web stats

CSBG Archive

Me vs. the Spider-Marriage

Ohhhh Boy. These here are some dangerous waters to be splashing around in.

I understand that some of you really, REALLY like Mary Jane Watson and Peter “Spider-man” Parker being married.

It’s sweet.

The circumstances in comics that immediately led up to the marriage might have been a tad contrived, but the marriage itself totally makes sense in terms of overall character progression and Peter/Mary Jane’s shared history.

It gives Spidey an emotional anchor.

The every-nerd gets girl premise is even kind of validating for many of you.

And, OK, me too.

But…. Let’s try to be all Zen-like and analytical about this. Inhale. Exhale. Think of happy clouds.

1635_4_021.jpg

Let’s forget, for the sake of argument, certain clumsy developments in the actual telling of Spider-man stories, and look at the marriage as an isolated thing.

Everybody forgot? Goot, goot.

Let me posit the following premise: Every superhero worth his spandex is a vehicle for certain unique types of stories. Specific superhero comics ain’t just about the personality, powers or supporting cast of the main character. Each book is also a specific milieu designed for telling certain TYPES of stories that reflect certain themes. A dark, noir-ish, revenge driven story will generally serve Batman better than Superman, unless it thematically incorporates or comments on elements of The Superman Story, such as the immigrant myth, American optimism, or the stark division between right and wrong.

What I’m talking about here isn’t exactly the same thing as a Story-telling engine, but it hangs out in center field of the same ball-park.

But note that when I say “Spider-man” in the body of this post I’m usually going to mean {The entirety of the “world” as it’s generally depicted in the Spider-man comic book} or {Spider-man as grouping of concepts centering around the themes of power and responsibility, private duty vs. public perception, personal isolation, family, and stuff like that.}

So. Marriage bad. Two points.

(A) {Spider-man} is designed to incorporate soap opera elements.

Here’s my theory: The reason super-hero comics survived and prospered when westerns and pirate comics flopped over and died was the super-folks adaptability, the ease with which they utilize the conventions of different genres.

Companies didn’t stop making crime comics, romances, horror stories or science fiction comics. It’s just that the tropes of those genres got incorporated into superhero comics.

So let’s look at the non-super-hero genre elements that went into Spider-man. In it’s earliest Ditko days, Spider-man was part crime comic, part Frankenstein story (Think of it as mad scientists at war) and part romance comic, mebbe 20% Archie style comedy mixed with 80% straight tear-dripping romance.

And the central question of romance comics, Archie style and regular, is who’s gonna hook up with who.

maryjane1.jpg

So if you marry the two leads this becomes a moot point. In the Spider-man-verse, the marriage has two effects -

First, despite some brilliant wrangling from folks like Paul Jenkins**, the marriage did often take the focus off Pete’s brilliantly conceived supporting cast, and second…

Peter’s constant girl troubles were a darn fine way to maintain narrative tension. You take that away, and you need a hook to replace it. And there hasn’t been one for the last twenty-or-so years that drive the narrative so effectively.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some storytelling advantages to having a married Spider-man. It does somewhat increase the tension of having Mary Jane threatened (See that first Micheline/Mcfarlane Venom story) and it increases the importance of family in the title, which let J.M. DeMatteis and Sal Buscema to draw some interesting parallels in their Spectacular (note clever pun) Death of Harry Osborn arc. But neither of those has been able to CONSISTENTLY provide the illusion of story advancement which ongoing collectively written stories need to keep chuggin’ along.

This also doesn’t mean that no elements can be introduced that are as interesting as the soap opera based engine. I can’t think of any, mind. But I grantya the theoretical possibility.

Which brings me to my second and more damning point:

2) Spider-man is Coming of Age Story:

In fact, Spider-man is fighting it out with Huck Finn and Harry Potter to be THE most important coming of age story in Western culture. Check it:

“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”, right?

SpiderMan_AuntMayAndGrave.jpg

Growing up means gaining more power and gaining more responsibility. Pete/Spidey starts as a powerless teenage aunty’s boy. Then, in his very first story, he’s taught the importance of social responsibility, and he has to struggle to apply his new-found more grown-p perspective to his real life.

“I WANT to punch Flash Thompson in the cajones, but doing so might reveal my secret identity and endanger ALL the people around me. So I won’t. Dammit.”

Responsibility.

I don’t think I’m too far off in saying the purpose of Spider-man is to teach us how to be grown-ups.

So when Spider-man undergoes maybe THE most important ritual of becoming an adult***, he’s no longer coming of age, he dang well CAME.

Which would be a heck of an ending to the Spider-man story. If we want to permanently replace Peter with May Parker/Spider-girl, this is the way to go about it, happily ending the Spider-man story. (And I’m certainly not opposed to this course of action.)

OR if we want to re-cast Spider-man as a coming to middle-age story with a house in the ‘burbs and a kid not abducted by the Green Goblin and vanished forever… well that maybe possibly kinda might work sorta to a degree if the creative team involved was stellar.

Maybe.

Still, even if reversing the marriage is a good thing it’s going to be tough to tell this story well.

I think I can safely submit One More Day so far for evidence.

I certainly can’t think of an effective, in continuity, {Spider-man} appropriate way to end it. Divorce just makes Spider-man look old. Killing Mary Jane gets rid of one of the best supporting characters in comics. Having the devil come in and use Super Devil Magic… Well, that’s just stewpid. THAT would never happen, right?

Right?

5302_4_16.jpg

So we’re stuck with the theoretical – Single Spider-man and Mary Jane WORK in a way that married Spider-man doesn’t. Versus the practical – Making married Spider-man fun is a storytelling quagmire.

And, honestly, it’s kind of a damned both ways situation. I guess I’m more anti-marriage. It certainly hasn’t destroyed the comic or made for terrible stories – Although I’d argue that Spidey’s Golden Age had passed by ’87 – But it still feels like married Spider-man isn’t working how he’s supposed to work .

And maintaining Spider-man as vehicle for stories and, more importantly, Spider-man as cultural icon is, to my mind, the most important thing.

* By which I mean 1947.

