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  1. #1

    Default How Flawed Should Spider-Man Be?

    One of the appeals of Spider-Man is the idea that the reader can see himself or herself in the character. He's not perfect, although the question of how flawed he should be gets to a delicate balance. If he has no flaws, he's difficult to relate to and kinda boring. If he has too many flaws, readers still aren't going to be see themselves in Peter, and they're not going to respect him. Writers might be tempted to go to one extreme, liking the character so much that they're unwilling to do anything that might tarnish him, or using the idea that he can make mistakes to justify narrative laziness.

    It is worth noting that the best Spider-Man stories do feature him making mistakes and/ or alienating the people around him. His inaction gets his uncle killed. In the Master Planner saga, he blows off people at college, traumatizes his girlfriend, and causes a lot of property damage. His friends and family are often kidnapped, and in one story his girlfriend was killed, and he went on a rampage to get her back. In Kraven's Last Hunt, he was repulsed by Vermin before he was able to see the guy as a victim of trauma. In the Harry Osborn saga, he viewed Harry as beyond saving.

    So, what's the right balance? And how much is it shaped by how long Peter Parker has been Spider-Man (IE- at what point, should he know better)?

  2. #2
    Moderator Frontier's Avatar
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    I feel like the idea of Spidey being "flawed" or capable of making mistakes is too often just used as an excuse for when he makes dumb mistakes or needs constant help from other heroes or his supporting cast. And this extends to a lot of different characters, not just Spidey.

    I'm certainly not someone who advocates for Peter to be "perfect" or incapable of making mistakes or having something bad happen to himself or someone he cares about inadvertently because of his life of Spider-Man.

    But I don't think that should prevent depicting him as a capable, mature, and intelligent person who isn't a high school kid anymore or needs to fuddle around in relationships like a man-child.

    There are flaws that add depth to the character and the story, but there are also flaws that can detract from people liking or enjoying a character.

  3. #3
    Extraordinary Member TheCape's Avatar
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    As flawed as any human being, he has good days and he has bad days, sometimes he can handle things without much trouble, other times he can screw the whole thing and has to find a way to fix the mess that he made or just reconsider his approach because some factors that he didn't forsee. Basically like a normal person, Peter shouldn't be overly sucessfull but he ain't a loser either, somedays he would win and other he won't.

  4. #4
    Formerly Assassin Spider Huntsman Spider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frontier View Post
    I feel like the idea of Spidey being "flawed" or capable of making mistakes is too often just used as an excuse for when he makes dumb mistakes or needs constant help from other heroes or his supporting cast. And this extends to a lot of different characters, not just Spidey.

    I'm certainly not someone who advocates for Peter to be "perfect" or incapable of making mistakes or having something bad happen to himself or someone he cares about inadvertently because of his life of Spider-Man.

    But I don't think that should prevent depicting him as a capable, mature, and intelligent person who isn't a high school kid anymore or needs to fuddle around in relationships like a man-child.

    There are flaws that add depth to the character and the story, but there are also flaws that can detract from people liking or enjoying a character.
    Pretty much this.
    The spider is always on the hunt.

  5. #5
    World's Greatest Hero blackspidey2099's Avatar
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    See, at this point I really think Peter is and should be portrayed as a master of everything he does - so, he should be a competent and self-assured person, a skilled and veteran hero who doesn't mess up when saving people (though he can still be outgunned by people with more powers than him), and a prodigal scientist who can build or invent anything he needs to. The flaws we should be seeing shouldn't come from Peter making mistakes, or acting immature, or just being all around stupid(ly written). The flaws we should be seeing are the flaws which extend naturally from his character.

    For example:
    - Peter is definitely on the naive side, and his "no-kill" rule and just general desire to help his villains (despite being one of the things I love about his character) has backfired more than once.
    - Peter neglecting his friends and family to be a hero, or Peter neglecting his own responsibilities to save others.
    - Peter constantly under-estimating himself and being under-confident in his own abilities.
    - Peter being an extremely emotional person which can cause him not to make rational choices.

    Flaws like that are part of the character and when used properly, make the stories more interesting. Flaws like Peter forgetting to back-up billions of dollars worth of data and then deleting it all despite having already beaten the villain trying to steal it are just plain stupid.

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member Tuck's Avatar
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    Medium. Like 9 out of 18.

  7. #7
    Formerly Assassin Spider Huntsman Spider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackspidey2099 View Post
    See, at this point I really think Peter is and should be portrayed as a master of everything he does - so, he should be a competent and self-assured person, a skilled and veteran hero who doesn't mess up when saving people (though he can still be outgunned by people with more powers than him), and a prodigal scientist who can build or invent anything he needs to. The flaws we should be seeing shouldn't come from Peter making mistakes, or acting immature, or just being all around stupid(ly written). The flaws we should be seeing are the flaws which extend naturally from his character.

