Part of me didn’t want to write this post. Then a bigger part of me didn’t want to share it. It feels inappropriate. This feels like talking about problems with a significant other in public when it should be handled privately, just between the two of us, and behind closed doors. But I keep wrestling with it and I write a blog about comic books (and, you know, other stuff) so I figured it was time to just be out with this. Who knows? Maybe I’ll glean some insight here.
I’ve loved Spider-Man my entire life but I’m never excited about reading The Amazing Spider-Man. Each month (with the exception of Mark Waid’s embarrassingly bland Captain America (which I’m only sticking with because I believe Ta-Nehisi Coates is still taking over with issue #701)) this is the comic I read that interests me the least. I just don’t much care about what’s going on in Peter Parker’s world. Now please, don’t get me wrong. These are (by and large) well written superhero comics. They are fun, funny, and exciting. We see Spidey doing what he does best, saving the day despite the curve balls the ol’ Parker Luck throws at him. If I was eight or thirteen or maybe even twenty-three I would adore this comic as much as I did in my youth. But I’m thirty-five and I feel like I want more. I feel like I’m wasting time and money each month with a comic that lacks the depth I find in the other titles that fill my file. But I don’t know what to do. How do I quit reading The Amazing Spider-Man when I’m still reading comics???
It seems impossible. I’ve loved Spider-Man forever. Even when I wasn’t reading comics, I was loving Spider-Man. And, when I came back, The Amazing Spider-Man was the comic that took me the longest to pick up again. It meant so much to me as a kid and I left it on a note of Peter and Mary Jane walking away from the superhero world to finally have their happily-ever-after. Heck, the only reason I could stop reading comics was because I had an ending for Peter and MJ! I was intimidated and anxious about returning to his world. I knew he was an Avenger now. I knew he’d sold his marriage to the devil because Marvel’s editors lacked creativity. I knew Doctor Octopus had been in his body for a while. I knew he’d become the C.E.O. of a major international corporation. That was a lot to jump into. Maybe, I wondered, I should just stay on the periphery. But how could I?
This was Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, we’re talking about. This is the guy I’ve loved longer than Star Wars or Ghostbusters or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This was the guy I’d spent more time with than Star Wars, the Ghostbusters, or the Turtles too! There has never been a fictional character (then or now) who’s ever meant more to me. So I could only avoid his comic books for so long. When I finally returned, it was tentatively at first. I read Spider-Man/Deadpool. I read Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows. Then, eventually, I just jumped back in.
It hasn’t been all bad either. I began with the “Spider-Verse” storyline and absolutely loved it! I’d never seen anything quite like it in a Spider-Man comic before. It was so unique while being so aware of the whole history of Spider-Man. It was a brilliant celebration of the web-head’s life. It was entertaining too! Is it any wonder I recommitted to reading The Amazing Spider-Man after a story like that? I also really, really enjoyed “Spider-Man: Worldwide.” Having seen Peter struggle financially for so long, it was fun to see how wealth and privilege affected him and it was inspiring to see him try and navigate the waters of being a justice-oriented C.E.O. too. I also loved seeing Spider-Man travelling the world as an international crime fighter!
But…I feel we got back together only to find the magic’s gone. The stories aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. They just aren’t hooking me the way they always did. We’re just going through the motions. I buy the comic. I read it. But there’s no spark, no joy, no fun. I feel like I’m trying to reignite the fire in the relationship but, no matter how hard I try, it’s just not there. I once wrote that returning to reading The Amazing Spider-Man felt like coming home. Now it feels like I’ve outgrown that home; it’s familiar but doesn’t feel like I belong anymore.
What makes this so hard is there are SO MANY INCREDIBLE COMIC BOOKS OUT THERE that I could be reading instead. Obviously I have limited time and a limited budget for comics. The Amazing Spider-Man is a bi-weekly offering too so I’m paying $8 a month for the story I’m least emotionally invested in. In fact, the part of The Amazing Spider-Man I enjoy the most is his relationship with Bobbi Morse. But I can get Mockingbird whenever I want by re-reading Chelsea Cain’s brilliant (and all-too-short-lived) series Mockingbird. BUT I feel guilty leaving Spidey.
What am I doing? And, more frustratingly, what am I to do? I can’t imagine continuing to read comic books without reading The Amazing Spider-Man. But The Amazing Spider-Man is the comic I enjoy least and/or the comic that underwhelms me the most each month. I love Spider-Man so much! He means so much to me! But I don’t love the version of The Amazing Spider-Man I’ve returned to nor does it mean much of anything to me at all.
It’s all so familiar. Oh, Norman Osborn’s back. Oh, Peter’s working at the Daily Bugle again. Oh, he’s got relationship troubles. Oh, the public doesn’t like him. Sure, Norman Osborn is disfigured; Peter’s the science section editor instead of a photographer; he’s dating Bobbi Morse; and it’s Peter Parker and not Spider-Man who New York’s mad at. But those are slightly superficial changes at best. It’s like the problem I had with X-Men: Gold, there’s too much of the old without any real development beyond what I read as a kid. There doesn’t seem to be enough new to intrigue me each month, let alone to help me fall back in love. But this hurts so much more than X-Men: Gold because this is The Amazing Spider-Man. This is my comic! This is my guy!
Chip Zdarsky’s brilliant Marvel 2 In One with the Thing and the Human Torch rings of nostalgia. But it also feels fresh and alive. This is the Fantastic Four (or, well, half of them) I remember from my youth but the journey feels new. It feels necessary. And I’m enjoying every step so far! But with The Amazing Spider-Man it feels like I’m buying it because of what Spider-Man has always meant to me, not because of what the comic means to me now.
Also, there’s that silly little “collector voice” in the back of my mind. It’s about to hit issue #800 and that’s quite the milestone, it says. Dan Slott’s epic run is coming to an end, how can you miss that? it asks. Aren’t you even going to give the new author a shot? it nags. Worst of all, my heart and overthinking mind join in the chorus to say, You OWE IT to Spider-Man to stay for the 800th issue milestone/say goodbye to Dan Slott/see what the new writer has in store. I’m rarely excited or happy about what I find in The Amazing Spider-Man but I don’t know if I can or should say goodbye again. I just don’t know what to do.
As I’ve cited before (in regard to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel Television), my friend Lauren always said there are two dates at the end of every relationship – the date you should have broken up and the date you actually do. I’m not sure where I am with The Amazing Spider-Man. What’s going on between us? What does our future hold? Is it time to say “goodbye,” always valuing what we had and knowing Spidey will stay first in my heart even if I’m not reading his comic each month? Or do I fight to reignite the spark and try to find the love we once shared, reborn anew? Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh…I wish I knew what to do.