** Bring back Kevin the Cheese!

** Note “Ritual.” As in “On a ritual level.” As in married people SEEM like adults in society’s eyes, whether or not they ACT like adults. Figured I had to make that distinction or lose all my cred among anyone who’s ever met Newlyweds.

72 Comments

You’re my hero. That is great. Could you post it on the ‘Rama boards too….?

Well, the whole débate “Single Spidey vs Married Spidey” reminds me of “Batman and Robin vs Batman lone hero” : maybe there’s room for both IF (and that’s a big “if”) we can find good writers who can write good stories about Spidey, whether he’s single or married…

There’s already a single Spidey or one with ‘girlfriend trouble’ in Marvel Adventures and Ultimate Spiderman. I don’t see why all the incarnations should be single, especially when there’s a large amount of readers that like the marriage. The only way it stalls the story is when writers don’t really use it.
That’s where I agree with you, they should keep it moving forward. But in stead of getting rid of the marriage they should’ve just had the kid way back when. It would’ve made more sense in the whole ‘coming of age’ perspective.

I kind of agree with this. Spider-Man isn’t just a character, he’s a format. Part of the format is soap opera, and the marriage does make it harder to tell that kind of story. I don’t think it’s a fundamental mis-step, but I do broadly agree that it limits the sort of stories you can tell within the classic Spider-Man format. Also, permanent deviation from the format that’s being licensed to other media is commercially awkward.

But, having said that…

Firstly, it’s not as though most of the writers in the last few years have even been trying to tell stories within that format. Straczynski has been off in a world of his own doing weird fantasy stuff. The other writers seem to have been so limited by AMAZING’s “lead book” status that they’ve been unable to do anything much at all.

Secondly, the WAY in which they’re trying to undo the marriage is very clunky. They clearly want to separate them while holding out the possibility of bringing them back together. Fine. But their solution appears to saddle the character with what amounts to a magic fairy curse, something that’s even more out of place than the marriage was and doesn’t really free Peter up to have fresh relationships at all, because we know he’s only doing it thanks to demonic intervention. It makes Spider-Man less relatable, which is an even bigger problem for the format. This is the Spider-Clone error (to a lesser extent): identify a valid problem, and then come up with a “solution” that’s even worse.

If they really want to separate the characters in a soap-compatible way and still hold out the possibility of a reconciliation, then just divorce them. Actually, the best solution is just to reboot continuity and do some sweeping retcons to reverse things that can’t be undone plausibly within the story.

But if you’re not prepared to do that, then divorce is a better long-term bet than magic fairies. It’s 2007. Having an ex-wife is not a big deal.

The other side of all of this is also that today’s comics really aren’t the same sort of soap operas as comics from the 1960s to the middle 1990s. Ultimate Spider-Man, for example, seems on the surface to be doing Stan Lee sorts of dating plotlines, but it really isn’t; MJ already seems like a foregone conclusion, to the point that the book had to import a love interest from another title to do a breakup/love triangle plot. Bendis efficiently disqualified the other potential love interests, making Betty Brant and the Black Cat too old for Peter and making Gwen initially too punk and then too dead and too monstrously-cloned.

And really, was anyone fooled into thinking of Kitty as a long-term love interest by the “I need a super-girlfriend” plotline? Especially since the hook with Spider-Man is that his love life is complicated by his girlfriends being civilians, both vulnerable and sometimes uncomprehending of his other life?

Nor does the other major popular culture version of Spider-Man really work this way; the movies are likewise fairly up front about the idea that it’s Peter and MJ or nothing. They’re not about Peter’s suspenseful and unpredictable love life so much as an extended romance between two characters with various complications thrown in their way.

More to the point, the Spider-Man everyone says they love didn’t work that way either. If we’re going to be quite honest, much of the trouble is that the really classic Spider-Man stories are not about the illusion of change. Steve Ditko may be on record as saying that aging Peter past 18 was a serious error, but it was Steve as plotter who sent him on to college and established the idea that the strip moved in nearly real time, and that Peter really could grow up within the stories.

For the first 7 or 8 years of the feature really did have Peter go through life changes. Stan and John Romita Sr. did this as well as Ditko. Between 1962 and 1969 Peter graduates high school and goes on to college. He moves out of the house. He grows more confident in his interactions with classmates and peers to the point that he’s no longer a nerd by any measure around the time characters like the Shocker and the Kingpin start turning up.

And then things stop dead to keep him young, and we began to get stories about Spider-Man rather than Peter — Spider-Man has amnesia! Spider-Man tries to stop the mob from getting the fountain of youth tablet! Spider-Man in the Savage Land! Spider-Man in stories no one remembers fondly! (Well, maybe the tablet storyline, but people don’t remember it for the Peter Parker soap opera aspects.)

The next truly classic, truly well-remembered storyline is the death of Gwen and the beginning of Spider-Man/Mary Jane romance. When that breaks up, we have to wait for the Roger Stern run to get the next universally-beloved run on the book, and that one’s all about Peter becoming a serious grad student and teacher. It’s only after this that the book settles into a dilemma in which Peter either regresses by dropping out of college entirely and moving back home with May or heads towards marriage.

The alternative is for him to get his degree and get a real job, and that also ages the charcater. It’s there that he really, finally becomes stuck for developments unless he professionalizes…or marries, which is where they finally went, because you could at least keep the money troubles and the unpredictable professional life going.

Paul is right, in a way — something like a divorce or separation is more in keeping with the character than anything else, if getting rid of the marriage is the goal. But I don’t think it needs to be the goal. So much of the anti-marriage sentiment seems to involve a desire to keep doing updated versions of the first few years of the character’s publishing history in a sort of endless loop. And I can’t see that as being good for the book in the longer term either, since it replaces story changes that shift the premise with something that doesn’t even manage the illusion of change for all that long.

Spider-Man isn’t only a coming-of-age story, and that element had stopped dead around the time the character becomes a socially-accepted, academically-successful high school student whose major dilemmas belong to Spider-Man rather than Peter Parker. It’s a story about shifts in life, about a nerdy teen who became a socialized and successful young adult back in 1967 or so and has had other things happen to him in the interim.

