appealing to the criminals’ fear of new violent Spider-Man, and eventually controlled the most of the criminals. This was done under Otto’s nose, without Goblin doing much. Otto’s violent approach magnified the criminals’ fear and Green Goblin only had to tap into their terror to create the new empire for himself. This was a stark contrast to the early story where Otto did everything right when Peter blundered in every turn.
Eventually, Otto paid the price for his deeds; he was unable to prevent the accident in the Horizon Lab as a result of Peter’s erasure(Peter used the formula he made on the spot to prevent the same accident), his relationship with Mary Jane Watson was basically destroyed as MJ decided to date someone else who was more considerate, and Green Goblin, now the Goblin King, launched an all-out attack on Otto’s life after learning the secret of body swap. To make things worse or better, the remnant of Peter’s memory was revived when Otto was trying to recall the formula Peter used to avert the catastrophe. Now the table has been turned; though the story seemed like a praise for the ruthless hero, it eventually became how such arrogant person can fail, and how the flawed, but strong willed person like Peter can persevere.
Peter eventually realizes the value of his every triumph, sufferings, and lessons, and becomes strong enough to fight Otto again for the control of his body. Unlike Otto who became crumbled at the face of the overwhelming odds, Peter Parker continued to fight against the challenges and dangers – even when his whole life was denied and devalued by Otto Octavius earlier in the story. While it seemed like Dan Slott was bashing Peter, he was actually setting up for his biggest praise for the Amazing Spider-Man – even when Peter loses everything, he will never give up fighting.
Meanwhile, Otto was helpless against the all-out attack by the Goblin King. By the time Otto learned how the Goblin Empire was able to elude him, it was too late. The citizens were sick of Spider-Man’s Big-Brother style approach to the crime fighting, and the street was filled with the Goblins going wild. When the Goblin King kidnapped Otto’s girlfriend Anna-Maria, he panicked and even wondered what would Peter have done in this case. Eventually, Otto arrived at the conclusion that Peter was more suitable hero to defeat the Goblin King and save Anna-Maria, and yielded the body to Peter, leaving a single drop of tear before he was exorcised from Peter’s mind.
Peter was able to defeat the Goblin King, who panicked when he realized that it was the different Spider-Man who came to stop him. The fans who eagerly waited for Peter’s return was doubly rewarded by Peter easily dispatching the Goblin Empire. After all, the concept of superiority is only relative, and the fall of Goblin Empire demonstrated this clearly. In the end, the peace and order seemed to have been restored…but Peter’s life was completely changed as a result; now Peter owned a large company, and a doctorate degree thanks to Otto, and he was faced with the new responsibilities.
A Hero You Love To Hate And Pity
Doctor Octopus was not many people’s choice for villain-turned-hero, but he was the one, among all the Spider-Man’s villains, who possessed the traditional arch-nemesis qualities. With his bowl-cut hair and obese look, he was often ridiculed by fans and writers alike. The Green Goblin took over the role of arch-nemesis of Spider-Man in many adaptations and stories, although it was Doctor Octopus who gave Spider-Man his first defeat. Doctor Octopus was also considered to be the double and the opposite to Peter Parker; both characters are science wiz, had isolated teenage lives(in the Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter is seen ridiculed by his classmates, and constantly bullied throughout the high school after he became Spider-Man), and were both bitter with the world at the time they acquired their powers. In the debut issue of Spider-Man, Peter who just acquired the super-power boasts that the people will finally see how great he is. Doctor Octopus similarly thought that the doctors and other scientists were trying to interfere with his research when he was hospitalized in the accident that gave him his power. While Peter learned the lesson of power and responsibility, Otto did not and began his villainous career.
Otto Octavius provided some of the biggest challenges in Peter’s life. The infamous Sinister Six was formed by none other than Doctor Octopus, and he also the Master Planner who almost buried Spider-Man alive in the undersea hideout during If This Be My Fate story arc. Despite his previous threats, Doctor Octopus seemed to receive little respect from the fans. The news of Otto taking over as the new Spider-Man sounded too prosperous.
Surprisingly, the Superior Spider-Man turned out to be commercial and critical success. Turning Spider-Man into a sinister and malevolent figure had a different effect than the usual villain-turned-good scenario. Remember, Otto was forced to become a hero by Peter and he constantly tried to break free. Once he did, Otto ran his own brand of justice, only to fail in the end. But Otto revealed some human qualities that were not emphasized in the past. He showed compassion to children(which is mandatory for superhero genre), and valued heart more than physical quality in choosing his romantic partner; Anna Maria Marconi, Otto’s new love interest, is “a little person” according to her own words. Despite being ridiculed by her peers, Anna Maria stays positive and shows kindness that warmed Otto’s heart.
with such mix of egotism and hidden compassion, the readers became conflicted; many wanted to have Peter back as the Spider-Man, but also wanted Otto to stick around. Their wish was fulfilled in the later Spider-Verse episodes, where Superior Spider-Man played significant role along with Peter Parker.
Wait And See
So Superior Spider-Man started out as rather ambivalent story but ended up being one of the more successful attempt from Marvel.
What does it say about Captain America’s big reveal? We just have to wait and see. Of course, there were many stories that started big and were later patched up hastily; Spider-Man revealed his secret identity to the world in the first Civil War, and later practically had his history ret-conned by the magic of Dr. Strange.
