Sep 1, 2010

Can We Get Over the Spider-Marriage Yet?

All right, let's just get it out of the way. You know Spider-Man's marriage, and how it ended? Yeah, okay. Let's just MOVE ON now, can we?

A little bit of history first: In 1987, in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, Peter Parker, your friendly neigborhood Spider-Man, married longtime supporting cast member and on-again/off-again girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson. This was due to editorial fiat at the time, and if you were reading Spider-Man comics at the time - hell, if you just read the story from the proposal to the wedding, which is what I did, since I got the paperback,  you'll know that it really wasn't well-thought-out, or well-done, for that matter. There's a whole detailed explanation at Again With the Comics, but suffice it to say that I have this story and I thought it sucked. They're not even dating when Peter proposes; two issues later, they're married. Really? Even when I read this as a twelve-year-old, I thought it was horribly done.

The Spider-marriage was widely known as a creative mistake, and writers afterward tried to make do with what they had. Ignoring the fact that marrying a supermodel who is never short on gigs is completely antithetical to the core concept of Spider-Man as a hard-luck hero, I'm sorry to say this, but I was reading Spider-Man on and off at the time, and nothing - NOTHING - Marvel did with the marriage was gripping to me. At all. Nope, not when they started going on and on about how their prospective kid might be a mutant:

Beast talks to Spider-Man about his baby being a mutant.
Story and art by Erik Larsen. Spider-Man #15

Not when some dude kissed MJ and we thought maybe she'd cheat on Peter:

Of course she hasn't.

Certainly not when the stress of being married to Spider-Man was a little much, so God forbid, Mary Jane should take up smoking, a habit she apparently had in high school:

From Amazing Spider-Man #378, by David Michelinie and Mark Bagley.
Look, they do the best with what they have, but does anyone really buy the tension here?

Everything else about the Spider-Man books were fine - I particularly enjoyed David Michelinie and Mark Bagley's run on Amazing - but the one thing I could never get into was the marriage. Sorry, folks, but if the concept of Spider-Man as being a relatable everyman is supposed to be what got to me, then I have to admit that it simply never did. The marriage had all the tension of an onion. "Can their marriage last? Will they make it?!?" Of course they could, and of course they did. Even at a young age, I knew they weren't going to make Spider-Man a divorcee, much less a widower.

I think acclaimed Spider-Man writer Roger Stern put it best in this December 2008 interview:

The thing is, Spider-Man is a mystery to his general public -- he could be anyone under that mask. No one would know about his marital status -- or even give it much thought, unless they were enemies looking to strike at him through loved ones. In those pre-“Brand-New-Day” stories, it wasn't really Spider-Man who was married, it was Peter Parker.
And Peter for the most part works best as a young, single guy. I would never say he should never marry. But he certainly should not be married to Mary Jane Watson. That's just crazy.
The only way the writers were able to keep that marriage going on the printed page for as long as they did was by changing who Pete and MJ were, by turning them into different people. And a lot of talented writers worked on Spider-Man during that period, doing their best, but that marriage never quite worked for to me. It was like hearing about two old friends who'd run off and made this terrible mistake. 

Even at a young age, I completely agreed with this, since I ended up reading some Spider-Man stories from before the marriage (some of them Stern's), and my God, they were so much more fun. To illustrate the contrast between the pre- and post-marriage stories, note this sequence when he was still dating the Black Cat, and he decides to let Felicia Hardy in on his secret:

From Spectacular Spider-Man #87, by Bill Mantlo and Al Milgrom
Now that's entertainment!

Later on, after the marriage (which Felicia didn't even know about, since it was that much of a rush), she started dating Flash Thompson to get back at Peter. YAAAAAAAY. Honestly, it's not the writers' fault. The basic concept had all the appeal of a burnt tomato.

