The Shocking Amazing Spider-Man Plot Twist That Inspired Death Threats
Poor Spider-Man. Five years after the webslinging superhero was forced to retroactively erase his marriage to Mary Jane in a desperate deal with the devil (true story), things are about to get even worse for Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man #700, a issue so controversial that it inspired numerous death threats against the book’s long-time writer Dan Slott. So what could happen to Spidey that would make his satanic retroactive divorce look tame in comparison?
Warning: Spoilers follow.
Simple. In Amazing Spider-Man #700, a finale issue illustrated by Humberto Ramos that concludes the long-running series launched in 1963, Spider-Man dies, and supervillain Doctor Octopus secretly takes over his body to become the new Spider-Man.
After a climactic confrontation where Peter Parker forcibly transfers his memories — and apparently, his morality — into the mind of his body-stealing enemy to make him a better man, the physical form of Doctor Octopus expires, taking Peter with it. Reborn as a hero, but still somehow a pompous jerk, Doc Ock declares that he will become a superior Spider-Man, a turn of phrase that segues neatly into the January launch of the comic book Superior Spider-Man, starring Doctor Octopus as Spider-Man.
When the news about Spidey’s demise reached the internet, the reactions from readers were swift and often deeply emotional — par for the course in the passionate fandom of superhero comics. But now that social media has all but dissolved the distance between creators and fans, the outrage once vented on the letters page months after the fact now arrives immediately — and loudly — on the personal Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of comic book creators. In Slott’s case, this meant a long series of Twitter death threats where readers actually tagged the writer in their tweets.
“Did I know fans were gonna be passionate about this? Sure,” Slott told Wired. “When we started dropping hints about what was coming up in Amazing Spider-Man #700, I was the first to make the jokes that when the issue came out I was going to have to pull a ‘Salman Rushdie.’ But let’s be honest about this. Comic fans have always been this passionate. They just haven’t always had a place to put their knee-jerk reactions that was instantaneous as the internet.”
Slott says he’s been in contact with Gerry Conway, the writer who scripted the infamous death of Spider-Man love interest Gwen Stacy in 1973, and the creators involved with the 1992 “Death of Superman” storyline, who expressed both their sympathy and relief that internet fandom still hadn’t developed the ability to deliver the full brunt of its anger to creators both instantly and en masse when their stories made headlines. “I think this is just part of the comic book fan landscape from now on,” said Slott. “That’s just the way it is.”
Be Careful What You Pretend to BeAccording to Slott, the story that summoned a thousand internet ragefaces has been in the works for 100 issues — over eight years — and offers a conclusion that is fairly shocking: at their core, Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus are not truly that different.
“[Doctor Octopus] is the bespectacled nerd caught in an radioactive mishap that made him an analog of an eight-legged creature. Sound familiar?” asked Slott. “When we first met Otto Octavius, he was just like Peter Parker at the start of [his debut in] Amazing Fantasy #15.”