This argument, and literally dozens of previous arguments, was with somebody who claimed to have stopped reading Marvel Comics altogether because of the release of Spider-Man: Brand New Day in 2008, despite never having actually READ Spider-Man: Brand New Day and having many of the details wrong; whether that's by ignorance, misinformation, or stubbornness is hard to say.
Now, I'm a dude who's loved Spider-Man for as long as I can remember. I've suffered some moderately big losses in my life, and yet - and I know this is ridiculous but whatever - the time I lost my Secret Wars Spidey action figure ranks pretty high on the emotional list. Spider-Man holds a pretty important place in my nerdly little heart.
I'm also a dude that usually hates any kind of retcon most of the time, which leads me to constantly make the grumpface when my friends talk about anything related to DC's Nü52 experiment... and that has made for some awkward moments.
However, I think BND is the best thing that could have happened to Spider-Man comics. So I'm gonna' make my case here, and direct anybody else who ever wants to fight about this shit here.
First of all, let's talk about what Peter Parker was up to BEFORE BND happened. I don't know the actual sales figures, but I suspect that many of the people who raged out about this "change to the status quo" hadn't actually read any comics with Spidey in them for at least a few years, because damned near every Spidey story up until BND has been about shaking up the character's status quo, sometimes in ways that were both ridiculous and downright stupid. I'll just throw down some bullet-points here to catch y'all up:
- In 2001, Spider-Man met an older dude named Ezekiel, who had the exact same set of powers yet had somehow never been seen before in the Marvel Universe. Ezekiel explained to Spidey that they were both mystically-powered animal totems, and that the spider that gave Peter Parker his powers didn't need to be radioactive at all; it simply WANTED to give him spider-powers.
- It should be noted that Peter and Mary-Jane were separated at the time this all started.
- Ezekiel also explained to Spidey that the reason so many of his enemies were animal-themed was that they were jealous of him; somehow able to sense that he was a true animal totem and not a totally wack totem poseur.
- Spider-Man and Ezekiel then spent like a year (or at least it seemed that long) fighting a dude named Morlun, who was some sort of vague vampire-type-guy who fed on these animal totem people. When Spidey managed to get a DNA sample from Morlun, he found that Morlun had the DNA of every species of animal on Earth! Spider-Man ended up not so much defeating Morlun as letting Morlun attempt to drain his life-force, whereupon Morlun was killed by Spidey's radioactive blood ("Is he strong? Listen, bub...").
- During all of this bizarreness, Peter Parker also had the time to get a job as a public school science teacher, despite having no background in teaching, so he could get into some heavy-handed Columbine-inspired school shooting hijinks. FUN!
- Later, after Spidey's defeat of Morlun, some crazy lady went on Fox News (lol) and claimed that she was Spider-Man's lover. This drove an even deeper wedge between Peter and Mary-Jane, though it was all repaired when it turned out the woman was actually Shathra, a mystical wasp totem who wanted to feed Spider-Man to her babies, no doy. Spider-Man failed to defeat Shathra, but then she was eaten by a swarm of spiders, just because. So Peter and MJ were totes happy again, yay!
- Spider-Man joined The Avengers around this point, revealed his identity to all of them, and he, Mary Jane, and Aunt May all moved into Tony Stark's mansion. Aunt May started fucking Jarvis in weirdly public places so Peter could awkwardly stumble upon them doing old-people sex stuff. Because older people having sex is the height of comedy.
- So then a story called Spider-Man: The Other began. Spider-Man: The Other was SO MOTHERFUCKING STUPID OH MY GOD YOU GUYS.
- In Spider-Man: The Other, Spidey got diagnosed with Spider-Cancer. He went all over the world visiting all his Super Friends but nobody could cure this cancer because it was Spider-Cancer. Spidey started having blackouts and getting all sickly-like, and also started trying to kill supervillains for no real reason. Eventually Morlun showed back up - with no explanation as to how he got un-deaded - and beat the holy hell out of Spidey for an entire issue, and then ate his eyeball for some reason? And then ran away from a group of police before properly killing and eating him for an even less clear reason?
- Spidey ended up in the hospital, where Morlun showed up and knocked Mary Jane around a little. Feeling the slight twinge of WiR Syndrome, Peter Parker woke up and hulked out... Like, his eyes started glowing red, he got fangs, and he grew these big poison barbs out of his forearms; all things I always associate with spiders. He then bit Morlun, which... re-killed him, I guess. Then Spidey dropped dead. THE DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN, YOU GUYS.
- Spidey's dead body was then taken to Avengers Mansion and sealed in some kind of tube for some reason, and while Wolverine started hitting on MJ, there was a crash, and they all ran in to find a broken window and Spider-Man's shed skin. Yup.
- Spider-Man then formed a cocoon under the Brooklyn Bridge, where he chilled for a few days. Yup.
- I'm just gonna' quote this part from Wikipedia: 'Under the Brooklyn Bridge, Peter sleeps inside his cocoon and has a strange dream. A voice tells him he never understood what he was, accusing him of being too scared to truly be a "Spider-Man", only focusing on the human part and neglecting the spider part. Morlun managed to kill the human part of Peter, but the spider in him survived and killed Morlun, saving them both. The voice tells him that he will only be reborn if he accepts both parts, and warns him that Peter could be reborn very differently. Peter's soul agrees and is reborn, outwardly human. He goes to the Avengers Tower and swears to Mary Jane and Aunt May that he will never leave them again. Later in the night, Peter goes to the lab where his husk is and recalls the final warning of the voice: "Are you the man who dreamed of being a spider? Or the spider who dreamed of being a man? Are you the one...or are you the other?" Shaking off the warning, Peter removes the wedding ring from the husk and heads back to bed.'
- Then a bunch of spiders stole Spidey's old skin and started walking around in it, and he had to fight them, like you do.
- Basically, Spider-Man: The Other was an excuse to give Spidey some new super-powers. He could communicate with spiders and insects telepathically, he could see in the dark, he could shoot poison stingers from his wrists, his webs came out of his hands naturally - OMG, just like in the movies! - and he could occasionally hulk out into a spider-monster if he got really mad.
- The Civil War series started soon afterwards, Spidey got an ugly new "Iron Spider" costume, and he publicly came out of the secret identity closet at a press-conference in support of Superhuman Registration.
- The Kingpin almost immediately had Aunt May shot in the stomach, Peter decided that registering everyone's secret identities was maybe not so smart, and he and MJ went on the run from the government while Aunt May was being shunted from shitty hospital to shitty hospital under a falsified name.
So... That's where Spider-Man was. He was a fugitive from Iron Man's weirdly fascist government regime, he was a mystically-powered totem animal who could talk to ants and shit, he had died, come back to life, and regrown an eyeball, and Aunt May was dying from a gunshot to the gut. THIS is the precious continuity that the people who hate BND with such vitriol were so attached to. Our stage is set.
Tune in next time for deals with the kind-of devil, relationships sort-of not working out, and Spider-Man's return to making jokes!