Know how to make the marriage work? Don’t hire Howard Mackie and Tom DeFalco to write your comics, don’t work from an editorially-driven or star-writer driven model, and don’t mire a soap-opera in “events.”

can. of. worms.

i say, if they don’t think they can write good spider-man stories with a married peter parker, end the marriage and show me some good stories. but at the same time i think that the marriage is a good new status quo which can be done well with a storyteller of considerable talent. we all know it’s an editorial decision to end the marriage and not a storytelling one so the deal with the devil is a retcon, and a retcon is probably better than killing of divorcing for the very reasons already stated. the main reason the marriage could be said not to work is that mary jane is not involved in the hero part of peter’s life at all…lois is a reporter so that akes sense but a fashion model/actresses concerns are doubtless disparate from that of a superhero’s

i can’t believe there’s an argument FOR divorce…taints the character’s growing-up role model status surely.

Near perfect post. Well done.

Parker’s life should suck, so have MJ cheat on him.

and is it me or Wally West is a good example of “married superhero” that works ?

(oh wait… that Flash hasn’t been written by JMS…)

I agree with your points. And I don’ think most people would have a problem with the idea of Peter being single again. It’s the way it’s being done that bothers most people. It’s fundementally silly. You’re going to choose your aged Aunt, who’s lead a full life, over your marriage of, let’s say, several years in comic book time? It smacks of the kind of thing a 9 year old would come up with.

The problem really is that once you decide Spider-Man is a “Coming of Age” story, you’ve pretty much locked it into a finite duration, because coming of age stories are all about learning lessons, and you can’t keep relearning the same lessons forever. Once you’ve decided to make Spider-Man about progression, you’re absolutely f***ed in terms of the storytelling engine, because you can’t keep any status quo if you decide that the character is about change, and you certainly can’t turn back the clock, because it seems so patently false to the entire human race (since none of us can magically go back to when we were single and carefree.)

You really have only two options: One, you can do the “Sherlock Holmes” route, tie everything up with an ending and go back and tell “lost stories” (Untold Tales of Spider-Man, as it were), or two, you can decide not to worry about the “coming of age” thing, leave the character where he is (married, no kids), not progress it further but not turn it back, and make it less about “coming of age” and more about “living with responsibilities”, which is something that teenagers, single adults, and married adults can all relate to. In essence, you have to play the hand you’re dealt or fold, it’s too late in the game to ask for a new deal.

Personally, I think for most people opposed to the marriage, it’s not that Pete GOT married, it’s that he married a SUPER MODEL. Although MJ hasn’t really been a famous model for quite some time, Peter remains the “Nerd Done Good” by scoring one of the hottest chicks in the world. You’re exactly right that the marriage should have been the end of the Peter Parker as Spider-Man story. In my mind, the bigger problem was caused by Quesada when he had Peter reveal his identity to the world.

However, I think there are numerous soap opera-style plots or subplots that could take advantage of MJ and Peter’s status as a young, married couple that would still make them as normal, and relatable as possible, given their unique circumstances:

1. Mary Jane has been out the limelight long enough trying to help Peter that no one’s interested in hiring her anymore. What if MJ starts to resent Peter for putting her career aside to be a superhero’s wife? How does the couple adapt when her modeling money starts to dry up?

2. MJ begins starving herself in a desperate bid for more acting/modeling work; develops anorexia. This would require long-range planning from Marvel and the artists as the curvaceous Mary Jane becomes increasingly thinner each issue for several months. Marvel gains mainstream exposure and positive press for tackling the problem of eating disorders among young women.

3. As Peter helps MJ recover, the money problem tightens. Reluctantly, Peter takes an extended photo assignment out of town and meets a beautiful, talented, adventurous photojournalist (Maybe Foggy Nelson’s former girlfriend from the “Born Again” arc). Can Peter resist the temptation to cheat AND defeat the evil plans of Klaw?

You get the point. Anyway, I think there are all sorts of dramatic developments that young couples face which could develop and build on one another in a relatively organic way. They all don’t have to end in a baby, death, divorce, or a lazy, ill-conceived Faustian bargain/reboot.

I’m with Post #3.

Peter Parker is a well developed character that can work on different levels. Let the coming of age Peter reign in Ultimate and give us the struggling husband Peter in the regular books.

What’s the problem?

In answer to John Seavey: I don’t necessarily think making Spider-Man’s story one of progression ruins the storytelling engine, because I think his story, and by extension Marvel Comics in general had been about just this very concept. One thing that would be a great help is to decide exactly how the timeline in the universe is going to progress. Maybe determine the ratio for just how much time passes in their world with regards to ours, and just plug in those changes carefully.

For instance, I figure that for every ten years’ real time that passes, three years elapses in comic book time. With that kind of setup, there are still DECADES worth of stories that you can tell with Peter Parker, amping the level of responsibilities he might be faced with, (such as “I have to stop the Rhino from going crazy in midtown, but Baby May could say her very first words any minute!”) until you reach a point where he starts showing his age.

Then you can end his story Sherlock Holmes style…and by then, you’ve got two choices: (1) plug in Spider-Girl into the proper canon, (2) Bring back “Untold Tales of Spider-Man” or some variation thereof, or (3) Hey…why not do BOTH?

Answering Jack Potts: I think the gripe that fans may have about Peter scoring a supermodel is all that relevant…I’d have to research more closely the timeline of Mary Jane Watson’s story, but IIRC, she wasn’t a supermodel when Aunt May was trying to fix Peter up with her in the Ditko days…merely the very attractive niece of her friend next door. At the core, she’s a woman who’d seen a lot of pain and struggle in her life, and that should be what makes her accessible to us as an audience, and that’s why Peter and MJ work so well together.

If I can, let me refer y’all to this great series of articles, starting with this one:

http://www.spideykicksbutt.com/WhyYouMaryJane/WhyYouMaryJanePart1.html

gah…meant to say ISN’T all that relevant.

Wally West as married superhero is one thing. But he’s only been married for a quarter of the time Peter has. Will they say the same thing when he gets to his 20 year anniversary? The first 5 years of married Pete were pretty good but it’s stalled since then. It seems like a lot of writers aren’t up to dealing with the marriage in which case getting rid of the stumbling block makes sense.

