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Obsession Perception #2: Taking The Mantle

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This week on Obsession Perception I want to talk about something we all read in comics and react to differently when it occurs. This is something that happens primarily in superhero comics and is very common among Marvel but even more prevalent in the DC Universe. What I am babbling on about (if you couldn’t tell by the title) is different characters inheriting or “taking the mantle” from the original characters we are used to.

Superhero comics evoke passion in fans, whether it’s a positive outlook or nerd rage, we all love “our” Batman and more recently relevant, Spider-Man. Anyone who knows me knows that Spider-Man is my all time favorite hero (as proudly indicated by the ginormous tattoo of Spidey on my thigh) so I find it interesting to read about all the controversy that has been stirred up with the events occurring within the pages of Spider-Man comics over the past couple years. As we all know Dan Slott has been writing Spider-Man for some time now and has been threatened with death over what he did to our beloved Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man #700 where as we all know that Otto Octavious “Freaky Fridayed” his and Pete’s consciousnesses essentially leaving Parker to “die” in his body and going on to become the “Superior” Spider-Man. At first I was among the few who were upset about the change (not to the point of death threats) but as I begrudgingly read on waiting for the return of “my” friendly neighborhood Spider-Man I realized that with a good, readable story in its place and with the absence of my favorite character, I grew to truly realize just how much I care really cared for and missed Peter Parker. In his absence from comics I appreciated him more than ever and took the opportunity to go back and reread some of the classics while with every issue of Superior Spider-Man I had a genuine interest and anticipation of how and when Peter would be brought back and more importantly the conflict and resolution that is bound to happen between him and Otto. Now that the announcement has been made that the “Amazing” is being put back into Spider-Man we can all breathe a sigh of relief, but I really got to hand it to Mr. Slott for invoking a new appreciation within me and really giving me a sense of not knowing what I had until it was gone. This and Superior Spider-Man in general, is an example of how the mantle of the hero could change hands from one character to another and it can be looked at negatively (at least for awhile) until the status quo is returned to what we are familiar with. I think that a big part of the uproar caused by Slott’s arc is the manner in which the torch was passed, or more so how it was ripped from the hands of a beloved hero by one of his most nefarious villains.

The manner in which the Ultimate universe’s Spider-Man torch changed hands was far different and opened the door for a character who in my opinion is one of if not the most important super hero comic character of the last decade. Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man is very highly celebrated within the Spidey mythos and his bold move of killing Peter Parker allowed him to hand the keys over to Miles Morales who not only made big steps forward for the equal rights and diversity movement currently happening in comics, but also providing a fresh, new, and fantastic Spider-Man origin story that stands on its own without altering Peter’s origin and proving that the mantle could be taken over and a story that would make Stan Lee and Steve Ditko proud could be told and capture the essence of what makes Spider-Man so important as a hero almost everyone could connect with in a big way.

Aside from the current Spider-Man comics, Marvel has written comics where the main protagonist has been replaced with version 2.0 in several books. Notably, Captain America, The title of Captain Marvel, The Nova Corps, and even Hulk being replaced in his main title. For the most part these changes tend to be temporary (with a few exceptions) and usually are taken back by the original characters. DC comics however, has a long reputation of heroes switching roles, taking over titles and costumes, and creating new roles for the previous characters once they’ve moved on. The most obvious example to point out is in the Batman mythos where the title of Robin has been taken over by no less than 5 different people by my count and soon to be 6 in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s current run on the main Batman title. The interesting thing about Robin is that the title doesn’t typically change hands due to the current holder no longer being a hero, but more so for the previous Robin to step out of Batman’s shadow (save for Jason Todd) and moving out of the sidekick position and on to being their own hero or even moving on to lead their own teams or moving to different cities to save the day. One of these heroes proved to be so significant (or at least popular) that the title of Batman was passed over to him, (even if only temporarily) that hero of course being the original Robin, Dick Grayson and then far into the future, more permanently by Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond. I think it upsets fans far less because these Robins are all chosen and trained by Bruce Wayne himself and if they’re good enough for Bruce, well they should damn well be good enough for us readers. I think there is an emphasis on this theory for Batman because although Bruce Wayne is mortal and can’t live forever, Gotham City will always have a need for Batman. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films really stressed that idea of the symbol meaning more than the actual person, even if the title of Batman never changed hands. Outside of the Bat-corner of the DCU, there have been several characters to take on the title of Flash and some heroes to take over as Earth’s Green Lantern that they make up the majority of the corps. Outside of Superman, Wonder Woman, and possibly Aquaman, it feels like DC views the title of the hero as more important than the character who takes it over. I’m not saying that the characters aren’t important or worthy, but the ideals and the title that come with the mantle tend to be bigger than the person behind the mask.

To me the idea of the passing of the torch, the taking of the mantle, or whatever you want to call it is appealing because I like the idea that at any given time, whether they’re called upon for it, thrown into it, or they take it by force in a not so heroic manner, that at any given time anyone could not only be a hero, but possibly even step into the shoes (or cape) of your favorite hero.

What are your views on this? Do you want your heroes to stay the way they started or are you okay with a new comer taking over even if only for awhile. Let us know in the comments and come back to www.all-comic.com next week for Obsession Perception.

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