I've been meaning to start a thread on this topic for a while now. I was reluctant because I wanted to make sure I structured it in a way that the mods were okay with. If I don't, I apologize and if any of the mods have issues with the format, please let me know and I'll be happy to fix it.
I'm not sure how this topic will be received, but I hope it generates a discussion. It has to do with just how effective a hero Spider-Man actually is in the most practical sense of the word. By that, I mean is he really accomplishing what he set out to do when he put on the mask? Is he actually being responsible in how he operates as Spider-Man? Is he actually achieving the goals he wants to achieve?
I've thought about this for a while and on my publishing blog, a link to which is in my signature, I made the argument that he has failed on almost every level. In fact, I go so far as to say that Spider-Man is the most incompetent hero of all time and his chosen methods ensures that in the long run, he will always fail.
Now let me make one thing clear. I'm a fan of Spider-Man. I've been a fan of his since I was a kid. I don't hate the character. Granted, I don't like him nearly as much as I used to. I'm a lot more fond of characters like Silk, Miles, and Spider-Gwen these days. But Peter Parker still has a special place in my heart, even if I don't buy a lot of comics that focus on him anymore.
However, if you take a step back and really break down his methods for combating crime and irresponsibility, he's not just inept. He's downright counterproductive. The way he carries himself as Spider-Man doesn't just fail to improve the situation. He actually makes it worse and everyone he cares about is almost guaranteed to suffer because of it.
Why do I say this? Well, in my blog post, I lay out Spider-Man's methods. It usually goes something like this:
-He encounters a villain
-He fights the villain
-He makes jokes and crude remarks
-He defeats the villain
-He ties the villain up so the police can take it from there
-He occasionally smiles for the cameras and builds his public persona
I know there have been variations in the past, but that's really the main template that Spider-Man uses. Watch the old cartoon or read comics from nearly any era and this is how he goes about fighting crime. And when you actually break that method down and compare it to how other heroes operate, you come to one uncomfortable conclusion. Spider-Man does absolutely nothing actually deter crime and irresponsibility.
For one, he doesn't really intimidate or scare his enemies that much. Unlike Batman, he doesn't apply any significant psychological tactics. The only tactic he really uses is annoying people. He cracks jokes and frustrates his enemies. But he never actually scares them. And annoying his enemies doesn't dissuade any of them from becoming villains. If anything, it just gives them more reason to hate Spider-Man even more.
On top of that, Spider-Man wears a flashy, colorful, easily-recognizable costume. Day or night, everybody can usually identify him pretty quickly. Even with his Spider-Sense, that still makes him a big flashy target. That wouldn't be too bad if he didn't have a huge public persona, some of which he actively cultivates.
This is a big issue and not just because Jameson paints him as a menace. By making him a public figure, he's basically telling the entire criminal world, "Here I am! I'm the guy who's cutting into your profits and annoying you to no end! Look at me! Look at my flashy costume! Go on! Come after me! I DARE you!" That doesn't just make him a target. That gives his enemies a common threat to rally around. Nothing makes a group stronger than having a common enemy. It means criminals and villains who otherwise would not have collaborated are more likely to team up and become even more dangerous. That's not just irresponsible. That's downright regressive.
As a result, his villains don't really have a reason to be threatened by Spider-Man and, therefore, don't have a reason to stop what they're doing. They know he's not going to kill them like the Punisher. They know he's not even going to seriously hurt them. He's just going to give them over to the cops. Sure, that's inconvenient and frustrating, but they still have someone to blame. They know exactly who to go after and he's got a nice, flashy costume on top of it. And the more Spider-Man beats them, the more annoyed and angry they get. Again, that just makes them stronger in the long run.
Then, there's his loved ones. This is where Peter's failure becomes complete. I'm not just referring to the death of Gwen Stacy here either. Because of what Peter does, he doesn't just make his loved ones vulnerable. He makes it so that their suffering is inevitable in the long run. He has to get lucky every single time in order to protect his loved ones completely from his activities. His villains, as the Green Goblin knows, only need to get lucky once. In essence, the laws of probability are actively working against Spider-Man.
So in the grand scheme of things, Spider-Man has failed to achieve his goals as a hero. Compared to other heroes like Batman and Daredevil, his failure is probably the most egregious of any major hero in comics right now. The saddest part is that there is a way for him to become more competent. However, doing so would mean fundamentally changing the ways Spider-Man operates and Marvel isn't going to allow that. They need to keep Spider-Man in this state because he's more marketable that way.
Again, I want to make clear that I'm not just bashing Peter here. I still consider myself a Spider-Man fan to some extent. I also don't doubt Peter's sincerity as a character. Every writer at Marvel has made clear that he wants to do good. He wants to be a hero. He wants to make the world better. That is beyond dispute. The way he goes about it, though, is just so utterly inept. The more he does what he does, the worse things get.
I go into a bit more detail in my blog post on this issue. If anyone is interested in that, here's a link:
But I also want to open up a discussion. I have a feeling my position is an extreme minority position. I'm probably not going to make many friends with this thread. I imagine even Dan Slott would roll his eyes at this, but I doubt he'll ever read this anyway so I'll just put it out there and hope for the best.
So let's have at it. Do you agree with me? Do you think Spider-Man is an incompetent hero? Do you think my assessment is wrong? I think, given Spider-Man's history, it's a topic worth discussing.