Friday, January 04, 2008

No More Days

Sometimes it’s just too easy. Part 2. Quesada and JMS have been going around talking about their individual plans for the One More Day and Brand New Day arcs. For those living under a rock, Aunt May is mortally wounded. Peter Parker travels the world looking for some way to save her, and Mephisto shows up offering to help. But, to do so, his and Mary Jane’s marriage never happened. MJ agrees to the deal. Bingo, Spider-man is single again, no one knows his secret identity and somehow, Harry Osborn is still alive.

Now, JMS wanted his name removed from the story. He didn’t like the magical angle and Quesada and company didn’t like how much JMS was actually intending to do, re-write history from an early point on. Whereas, Quesada just wanted the marriage to disappear but everything else really happened. According to Quesada, Spider-man still joined the Avengers and unmasked, though no one remembers it.

In this day and age where Captain America is put down for not knowing about myspace, Marvel seems to have an editor that doesn’t seem to know about YOUTUBE! Spider-man unmasked on national television, it was in the papers! Heck, it was in real newspapers! Who cares if no one actually remembers it, there are actual records of the event in almost every media! And even so, if Pete and MJ never got married, Aunt May isn’t told about his secret identity, why would Pete have joined the Avengers in the first place, much less unmasked (they helped convince him to)? It just plainly doesn’t follow.

We knew for a long time this was coming. Quesada was vocal early on about not liking the marriage, felt it “aged” Spider-man somehow. Want to talk about aging your fictional shared universe, the problems are with the FF, not only married, but also a couple of kids! But, Peter’s being married and teaching doesn’t make him any older than he has been for over 30 years, somewhere in his 20’s. Kids don’t want to read about married adults… hmm, some of my favorite JLAers were married: Aquaman, Atom, Animal Man, Rocket Red. I liked it when Crystal and Quicksilver were married, Scarlet Witch and the Vision, Hank and Jan. And while they weren’t married until recently, I liked that Green Arrow and Black Canary were a committed couple for the longest time. How does Spider-man being married age him in a way that marrying Storm to the Black Panther does not age them? Plus, considering the way the main Marvel Universe is being written, their books aren’t appropriate for reading by kids who are so young that married people are “old”. And anyone that young, being in college is old too.

And we knew it was coming as soon as Spider-man unmasked as Peter Parker, that somehow that particular genie would have to be put back in the box. For all the fanfare and the comments on how that was the new status quo for story ideas, most knew that the genie would be put back in the box, that Marvel had just written themselves into a corner that wouldn’t last long. And that anything that could do that could also get rid of that pesky marriage Quesada didn’t like.

Then you have the motivations behind Mephisto, a devil doing this, because it undoes a HOLY ceremony and a special and rare love… You’d think he must spend a lot of his time going around breaking up marriages that have been blessed then.

Just stupid, stupid, stupid all the way around.

And the reasoning is flawed because undoing the marriage doesn’t automatically make better stories. Look at Marvel’s track record with characters after they broke them up. Crystal cheated on Quicksilver, he keeps switching sides. Scarlet Witch, boy that character has been royally screwed up. Mockingbird and Hawkeye both got dead, not sure where Hawk is these days. Hank and Jan. DC’s not much better. Jean Lorring, wife of the Atom is now a murderer psycho and Eclipso. The Barry Allen Flash was widowed, went on trial for murder, and then killed off shortly after reuniting with his wife. Mera went nuts, Aquaman went through various psychological and physical changes. Currently deceased. Wonder Girl lost her identity and went through a couple more… her ex-husband and offspring killed. Don’t want to even go into the mess with Hawkman and Hawkwoman after they got restarted as an unmarried couple in HAWKWORLD and what that did to continuity as a whole. Suffice to say, both characters in that book are now dead.

Some of JMS’ best parts with Spider-man was focusing on the marriage. He brought MJ back from being MIA. He ditched the supermodel angle and made her an actress struggling for legitimacy. He brought Aunt May into the fold as sharing the secret and had Peter get a job that actually fit his character. Peter Parker’s circle felt more like a family, and while supportive, this actually adds more to a soul burdened with responsibility, even if it’s responsibilities he wants. They now know the dangers he faces daily, and he now must bear some of the responsibility for the stress they feel as well.

