Among the many controversial things that occurred in Amazing Spider-Man #700, one that's gotten the most play in social media may not actually be the apparent death of Peter Parker and the possession of his body by Dr. Octopus. That's standard supervillain stuff there – upper echelon supervillain stuff, actually. No, the more unsettling development is the notion that Otto Octavius has designs on Mary Jane Watson, and if he passes himself off as Peter and she buys it long enough to have sex with him, that would constitute rape-by-fraud. In Spider-Man comics.
The implications were outlined in an article by Rich Johnston on Bleeding Cool, the leader in scurrilous industry rumors that turn out to be true often enough to keep them in business. Those are concerns that also occurred to me when reading the issue, but while I was a bit worried, I figured Spidey writer Dan Slott was not going to go there – especially considering his She-Hulk arc years ago wherein it was made clear that Starfox, the 'fun-loving lothario with happy-time pheromones,' is was actually an unknowing date rapist due to his power essentially being roofies. Slott himself has said that that particular issue will be addressed in Superior Spider-Man #2.
Spider-Man editor Stephen Wacker, however, took Johnston and others to task on Twitter over the weekend, however, believing there is no implication of rape in his superhero comics and seemingly grinding an axe with Johnston in general. The latter is nothing I particularly care about, really, beyond the fact that it makes Wacker come off as excessively snarky and flippant about the issue at hand – if you want to dig deeper into Wacker's Twitter feed and follow whatever conversations you wish to follow, go right ahead – but the former is curious. I don't know Johnston, nor do I particularly follow him, and I'm certainly not excited at the potential for "faux-outrage" and I'm not part of the masses that Wacker thinks can be riled up by him. The consent-by-fraud concerns came to me entirely independently of his site. "If you see rape in it, that's on you," Wacker said, apparently splitting hairs between whether rape is directly addressed in ASM #700 (which it's not) and the potential for a plot dealing with it being established (which seemingly is). I'm not outraged by this, I'm just concerned. And even if it DOES happen, I don't know if I'd be outraged or just crushingly disappointed in Dan Slott and completely turned off of Spider-Man comics for the forseeable future.
But on the positive side, YAY, apparently they're not going to get into creepy rape plots in Superior Spider-Man. I've always thought Slott seems to respect Mary Jane's potential and wits enough that she'll catch on to the shenanigans pretty quickly – although I'm surprised with the way "Peter's" been snipping at her lately, she hadn't already. Slott's also said that they've got one more trick up their sleeve in Superior Spider-Man #1, which to me seems to imply that Peter Parker is not entirely out of the picture just yet – and it'd be hilarious if he somehow shows up in Madame Web's comatose body or something.
On the 'uhh…' side, Wacker's insistent denials that the issue of rape is even raised in ASM #700 with the Ock/MJ interaction seem a bit sketchy. If they're not going to GO there, that's great, but denying even its implication seems like he's overly dismissive. To be fair, 'rape' is a very heavy word, and having it thrown around regarding something you're doing, even if it's just editing comics, can understandably make people very defensive, and Wacker's obviously trying to nip that fracas in the bud by reminding us all that "It's a soap opera … Verisimilitude is an option, not a necessity."
I certainly get that, and I'm sure in a few issues, this question will be resolved to everyone's satisfaction and we can move on with the weird Freaky Friday adventure and the potential pseudo-redemption of Dr. Octopus. But all we have to go on right now is what's been shown so far, and that is Otto Octavius fully intending to resume a full-on relationship with Mary Jane Watson while disguising himself as Peter Parker and lying to her. It makes sense that fans might be concerned, given relatively recent and unforgivably awful plots like Identity Crisis getting major play, but I'm also very glad to learn from this Tweet-fest that this apparently won't be the case with Superior Spider-Man.
That is good to know. Now I can focus more on deciding whether or not I want to read a Spider-Man comic book where Dr. Octopus is the "protagonist."