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Friday, December 09, 2016 

Is a 2nd Spidey book titled Renew Your Vows Marvel's attempt to apologize?

There's a new Spider-Man miniseries bearing the same name as the atrocity written by Dan Slott coming out, but this book is written by veteran Gerry Conway. This is something I didn't know clearly about a few months ago, but apparently, this was what J. Scott Campbell was doing his cover drawing for (so I've made an effort to edit a prior topic to note that), so he's clear on that matter. It basically puts Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson back together, though it's also got some ideas that Spider-fans might still find superfluous.

Now could this be Marvel's theoretical admission they screwed up for over a decade, and an attempt to placate their detractors and the audience that abandoned them after they threw Mary Jane Watson under the bus? It's hard to say, and Joe Quesada/Axel Alonso's continued presence at Marvel could still drive people away, with good reason. Here's the description of what the new Renew Your Vows is about:
The mainstream Peter Parker may be facing dark times during The Clone Conspiracy, but classic Spidey writer Gerry Conway and artist Ryan Stegman are creating a version of Peter’s life where the last ten years look very different in the recently launched Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.

Spinning out of a Secret Wars mini-series that weaved a world in which Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson never split, Renew Your Vows continues the timeline of a very different – and happier – reality, complete with a whole family of crimefighters in Pete, MJ, and their daughter Annie.

But this isn’t just a surface level change – according to Conway, in the world of Renew Your Vows, not only did the entirety of Civil War not happen, the sweeping differences may go back to the original “Clone Saga” or even further.
There's just one little thing: should even the original Clone Saga remain canon? Those familiar with 1995's Spider-output know it was one of the most stunningly awful tales ever produced, knocking everyone's heads with the notion that Ben Reilly, the Spider-clone, had been in Peter Parker's shoes for nearly 2 decades. And there was also that matter of Peter taking out his anger on Ben via violent assault (which a scientist nearby made no attempt to stop), and resulted in Peter accidentally striking Mary Jane and wounding her. Even the attack on Ben Reilly alone was already offensive, making Peter out to look like he had no ability to solve anything without fisticuffs. It gave brawls in superhero comics a bad name. If I were in charge, I'd want to drop the whole Clone Saga from continuity, because it was nothing more than bad storytelling of the worst kind, and keeping it around doesn't improve anything. If it were dropped from canon, it wouldn't hurt one bit any more than if the Terminator movies ignored the 3rd entry along with Salvation. That's actually a good way to make the horizon more appealing for new entrants into readership.

Interestingly, during the interview to follow, artist Ryan Stegman (and by extension Conway too) seem to criticize Dan Slott's Inferior Dr. Octopus story from at least 2 years ago:
Nrama: Ryan, this is really your first time drawing the classic, original Peter Parker in an ongoing series. How do you approach him differently from the modern Peter, or from Otto Octavius in Peter’s body?

Stegman: I don’t really approach this Peter very differently from the modern, mainstream Peter, but I definitely approach him differently than the Superior Spider-Man version of Peter Parker. In that version, even when he was not in costume, he was always posing and sticking his chest out and being a real creep. And then when he’d fight, he was much about actually trying to hurt his opponent. The fights were bloodier, more vicious. So I’ve scaled that back to something more in line with Peter Parker. The only care Otto Octavius gave to Peter Parker was being in his body, so this is completely different.
Incredible. He's pointed out just some of the serious errors made in the past decade, many of which were surely deliberate. Another was the alarmingly poor treatment of Mary Jane, whom Slott once called "anti-Marvel". Worse was the storyline where Otto Octavius took advantage of Mary while he was in Peter's body. That's not something a writer/artist who wants to be seen as dignified and professional would sink into doing. So Stegman certainly deserves some credit for acknowledging that terrible mistakes were made, for practically two decades.
Nrama: Gerry, you wrote some incredibly formative stories for Peter, including “The Night Gwen Stacy Died.” How does it feel to do kind of the opposite of that story, writing a happily married Peter?

