top five stupid spider-man plots
At 45 years old, Spider-Man is still one of the greatest comic-book heroes of all time. But that doesn’t mean that every every Spider-Man story is a gem. Recently, Marvel infuriated fans with the One More Day storyline, where Peter’s Aunt May was shot and lay dying for the umpteenth time. Just when you thought they might finally bump her off once and for all, Peter decides to sell his marriage (not his soul) to the demon Mephisto so that his decrepit 80-year-old aunt can live.
So we are supposed to believe that after 10-20 years of crime-fighting and multiple encounters with the supernatural, Peter is not smart enough to turn down a deal from the devil. He’s also willing to junk his marriage with his doting, supermodel wife to save the life of a woman who has been on her deathbed so often she has the funeral home on speed dial. It just doesn’t make sense. Comic book fans world-wide have their Green Lantern underoos in a twist and they aren’t afraid to blog about it.
As stupid as it is, I can see why Marvel did it. Resetting reality so that Peter’s a swinging bachelor again puts him back in line with the movies and allows current writers to shed the baggage of years and years of convoluted continuity. Marvel is counting on the long-time fans returning, even if this storyline sucks goat balls, because they’ve done worse in the past and the fans always come back. One More Day isn’t the stupidest Spider-Man plot Marvel has unleashed on the public. In fact, it’s not even in the top five.
5. “The Six Arms Saga”
Where: Amazing Spider-Man #100-102
Perpetrators: Stan Lee, Gil Kane
Synopsis: Peter concocts a formula to remove his spider-powers. Instead, it “enhances” them, giving him a six arms — just like a real spider (if you count his arms as legs, I guess). For some reason, this really bothers Peter, who fails to realize that now he can web swing, knit a sweater and flip pancakes at the same time.
Why it sucked: Because it looks stupid. Peter growing four extra arms is no more unlikely than gaining the ability to stick to walls and hoist Ford Pintos over his head, it just looks more retarded. This idea is so bad, that Rob Liefeld used it when he created Forearm a character whose super power was..well..that he had four arms, I guess. If Rob Liefeld is swiping your ideas, you know they’re crap. Case closed.
4. “The Spider-Mobile”
Where: Amazing Spider-Man #130-141, #157-160
Perpetrators: Gerry Conway, Ross Andru
Synopsis: A car company creates a non-polluting engine that they give to Spider-Man for publicity. The Human Torch then helps Peter make a modified dune buggy that shoots webs and launches spider tracers. Peter crashes the car into the river, but it is salvaged by the Kingpin and the Tinkerer, who enhance it so that it can stick to walls and send it to kill Spider-Man. He disables it and returns it to the manufacturer. I assume it was still under warranty.
Why it sucked: I’ve been to New York. There is a good reason that the people of that fine city walk and take subways whenever possible — the entire place is one giant traffic jam. A car is possibly the least efficient way to travel in Manhattan — including rowboat. Add onto that the fact that Peter doesn’t exactly have a “Spider-Cave” to park the thing in, and you begin to see why a car was problematic.
Then try to wrap your mind around the sheer number of ways that a car driving on the side of buildings violates the laws of physics — even the relaxed type of physics one encounters in comic-books. How would it get from the ground to the wall in the first place? How can it move from one building to the next? What happens if a two-ton car is being supported by a one-inch plate-glass window? I don’t know the answers to these questions and I suspect that Gerry Conway and Ross Andru don’t either.
Oh and in case you forgot, Spider-Man has the coolest mode of transportation ever invented: web-swinging. Putting Spider-Man inside a car is like putting Aquaman inside a plane.
3. “Doc Ock Marries Aunt May”
Where: Amazing Spider-Man #131
Perpetrators: Gerry Conway, Ross Andru
Synopsis: Completely unaware that Peter is Spider-man, Doctor Octopus begins wooing Aunt May and even proposes to her. It turns out that she recently inherited a uranium mine that Doc Ock wants his hands on. The wedding is called off when Hammerhead attacks Otto at the alter and during the brawl that follows, Otto lets slip that he was planning on stealing the mine and bumping off May, who calls off the wedding.
Why it sucked: The number implausible/ridiculous coincidences here is astounding. Aunt May inherits a uranium mine from some relative that was never mentioned before or since. Doctor Octopus picks one old lady in the entire world to swindle and she turns out to be Spider-Man’s aunt? Talk about piss-poor luck…
And let’s talk about the romantic prowess of one Otto Octavius: he looks like his mother cuts his hair using a salad bowl; he’s a pompous ass; and he never removes his giant metal arms — oh and let’s not forget that he’s been institutionalized multiple times as both a repeat felon and as a psych-ward case with homicidal tendencies. That info probably should have been listed on his Match.com profile. What exactly were we supposed to believe that sweet, intelligent Aunt May saw in him?
2. “Sins Past”
Where: The Amazing Spider-Man #509-514
Perpetrators: J. Michael Straczynski, Mike Deodato
Synopsis: In a bit of hideous retconning. Norman Osborn, otherwise known as the Green Goblin, had consensual sex with Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy, got her preggers and she delivered his twins while in Paris. Norman then killed Gwen to keep sole custody of the children. He raised them to hate Spider-Man, who they were told killed their mother. Since they had some of Norman’s blood, they aged super fast and became adults in the span of a few years, then were sent to attack Peter.