And, when I think of some of my favorite Spider-man stories, it’s regardless of his marital status. They are just plain good and fun stories. Some don’t touch on his personal relationships at all. Some do, but girlfriend and wife could be easily interchangeable. Because, when it comes down to it, he’s a superhero character and they are superhero stories. The only stories that really dictate there be a marriage is found in SPIDERGIRL where they are supporting characters and part of the backdrop to the central character.

What made Spider-man bad wasn’t the marriage, it was bad stories and stunts and decisions like “Sins Past” and “Civil War”. And “One More Day”. And if they cannot tell good stories now, why should I expect them to tell good stories coming out of it? Give me back the days like the original Hobgoblin saga and the HOBGOBLIN LIVES mini. The days of “The kid who collected Spider-man” and the original MARVEL TEAM-UP. And GIANT-SIZE SUPERHEROES with Spider-man fighting Morbius and the Man-wolf (you want to get a kid to pick up a Spider-man comic, a superhero being attacked by a werewolf and a vampire illustrated by Gil Kane was a sure-fire hit). What made t hem good stories was they were just good stories. They WERE NOT part of a 2 year epic, inextricably tied month in and out to other books or even a slave to past continuity though they were faithful to it and you didn’t have to regularly buy other titles and other characters’ books constantly to get the one.

One of the biggest problems is “family books” ala Spider-man who in addition to various sundry mini-series and guest appearances, at any one time he headlines 4 books. We get this with Batman and Superman, who also draft other titles into their family of books such as BIRDS OF PREY, NIGHTWING, ROBIN, SUPERGIRL, etc. Now, the books in and of themselves aren’t bad and I understand the reasoning and business behind it. But, want to know why I tend to stay away from them? Because, nowadays, marketing is after gouging the fandom for every penny and not trying to market to broader audiences. Thus, every other year, if there isn’t a company event to tie the titles together, the family books will have their own little event, their Hallmark special with a storyline demanding you buy the other titles to understand what the heck is going on in the single title you do get. It has happened every single time I’ve decided to follow a certain creator taking on a book within a “family”.

Quesada’s way of handling it? To do away with those times when you don’t have to get the other three Spider-man books by combining his various individual titles into one and making the book pretty much a weekly. So, hope those kids he’s supposed to be aiming for are up to paying for it every week. I might’ve given the Dan Slott written Spider-man a try, I generally like his work. But, I’m not going to be buying a weekly book where he’s only one of several writers. I just don’t have enough faith in Marvel anymore to make that kind of investment. I’ll keep getting SPIDER-GIRL who just had a ten year anniversary. It’s consistently fun and well drawn even when laying on the melodrama.


Doctor Zen said...

Once again you've nailed a major issue I have with current comics. I was in the store today looking at the prelude issue to "Resurrection of Ras al Ghul." Was almost ready to buy it till I hit the last page and found it's continued into ROBIN, then DETECTIVE, NIGHTWING, etc. ad nauseam. The publishers don't realize how much they misread the collectors mentality. There comes a point, financially at least, where a fan realizes he can't afford everything, and then decides if he can't get it all, he doesn't want any of it. "Events" no longer make me buy titles i don't normally read, they make me drop titles I used to get because they're part of something too massive for me. It only makes it easier to do so when the "event" is something I don't like anyway. For me it was "Gang Wars." Now I get almost zero DCs and Marvels and spend my $ on other publishers.

Shamus said...

It's a refreshing post. I agree that it's all about good stories. I truly don't think that there are bad or good characters. There are bad and good stories. A good writer can take any character and write an intriguing, moving or exciting story. What is a character after all? Just a premise, some powers and a costume? A character is a personality with motivations, emotions, responses and interactions. It takes a writer to bring all that to life, otherwise even Spider-man is as flat as the page he lives in.