    For example:
    - Peter is definitely on the naive side, and his "no-kill" rule and just general desire to help his villains (despite being one of the things I love about his character) has backfired more than once.
    - Peter neglecting his friends and family to be a hero, or Peter neglecting his own responsibilities to save others.
    - Peter constantly under-estimating himself and being under-confident in his own abilities.
    - Peter being an extremely emotional person which can cause him not to make rational choices.

    Flaws like that are part of the character and when used properly, make the stories more interesting. Flaws like Peter forgetting to back-up billions of dollars worth of data and then deleting it all despite having already beaten the villain trying to steal it are just plain stupid.
    Yeah, I can definitely work with that, too. As for him being a master of everything he does, I wouldn't necessarily go that far, but he should be at least one of those high- or upper-tier experts/specialists in what he does (best), surpassed by very few people and the people that do surpass him should surpass him because they're even more experienced and specialized in those areas than he is, not because he can't measure up. I would also say in terms of flaws, that Peter can push himself too hard and stretch himself too thin because he believes he needs to take on his heroic and personal responsibilities completely by himself instead of accepting help from others, and that might be out of a sense of pride as opposed to just guilt --- which is a somewhat overlooked flaw of his.

    We all focus on his overwhelming sense of guilt, but at least some of his reluctance to accept help from others and his taking on more than he can chew on his own could actually stem from pride, which ironically was the same thing that led him to ignore a common thief before said thief later killed his Uncle Ben, as he thought catching common crooks was beneath him, except now on some subconscious level, he thinks it's beneath him to take help from others or delegate what he believes to be his responsibilities. I would agree that Peter's lack of confidence in himself is one of his biggest flaws, except that as Otto Octavius himself realized, Peter also subconsciously sabotages himself by denying, rejecting, or overlooking opportunities or methods to be more personally successful because on some level, he believes personal success or the desire for such would distract him from his higher moral obligations, even though being more successful could help him fulfill those obligations in other ways.
    The spider is always on the hunt.

  8. #8
    Moderator Frontier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackspidey2099 View Post
    See, at this point I really think Peter is and should be portrayed as a master of everything he does - so, he should be a competent and self-assured person, a skilled and veteran hero who doesn't mess up when saving people (though he can still be outgunned by people with more powers than him), and a prodigal scientist who can build or invent anything he needs to. The flaws we should be seeing shouldn't come from Peter making mistakes, or acting immature, or just being all around stupid(ly written). The flaws we should be seeing are the flaws which extend naturally from his character.

    For example:
    - Peter is definitely on the naive side, and his "no-kill" rule and just general desire to help his villains (despite being one of the things I love about his character) has backfired more than once.
    - Peter neglecting his friends and family to be a hero, or Peter neglecting his own responsibilities to save others.
    - Peter constantly under-estimating himself and being under-confident in his own abilities.
    - Peter being an extremely emotional person which can cause him not to make rational choices.

    Flaws like that are part of the character and when used properly, make the stories more interesting. Flaws like Peter forgetting to back-up billions of dollars worth of data and then deleting it all despite having already beaten the villain trying to steal it are just plain stupid.
    So, basically, Insomniac Spider-Man ?

    I think Peter could probably invent anything he needed to but he usually doesn't have the resources (or the need) to have to do it.

  9. #9
    Mighty Member Lukmendes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackspidey2099 View Post
    See, at this point I really think Peter is and should be portrayed as a master of everything he does - so, he should be a competent and self-assured person, a skilled and veteran hero who doesn't mess up when saving people (though he can still be outgunned by people with more powers than him), and a prodigal scientist who can build or invent anything he needs to. The flaws we should be seeing shouldn't come from Peter making mistakes, or acting immature, or just being all around stupid(ly written).
    I don't really think he should be a master of everything, part of what I find interesting on him is how much of a jack of all trades he is, he isn't the strongest, or fastest, or smartest (IQ or street smart), but he has enough of each that if one can't help, he has something else to use.

    The flaws we should be seeing are the flaws which extend naturally from his character.

    For example:
    - Peter is definitely on the naive side, and his "no-kill" rule and just general desire to help his villains (despite being one of the things I love about his character) has backfired more than once.
    - Peter neglecting his friends and family to be a hero, or Peter neglecting his own responsibilities to save others.
    - Peter constantly under-estimating himself and being under-confident in his own abilities.
    - Peter being an extremely emotional person which can cause him not to make rational choices.