It's not just that; there's also a marked difference between Spider-Man pre-marriage and Spider-Man post-marriage. It seemed as if the wisecracking, fun-loving Spider-Man was slowly getting replaced by someone who was just nowhere near as fun. The contrast was really evident to me when the Clone Saga happened (read my entire retrospective on it here), because not only was Ben Reilly acting more like classic Peter Parker than Peter Parker at the time, but he also had a much more interesting civilian life, and a big part of that included dating. Instead of being kept in false suspense about a wife that was never going to be put in any real danger, and wondering if their love was going to make it, which of course it was, even if you're wondering if they were really made for each other at all (they weren't), or whatever else, Ben's romances were fresh, new, untried, untested, and exciting. Why, when Dan Jurgens was writing him in Sensational Spider-Man, he gave her a very very intriguing love interest: Jessica Carradine, the daughter of the burglar who killed Uncle Ben!

From Sensational Spider-Man #3. Art and story by Dan Jurgens.
Jessica Carradine wasn't Ben's only love interest - and the fact that none of them
were long-established iconic characters really amped up the drama.

The Clone Saga itself was actually conceived as a way to end the Spider-marriage, presumably by having Ben Reilly take over as Spider-Man. How this was ever going to happen, I don't know, since even with Ben Reilly as Spider-Man and being single, you'd have to deal with having no Daily Bugle, and how could we ever live without J. Jonah Jameson?

A few months after the Clone Saga ended, as bad as it was, I stopped reading Spider-Man. Altogether. Oh sure, I'd read a few issues here and there, but there was just something missing; at the end of the day, I just couldn't connect to Spider-Man, who, at the time, I thought, was my favorite superhero. At the time, I couldn't figure it out, but in hindsight, it was probably the marriage. There simply was no tension or drama whatsoever romantically - this is something I'm fine with in, say, Superman, since Superman and Lois just beat around the bush anyway when they're not married, and when they are married and written well, they function as a team. Spider-Man didn't have that with Mary Jane - he was Spider-Man in the costume and it wasn't at all affected by his marriage to MJ, unless he was wondering if MJ was okay or if MJ was mad at him (all... the damn... time...). So let's get this straight: The Clone Saga, as horrible as it was, couldn't get me to stop reading Spider-Man comics, because as horrible as it was, I thought Ben Reilly was still a fascinating and interesting character, but a married Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker was enough. Yes. That's right. In addition, almost any Spider-fan will tell you at the time that the best Spider-Man book on the market was Kurt Busiek and Pat Oliffe's Untold Tales of Spider-Man, which set Spider-Man stories in between the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko issues, and also featured an unmarried Peter Parker.

So fast forward around 12 years later, and J. Michael Straczynski had been writing Spider-Man for about eight years at that point, and while I read some stories, I just couldn't get into it. Spider-Man - and Marvel, in general - was too dark, with black panel borders all around, Spider-Man constantly torturing himself, and, worst of all, this abomination:

Image from Comics101. The Green Goblin deflowers Gwen Stacy.
Because, you know, this was really necessary.

Spider-Man is such an important character for me that I kept looking into it over the years, trying to see if I can go back, but aside from a few stories, it just never grabbed me, ever. If there were more exceptions, that's what they were - exceptions.

Read Spider-Man/Human Torch by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton! Now!

So then one day, editor-in-chief Joe Quesada tells J. Michael Straczynski that he wants the marriage ended - editorial fiat to overturn editorial fiat - and to make it work so that Peter is neither a widower nor a divorcee, and we don't get that obligatory three years where Peter whines about losing his one true love (she's not), presumably. So the solution? Why, have Peter and MJ make a deal with the devil. In exchange for Aunt May's life, Peter and Mary Jane have to give their marriage to Mephisto, Marvel's resident devil. Then he'll make it so that the marriage never happened. The story was called One More Day.

Let me say this just once, in big capital letters: YES, I KNOW IT'S A STUPID IDEA.  Nobody liked it, and I didn't even bother reading it, and I KNOW IT'S A HORRIBLE STORY. No one who's read it - no matter which side of the marriage fence you fall on - has liked it. IT REALLY, REALLY SUCKED.

But you know what? The stories that followed were some of the best I've ever seen Spider-Man written. He was carefree when he was Spidey, worried as Peter Parker; there were jokes and laughs; and he had some new, really offbeat villains, one of which is Screwball, the world's first streaming supervillain:

We also got covers like this!

And the creative teams! My God, with names like Dan Slott, Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, and Bob Gale on writing duties, it's no wonder that this is the best Spider-Man's been written since... well, since Roger Stern was writing him! And Roger himself is back on occasional writing chores.

