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Why the reticence to believe that Spider-Man’s childhood molestation is canon?

August 16, 2013

spidermanpowerpackc

Over the past several months I’ve noticed a number of people have linked to my discussion of the Spider-Man/Power Pack child abuse comic, in which a young, impossibly adorable Peter Parker was molested (off-panel) by Skip Westcott, an older friend. I’m glad the comic is getting some exposure, because it’s a surprisingly potent little giveaway from the 1980s, an era when gratis heroes were usually hanging with the Dallas Cowboys and battling tooth decay. However, I’ve noticed a number of commenters putting up their hand and proclaiming “BUT THIS ISN’T CANON.” They’re probably right, in a technical sense — but this got me to thinking. 

This canon business is fine, in and of itself. Genre fans whose treasured properties are farmed out to various media are rightfully obsessed with what’s the “real” story, what counts in the universe score sheet. Again: this is fine. But — and I could be way, way off — there seems to be another element at play here. It’s as if people are eager to proclaim that this child abuse story isn’t canon, not because it’s from a one-off giveaway, but because it says that Spider-Man was molested when he was a kid. This feels wrong — it’s as if those denying its (admittedly dubious) status as canon are afraid of Spider-Man being molested, as if that would somehow diminish the character. And if that’s the case, it would be insidiously wrong, and would totally miss — in fact undermine — the whole point of the comic. Why couldn’t Peter Parker have been abused as a child? Would that really make him less of a hero? Would that really infringe on the precious continuity?

Again, I could be way off. Just wanted to vent on this. And, on the subject of canon as it refers to a character who’s been married, unmarried, and hardly aged in over fifty years, well, as Alan Moore said regarding the status of his final story for the Silver Age Superman being “imaginary”: Aren’t they all?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2013 5:02 pm

    Thanks for this post. I think you are spot on in your speculation on the reasons people are reticent to accept this as part of the story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man.

    I think that in his role as site for deep identification and wish fulfillment for superhero comic enthusiasts admitting that Spider-Man can be THAT vulnerable is to indicate a kind of lack of control over life’s circumstances that fans of comics are often trying to escape in their reading. Spider-Man is supposed to be about responsibility (it’s HIS fault Uncle Ben died), but how does being molested as a child fit into that framework?

  2. August 17, 2013 5:27 pm

    Its a good edition to educate readers on sexual abuse, they should be known and options to buy them. With national numbers in the back? Best i can remenber was captain planet and the village people.

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