    Flaws like that are part of the character and when used properly, make the stories more interesting. Flaws like Peter forgetting to back-up billions of dollars worth of data and then deleting it all despite having already beaten the villain trying to steal it are just plain stupid.
    There's also things like using his own qualities to make shit harder for him, for example, in the Annual Alistaire Smythe Jr. is introduced, Kingpin actualy leaves some drug dealers around for Spidey to beat just so he can move something more valuable around, and while Spidey was fighting the Spider Slayer in the same issue, Kingpin heard about, and started to move around whatever more valuable shit he needed. I'm not sure if anything actualy came out of that, but the point is, even his own desire to help the little man can be used to manipulate him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Huntsman Spider View Post
    Yeah, I can definitely work with that, too. As for him being a master of everything he does, I wouldn't necessarily go that far, but he should be at least one of those high- or upper-tier experts/specialists in what he does (best), surpassed by very few people and the people that do surpass him should surpass him because they're even more experienced and specialized in those areas than he is, not because he can't measure up. I would also say in terms of flaws, that Peter can push himself too hard and stretch himself too thin because he believes he needs to take on his heroic and personal responsibilities completely by himself instead of accepting help from others, and that might be out of a sense of pride as opposed to just guilt --- which is a somewhat overlooked flaw of his.

    We all focus on his overwhelming sense of guilt, but at least some of his reluctance to accept help from others and his taking on more than he can chew on his own could actually stem from pride, which ironically was the same thing that led him to ignore a common thief before said thief later killed his Uncle Ben, as he thought catching common crooks was beneath him, except now on some subconscious level, he thinks it's beneath him to take help from others or delegate what he believes to be his responsibilities. I would agree that Peter's lack of confidence in himself is one of his biggest flaws, except that as Otto Octavius himself realized, Peter also subconsciously sabotages himself by denying, rejecting, or overlooking opportunities or methods to be more personally successful because on some level, he believes personal success or the desire for such would distract him from his higher moral obligations, even though being more successful could help him fulfill those obligations in other ways.
    I wouldn't say Peter sabotaging himself is happening at all, if such a thing was happening he wouldn't be working on Horizon Labs to begin with, or making PI work, and that's on Slott's own run, so it's weird for him to have said that during Superior, the problem seems to be he doesn't tend to think ahead, that's easy to notice even if not mentioned much on his stories, he's always focusing on the now and barely on the later, of course, that's one way of sabotaging himself, but not because of some weird complex which makes him think less of himself for having above average intelligence, because frankly, even though that's mentioned on Superior, I haven't seen anything indicating that, in fact, again, during Slott's run, when Peter saw people using his inventions during Ends of the Earth (Before Otto started that global warming shit), he was happy his intelligence to make those inventions was helping out people, and that was before Superior, and even after it during PI era, he seemed happy to be using his shit to better the world, even got a bit angry when Otto pointed out that Peter was using other's shit to make PI work to begin with because Otto was undermining his intelligence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frontier View Post
    So, basically, Insomniac Spider-Man ?

    I think Peter could probably invent anything he needed to but he usually doesn't have the resources (or the need) to have to do it.
    When he used to make invention to beat opponents it was basicaly, can't beat them on one round, then learn some weak point, then make some invention to beat the opponent. And while I haven't seen that much of the Horizon Labs era, it seemed that it was bringing back this silver age trait on steroids considering he made some super advanced stealth suit which is also sound proof just to beat Phil (And it becomes funnier when Anya defeated him by just filling her ears with just bubble gum, Spidey even points out how much cheaper it was lol).

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCape View Post
    As flawed as any human being, he has good days and he has bad days, sometimes he can handle things without much trouble, other times he can screw the whole thing and has to find a way to fix the mess that he made or just reconsider his approach because some factors that he didn't forsee. Basically like a normal person, Peter shouldn't be overly sucessfull but he ain't a loser either, somedays he would win and other he won't.
    Some people are major screw-ups, though.

  11. #11
    Extraordinary Member TheCape's Avatar
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    Something that i wanted to say for a while, that idea that Peter self-sabotage himself is pretty stupid, there is no evidence than that is the case, yes he has take some poor decisions in the past, but that's because he lives too much in the now and doesn't do much long term planning (probably a leftover of being in dire economic situations far too often).

  12. #12
    Extraordinary Member TheCape's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    Some people are major screw-ups, though.
    Sure some people are like that, i'm pretty sure Peter is not one of those thougth, is just that his superhero life makes everything more chaotic than usual. Screw up is not a word that i would use to described him ever.

