Monday, October 14, 2019

Standard-issue Spidey and his many iterations

  • >> George Gene Gustines, The New York Times
    Published: 2018-12-21 11:35:21 BdST

The new animated movie “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” introduces men and women who have taken on the mantle of the arachnid and the credo “with great power there must also come — great responsibility!” Given how successful “Spider-Verse” is already — a Golden Globe nomination for best animated picture, unbridled enthusiasm on Rotten Tomatoes, a new appreciation of Spider-Ham — plans for turning it into a franchise were inevitable. Luckily, comic books have featured more than 100 Spideys and my amazing geek friends helped me determine some of the best. Most of these heroes have one sad thing in common: When there is an Uncle Ben in their back story, he dies nearly every time.

Superior Spider-Man: Heroes have swapped minds with their enemies before, but this ingenious plot twist, which ran for nearly three years, was something new: Doctor Octopus, the villainous scientist with extra mechanical limbs, seemingly murders Peter Parker and sets out to prove he can be a better hero. Thus Superior Spider-Man was born.

Spider-Woman I: Jessica Drew has two of the greatest costumes in comics and a rich back story: She worked undercover to bring down Hydra, a Nazi-like organization, and was an agent of the intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as an Avenger. Now she’s also a private eye and a single mother who fought crime while visibly pregnant. And she’s dating Roger Gocking, a divorced father and former supervillain.

Spider-Girl: Mayday Parker is the alternate-universe teenage daughter of Peter and Mary Jane Watson who adopts her father’s fight for justice. She struck a chord with readers and graduated from one appearance in an anthology to her own series, which fans later saved from cancellation after a passionate outcry of support. She’s part of Spider-Geddon, a new comic book series involving Spider-people from alternate worlds and a sequel to Spider-Verse.

Spider-Punk: Spiked mask. Shredded jacket. Leather collar. Guitar with spider web for strings. OK, that last part isn’t true, but Spider-Punk (Hobart “Hobie” Brown) is a visually stunning character. A recent Marvel handbook described him as “an excellent guitarist, capable drummer and terrible singer,” though he claims terrible is intentional and the definition of punk.

Spider-Man: India: Meet Pavitr Prabhakar, an orphan living with his Aunt Maya and Uncle Bhim in Mumbai. He’s shunned by his classmates except for the popular Meera Jain. Like the original, this Spider-Man loses his uncle and learns a lesson about responsibility, but his powers are more mystic than scientific: they are granted by an ancient yogi to help better the world.

Scarlet Spider: Is Ben Reilly a clone of Peter Parker or it is the other way around? A 1994 story made fans’ heads spin when it was revealed that after a battle shown in a 1970s issue, it was the clone who took over the series. Things were eventually set right, but Ben still has his devoted fans. And we got another excellent addition to the spider-wardrobe.

Spider-Woman II: Julia Carpenter made a splashy debut in Secret Wars, with her snazzy blue, black and white costume, but the next issue introduced Spider-Man’s black costume (that later tried to kill him) and stole some of her thunder. In addition to the customary suite of spider-abilities, she is also clairvoyant and can spin electric webs. Other aliases include Madame Web and Arachne.

Silk: Cindy Moon is a young Korean-American woman who was bitten by the same spider that bit Peter Parker. To protect her from the Inheritors, who are out to destroy all spider-beings, she is locked in a bunker, separated from her family, for a number of years. She emerges as an ally of Spider-Man and may have her own big-screen adventure soon.

Mangaverse: Spider-Man: This version of Peter Parker is a ninja member of the Spider Clan who loses his uncle (yet again!), in this instance to Venom — not Tom Hardy’s, alas, but a monstrous warrior clad in samurai armor. In this world, Mary Jane Watson fights alongside him as Spider-Woman.


© The New York Times 2018