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Saturday, February 18, 2017 

Without Mary Jane Watson, there's no "back to basics" with Spider-Man

Whether or not Marvel stops piling on with the politics in their books, they still haven't stopped marginalizing Mary Jane Watson, as this Entertainment Weekly interview about a new Spider-series suggests. The first paragraph proves even the magazine doesn't get anything:
Spider-Man has had an eventful few years. In the pages of his main comic, Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker has recently become a tech millionaire running his own company. As fun as it’s been to watch Peter become a technological powerhouse like Tony Stark, Marvel fans have been clamoring for a return to the wall-crawler’s down-on-his-luck days. [...]
Missing the boat entirely. What fans want is restoration of the Spider-marriage, yet so far, all signs point to Joe Quesada's yes-men remaining adamant about retaining the opposite, the recent Gerry Conway-scripted miniseries notwithstanding. Oh, and just what kind of "events" has Spidey gone through in over the course of a decade? Little more than reduction of his personality to that of a crude slacker, getting mind-swapped with Dr. Octopus, and all that time, Mary Jane, whenever she turned up, was shoved into situations where she was degraded and belittled. No thanks to the awful machinations of Dan Slott as the leading writer, of course. Nor did any of the company wide crossovers help matters. The interview continues with the following:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you define the mission statement of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man? What separates it from other Spider-Man stories/books?
CHIP ZDARSKY: The main book, Amazing Spider-Man, has kept things fresh by stretching the character and his situation. It’s still classic Spider-Man at its core, but transposed into new settings. With this book, we’re using the same Spider-Man in-continuity but shifting the spotlight back to his NYC environment and supporting cast. But even though we’re pushing to make it a more personal book, we’re still going to have big adventures with ramifications that’ll be felt in his other books. If I had, like, a true mission statement for the title though, it would be: “Have fun, have heart, have stakes.” My personal mission statement going into the book is “With great power comes something something I don’t know I’ve never had power before.”
As noted above, stories like Doc Ock mind-switching just so he can pose as Peter Parker are hardly keeping the story anything other than stale. And about ramifications? That's just the problem with modern superhero comics; they're almost entirely about so-called ramifications that only amount to tasteless substitutes for character drama.
What are your favorite Spider-Man stories? Are there any in particular you’ll be drawing inspiration from on the new series?
I’m a child of the ’80s and ’90s, so a lot of books from that time really imprinted on me. The mystery of the Hobgoblin hooked me as a kid. I also loved the stories that made you feel like Spidey was up against impossible odds. The classic scene from issue #33 of him struggling under the wreckage; his defeat of Firelord, Galactus’s herald; the introduction of Venom, which was terrifying; or when J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr. introduced Morlun, an unstoppable, single-minded villain. Even though he’s been on teams, Spidey as the loner trying desperately to survive and save everyone is key. I also love stories that remind you of why you love the character. Superior Spider-Man managed to do that superbly while not even having Spider-Man as a character, which was incredibly bold with a fantastic payoff. I think those are the things I want to push in this book: impossible odds and reminding people why they love Spider-Man.
Now there's a telling sign something's wrong, when the assigned writer starts fawning over Inferior Dr. Octopus. A story where the usually tentacled troublemaker exploits Mary Jane. Not a good example to bring up. Even Straczynski's Morlun storyline was very weak and didn't lead to anything better in the end. What anyone saw in Straczynski's work I just don't get. He was an early example of a writer who was politicizing his storylines long before today's Marvel writers did, and the Sins Past storyline was particularly execrable.

The following statement has something awfully peculiar:
Spider-Man obviously has a long, complex mythology. What can you tease about potential new characters you’ll be introducing to that mix?
Your head’s going to spin when you see all the senior citizen characters I introduce! Marvel keeps telling me to “skew young” and to keep my “weird fetishes out of their book” and that I’m “fired,” but I think audiences are clamoring for the next Aunt May! I’m also introducing Rebecca London, a recent transplant to NYC looking to have a career in stand-up comedy. Spider-Man, not Peter, is the only person she’s managed to meet since arriving in the city, so they strike up a friendship and … possible love connection? Marvel is thrilled with me that she’s (sigh) “age appropriate.”
Now what's that supposed to mean? That Mary Jane's not age appropriate? On which note, the redheaded lady isn't even mentioned in the interview, and I can't help wonder if this is going to wind up another absurdly SJW-pandering book.

Whether audiences really want May Parker around, that doesn't mean they don't also want Mary Jane, and this new volume clearly fails on that count. The talk of old folks highlighted here sounds like a metaphor for what the audience is turning out to be: aging fans for whom Marvel shows no interest in encouraging new fans to join the audience. Some of the commenters to this article show they understand this, as the following lets know:
"The main book, Amazing Spider-Man, has kept things fresh by stretching the character and his situation. It’s still classic Spider-Man at its core..."

No, it absolutely isn't and ASM hasn't been Spider-Man "at its core" since before JMS left. While fans haven't liked the Slott Spider-Iron-Man take on ASM, they're not necessarily clamoring for Peter Parker to be 'down on his luck.' They're missing the main book actually feeling like Spider-Man, with familiar supporting characters, instead of bad fan fiction.

"I’m also introducing Rebecca London… possible love connection?"

Then you've missed the point entirely.

And another says, more noticeably:
Agreed! Nobody wants a Peter down on his luck, a new Aunt May or a new love interest. We want old spidey back. A guy who was down to earth, an everyday man who though had his own set of troubles had also his own rewards within his wife or friends around him.

Everybody knows the fans want Peter and MJ back together, Peter not being a millionare, and Peter to finally start acting more like an adult! ...yet Marvel will never accept that!
Exactly. The above got it quite right. Mary Jane Watson-Parker is the leading lady we want paired with Peter Parker, and not some forced replacement. And about financial status: nobody's saying Peter has to be a millionaire. Indeed, that's already ridiculous and contrived, mainly because even after MJ became a successful model, she herself was still anything but a millionaire on the level of Aristotle Onassis. Now that I think of it, I don't recall Peter and MJ ever owned a car in the time the Spidey franchise was in better health. Which doesn't mean they couldn't.

So again, no one's saying Peter and MJ should be millionaires, but they don't think the former should be inherently down on his luck either, and depicting him that way became ludicrous long ago. In fact, to do that is counterproductive to character growth. In which case, it doesn't take much to figure out all they care about is "shaking up" the books, not plausible character drama. That's why there's obviously nothing to see here either, nothing much different from the past decade, and nothing to waste money on. Just another example of domineering editors/publishers refusing to admit they screwed up and do whatever can be done to turn things around for real. That's why the fans they drove away won't come back.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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