Moral relativism is a problem in Marvel comic books these days. If you ever wanted to see what it can do to a good character, then look no further than The Amazing Spider-Man #26 by writer Dan Slott. The character who recently resorted to corporate espionage to gain access to another company’s intellectual property rights now has decided to risk everything to topple a sovereign nation.

Yes, that’s right, Parker Industries is supposed to be a technology empire worth billions, but its CEO is willing to risk it all — the jobs of his employees, the Uncle Ben Foundation, the livelihood of his shareholders — all for some out-of-the-blue quest to take down Norman Osborn. Peter Parker under Dan Slott has turned into a Captain Ahab-ish character who is on the hunt for an elusive green whale. And to find the mysterious Goblin Whale he will do anything — no matter what the costs or who he hurts in the process — to make it happen.

In short, when Doctor Octopus calls Spider-Man a “self-righteous twit” in an issue of ASM, the reader should never side with the villain. Sadly, that is exactly what happens in ASM #26.

For more details, I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments section below, as always.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

20 comments

  1. So, at this point Peter is basically a James Bond villain. He’s using his great power irresponsibly and justifying it in his head as the right thing to do, when clearly he’s just lying to himself and is really pursuing a personal vendetta. Peter is going so far down his own dark path that by the time he realizes what he’s become, it will be far too late. There are ways that writing this kind of story can be interesting, with a gradual decline in the protagonists moral compass in the name of justice and good until they have a “What have I become?” moment, but the way this is written it seems like we are supposed to be rooting for Peter to be taking these actions and actively cheer his inevitable downfall.

    I think Slott is trying to write Peter as a hero trying to do the right thing at any cost to himself and deal with the tragic ramifications of his actions. But all we see is a selfish idiot who can’t stop and critically think about anything for more than 5 seconds and is the one who causes unavoidable tragedy by his own selfish and myopic crusade. Peter looks like a fool, a selfish brat who falls for every trick in the book on the way to full-blown villainy. We have no sympathy for whatever hardships he creates for himself as a result of his actions, because his eventual ignominious fall from grace was handled so poorly that Peter had to be written as a self-serving simpleton for the story to even work.

    I wonder what the chances are that by the end of this story somehow there will be a three-way fight between Peter, Osborn and Ock? Also I wonder what the chances are that most of the fight will be between Ock and Osborn, and at the end of it Peter will get a Pyrrhic victory against Osborn, while Ock comes out on top looking better than both Peter and Osborn combined.

    1. “So, at this point Peter is basically a James Bond villain. He’s using his great power irresponsibly and justifying it in his head as the right thing to do, when clearly he’s just lying to himself and is really pursuing a personal vendetta. Peter is going so far down his own dark path that by the time he realizes what he’s become, it will be far too late.”

      Bingo. Doc Ock comments that he doesn’t need to lift a finger, and he’s right. Dan Slott’s version of Peter Parker is like the cartoon character who keeps walking into a rake. And instead of walking around the rake to stop it from hitting him in the face he just runs faster.

  2. In short, when Doctor Octopus calls Spider-Man a “self-righteous twit” in an issue of ASM, the reader should never side with the villain.

    Hasn’t Dan Slott mentioned something before about seeing himself in Dr. Octopus? It makes you wonder, who is speaking there? The character… or the writer?

  3. Hey Doug is there anyway I can have images posted on the blog or comment section? There are two photoshops of a variant cover that couldn’t have a better home than here.

    1. I’ll send you an email at the address you gave on WordPress’ back end so we can send stuff back and forth. If you upload the images to a Twitter account and then post the links then they should show up in the comments section.

  4. People with no moral compass just go where ever the wind blows them. No more is that true than in this day of moral relativism. We’ve all seen the tweets where someone praises something their team does, only to have a some one show a tweet of theirs saying the exact opposite about the exact same action only taken by the other team.

    Marvel seems absolutely determined to have all their heroes become villains and all their villains be the moralizing mouth pieces. Don’t get me wrong you can tell an excellent story where by the hero see the error of his ways when the villain praises his tactics, so we’ll see if Slott does that here.

    1. “Marvel seems absolutely determined to have all their heroes become villains and all their villains be the moralizing mouth pieces. Don’t get me wrong you can tell an excellent story where by the hero see the error of his ways when the villain praises his tactics, so we’ll see if Slott does that here.”

      I feel like this is a continuation of Dan Slott’s habit of turning characters into idiots to move the plot forward. The supporting characters during Superior Spider-Man basically took stupid pills not to notice that something was wrong with Peter, and now we seemingly have the main character acting like a goof so that we can see the downfall of Parker Industries.

  5. The end result of all of this is quite simple for me. None of the characters are recognizable as they were any more. And a huge mess of ruined characters and twisted backstory is left behind for the next unlucky schlub who gets the writing assignment to unravel and pull back together. A sad note for a character whose motto was “with great power comes great responsibility”.