I loathe the fact we’re locked into ‘MJ is the one’ mode in USM as well. That should be a place to come up with something/someone new.

“Spider-Man in stories no one remembers fondly!”

I loved the Ross Andru issues!

Why is the possibility of divorce such a non-heroic thing? It could be done in a very decent manner: MJ gets an offer she can’t refuse, a film shoot far away, in New
Zealand, say. Plus, the money would help Aunt May pay her medical bills. Months apart wear on the relationship. A month together is good but not enough, then it’s back to the sequels (should’ve read that contract a bit more closely..) The long distance relationship eventually breaks down, they decide marriage is not working out, it’s unfair to both of them.
Nobody has to be blamed, the door is open for a possible MJ reunion in the future and Spidey gets his loser-mojo back.
Now the engine is like the romance angle, but in a modern way. Peter Parker now has to figure out what he really wants and how to be Spider-Man at the same time.

… or they could have her raped by one of Spidey’s B-list villains.

So in Sensational Spider-man (before this OMD crap) there was an issue where Peter held a seance with Madame Web to speak with the soul of his Aunt May. She said she didn’t want to be brought back, and that she had lived a long life and was ready to die.

Now in OMD Peter and MJ are considering desolving their marriage so that May can live on (despite what she told Peter in Sensational a few month back)? Where are the editors?! If this stupid storyline for OMD was pre-conceived, shouldn’t the editor have done something regarding that issue of sensational? I was pretty amped about OMD to begin with, but now…I just think it’s stupid and smacks of it being written by a twelve year old.

The recent animated series pretty much go with the “MJ as only love of Perter Parker ever”. The darn marriage is hurting even Spider-Man’s cross-media potential!

And, no, I don’t say that ironically.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

“Wally West as married superhero is one thing. But he’s only been married for a quarter of the time Peter has.”

Closer to half. The Spider-Man wedding issue was in 1987, and I think the Flash one came out somewhere around 96-98.

“… or they could have her raped by one of Spidey’s B-list villains.”

And then killed and stuffed into a refrigerator.

Seriously, both John Seavey and the 3rd poster are correct. You already have single Spider-Man in other places and you can’t have him becoming single and care-free again on the 616 literally like the marriage never happened. Plenty of great stories can be told with the marriage, JMS himself told some.

But if you want it to end, you have to take the consequences. Getting a divorce or becoming a widower make him look older, but saying 20 years of stories don’t matter is pathetic and is cheating on your readers.

First off, I want to say how impressed I am that this thread has across the board been insightful and polite.

Second, maybe it’s a generational thing (Peter has been married pretty much since I started reading comics), but I have no problem with Peter

A) married, in which case MJ replaces Aunt May as Peter’s anchor, as in, “Jeez, my life sucks/no money/job/old guy in bird suit’s trying to beat me up, but at least I have a woman who loves me” (in which case, we can also let May die); or

B) Divorced, since who could argue that being married to a super-hero is a huge strain, particularly on someone with a career that would require extended periods away? People do get divorced without hating each other, and how cool would it be if their divorce led them to be, y’know, friends, and opens up the supporting cast again?

And as another poster said, we can look to Wally West as a good template for young-married superhero. But the DC universe has always been about legacies, so seeing a character grow and age isn’t as hindering to the story-telling engine as it might be in the Marvel Universe.

Know how to make the marriage work? Don’t hire Howard Mackie and Tom DeFalco to write your comics, don’t work from an editorially-driven or star-writer driven model, and don’t mire a soap-opera in “events.”

Honestly, I think Michilinie did more damage to the character than those two. HIs 90+ issues were meandering, mediocre, one vapid story to another, were VERY editorially driven and star driven (and art-driven) and I think without the sheer boringness and stagnation his long run created, the Clone Saga wouldn’t have seemed like a good idea to the powers that be. The stories became so lame under him that I think he made them desperate to try ANYthing to shake things up and provide a real sense of drama and progression. Oh, and his marriage issues were horrible, especially the setup and actual ceremony.

DeFalco may have had his faults, but his handling of the MJ relationship was MUCH better than Michilinie’s, first by setting up the new dynamic between Pete and MJ where she knew his secret ID and creating a wonderful sexual tension between them,

Wally got married in 99. Man, it doesn’t seem that long ago. Sheesh I’m old. But that point about Legacies in the DCU is a good. Growing old(er) and passing the torch is kind of the thing over there. No reason it couldn’t happen to Spidey (and would keep a little forward momentum going)…. Other than ‘It’s soooo DC!’

The point Jeff Holland makes about Divorce is also very valid.

Umm, this is classic Quesada, and I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that people are falling for it AGAIN.

At no point in the issue (for those who haven’t read it) do Peter or MJ explicitly say they’re going to accept the offer. What this does is get everyone on the internet moaning and complaining and writing impassioned responses against a particular storyline (or in Burgas’s case: “Dumb! Dis story is dumb! I don’t like!” “Why?” “Bcuz it’s dumb!”), well in advance of that storyline’s resolution to ensure that people are talking about it, buy the next issue, whatever.

If Peter responds with an answer either next issue or at the end of the storyline, and chooses his marriage over May, all this discussion is going to look a bit foolish. This is like reading that first Jim Lee issue of X-Men, putting it down, and complaining that Havok killed Storm.

Quesada did it once with Speedball, and he’s doing it again with Peter/MJ. How can you people fall for it again?

You know, there’re reasons lots of people have a hard time seeing comics as an adult literature. And it’s stuff like this that almost convinces me that comics really aren’t for grownups. As soon as I heard about the marriage-splitting editorial mandate I stopped buying Amazing Spider-Man and all other Spider-related titles out of disgust and frustration. As someone else pointed out, there already are other Spider-titles in which Peter can be a young man who hasn’t nailed down growing up yet. I really, really liked that Marvel was publishing one of the very few superhero comics in which the characters actually behaved like, you know, adults.

Fuck it, there are better ways to spend my money than on perpetuating the Spider-Manchild.

Have to say that there are a lot of good points on both sides of this issue. Only thing I can think to do is just see what stories they can come up with to prove whether or not it works. If ‘One More Day’ can’t follow up with excellent stories that give a good reason for a change in the status quo, than we have our answer.

