Jun 18, 2011

Superman to Break Up with Lois Lane; People Think Spider-Man and Superman Are the Same Guy for Some Reason.

It's pretty much all but confirmed at this point. The DC Comics Reboot is making it so not only is Superman not married to Lois Lane, but they were never married at all to begin with.

I'm a fan of the Lois Lane/Clark Kent marriage, for many reasons. But I can't say I'm really surprised — writers have been trying to break them up pretty much since the marriage happened, the most prominent example of which is featured in the much lamented SUPERMAN 2000 proposal by Grant Morrison, Tom Peyer, Mark Waid, and Mark Millar. The basic argument is that the Clark/Lois/Superman love triangle is an essential part of the Superman mythos and that Lois being a wife is too limiting to storytelling. I don't personally agree with either, and I could talk about why, but in the end, it's a matter of taste, and I certainly respect the decision the writers come to. Whatever helps them tell better stories, I say.

What I do take issue with is the argument bandied around (even on websites such as Newsarama [see reason number 4 here]) that Superman and Lois Lane are breaking up, and it's because of the fact that back in 2008, Marvel broke up Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson in the story "One More Day." For fans of the breakups, they're also adding in the fact that the dissolution of the Spider-Man marriage "worked" and "helped sales." For haters of the break-ups, they're adding in the fact that the dissolution of the Spider-Man marriage "divided fans" and "hurt sales."

I take issue with this argument, even though I myself prefer Spider-Man single (as explained here), because it gets some facts wrong, and its foundations are shaky.

First of all, Spider-Man sales were not helped, nor were they hurt, by "One More Day." You can see it just by looking at the sales charts. This past May, the highest-selling issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN came in at number 10 on the charts (see here). AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is Marvel's best-selling solo superhero and is also the best-selling title of anything that's gone over 100 issues.

Five years ago, in May 2006, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN came in at number 14 on the charts (see here). If you count all of DC's weekly series 52 as one book, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN would have come in at number 11. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was Marvel's best-selling solo superhero (he was outsold by WOLVERINE: ORIGINS, a Wolverine special, but sold better than Wolverine's actual main title).

ICv2's numbers are flawed estimates, as they only take into account preorders. And of course, the comics industry has massively declined since 2006, so we can't really take the reported numbers as gospel. What we can do is just look at their positions on the charts, and what do their May 2006 and 2011 positions tell us? It tells us that we cannot, as outside spectators here, say that Spider-Man is selling any better now than he was when he was married. Only Marvel can tell us for sure. And even then, so much has changed in the market that it's actually impossible and ridiculous to credit it with the dissolution of the marriage.

And remember — I say this as a fan of a single Spider-Man.

Second of all, fans are always divided. Some people preferred a single Spider-Man when the married one was around; it's just that they didn't troll the message boards bitching about it, and now that Superman is breaking up with Lois, you have defenders of that particular stance coming out and saying they support it. It didn't divide fans; it just made them more vocal.

My other big problem with this whole piece of logic is very simple. It assumes that what works for Spider-Man will work for Superman.

No. No, it doesn't. Pay attention here, guys. THESE ARE NOT THE SAME GUY.

For one thing, the argument is that it makes Spider-Man more relatable, so it makes Superman more relatable, too, for younger readers.

Superman is not meant to be relatable. He was never conceived as such. Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to be pure escapism — to see the evils in the world and do something about it, no questions asked. The only thing relatable about him is the aspect of Clark Kent, a weakling who takes off his glasses and then turns into the power fantasy known as Superman. And even that is not "relatable"; it is an escape.

The whole point of Spider-Man is that he was "the superhero who could be you." He has an ailing aunt, he can't go on dates without them getting ruined, and his boss hates a part of him that he can't really reveal — basically, his problems are things we can relate to. This is not true with Superman, as originally conceived. Superman's biggest problem is not letting anyone find out he's Clark Kent. That's it. Spider-Man is meant to be a relatable superhero. Superman, of all the superheroes ever created, is the ultimate escape.

If Spider-Man is "the superhero who could be you," Superman is "the superhero you want to be."

Nor are they the same in their characters and personalities. With the exception of being orphaned white males who do good in red and blue spandex, they're almost nothing alike. Spider-Man is motivated by guilt and tragedy, and Superman, while having undergone a tragedy, just does good because it is the right thing to do.

Perhaps most importantly though, is that entrenched in this disparity between the two characters is the gigantic difference between their significant others. Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson are not the same characters. They are not even the same property. They are the two most successful supporting significant others in comics, but they are just not the same.

Lois Lane is an icon. She has been in four big Hollywood movies, and has been in every single incarnation of Superman. Ever. There was a TV show in the 90s named after her. It was called Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Let me emphasize that — in a show with Superman, it's Lois Lane that got top billing.

Granted, I probably wouldn't give Dean Cain top billing.

She's been in every Superman cartoon, and even in the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoons, she was the sole recurring character from the Superman and Batman universes. (Alfred showed up all of once.) Even in the Smallville TV show, when people were being teased with the possibility of Clark Kent ending up with Lana Lang, everyone knew it was a star-crossed romance, and wondered when Lois would show up. Lois eventually did show up in the show's fourth season, and the series ended recently with Lois and Clark getting married.

In addition, Lois Lane has had her own comic book series, which lasted 20 years.

Perhaps more importantly, Lois Lane's first appearance was in ACTION COMICS #1. In other words, she was made to be with Superman.

Mary Jane Watson, while not a slouch, doesn't really compare. She wasn't in any of the Spider-Man cartoons (all three of them) until 1994, where she played Peter Parker's main (not only) love interest. She was in three Spider-Man movies, all of which really blended her more with Gwen Stacy than depicted her as an actual adaptation of Mary Jane. And perhaps more importantly, she wasn't in the Japanese TV show where Spider-Man had a robot.

