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cic2008-01-21.jpgBack in 1987 there was a party at a Manhattan nightclub called the Tunnel to publicize the wedding of Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man, to Mary Jane Watson. Actors portraying Spidey (in mask and tuxedo) and MJ (in wedding gown) were present as was Stan Lee, as himself, and I attended as well. This week I informed my companion for that evening that Marvel had just retconned Peter Parker’s life so that he had never been married. So, I told her, I guess we never attended that party either. Too bad, because she was really proud of the dress she wore for the occasion. I then explained to her that Peter Parker had made a deal with the devil to save his aunt’s life, and the price was changing history so his marriage never happened. Not a comics fan, her reaction was, in effect, say what? Exactly.

It was Stan Lee’s idea to have Peter Parker marry Mary Jane Watson. As Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada told Comic Book Resources, “It was a stunt.” Quesada explained to CBR that “Around 1986, circulation on the Spider-Man newspaper strip had begun to drop.” So Stan Lee and an editor from King Features Syndicate came up with the idea of having Peter marry Mary Jane to boost circulation.

Quesada continued, “So, at a certain point, Stan called up Marvel and let the folks there know that he was planning to marry Peter and Mary Jane in the newspaper strip at such-and-such a point. At the time, Mary Jane wasn’t even dating Peter in the series, but [then editor in chief] Jim Shooter, not wanting the comics to get scooped by the newspaper strip or whatever, decided that the publicity surrounding the marriage (there was talk of a faux wedding ceremony taking place at Shea Stadium to commemorate the event) and the fact that this was Stan made it worth doing in the books as well.” (And I wonder if Peter and Mary Jane will remain married in the Spider-Man comic strip, and if not, how Stan will explain it.)

But after Peter and Mary Jane got hitched, Marvel editors and writers regretted the decision. But why? After twenty-plus years of Spider-Man stories, wasn’t it about time for Peter Parker to get married?

When Stan Lee was writing The Amazing Spider-Man comic book in the 1960s, Peter Parker started out as a 15-year-old high school student who eventually graduated and entered college. Later writers had Peter graduate college and enter graduate school where (as I know from firsthand experience) people can remain students for years and years. Spider-Man/Peter Parker was supposed to be a young guy, a student who had not yet begun an adult career. This distinguished him from “adult” superheroes like Daredevil, who in his secret identity was one of Manhattan’s leading lawyers, and certainly from Iron Man, who was really multimillionaire C. E. O. Tony Stark. If Peter Parker was married, the argument ran, that made him seem too old.

That, it was argued, was a problem because Marvel’s target audience was perceived as being high school and college age kids, who, supposedly would be less able to identify with a Spider-Man who was older than they were. (By that logic, I suppose, they couldn’t identify with Daredevil or Iron Man because they weren’t kids. And for a brief, terrible time in the 1990s Iron Man was indeed replaced with a “teen Tony” version.)

But what is the median age of Marvel readers nowadays? Looking around at comics stores and conventions, I see mostly adults. The owner of one Manhattan comics store tells me that he never sees customers who are kids.

Yet I can see the point that readers well into their twenties, thirties, or middle age might prefer that Peter Parker remain fixed in his early twenties, because he reminds them of themselves when they were that age.

Another, probably greater problem with Peter’s marriage is that the essence of Spider-Man is that he is the “hard luck Harry” (to use Stan Lee’s phrase) of the superhero world. Despite his triumphs over his supervillain adversaries, nothing else ever goes right for Spider-Man either in his costumed identity or as Peter Parker. Therefore, it is argued, the marriage is a mistake because being married to a gorgeous supermodel makes Peter Parker just too happy.

I agree that it was a mistake in the immediate aftermath of Peter and MJ’s wedding to portray her as a wealthy, famous and highly successful model and actress. Peter Parker has always suffered from money problems, and this removed them. Later writers and editors recognized this and gave MJ considerable career setbacks; Todd McFarlane drew an amusing symbolic cover of Spider-Man being literally kicked out of an upscale apartment building where the Parkers were living in the lap of luxury (Amazing Spider-Man #314, April 1989).

It’s certainly a naive view of married life to picture it as a constant source of blissfulness. I suspect there may even have been a certain sexism in this attitude towards Peter’s marriage, as if MJ were defined principally by her looks and her presumed prowess in bed. Why couldn’t Peter and Mary Jane be portrayed as partners in the struggles, personal, financial, and so forth, that Peter had formerly faced on his own? This is the direction in which Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies appear to be moving.

But is nostalgia the real reason that these Baby Boomer editors and writers prefer that Peter Parker be single? Peter was single when they were growing up reading Spider-Man, so they feel that he shouldn’t be married now. I confess that I wonder if this sort of nostalgia clouds my judgment in the issue.

After all, Peter and MJ got married in Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 21, published in 1987. In real time they were married for twenty years, nearly half of the Spider-Man series’ nearly forty-six (!) year history. So that means that anyone who started reading Spider-Man comics (apart from reprints) in the last two decades only knows the character as a married man. Yet Spider-Man remained highly popular among comics readers over that period. Isn’t it possible that post-Boomer generations of Spider-Man readers consider Peter’s marriage to MJ one of the sources of the series’ appeal? Since the comic book audience has been much older over the last twenty years than it was back in the 1960s, isn’t it possible that male readers aren’t put off by the marriage? Young kids might think that a married superhero is more like their father than like themselves. (Reed Richards is the father figure of the Fantastic Four, so Stan Lee and Jack Kirby probably had no qualms about alienating FF readers by having him marry Sue; there was still Johnny Storm to serve as an identification figure for the kids.) But wouldn’t many teenage and twentysomething male readers wish they had a girlfriend or wife like Mary Jane themselves? Spider-Man’s marriage might therefore make the character more appealing to them.

