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Landmark 700th issue brings new, 'Superior' Spider-Man

9:06 PM, Dec 26, 2012   |    comments
Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus have one final battle — and the winner may be a shocker — in "Amazing Spider-Man" 700.(Photo: Marvel Comics)
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After 50 years of Peter Parker as Spider-Man ,his archest of nemeses is taking over as Marvel Comics' most iconic superhero.

Out Wednesday, the landmark Amazing Spider-Man No. 700 features a final battle between the mind-swapped Parker and Dr. Otto Octavius - aka the evil Doctor Octopus - resulting in the hero suffering a possibly permanent defeat and Doc Ock standing victorious in the mind and body of Spider-Man.

But after defeating his former enemy in his own old, withering and dying body, Doc Ock isn't going to take Spidey on a quest for world domination. Instead, he learns that with great power comes great responsibility - something Parker's Uncle Ben taught him in 1962's Amazing Fantasy issue 15 - and begins a new era for the character in the pages of Superior Spider-Man. It launches Jan. 9 as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative.

"This is Moriarty in the head of Sherlock. This is Prince John inside of Robin Hood. This is the greatest villain inside the body of the greatest hero and trying to do good," says writer Dan Slott, who moves from Amazing to Superior Spider-Man with rotating artists Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos and Giuseppe Camuncoli.

Slott began planting the seeds for this change in status quo back in Amazing issue 600, where it was revealed that Doctor Octopus had only a year to live after so many battles with the web-spinning do-gooder.

With his master plan achieved, Doc Ock is left to pose as Parker in the world of Spider-Man, interacting with folks like Peter's Aunt May and love interest Mary Jane Watson and doing battle with his old pals in the new Sinister Six, such as the Vulture.

Change is coming not only to the hero but also to the book's tone, says Superior editor Stephen Wacker. "We want to do Spider-Man by way of Batman - a little creepier and darker."

One essential aspect of Amazing Spider-Man 700 that leads into the new book is Doc Ock having a Scrooge-esque moment when he realizes what Peter Parker's life has been like, from the deaths of people close to him to the struggles he's had living the life of a hero, and what kind of man he has to be going forward.

"It's also what the good part of our first year of Superior is about: Doc behaving in a manner he's not accustomed to. We see a more sympathetic side of Doctor Octopus," Wacker says. "We couldn't have a Spider-Man who was running around murdering people. And I have no interest in seeing that sort of character win."

Adds Slott: "This is a guy who was a couple steps way from a bucket list, and now he's got a whole new lease on life. That's really going to change him."

Doc Ock will falter at times in his performance as Peter Parker, and he'll have to get out of the way of his own huge ego and villainous tendencies to reach his goal of being the superior Spider-Man.

It's definitely a different sort of hero's journey than comic fans are used to seeing.

"Peter Parker was selfish and horrible for all of part of one story. From then on, we've seen him be a hero," Slott says, referring to Spidey's origin. Doctor Octopus, though, "has a lot to overcome, and on some level, that road of salvation and stepping up and doing the right thing, it's more interesting to see it from a character who has to fight his basic nature to do that."

Fans don't have to wait long to see what happens next - Wacker hid an augmented-reality execution on a page of Amazing 700 where readers can find out the opening plot of Superior Spider-Man using the Marvel AR app on their smartphones or tablets.

So far, Slott says he has enjoyed writing Doc Ock to be younger than before. "Doc is kinda like me: He's short and schlubby. This is a guy who now gets to be in the body of Peter Parker. This opens up whole new things."

Yet it also opens the floodgates of criticism from fans on the Internet and social media about not wanting a Spider-Man book without Peter Parker.

From Parker's first appearance in the 1960s, the teen science nerd had to live with grief from kids at school. And when he put on the Spidey mask and thwipped through New York City, the public at large considered him a punk and a menace.

"He had to be a hero in his own eyes, and on some level Otto Octavius is facing that struggle not with Spider-Man's world but with the readership," Slott says.

"How do you get more Peter Parker than that? Now the readers think he's a menace. That's exciting. On a meta level, that is Spider-Man."

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