You’re going to need a little nerd backstory on this one, so please bear with me. I’m going to tell you why I stopped collecting comic books. It wasn’t only because they became far too expensive a habit for me to sustain. It wasn’t only because my children were born and I suddenly had new priorities. These things may have been factors in the overall decision to abandon a much-loved 25-year obsession, but there was one pivotal moment that turned the tide and made me done. That moment was Amazing Spider-Man #545.
In this issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey is trying to save his Aunt May from death, and in so doing decides to make a deal with the (literal) devil, sparing his aunt in exchange for his marriage. His aunt is saved, and history is rewritten so that he was never married, and I swore to never buy another issue of Amazing Spider-Man again. No, seriously. This was completely out of character for Peter, who used to have some principles in regards to making deals with devils. And it was clearly an editorial choice rather than a story choice. The Editor-in-Chief publicly stated that a married Spider-Man was not relatable to new readers and kids. It got so contentious that the writer of the story refused to write it, and refused to put his name on it, so the official writer credited for that particular issue was the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel at the time. It ruined my idea of the character, and I just couldn’t read any more going forward, knowing that this was a Spider-Man who now behaved this way. Wolverine? Sure. But not Spider-Man.
Without Spider-Man, the bedrock of my fandom, all of the other stuff began to fall away as well. Soon I stopped buying comics altogether, completely disillusioned and annoyed by the whole thing. The comics went into storage and I moved on. But here’s the problem; I made a bucket list of 100 things I would love to do before I die in 2079 from the explosion I save the orphans from. On that list is “collect every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.” And now I have fallen very far behind.
I could amend the list. I know this. I swear to you that I know this. But it is still there in the back of my mind, that completist collector mentality telling me that I gotta catch ’em all. There are gaps in my collection, holes that need to be filled in. It’s driving me crazy. It wasn’t so bad when they were all hiding in my sister’s basement, but now they are back and they are taunting me.
So last week I walked over to the comic book store for the first time in forever, and I picked up the last few issues of Amazing Spider-Man. My principles were defeated by my neuroses. I gave Marvel Comics some of my money and I brought home the comics I swore to never read again. And then I read them. They were okay. Peter Parker is now the head of a multi-billion dollar corporation that creates spider-themed Apple Watches. You know, totally relatable to new readers. Makes total sense. And his wife is still around, just dating Iron Man or something, and nothing makes sense and everything is dumb, but the new villains are cool and the banter is witty. Maybe it’s okay. And maybe Spider-Man is a little more relatable to me now, since we have both abandoned our principles and succumbed to the dark temptations of our inner souls. Or at least our uncontrollable neuroses.