Why it sucked: The very idea of young, innocent Gwen Stacy having sex with and getting pregnant by creepy, evil Normal Osborne is repulsive. Gwen had just tried to get Peter to propose to her and when that didn’t work out she banged the freakin’ Green Goblin? He must be twice her age and, lest you forget, he’s evil!
Why did Norman’s blood cause the kids to age super fast without giving them any super powers or other noticeable side effects? I’m guessing the only real answer is that a battle between Spider-Man and two preschoolers would suck even more than this storyline — if that is in fact possible.
Sins Past not only sucks on its own terms, it drags down great stories from the past with it. The Death of Gwen Stacy was a pivotal moment in comic book history, and Sins Past dug up Gwen’s corpse and pissed all over it, just to create a couple of lame villains that no one will remember in a year.
1. “The Clone Saga”
Where: Every Spider-Man appearance from 1994 through 1997
Perpetrators: Terry Kavanagh, Howard Mackie, Marvel’s entire editorial board, others
Synopsis: Oh boy…let’s see. Peter’s biology professor Miles Warren was overcome with lust towards Gwen Stacy. (She apparently has that effect on older, insane men.) He became the supervillain the Jackal, perfected cloning and made himself a Gwen Stacy clone to play house with. Since he blamed Spider-Man for the original Gwen’s death, he also created a Spider-Man clone and got it to fight Peter, planting a bomb to kill both the clone and the original.
After the bomb went off, one of the two Spider-Men was killed. Peter declined to take a blood test to make sure he was the original, since he believed his feelings for Mary Jane could not be duplicated.
Years later, Marvel revealed that the clone did not die. It had been living under the name Ben Reilly for years (He got the name from Pete’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May’s maiden name). Ben suddenly showed up and claimed to be the real Peter Parker. Then the supervillain Kaine arrived up fighting both Peter and Ben. He revealed that he too is a clone of Spider-Man — a flawed but more powerful clone. Are we done yet? Of course not, the Jackal made a third clone of Peter called Spidercide, who also believed himself to be the original Peter Parker.
In the middle of all this stupidity, Marvel revealed that Peter Parker was not actually Peter Parker. He was the clone. The real Peter Parker was Ben Reilly. Then they revealed that it was Ben who was actually the clone, and that long dead Norman Osborne was actually alive and had manipulated the entire sequence of events to make Peter miserable.
Why it sucked: To begin, it went on forever. Most of these stories were one-off mistakes that Marvel allowed us to forget as soon as we could. The Clone Saga, on the other hand, dragged on for almost four years, hammering home in what little regard Marvel held their franchise character.
Like many of Marvel’s failed efforts from the period, The Clone Saga was a product of wretched excess. The fans liked the clone? Give them two clones. They liked two? Give ‘em three. (See “symbiots” for further examples.) They may have been able to tell a good story about one clone, but by adding more and more clones to the mix, it quickly became ridiculous.
Evil clones are a science fiction clichÃ© for a reason. We’ve all seen it way too many times before. This was just lazy plotting that made little to no sense and ruined all the Spider-Man titles simultaneously. On top of that, the retconning was blatant and insulting. They made Ben the “real” Peter, meaning that every Spider-Man story told since the late ’70s was actually about a clone — not Peter Parker.
When the fans revolted, Marvel quickly re-retconned and said they were kidding, Peter was actually the real Spider-Man. That didn’t win back many fans, but it showed an amazing lack of spine and storytelling ability. And of course, in the granddaddy of all retcons, this was the story where they brought Norman Osborn back from the dead, destroying the significance of the Death of the Green Goblin storyline.
Reviled by fans and an industry punchline, The Clone Saga is the worst Spider-Man story that Marvel has produced so far…
…but there’s always next year.
“Iron Spider” – Only mildly less stupid than putting Spider-Man inside a car is putting him inside a high-tech battlesuit. He doesn’t need it or want it. They introduced the thing showing all the great stuff it was capable of, and then he pretty much never used any of it. At least it’s gone now.
“The Other” – Disregarding years of continuity, Spidey is suddenly a “mystical spider avatar” or something and “evolves” deadly venomous stingers that he never uses so he can be more like a real spider — which don’t have stingers. I can picture the boardroom meeting where this was drawn up: “Wolverine has claws. Kids like Wolverine; ergo Spider-man should have claws.”
The basic problem here is Spider-Man doesn’t play well in a morally ambiguous world that might require him to gut someone with a venomous spike. Oh and Spidey can now also talk to spiders, feel vibrations in his web and a bunch of other crap that future writers will completely ignore. The only thing that will stick around is that Peter now has organic web shooters so little Johnny won’t get confused when Spider-Man isn’t exactly the same as he was in the movies.
“All Symbiotes (yes, including Venom)” – Venom was a crappy idea brilliantly executed by artist Todd McFarlane. His origins, motivation and dialog were ridiculous, but thanks to Todd, he looked cool. Damn cool. But when McFarlane left, so did the cool drawings and the reader was left with a badly motivated and uninspired villain that Marvel thought was pure gold. Venom is a perfect example of “dark and edgy” gone wrong.
Venom’s worst sin, though, is that he spawned (literally) dozens of similarly-themed villains such as Carnage, who took all the loathsome qualities of the original and cranked them up to 11. The new Venom is currently the guy who used to be the Scorpion — which actually makes him less interesting, if that’s possible.