Conway: It’s obviously great fun. I never wanted Peter’s life to be miserable, it just sort of happened. Given where he was in his development as a character during “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” it was appropriate for him at the time. But the great thing about Renew Your Vows is that we’re in an alternate universe, so we’re not bound by the weight of prior darkness. There’s certainly an element of darkness to Peter’s life because of the deaths that have occurred in it, but he’s been pretty happy for the last five or six years in our timeline.

He’s settled into a family routine, and to some degree, just as my early stories with Peter were a reflection of my adolescent angst as I wrote him – I was around the same age that the character was – Renew Your Vows reflects my experience with relationships from a more mature, adult perspective.
I'll give Conway some credit for taking a sensible approach to characterization here. But it's regrettable if he still holds fast to his ultra-leftist politics
Nrama: Following up on something you just said, the timeline of Renew Your Vows isn’t necessarily tied to any previous storylines. Aside from the obvious diverging point of “One More Day,” are there other differences in Peter’s past?

Conway: Oh yeah. My take on this, and Ryan, I think yours too, is that this is a universe where Civil War never happened. So Aunt May is dead, but she’s dead for a different reason. He didn’t expose his identity, he didn’t make the bargain with Mephisto, and the world doesn’t have the level of superhero conflict as worlds where Civil War took place.

For me, it feels thematically more like the Marvel of the mid-60s, where the rivalries weren’t life and death, they were more like disagreements. And in that context, things can be a little lighter, a little less gravelly. He still has Gwen Stacy’s death on his conscience, he has Uncle Ben’s death on his conscience, he feels bad about Aunt May, even though he doesn’t feel guilty for her death. But he’s not bound up in the kind of dark grief the 90s era gave us.

I’m not even sure there was a “Clone Saga” in this world. We haven’t gotten that far yet. We’ll see.

Stegman: It’s a different world. And I kind of prefer this one.
I wonder if this is their suggestion that this serve as a return to a time when established continuity was more coherent? Presumably, this is probably just the idea behind Conway/Stegman's miniseries. And they do suggest the Clone Saga was not only a terrible mistake, but one they'd do better to jettison from continuity.
Nrama: There are a few alternate Spider-Man timelines going on at Marvel right now. Why is this the right time to show an alternate take on Peter Parker that rolls back many of the changes in his story from the last ten years? Why is a story about Peter and MJ staying together important?

Conway: Because it’s a hopeful story. In a way, it’s weird that it came up now, because we’re in a very strange year, and this is almost an antidote to that. But there’s another thing I think is cool, which is that, since we have the cinematic versions of these characters redefining them and introducing or reintroducing them to people, we can now tell any story we want, even in the mainstream universe books. The obsession with continuity that drained the life out of comics in the 90s seems to have abated, so we’re more about telling stories that are of interest to a wider audience than with connecting the dots for a smaller devoted core group of fans. Obviously we want to stay true to the history of these characters and be faithful to what makes them special, but the idea of different universes is terrific and liberating. We’re not bound by the straitjacket of continuity.
Trouble is, the obsession with milking continuity for all it's worth hasn't, at least not according to Quesada/Alonso, and the obsession with crossovers certainly hasn't abated. And those "fans" he speaks of? Why do I get the feeling they're fans in the true sense of the word? Otherwise, they'd never stick with the Spidey books after what Quesada did to them.

Conway says he doesn't know if this'll end up supplanting the phony continuity Slott's books go by. And the idea of Mary Jane becoming a superheroine herself will surely be divisive with some of the real Spider-fans with more respect for the characters' histories. But the wish to develop a book that's more in tune with what fans of Marvel's better interests want is something to appreciate. It's just a shame it has to be with Quesada/Alonso still around, because that - along with the lack of visible distribution and ridiculous cover prices for pamphlets that should've been replaced by paperbacks - is just why a lot of people may not go for the book regardless.

Labels: , , , , , ,

A: Seems more like an attempt to build up their multiverse again (after that Secret Wars nonsense), but they're just focusing on Spider-Man variations only (so far).

B: Have you forgotten about a Clone Saga that came before the 1990s one? The one which introduced the concepts of "Jackal" and "Spider-Clone" to comics and which have never gone away?

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