  6. The problem with comics, is they HOPE you don’t think. It’s NOT just moral relativism, Doug. You don’t go into a sovereign country, in a direct invasion. It not only makes you an enemy of the sovereign country, but your own host country as well.

    So what should Peter do? What our special forces do. Make it a covert operation. I remember when Peter lost his spider sense. He made one suit, that made him invisible. And another that make him bullet proof. Perhaps he can make (and use), a hybrid – of the two suits?

    Or Doc Otto invents some spider robots, while being Superior Spider man? Why throw that away? Perhaps you use that tech (along with the invisibility tech of the suit), to have miniature, invisible, mechanical spies.

    And speaking of tech. Why can’t Peter get access, to the ant man tech – to talk to ants? I’m sure he could buy the tech, or the company owning it. And modify it, to talk to spiders. Then you can communicate with REAL spiders in the sovereign country – giving Intel. Then both the real spiders and invisible Otto spiders, can help you fight.

    1. “The problem with comics, is they HOPE you don’t think. It’s NOT just moral relativism, Doug. You don’t go into a sovereign country, in a direct invasion. It not only makes you an enemy of the sovereign country, but your own host country as well.”

      Thanks for the comment, Randy. Yeah, one of my big problems with the industry is that it seems these days to pander to the lowest common denominator. They want their readers to kind of be like the Hulk. “Thing go BOOM! Me like! Thinks go POW! Gooooood!” It’s embarrassing. I don’t expect to get a college lecture when I open my comics, but it would be nice if writers challenged themselves — and by extension the readers — once-in-awhile.

      “So what should Peter do? What our special forces do. Make it a covert operation.”

      Dan Slott has never really been one for subtlety. Haha. 🙂

  7. Slott recently (at CBR) condemned Peter as a vigilante, but that’s because he forces this-world standards onto the Marvel Universe. Except that the MU isn’t our world. It’s a world with super-villains, aliens, and mystical monsters, which changes how that society would need to operate. The same is true with international matters.

    1. “The same is true with international matters.”

      Even in the Marvel Universe, there is no way it would be acceptable for individuals to topple sovereign governments over personal grudges. At a minimum he would work in conjunction with S.H.I.E.L.D. with some sort of authorization from the highest reaches of the U.S. government, CIA, etc. He most certainly wouldn’t risk his entire corporation in a direct attack on a sovereign nation.

  8. Well, this is another example of Slott Characters Acting Stupidly. Add that bit to Slott’s amorality. What is an occasional element in other writers is essential to Slott stories. Plots move forward because Peter, and others, are stupid.

    There is a thread at Crawlspace titled “Times That Slott Made Peter Be Stupid”, and it’s up to over 100 examples now, I think. This is another stupendous example.

    I consider it lazy. Instead of writing a story in which a villain shows exceptional intelligence, or some complicated circumstances pay off in a surprising, clever way, Slott just has characters speak and act without forethought, recklessly, sloppily, or just be dumb for no reason at all.

    1. “Well, this is another example of Slott Characters Acting Stupidly. Add that bit to Slott’s amorality. What is an occasional element in other writers is essential to Slott stories. Plots move forward because Peter, and others, are stupid.”

      Heh. Indeed. It’s a testament to just how much people love Spider-Man that a book can habitually give characters “stupid pills” and the sales still hang in there over 60K.

      “There is a thread at Crawlspace titled “Times That Slott Made Peter Be Stupid”, and it’s up to over 100 examples now, I think. This is another stupendous example.”

      I need to check that out. 🙂

  9. Slott is a hack. Marvel seems to be engaged in a scorched earth policy these days. They’re absolutely committed to making their comics unreadable and zero fun. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re doing it to close down publishing comics altogether.

    …and Slot is a hack. 🙂

    P.S. Thanks for the link to our site. 😀

  10. Great blog! Wish I’d discovered it earlier. I had an interaction with Slott last year on Twitter right before the election. The end result was Slott blocking me and a lot of his followers enraged when I tagged the official Marvel twitter account asking if they condoned their employees talking to their consumers in such a way. I think I’m going to like this place. Slott is the only reason I don’t buy Spidey comics today.

    1. “Great blog! Wish I’d discovered it earlier.”

      Welcome to the party! 🙂 I’m glad you like the blog.

      “I had an interaction with Slott last year on Twitter right before the election. The end result was Slott blocking me and a lot of his followers enraged when I tagged the official Marvel twitter account asking if they condoned their employees talking to their consumers in such a way. I think I’m going to like this place. Slott is the only reason I don’t buy Spidey comics today.”

      I would say that 95 percent of the people who are blocked by Dan should take that as a badge of honor. He’s been known to find and block people who are talking about his work even if he wasn’t tagged in the conversation. Heh. That’s just a tad weird, if you ask me…

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