A Comic Book Geek's Guide to coping with the "Death" of Peter Parker

December 26, 2012|Elliott Serrano, for Redeye

Hey, thanks for stopping by! Welcome to "Dealing With Grief for Comic Book Geeks." This is where you wanted to be, right? A lot of times people confuse us with the "Anger Management for Gamers" group. You wouldn't believe the number of guys I see rage quit and storm out of that room! Ha-ha! Anyway, I see that you're new here so please be sure to sign in at the table near the door and put on a name tag. There are refreshments at the table too, so feel free to have some coffee and donuts before you sit down. Cool? Great!

Okay everyone, let's all have a seat so we can get today's session started. For those of you who don't know me, I'm Elliott and I'll be your group leader today. I've been enjoying comic-books since I was old enough to read, and have even been fortunate enough to write a few myself. I was once one of those guys that you would call "continuity freaks" and I would obsess over how events in the different X-books fit together, or lament how the Flash would be fast enough to outrun a beam of light in one comic yet too slow to catch a hail of bullets in another. Seriously, I once wrote a very sternly-worded letter to DC Comics about that. Chuck Dixon thought he could get one by me, but uh-uh. That all came to an end when I realized there was no way I could reconcile Wolverine appearing in all those X-books and the Avengers. I mean, when does the guy sleep? At that point, I decided to "let go and let God" with "God" being Stan Lee.

Anyway, what we're going to be discussing today is the recent "death" of one of our most beloved comic book characters, Peter Parker AKA Spider-Man. I know that's got a lot of folks upset, but if you'll allow me a moment, I want to walk you through my own perspective of the comics market and why we really shouldn't get so angry when a comic-book company kills one of our favorite characters.

I mean, it's not like they haven't done it before, right?

First off, as a fan of comics and a professional writer, I ask you to consider:

Comic books are an art-form and the people who create them are artists. And whether you want to believe it or not, most everyone who works in comics does so because they want to tell good stories. They love the medium and want to use it to express ideas that inspire and entertain. If you're one of those fortunate few who get to work on a title like Spider-Man, you got there because you've honed your craft to the point where you can be trusted with one of the most enduring characters in American pop culture. And if you're Dan Slott - the current writer on the Spider-Man title-  you also have a deep, abiding love for the character. So don't think that creators like Slott write these stories because they hate the character, or worse yet, hate you the reader. It's just that sometimes loving a character means putting it through some daunting challenges. Because if the hero doesn't overcome great odds, how else can he show that he's a hero, right? And sometimes that means doing things that hurt. That hurt the character and, yes in turn, the reader. But that's the beauty of the art-form. That in it you can create characters and experiences that make you feel. That's what they're going for! And it's the challenge of the comic-book writer, artist, letterer, editor, et al. to come up with ideas that accomplish that goal. The problem with a character like Spider-Man is that after five decades of adventures, there are only so many stories you can tell when you simply maintain the status quo. So, sometimes you need to shake things up, and in some cases, drastically alter the status quo of a character.

If the current outcry over Spider-Man #700 is any indication, the creative team working on the comic book came up with an idea that really got readers to feel. Big time. And that's good! It means that the readers care. In fact, if there were no outcry at all, if it were met with apathy, then there would be a problem. Why?

That brings me to my next point which is...

Comic books are a business. The fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter how good or provocative a story is, if it doesn't sell it does the publisher no good. Sure, you might think that the current changes with Spider-Man are a bit jarring. And from a professional perspective I have to admit that Marvel took a bit of a risk by letting the creative team take Spidey in this particular direction, but let's be honest, it got everyone's attention right? Call it a stunt if you will, but that's all a part of the publishing business. You need to stir up "buzz" in the market and get people to read your book. You especially need to do that if your market is shrinking. You tantalize people with an intriguing idea and then let your creative team tell the story in the hopes that it grabs them and generates sales.

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