And the artists!! Seriously, we get artists like Lee Weeks:

Mike McKone:

Barry Kitson:

and Marcos Martin:

Amazing Spider-Man #618, Dan Slott and Marcos Martin.

I really, really don't think it's any coincidence that Spider-Man is so much more fun when he's single, even if a lot of the stories told in the Brand New Day era could conceivably have been told with a married Peter Parker; the fact is they haven't.

But of course, we still get a lot of people griping about how Spider-Man made a deal with the devil (which he didn't even do, really), and how they can't support the "evil creature that is masquerading around as Spider-Man" (not my words) because it's not the Spider-Man they grew up with, and of course, they'll flood the message boards - almost three years later - talking about how much an unmarried Spider-Man sucks and how much the current stories suck.

I really don't get this, folks. Spider-Man comics come out three times a month, at around three dollars per month. Do you really seriously mean to tell me that some people out there spend $144 per year on something they know they're going to bitch about? I'm sorry, but if I don't like a comic, the solution is simple: I don't buy it.

But what I really don't get is the fact that, as even most comics creators will tell you, including Gail Simone on her Twitter, Spider-Man's got some of the best creators ever right now. It seems really really petty to me to piss on a title due to editorial fiat that was used to overturn another editorial fiat, just to support the first editorial fiat, and then piss on all the creators that are actually putting so much work into the current product. You try looking at this Marcos Martin page (which was written by Stan Lee) and tell me - just tell me - that he doesn't deserve some more attention.

Amazing Spider-Man #639. Stan Lee and Marcos Martin.

Seriously, folks, if you quit worrying about how it all fits together (continuity is overrated), there are some really really fun stories in this Brand New Day status quo. And if you want your Spider-Man married to Mary Jane Watson, your old issues are still there for you to read. And you can support some really great creators while you're at it.

The Spider-Man comics these days aren't driven just by editorial fiat or a way to make money - it's written and drawn by people who genuinely love to write and draw Spider-Man. And if you can get past the whole "Peter and MJ were never married" thing, which isn't hard to do, because you can just ignore it, you might just enjoy yourself.

Sure beats just griping about the same thing for three years, right?


stillanerd said...

A few points I like to make:

1. I definitely do agree that Peter and MJ's marriage was indeed an editorial rush job. The least Marvel could've done was to explore them as an engaged couple for a few years. However, I think a good reason why quite a few stories during the period in which Peter and MJ were married were bad was due to, ironically, Marvel trying to get rid of it in ridiculous ways, not so much the characters being in a relationship itself.

2. The idea how Peter marrying MJ goes against his core-concept of being a hard-luck hero because she's a supermodel--who says MJ has to be a supermodel. Besides, she actually lost that gig early on in their marriage and she isn't even one now. Also, since Peter was a photographer, what else do photographers take pictures of? Models, right?

3. While Roger Stern does make a valid point about why Peter and MJ shouldn't be married, there's actually another reason why he was opposed to it. When he was asked about who he thought was the "right girl" for Peter to marry instead of MJ, he responded thus: "Not at the time. When I was first writing Amazing Spider-Man, I was planning to introduce a new romantic interest for Pete…a young woman who might have developed into the right girl for him…but I never got around to it."

4. As why people have a hard time getting over One More Day? Well, considering how it involves a character Marvel has marketed as being the paragon of responsibility making a deal with a proxy of the devil (and even if he didn't really make a deal with the devil, he still came across as someone who was unwilling to accept or deal with the consequences of his own actions), like it or not, that's going to taint the image of that character, regardless of how well written or illustrated the stories are, unless it's corrected. It's not unlike when fans were upset when DC turned Hal Jordan into a villain before Geoff Johns finally redeemed him in Green Lantern: Rebirth.

Duy said...

Point by point:

1. They didn't try to actively get rid of the marriage until about seven years after it. They did try to make the most of what they had, but it wouldn't work.

2. She was a supermodel. Then she lost that job. Then she was an actress on General Hospital. Then she lost that job. Then she was a model again. Then she lost it again. Actress again. Then she lost it again. OH WAIT, NOW SHE'S SMOKING! TEN-SION!!

