Marvel Comics’ October solicitations appear to signal yet another change of direction for Peter Parker as part of the publisher’s Legacy initiative. After a run of stories that launched Peter Parker onto the global stage as the CEO of Parker Industries, the solicitation for the renumbered The Amazing Spider-Man #789 suggests a return to the Daily Bugle and a re-emphasis on a Peter Parker that’s down on his luck. It’s possible, of course, that this is a patented solicitation fake-out and that Peter might return to the Daily Bugle in a new capacity – perhaps as its new owner. But if we take the solicitation at face value it raises an interesting question – does Peter Parker work best when he’s down on his luck?
Bad luck and Peter Parker certainly go together. No one ever said that being a hero was easy, and for Peter Parker that’s truer than most. The description of Spider-Man as a “hard-luck hero” was a central tenant of Tom Brevoort’s 2006 manifesto for the Spidey titles, though it’s been evident throughout the character’s history, going all the way back to his famous first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15. In his origin story, Peter’s joy at receiving powers and finally being in a position to take control of his own life was quickly cut short by the tragic murder of his Uncle Ben. This set the tone for Peter’s subsequent adventures: Whenever life gave him lemonade, it inevitably turned into lemons.
What helped this approach succeed was the relationship between Peter’s life in and out of costume. In the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko/John Romita Sr era, the contrast between these two aspects of Peter’s life drove forward the narrative, with events in one area inevitably complicating the other. This isn’t to say that Peter had no successes at all, only that nothing came easy to him. Over time the infamous “Parker Luck” became a running joke, including broken or empty web shooters, camera problems, missed appointments, work drama and a whole heap of girl trouble. To paraphrase the old saying, if it wasn’t for bad luck, Peter Parker would have no luck at all.
This approach is a large part of what made Peter Parker such a relatable character. He wasn’t some square-jawed paragon of virtue; he was simply someone that tried his best and gave his all, simply because it was the right thing to do. The delicious irony of his double life – that he could only make money by selling photos that demonized his costumed identity – was a perfect example of the challenges he faced daily. Peter Parker may have had super powers, but his personal life and day-to-day troubles made him a hero that many could relate to, with the “Parker Luck” being a major part of that.
However, one thing that has become increasingly noticeable about “Parker Luck” over the years is the way it can be used to complicate Peter’s life to ridiculous extremes, or worse, as a method of justifying why he is never allowed to achieve any real, lasting success in his life.
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