Friday, September 26, 2008

I Always Knew Stan Lee Had Hidden Depths

Spider-Man first appeared in Marvel's Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. Ever since, he has been an extraordinarily popular character, spawning animated series, films, action figures, blow-up dolls,* and, of course, porn.** In addition, in 1977, he spawned a daily newspaper comic strip.

Stan Lee, the Master of Marvel, the Creator of Wisecracking Heroes in Brightly-Coloured Spandex, was in charge of this strip himself. It is arguable that he is still in charge of this strip, though it is also arguable that most of the writing and all of the drawing are done by other people. What he doesn't seem to be in charge of is giving this incarnation of poor Spidey anything to do beyond sitting in front of the television and whining about how nobody likes him.

You remember the Spider-Man of the comic books and recent movies...the free-wheeling, one-liner-spouting, cocky, joyfully insufferable little Everyman we all know and...know? Gone...vanished clean away. This Peter Parker is a lethargic wannabe with no motivation and a tendency towards self-pitying pouting. Watching him slump on his couch and complain to his wife about how horribly misunderstood he is is excruciating. This is not an action strip; it's a therapy session.

Of course, who can blame him? The newspaper Spidey has to go up against the lamest collection of villains ever to graduate from the Academy of Ultimate Evil. Imagine the thrill of confronting the Persuader! Watch out: he may persuade you to leave him alone! Mercy! Meeeeeercyyyyyy...

Oh, Stan, Lee, how far you have fallen. I...hurt inside.

But wait:

Look at today's strip. In and of itself, it constitutes an argument that the current Spider-Man storyline is actually a medieval-style allegory about the end of the world. See...lately, Spider-Man has been having to contend with an impostor who dresses in a Spidey suit and goes around wreaking havoc. We are now in the process of finding out that the impostor's boss, Big-Time, is out to get his revenge on Spidey for sending him to prison many years ago.

Clearly, this is the story of the coming of Antichrist. Spidey is Jesus (and therefore the third aspect of God), since his story, being that of a hybrid hero,** acts as an imitation of Christ's. Big-Time is the devil, sent to prison/Hell by God back In The Beginning. Note his association with time and thus atrophy; the devil has brought death into the world. As Satan possesses a human child who grows up to mimic Christ outwardly while truly being the Antichrist, the incarnation of absolute evil and the harbinger of the End of Days, so does Big-Time create the fake Spidey, the incarnation of absolute silliness and the harbinger of...what? The End of Strips? We can only hope.

At any rate, Mr. Lee and his flunkies have produced a note-perfect medieval Doomsday allegory. Hell, Big-Time even looks like the devil; he's got the pointy little beard and everything.

We could use more allegory in the funny pages. It would make up for the lack of actual funny.

*No, really.
**Which the Internet is for.
***I wrote a whole Ph.D. thesis on this guy. I could bore you for days.


CrackerLilo said...

Came via the Medieval History subsite at This is fantastic! You have been added to my Blogroll. I love comic strips and love your commentary on the moldiest oldies. (Though I would also love to see what you can do with "Pearls Before Swine" and "Zippy the Pinhead".)

Michael said...

One of your best yet. The allegorical possibilities are astounding, as you point out.