Walk the Line: Peter Parker Is a Filthy Liar
Back when the internet was shiny and new, superdickery.com was my favorite site to visit during downtime at school. Chock-a-block with covers featuring Superman–perhaps the biggest jerk in DC Comic’s long history–being mean to his friends or refusing to save large groups of innocents on ridiculous grounds, the site didn’t have to work very hard to be funny. Alas, Superman usually had a reason to pick on Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane or Pat Boone, but sometimes being a hero means that you’ve got to walk the line between savior and pariah. Heck, most superheroes are breaking the law by suiting up. Walk the Line, then, will examine those less-than-virtuous decisions our heroes make to keep the streets safe for us normaltons. We begin with Peter Parker, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Peter Parker began his superheroic career as a poor, poor man and, despite the fact that he invented a super-fantastic adhesive as a teenager and sold his soul to the devil, the guy has remained poor for sixty-plus years. You’d think that a man with an intellect like his, not to mention the proportional strength and abilities of a spider, would be pretty well set for life, but, for all the talk about what Spider-Man is (menace! nerd! freak!), I’ve never seen anybody accuse him of being a financial mogul.
Peter, outside the occasional stint as a member of the Fantastic Four or the (New) Avengers, has never experienced truly gainful employment. J. Jonah Jameson ruined his shot at showbiz by printing up a bunch of anti-Spidey screeds, he’s too nice to consider robbing any banks, and Lord knows that public school science teachers aren’t exactly rolling in the dough. For a brief minute, however, there was hope: the exciting world of freelance photography was practically begging for an individual of Parker’s particular talents, as a world of superheroes and daily cataclysm required a photog capable of withstanding an onslaught. Despite his relative lack of funds, Pete had a camera, and looked to be set for the big time.
The thing about photographing a supervillain while wearing a costume and trading fists with the subject is this: It’s got to be really, really hard to get anything close to good. For most of his career, Parker would usually web his camera to a street lamp or a window sill and set the thing to automatic. Consider that. While fighting a guy like the Green Goblin, who rode a rocket-propelled boogie board with front-mounted rocket launchers (the sixties were all about rockets), not only was Peter Parker trying not to die, not only was he trying to apprehend his nemesis, not only was he trying to avoid arrest, and not only was he trying not to have his secret identity exposed–he was trying to steer the action towards his lonely instamatic, snapping what he hoped wouldn’t end up being blurry crowd shots. When it comes down to it, providing Aunt May with dinner for the evening was much more important than protecting any given citizen. That’s how poor he was. That’s also why I’ve never questioned his allowing Aunt May to marry Dr. Octopus, who, insane though he was, had money.
Public endangerment is one thing (part of the job, you could say), but I never figured Spider-Man for a real criminal, capable of actual misdeed. He got that line from his dying uncle, after all, that with great power came great responsibility, and with last words like that hanging over a guy’s head, there’s no way he’s falling off the straight and narrow. Besides, Spidey’s a regular guy like us; poor, publicly educated, slave to a crap job, dogged by the mainstream media and the subject of untold amounts of abuse from egomaniacal bosses and hopeful masters of the world. He lives in a suburb. He cares for his elderly aunt. He married his high school sweetheart. And he’s also committed libel:
That’s right. He’s a liar. A dirty, no-good liar. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the first thing he thought about doing with his fabulous powers was to become a famous stage act, his third thought–after thinking that he would make a half-decent crimefighter–was to fabricate the events of his fight with the Sandman, who he had just sucked into a vacuum cleaner. I mean, it’s ingenious, and it’s not like the Bugle’s subscribers are ever going to know the difference between the Sandman and actual sand (why the guy has never pulled a robbery on a beach, I’ll never know), but it is unethical, not to mention incredibly self-serving. Where, for instance, is the shot of him actually beating the Sandman? Did he need to find another vacuum cleaner? Did he steal one? Or did he just leave the sand on the floor for the janitor to sweep up in the morning?
While understand why he feels the need to lie to his boss about how he gets pictures of Spider-Man fighting guys like the Vulture, Electro, and Doctor Octopus, the fact that our earnest wall-crawler is unapologetically lying to the Daily Bugle’s readership is downright unforgivable. He even thinks that it’s somewhat amusing, which is all the more disturbing, because the motto that compels him to fight guys like the Sandman in the first place apparently doesn’t apply to the concept of journalistic integrity. This from a guy who often shakes his fists at the editorial machinations of J. Jonah Jameson, who has also shown a blatant disregard for the truth in matters relating to Spider-Man.
The strange thing is that the Sandman is right there in that vacuum cleaner while the ol’ webhead blathers on about faking the fight for the benefit of the Bugle. I know he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but Sandman can probably read, and he’s certainly broken out of jail. Most vacuum cleaners aren’t soundproof, you know? Sure, he’d have to admit a weakness to the incredible power of the Dyson ball, but he’d be unmasking and disgracing Spider-Man were he to put two and two together and call a press conference. I understand that it’s not as maniacal a scheme as most supervillains prefer, but c’mon–the guy got beaten by a vacuum cleaner. How much lower can one sink?
And I’m sure everybody will be really happy that Parker got to take his pictures when there’s a fire in that building with no sand to put it out. Boy, that Spider-Man. What a jerk.
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.