Langhorne Fats does have a very good point, one I’m surprised hasn’t come up more often – this is what Quesada DOES, and he’s always been very upfront about it.

With that in mind, I keep hoping that the fourth issue will pull a “PSYCH!” kind of twist that will put the previous two issues of nothing and one issue of A Completely Inappropriate Plot Development into a different context. It is a possibility. (All of which would have read better on as weekly, rather than monthly-plus serial, which isn’t JMS’s fault, really.)

Unfortunately, JMS has been pretty consistently writing Amazing Spider-Man as if it were Dr. Strange for years now so…hard to say.

(Tangential question: who was the architect of “The Other,” JMS, editorial…? Has anyone been deemed responsible for that one?)

Annnd…it’s Omar Karindu for the win.

If someone had shown me Untold Tales of Spider-Man when I was in fifth grade, I probably wouldn’t have stopped reading comics for 10 years.

I’m not reading Spider-Man now, so if I start after OMD, then I guess it’s a good move. Someone would have to tell me, thoiugh, because I’m not reading this. Slott’s Spider-Man/Human Torch was really good, but that was set long ago. Interestingly, it seems he wasn’t excited about the current state of Spidey comics.

Some good points made for both sides here.

Whilst I love MJ as a character, I do miss some of the soap-opera elements of Pete’s trouble with girls from the early stories.

I’m currently re-reading my Spidey collection and am just coming to the end of Roger Stern’s run (Amazing #250) and Pete has problems due to MJ returning to his life (remember she originally turned down his proposal of marriage.) These stories were really entertaining. I would add that Tom DeFalco (on his first run) continued the good work on their relationship.

When Pete and MJ got married things obviously changed but, like others here, it did feel like an important element of the stories had been lost. Pete’s girl problems had been an almost constant ingredient since Amazing Fantasy #15.

Of course, there have been some good stories since the marriage and some terrible ones. (I include OMD in the later as it’s not working for me.)

The positive thing to remember is that, whatever the outcome, the creative teams are changing and we can hope that they can take the new status quo (whatever it is at OMD conclusion) and give us such good stories that we don’t care what happens at the end of OMD. Don’t let us down Dan.

Finally, how many people recall that Pete and MJ have already split-up once. That didn’t work very well and am I correct in saying it was JMS who brought them back together (too lazy to look through my collection)? Ironic.

What this basically comes down to is- “What Spider-Man did I grow up with and want to see again?” That seems to be one of the main dividing lines for those for and against the marriage. For me, I’ve lived 20 of my 30 years with the marriage and think it should stay the way it is.

Quesada’s claims that he wants to tell ‘exciting new stories’ just translates to me as “I want to tell the same tired old stories from before 1987 all over again.” I hope I’m wrong about this, but I have a feeling not.

The points made about a single Spidey running around in at least 3 others books is very, VERY apt. Get your single Spidey fix there. I also like the mention of Wally West. Another “coming of age” hero who married and has been just fine. So it’s not a character flaw if Quesada doesn’t like the married stories, it’s the result of bad writing…

For me, I’ve lived 20 of my 30 years with the marriage and think it should stay the way it is.

So did I. But I’m a black-hearted individual with not a speck of nostalgia in my soul.

I’m kind of bemused by the notion that there has to be some kind of romantic tension in Peter’s life for the Spider-man concept to work. Especially after he’s already gone through years and years of it.

Look, I grew up with all the romance stuff that’s thrown at girls and young women – ‘relationship fiction’, I believe it’s called. And I’m here to tell you, it ain’t all that enthralling. It’s a formula, and like any formula, it gets tired really, really quickly.

In the comics world, it does have an advantage in re: a revolving door of sexy young women for the fanboys to drool over…but to me, saying it’s necessary to the storytelling is about the same thing as admitting you’re either out of ideas for the character or too lazy to come up with any more.

the other problem I have with this argument is that ‘coming of age’ does not, in fact, reach a grand finale with marriage. You do not suddenly wake up the day after the honeymoon and huzzah, a mature outlook on life!

All marriage does is make stuff exponentially more complicated, because now you have somebody else to think about, too. Especially does that hold true if you’re, say, a cop, or a soldier, or a superhero. As I’ve mentioned before re: this subject, if good storytelling is your goal this would seem to me to be the logical direction to take…instead of ‘ooh, Peter caught [girl] kissing [other guy] last night! The angst of it all!’

TF_loki said:

“The first 5 years of married Pete were pretty good but it’s stalled since then.”

Yes, that would be because the editor of the Spider-Man books and the editor-in-chief of Marvel both said they hated the marriage, wanted to dissolve it, hired creative teams with the express mandate of getting rid of it, spent the better part of five years writing stories designed to “undo” it, found out everyone hated those ideas, spent the better part of five years frantically backpedaling, and then were replaced by an entirely new editor and editor-in-chief, who promptly said, “Hey, you know what we need to get rid of? The Spider-Marriage!”

It’s not an issue of the idea being inherently bad, it’s the idea of the people behind the scenes not being willing to get behind the idea.

As much as I love the Spider-Marriage, because I grew up with it, it’s probably not good for the industry that a character likes Spider-Man grows up with me. Honestly, it’s a bit selfish for me to want Pete to mellow into adulthood, because that’s hardly what young readers want to see.

It’s been said here that the movies- the most popular version of the Spider-Man story- also present us with an ‘MJ or nothing’ scenario, which is probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever get married. Consider this quote from the Raimi interview I put up here recently:

“He’s most powerful to me as an adolescent. The thing that Stan Lee created that was so special was that he was a very young character, and he’s a kid trying to deal with these fantastic powers. The idea of being married counters that a little bit.
It’s a place of accepted responsibility versus being on the road to learning responsibility. It’s associated with adulthood versus being the ultimate kid who’s a superhero. So it’s not that you couldn’t tell a good story with a married Spider-Man, but my favorite Spider-Man is the unmarried one.”

Seems like a persuasive argument to me.

