Growing Up Marvel: Why Spider Man is Cooler than All the Punishers and Wolverines Out There

Growing up, my friends and I went through phases of liking comics and super heros. When we were younger, it was Marvel all the way. Then the broody teens hit and it was DC or bust. And then in your twenties, it was DC’s Vertigo and alternative comics and publishers. Now, I just want a great story told as only comic books can tell.

I remember loving Marvel because it was more hyper-heroic. Bright colours, wild villains. Adventure storytelling at it’s most pure. I loved Captain American (much to the distaste of everyone around me in the Great White North), I loved the Avengers, and I loved Spider Man best of all.  But I soon got hooked on darker Marvel titles, like the X-Men, which also had a melodramatic soap opera element that made it seem more adult and sophisticated. And from there I jumped into Batman, Brave and Bold, Vigilante, and others from Marvel’s main competition.

Before jumping ship to the grittier DC universe, I remember a really compelling story from THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER MAN line. It was about the Sin Eater, a rogue Shield agent who suffered from multiple personality disorder and had become a very violent killer. In fact, his civilian ID as a private eye was helping Spider Man hunt for the Sin Eater! When Spider Man finds out it’s him, and that he killed a woman who was love with old Webhead, Spider Man goes a little nuts. Normally restraint in the use of violence, Spider Man wails on this guy. Hard.

Years later, they reintroduced the Sin Eater: crimes are being committed in a similar fashion and maybe the old villain is up to his old tricks. But when Spider Man goes to confront him at his home address, he finds the guy partially deaf, with permanent injuries from the beating Spider Man unleashed upon his candy ass. Spidey wants to be angry at this guy, but witnessing the damage he’s done to him, essentially crippling him, sends him in retreat.

I won’t spoil the end, but it was a pretty powerful story. Enough that over twenty years later I remember the final panel.

Of course, Marvel does gritty stuff all the time. Thanks to Wolverine and the Punisher, the Marvel Universe littered with anti heroes. But for all the zillions of people Logan and Frank Castle annihilated, I can’t really remember a story that was as gripping as this tale of the price of violence on a hero’s conscience,

Now go enjoy his kick ass theme song!


About ridlerville

Jason S. Ridler is a historian, writer, and improv actor. He is the author of A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA, BLOOD AND SAWDUST, the Spar Battersea thrillers and has published over sixty stories in such magazines and anthologies as The Big Click, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Out of the Gutter, and more. He also writes the column FXXK WRITING! for Flash Fiction Online. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Richmond, CA. Visit him on Facebook at
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