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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Spider-Man's marriage goes away

Spider-Man and Mary JaneMarvel has completed its new "One More Day" storyline. In a nutshell, Aunt May has been shot. Mephisto (a Marvel stand-in for the Devil) approaches Spider-Man and Mary Jane with a proposal: He will save Aunt May, but in return, they have to let him change history so that they were never married.


Major, major blech. This one just hacks me off on several levels. The idea that Spider-Man literally makes a deal with the devil. The sloppy mess it makes of continuity. And especially the attitude that Joe Quesada and some of the creators have espoused that Spider-Man is more interested single than married, like there are no interesting stories to be told about married heroes.

Another aspect that bugs me is a phenomenon I've seen often in comics. I don't really have a name for it other than "overly complicated back story." Iconic heroes (and Spider-Man is one) generally have fairly simple backgrounds. "Rocketed from the dying planet Krypton as a boy and developing amazing powers, Clark Kent grew into the hero of Metropolis, Superman." "Orphaned as a young boy, billionaire Bruce Wayne set out to strike fear into the hearts of criminals as the masked Batman." Etc. Etc. You can hang rich tapestries on the characters, but their backgrounds are easy to grok. Other characters, particularly those developed in the midst of other characters' comic books, are often much less iconic.

Take Superboy (Connor Kent), for instance. In his initial back story, he was a clone created to match Superman, but he wasn't really Superman's clone (for reasons I can't remember--something about them not being able to get a good cell sample or Superman's cells being uncloneable). He was actually the clone of a character most people have never heard of, Cadmus chief Paul Westfield. His powers were like Superman's, but not exactly. And he couldn't age because he was a clone. In terms of background, he was kind of a mess. DC eventually retconned his background so that he was actually a clone of Superman and Lex Luthor. It didn't necessarily jibe with previous stories, but it was a heck of a lot cleaner and easier to digest. Don't get me started on the Matrix version of Supergirl and her background.

Anyway, back to Spider-Man, we've taken a character with a fairly simple background and added this very important event to his background, adding a mystical element and making his continuity a mess. It's just sloppy, overall, and makes the comic less accessible for the man on the street:

"Hey, I thought he was married?"

"Yeah, well, he was, but see, he made a deal with the devil and now his wedding never happened."

"How exactly does that work? Is it like an annulment?"

"No, I mean it never really happened. Not that any of it ever really happened, but you know what I mean?"

"So, wait, these issues where he was married to the supermodel, and those comic strips in the daily paper, they're like, not real stories?"


"So that issue where he fought Doc Ock and saved Mary Jane, that didn't happen?"

"He still fought Doc Ock. He just wasn't married."

"Huh." Scratches head, walks away, buys manga instead.


I'd be very tempted to start picking up Spider-Man again with Dan Slott taking over as a writer. Unfortunately, I just can't bring myself to do it. I'm voting with my feet.

Quesada said, "The truth of the matter is that if the fans truly want a married Peter and MJ with kids, then we have an incredible book called Spider-Girl. If this is truly what fandom wants, to see Peter go through the natural progressions of life, then I expect orders on Spider-Girl to go through the roof in the next month." He was being sarcastic. He's nearly canceled Spider-Girl more than once. But I'm picking up a copy of Spider-Girl this month (the next issue comes out Wednesday). I encourage you to do the same.

You can read more about the Spider-Man stuff in Newsweek.


Jeff Hebert said...

And thus another stupid plot point is introduced that will have to be wiped out and retconned a few years down the line in yet another "Crisis on Multiple Houses of M Worlds in Civil War" 12 issue mini-series.


Spork Boy said...

I was anxiously waiting your thoughts on this. I don't care either way since I don't read this stuff. But it does seem rather soap opera-ish of them to do this. Wasn't there a season of "Dallas" where an entire season was turned into a character's dream? This is the same thing. It sucks. Did the comic book writers go on strike with the WGA? Sheesh.