Writing About the Webhead: Spider-Man Life Story and real life stories

“And a lean, silent figure slowly fades into the gathering darkness, aware at last that in this world, with great power there must also come -- great responsibility!” - Amazing Fantasy #15, 1962

By Charlie Stolz — Is it a bit cliché to start with that quote when you’re writing about Spider-Man? Absolutely. Did I go ahead and do it anyways? Absolutely. So yes, get those sighs out of the way now. Still with me? Okay - let’s have some fun.

When I was asked to write about Spidey for Comics Bookcase, my first thought was, “How can I convince them to let me write about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse?”, and the second was “Oh, ask if you can write about Spider-Man: Life Story.” As you can probably tell from the title, I went with the latter.

And here we are. 

Spider-Man: Life Story

Spider-Man: Life Story is a six-issue limited series (five are out now, with the finale due on Aug. 28),  written by Chip Zdarsky and drawn by Mark Bagley, with inks from John Dell and colors from Frank D’Armata. The series basically takes the 50-odd years of Spider-Man history and throws it in a blender, telling a story about a Peter Parker that ages in real-time. It’s a mixture of classic Spider-Man stories (Kraven’s Last Hunt, The Clone Saga, etc), Marvel events (Secret Wars, Civil War), and real-life events (Vietnam, disco, The Cold War, 9/11). The genius of this series is that for fans of many ages, it creates a life trajectory for the character that we can relate to, which is incredibly effective because for so many of us, Spider-Man has always been there as a part of our own life trajectories.

As someone who started reading Spider-Man comics in the mid-90’s — when the character was married with a child on the way — a good chunk of my early Spider-Man reading consisted not only of the ongoing titles, but of reprints of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko stuff and whatever trade paperbacks I could get my hands on. So I’m familiar with the character’s early years. Still, it’s been interesting for me watching the character change as I’ve grown up. 

While the adventures of an older Peter continued in Amazing Spider-Man and other titles in the main Marvel Universe line, the introduction of a younger Peter Parker with Ultimate Spider-Man in 2000 was a perfect way for me to read more relatable Spider-Man stories as a 14-year-old, who flinched (as one should) at the mention of the Clone Saga. I’m now a married adult with a family of my own, just a few years older than Peter Parker is in the current comics, and Life Story helps me put all of that time with the character in a new perspective. I can only wonder how people that have read the character for even longer than I have feel about this story.

To my mind, Life Story allows Zdarsky (fresh off his run on Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man) to take a look at a Peter Parker who grows beyond taking pictures for the Daily Bugle, applying his scientific knowledge to real world applications, working with Reed Richards at the Future Foundation, and  eventually becoming a businessman on the level of Tony Stark (who proves to be an effective antagonist for most of this series). Peter also starts a family of his own, with the requisite amount of Parker-appropriate tragedies along the way.

Aiding Zdarsky in the tale is artist Mark Bagley, who with his work on Amazing Spider-Man in the ‘90’s and Ultimate Spider-Man in the 00’s has come to be known as one of the definitive Spider-Man artists of his time. His years of experience with the character helps give the story a sense of weight, and you can tell he’s having a good time designing not just different eras of fashion, but the different eras of Spider-Man costumes as well. 

The Future of Life Story

Spider-Man: Life Story is one of those rare series that rewards readers who have prior knowledge of the character without necessarily requiring it. The current five issues should be available at your local comic book shop, with the sixth coming out later this month. For trade-waiters, a collection is coming out in early November, a great addition to any shelf and a perfect holiday gift for any web-heads in your life.

With one issue left, I’m curious about what the future holds not only for the finale to this book, but for the “Life Story” concept overall. With the announcement of Fantastic Four: Grand Design, Marvel has shown that presumably one-off ideas don’t necessarily remain so. Could there be something like a Captain America: Life Story mini down the line, or does it only exist in the margins of this one? Personally, I hope Marvel isn’t done with this concept just yet.

Charlie Stolz is a comic and pop culture nerd from the Cereal City. He can be found talking about all of those things on Twitter @Charliestolz.