Spider-Man: Life Story Is An Evolution In Comic Storytelling

by Benjamin Hall

[**Warning of spoilers for various comics including Spider-Man: Life Story (2019) and Superman & Batman: Generations (1999).]

Spider-Man: Life Story is a six issue series that explores a version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man that ages in real time starting from the year of his first published appearance (Amazing Fantasy #15 [1962]). The story’s time range goes from 1966 to his death in 2019. This means that Peter is in his twenties at the beginning of the story and dies at 72. Each issue is set in a respective decade, and shows how real world events would affect Spider-Man (and a few other marvel characters). For example how he would be indecisive on the Vietnam War due to his powers and sense of responsibility. In fact the aftereffects of his decision regarding this question end up impacting character interactions and events throughout the story. Not to mention each decade shows how, if allowed to age (and mentally mature), Peter would handle certain events differently, such as the original clone debacle (Spider-Man: The Original Clone Saga [2011]).

However, this article is not about retelling the events of this series. It is actually about how this series, while not original, is still an evolution in storytelling in the superhero genre. Yet, before an explanation of how this series evolves the genre can happen, we first must look at its conceptual predecessors. Said conceptual predecessors fall into two categories: The first involves seeing where the future could lead if some time is allowed to pass away, which happens with Kingdom Come (1997). While the second involves going to the beginning and allowing time to pass naturally, such is the case with Superman & Batman: Generations.

In Kingdom Come Superman and other heroes are aged up to a point. Yet only supporting characters are allowed final fates. This same method is mostly true for many takes on possible futures of corporate owned characters (Such as Wolverine: Old Man Logan [2010] and The Last Avengers Story #1-2 [1995]). The other method Superman & Batman: Generations also features aging characters, and supporting characters having final fates. However, we get to see the aging in a natural way with this second method, and vignettes of the main characters’ lives. While these other works use certain similar narrative methods, they fail to do so to the same degree as Spider-Man: Life Story.

Superman & Batman Generations #4 (1999) cover art by John Bryne, cover colors by Trish Mulvihill, cover color separations by Heroic Age.

Like Superman & Batman: Generations, Spider-Man Life Story gives readers the vignettes-style view of Peter Parker’s life over decades. Yet unlike Superman & Batman: Generations, readers get an entire issue to explore select events in each decade of his life. Also, unlike any of its conceptual predecessors this series, it gives us a definitive end for the protagonist. By doing these two things Marvel has space left for future stories that can fill in gaps in this Peter Parker’s life. They can use it as a launch pad to carefully build a new universe that ages characters, while maintaining their main universe of static characters. One can only hope they are smart enough to try this path while treading carefully.

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