I wrote, recently and perhaps too passionately, about how important Spider-man’s marriage was to me. It was an argument that hinged on responsibility, for yourself and your spouse, and I said “a marriage is a near-perfect symbol for Spider-man”. There was just one reason I had to add a qualifier to perfection: the recent Renew Your Vows storyline has shown me that Spider-man should be more than just married; Spider-man should be Spider-dad.
There’s spoilers ahead for issue one of this storyline.
If we’re talking about responsibility, what greater responsibility is there than parenthood? A child needs your guidance, protection, support, care. If you don’t provide it, who will? And if Spider-man is the everyman, the hero, the moral heart who can tackle the complicated moral questions, then Spider-dad makes perfect sense. Because if getting married changes the way you view the world, having a child irrevocably and catastrophically upends it. A simplistic Spider-man fights the good fight, always and without question. But Spider-dad has a new priority: his child. Can he fight the good fight and be a good father at the same time?
Renew Your Vows takes, what I think is, the right approach: Spider-dad puts his child above all else. So, to protect his daughter, Spider-dad abandons the Avengers, kills Venom, and hangs up his tights while a super-villain takes over the world. He has no choice. Helping the Avengers means his daughter is unprotected from Venom. And Venom swears he won’t stop until his daughter is dead. And going solo against the super-dictator likely means his daughter won’t have a father anymore.
In his own words, Spider-dad “learned what trumps great power: an even greater responsibility.”
Sadly Renew Your Vows isn’t a new status quo. It’s essentially a What-If? tale, an alternate reality, and so it’s very brief. I’d love to see a longer, slower take on Spider-dad. We’ve got bunches of heroes with few to no ties, who can charge into a battle without a care save, perhaps, a sense of self-preservation. But there are hardly any parent superheroes. Picture this:
Spider-dad has to pick up his daughter from school so she’s not left walking dangerous streets alone. But he’s interrupting a bank heist. So he has to let the crooks escape.
Full-time work, heroics, and late night feeds means Spider-dad is getting even less sleep than usual. Now he’s getting sloppy and making mistakes.
Being a Spider-baby is making his daughter ill. Contemporary medicine can’t help. But a super villain has a cure, and blackmails Spider-dad into doing a few jobs for him.
I called Spider-man the moral heart of the Marvel universe. And, at first glance, the moral heart can’t let crooks escape (they’ll hurt someone else), can’t get sloppy (someone could get hurt), and certainly can’t be an errand boy for a super villain. But I don’t want to compromise Spider-man. He should always try to do the right thing. But a moral heart, as I mentioned before, sometimes has to tackle complicated questions. And Spider-dad could ask, and maybe answer, a beautifully complicated question:
“Can anything I do be wrong if I’m doing it for my daughter?”
I want to read that comic. I want Spider-dad.
Does whatever a daddy can,
Diaper change, midnight feeds,
Morally uncertain deeds,
Hey man, here comes the Spider-dad.
See? Now you want Spider-dad too.
★★★★★ – “A very good twist on the superhero genre”