Marvel’s release of Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy this week brought with it an obligatory round of promotional interviews. Therefore, it was reasonable to conclude that writer Dan Slott of The Amazing Spider-Man would say something to prove how he fundamentally misunderstands Peter Parker. A recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter was all it took, as he said his favorite Spider-Man “villain” is, in fact, Peter Parker.
Regular readers of this blog remember how an October 2015 entry — Dan Slott: Peter Parker’s love for Mary Jane is ‘anti-Marvel’ — was accused of being taken “out of context,” despite the fact that full context (and an hour-long embedded YouTube video) was provided. Therefore, your friendly neighborhood blogger will preemptively draw attention to the fact that I am linking to the full Hollywood Reporter interview, asking you to read it in its entirety, and going out of my way to provide full context.
THR’s Graeme McMillan and Mr. Slott had the following exchange:
Graeme McMillan: You have fans complaining that you don’t “know” Spider-Man.
Dan Slott: Despite the fact that I’ve written one out of every five issues of Amazing Spider-Man, which is kind of scary. But, to me, the fun of it is, at his basic core, even if you strip away ‘with great power must come great responsibility,’ what makes Peter Parker this character that resonates with all of us is that he’s really the first character who’s you. He’s the guy you know. He’s not a wealthy billionaire playboy, he’s not an alien from another planet, he’s not a god from a pantheon. He’s the guy down the block who trips and falls, who screws up in every way that you screw up. All the self-destructive traits that you have, and your friends have, he has. People say to me, ‘Who’s your favorite Spider-Man villain?’ and my answer is Peter Parker, because no-one can mess up Spider-Man’s life like Peter Parker can.
One of those fans who “complains” that Dan Peter’s-love-for-MJ-is-anti-Marvel Slott does not “know” Spider-Man (or, rather, Peter Parker) is right here, so let us begin.
Words mean something. The words we use have consequences. There is great power in words, and with that comes great responsibility. Therefore, it stands to reason that being imprecise or flippant with a word like ‘villain’ can lead to terrible results — even if we have good intentions.
Mr. Slott says “no-one can mess up Spider-Man’s life like Peter can,” but we know that his rogue’s gallery is filled with homicidal monsters, megalomaniacs with a desire for genocide, at at least one literal demon who successfully severed the bond between he and his soulmate, Mary Jane.
Question: Why on earth would a writer pretend that “villain” is synonymous with “fallible human being”?
Answer: Because a writer like Dan Slott is the kind of person who publicly admits he wants a hero like Peter Parker making deals with a devil. Heroes do not consciously make deals with devils — villains do. If Peter Parker is described as a guy who tries his best but isn’t perfect, then Mr. Slott’s vision cannot be realized. The language needs to change. Readers need to be convinced that their hero is simultaneously a villain, and that it’s acceptable.
That is perverse. That is sick. That is naked moral relativism, and it is propagated by a man who mistakes writing a character for a long time with doing it well (i.e., Saying, “I’ve written one of every five issues of Amazing Spider-Man,” in response to charges of not knowing Peter Parker).
Let us return to his THR interview:
Dan Slott: The Jackal has expanded his science. He’s not getting it from a blood sample, he’s getting it from a corpse. It’s all the memories, all the way up to your death —
Graeme McMillan: So they’re complete copies.
Dan Slott: Yes! They remember everything, all the way up to that last moment. It’s less a clone — I wanted to brand them, and the Jackal brands them, ‘re-animates.’ It’s different than a clone, it’s better than a clone. And in that moment, the Jackal becomes the ultimate devil you can make a deal with. He becomes the person who says, ‘If you’ve lost anyone, I can give them back to you. Whatever person you’ve loved or lost, or maybe someone who tormented you and lost, I can bring them back to you.’
Ignore the fact that clones would know that they are clones and immediately branch off into a completely different life-path than his or her progenitor. What matters here is that Mr. Slott a.) attaches a very specific word — ‘villain’ — to the hero, and b.) admits that he wants said hero/villain making deals with an “ultimate devil.”
If you are a long-time reader of The Amazing Spider-Man, look at Mr. Slott’s track record and ask yourself if he was being glib or if he says what he means and means what he says. It is this blogger’s contention that when he says Peter Parker is a villain, he means it. And he gets away with it because many people who are repulsed by such a premise buy ASM out of their life-long love for the character.
Things will only change when enough readers vote with their wallet. (Exacerbating the problem are access-addicted comic book websites that are terrified of offering legitimate criticism, but I digress.)
Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the “villainous” Peter Parker and the writer behind his reign of terror. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Update: Dan Slott is now unblocking people on Twitter who discuss this blog post, and then trying to hide behind some weird excuse that Stan Lee would have called Peter Parker a “villain.” You can’t make this up. Classic! (Hat tip to reader JB for the catch.)