Hollywood now treats superhero franchises like an office computer: reboot, put in a couple of hours’ work and collect a paycheck. Because creating new characters is hard and the only studios prepared to do hard things work in porn. Instead we have writers who scribble “Let’s do it again but bigger!” over an old script and call it a day. Which is also the case in porn. Instead of learning lessons and changing, every superhero forgets everything and makes the same awesome mistakes all over again. Which is weird, because only Iron Man is meant to be an alcoholic.
The most recent reboot is The Amazing Spider-Man, aka The We’re Really Sorry About That Dancing In Spider-Man 3. But this isn’t the first time Spider-Man has had to restart climbing the water spout. He’s been rebooted more often than Windows, and for the exact same reasons: it was terribly written, trying to keep things going for too long led to terminal errors, and those responsible frequently didn’t know what the hell they were doing.
Giving Birth To Himself
Spider-Man’s origin is the simplest in comics: get bitten by a radioactive spider in a universe where cancer doesn’t happen. Which makes it weird that the first people to screw it up were the people who first wrote it. The first Peter Parker gained wall-crawling and spider-senses from the bite, but also just happened to be a scientific genius teenager who can build mechanical webslingers and bulk-produce sticky fluid in his bedroom. Only one of those is a thing that teenage boys can actually do.
That’s why the 2002 movie said “he got all his spider powers from the spider” and “duh!”, and made over eight hundred million dollars. So the comics decided to give him biological goo-spewing too. But instead of Parker waking up one morning covered in sticky stuff and saying “With powers like these I could be a…oh, right”, they had Peter Parker give birth to himself.
Most people talking about giving birth to themselves are pacifist hippies philosophizing around the peace-barbecue, and that would still be a better action story than “Under My Skin.” Spider-Man is kissed by a villain with insect powers, triggering his altered cells to forget that spiders aren’t insects and alter further. What follows is four issues of what The Fly from an alternate universe where Jeff Golblum is an idiot blogging about his girlfriend being a %!+(#. Mary Jane reacts to Peter’s terrifying transformation like he’s a puppy pissing on the carpet, and when half his face melts off to reveal a Lovecraftian horror her reaction is to bitch at him some more for wanting to skip a date they’d made.
He soon leaves his human form and human girlfriend behind, which by that point looked like a pretty good trade. The new Spider-Spider then starts serving the villain. Luckily the comic-physics Law of Conservation Of Absolutely Everything kicks in almost immediately; the bigger any change is, the faster it’s undone, and this one is wiped out in less than twenty pages no matter how stupid the writers had to get. (The answer: incredibly stupid.)
It turns out that the worst case of cooties in history didn’t just make him a giant spider, it also made him pregnant. The writers didn’t see any problem with combining the last two words of that sentence. Then he dies and necro-births a fully adult version of himself, complete with memories, webshooters, and even his original haircut. Peter Parker escapes from his own dessicated corpse to start a new life with new powers, which would have been fine if he was giving a self-help seminar, but that was the actual literal plot of a comic.
The Devil Wants His Marriage
By 2007 Peter Parker had married Mary Jane and publicly revealed his secret identity, for incredibly stupid reasons. It would have been more sensible if he’d done it just to see the look on J. Jonah Jameson’s face (which was hilarious). Nevertheless, it was done, and between that and the growing relationship it was looking dangerously like the character might evolve in any interesting way after a mere forty-five years of non-stop publication. Marvel quickly countered that in a reboot so stupid it would have been more sensible to say “A wizard did it.” Because that still sounds better than “The devil did it,” or “The devil did it to eat Spider-Man’s unborn child.” Which was the exact plot to “One More Day.”
The million-year-old Aunt May is dying, which is something that happens when you were a pensioner during the Vietnam war and have already died several times. The Marvel devil “Mephisto” arrives and offers to save her in return for Spider-man’s marriage, because the devil loves misery, especially the misery of tens of thousands of comic readers who realizing that their favorite series has just become dumbest thing in the world.
Everyone hated the plot change, especially the writer. J. Michael Straczynski spent four issues doing nothing but telling Spiderman that this was stupid. Other heroes told him he was stupid. Multiple alternate versions of Peter told him he was stupid, especially “Peter Parker the comic reader,” who jumped dimensions into a comic just to tell him this was stupid. His own unborn child travelled back in time to tell him to stop being a dumbass. Doctor Strange invoked a magic spell that let Spider-man meet every single hero and villain in the universe simultaneously, every single one of whom explained that sometimes people older than dinosaur fossils die. The text couldn’t have been clearer if Straczynski had called the storyline “I’m Being Forced To Write This.” No one has hated their own writing so much without doing it on a blackboard a hundred times. Hostages in terrorist videos have been happier about the people making them say things.
Peter agrees to the deal, utterly oblivious to how his wife is obviously newly pregnant. Which is weird, because his spider-sense is meant to warn him of danger. Mephisto then erases and alters random small parts of the last twenty-five years of comics, because people who’ve been following a continuity for decades just love stuff like that. The result is Satan using magically-empowered stem cells to patch up a worried old woman widower, because superhero comics are also a great place for plots about infirmity and loneliness.
The Clone Saga
For anyone who reads comics this article was like having a spider-sense, because they knew this disaster was coming. If you asked a Batman fan for the three worst Batman comics they’d say “’Hush,’ ‘Year Two,’ and ‘The Clone Saga’ because it makes all comic heroes look bad.” The saga started by introducing a clone of Spider-Man, then revealing he was the original and you’ve been reading a fake for the last twenty-five years. Announcing that a comic superhero is fake in continuity is just taking the piss out of your own readers.
No-one has any idea what happened next, especially the writers. They spent three years introducing extra plot points, clones, cosmically powered hobos and dead Spider-bodies without any possible resolution just to make things look interesting, because by the time the fans found out there were no real answers it would be too late. It was like Lost ten years earlier and way, way stupider.
These issues featured incredibly betrayals, masterminds with plans foiled at the last minute, brand new stars and desperate struggles. Unfortunately that was all happening in the company, not the comic. New staff would have just long enough to introduce a new character or gimmick before being booted. “The Clone Saga” brought in and used up more personnel than several real wars and the results were uglier. The actual comic was the narrative equivalent of all the tangled wires behind your entertainment center when cable stops working. The one thing “The Clone Saga” did right was kill Aunt May. Meaning that “The Clone Saga” achieved nothing.
In the most villainous final exposition of anything ever, the Green Goblin suddenly appeared and explained that he did it. Despite that making even less sense than voluntarily calling yourself “Green Goblin.” Mainly because he was meant to be dead (screwing fans of the previous comics), revealed that Peter Parker was the real Spider-Man after all (screwing everyone who’d endured the saga), and a few issues later would reveal that the dead Aunt May was a genetically altered actress (screwing everyone still reading after this mess.) He proclaimed that he’d come back from the dead, mastered cloning technology, and used secret agents to infiltrate his mortal enemy’s most private moments in a master plan to slightly confuse him. He could have achieved the same result by throwing him a book of Sudoku. Which would still have been more fun to read.
Luke McKinney knows booze & video games. His recent attempts to find the hottest food in the world led him to eat Murder Spice, which gave him the ability to melt through porcelain. The next day. In the bathroom. Follow him on Tumblr.
Want to read the greatest post we’ve ever published? Then you need Luke’s roundup of The Worst Avengers Ever. –>
<–Or check out even more Spidey shenanigans with our roundup of Spider-Man’s Most Embarrassing Moments.