Victor O'Niallain

December 3, 2007 at 5:18 pm

I’m not a great fan of these stories that try to “erase” facts we readers so enthusiatically witnessed in our favourite characters’life. We get emotionally attached even to the stories we didn’t like. After all, we ended up accepting them as part of the characters’ biography. It’s part of our treasured knowledge about him/her. However, I have to agree that this marriage kinda “grounds” Peter Parker/Spider-man. It limits his plot possibilities. Besides, Spider-man represents the growing (in the emotional sense and others) man. The ever learning, ever evolving person. He can’t be totally “mature”. That would be against his very “function” in the “super-hero/comic book world”.

Well, again, marriage doesn’t automatically = ‘total maturity’ by a long shot; it actually increases growth – emotional and mental – in a lot of key areas.

It’s a place of accepted responsibility versus being on the road to learning responsibility.

Mm. At any rate, given that we’ve not only now reached the plateau but are well past it to the point where an entire generation no longer relates to it…how exactly do you reset the clock?
You can’t de-age Peter, so – as was pointed out in another thread – you’re left with a thirtyish guy, still living with his doting auntie, trying to act out his readers’ fantasy of an idealised young kid who didn’t know any better. Do I really have to point out that a lot of what is endearing at fifteen is pathetic at thirty?

Something else odd about Raimi’s quote that occurred to me after I hit send: Isn’t Spidey’s whole gig about what happens after you’ve accepted responsibility?

He figures out what it means to be Spider-man, then spends the rest of his life trying to live up to it. Seems like marriage actually fits into that scenario perfectly.

I don’t buy it. There’s no reason why Spider-Man couldn’t still operate on the same levels that you point out, only with a slight shift in focus. You can still have dramatic tension, with Spider-Man grown up, by incorporating and focusing on other characters. There’s a reason that Spider-Girl’s managed to hang on for so long.

It’s possible that the whole point of Peter getting married was a means of putting a whole new set of responsibilities in front of Peter to live up to, since by that point he had gotten pretty good at being a superhero and a person – being a responsible husband (one who risks his life “professionally” at that) is a whole new thing to learn. As often happens, it’s the execution of it all that got, if not fouled up, than at least neglected along the way.

This could be discussed until the cows come home, but I think it’s better to wait until the story wraps up before dwelling on it much more. When’s that last issue come out, January? February?

I disagree with pretty much the entire argument.

1) “Here’s my theory: The reason super-hero comics survived and prospered when westerns and pirate comics flopped over and died was the super-folks adaptability, the ease with which they utilize the conventions of different genres.”

Not true. I’ve read plenty of romances that were set in pirate or western scenes, and there are samurai romances as well. Superheroes did not win the comics war because of greater ability to incorporate other genres. (Although the ability to do so helped the genre get established.)

2) “Spider-man is Coming of Age Story”

So what? Your first point was that a superhero comic can move from one genre to another. Spider-Man had to begin as a coming of age story, but aging the character only required a change of tone. Having made the decision to age the character and keep aging him, it obviously could not continue to be an adolescent coming of age story, but there are other types of story that will work equally well for the character. The fault lies in writers for not finding them (and not really wanting to find them). They are only really debasing the origin story by trying to constantly retell it and “improve” it as they go.

3) “So when Spider-man undergoes maybe THE most important ritual of becoming an adult***, he’s no longer coming of age, he dang well CAME.”

Marriage is not the most important part of becoming an adult. Having and raising a child is. Marvel has yet to demonstrate that they are willing to tell the story of Peter Parker finally becoming an adult.

I don’t understand why people have such trouble with comic book characters growing older. I think it’s fine to publish a book like Shazam! where both Billy Batson and Captain Marvel stay the same age forever, but creating a world where everybody grows and evolves should not blind anyone to the obvious consequences of that: people are going to grow older and eventually die. Allowing Peter Parker to grow older will not prevent Marvel from telling coming of age stories, because they can allow Alex Power (for example) to become old enough to do that.

Gasoline Alley has told the story of Skeezix from his being left on a doorstep as a baby through to his eighties over a span of many decades. I don’t see why Marvel can’t do the same. In fact, not doing this has caused more problems than it has solved over the years. Flash Thompson’s and Tony Stark’s Vietnam service would not be an issue today if they had aged properly in the books.

I’m agreeable to either time passing or time not passing, but Marvel has to make up its mind one way or the other. The emphasis on continuity pretty well requires that time passes in the books. I would rather see the natural effects of that than endless retcons to keep the most popular characters in the writers’ comfort zone. As others have said, Marvel already publishes multiple versions of the same character, so there is no reason that time can’t pass in one book and not in another.

*Looks over at EvilDeathBee, points at own eyes with two fingers and gestures back and forth* See…you and me? We’re on the same page right here. Feelin’ your argument, my friend.

I’m agreeable to either time passing or time not passing, but Marvel has to make up its mind one way or the other. The emphasis on continuity pretty well requires that time passes in the books. I would rather see the natural effects of that than endless retcons to keep the most popular characters in the writers’ comfort zone. As others have said, Marvel already publishes multiple versions of the same character, so there is no reason that time can’t pass in one book and not in another.

This is exactly what it all boils down to. I am in agreeance with you.

MarkAndrew said:
“So did I. But I’m a black-hearted individual with not a speck of nostalgia in my soul.”

Ha ha, well played, sir, well played.

You know, I think people (and Marvel Execs) are missing the big picture.

Marriage or no marriage, the fact of the matter is that Peter Parker grew up a long time ago!

In other words, the marriage is just symbolic, taking it away will not fix that! It will make it worst!!!

The stories will change from: “a guy struggling with his responsibilities to his family and trying to make ends meet, while fighting crime”.

To: “an almost thirty year old loser, who didn’t finish his masters or Ph.D, hasn’t accomplished any of his goals and still lives with his Aunt.”

Now, how creepy is that?!!?!?

KM,

I love you :) You posted just about everything that I was thinking while reading this thread. Saved me a bunch of typing!

I have to agree that Marvel should at least do *something* with Spidey’s marriage. It’s entirely possible to write good stories about Peter’s normal wife as opposed to his normal girlfriend, but it’s been a damn long time since we got any. A major reason for Spider-Man’s marriage has simply been inertia keeping things from going anywhere (although some seriously awful writers haven’t helped).

