PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The lights are going out for Peter Parker, the high school student bitten by a radioactive spider whose wall-crawling and web-slinging antics have made him a touchstone of Marvel Comics' universe of heroes and villains.
The publisher said Tuesday that Parker's alter ego, Spider-Man, will finally succumb to one of his most pernicious foes in the final issue of "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" due out today.
Fans of Spider-Man need not worry much, though, because the Ultimates imprint is separate from Marvel's bigger universe. Whatever fate may befall Ultimate Spider-Man won't count in the pages of the other series, including Amazing Spider-Man.
The death, while dramatic, is not entirely unexpected. In November, Marvel said that the Ultimate Spider-Man was going to face an uncertain fate in the latest storyline by writer Brian Michael Bendis fittingly titled "The Death of Spider-Man," an eight-issue arc that saw the return of original series artist Mark Bagley. Bendis and Bagley had worked together on the series for 111 issues.
Bendis told The Associated Press that in issue No. 160 Parker fights valiantly but will pass on, heroically, in a pitched fight. To whom? (SPOILER BELOW)
"He will pass heroically, but he will die at the hands of the Green Goblin," Bendis said, recalling his nearly 11 years writing the title, which debuted in October 2000.
The death is real and in Marvel's Ultimate Comics imprint, death is not something taken lightly. Characters in that universe are dead and gone, never to return. The roll of the deceased already includes Magneto, Wasp and Wolverine, among others.
"Ten years ago, Brian Bendis and Mark Millar changed the way people saw super heroes with the birth of the Ultimate Universe. With "Death of Spider-Man' the two have done it again, creating a story just as big, and something that would really resonate with fans," said Mark Paniccia, Marvel senior editor. "But Peter's death doesn't signal the end of their larger plan - it's the start of one of the most ambitious stories you've ever read in comics."
Bendis said that Parker's death won't be in vain and hinted that the Ultimate Spider-Man may not be gone forever. But what exactly is to come, that's something he's not willing to share, at least not yet.
He likened the death to that of Parker's Uncle Ben, whose demise catapulted Peter into being a superhero and crime fighter, and called it an emotionally ripping decision to end Parker's life.
"I won't lie to you, it's embarrassing to say this out loud. Tears were rolling down my face, I was very emotional in writing it," Bendis told AP. "This is a character that I have stayed with the entire time, that I have been almost solely responsible for. It represents such a great deal of my life."
Axel Alonso, Marvel's editor-in-chief, said there's never been a Marvel Universe without a Spider-Man, so killing the character is a big step.
"We've never seen a world without Spider-Man, a world without Peter Parker, so his death is a significant event for the Ultimate Comics universe and we're going to see how quickly it changes everything," he said, adding that the fallout from Parker's death will play out in the upcoming "Ultimate Comics Fallout" as the company retools its Ultimate universe.