Hello there, valued reader, it’s your friendly neighborhood article writer. Have you ever wanted to write your own Spider-Man story — one that will get the J. Jonah Jameson stamp of approval? Well, it’s not an easy task. Spider-Man has both some of the best stories ever written in comics, and some of the most hated. Writing Spider-Man is a risk because it can go wrong in so many ways, but it can also reap great rewards. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look.

What Makes Spider-Man So Versatile?

Spider-Man Superman Pull, ready to risk it all
Image Courtesy Of Marvel

It’s easy to understand why so many people are inspired to write for the wall-crawler. His stories carry a universal quality that many can relate to.  As one of the few characters to age in the Marvel universe, Peter grew up alongside fans. His problems are the same problems we fans go through every day; finding a job and dealing with rent.

His stories are also versatile. Spider-Man has stories ranging from the street level crime where he must fight muggers and find a gun a robber dropped, to the strange stories where he fights ancient demons in the snowy streets of New York.  He is a character you can put in almost any situation. So what is the secret to writing the best Spider-Man story, and why is it a risk to follow these styles?

Grounded and Simple Works

SpiderMan Blue
Image Courtesy Of Marvel

Maybe the key to writing a SPIDER-MAN story is keeping it simple. After all, people say simplicity is best. When I say simple, I don’t mean formulaic. The old and true SPIDER-MAN formula follows Peter Parker in high school or work, until a new animal-themed villain, like a man dressed as an Armadillo –calling himself Armadillo (No joke — he’s a real villain, look him up.) — attacks, and Spider-Man saves the day.  What I’m saying is, we have more grounded stories where the focus isn’t on those wild adventures — stories where we see Peter grow and face problems we all face. These stories throw that formula away.

SPIDER-MAN BLUE and SPIDER-MAN NO MORE show that when we focus on Peter, we can get fulfilling and memorable stories. BLUE focuses on Peter’s time with Gwen Stacy as he talks to a tape recorder to find closure. This occurs years after her death, when Peter is with MJ. This shows how traumatic events don’t just disappear after vengeance or the day we decide to move forward. It sticks with us, and we relive them in the hopes that we can relieve ourselves of the pain that lingers. A coping mechanism helps us alleviate some of the pressure for certain circumstances, and that’s what this story is about.

SPIDER-MAN NO MORE is a story we can all relate to. The pressure of the suit is too much for Peter, and he decides to give up the costume.  We all have faced challenges in our lives, and the thought of quitting tempted us, but our responsibilities still come to us. It’s clear we can’t quit, so like Peter, we take back our mantle and get to work. The story relates a superhero crisis to regular people with a relatable problem.

Messing With The Formula

Peter Parker risk it all buying the Baxter Building
Image Courtesy Of Marvel

Before you think that all that needs to be done is to keep the story grounded and more about the characters, look at titles such as SINS PAST and CORPORATE PETER. SINS PAST takes a route which focuses on Gwen Stacy. The image of Gwen, shattered as she begins a love affair with Norman Osborn and bares his twin children, takes readers down a dark path.

CORPORATE PETER tries to solve Peter’s problems by making him the next Tony Stark. Doing so meant that Peter was no longer relatable, which was what always made him great. There is a risk when you tackle a more grounded story where the focus is on Peter’s relationships and his everyday problems. You can lose what made Peter relatable to people. It feels contradictory, but that’s where the risk lies. Writing the mask and Peter is a balancing act where if the two start to blend together, you lose what made each individual part spectacular.

Weird Spider-Man Is Worth The Risk

Spider-Man weird risky move that paid off, Spider Island
Image Courtesy Of Marvel

Now you might be thinking, “The weirder, the better, then.” If you put Spider-Man in the strangest situations, gold must come out, right? You wouldn’t be far off, there. Look at SPIDER ISLAND and COMING HOME.

SPIDER-ISLAND is one of the most memorable events in Dan Slot’s run. The idea that everyone in Manhattan gets spider powers and mutates into giant spiders controlled by a spider queen is pretty out there. Armadillo-level out there. However, it works as it’s one of the most fun stories in his catalog, and it still provides character growth.

COMING HOME is strange. Ancient beings from another dimension on a quest to eat animal spirit totems is bizarre. However, this provides the scene to one of Spider-Man’s hardest fights, and the moments of character for Peter stick with us. This story even gave way to another fantastic story — SPIDERVERSE. It’s clear that when you go weird with Peter, things go right.

Maybe Weird SPIDER-MAN Isn’t Good

Spider-Man One More Day
Image Courtesy Of Marvel

Is the weird theory true for all his stories, though? Some of the strangest stories have gone down as the worst in comic book history, even though tremendous writers like J. Michael Straczynski wrote them. For example, clones have always had a touchy relationship with Peter. CLONE SAGA’s reception with fans is murky at best. It gave us Ben Reilly and Kane, but was dragged out and convoluted. Even its spiritual sequel, CLONE CONSPIRACY, has a notorious reputation.

Then there is ONE MORE DAY. This comic has been ripped apart and beaten down repeatedly. Instead of jumping on the dogpile, I will focus on where the weird went wrong. It messed with Peter in a way that felt insincere to the character. The choice to give up his marriage for Aunt May’s life felt forced for Peter.  Even though the comic’s writer is hailed as one of the greats, it still went wrong. Straczynski understands the character better than many writers tackling Spider-Man, but this went in such a strange direction for his character that it felt too far for many fans.  So if these didn’t work, then what is the right move?

Risk and Reward

Spider-Man v.s. The ARMADILLO,
Image Courtesy Of Marvel

At the end of it all, writing for Spider-Man is a risky task. His versatile story possibilities are tantalizing. Peter is a complex character, and the characters around him shine just as bright. This abundance of possibilities leads to a never-ending array of story opportunities, and that’s why it’s risky. For every story leading down a path of greatness, there is another that leads to disappointment — or more clones. However, isn’t that part of the Parker Charm? Writers write him because there is so much that can happen, and we read his stories for the same reason. From the grounded interactions in Peter’s life, to the alien symbiotes pretending to be clothing — we take the risk because the rewards are worth it.

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