Comic books are made up of individual panels. But the overwhelming majority of them are given a quick glance, only to never be thought of again. Yet there are a special few comic book panels that stand the test of time and take on an iconic status.
Added to that short list of iconic comic book panels is the panel we have in focus today: “Spider-Man no more!”
Peter Parker leaving behind the mantle of Spider-Man in what is one of the most recognizable images for the character. As Peter walks out of a dark alley, feeling sorry for himself, his Spider-Man suit remains behind, tossed into a garbage can.
This panel is so popular that it has been redrawn, parodied, and adapted several times over the years.
It’s hard to fully qualify what makes something iconic. At times the word is overused, while at other times we can completely miss the beautiful simplicity of something that has been there all along. But there is no question that the above panel is iconic.
So, what makes this panel from Amazing Spider-Man #50 s iconic?
Heroes aren’t supposed to quit. In fact, heroes never quitting is one of the more enduring truths of superhero comics. They can do this all day. That Spider-Man would toss his suit in the garbage and say that he couldn’t do it anymore? That’s unthinkable! It gave permission to kids everywhere that it was OK for them to quit as well.
Worse, it implied that aspiring to be a hero was a childish thing that should be tossed away as one got older!
It featured Peter’s back. Peter was turning his back to the mantle of Spider-Man but he was also turning his back
to on the readers! I’m not suggesting you lay down on the coach to read this like it’s a therapy session, but I do want to acknowledge the implicit metaphors, themes, and symbolism found in comic books. Comic books can be powerful.
Let’s not underestimate the enduring impact and influence that Peter Parker Spider-Man has had on young comic book readers throughout the decades. That is largely because he typically confronted his problems head-on and courageously. That he’d walk away was an indelibly powerful image for young readers.
It was brought to life in a movie. Sony’s Spider-Man movies were hit and miss, but it was meaningful to have the panel recreated so faithfully for the big screen, an act that served to deepen the iconic status of the panel.
It’s a “deep” panel. The panel has depth. The perspective takes the reader’s eye past the loosely draped costume, out of the alley, then to Peter’s back and what awaited him out in the city. Peter’s gaze was down, like he didn’t have any idea where he was going from here and a reader didn’t either.
The panel has two characters, even if it doesn’t appear to. First, an empty red and blue costume that is iconic world wide, not just to comic book fans but to people everywhere. Then there is a nerdy young scientist who has been trying to balance great power and great responsibility, but in that moment, he’s failed and his head is bowed in shame.
There is a tease on the cover. The cover shows Peter’s head down and his shoulders draped, just as we see in the panel. But although the words “Spider-Man no more!” appear on the cover, it’s likely that most readers didn’t make the connection that Peter would ever call it quits!
I own a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #50, so I thankfully had the opportunity to flip the page to see the panels that follow. Spoiler: Peter didn’t hang it up for good. And I’m thankful for that, because heroes shouldn’t quit.