Just kidding. Perhaps more importantly, she first fully appeared in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #42, by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. She wasn't even co-created by the co-creator of Spider-Man.

Mary Jane wasn't created to be Spider-Man's one true love, and you'll get a whole lot of debate from people when you actually ask who fits that role. You don't get that debate with Lois Lane. Everyone knows who Superman ends up with. And that's actually part of the whole thing — Spider-Man and Mary Jane were broken up because the writers wanted Spider-Man and Mary Jane to take on different roles; part of which is seeing other people. Currently, they are friends. They started out as friends. There is the possibility of Peter Parker meeting other people and staying that way.

Superman and Lois Lane, on the other hand, are being broken up because they are "re-examining their relationship," which is "essential to the mythos." Even if DC pairs up Superman with Wonder Woman, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, or anyone else, everyone knows who he's ending up with. And that's one of the big differences between the two situations. Lois Lane and Clark Kent are romantically intertwined, and have been since day 1. You cannot say the same thing about Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker. And that's actually one of my problems with breaking up the Super-marriage - while I can see the additional value of breaking up Spider-Man and Mary Jane, which is the possibility of them seeing other people and all the drama involved with that, I don't really see Superman and Lois Lane seeing other people and not ending up together. It reeks of false drama to me, by which I mean drama that's being put in that you can't really buy because you know how it ends.

So let me reiterate this: Spider-Man and Superman are not the same characters. Nor are Mary Jane Watson and Lois Lane. What works for Character A will not necessarily work for Character B, not even if they're Selina Kyle and Felicia Hardy.

So please, folks, if you're going to argue for or against this move by DC, take it by DC's standards and use what would be DC's logic, which I highly doubt is "Marvel did it." If DC actually is doing something to their main character based on what happened with Marvel's main character, it would betray the fact that they had no idea what to do with their main character. And as much as I've been skeptical of DC lately, I still give them too much credit to actually say that.

As for who would win in a fight, Lois Lane or Mary Jane, I place my money on the reporter.


Kid said...

Personally, I'm glad they're both going to be unmarried. Comics started to decline in sales when writers who had read them as kids started to slant them towards adults, and tried to make the characters hip and cool. How can any nerd who is awkward with girls relate to Peter Parker when he was married to a hot young actress and model? How could any gawky kid bullied at school take solace from the idea that within him lurked a Superman, when Clark Kent was a regular, popular guy who didn't reflect their own situation? Sure, it's overestating the case, but most kids these days can't relate to superheroes in the same way we used to be able to.

Duy said...

Good points! I can't really say that Superman is very relatable to me - he's always been my ideal, but I didn't really like the football player incarnation of the late 80s, probably for that reason.

For me, with Spider-Man, there should be a feeling of isolation, which is not there when he's married. They try to manufacture it, but it doesn't work. It's less important with a grown and experienced Superman.

Anonymous said...

I Think the real issue is character growth. Can Spidey be isolated forever? I would hope not! I'd imagine all those kids relating to him would want to someday move on to being resonably successful adults, maybe even marrying the pretty girl. His arc should be one that moves the character forward, from awkward isolated teen to well adjusted adult (with the good and bad that entails).

I hear the Gwen Stacy was originally created to be Peter's perfect girlfriend... but then she got killed off? How tragic is that? Yet, that happens sometimes, your true love dies and you rebuild your life and move on. In this case to another love, MJW. All this was character growth.

Regardless, I fear the real reason behind all these breakups are corporate structures thinking some cheap 90210 drama will spruce up sales. Sadly, so long as the writing and directions of the books in question don't changethe sales they hope for will simply not happen.

Duy said...

Fair points, but I've always found the married Mary Jane to be an unbearable character, whereas I found Lois Lane much more entertaining when she wasn't trying to find out who Superman was all the time.

Anonymous said...

I think the trouble writers had was they kept trying to fit MJ into girlfriend plots (not even fiancee plots, more like on/off again girlfriend) when they really needed to figure out a new way of handling the character. She was living proof things could get better if you don't give up trying, you won't always have to be lonely kid no one hangs out with! She should've been treated as an integral part of Peter's life, I would even say she could ocationally don a mask and save Peter in a little role reveral to show how amazing she was. Sadly, for a variety of reasons *bad writers/editors**cough* *cough* that just wasn't in the cards.

waps said...

okay so this has absolutely nothing to do with MJ or Lois, but WTF is up with those freaking costumes???

Superman looks like a member of the freaking Village People! They might as well give him a boyfriend if they're going to split him up from Lois. Robin's costume makes him look like a total sphincter. Superboy literally has a piece of paper stuck to his back by scotch tape, black canary in latex fishnets? OHCOMEON! Voodoo and Grifter now part of mainstream DC? And i don't want to say anything about Wonder Woman's costume that is complimentary. Why the hell are they doing this? What the hell is with the Number 52. Is the head honcho in DC some sort of weird cosmologist who believes that characters who used to work fine have to be reinvented so that they hit a wider demographic?

Well, if that's the case, why don't they turn the whole DC universe into a f***ing cesspool of emo shoegazers and drug-addled know-it-alls who can barely be parted from their iPhones and PSPs? AND THEN UPLOAD ALL THAT CRAP INTO THE PIRATE BAY SO THAT SOMEBODY ACTUALLY TAKES THE TIME TO GET THAT CRAP AND WIPE THEIR DIGITAL ASSES WITH IT! Gosh. I don't even know what my main point is anymore. I hate you, DC. You used to be about the cosmic shit. Now you're all about strange leotards and Geoff Johns ruining everything.

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