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Peter Parker's Dead, But Spider-Man Will Live On (Sort Of)

<em>The Amazing Spider-Man</em> #700 is the final issue of the series.
AP/Marvel Comics
The Amazing Spider-Man #700 is the final issue of the series.

All good things must come to an end, and so it is with Marvel Comics' web-slinging, wise-cracking superhero. Spider-Man is no more. Well, to be more precise, Peter Parker is no more.

In the 700th and final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, writer Dan Slott's controversial story saw Spider-Man's mind switched with that of his dying arch-foe Dr. Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus. The twist is that with his final effort, Spidey was able to give all of his memories and morals to his body-stealing enemy.

For all intents and purposes, however, Spider-Man as we know him is dead. Slott explained to Weekend Edition Saturday guest host Linda Wertheimer why Doctor Octopus was the right person to "become" Spider-Man.

"Doc Ock is on some level the shadow Peter Parker," Slott says. "Peter Parker ... was very resentful of all of his peers. [But] it was the ethics and things that Aunt May and Uncle Ben taught Peter that in the end made him a hero."

"With great power comes great responsibility," Uncle Ben famously told Peter, setting him off on his path for justice and duty.

In his formative years, Doctor Octopus was a similarly bespectacled nerd and outcast, much like Peter. Not having those moral guideposts following his own radioactive accident that turned him into an analog of an eight-legged creature, he adopted the path of the villain instead.

Slott's storyline now gives him a second chance. Doctor Octopus, now in the body of Spider-Man but imbued with Parker's "great responsibility," renounces his evil ways and vows to become a better, nay, a "superior Spider-Man!"

"He kind of realizes that he wasted his life on villainy," Slott says.

When word of the story started to spread, Internet Spidey senses began tingling and even prompted death threats against Slott. To Wired Magazine, he joked he was going to have to pull a "Salman Rushdie" when the issue came out.

But Slott says there's also been mix of positive reaction as well.

"There's a lot of people that realize that over 50 years of Spider-Man, that some of the best stories involve loss," he says.

Slott says that when Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man in the 1960s, they created a hero who was like us and who "made mistakes all the time." The loss of Peter Parker, in a way, is just the furthering of the story of Spider-Man's vulnerabilities.

Real loss in comic books is pretty rare, however, and many major characters, including Captain America, Superman and Batman have all been "killed" before, only to return some time later. The comic book death has become a bit of a genre trope.

So if history is any indication, we might not have seen the last of Peter Parker — he just might return as an alien, a robot or perhaps even a version of himself from the future.

Peter might have come to an amazing ending, but Superior Spider-Man goes on sale in January, starring the villain-formerly-known-as-Doctor-Octopus as Spider-Man.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.