I’ve been reading comics off and on since the 80s. I’ve never personally found Spider-Man/Peter Parker interesting or compelling. Perhaps I’m overlooking a seminal piece that truly breaks ground and turns him into a more realistic and intriguing person, so please correct me if you think that’s the case. I have some ideas of what I’d like to see and read in the book; I’ll elucidate on these in a moment. What follows are merely my own personal thoughts about how I would reinvent the character, with absolutely no presumption that Marvel would be receptive to them.
There are a few key elements of superheroes in general that I find silly. Amidst the highly fantastical world we build for our heroes, I think it’s important we ground them in reality as much as we can. Let’s hypothesize that someone who’s miraculously endowed with powers of immense strength, agility, sense, and ability to scale vertical surfaces, would not have a normal every day life. What would this world look like? In Peter Parker’s universe, super villains are constantly plotting nefarious (usually overly elaborate) ways to kill him, take over the world, or pilfer from national banks; how much free time would he have? How’s his work/life balance? Can he hold onto a relationship? How about securing a dependable job? Sure, J.J. always finds something to chew out Parker for, but his patience with the man seems boundless.
I posit that if Peter Parker lived in a world of super villains, his life would be a wreck. For starters there would be a few excursions early in his crime fighting career, the occasional sneaking out in the middle of the day to stop a heist or terrorist threat; lest we forget the rogues gallery one builds up over years of being a vigilante, thus intensifying the amount of physical, emotional, and psychological trauma one would experience. How long can Spider-Man keep the wise-cracking attitude going? When people close to him start dying, how is his mental health affected?
Peter can’t always be out in the field; often he’ll be tethered to a desk writing up stories as a journalist in a junior position. All of the extracurricular activities would eventually catch-up with him and would affect his day-to-day work. The caliber of submitted pieces would begin to degrade over time as his mind wanders to darker thoughts (Hob Goblin literally could blow the Daily Bugle at any given moment). How would a human being feel, knowing that they can’t be everywhere at once? The sense of complete powerlessness to stop every random act violence?
In due course, Peter would be fired from the Bugle. Sourcing paid work with other news outlets would be tough, given his checkered attendance records and meandering journalistic faculties. The onset of depression would build up to an intolerable point. After employment insurance runs out, he’d become a shut-in, only leaving the confines of his domicile for sustenance. The mornings are all the same: waking up to an ever-growing stack of unpaid bills; forcing the landlords hand to serve an eviction notice. If Peter has a significant other in his life, the bond would crumble because of his ever-increasing self-loathing about how he’s not “good enough” to do his job and (secretly) save the world.
Ejected from the only home he has (the grand parents are long dead), eventually he’d end up homeless as bouncing around from couch to couch wouldn’t last forever. Forced to live as a street person, Peter tastes true desperation with the looming question of where the next meal will come from, Peter. Hitting an all-time low, he ceases being a hero and lets any criminal act occur. At this point, you may be thinking my rendition of the character and the world he lives in is pretty bleak–you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s infinitely more interesting to me when a character I love is forced through incredible hardship. The more shit the world throws back in their face, the better.
Dejected and living in persona exile for two years on the streets of New York, Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn (who searched non stop for the first 12 months), is randomly attacked by hoodlums while taking a shortcut through an alley to get to his favourite hole in the wall pizza place. By pure happenstance, Peter observes what’s going on, at first not making the connection that it was Harry on the receiving end of the assault. An emaciated, bearded, and inebriated Peter Parker manages to muster up the will and strength to put an end to the transgression commencing before his eyes (let’s just say copious amounts of alcohol mute his super powers). Harry thanks Peter, not realizing at first that his childhood missing friend was standing directly in front of him. Awkward silence would pass after a fleeting moment when Peter utters: “Hi, Harry” (in a slightly hoarse voice, worn down by time and binge drinking). Squinting, Harry stares intently at the dishevelled figure: “Peter? Jesus… What the hell happened to you? I thought… We all thought you were dead.”
Six months after a friendship is rediscovered, Harry provides monetary assistance to help Peter get back on his feet. It’s Harry’s suggestion that Peter start his own media company. Old world in-depth investigative reporting has all but diminished. Print publications continue in a downward spiral. Social media is on the rise as the public consumes a majority of their news in real-time. With Harry as an investor, providing both financial stability as well as the business connections needed, Peter is able to build a sustainable modern publication that attracts both large paid readership and sponsors.
A Freshly minted entrepreneur, Peter takes a step back from daily operations once revenues reach a soaring high, at which point editors are hired to free up his personal time. Checking himself into a mental health facility, he embarks on a journey to recover from emotional trauma. It won’t be long before he gets back into the swing of things.