With great power, comes great responsibility. A timeless phrase with a powerful meaning. While it didn’t originate in comics, it was the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man that solidified the adage, transforming it into one of the most iconic comic book lines of all time.
Even if you haven’t ingested a single piece of Spidey content, the famous line tied heavily to Pete’s Uncle Ben has probably been ingrained in your memory by now. The line has been a major part of Peter Parker’s life for years, guiding the troubled hero through his hardest moments and reminding him why he dons the suit every day. But what happens when you don’t have great power anymore? What would Peter Parker do if he never became Spider-Man?
That question has been answered in the pages of The Amazing Shutterbug #1, a one-shot connected to Marvel’s new Heroes Reborn initiative. Heroes Reborn sees the Marvel universe completely altered, with many of its heroes having never existed in the traditional sense. In this world, Captain America was never found frozen in ice, Reed Richards never became Mr. Fantastic, and yes, Peter Parker never became Spider-Man.
This is a huge change in Peter’s life, and the question soon becomes what Peter’s life would be like if he never received that fateful spider bite. Thankfully, we’ve got your answers right here. Longtime NOC ally — and Amazing Shutterbug writer — Marc Bernardin sat down and answered some questions for us, detailing Peter’s new origin, the obstacles he now faces, and the story behind a modern revision of that iconic “great power” line. You can read the interview below, but be warned, there’s major spoilers for The Amazing Shutterbug #1 are throughout.
So first, I have to ask, tell us a little about how this story came to be? What events transpired that led to you writing essentially an alternate telling of Peter Parker’s origins?
Bernardin: The events are pretty simple, really. Editor Devin Lewis had hired me to write an American Kaiju story for their “King in Black Venom” event and I guess I didn’t crap the bed too badly, because he reached out right on the heels of that to see if I wanted to take a swing at a spider-less Spidey.
I love that despite having no powers, Peter is still a very optimistic and intelligent character at the beginning of The Amazing Shutterbug, even creating little “spider drones” to help with work. Was it important for you to keep that innovative aspect of Peter Parker alive even in this alternate take?
Yeah, it was very important for the Peter we meet at the beginning of The Amazing Shutterbug be a Peter we can all recognize. He’s still that crazy-smart kid from Queens who still has problems with bullies and is still sweet on the girl next door. The effects on Peter from the deviation of the timeline needed to feel small at first, but as time went on, those effects would deepen. And darken.
One of the biggest changes to Peter’s origins is the death of his Aunt May before his Uncle Ben. What influenced this decision?
Similarly, part of what makes Peter Peter is that hole in his life, the crater left by the loss of a loved one. I felt like we’d seen the death of Uncle Ben so many times, that to take Aunt May from him would feel like a fresh hell for Pete to have to endure. And I think there can be a distance between men that would feed into Peter’s isolation. Aunt May would be all up in Peter’s face in the wake of tragedy, never letting him spiral the way we see him spiral here. But maybe Uncle Ben doesn’t have those tools.
Speaking of Uncle Ben, we also get a change to his iconic “With great power, comes great responsibility” line. Tell us a little about the change, and what the new line might mean for this Peter Parker’s journey going forward.
I wanted to speak directly to those people who find themselves turning to the dark side of our world when they feel alone, disenfranchised, or powerless. So many of the extremist or hate groups out there prey on those emotions. On that sense of despair. So if Ben was talking to that kid, that version of Peter, it’s not about what to do with this new power, it’s how to feel value without power. And that normal, non-spidery people change the world all the time.
So it’s pretty clear that Hyperion’s involvement in his aunt’s death has caused Peter to look at superheroes differently. It gives us an interesting look at heroes from the perspective of someone who used to be a proud member of their ranks. Is Peter going to have this perspective going forward with Heroes Reborn?
If we get to see more of thisPeter Parker, I think he’d be wrestling with the roles of heroes in the world. The recklessness of massive power. It’s something Marvel’s always been great at examining: What’s the fallout of heroism?
Every writer brings a little bit of themselves into their work. What’s something about The Amazing Shutterbug that really resonated with you during the writing process?
I was an entertainment journalist for a long time and while there’s lots of good work to be done in that field, it can feel a bit less than important at times. Especially compared to the strong work being done by journalists investigating government corruption or police overreach. And when Peter chafes at simply snapping pictures of heroes — the celebrities of the Marvel Universe — that’s a chafing I’ve felt before!
We got to see some of Peter’s supporting cast here. His aunt and uncle, Flash Thompson, even a Mary Jane mirage outside his window. Did you toy around with the idea of introducing any other classic Spidey characters?
Devin Lewis and I went back and forth on this a lot: How many legacy Spider-Man characters did we need to sell it as a Peter Parker story and how many felt like too many? And there was a whole list we were batting around. But we settled on this small cast because it needed to be a story about Peter Parker, not the World of Peter Parker, you know?
This isn’t your first time working with Marvel, and certainly not your first comic book rodeo. If you could give any other character the Heroes Reborn one-shot treatment, who would you pick?
Well, James Howlett: Veterinarian would certainly have been interesting…
I think this is the question on everyone’s minds. Are we getting an Amazing Shutterbug #2, a continuation of your time with this version of Peter, any time soon?
Nothing on the horizon at the moment, but never say never…
Finally, outside of TAS, where can fans of your work expect to see you next?
I’ve got an original graphic novel called Adora and the Distance coming out from Comixology early this summer. And on July 23, you can hit Netflix to watch Masters of the Universe: Revelation, for which I wrote an episode.
Make sure to pick up a copy of The Amazing Shutterbug #1 today!