Spider-Man: Life Story | A love letter for the character
What if time would pass normally for superheroes? They change, they get reinterpreted or rebooted, but they (almost) never grow old. Batman has roamed the street of Gotham City since 1939, technically. And Spider-Man has been swinging over New York for almost sixty years now. Spider-Man: Life Story turns the table on this and looks into what would happen if time went by for superheroes too.
In this miniseries written by Chip Zdarsky, drawn by Mark Bagley – already well known to Spider-Man lovers, in particular for the series of Ultimate Spider-Man– and colored by Frank D’Armata, the reader witnesses the story of Peter Parker from a historical point of view. From the 60s to the 2010s, Spider-Man has to deal with his enemies but also with himself and the issues that ageing brings with it. A different Spider-Man than usual, but perhaps closer to the readers than ever.
The relentless race of the clock hands
Spider-Man: Life Story aims to place the character in the actual history of the USA. For example, Peter Parker finds himself reflecting on his responsibility toward the Vietnam War. Should he enlist? Since Spider-Man possesses out-of-the-ordinary powers, it would be worth exposing himself to help the soldiers, Iron-Man and Captain America are already doing it.
This sets up the themes that Peter Parker will have to face during all the other decades. He doesn’t know if his job is to continue being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, or whether to engage in bigger battles. The ordinary people would feel abandoned. He doesn’t have all the time in the world to do whatever he chooses to do. Peter faces a journey of awareness, of hope in making the world a better place despite limitations, including age. In addition, the character’s thoughts blend with American history, as if reality and fiction intertwine, influencing each other – something similar to Don Rosa‘s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.
In doing so, Zdarsky retraces most of the major series involving Spider-Man, like Kraven’s The Last Hunt, the introduction of Venom, the death of Gwen Stacy, Civil War, the Clone Saga. The author slightly changes these events to make them coherent and to build them up like a burden on Peter’s shoulders. After all, Spider-Man is like the Batman from The Dark Knight Returns. The time spent being heroes changed not only the way they act, but also their values and priorities.
With great power comes great… guilt
In Spider-Man: Life Story time is the hinge around which the whole story revolves. As Peter Parker ages and matures, his priorities change. If at the beginning Spider-Man is light-hearted and irreverent as always, as the years go by Peter Parker becomes more serious, less inclined to play: the loss of beloved people weighs like stone.
Spider-Man finds himself thinking about his role, and what he had to sacrifice to be Spider-Man. With great power comes great responsibility, namely doing everything possible to do good. Peter feels as if, with little time available and his own human limits, his “everything possible” is still not enough. At some point, it’s like Spider-Man doesn’t enjoy being Spider-Man anymore. He could even stop being a superhero. But is it really the right path?
Anyone is indispensable
Spider-Man: Life Story is a love letter to the character but also a hymn to hope. Peter Parker, despite his powers, is a man like everyone else, who wonders about his place in the world and whether he is, after all, so indispensable.
Zdarsky has expanded on this concept with another volume, Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1, about the famous journalist J. Jonah Jameson.
The problem with the miniseries was that I didn’t have the room to properly tell the life story of one of my all-time favorite characters: J. Jonah Jameson!Chip Zdarsky on Marvel.com
Jameson is still obsessed with Spider-Man and continues to regard him as the source of all evil. Spider-Man: Life Story and Annual are two stories joint by the same thematic thread and which complement each other. Even Jameson’s is a journey of redemption and awareness, in realizing that Spider-Man is just a man like him and that he too can do his part.