The following thoughts started off as a contribution to the online roundtable on unreliable narration in comics at the German Society for Comics Studies, ComFor. I am indebted to fellow roundtable participants Burkhard Ihme, Dietrich Grünewald, Elisabeth Klar, and Daniel Stein, as well as roundtable organizer Felix Giesa, for the engaging and inspiring discussion.
Spoiler Alert: Peter Parker is no longer the amazing Spider-Man; in fact, he is no longer Peter Parker. Doctor Octopus, one his longest-running villains, has taken possession of Peter’s body, is living in and through him and has been secretly continuing both his private and his secret identity. While Doctor Octopus’ Spider-Man has since launched into his own series, the Superior Spider-Man replacing (for now) the established Amazing Spider-Man, the original replacement of one mind by another took place around issue #698 of Amazing, late in 2012. More specifically, it took place before that issue starts, but readers only find out about it on the last few pages. Up to that point, the readers are deceived, much like the other characters surrounding Peter and Spider-Man. So the narration is unreliable in the strict sense of the prima facie interpretation requiring revision. But does the unreliable narration imply an unreliable narrator? And what can this unreliability tell us about the general problems of applying narratological concepts such as narration, narrator, and unreliability, which are typically formed vis-à-vis written lingual narrative, to comic books?