  13. #13
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    Peter should be competent, intelligent and mature, if lighthearted.

    I don't think that flawed = broke, childish, cannot ever get his shit together.

    He isn't 15 years old anymore.

  14. #14
    World's Greatest Hero blackspidey2099's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Huntsman Spider View Post
    Yeah, I can definitely work with that, too. As for him being a master of everything he does, I wouldn't necessarily go that far, but he should be at least one of those high- or upper-tier experts/specialists in what he does (best), surpassed by very few people and the people that do surpass him should surpass him because they're even more experienced and specialized in those areas than he is, not because he can't measure up. I would also say in terms of flaws, that Peter can push himself too hard and stretch himself too thin because he believes he needs to take on his heroic and personal responsibilities completely by himself instead of accepting help from others, and that might be out of a sense of pride as opposed to just guilt --- which is a somewhat overlooked flaw of his.
    Yeah, when I said he should be a master of everything he does, I didn't mean he should be the ABSOLUTE best at everything he does (it would be weird for him to be more experienced a hero than Cap, or a better scientist than Reed) but rather that he should have reached the very pinnacle of the fields he is good at (so superhero-ing, science, and just generally a competent hero). So I completely agree with you.

    I also like that flaw you pointed out in that Peter stretches himself too thin (btw I didn't mean my short list in my post to be every single flaw he should have, since I just came up with it in a couple minutes and there''s a ton more points people have made in the thread that are good flaws for Peter to exhibit) since it's totally true.

    We all focus on his overwhelming sense of guilt, but at least some of his reluctance to accept help from others and his taking on more than he can chew on his own could actually stem from pride, which ironically was the same thing that led him to ignore a common thief before said thief later killed his Uncle Ben, as he thought catching common crooks was beneath him, except now on some subconscious level, he thinks it's beneath him to take help from others or delegate what he believes to be his responsibilities. I would agree that Peter's lack of confidence in himself is one of his biggest flaws, except that as Otto Octavius himself realized, Peter also subconsciously sabotages himself by denying, rejecting, or overlooking opportunities or methods to be more personally successful because on some level, he believes personal success or the desire for such would distract him from his higher moral obligations, even though being more successful could help him fulfill those obligations in other ways.
    This is a really amazing analysis of Peter's character IMO - I wish more of the writers at Marvel put half as much effort into their craft as you clearly did here. I really love the juxtaposition between Peter's cockiness as well as lack of confidence in himself, and the different ways both manifest themselves (like how Peter uses Spider-Man as a mask over his insecurities). But overall I think I agree with 100% of your post, and I really enjoyed reading it too!

    Quote Originally Posted by Frontier View Post
    So, basically, Insomniac Spider-Man ?

    I think Peter could probably invent anything he needed to but he usually doesn't have the resources (or the need) to have to do it.
    Yes, I honestly think Insomniac Spider-Man (from what we've seen so far) is easily the best adaptation of Spider-Man in any material beyond the original 616 comics (and, to be fair, it's a lot better than a ton of the 616 comics as well). The guys over at Insomniac really seem to have a deep understanding of Spider-Man and what makes him work, which is part of why I am so hyped for their game!

    Quote Originally Posted by Lukmendes View Post
    I don't really think he should be a master of everything, part of what I find interesting on him is how much of a jack of all trades he is, he isn't the strongest, or fastest, or smartest (IQ or street smart), but he has enough of each that if one can't help, he has something else to use.
    Maybe I wasn't clear; I didn't mean Peter should be the master of everything but that he should have mastered the things he is good at: basically being a hero and being a scientist/inventor, and in general being more self-assured and less immature.


    There's also things like using his own qualities to make shit harder for him, for example, in the Annual Alistaire Smythe Jr. is introduced, Kingpin actualy leaves some drug dealers around for Spidey to beat just so he can move something more valuable around, and while Spidey was fighting the Spider Slayer in the same issue, Kingpin heard about, and started to move around whatever more valuable shit he needed. I'm not sure if anything actualy came out of that, but the point is, even his own desire to help the little man can be used to manipulate him.
    Yeah, I completely agree. Another (more common) instance of this is when villains use hostages to distract or stop Spider-Man from beating them up.