So let’s say they reverse the clock, and make Peter more like his Ultimate, Marvel Adventures, Loves Mary Jane self. Hell, we can even make him more like Spider-Man J. That could work, because it’s been working all along. I’d prefer it wasn’t because of frickin’ Mephisto, but whatever. Just get the damn stories in so we can move on.

Of course, they could always go forward instead. There’s already been a comic about Peter Parker, Spider-Dad for about a decade now. Look at where some other heroes are these days. Superman has a son. Batman has a son. Flash has two kids. Wolverine has a son and essentially a teenage daughter, only one of whom should never be used again. Black Canary had a kid for a bit there. Even *SPOILERS* Captain America has a kid on the way. *END SPOILERS*.

So why not let the Parkers have a kid? They can bring May into mainstream continuity – she never was confirmed dead, after all. On the other hand, why not have the Parkers adopt Normie Osborn? As the son of Peter’s late best friend, it’s quite likely they’re in line to get custody in the event of Liz Allen’s death/coma. His only living relative is Norman, whose a bit murderous to get custody. It would certainly make visitation interesting.

Oh, and having a kid? Very everyman.

“As much as I love the Spider-Marriage, because I grew up with it, it’s probably not good for the industry that a character likes Spider-Man grows up with me. Honestly, it’s a bit selfish for me to want Pete to mellow into adulthood, because that’s hardly what young readers want to see.”

Those young readers can read Ultimate Spider-Man or, if they’re even younger, Spider-Girl.

Until the stars turn cold.

OR

Until my aunt’s on her death bed.

(Maybe Foggy Nelson’s former girlfriend from the “Born Again” arc).

Glori O’Breen. Like many of Matt Murdock’s ex-girlfriends, she’s dead.

What confuses me about this is the argument that Spider-Man appeals better to young readers if he’s single. Frankly, I see very little kids freak out upon seeing Spider-Man merchandise or posters because he looks cool and beats up bad guys who are easily made into metaphors for the scary things of the world. To a little kid, things like a superhero’s real name, job, and marital status are all just details, and not likely to be deal-breakers if his actual adventures are still awesome. I mean, did little kids dislike the Incredibles because Mr. Incredible is old and fat and having a mid-life crisis for half the movie? No, they cheer when the family is finally all together and having awesome adventures. It lets them pretend that their whole family could be superheroes. Would it be so bad if little kids could pretend that Spider-Man was their dad?

Now, maybe teenage boys might theoretically prefer an unmarried Spider-Man, but didn’t the fickleness of teenage boys result in both the sheer awfulness of 90′s comics and the industry crash? Do we really want to go back to that? Because I have to say, to the average teenage boy, it’s probably not Spider-Man being married that keeps him from reading. It’s that he’d rather be playing video games, and so has no interest in Spider-Man until you give him a Spider-Man game to play.

A character is subject to “real” victories, “real” tragedies and a life (even a fictional life) of lasting change and growth.

A “cultural icon” must be maintained as a vehicle for only a narrow set of extremely familiar stories.

Arguably the one factor that makes Spider-Man unique is that, aside from the spider-powers and goofy villains, he has always been written to be as human as you or me. He’s felt bad about keeping secrets from loved ones, worried about whether he’ll have enough money to pay his rent and bills, mourned deceased friends, juggled a hectic schedule with his responsibilites as a married man, etc. Very often, the problems he encounters are a direct consequence of decisions he made and these problems can’t be solved credibly through a convenient deus ex machina.

Spidey works because he is a reflection of us. Our love for the character has transformed him into an icon. However, if you WRITE Spidey as an icon, you strip of him everything that drew most fans to the character in the first place.

Spider-Man is certainly a “cultural icon”, but unlike other cultural icons, his iconic status is better maintained by continuing to write him as a credible, ever-changing human CHARACTER.

Quite frankly, I’d much rather see Peter and Mary Jane move forward (if just to show readers, many of whom are old enough to know better, that life doesn’t end when one says: “I do.”) than take a giant, magical leap back to a story setting that had more than run its course twenty years back.

Todd, I’d submit that the other thing that makes Spidey special- apart from the everyman aspect- is that he was the first young superhero who wasn’t a sidekick. Getting married and having kids and growing old subtracts from that considerably. Sure, that’s why we have Ultimate Spider-Man- but is that really an excuse for the flagship in-continuity titles to have strayed so far from the hook that made Spidey popular?

If they undo the marriage, there’s no way in hell I’m going to read ASM again, because it’s undoing twenty years of stories I grew up with. But I think that’s kind of the point- removing continuity that distracts from the core concept, and making the flagship title accessible to new readers again.

Captain Marvel and Kid Eternity would like a word with you, Rohan.

Undeniably, there is an aspect of “kid hero acting without an adult hero” to the earliest Spidey tales. However, it’s so overshadowed by the “everyman” aspect that it almost renders the “kid” angle moot.

Yeah, I totally misphrased that, Todd- I meant he was the first superhero his age (high school/college age) who wasn’t a sidekick, not the first young solo superhero full stop, as I phrased it above.

I disagree with the notion that the everyman angle overshadowed the kid hero angle, though- so much of Peter’s melodramatic nature (and, on his better days, his exuberance at being a superhero) came from the fact that he was in his teens. Ideally, Spidey’s not a child OR an adult, he’s an adolescent.

I’ve enjoyed some stories where Spidey is an adult, sure, and it’s the era I grew up with, but I think he’s most ‘iconic’ as an adolescent.

I should add- obviously, getting rid of the marriage won’t magically de-age Spidey, which is the main ‘problem’ Marvel seems obsessed with fixing. Honestly, if it was up to me, and I absolutely had to get rid of the Spider-Marriage, I’d just make USM the main book. So, I can see why they want to get rid of the marriage, but I don’t like the way they’re going about it.

Awww, Mantistotem, thanks.

I’m wondering if, in the course of debating what age Spidey works best at, we’re not overlooking something rather obvious: Peter Parker was a kid (originally at least) more than forty years ago.

Of course human nature is what it is in any era…but it seems like what’s at stake here is a particular time and place.
Can you (would you) write the same young Spider-Man today that you could back then – let alone the idealised version his grown-up fans remember? The same innocence, exuberance, melodrama?