3. I personally am not saying that Mary Jane and Peter couldn't have married later on; I'm saying they shouldn't have gotten married when they did, and I'm saying that when they did get married and there was no turning back and then they turned into characters so radically different than they were before. The adventures of Spider-Man were still fun, but the private lives of Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker were bland, boring, and blah.

4. First of all, I'd like to say it's not about the whole paragon of responsibility thing. EVERYONE hates OMD, no matter which side of the marriage argument you fall on.

Adherence to continuity is overrated. Stories now are better than stories then, and some fans would rather gripe and piss and moan (and actually BUY these comics that they gripe and piss and moan about) about a story that happened three years ago to a fictional character than actually support the creators working on the character now. Marcos Martin deserves more exposure. So does Mike McKone. So do a bunch of others.

But then people are looking for an in-story explanation, and well, from the very beginning, I said to myself that the very nature of the deal with Mephisto means that in this new continuity, the deal with Mephisto never actually happened. Now they're trying to show you how it actually did happen in OMIT, and people are still bitching about it, finding holes around it. OMIT is written in such a way that you can take from it what you want to take from it. Mephisto says it never happened, I'll take his word for it and say it never happened, but then some people will say "This guy is the god of lying, why should you take his word for it?" Well, it's not like he lies ALL the time, and given that, it just really says more about the reader than it does about Mephisto - specifically, some readers are so pissed about OMD AND LIKE GETTING PISSED ABOUT OMD that any attempt to remove Mephisto from the canonical story (adherence to which is also overrated) is met with venom and bile and disgust. This story could be ignored as easily as I ignored Sins Past, which I prefer to think of as not having happened - Spider-Man: Blue is still a beautiful story, Gwen's death was still tragic, Sins Past be damned to hell, because there's a lot of other stuff in comics (and in the world) to worry about than the effects of one story that I could easily say never happened in my head.

To reiterate, they're currently trying to show a continuity where the deal with Mephisto didn't happen (obviously with teases that Mephisto was behind some stuff so they could open up that door later on), and some fans (like me) couldn't actually care less, because in my head, the deal with Mephisto ALREADY never happened. It never happened the moment OMD ended and BND began. While some fans would still rather bitch and moan and see Mephisto there. In fact, I'd hazard a guess and say OMIT is written for the people bitching about OMD, as it provides the "new canon" that they so strictly want to adhere to. But of course, they don't want to. Bitching about OMD (and spending $144 a year on comics they hate - I wish I had a spare $144, so I can buy Absolute Promethea) is so much more fun.

In short, there's a lot of other stuff in the world - and in the comics industry - we could focus our energy on, like actually supporting artists or making sure that Gene Colan is well or supporting the Kirbys or championing the cause of Bill Finger, that makes the fuss over the spider-marriage pale in comparison.

Wheatcakes said...

A good, well thought-out article, and I say that as a fan of the marriage.

The only part I don't follow is you said Peter changed as a character, I disagree. He was still overtly responsible in his role as a hero thoughout the marriage. Arguably, the only time I have ever felt he has been written out of character is since OMD. He doesn't even seem like the same person in his actions compared to, heck, even five years ago. I will agree with you though that MJ's character did indeed change over the years from being a party-fun girl to a (justifiably) worrisome wife, but I can chalk that up to simply maturing as she was now a spouse, not just a friend.

At any rate, I'm glad I found your blog. I look forward to reading more of it.

Duy said...

Wait, what? You're a fan of the marriage. You can't like the article. Do you not know the rules? Internet... exploding!


Okay, all kidding aside, thanks a lot! We'll have to agree to disagree here as to which Peter is written out of character. More often than not, I couldn't stomach it whenever I picked up a Spider-Man book in the last ten years before BND, and it didn't seem to me to be a natural evolution of the character so much as a drastic change.

As for MJ, the problem with making her worrisome is that you know as a reader that nothing will actually happen to Peter or their marriage. I think really, the moment Peter wrapped himself in that cocoon and I didn't buy that it would affect their relationship even a tiny little bit, I realized subconsciously that this marriage thing wasn't working as a dramatic device.

Eamo said...

