Marvel has removed what has been interpreted as an anti-Mormon “Easter egg” from the latest edition of the Spider-Man comic book series — although the Utah artist who drew it denies that he had anti-Mormon intentions.
“The Amazing Spider-Man No. 4,” released Aug. 22 and drawn by Ryan Ottley, a former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, includes a panel in which the superhero is covered with advertising logos. One logo, seen clearly on his upper-left chest, is for “CES Letter.”
In the storyline, Spider-Man has been separated from his alter-ego, Peter Parker, and is acting in uncharacteristic ways.
The CES Letter Foundation, which markets Jeremy Runnells' book at cesletter.org, describes it as “one Latter-day Saint’s honest quest to get official answers from the LDS Church on its troubling origins, history and practices.” (CES is an acronym for the Church Educational System.)
The book has been heavily criticized by others for what is interpreted as Runnels’ efforts to undermine the LDS Church.
After announcing that the CES Letter logo would be removed from all subsequent printings, digital versions and trade paperback versions of “Amazing Spider-Man No. 4,” Marvel provided The Hollywood Reporter with this statement from Ottley: “I have no animosity toward members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My entire family are members, as are many of my friends, and I would never include anything mean-spirited about them or their beliefs. The reference was in regards to a subject I am interested in and a personal decision I made in my life. It has nothing to do with the character, the story or Marvel.”
The comic-book company said the CES Letter logo “was included without awareness by Marvel of its meaning” and that its policy “does not permit hidden controversial messages in its artwork.”
The CES Letter logo appears to be the only one in the original panel that represents a real product, although one closely resembles an Apple logo.
A Reddit post reported to be from Ottley — deleted, but screenshot and posted on mormondialogue.org — reads, “I’m an exmo, just resigned this year. And I draw Amazing Spider-Man for Marvel. I threw in a little Easter egg in the issue that came out last week.” It’s accompanied by a photo of Spider-Man with the CES Letter logo.
The Salt Lake Tribune reached out to Ottley for comment but has not yet heard back from him.