With my students First Quarter benchmark testing underway, it’s time to focus on some serious comic book writing.
Last time, we talked about the brand new Walking Dead magazine that’s coming out in a few weeks. This will coincide with the premiere of Season 3 beginning in October. What’s great, though, is that I plan on spending all month on The Walking Dead. Seeing as how it’s October and there is going to be a string of death and mayhem over those weeks, I want to focus on the quality horror aspect of entertainment.
So, Walking Dead comics and television shows and the overall feeling of the series as a whole for four weeks.
I can already predict the nightmares.
With that, though, I’ll take one small detour to talk about super-heroics and quality writing.
Recently, over the summer, Miles Morales reached his one year anniversary of being alive.
I guess I should explain.
Miles Morales is the new Spider-Man.
Well, let’s clear that up a bit further. Miles Morales is the new Spider-Man in a different universe where Spider-Man Peter Parker was still a teenager that was killed in combat. A celebrated hero, Miles was inspired by his death and took up the mantle once he was bitten by a spider.
Miles is a brand new hero. Young. Naïve. Half Mexican/Half African-American. And, in retrospect looking at his first year, he could be my favorite character of all time.
What’s great about Miles Morales, created by Marvel Architect and Mastermind Brian Bendis and his artistic collaborator, Italian born artist Sara Pichelli, is that he’s a real guy. Well, a “real kid” seems more like a reasonable definition. He’s not quite a superhero yet. He’s more like a thirteen year old running around in pajamas.
But that’s what makes him so fascinating.
A year ago, Marvel took a major chance and decided to end one of their longest running continuous characters in Peter Parker as Spider-Man in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. He died, valiantly, the way almost every other hero in his book predicted that he would.
That’s okay, though, because we were given one complete superhero tale with his demise. From Peter’s first origin story to his last stand, we have a definitive beginning-middle-end type scenario with “Ultimate Spider-Man”.
Then, Miles Morales came along.
What was fan reaction to him? Well, from spending time in the comic shop there seemed to be two general trains of thought when it came to lil’ Miles.
#1: I can’t believe they are doing this! Marvel should burn forever!
A little intense? Sure.
Comic book fans can be some of the biggest drama queens I know of.
#2: Well, I trust Brian Michael Bendis. Let’s see where it goes.
I’ll admit that I fell into this category.
See, it’s tough for fans of comic books to accept change.
I’ve mentioned before about an undeserved sense of entitlement that many fans have. They become so invested in the stories or the characters that they come to possess a sense of ownership over the character. I’ve been guilty of this before.
Ultimate Peter Parker helped me through some incredibly tough times going up through college, etc. He taught my one valuable lesson: No matter how bad life gets, it’s never as bad as Peter Parker’s.
Joking aside, I was a bit off-put with the introduction of Miles Morales.
Then I actually read the series.
Then I saw what Bendis was truly doing.
He was creating a sincere, true-to-the-core superhero story.
This leads into the story I want to discuss today that I believe shatters a lot of boundaries.
Spider-Menwas a crossover released this summer to coincide with a number of things. Number one being the big summer release of the new “Amazing
Spider-Man” movie. The second being that this year is Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary. We’ve have Spider-Man for 50 years now, yet he doesn’t look a day over 26. Or 28. Or something.
So, how does this fit with Miles Morales?
This is the first time that the Ultimate Marvel Universe, the one that’s only 10 years old, is going to meet the regular Marvel Universe.
In short, Miles Morales meets Peter Parker.
And worlds are changed forever. Least, that’s what they want you to say.
It would be a severe understatement to say many people were more off-put by this series than they were by the announcement of Miles Morales himself.
“What?! Miles Morales meeting Peter Parker? A crossover event? Marvel stinks! I can’t believe this?! Etc. Etc. ETC!!”
I’m pretty sure that this imaginary disgruntled fan didn’t scream “Etc. ETC!”, but after a while buzz on the series began to feel that way.
Then the series was released. And Peter Parker, the Peter Parker that we all know, became trapped in a different New York City. Dimension hopping is nothing new in comic books, but this felt different to him. Peter didn’t quite feel like he belonged.
Feeling this way is a small piece of who Peter Parker is, though, and soon a robbery is in progress. Leaping into the fray to stop it, Peter is given grief by almost everyone that he meets that the costume he’s wearing is in bad taste.
What Peter Parker comes to find out is that Peter Parker is dead in this world. He died when he was 16 years old, defending the people of this city. And, in his wake, there’s a new Spider-Man.
Enter Miles Morales.
Sure, the two get into a bit of skirmish in the middle of the bigger story: How will Peter Parker get home?
Beautifully drawn by Sara Pichelli, I was reminded that Spider-Man can be a lot more than just a guy swinging from webs in the city.
Pichelli wastes no space, beautifully illustrating both Spider-Men with grace and wonder. Sure, they are both agile. But there are distinct differences in their movement. Peter Parker/Spider-Man moves with an experience that only comes from years of practice. Miles is nimble and quick, but it’s simple. No real previous practice.
Their fight is cut short, though, seeing as though Spider-Man villain Mysterio appears to confront both sides with the worst of the worst.
It escalates, though, as Peter Parker is forced to confront a world where he died. A world where his Aunt May is left by herself. A place where he must come to terms with his own humanity and fragile existence.
All in good fun, mind you, as author Bendis hits all the necessary beats. Which leads to my point: Good stories are good stories, no matter what.
A select people/”fans” spent all summer complaining about a story that hadn’t even been written yet. Why?
Because they’ve been spurned in the past?
Because they’ve been told that things will be better than before?
I don’t know.
I wish I did, so I could grab this series and rub their lame-predicting noses in it. Because this series had everything running against it.
Yet it still ended up being the best series that I’ve read in a long time.
All we were given in this five issue mini-summer-series was a meeting of two comic book characters that happen to be the same superhero in two separate universes.
But it was written by an author that loves the characters and their mythos. It was drawn by an artist that has a natural flair for their lifestyles and movement.
Now if only all comic book series and artists could bring the same passion and life to their books.
Or really, any creator that tries to put their “work” out into the world.
In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. He recommends each and every comic he writes about.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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