Marvel's Longest One-Page Story

By | Monday, November 25, 2019 2 comments
Over the weekend, Brad Meltzer posted a one-page story he has in Marvel #1000. I'll post it again here...
Marvel 1000 Spider-Man story by Brad Meltzer, Totino Tedesco and 
Chris Eliopoulos
It's a touching story about how many people Spider-Man has impacted and how many lives he's saved. It's really well-executed.

But it's not really a one-page story.

True, everything you need to know to understand the basic story is there. But kind of in the same way that the Classics Illustrated version of Wuthering Heights has everything you need to understand that story. You get the basic plot and structure, but just reading that leaves out a lot of details.

Read Meltzer's story again. (It's only one page, it shouldn't take long.) What are the elements that resonate with you? Most likely...
  1. Spider-Man is very casual about saving the woman's life.
  2. He acts like he's never had anyone ask for his name before when it's clearly an ongoing recurrence.
  3. He use each one of these incidents to honor his Uncle Ben.
Except... that last point is not what's in the story. Taking that story by itself, "Ben" could be taken as Spider-Man's real name. He's never identified as Peter. In fact, there's some potential confusion there in that his first caption box, he names himself "Parker" which could be either a first or last name. So, if his name is Parker, then he's clearly lying about being called Ben, but if that's the case (again within the context of this story) why would he tell people "Ben" repeatedly?

I don't really think this is a fault in the story. Meltzer wrote this primarily, if not exclusively, for a Marvel reading audience. The people reading this will recognize Spider-Man immediately and are fairly conversant with the character. They already know the "great power/great responsibility" line, and how Spider-Man learned that the hard way when his Uncle Ben was killed by a criminal that he could have stopped previously, but chose not to out of hubris. Meltzer's story very much leans into that. He knows who will read this and what level of character knowledge they're coming to the table with.

The surface level emotional weight of this story is presented as Spider-Man's impact on people's lives, but the real emotional weight is the lasting impact Uncle Ben had on Spider-Man and how Spider-Man chooses to honor that. And that requires the reader to have read at least one version of Spider-Man's origin. Whether that's the original Lee/Ditko eleven pages in Amazing Fantasy #15 or one of the many, many retellings since then. To understand this story in its entirety, you need to have read something some other comics.

Is Meltzer's piece a one-page story? Technically yes, but not really.
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Britt Reid said...

As you point out, there are some things that are now part of pop culture.
Superman is Clark Kent, who was sent by his parents from the doomed planet Krypton, and uses his abilities to fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way!
Captain America is Steve Rogers, a scrawny 4-F who volunteered in World War II to be injected with an unproven serum which, luckily, made him superhuman!
Batman is millionaire Bruce Wayne, who became a crimefighter because his parents were killed right in front of him by a criminal when he was only a kid!
Spider-Man is Peter Parker, bitten by a radioactive spider, who failed to save his Uncle Ben when a criminal he let get away killed his elderly uncle, thus personalizing the concept of "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"!

Mikey said...

Technically Peter's not lying as his middle name is Benjamin. Like Franklin Richards his parents named him for his favourite uncle.

Personally I've always felt this upbeat and heartfelt one page finally redeemed Meltzer for what Identity Crisis did to Ralph and Sue Dibny.