Great article. I agree with nearly everything you say. I was a few years older than you around the time they got married and it all screamed wrong. It actually caused quite a controversy and Marvel was deluged with mail. No doubt if the interwebs was around then we'd be having very heated debates.
While OMD was a clumsy device to remove the marriage as a means to an end I think it's been working very successfully as the stories have been for the most part enjoyable. Remember folks, the title of the book is The Amazing Spider-Man -- not The "Amazing Spider-Man and his hot wife"

Duy said...

Thanks, sir. I'm sure much of what I said will fall on deaf ears - some people just really like to complain. I'd like to think we can all hold ourselves to higher standards, and it's these kinds of discussions that make us comic book readers so insular to begin with. Instead of discussing whether or not something is a good story, we end up talking about the marriage. Which discussion is more likely to bring newer readers in? And which one are we as a community more likely to engage in?

I didn't like OMD and I didn't hate the marriage -- in fact, the truth is, I wasn't even aware of the marriage as a factor until they actually took it away.

Spencer Ellsworth said...

I disagree, though you wrote it well. I've tried a lot of the post-OMD comics, including New Ways To Die, since it was written by one of my favorite writers and drawn by my favorite Marvel artist. I always felt like Peter was a shallow, vapid jerk. In the initial BND arc, Harry Osborne handed Peter a fat wad of cash and Peter still stormed into the Daily Bugle during a companywide crisis in order to chew out JJ. Any way you slice it, he was being immature and irresponsible. It never seemed to get better after that in all the post-OMD stuff I read, including New Ways to Die, the Bachalo-drawn snowstorm arc, and the May Wedding stuff. (And no, I don't buy the comics and then complain about them. I read these at the library.)

I thought Paul Jenkins, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Matt Fraction (in his 2007 Annual) and Straczynski (most of the time) handled the marriage well and would have continued to do so. Spidey was written by Michelinie and DeMatteis for the first five years or so of the marriage. Those comics haven't aged well, but nothing those two wrote in the 90s has aged well. A good writer can make a lot of a potentially crappy story. Just look at Brubaker's return of Bucky. I don't think Marvel really let their writers use the marriage, either. Mary Jane had an ex-con alcoholic father and a nosy sister who didn't like Peter, but they never showed up and started going through Peter's stuff. The Hollywood glitz of MJ's life never really intruded into their personal world.

Plus, she worried way too much. Mary Jane is an independent character. She knew that Peter could take care of himself.

I never read Jurgens' book, but I thought the general consensus was that it was a stinker. No accounting for taste, though. I actually liked Erik Larsen's issue in which they discussed the possibility of a Spider-Baby.

I never read the wedding issues either, but I do remember reading the Tom DeFalco-penned issue in which Mary Jane told Peter that she knew he was Spider-Man, and when I read that, I knew they had to end up together in some way. It was like a romantic comedy set-up, even more so since DeFalco punctured some of Mary Jane's party-girl persona and made her seem more grounded than the Black Cat Peter was currently dating.

Duy said...

Greetings, sir. No one's saying that the BND comics are perfect - they're not. But I do think they're much more fun and entertaining than Spider-Man has been since, well, since before he got married.

And like I said, I'm not against the idea of the marriage. It's just that the way the marriage was executed did not work for me, never worked for me.

I actually reread some DeMatteis and Michelinie issues recently and I think the stuff still holds up (well, not the stuff where Peter wrapped himself in the cocoon, that was just ridiculous). Except that I still reacted to the marriage scenes the way I reacted before - that it was forced (MJ is SMOKING! Hide!). In fact, I would argue that a lot of the stuff from the 90s does hold up. Jim Starlin, Ron Marz, and Ron Lim's Silver Surfer run is still a good read. The New Warriors is still a good read. Much of Ron Marz's Kyle Rayner run is still a good read. Do I even have to mention Mark Waid's Flash and Grant Morrison's JLA? The Spider-Man run then wasn't the best, but I didn't think it was bad, Maximum Carnage and second two-thirds of the Clone Saga aside. I just don't think the tension of MJ and Peter as presented ever came off as "real," for actually the reasons you mentioned. MJ worried about Peter way too much -- I know this, because I just randomly reread a bunch of the Spider-Man comics from that era, and invariably, MJ would either (1) not be in the story at all, or (2) worrying. Heck, the reveal that she knew who Peter was all that time just made it MORE ridiculous. After all those years of knowing, she'd have known he can take care of himself.

