Amazing Spider-Man #36 had to have been a challenge for writer J. Michael Straczynski in creating a story that reflects 9/11 in the context of a universe populated with super heroes. What he did was find a way to express what the whole country felt that day through the eyes of Spider-Man.
Looking back at this eleven years after it was published, he really did a good job capturing the mindset of the country while it was watching this tragedy unfold. There is an overwhelming sense of sadness and helplessness. This is really shown in a scene where Spider-Man has to confront a child who lost a parent at the World Trade Center. For all his super powers, he couldn’t do anything. And I think that the whole country had that feeling on September 11.
But at the same time Straczynski was able to convey a theme of hope and inspiration in overcoming this tragedy by paying the tribute to the real heroes of that day–the emergency service workers who put their own lives aside to help others in danger. It also touched on the togetherness that came as a result of the tragedy. Living in New Jersey, an area that was greatly effected, I saw people taking it upon themselves to find a way to find a way to help any way they could, whether it be gathering food and supplies to bring to Manhattan.
And the story shows Marvel’s characters finding ways to not only comfort people whose lives were changed but to assist the rescue workers in any way they could. Straczynski even made a point to show that even the regular villains–the Dr. Dooms and the Kingpins of the world–put aside their own usual scheming of dominance and power to lend a hand.
And that really was one of the legacies to come out of September 11, was how everyone in the country–regardless of politics, religion, culture, race, you name it–put everything aside to come together as one.
This story never got cheesy or felt that it was done for shock value; it was a heartfelt tribute acknowledging those whose lives were unjustly lost as well as the courage shown by the people who helped aid in the recovery and rescue.
You can read the issue for free on Comixology.