Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Spider-Man 2099

I haven't written about comics since my last weekly roundup, so I figured it was time to write about something a little less heavy than religion, rape, and gender issues. After reading about the return of Spider-Man 2099 in the current Superior Spider-Man series, I figured that I'd dig out and reread the original run of Spider-Man 2099, which ran in the early 1990s.

For those who don't know, the character debuted in Spider-Man 2099 #1 back in 1992. It ran for 46 monthly issues. The basic concept was that it was the Marvel Universe of the future, and a new hero, Miguel O'Hara, adopted the identity of Spider-Man. His world was dystopian, where corporations basically ran society (unlike reality, ya know). He also stumbled into the role of hero, and instead of having a "With great power comes great responsibility moment" like Peter Parker, he gradually grew into being somebody who did the right thing.

He was different from Peter Parker in other ways as well. He was the exact opposite when it came to his sense of humor, as he tended to be more sarcastic and witty when in his civilian identity. When he was Spider-Man, he didn't say a whole lot.

Anyway, you can go to the Wikipedia page if you want the full scoop on his powers and publication history. I'd rather tell you about my thoughts on the character and the series.

When the series debuted, I was in my senior year of high school. There were some other 2099 books that came out at that time. This was the only one that I stuck with though, and much of it has to do with the writing of Peter David, one of my all-time favorite comic writers. The first artist and co-creator, Rick Leonardi, is a favorite as well. It didn't hurt that Al Williamson was on board for the inks. In fact, I seem to recall that a period in the early 90s where the only two Marvel Comics I was reading were this one and The Incredible Hulk. Considering that for most of the 27+ years that I've read comics I've primarily read Marvel Comics, that's really saying something, as they were really producing a lot of crap then.

Even though the character was called Spider-Man, and there were a few 2099 villains who seemed familiar (The Vulture, Dr. Doom, Venom, The Green Goblin) this didn't feel like a knock-off set in the future. The creators really made a whole new world with all kinds of fresh ideas. One of the best bits was Miguel's holographic servant, Lyla. She basically was supposed to look like Marilyn Monroe - only not too close for legal purposes, I guess. There were always some funny bits with her, and even a complete story where she basically went out of control and became obsessed with Miguel like some sort of Fatal Attraction situation, only with a hologram that controls your house.

The supporting characters added to the appeal of the series as well. Miguel's boss, Tyler Stone, was a sociopath, and he also turned out to be Miguel's real father. There was a really great bit where Stone was going to finally drop the bomb on the hero that he was his father, but the wind was taken completely out of his sails when Miguel informed him that he had already known about it for some time.

Then you have Miguel's mother, who's a bit of a nut and a drama queen, to say the least considering that she tried to murder Tyler Stone. Rounding out the family was Gabriel, his brother, who knew his big brother's secret and had all kinds of issues with it. Like any good comic, there were also love interests and love triangles.

Even though it really felt fresh, it still captured the heart of what Spider-Man, in the general sense, is all about. You have a hero who does what he does out of a sense of responsibility, and he's not exactly beloved by the people. His fortunes shift drastically, and one way or the other, you always find yourself rooting for him.

I should also point out that there was a Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2099 crossover special, done by the creative team of David/Leonardi/Williamson. That one was a lot of fun, as the two heroes wound up changing places in their respective time periods. Some great moments from that one included a recreation of the splash page from Spider-Man 2099 with the original Spidey in place of his counterpart, Miguel waking up in bed next to Mary Jane, and Miguel telling J. Jonah Jameson that in the future, Spider-Man is revered as a hero, and Jameson's not even a footnote.

It's probably been 15+ years since I've read these comics, and it's nice to say that they hold up pretty well. I'm sure that they will survive the next time I purge my collection of stuff I don't think that I'll ever want to read again. From what I understand, they have never reprinted the series in its entirety. Hopefully with Spidey 2099 making his return appearance in the regular Spider-Man title, there will be enough interest for that to happen and for new fans to discover his adventures. (And maybe we can convince Peter David to write a new series!)

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