Jurgens' run was good. It was seen as the highlight of the Clone Saga, along with DeMatteis'. That may not be saying much, but losing Dan was a real shame, actually. I think he could have done wonders with the character, but sadly it never happened. Too much editorial fiat.

As I've said, I haven't been reading regularly in the past 10 years, because what works I HAVE read in the past 10 years has turned me off completely to the works of the writers you described - especially Straczynski. Spider-Man felt like he was jumping into the entire Marvel house style of "black borders, black frames, dark and heavy," which is simply not what I go for Spider-Man for. (Additionally, I have simply never been impressed with Matt Fraction, so I doubt I'll like that annual of which you speak. Though I have heard that it focused as an END to the marriage, which would make sense, actually).

Actually, you know what's really irresponsible? Asking a girl you're not dating (and don't bother, pro-marriage folks - I know you'll pull out a load of panels to "prove" they were dating, but two friends having feelings for each other and not actually calling each other "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" is not "dating") to marry you, while you're still actively dating someone.

Spencer Ellsworth said...

Yeah... I'll give you that. Also, I will give you the 90s. Spider-Man 2099 is still one of the best comics I ever read. (If you're interested, you can read my review of Morrison's JLA in my column:

[/shameless self-promotion]

I just don't think that Michelinie's stuff holds up. I remember in his Sinister Six arc, five of the Sinister Six vanished from the story in part five and Spidey only fought Doc Ock in part six. Venom would show back up every ten issues, increasingly losing his cred as a villain. Even as a thirteen-year-old I began to feel like it wouldn't go anywhere.

He had a few good subplots re Mary Jane, like the one about her obsessive stalker producer. But MJ seemed to lose autonomy as Michelinie's run went on. I think it's telling that Fraction and Aguirre-Sacasa did such a good job with the marriage, since both of them are my age (thirtyish) and grew up with the marriage, seeing the mistakes other writers made.

I liked Jurgens' run on Thor. It wasn't Walt Simonson, but it was fun every month.

A lot of the recent character development on Pete's part, even before the identity reveal (Midtown High, Aunt May learning his identity, he and MJ reconciling) was shunted aside for Brand New Day. I wouldn't have minded so much if he didn't seem like such a "single" cliche according to 40-ish guys. Broke, but hip, clubbing with Osborne and etc... I really loved him as a teacher and some great stories came out of the high school. Straczynski went downhill after Sins Past, but I stand by his early stuff.

Did you read Peter David's run on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, or Aguirre-Sacasa's run on Sensational Spider-Man? Try em out. Aguirre seemed to be the only writer who got the story possibilities rising from the identity-reveal.

Duy said...

You know, I feel like we can talk about this marriage thing over and over, but reading your link makes me want to do my own comparison of Busiek and Perez's Avengers and Morrison's JLA. I think I'd come down on the opposite side of you, though.

I generally am more of an "art over story" kind of guy, mainly because I think that art is the main storytelling machine in a comic book (Moore's Judgment Day, anyone?), and to that end, the Marvel Comics of 2000-2008 were just so incredibly not my thing. Black everywhere. Blech. If I spot some back issues in the bins, I'll see if I can't get any. But I did read Straczynski's first arc, and I was so incredibly underwhelmed. i know JMS is really hailed, and I like some of his stuff (the stuff that apparently will never finish, ever), but I really did not like what I saw of his Spider-Man. At all.

Spencer Ellsworth said...

Thanks for reading! I'm glad you liked it. I actually thought when I yanked those comics back out that I would come down on a pro-Busiek side.

I was traveling a lot from 2000-2002, so I gave up on keeping up with any comics. When my life settled down in 2002, the first few comics I picked up were Grant Morrison's X-Men and Straczynski's Spider-Man, soon to be followed by Waid's FF and Bendis's Daredevil.

So yeah. I'm probably the wrong person to argue with about that period in Marvel. I think that 2000-2006 or so was the highest creative peak Marvel had since the early 80s.

This is the Aguirre-Sacasa Civil War trade:

You can poke around to find his following Back in Black TPB. Cheers. I like the blog.

