Spider-Man and magic never mix, so why should Marvel continue to do so?

Marvel has been working magic on Spider-Man stories, and it always fails. Here's why they never work (and why Marvel won't stop).

Marvel's Spider-Man is often seen as a down-to-earth character - so why does Marvel keep inserting supernatural elements into his stories? The character is beloved by fans for his spider abilities, friendship with the Avengers, and memorable supporting cast, but his main selling point is his relatability in just about every demographic. Yet with stories like Deadly Neighbor Spider-Man, the Spider-Totem storyline, and the much-maligned Spider-Man: One Day Again, year after year, Marvel doesn't seem to know how to stop.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Spider-Man series eschewed nearly all superhero trends of the era: he was far from financially and emotionally stable, he had many character flaws, and most importantly Yes, he's not a teenage sidekick, but the main hero (Lee notoriously hates the teenage sidekick tropes and eliminates them whenever possible). Peter Parker is an everyman who happens to be a superhero, rather than a superhero who just happens to be everyman, and fans immediately see himself under the mask. As a result, Spider-Man's adventures tend to be relatively solid compared to other superheroes in the company -- but not for long.

2022 Deadly Neighbor Spider-Man sees Peter Parker temporarily relocating to Los Angeles to work on a science project, but he's soon drawn into a mystery involving ancient artifacts and magical creatures. The story, while visually stunning, is a great example of Peter Parker encountering elements that he would never see very often - and therefore, the reader won't either. As questionable as the premise may be, it pales in comparison to the other Spider-Man story fans hated the most: Into the Spider-Verse: One More Day, in which Peter uses Doctor Strange's magic to walk through visions of his future potential self, and Finally a deal is made with the Devil himself.

Can Spider-Man Stories Work With Supernatural Elements?

Perhaps Marvel's belief that Spider-Man's complete lack of lore might create a more exciting story (watching Spider-Man fight his impossible opponents is a staple of the franchise after all). But that effort is misguided, and the magical element only holds back the reader, not Peter Parker. Case in point: J. Michael Straczynski's Spider-totem story arc, where new information is thrown at Peter and the reader at a rapid pace (and since the titular totem has no basis in reality, Readers are as confused as Spider-Man).

Sometimes the story works when Peter has a magical ally. The mighty Doctor Strange (who sadly passed away in 2022) was one such character, and his presence in Spider-Man media is usually the highlight of any story. But Spider-Man's best stories happen when he's close to the ground and dealing with understandable dilemmas; many of his amazing adventures usually fail.

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