DEATH IS the dominant subject in comic books right now.
Two major story lines, one each from the "Big Two" publishers (Marvel Comics and DC Comics) are ongoing and have fans excited to pick up the newest installments.
At Marvel, the big news recently was the death of Peter Parker in landmark issue No. 700 of Amazing Spider-Man. The story, which concluded the run of the title (which was relaunched as Superior Spider-Man), garnered mainstream media attention and won over fans who were reluctant at first.
"A lot of people, when it was first announced and first happened, were flipping out and asking 'How can they do this?' There was a lot of fan outrage," said Chris Proulx, co-owner of Double Midnight Comic and Games in Manchester. "But once they bought the issue where it all happened and then Superior Spider-Man came out, it became clear what Marvel was doing and people glommed on to it. And everybody knows Peter Parker will eventually be back."
Parker's body itself is not dead - this being comic books after all - that's why Proulx and fans are confident that the "real" Spider-Man will return someday. But just how did it get to this point?
Spider-Man's longtime enemy, Doctor Octopus, was dying and his mind and Parker's were switched, so when Doc Ock's body died, Peter's consciousness inside Ock also died. But the Doc Ock version of Spidey won't be a bad guy in Superior Spider-Man. Doc Ock wants to be a good guy. In fact, he wants to be a better guy.
"In the end, Peter will end up seeing through Doctor Octopus' eyes how he can be a better Spider-Man than he was," Proulx said. "That's Doc Ock's whole thing, that he can be a better Spider-Man."
Even with a higher price tag (due to the increased page count), No. 700 flew off the shelves and a variant cover with never-before-used artwork from original Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko commanded a high price in the aftermarket.
"Issue 700 was a little tricky because it was an $8 comic. Even increasing my orders as much as I did, we still ran out," Proulx said. "They had special variant covers and those were going for ridiculous amounts online. They used an unused Steve Ditko's cover and that one was going for, like, a thousand dollars online the week it came out. There was a lot of interest in it and suddenly Spider-Man was the hottest thing since sliced bread."
Meanwhile, over at DC Comics, the ongoing story running through the Batman family of books is "Death of the Family." In that storyline, the Joker has returned and is systematically trying to take down Batman's family of heroes, such ss Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl and Red Robin.
"People are loving it. The Batman titles have seen a spike out of it," Proulx said. "We knew that we hadn't seen the Joker in a while and his comeback was going to be big. It's bringing in people who haven't picked up Batman since the (New 52) re-launch last year."
The team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have been hitting on all cylinders in the Batman universe and show no signs of stopping.
"Snyder and Capullo haven't hit a down note and from what I hear, they have some crazy stuff coming up and will try to outdo themselves," Proulx said.
So there you have it, some cool stories to check out in the comic book world featuring two of the most popular heroes on the planet in Batman and Spider-Man. So get out to your local shop and start reading.Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Check out his podcast "Nerdherders" on iTunes or at www.3nerds.us, and his books, "Prophecy of Shadows" and "Plains of the Past." His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.