Spidey Doesn’t Play Well With Others is a monthly column, published every third Tuesday, by Paul DeKams that looks at stories that showcase that while Spider-Man might have many “Amazing Friends,” they don’t always get along.
Changing people’s minds is difficult. It takes repeated efforts to introduce new ideas to a mass populace, yet bad impressions seem to take hold much quicker. Spider-Man is a hero who continually gets a bad rap due to misunderstandings with the authorities and the ongoing hatred of media mogul J. Jonah Jameson.
Because of this, Spider-Man has often found himself on the wrong side of “real heroes.” Ones that have been given a stamp of approval by the papers, by the public, and by the law. In Amazing Spider-Man #71, by Stan Lee and John Romita, Spider-Man finds himself at odds with another hero with a bad reputation, Quicksilver.
While Spidey has been unjustly accused of crimes, Quicksilver (AKA Pietro Maximoff) is a character that has been on both sides of the law. At this point in the 1960s, he had been introduced as member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants followed by a redemptive arc as a member of the Avengers, followed by a brief relapse into evil mutant hood. Seeing the error of his ways, and understanding how the public at large might perceive him, Pietro felt the need to re-prove himself as a hero and returned to New York in search of his former teammates.
Quicksilver’s puts his impulsive speedster nature on display when he thinks that he’s under attack by the guy delivering the morning paper. “AM I ATTACKED?!! No…its only the morning newspaper being delivered.” Switch to decaf, dude.
After surmising that the newspaper delivery man means him no harm (for now…), and desperate to clear his name, Quicksilver decides to take action based on the headline, “Spider-Man Wanted!” Not to generalize, but mutants seem to be nearly as irrational towards Spider-Man as regular people are to mutants. There’s a serious pattern here, and both Professor Xavier and Magneto should unite in an effort to educate their students/evil mutants about tolerance for men bitten by radioactive spiders.
Glib jokes about tolerance aside, while Quicksilver is busy plotting his road to redemption, Spider-Man actually manages to clear his name! Once he gets over feeling sorry for himself (and his trademark “Parker luck”), he turns in photos to Robbie Robertson that implicate the Kingpin, and returns the mystical tablet he’s been accused of stealing to the police. All good for Spidey, time to dance the Batusi with Gwen Stacy, right?
Because neither the media nor the justice system move as fast as Quicksilver. While Spider-Man has effectively proved his innocence to the proper authorities, Quicksilver is still in pursuit thanks to what he read in the morning paper.
It’s an interesting examination of how the media affects perception. Just because someone proves their innocence, doesn’t mean that there still won’t be a segment of the populace that sees them as guilty. It doesn’t matter that there’s a new installment of the Bugle proclaiming that Spider-Man is cleared of any wrongdoing. Quicksilver hasn’t had time to read that paper.
This is a reaction that’s unfortunately all too common with human beings. We act based on “that one thing we read a while back about that guy” rather than actually working to understand things. On top of that, if something doesn’t line up with our current worldview, we’re less likely to make an effort to change our point of view.
Ultimately, Quicksilver comes to respect Spider-Man as a hero not because of what he reads, but because Spidey didn’t try to kill him while unconscious. It’s an extreme action (or inaction) that convinces him of the wall crawler’s heroism. It’s… pretty stupid, but people can be pretty stupid collectively. So sometimes our comic book counterparts like Quicksilver behave in an exaggerated manner in order to show us how ridiculous and foolish we can be.
There are some people who will never change, will never learn, and will never grow. Such as the willfully ignorant J. Jonah Jameson, who sadly has far too many real life counterparts that need no exaggeration at all to match Jolly Jonah’s behavior.
But hopefully there are more of those like Quicksilver, who can. In the course of this 20-page tale, Lee and Romita deliver a deft exploration of what it can take to alter the perception of stubborn human beings (and mutants). There are fists thrown at super speed, but ultimately when things slow down, an understanding is reached.