Guess what? Peter Parker died.
You remember Peter, don’t you? He was the "Amazing Spider-Man." He’s been the subject of four movies, hundreds of television episodes and thousands of increasingly expensive comic book adventures. But, alas, in issue No. 700 of his long-running title by Marvel Comics, he passed away. He kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil, ran down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. He is an ex-arachnid.
Better mourn him quickly, though. I don't believe he'll be dead for long.
My skepticism dates back to 1992, after standing in line for an hour to pick up my copy of "Superman No. 75," in which the Man of Steel got pummeled into submission by Doomsday, a lumpy brute with extremely bad eczema. Supes stayed dead for about three or four months, after which four different Supermen appeared on the scene — a kid, a cyborg, a guy wearing groovy wayfarers and a bald steelworker in an Iron Man suit with an S on it. Then the real Superman, who had, of course, been napping in a Kryptonian regeneration matrix for a while, returned to battle the baddies and dethrone the pretenders, and everything was back to normal.
They say nothing is certain but death and taxes. To that, I would add a third verity: Unless you’re Uncle Ben or Batman’s parents, death in comic books is temporary.
Spider-Man first appeared on the scene more than 50 years ago. He ought to be collecting Social Security by now. But over the course of five decades, he’s never yet reached his 30th birthday. It’s impossible to keep readers engaged in characters that face deadly peril on a daily basis without ever facing death. So, to mix things up, you kill them off every now and again.
DC Comics, home to Superman, Batman and the Justice League, takes it one step further. To keep their characters fresh, they repeatedly blow up the universe and start all over again. They did it with 1986's “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” followed by 1994’s “Zero Hour” reset, and then 2006’s “Infinite Crisis,” followed by “Final Crisis” in 2008. It seems destroying the universe is easier to do than allow Clark Kent to reach middle age. Just last year, they didn’t bother making up some end-of-the-cosmos story and just announced they were rebooting all their characters from scratch. Lazy, but simple. I respect that.
So forgive me if I don’t get teary-eyed mourning the demise of the Daily Bugle’s prize freelance photographer. Wonder Woman and Captain America have both died a few times, and you don’t see me broken up about it. I didn’t get weepy when Batman had his spine snapped; or when Fantastic Four CEO Reed Richards was vaporized by Dr. Doom’s really potent hand buzzer; or when Hal Jordan went postal and slaughtered thousands of other Green Lanterns across the galaxy, along with the immortal Guardians of the Universe, later wiping out time and space before martyring himself to keep the sun from going out. Barry Allen, the Flash, made a similar sacrifice to save the whole universe, and he stayed dead for a full three decades. He’s back now, though, as if he never left.2 comments on this story
So it is with the other guys, too. Wonder Woman grew back out of the mud, like a weed. Captain America wasn’t actually killed, but rather “phased in and out of space and time.” OK, sure. Batman was magically healed, Reed Richards was only teleported back to the Stone Age, and Hal Jordan’s mass murder turned out to be just a misunderstanding, and everything is back to normal.
Oh, but Peter Parker? Yeah, this time, he’s dead. Really, really dead.
And if you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Tooele that I’d be happy to sell you
Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.