AT THE box office and in the comic books that gave him birth, some signs are pointing to a slight decline in the popularity of Spider-Man, so Sony is hoping that "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (in theaters today) will juice audiences for a franchise that already has four more sequels and spinoffs planned for the next four years.
The first "Spider-Man" film a dozen years ago had a then-unheard of opening weekend haul of $114 million, on its way to a massive $403 million total.
However, each subsequent film has seen a drop at the domestic box-office, culminating in "Amazing Spider-Man," the first film in what many thought was an unnecessary reboot, grossing only $262 million domestically.
Which would be outstanding for most films, but which means that the 2012 film, adjusting for inflation, drew only about half the audience that the 2002 "Spider-Man" did.
Meanwhile, in the comics, the past year saw Peter Parker's adventures end, as Parker apparently died - replaced by the mind of his arch-foe Doctor Octopus.
The first issue of a relaunched series, "Superior Spider-Man" chronicling the adventures of "Octo-Spidey", as he came to be called, sold 216,00 copies. The next issue sold only half as many, however, and was outsold by many titles, including a whopping 11 Batman books.
The latest issue of "Superior Spider-Man sold only about 77,000 copies.
Again, great for most characters and books. Not for Spider-Man. (Parker returns in a new "Amazing Spider-Man" No. 1 that hits stores this week.)
"I'm very happy with the performance of 'Amazing Spider-Man,' which shipped three times a month, not once, and of 'Superior Spider-Man, which shipped twice a month," Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso said. "I think the fact that it stayed a Top 10, usually top 5 book throughout the year, says a lot about the way that fans continue to respond to it."
Alonso credits writer Dan Slott for turning a gamble into a way to keep the character fresh.
"Dan was born to write Spider-Man," Alonso said. "When he pitched the idea of 'Superior Spider-Man' and the very notion of killing Peter and putting Octo in the tights, this was not something that I originally supported.
"But he had a real story. He wasn't like Mr. Magoo walking on girders hoping to step on the next one," Alsonso said. "He had an endgame - and it worked.
"We had a book that had people talking, buzzing, angry - which is always a good thing, and it was a resounding success both creatively and financially."
Alonso said that the risky story made people realize how special Peter Parker is.
"I think part of the fact that we've gotten such a huge response for the new "Amazing Spider-Man" No. 1, which has had orders of over 200,000 copies - is that people miss Peter. They want to see him back in the tights," Alson said. "They want to see him swinging and doing all the things that make him unique."
The new No. 1 seems to tell the world that Peter Parker is back, but having been replaced by his arch-foe for a year and having been replaced by half-black, half-Latino Miles Morales in "Ultimate Spider-Man," the question has been raised: Is Peter Parker still Spider-Man the way Bruce Wayne is Batman, or is the hero replaceable and better served by having a younger, hipper, cooler alter-ego?
"Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Peter Parker is Spider-Man, okay?" Alonso replied. "He's the one who's stood the test of time. He's unique. He doesn't have a mansion or butler. He's not from another planet."
"Peter Parker is the kid from Queens who gets up every day and fights as hard as he can against unbeatable odds - and then crashes on his aunt's couch. He's Everyman."
"No one loves Miles Morales more than I do," Alonso added, "but Miles is a reflection of a cultural phenomenon known as Peter Parker and while he's a reflection of society and how it's changed and grown . . . it all started with Peter Parker."