ARC 1 part one: BIGGEST FAN
This first major arc is going to once again address the idea of “Power and Responsibility” that has been a foundation of Spider-Man’s story since his very first appearance. However, in this case we’re not addressing his responsibility to others, but rather how much he can be held responsible for actions taken by Otto Octavius when he was in Peter’s body. This idea will be represented by a new character named Elliot Laudner, who makes his first appearance at the tail end of an issue, flagging down Peter on the street and asking if he remembers him. Peter honestly has no idea who Elliot is and the initial pleasant demeanor is soon replaced by anger.
Unobtrusively and before Peter’s Spider-Sense can warn him, Elliot sticks a hypodermic syringe into him and drags him into a back alley. The contents of the syringe are enough to incapacitate Peter and make it so he can’t move or speak, but leaves him fully conscious. Elliot makes some comment about he may not remember him but he’s going to now. He then says that they have some unfinished business. He then tears open Peter’s shirt revealing his Spider-Man costume underneath. This initial encounter should hopefully throw off the readers just as much as it does Spider-Man. Who is this guy? How does he know who Peter is? And most important, why is he doing any of this? Elliot obliges in the next issue by filling us and Peter in on his back-story.
Elliot Laudner is only a few years younger than Peter and grew up in the same neighborhood in Queens. In fact, they actually attended the same high school back in the day, but being several grades apart, they never encountered each other. In a way, his origin is almost a mirror reflection of Peter’s. While Peter grew up in a loving home with his aunt and uncle, Elliot grew up in a broken household. His mother ran out on him and his father when he was little and his father became an abusive alcoholic as a result. Early on, he learned that things were better for him if he just stayed out of his father’s way and this led to him being very reclusive, with few friends. Other than obligations like school, he would usually stay at home in his room escaping into the worlds of various books of fantasy and adventure and especially comic books. Like many of us at a young age, the depiction of costumed heroes inspired him and made him wish he could be like them someday. Of course, Elliot knew deep down that things like that never happened in the real world…until he saw Spider-Man.
Spider-Man first came into the picture when Elliot was in junior high and first became aware of him from his initial televised appearances. He became fascinated with the idea that someone had actually managed to become a flesh and blood superhero. His awe would soon turn to admiration as Spider-Man transitioned from self-promoter for profit to a bona-fide hero. From that point on, Elliot collected every newspaper and magazine article he could get on Spidey. Unavoidably, most of the articles would be from the Daily Bugle which would consistently paint Spider-Man in a bad light, but Elliot always maintained his faith in his hero.
All children tend to come up with ideas of what they’d like to be when they grow up, whether it be a professional ball player or an astronaut. For most people, these goals are fairly unrealistic and they tend to grow out of them eventually. But Elliot’s goal never wavered; he wanted to be like Spider-Man. More specifically, he wanted to help Spider-Man. This gave him focus and determination and made him study all the more in high school and eventually college after receiving a scholarship to ESU.
Elliot had always been highly intelligent even from an early age, and applying himself in this manner allowed him to be capable of so much more. In another life, he might have become famous for creating all kinds of new technology to help better the world. But because of what he strives to be, his skills and intelligence would yield his own version of Spider-Man’s patented web-shooters and specially modified boots and gloves that would allow someone to adhere to walls. In essence, everything Elliot was and was capable of, was being focused towards the goal of being a side-kick to Spider-Man.
Years of hard work and preparation finally culminate in the day when Elliot, donning a costume patterned after Spider-Man’s, finally meets his hero and offers his assistance. Unfortunately, although his intelligence has allowed him to mimic Spider-Man’s powers, Elliot has no actual powers of his own. As much as he can fake the web-shooters and the crawling on walls, he can’t fake the enhanced reflexes and agility, nor can he fake the years of experience that Spider-Man has. The result is a (putting it kindly) lackluster audition. Although Spider-Man tries to be kind, he can’t help but level with the kid and tell him that he really isn’t cut out for this kind of work. He praises his work and intelligence and advises him that he should put it to a much better and more practical use.
What Elliot doesn’t know, but is just starting to dawn on Peter (and us as the reader as well) is that although he’s encountered “Spider-Man” he has never met Peter Parker. The Spider-Man who rejected him was actually Otto Octavius still parading around with his brain in Spider-Man’s body. Elliot’s hatred towards Spider-Man is now inadvertently being directed at the wrong person. What’s even worse, there’s really no logical way that Peter can possibly explain it to him and make it convincing.
“Spider-Man”‘s rejection of his assistance hurts more than anything Elliot has ever felt before. Everything that he has been working towards all these years is over in moments. But rather than dashing his hopes, the incident only makes him more determined to prove himself to Spider-Man; to prove that he can be an asset to him. Unfortunately, he keeps falling short; always arriving at the scene too late to be of any benefit. This grows increasingly frustrating for him and frustration leads to desperation.
Realizing he’ll never be able to prove himself to Spidey if he can never find a crime to thwart or a disaster to avert he decides to create his own “disaster.” By doing so he’ll be able to lure Spider-Man to him and allow him the chance to see what he’s capable of. It’s a misguided plan no matter what way you look at it, and Elliot is in way over his head. For all his intelligence and all his passion, he’s not trained to do this kind of work.
We’ll find out what the consequences of Elliot’s “disaster” hold on the next part of Spider-Man: End of Days part three.