Duy said...

Very nice, sir, I'll keep an eye out for it around these stores.

Tellingly, I was putting myself through college in 2002-2006, so I really wasn't reading many comics then. But where I found some DC stuff I can look at and enjoy, I couldn't do the same thing with Marvel.

And thanks for liking the blog -- additionally, I don't think my stance with JLA vs. Avengers would be pro-Busiek so much as really really pro-Perez.

Paul C said...

Great article, and great blog! It's brilliant to see Brand New Day getting some love somewhere on the 'net.

I find a lot of people hate BND because of Peter's "irresponsible" behaviour. But, to me at least, Peter's never been a guy who always does the right thing. He's a guy who will sometimes make mistakes and act like a douche, but because of his strong sense of responsibility he'll face the consequences of his actions and try to make things right. I think we're going back to this aspect of his character more with BND. Peter's a hero but he's not a saint. After all, this is the guy who's been scamming a newspaper with pictures of himself for almost 50 years. :)

I agree with you about the marriage. I like a lot of marriage stories (even the Strazcynski run) but we got far too many stalker/smoker stories in the 80s and 90s.

Duy said...

Thanks, Paul! I'm honored to have the ONLY PERSON WHO LIKES SPIDER-MAN ONE MORE DAY commenting on the Cube.

Most detractors of the current direction also say that Peter is less mature than he was prior to OMD. Which is a valid complaint if you're reading Spider-Man from, you know, the beginning. Then they say that Spider-Man was never supposed to remain stagnant.

But for me, Peter was also never supposed to last 50 years. By the year 2000, it felt like his story was over, with only minor alterations, and it was just no longer fun. He was as stagnant in the 10 years before OMD (or so I've surmised from what I've seen) as he's being accused of now. In fact, I think we'd gotten so far from his roots as a guy who screws up that they actually had to spend the last three years re-establishing it.

Malachi said...

I will have to disagree with you. Not on the facts that about the marriage but on the comment that MJ is not his true love.

So it's a good written article but after reading that part I knew we had different views on who Peter is. Witch I think the OMD and BND mess is really about. Fans with different views what the core parts of Peter Parker is.

I have read issues since mid 80's. I have some gaps, like the wedding issue and early 90's. And ofc no issue since BND started.

I just beleive that MJ and Peter belong together. I enjoyed very much Felicia when she and Peter where together but it never had that "meant to be" feeling.

Gwen never worked for me. If she hadn't died then they would have grown apart.

So I believe the big problem isn't all those small things like MJ smoking, being worried to much in some issues. Marvel made their relastionship too good. The MJ, May and Peter family meetings for example. MJ just fit in their like no other will.

So Marvel is trying to push a Peter who isn't soulmate to MJ. Witch is an important part of the character to me. So I don't buy it. Married or not.

PS I also enjoyed Ben. But not Jessica, she was just boring as a person. She had an interesting father though. I prefer the blond girl he started dating later on, Denise or something...

Duy said...

Wow, I can't believe this post is still getting hits AND comments!

I think that to say that being with MJ is an intrinscic part of Peter's character is a flawed argument. That would kind of negate just about the entire Steve Ditko run on the book! It would also discount at least three Spider-Man cartoons, and any issue of Spider-Man that doesn't have MJ in it!

In addition, the reason Gwen Stacy was killed in the first place is because Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway thought that the next logical step for their relationship was definitely marriage -- so your contention that they would have grown apart is flawed. Which is not to say that they COULDN'T have had them grow apart (they had that entire span where they WERE growing apart, and they just grew stronger for it!), but that they WOULDN'T have had them grow apart.

Aside from Kraven's Last Hunt, I can't name a single story - not one - that relied on Peter being with MJ. I don't think Peter being with anyone is an intrinsic part of his character. I think Gwen is his one true love, but I don't think that's an intrinsic part of his character.

Having said that, the blonde girl Ben was dating was Desiree Winthrop. I thought she was fun too!

Malachi said...

I found this while searching for the word "Busiek" and "OMD" =)Witch I did cause I read he had something interesting to say about the subject.

