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Marvel Comics news: Peter Parker returns and Michael Douglas is in "Ant-Man"

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The latest in marvelous Marvel Comics news items from January 11th - 13th, 2014!

Peter Parker returns as Spider-Man in April's "Amazing Spider-Man #1"! Just in time for his next flick!

For those who haven't been reading the main Spider-Man comic title in some time, the current web-slinger hasn't quite been the same since December 2012. When "Amazing Spider-Man #700" shipped at that time, the wall-crawler's arch nemesis Dr. Octopus had successfully cheated death by swapping minds with his nemesis, leaving Peter Parker's "soul" to die in his own tentacled and battered body. 2013 saw the relaunch of that title as "Superior Spider-Man", which followed Ock's attempt at being a very different kind of Spider-Man and living within Peter's body. Peter's "soul" seemed to still exist alongside his body and kept attempting to regain control, but by the spring, Dr. Octopus seemingly won a psychic duel for the right to be Spider-Man, and ever since events have spiraled into mania. These events sparked much outrage by fans online and in the letter column, but sales remained high for the new series. Cynics suspected that since Sony's "Amazing Spider-Man 2" is set to debut in theaters in May 2014, there was little doubt the true web-head would be back by then. After all, Marvel Comics made sure to resurrect Steve Rogers after over two years in the grave the same summer that "Captain America: The First Avenger" hit theaters.

That suspicion was confirmed today by an official press release from Marvel Comics, which was picked up by the New York Daily News. The release stated that "Amazing Spider-Man #1" would relaunch in April and that it would feature the regular creative team of writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos as well as at least two different covers by Marcos Martin and Jerome Opena. Slott began writing for "Amazing Spider-Man" in January 2008, although at that time he was but one of three rotating writers involved in the series' "thrice a month" schedule. Slott would go on to become the exclusive head writer of the series in November 2010, although he is aided in scripts on occasion by Christos Gage ("Avengers Academy", "Avengers: The Initiative"). In the article, Slott stated that the act of having to tout the company line that "Peter Parker wasn't coming back" was "the hardest thing I’ve had to do — to look small children in the eye at a convention and lie to them". Slott also claimed that one person who learned this secret sooner was actor Andrew Garfield, who he visited on the set of "Amazing Spider-Man 2". It is worth a mention that technically, Peter Parker in body was still there; readers saw his face every month and he still operated under that name and with his cast; it was his spirit which had been switched. It is currently unknown if "Superior Spider-Man" will continue in some form regardless. If so, it would be without Slott, who between this and "Silver Surfer" will be reaching his limit in terms of monthly titles he can write without delays.

Although Marvel Comics has currently been rabidly relaunching longtime titles with fresh #1 issues at least once a year or every other year, this is not the first time "Amazing Spider-Man" has done so. During the height of Marvel's bankruptcy era in the late 90's and with Bob Harras as editor-in-chief, "Amazing Spider-Man #441" seemingly ended the series in November 1998. The series would go on to start again with a fresh #1 issue in January 1999, much as "Fantastic Four" did around the same time. The series didn't go back to its original numbering until December 2003's extra priced 500th issue - a price hiking celebration strategy which Marvel continues to employ.

Michael Douglas is Hank Pym in "Ant-Man"; Paul Rudd is Scott Lang!

To continue along the theme of insect based superheroes and confirming long held rumors, Marvel issued a press release stating that Oscar winning actor Michael Douglas has been cast in Edgar Wright's "Ant-Man" for 2015. The juiciest bit is that he has been cast as Henry "Hank" Pym, the original Ant-Man. For the longest time, Wright has claimed that his film would star the second Ant-Man, Scott Lang, as the hero for the current generation with Pym as his mentor, the retired Ant-Man. Once the film finally evolved past the script drafting phase, Wright and Marvel Studios brass became more coy about such teases, but it turns out that the rumors were right after all. Paul Rudd has been said to be the star and he will be playing play Scott Lang after all.

This actually represents Marvel Studios' first major instance of drastically altering the identity of a character upon introduction in one of their films. Since 2008, the solo heroes who were introduced and built up to star in "The Avengers" in 2012 were by and large the actual founding Avengers from the comics (aside for Black Widow and Hawkeye). The identities of Iron Man and Captain America changed hands from their founders more than once, yet films have always stuck to the basic identities and origins. "Ant-Man" represents the first time a Marvel Comics film which wasn't licensed to a secondary studio where a version of the character which wasn't the original will be utilized. One can imagine this happened because Hank Pym's unfortunate status in the comics as a neurotic mess who once infamously hit his wife may have made Disney brass nervous about making him a franchise star.

The biggest dilemma about this, however, centers around that aforementioned wife. Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. the Wasp, was the only founding heroine in the original Avengers and was actually the one who originally named the team back in the 1960's. Joss Whedon eagerly wanted to include her in "The Avengers" in 2012, but she was edited out for time. The task of including Janet while shuffling Pym as a background figure in the action might be complicated, and some websites are fretting that she may not appear in the Marvel cinematic universe at all. While Warner Brothers has rightly been raked over the coals for squandering their opportunities with "Wonder Woman", it is always worth a reminder that the only Marvel film which starred a lady was "Elektra", which was produced by Fox Studios. Marvel Studios chose to produce a film about "Guardians of the Galaxy" before any with "Black Widow" or any other heroine. Omitting the Wasp from her signature franchise would seem galling to some. However, a late 2013 rumor claimed Rashida Jones was being eyed as "the love interest" for Rudd in "Ant-Man" based in part by their chemistry together in "Out Idiot Brother" and "I Love You, Man". In the comics, Janet originally meets Pym after her father is killed by monsters from another dimension and quickly convinces Pym to use his science to grant Janet her own super-powers so she can aid in his exploits to avenge her dad. The Wasp would later go on to be a longtime Avenger, even leading the team at one juncture. It would be a shame to see her ignored in cinema.

Ultimate universe is relaunched after "Cataclysm"!

Beginning in 2000, the Ultimate universe of comic books was established to give innovative creators (such as Brian Bendis and Mark Millar) the chance to reboot iconic franchises with their own continuity with updated story mechanics. This did wonders for sales and new ideas for cinematic adaptations, although it couldn't last. After other a decade, the Ultimate universe has its own heavy continuity and sales of its comics have long since diminished. Bendis' various incarnations of "Ultimate Spider-Man" still sell respectfully but beyond that, the imprint is in long need of help or a merciful death. "Cataclysm" was the latest crossover event within the imprint promising carnage, but in its wake will instead be relaunches.

Bendis and artist David Marquez will continue on "Miles Morales: Spider-Man". Joshua Hale Failkov and artist Mario Guevara will handle "Ultimate FF" which features a roster of Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Machine Man and Falcon. Finally, "All-New Ultimates" will be new writer Michael Fiffe and artist Amilcar Pinna will feature the young superhero team of Miles as Spider-Man, female clone of Peter Parker as Black Widow (formerly Spider-Woman), Cloak, Dagger, Kitty Pryde and Bombshell. The characters have united in "Ultimate Spider-Man" before and one imagines the title is called what it is because "Ultimate New Warriors" would be too on the nose as to how desperate this imprint is. Curiously, "Ultimate X-Men" in some form seems to be gone for now, despite being one of the founding series of the line. It is most probable that these series will sell at the same low levels that "Ultimate" books have been selling for some time and further delaying the difficult, but inevitable, choice the editorial board has to make about this imprint.

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