This would be a finite series lasting several years retelling Spider-Man’s story in a closed setting, outside the Marvel Universe, the Ultimate Universe or any other existing fictional world. It’s vaguely inspired by Naoki Urasawa’s manga Pluto, which spent eight volumes on a new version of the classic Astro Boy adventure “The Greatest Robot in the World” from a different perspective with a modern sensibility. I’m well aware of the multiple retellings of Spider-Man’s origin, which have varied from excellent (the first five issues of Ultimate Spider-Man) to redundant (Spider-Man Season One) but there could be something to this tale that we haven’t seen since Amazing Fantasy #15.
Every subsequent version of Spider-Man’s origin is shaped by the knowledge that we’ll soon see the likes of Doctor Octopus and the Alien Costume, that the story is the setup to a standard superhero series with a somewhat safe status quo. What would make this title unique is that—in this world—Peter Parker gaining super powers from a spider bite is the only unnatural event. Everything else has to be something that can plausibly exist in New York City circa 2013, or whenever this gets published. There may be new versions of classic villains, but these have to be versions of the characters that can exist on the evening news. That bodes well for the Kingpin and Tombstone, but not so much for the Lizard and Sandman.
Ideally, the story would have a complete beginning, middle and end like Preacher, Ex Machina and Y The Last Man. It would be appropriate if the finished series were 38 issues and two annuals long, but the length would depend on whatever feels natural to the story. Marvel is short on acclaimed finite runs, which have tremendous staying power in the Graphic Novel sections of book stores.
The first arc would introduce Peter Parker as a lower middle class teenager from Queens who suddenly becomes very different in an unprecedented way, as a spider bite turns him into the only person in the world with super powers. This isn’t a world with the Fantastic Four, mutants, or even any hints that there may be supervillains. So Peter would consider using his powers to become a wrestling superstar as the alternative to other options like breaking into Fort Knox. He thinks he’s being completely moral, by choosing not to be a bad guy, even though there’s no one who can stop him. He’ll try to keep his abilities secret, so his aunt and uncle don’t get too worried. He will be quite tempted to tell Liz Allen—the girl he’s been in love with since middle school—everything, although he might scare the hell out of her when he uses his powers against Flash Thompson, the douchebag who has been bullying him since middle school.
The second arc would focus on the brief period in which Spider-Man was a celebrity. We haven’t seen that much of it, outside of David Lapham and Tony Harris’s mini-series With Great Power. He’s blowing off school to stage wrestling events under the assumption that he’ll soon become a world famous millionaire. And then his Uncle Ben is killed, and he learns the lesson about power and responsibility.
This would be a Peter Parker who doesn’t yet know how to be a superhero, who has only seen that lesson applied in comic books and movies. He has power enough to fight the criminals, but he wouldn’t really know where to find them. The Punisher may be introduced in an early storyline, as a mentor figure. Frank Castle knows a lot more about fighting crime than Spidey does, and an insecure teenager whose father figure was just murdered might think the war hero has a point about him becoming judge, jury and executioner. At least for a little while.
Norman Osborn may be introduced as a weapons designer profiting from the fear that there may be others with super powers. But this would have to be a version of the Green Goblin that can exist in the real world, at least after a masked vigilante has been somewhat successful taking the law into his own hands. Because of the finite length of the series, he might be the one recurring villain, quickly becoming Spider-Man’s archenemy.
Because the series isn’t meant to last forever, we can explore the consequences of permanent changes to the status quo. There’s no need for any retcons, because we’ll eventually get to the third act of the story. Maybe Peter Parker will quit being Spider-Man, and mean it. Perhaps he’ll accidentally go too far in a confrontation with J. Jonah Jameson. He could screw up, and lose Aunt May too. At the end of the 31st issue, Peter Parker and everyone in the book can be in a completely different place than at the end of the 13th.
This series would explore the things Spider-Man fans have always wondered. What would it be like if you suddenly had the ability to be a superhero? And what would be the consequences of a masked teenager with wedding, spider sense and the proportionate strength of a spider deciding to take the law into his own hands?