Some of the new attempts by comics may seem strange and provocative, but the readers cannot fully know where the story is headed when it starts. It will require some time to wholly criticize what worked and what did not. The twist in Captain America’s past may become another flop, but it could also become a way to examine Captain America’s role in the world by showing the terrible alternative.
The bottom line is, like Superior Spider-Man, the initially disturbing idea may turn out to be a good story.
Only the time will tell.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
I honestly think Otto was a better spider man than Peter in certain areas he didn’t kill and still was intimidating and he took care of business (he got crazy later on but that’s the writers fault plus I think I would be more like superior spiderman than regular spiderman).
The Superior Spiderman’s plot was very good. He was okay in the early superior spiderman issues but then he got out of control in the late issues. He got into a fight with the avengers, daredevil, spiderman 2099, and black cat. I expected those results because Doc Oc would do something like that.
I like superior Spiderman more than amazing Spider-Man.
He’s just awesome. What few people would sacrifice their own soul to save another’s life?
Spiderman has the most complex writing.
I don’t see why people hated superior spiderman. I loved it. It added a new story to spiderman and was painful to read as we know Peter was dead, but cool to know that Peter’s life will change. I wouldn’t wanna see spiderman doing the same thing over again. I wanted to see something new and exciting. And I got it.
Great article, but this series was really weird.
I liked Superior Spider-man. I kinda had this feeling that Peter Parker will get his body back anyway after some time has passed so I just enjoyed the ride getting there. One thing I would have liked to see was if Otto was able to brutally kill off Osborn… imagine the epicness of that.
I’d love a movie focusing on superior spiderman. a slightly darker twist on a well known hero plus especially early it’s actually pretty hilarious while also action packed.
I borrowed Amazing Spiderman Vol 1 that followed Superior from the library and half way through I’m loving it. Loving it to the point I’m wanting to go read Superior.
Ladies and gentlemen, the best Spider-Man story arc of all time.
Superior Spiderman aka the reason why I only watch Marvel films instead of this crap Marvel has given us. this goes for DC as well due to the crap they pulled during the new 52 run (which I thank God is ending). so basically Marvel Now and the New 52 killed my joy for comics I once had as a kid.
Summary of the whole arc and main twist: The Inferior Spider-Man.
This Arc Make me love Spiderman more than ever. And make me stopped looking for more Spiderman comics.
This is better than the crap known as One More Day.
This was the arc that made me quit Spiderman.
Loved superior Spider-man but was chuffed to have Peter Parker back, would be cool if they turned Spider-man schizophrenic and he would switch between the two personalities, I mean doc ock couldn’t remove Peter completely so maybe he didn’t/couldn’t remove himself either?
Otto was an insult to the Spider-man name and stupid for ever thinking he could be better. He ruined the old life of Peter Parker and the name of Spider-man by destroying everything in his life, his friends everyone he abandoned including his blood brother Logan, he beat criminals half to death if he didn’t kill them. There wasn’t a single Superior thing about him he became the exact opposite of Spider-man by putting his own life and needs ahead of others. He was nothing but a monster.
Superior Spiderman is the MOST interesting Spidey has ever been. He’s never been that interesting to me until they came up with this exceptional storyline. Then again, I always like my heroes a little bit twisted (Moon Knight, Punisher, Constantine, etc)
I weirdly miss superior spiderman, I think it’s because it was different from the normal stuff.
Superior Spider-Man is the only entire story arch I’ve read in comics.
I liked, it was a fun ride and an interesting change of the status quo for a while with some good moments here and there. That being said, i don’t want to see Doc Ock as SpiderMan again, i really got tired of his attitude in some point
This is why i hate comics. Granted i love the characters, plus there are plenty of comics WORTH reading like Watchmen, the Dark Knight Returns, Sandman, Civil War and even Scott Snyders Batman, but overall, comics are a piece of hot, smelly dogshit that show so much potential at first, but then are skimmed down to predictable plot lines, characters you dont care about, an overall story that does not try at all to take risks what-so-ever, not to mention the ZERO tension or actual, rational drama thats inserted into most of these “books”. Infact, most “drama” and “interest” that these stories try to sell you usually come in the form of character X meets character Y, but Y thinks X is a clone, so they fight for a bit until X proves hes actually not. Boom, then they start working together for a common cause. I cant take that. Worst of all is how you never really connect or worry for the people inserted into the rich and colorfull world that is a comic universe.
Superior Spider-Man was a gimmick, but as far as comic book gimmicks go it was one of the best. I gave up on Spider-Man comics in the early 2000s. But I came back for Superior and I loved it.
It was definitely one of my favorite story lines. Anyone who quit reading or hated it just isn’t a true Spider-Man fan.
I am a kid, and I hate when Spiderman takes the dark route, as I think his comics should be fun and exciting, not horribly dark, it’s okay with batman, but Spiderman should be kept as an awesome, fun, crime fighting hero!
I love it, definitely one of few I enjoyed reading.
In my opinion this story arc could have been better if this happened in a different dimension and Otto becomes a good guy like the real Spider-Man
This arc resulted in Peter getting quite of bit of development once he got his body back. Hell, doc oc got a lot of development in this arc. As some who has been of spiderman since he was a kid and still is as a college student I liked this arc.
In my opinion, I enjoyed this comic because they showed Doc Ock’s character well and his transformation went very smoothly.
Pretty clever marketing strategy, indeed.
Great article. I will have to look into this Spiderman comic book series. I love Spiderman comic books, I have collected hundreds of them.
I don’t like the whole body swap they did at the end of amazing spiderman. However what they did with spiderman in this series was great and a must read.