My willingness to see flagship characters die and “remain dead” likely comes from growing up as a Green Lantern fan and being forced to accept the death of Hal Jordan. While 1993 saw headlines trumpeting the death of Superman it was insignificant when held up to the eventual fallout of Superman’s return. The original Superman returns, after only seven months “dead,” to find Jordan’s Coast City in ruins thanks to the combined forces of Cyborg Superman and Mogul. Jordan had been away from Earth during the destruction and finding the city destroyed begins a descent into madness. He seeks the power to restore Coast City by slaughtering the Green Lantern Corps. After taking their rings he becomes the villain Parallax for three years. His death finally comes in 1996 when, as Parallax, he sacrifices himself to reignite the Sun in “The Final Night.” Jordan remained dead until his soul returned as The Spectre in 1999 and eventually returning to his power ring in 2004.
Ten years is a longtime for such a well-known hero to not return to his namesake title (possibly topped only by Barry Allen). Prior to Peter Parker being purged from his body by Doctor Octopus at the end of 2012 the most recent gamble by Marvel was the death of Steve Rogers as Captain America in April of 2007. Impressively, Rogers stayed “dead” (he was actually frozen in time) for more than two years and when he did come back it wasn’t certain how soon he’d return to the shield. It was the first time since the death of Jordan that a major character known for carrying a title had been sacrificed for more than a year. Batman doesn’t count, because when DC “killed” Bruce Wayne at the end of 2009’s Final Crisis issue six it was only one week of wondering if he’d eventually return to the cowl (Wayne, much like Rogers, was also sent hurtling through time).
This is why the death and eventual return of Peter Parker is significant. Much to the chagrin of those calling for Dan Slott’s head Superior Spider-Man continues to be one of Marvel’s best-selling titles (you can read my previous defense of SSM here). It begs the question, do we need Peter Parker? That’s a hard question for me to write. Spider-Man was the first hero I ever made a monthly commitment to when my mother let me subscribe by direct mail to Web of Spider-Man in the late 80s. It’s difficult to comprehend a generation growing up without Parker and all of his idiosyncrasies behind the mask.
If we decide Peter Parker doesn’t necessarily need to come back it can’t be Otto Octavius forever. While he’s been taking strides to become a better person, including very noble advocacy on behalf of little people, he did kill Peter Parker and deserves to get his comeuppance. Who should take his place?
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