I saw it as characters progressing and their feeling growing. Not just from atraction&friendship to love but from love later on to being soulmates.
I haven't read all from Ditko, just reprints on populuar stories. So I won't comment on his run more then the general comment that the past made the foundation. Sorry but nothing more then such a sweeping comment on that.

And you have to consider that what I think about a fictional realtionship is just what I percieve when reading such relastionship. Witch is all we can do.

When I read all the old stories about Gwen she and Peter worked on a high school sweethart level. But I never felt that it was more then that.

I have been reading about a man who loves a woman for 20 years now. Then the devil breaks them up, later it's sience. Still the same thing jares me. If they where so in love in all that material I read then why is it just gone like a wizard flinged his wand. Because it was a outside decision that affected instory development. It didn't work. The whole logic of it is that you look the other way on this story so you can enjoy all these other stories.

So there is this person and a part of him has been removed. His love for MJ. And for me that was one of the best parts. For marvel to keep me as a customer they must adress this in a manner that respects both characters and me as a reader. Instead they focused on all the new things, things they thought where missing before.

So yes they lost readers. If Gwen would have been sent of in a scene where she just said " hey this is to much I'm leaving" and then she was off to europe. But this time she was with a new man and Peter seemed fine with it. All that in 1-2 issues. Would a Gwen fan accept it? Throw in the Devil or some other outside power and it just gets worse.

I haven't commented about OMD before so sorry If I'm just saying old stuff.

Duy said...

Well, I'm not going to get into a debate as to who Peter's one true love is, as there's some gigantic debate on that, and everyone's set on their ways. Personally, it should be Deb Whitman. Or Amy Powell. You know. Or Silver Sable. Just kidding.

You're definitely entitled to feel wronged by One More Day. Keep in mind that a married Spider-Man was also "my" Spider-Man, but I've always found that I enjoyed his single aspect more.

If you think the Mephisto retcon truly undid 20 years of continuity, I have to ask you if you've ever read any DC stuff, because the retcons they do are FAR more invasive than this particular retcon. This changed their marital status - they were going to break up anyway, be it by divorce or magical means ... and keep in mind that there have been numerous attempts to break them up over the years. You can still pick up a book from 1998 and replace "wife" with "partner," and it would be pretty much the same. A DC retcon undoes everything.

As for losing readers, I want to clarify the following:

The Spider-Man titles lost readers. BUT so did the rest of the market in the last three years. There is no title, all things being equal, that is selling as well as it was three years ago. It's just economics. The recession, digital reading, all that - it's affected comics sales in such a huge way.

However, the RELATIVE position of ASM on the charts has remained the same. So once you factor in the people who dropped it due to economic reasons (as every title had people who dropped it for economic reasons, and ASM can't be an exception), the net effect of people who left is pretty much the same as the people who came in. For every one of YOU, there's one of ME. And in fact, considering that all three ASM titles are in the top 20 MONTHLY, it probably aggregates to a higher position.

In the meantime, check out BIG TIME! if you're so inclined.

Darrell D. said...

I really think it is a small yet very vocal minority of fans who refuse to let go and continue to moan and gnash their teeth. Really, at this point the only advice I have is to stop reading the book and find something else to read.

Duy said...


The funny thing is that it's these same fans who will claim that sales are down because of the Spider-Marriage being gone (and not because of the real reasons)... and actually keep reading it and actually PREVENT sales from going down because of the Spider-Marriage.

It's just frustrating because sometimes I want to discuss a post-OMD story somewhere and you know it's all going to go back to how Peter Parker is now an irresponsible man-child who should be with Mary Jane.

Darrell D. said...

Oh, I know. There really should be some sort of moratorium on stupid OMD talk, and Joe Quesada is the devil and blah, blah, blah. I find it easy to mock those guys, and I kind of feel guilty because it is such low hanging fruit. I like the attitude that guys like Wacker and Slott have, in just actively trying to correct the bullcrap that is spewed daily on forums and blogs. But, really, it is like trying to drain the ocean with a straw; it's impossible and ultimately unnecessary.

Duy said...

Yep, I actually thought that I hope these guys never date, ever, because they wouldn't be able to handle any break-ups.

You'll tell them it's been three years, and they'lll actually say "Not long enough! People complained about the marriage for 20 years!" (Who ACTUALLY did that??)

Jack Brooks said...


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