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August 05, 2011

They Didn't Really Kill Peter Parker, You Know

Some crabbing about this on some blogs, but people don't have the full story.

Over ten years ago Marvel started publishing the "Ultimate" comics, which basically documented different conceptions of their heroes, in a different timeline/continuity. The "Ultimate" world is a parallel universe then, outside of the main Marvel continuity.

It lets writers play with different backstories for characters (I think it was in the "Ultimate" universe that Nick Fury was changed to a black man, an idea picked up in the movies) and lets them escape the heavy burden of 40 or 50 years of dense (and often befuddling) Marvel continuity.

It's really a "What If?" type universe, but an elaborate one rather than a one-shot story, as the old Marvel "What If?" comic used to explore.

The imprint was launched in 2000 with the publication of Ultimate Spider-Man, followed by Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates in 2001, and finally Ultimate Fantastic Four. Prior to the launch, the imprint was under the working title of "Ground Zero". The characters in this line exist outside of the regular Earth-616 Marvel Universe and therefore do not interact with their original version counterparts.

The stories and characters of Ultimate Marvel have been adapted to reflect the differences between the present and past continuities, most of which were created in the 1960s and 1970s. For example, Ultimate Spider-Man gains his superpowers from a genetically-engineered spider rather than a radioactive spider, and his alter ego, Peter Parker, originally a photographer for the Daily Bugle newspaper, now has a part-time job as the paper's webmaster. Another aspect of the Ultimate Marvel universe is that many of the characters are younger than their regular-continuity counterparts.

So, yes, Peter Parker was killed, and replaced by a younger, half-black/half-Hispanic character who will now be Spider-Man, but in this alternate "Earth-1610" universe.

This may be in response to an internet-based campaign. Donald Glover, the black actor in Community, apparently was campaigning to be cast as Peter Parker in the Spiderman reboot, I think on Twitter.

It got some attention, and even Stan Lee weighed in.

"A lot of [my Twitter followers] have been saying that he ought to have a chance to audition for the role," he said. "So I tweeted back by saying, as far as I'm concerned ... anybody should have a chance to audition for the role. I certainly think he should have a chance to audition."

However, Lee made sure to clarify that he wasn't advocating for Glover or any other specific actor to get the role.


As for the racial aspect of the debate, Lee brushed it off, saying that casting Peter Parker "shouldn't be a racial issue." However, he added that drastically changing Peter Parker's appearance could risk confusing audiences -- but that shouldn't stop anyone from giving Glover or other non-white actors a shot.

"Here's the point: We've already had the Kingpin in 'Daredevil' portrayed by a black man, where he was white in the comics, [and] we've had Nick Fury portrayed by a black man where he was white in the comics," said Lee. "But not that many people had seen these characters -- not that many moviegoers are familiar with them."

"Everybody seems to be familiar with Spider-Man, so I say that it isn't that it's a racial issue -- it's just that it might be confusing to people," he explained. "But that's a matter for the people at Marvel to take into consideration. I certainly don't want to weigh in on it in any way, except to say I think [Glover] is a fine actor."

Upshot? The new Ultimate Universe Spiderman looks a lot like Donald Glover.

One more thing: It used to be a joke that no one stayed dead in the comics except Bucky (Captain America's former sidekick, Gwen Stacy (Spider-Man's girlfriend), and Jason Todd (the second Robin, killed by the Joker), and Uncle Ben.

Well... two of those have been returned from the grave already and I do believe I've read that Marvel had plans to bring back Gwen Stacy too, but I think Stan Lee objected and nixed the idea.

Pretty much only Uncle Ben and Bruce Wayne's parents are permanently dead. Although clones, ghosts, doubles, and hallucinatory images of them appear so much they might as well be alive.

Lately it's just gotten absurd with the resurrections -- Superman, of course. And Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Batman, Captain America, Green Goblin. I think even the Punisher.

Few used to stay dead in the comics, but few also used to die. Now everyone's dying in this Major Comics Event or that one.

The other Big Event in the comics were the Big Event Marriages, like Superman marrying Lois and Peter Parker marrying Mary Jane.

But ah, they got bored with the marital state, and so they undid the Superman marriage (it just didn't happen or something, it was all a dream), and Mary Jane made a deal with... um, the Devil, to wipe the record of her marriage to Peter from the history of the universe.

I think supposedly she did this to save someone's life, but it was really done because Marvel felt Peter Parker's marriage made him seem too old (and making him a widower or divorcee would have made him older still). So for years they were looking for some Reset Button on this; ultimately they did it with magic.

The Devil's magic.

So the odds of Peter Parker staying dead in this alternate universe are pretty low. Even if this replacement Spiderman catches on, Peter Parker will be back in some form or another, as a mastermind or even a villain.

And if the replacement Spideman doesn't catch on, he'll be back in six months.

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posted by Ace at 02:16 PM

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