I don’t read USM, so I may be way off-base here…but my best guess would be no. At which point you have to kind of wonder why you’d need to try. The Everyman aspect has endured for many decades past the melodrama; I think it’s also more universal. Going by that alone it can be argued it is at least more worth the salvaging.

Actually, KM, USM is different from the Lee/Ditko Spidey in that Pete is (slightly) less of a geek than he was back then. The innocence, exuberance and melodrama is all still there (not that Pete has ever been totally ‘innocent’… he’s always had a temperamental and cynical side, which is reflected in USM), and most of the book’s best moments come from contrasting a realistic adolescent with crazy super-hero situations. I’m not basing that on idealised memories- I’ve read the whole run of USM within the last six months or so, and if you’re a Spidey fan, I highly recommend you take a look.

“For the first 7 or 8 years of the feature really did have Peter go through life changes … And then things stop dead to keep him young, and we began to get stories about Spider-Man rather than Peter … The next truly classic, truly well-remembered storyline is the death of Gwen and the beginning of Spider-Man/Mary Jane romance.”

Which is actually why I have a near complete collection of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN through issue #122 … and then it stops. With great power came great responsibility … and THIS was how Fate repaid him. As an adult, it just seems like that’s the perfect issue to end the series. At this point, he’d say, “I’ve done my part,” and hang up his web-shooters. Eventually, a romance with MJ would blossom. And they’d live happily ever after …

“The next truly classic, truly well-remembered storyline is the death of Gwen and the beginning of Spider-Man/Mary Jane romance.”

Hmmm … I dunno … What about the three-part “drug storyline” with the Green Goblin (who, ironically, is the enemy in the Death of Gwen storyarc)?

And what about “Spidey Cops Out”? Gwen tells off Aunt May, who promptly runs away. Pete spends several issues searching for her, during which he meets HAMMERHEAD —— and lands in the middle of Hammy’s gangwar with DOC OCK! Man, I was a kid, and this was the first SPIDER-MAN comic I ever got, and it still holds up well today (no rose-colored glasses here).

This whole mess has me thinking Quesada’s had about enough time as EIC.

This is a horrible, hacky solution to cowardly writing. Joe’s said time and again that the marriage makes it impossible to do love triangles without making Peter look like a cad. Maybe. But am I the only one who thinks there’s the potential for some really bold, interesting stories in there somewhere? That is, if you insist that love triangles have to be involved every eight issues or so?

Plus, by ending the marriage now, they’re throwing all kinds of interesting potential right out the window. Mary Jane is a minor celebrity in the Marvel U. And now, it’s out of the bag that her husband, this whole time, has been Spider-Man right under everyone’s noses. Think of all the crazy tension that’s there to play with – someone the public adores married to public enemy #1! There’s YEARS worth of stories there. The post-Civil War Parkers had tremendous potential for any writer with the balls to explore it.

But instead, they’re going with Mephisto’s divorce court. So they can go back to doing stories from thirty years ago. That they’re already riffing on in Ultimate and Adventures. Marvel probably considers themselves ‘bold’ for this move, but it’s anything but.

Furthermore, they already tried splitting Pete and MJ up. She was missing from the books for years, and it was terrible! In time, that dumbass decision was undone, just like this dumbass will be undone. It probably won’t be Spider-Clone bad, but it’s not gonna stick.

[...] I also find the argument that you can’t tell interesting stories with Spider-Man, as our friends in the U.K. often say, kind of crap. While our own Mark Andrew makes a good argument on a thematic level (with a remarkable show of restraint in dropping his g’s in the process, which is commendable), I tend to fall more on old man Hatcher’s side of the fence on this issue; it’s a gut vs. head thing, for me at least, but I’m comfortable playing Stephen Colbert here. It just strikes me as a lazy argument, more “No one in comics knows how to/wants to write this story” more than “it can’t be done/it’s ruining the character,” especially when Joe Q. was advancing it. It just seems like a cop out to me, especially because it always assumes there is no conflict in marriage whatsoever.  [...]

Spider-man is fighting it out with Huck Finn and Harry Potter to be THE most important coming of age story in Western culture.

There is just one HUGE problem with that comparison: Huck Finn is a single stand-alone novel, and Harry Potter is a series of seven novels that still have a definite ending.

In comparison, Spider-Man is an ongoing monthly serial that never ever ends. Which means that Peter Parker can never complete the journey and truly come of age. Because once he does, well, he’s no longer the same guy. Which, as Omar Karindu so accurately articulated, results in the writers & editors furiously backpeddling to return Peter to the point he was at in the late 1960s, when the status quo of the charater really became set in concrete.

Obviously, when the readership turned over every three to five years, and the availablity of trade paperbacks & back issues was minimal, very few in the audience would notice it, because for them the then-current crop of stories were full of all-new ideas. but now, when you have readers who have been following the character for two decades and who have easy access to even older stories, well, at that point you realize just how much treading water the character has doen since Stan Lee left the series.

Spider-Man at its heart is a science book. To use magic just because it exist in the Marvel Universe is a cheap ploy by lazy writers. Spider-Man already has two book where he is single, and now a third.
Its not like the world never heard of divorce. And this was a great shot at a good story and Marvel opted for a cheap “Mary-Sue”.

Frankly I’m tired of high priced writers doing just plain stupid stories to pump up sales. You want us to guy your books then write good stories. Funny how Marvel’s current editor is taking such a hands on aproach. Last time was Shooter and people still bitch about him. Has the industry learned nothing from the implosion of the 80′s-90′s. The only difference now is that instead of gimmick covers we get gimmick storylines.

Uncle Ben can never come back, but appearently Aunt May can never die?

A married Peter story could easily be a coming of age, power and responsibility story. People don’t stop coming of age, they don’t stop maturing, just because they get married. Having Peter notice in-story that he spends less time with his friends, his life is more boring, and he isn’t going anywhere creates a new responsibility for him. Marriage introduces a whole ton of new responsibilities that you can’t forsee, and coming to accept that responsibility, and recommit himself to his marriage in a new, mature way could push Peter in familiar yet new ways.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives