Joe Meola ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Peter Parker has been in a bit of a rut lately… for the past 16 years, to be exact. Because Marvel Comics editorial refuses to let him evolve, it might be time to kill off the original Spider-Man.
Debuting in 1962 in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man was an instant hit among readers due to how relatable his creators made him. His costume covering his entire body and face made it so that readers of all backgrounds could envision themselves as the web-slinging hero, and his status as a high schooler made it easier for Marvel’s young reader base to relate to the hero. Another reason Peter Parker was so relatable was that he aged alongside the readers—albeit at a slightly slower pace. In 1965, he graduated from high school, and in 1978 he graduated from college. He got married to his long-time love interest Mary Jane Watson in 1987, she became pregnant with his child in 1995, and they lost the baby in 1997. As readers grew up and reached new milestones in their life, so did Spider-Man, and like real life people, not all of Spidey’s milestones were happy ones.
While readers were content with a matured Peter Parker filling out the red and blue webbed tights of Spider-Man, there was a desire to publish stories with a fresher take on the character’s high school years, not bogged down with decades of prior continuity. This resulted in the creation of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe line of comics, which featured a variety of modern reimaginings of Marvel’s library of characters, and launched with Ultimate Spider-Man by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley.
This series ran from 2000 until 2011, and is notable for the killing off of its version of Peter Parker and subsequent introduction of the original character Miles Morales, who went on to replace Peter as this universe’s Spider-Man in his own series that ran from 2011 to 2013.
During the initial run of Ultimate Spider-Man—when its version of Peter was still alive, mind you—there were concerns within Marvel editorial that the main universe version of Spider-Man had become boring and unrelatable due to his status as a happily married adult. How did Marvel remedy this? Divorce? Universal reboot? Time travel? That would’ve been too easy! Marvel’s method for discarding Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson was far more infuriating than other options could ever be.
In the 2006 crossover event Civil War, Peter Parker revealed his identity as Spider-Man to the public in order to establish his (brief) loyalty to Iron Man. Unsurprisingly, this made him and his loved ones vulnerable targets to all of his enemies, resulting in his Aunt May being shot by a sniper hired by the Kingpin. Somehow, neither the advanced science nor magic of the Marvel Universe could save May, so in the “One More Day” storyline, Peter turns to Mephisto—Marvel’s version of the Devil—for aid. Mephisto agrees to save May from the clutches of death, but his help comes with a price: Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage. As a result of this deal, not only would Peter and MJ no longer be married, but history would be rewritten so that the two never were married—but were once a couple in the past. This universal shift meant that Peter Parker could return to being an eligible bachelor, unsure of which love interest he would end up with. Every once in a while, the possibility of Peter and MJ’s marriage returning is waved in front of reader’s faces like a carrot on a string as a ploy to keep them buying Spider-Man comics.
Outsiders may be wondering “What’s the big deal? Why not ignore these comics and switch over to the Ultimate Comics to see Miles develop in his own world?” Well, you see, following the 2015 Secret Wars crossover event, the Ultimate Universe was destroyed, with Miles Morales and much of his supporting cast being transferred over to the main Marvel Universe. This means that two Spider-Men coexist in the main Marvel Universe. Furthermore, in the present day, there are alot of Spiders inhabiting the Marvel Universe. In addition to Peter and Miles, there are Spider-Woman, Silk, Araña, Spider-Boy, Peter’s clones Ben Reilly and Kaine– the villainous Chasm and heroic Scarlet Spider respectively–Miles’ clone Shift, and occasionally the alternate universe heroine Ghost Spider swinging around with their own sets of spider powers. Additionally, there are Rek-Rap—a symbiote-powered demonic fanboy of Spider-Man—and the Uncanny Spider-Man—an identity created by the X-Men’s Nightcrawler, neither of whom have actual spider powers but still fit themselves into Spider-Man’s world. Simply put, the Marvel Universe is crowded with Spiders—and that doesn’t even include symbiote-empowered characters and the vast ranks of multiversial Spider-Men that pop in for crossover stories from time to time—and not much is being done with most of them. In fact, not much of what Peter Parker has been doing as of late has been that engaging either.
With Miles Morales in the main Marvel Universe, combined with the lackluster quality of Peter Parker’s recent stories, perhaps it’s time to bring Peter Parker’s tenure as the Wall-Crawler to an end. Miles’ original purpose was to fill the gap left by a deceased Peter Parker, and both operating as Spider-Man feels rather redundant. It’s about time Miles stepped back out of Peter’s shadow. He’s certainly already gained enough mainstream popularity outside of the comics due to both the Spider-Verse animated films and Insomniac’s Spider-Man games on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 to justify him becoming the “main” Spider-Man.
An obvious solution would be to remarry Peter and MJ and have him retire from the mantle of Spider-Man so that they can start a family together, but Marvel Comics editorial seems to be extremely adverse to this idea. Furthermore, Marvel has recently announced that it is launching a new version of the Ultimate Universe, which includes an Ultimate Spider-Man series featuring an adult Peter Parker who is married to Mary Jane and has two children with her before he becomes Spider-Man. It would create new redundancy if there were two concurrent versions of Peter Parker who were married with children in the pages of Marvel Comics, so to make room for Miles Morales to step up into the shoes of the main Spider-Man—and to give a chance for Peter’s new Ultimate counterpart to truly thrive—Peter Parker needs to die.
This isn’t to say he should be killed off unceremoniously. He’s Spider-Man! He deserves an epic, gut-wrenching, and dignified death. In order to add some impact to this hypothetical death, writers should give fans a glimmer of hope first; they should rebuild Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane. They don’t have to get married, but a return of the romance between the two before our hero is killed in battle would make for a truly heartbreaking tale. Furthermore, maybe even make MJ pregnant with Peter’s child to add a whole new level of grief to his heroic sacrifice. In the aftermath of Peter’s death, the new hook of new Spider-related titles would be helping MJ—a newly single mother—raise a baby who’s developing superpowers. Miles, while of course becoming the primary Spider-Man in this scenario, could also take on the responsibility of giving MJ a helping hand.
Moreover, Miles and the new Ultimate Peter operating in different universes could eventually lead to crossovers with a dynamic similar to that between the two in the Spider-Verse movies—albeit with them as equals rather than as a student and mentor.
What else could Peter’s death achieve? Aside from new roles for Miles and MJ, new dynamics can be forged amongst Peter and Miles’ supporting casts, as well as other Spider-characters. Miles and MJ could develop a kinship with one another, and she could possibly become a mentor of sorts for him. Miles could become more acquainted with staples of Peter’s supporting cast like Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson. Kaine could take on a new purpose, shifting from an anti-hero to a fiercely protective uncle for Peter and MJ’s baby. Spider-Woman could become more directly involved with the usual Spider-Man cast, becoming a friend for MJ to confide in, as she herself is raising a baby, and her son could eventually become a playmate for MJ’s kid. There are so many possibilities rich with storytelling potential!
Ultimately, this probably won’t happen—at least not particularly soon. If Marvel won’t even let Peter Parker get married again out of fear of change, there’s no chance they’d kill him off. However, the comic book industry is rather fickle, so who knows what a future generation of editors may deem necessary to sell books. Only time will tell what Marvel Comics decides to do with Peter Parker.