It's been an open secret for years; while Marvel rule the roost when it comes to their Cinematic Universe, DC is the place to go for the best animated movies and shows. Sure, there have been times when Marvel has knocked it out of the park — who can forget Spectacular Spider-Man, or the classic 1990s X-Men? But the difference has typically been that Marvel view animated shows as 'for kids', whereas DC dare to take real risks with them — even making R-rated animated movies.
In a recent interview with CBR, #Marvel Animation Vice President Steve Wacker hinted that this might be about to change. Asked what story he'd like to see transition from the comics to the screen, he named a very specific arc — the last one he worked with Dan Slott on before heading over to Marvel Animation. The arc in question was Superior Spider-Man, and, should Marvel pull it off, that arc has the potential to transform their whole animated range.
What Was 'Superior Spider-Man'?
Spider-Man comics aren't exactly strangers to controversy; after all, this was the franchise that drew out the "Clone Saga" in the 1990s, and "One More Day" has been dividing fans ever since Joe Quesada decided to break up the Spider-marriage. Amazing Spider-Man #700 sits very comfortably among those controversial stories — to the extent that writer Dan Slott received death threats over it!
The issue was the conclusion of an arc known as "Dying Wish", in which a dying Doctor Octopus had swapped minds with Peter Parker. Peter was left in the good Doctor's dying shell of a body, while Otto Octavius took over his identity as Spider-Man. But instead of closing the story off with Peter returning to his own body, Slott showed Octavius's body fail, and Peter Parker die while within it. He did so in a heroic manner, though, one that inspired Otto Octavius with the lesson of 'power and responsibility'.
So it was that the era of Amazing Spider-Man came to an end, and — with Otto Octavius's ego added to the mix — we entered the age of the Superior Spider-Man. Otto Octavius took over Peter Parker's life, abusing his friendships and making some seriously disturbing advances on Mary-Jane (given he was possessing the body of Peter Parker, some readers compared his unhealthy interest to attempted rape). Meanwhile, he took a very different approach to the role of Spider-Man, building up an empire of minions and developing advanced technology that made him more effective than Peter Parker could ever have been. Or so Octavius told himself, at least.
But Superior Spider-Man had yet another twist in its tale, as Octavius met a beautiful young scientist, Anna, and fell in love. This love was to be his undoing when the Green Goblin struck; the Goblin knew Peter Parker well enough to see through Octavius, and used everything Octavius had built against him. To Octavius's horror, he even captured Anna!
So Superior Spider-Man ended in a tremendously powerful way, with Octavius choosing to restore Peter Parker's mind and essentially give up his own life. He knew that he'd been beaten, and only the true Spider-Man could save the woman he loved. The book ended with a brilliant confrontation between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, in which Spider-Man cracked wise — and at that second, the Goblin knew he wasn't facing Doctor Octopus. The moment was so on point that it became a firm fan-favorite.
Why Would This Transform Marvel Animation?
Where most Spider-Man animations have focused on youthful zeal and a desire to save everybody, Superior Spider-Man would be something very different. After all, it doesn't really star Peter Parker — it stars Otto Octavius. In order to make the show work, you'd have to build up the Superior Spider-Man in a similar way to the comics - a morally questionable character, whose actions are often disturbing and yet who seems to somehow be committing to the path of the hero.
It's a unique story, in that it really gets into a villain's head, allowing us to see Doctor Octopus at his worst — and at his very best. Some elements left a sour taste for readers, such as Octavius's attempt to start a relationship with Mary-Jane, but ultimately all of those were essential ingredients to make what has become a fan-favorite arc.
If Marvel Animation does indeed choose to try out Superior Spider-Man, it will require a very different approach to animated shows. You're talking a more adult series, one that dives into territory that Marvel has previously abandoned for DC, and one with a depth of character-work that would be absolutely fascinating. It would be difficult to make this work, of course; the amount of groundwork needed to establish Spider-Man's status quo ready for the arc would be tremendous. But the payoff could be immense, and could give us a Spider-Man animated story like none we've ever seen before.
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Personally, I hope that Steve Wacker pulls it off; that he finds a way to explore the Superior Spider-Man arc, creating a unique and distinctive animated show that really puts Marvel back on the map. For too long now, Marvel has been content to let DC rule the roost as regards superhero animations; this arc might just change that.
Do you want to see a 'Superior Spider-Man' animated arc?
(Source: CBR; Poll Image Credit: Marvel Comics)