Spencer’s Spidey, Part 2: 10 Things Nick Spencer Should Do as Writer of The Amazing Spider-Man (5-1)
—by Nathan on June 22, 2018—
Picking up where the previous blog left off, I want to continue exploring what I feel writer Nick Spencer could incorporate into his Amazing Spider-Man run in order to make it a really engaging, fun, well-written comic. I listed a few ideas in the previous post, so check those out first before heading into the next series of ideas below.
Number 5: Peter Parker
When you’re writing any Spider-Man story, you’re really writing about two characters: Spider-Man and his alter ego, Peter Parker. A lot of writers have had to juggle this relationship over the years; sometimes, it’s been used to great effect…and sometimes it hasn’t. While a guy like Straczynski can clearly define the “Peter vs. Spidey” dichotomy well—having both sides play into his relationships with characters such as Mary Jane and Aunt May in dynamic ways—other writers haven’t explored this notion as fluidly. Like Joe Quesada in “One Moment in Time”: this story explained how Peter and MJ’s marriage was retconned, with Quesada delving into the tired, dull cliché of “I can’t love you as both Peter and Spider-Man” we’ve seen dozens of times in other, better stories. It added nothing new and, in fact, detracted from Peter’s character.
Other times, Peter’s involvement can feel forced—how many times has he vanished in a situation where Spider-Man appears and later offered a half-baked excuse for why he was gone that, yes, everyone believes? Spencer’s got himself a balancing act to work out. How can he write both sides of the character and craft an organic relationship between the two that doesn’t devolve into clichés, oft-repeated excuses, and unbelievable assumptions? How can he have Peter’s life infiltrate Spidey’s while, at the same time, feeling a bit separate? He’s already laying some groundwork by having Peter’s new roommate secretly be sometime-foe Boomerang—which I find to be a hilarious situation—so if he can explore the comedy and awkwardness of this situation while allowing both characters to grow, it should make for a fun story.
Number 4: Roots
Slott’s take on the character made for a truly wild experience. Peter went from sharing an apartment on a photographer’s salary to working as a scientist for Horizon Labs, eventually starting his own company, “Parker Industries.” This was eventually dismantled and, currently, Peter’s bumming it again, looking for a place to stay. Slott ends where he started, which I think is nice. Though “businessman Peter” was an interesting, albeit different, look at the character, it felt a bit too “Bruce Wayne” for my taste at moments. Add in the fact Slott introduced a variety of weapons and gadgets for the hero, and the Batman vibes kept palpitating through the comic.
Spencer, however, is picking up after Peter’s fall from grace. Our hero is now back to where he’s pretty much always been—a two-unpaid-rents-away-from-being-homeless, rather shiftless dude who takes photos of himself as a superhero, where his greatest achievements come not as Peter Parker but as Spidey. It’s a core element of who the character is, and to see Spencer explore this aspect is exciting. I’m interested to see where he takes Peter, as long as it isn’t to any Nazi pep rallies.
Number 3: Amazing Friends
Spidey’s like that one friend you have who seems to know everybody. Our hero’s buddy-buddy with a ton of superheroes, from the Avengers, to the Fantastic Four, to the X-Men. He’s served stints on both the Avengers and the FF, tends to hang with Daredevil and the Human Torch, and will even buddy-up with Wolverine on occasion. Irritating as he might be, Spidey’s got himself friends in heroic places, and Spencer would be wise to explore this side of the hero.
Straczynski got to really delve deep into Spidey and Tony Stark’s relationship, crafting a fantastic father-son aspect around the two of them; a few “Brand New Day” issues included fun Wolverine cameos, juxtaposing his cold, harsh demeanor with Spidey’s clownish antics; Slott placed Spidey on the FF for a while and later had a few adventures with the Human Torch. There’s a lot that’s been done with these heroes, and it looks like Spencer is certainly bringing some of Spidey’s buddies along for the ride. Whether he’s being annoying or genuinely helpful, Spidey seems to be at his most awkward when he’s around his best pals. Adding doses of additional superhero fun may be the shot in the arm certain stories need from time to time.
Number 2: Obscurity
Writers often go to the well one too many times for story ideas. How often have we seen Eddie Brock try to kill Peter or torture his family as Venom? How many times has Aunt May or Mary Jane been put in danger only for our web-slinging hero to save them from certain doom? Various plot points can feel overdone, and various villains can stagnate and grow stale. Sometimes, a writer introduces a new concept to keep things from getting old and worn down. Other times, they reach back into the depths of Spidey lore and pluck an interesting concept from the past to rejuvenate or flesh out.
For example, Slott brought back a villainess called the Queen in one story, a character who hadn’t been seen in about ten years. He slid her into his tale and had her play a bigger role than she ever had. Or when Paul Jenkins brought back a minor foe named Mindworm, years after his previous appearances, for a “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue that used him as a backdrop for a story where Spidey failed. It’s references like these, calling back to the work of past writers and artists, that really give weight to the universe. If Spencer can bring back some really, really interesting aspects of the past and write them in such a way that both revamps them and pays respect to their previous incarnations and creators, he not only offers nice easter eggs for longtime fans, but shows he’s done his homework and is willing to continue old threads with the new.
Number 1: Heroics
I mean…duh, right? Spidey’s a superhero. OF COURSE he’s gonna do heroic things. He saves people, he stops bad guys, he keeps the world from total annihilation…and, on the smaller side, he keeps Manhattan nice and safe so everyone can sleep at night. Yet, I feel as if this aspect of him can be undermined at times in interesting ways. Take a few Dan Slott examples. Early in his run, Slott had Spidey set up this “No one dies” rule, making him swear not to let anyone get killed on his watch. Noble as this was, Spidey inevitably set himself for failure by attempting to fulfill this ridiculous premise. Even Slott pointed this out later down the line. Point is, Slott set up a personal stake that was too large for Peter to logically handle and it snowballed for a bit.
Second example: during his “Spider-Verse” storyline, Slott had Peter and a bunch of other interdimensional Spider-Men literally save the multiverse. Yes, several universes at once were rescued. That’s huge! As fun a story as it is, the premise again extends into extreme levels of goofiness Spidey doesn’t regularly encounter. If it wasn’t told quite as well by Slott, it could have easily been a dud. Contrast this with any story of Spidey saving loved ones, fellow heroes, random citizens, sections of New York, the world even…on a certain scale, Spidey’s heroics need to feel natural. Like, “Oh, yeah, a superpowered New Yorker could, within a certain span of reason, be able to do this.” I’d like to see Spencer employ similar reasoning. Don’t just have Spidey save the entire universe, or several universes, or all of creation as we know it because you want to raise stakes. Definitely give us a Spidey who does amazing things with his powers and helps people. But give it in palatable doses.
Those are just some examples, ten in all, regarding how I personally feel Spencer should take the book. Naturally, he’s probably ten steps ahead of the game and has several plotlines laid out already…and, naturally, there’s little to zero chance he’s going to stumble upon my humble blog. Still…fruit for thought for any other inspiring writers out there.
Heck, if I ever get the gig, I’ll dig this up myself. Just you watch.