    I wouldn't say Peter sabotaging himself is happening at all, if such a thing was happening he wouldn't be working on Horizon Labs to begin with, or making PI work, and that's on Slott's own run, so it's weird for him to have said that during Superior, the problem seems to be he doesn't tend to think ahead, that's easy to notice even if not mentioned much on his stories, he's always focusing on the now and barely on the later, of course, that's one way of sabotaging himself, but not because of some weird complex which makes him think less of himself for having above average intelligence, because frankly, even though that's mentioned on Superior, I haven't seen anything indicating that, in fact, again, during Slott's run, when Peter saw people using his inventions during Ends of the Earth (Before Otto started that global warming shit), he was happy his intelligence to make those inventions was helping out people, and that was before Superior, and even after it during PI era, he seemed happy to be using his shit to better the world, even got a bit angry when Otto pointed out that Peter was using other's shit to make PI work to begin with because Otto was undermining his intelligence.
    But I think it's pretty clear that Peter does sabotage himself, even in Slott's run. He didn't get the Horizon job until Aunt May asked Marla to ask Max Modell to give him a chance; it's not like Peter even bothered applying for a scientific think-tank job. Same with Parker Industries; he could have started a company like literally whenever but he never did until Ock forced him to take the reins. The fact that he was able to make both situations work so well is just testament to how smart he is, but even then he ended up self-sabotaging PI by deleting all it's data for no reason and not making a back-up. And of course, despite being more than capable of building another company or working at another think-tank, he self-sabotaged himself after it was over by just becoming a science writer at the Bugle.

    I feel like your examples that he was happy when his inventions were helping people aren't really valid, since Peter doesn't secretly hate himself or anything, it's just that he feels guilty being successful. TBH I kinda feel like the whole self-sabotaging trait is just a manifestation of editorial mandate rather than being a real character trait of Peter's, but it would be super interesting if the writer's took it and ran with it since we could get a few awesome stories out of it IMO.


    When he used to make invention to beat opponents it was basicaly, can't beat them on one round, then learn some weak point, then make some invention to beat the opponent. And while I haven't seen that much of the Horizon Labs era, it seemed that it was bringing back this silver age trait on steroids considering he made some super advanced stealth suit which is also sound proof just to beat Phil (And it becomes funnier when Anya defeated him by just filling her ears with just bubble gum, Spidey even points out how much cheaper it was lol).
    Yeah, in some ways Peter was the origin of the Batman with prep meme lol.
    Last edited by blackspidey2099; 04-12-2018 at 04:14 PM.

  15. #15
    Formerly Assassin Spider Huntsman Spider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackspidey2099 View Post
    Yeah, when I said he should be a master of everything he does, I didn't mean he should be the ABSOLUTE best at everything he does (it would be weird for him to be more experienced a hero than Cap, or a better scientist than Reed) but rather that he should have reached the very pinnacle of the fields he is good at (so superhero-ing, science, and just generally a competent hero). So I completely agree with you.

    I also like that flaw you pointed out in that Peter stretches himself too thin (btw I didn't mean my short list in my post to be every single flaw he should have, since I just came up with it in a couple minutes and there''s a ton more points people have made in the thread that are good flaws for Peter to exhibit) since it's totally true.



    This is a really amazing analysis of Peter's character IMO - I wish more of the writers at Marvel put half as much effort into their craft as you clearly did here. I really love the juxtaposition between Peter's cockiness as well as lack of confidence in himself, and the different ways both manifest themselves (like how Peter uses Spider-Man as a mask over his insecurities). But overall I think I agree with 100% of your post, and I really enjoyed reading it too!



    Yes, I honestly think Insomniac Spider-Man (from what we've seen so far) is easily the best adaptation of Spider-Man in any material beyond the original 616 comics (and, to be fair, it's a lot better than a ton of the 616 comics as well). The guys over at Insomniac really seem to have a deep understanding of Spider-Man and what makes him work, which is part of why I am so hyped for their game!
    Thanks. I would also add, at least in more recent stories, that he does have a bit of a complex after years of being slandered and maligned in/by the press and having people --- whether regular civilians or the occasional fellow superhero --- afraid of or distrusting him as a result. That, to me, is a big part of the reason he's constantly quipping and joking in costume; it's not that he wants people to take him less seriously, he just wants the people that aren't criminals and supervillains to not be afraid of him. Does he take it too far sometimes and end up coming off ridiculous as a result? Yes, but that's not so much because he is ridiculous, as it is him trying to put people that would naturally be scared of or uneasy around him at ease by coming off as nonthreatening as he can manage. While that is a sign that he's a fundamentally good and heroic person/character that wants to be, first and foremost, a protector of the innocent as opposed to a predator upon the guilty, it's a flaw in the sense that it does make it harder for him to be taken seriously. And yes, he does sometimes have no choice but to trade on that fear and unease that he unintentionally invokes in people to get them to listen or take him seriously.
    The spider is always on the hunt.

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