Moreover, there has been a visible growth of the numbers of female readers for American comic books in recent years. Last year’s uproar over the allegedly lurid statuette of Mary Jane pointed to how important and iconic the character has become to female fans of Spider-Man comics–and the Spider-Man movies, in which Mary Jane plays such an important role (see Comics in Context” #178: “The Whole World Is Watching”). To what extent is that role responsible for a significant portion of the blockbuster commercial success of those films? Don’t the love story and Kirsten Dunst’s performance as MJ bring in a considerable female audience who might not otherwise be interested in superhero movies?

If so, then is Marvel alienating present and potential women readers by putting an end to Peter and MJ’s marriage, thereby arguably suggesting that the marriage wasn’t a positive development, that MJ was an inessential character, and even that the heroic male is better off alone?

Then again, one could argue that the essence of Spider-Man is that he is loner, and not by choice. As both Spider-Man and Peter Parker, he continually strives to do the right thing, only to be rewarded with mistrust, misunderstanding, lack of appreciation, and even hatred. In the classic Stan Lee Spider-Man stories of the Silver Age, Peter/Spider-Man was operating entirely on his own, unable to confide in anyone else: even Gwen Stacy, his first great love, turned against Spider-Man, mistakenly holding him responsible for her father’s death.

Therefore, it makes sense to me that Spider-Man/Peter Parker should be single, and that the series works best when he must face his troubles on his own. Peter/Spider-Man would meet mistrust and lack of appreciation wherever he turned, whether it was the public at large, or J. Jonah Jameson, or even, at times, from his girlfriends.

One of the traditional themes of the series is that carrying out his responsibility to do good as Spider-Man continually complicates and damages Peter Parker’s personal life, and this would be true of his romantic relationships as well. This point was most powerfully made by the death of Gwen Stacy at the hands of the original Green Goblin.

Well then, if Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane was a mistake, why not just find a reason for them to get divorced? They could still remain friends, and possibly at some point return to being lovers. This was the simplest solution, and yet Marvel editors refused to take it.

Thankfully, Marvel did not go for the other obvious solution, which was to kill off Mary Jane. Perhaps this was a case of Been There, Done That, since Peter’s first true love, Gwen Stacy, had been killed off. Perhaps Marvel editors and writers over the last twenty years recognized that she was too appealing a character to kill off.

If Spider-Man were published by DC Comics, DC would simply have done of its long series of reboots, casting all past continuity into oblivion and starting the series over from scratch. Traditionally, though, Marvel keeps its continuity intact perhaps because it is founded in the classic stories that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and company created in the 1960s, and which no new version is likely to equal or surpass. I agree with this policy. As the late Mark Gruenwald used to say about reboots, Marvel got its characters right the first time.

So, rather than use any simple solutions, Marvel has resorted to complicated and convoluted schemes to undo Peter and MJ’s marriage.

A decade ago there was the now infamous Clone Saga in the Spider-Man books, founded upon a story in Amazing Spider-Man #149 (1975) in which the criminal geneticist, the Jackal, had created a clone of his foe, Spider-Man. By the end of that issue the clone had seemingly been killed. But in the 1990s a Peter Parker lookalike named Ben Reilly surfaced. The readers were made to wonder, was Ben the Spider-Man clone–or was he the original Spider-Man? Could it be that the Peter Parker who had starred in Spider-Man comics from 1975 onward was actually the clone?

As the Clone Saga evolved, the Spider-Man editors and writers saw it as a means of simplifying Spider-Man continuity and eliminating the marriage. They identified the Peter who married MJ as the clone and shipped them off to Portland, Oregon to live happily ever after; MJ even became pregnant. Ben Reilly was identified as the original Spider-Man and reassumed his Spider-Man identity. Hence, the “Spider-Man” who starred in stories from Amazing Spider-Man #150 into the mid-1990s was an unwitting impostor.

And readers rebelled, quite understandably. The Baby Boomer writers and editors of the Spider-Man books might have been happy since the Spider-Man stories from 1962 into 1975, which they had grown up with, were left intact.

But what if you had started reading Spider-Man in 1976 or later, and Marvel had just told you that you had been reading about a phony Spider-Man? Even if you were a Boomer Spider-Man fan you might be outraged. The Clone Saga was effectively discarding twenty years of Spider-Man comics. Unintentionally, Marvel was telling its audience that they had wasted the last two decades reading about the wrong character!

So Marvel hurriedly sought to undo the damage. Peter and MJ rushed back to New York, Ben was proven to be the the clone and was killed off, and Peter returned to his role as Spider-Man. As for MJ’s pregnancy, she gave birth and was told the baby was stillborn, and the baby was abducted by an operative of the original Green Goblin. Was the baby live or dead? There was no answer, and thus the baby became a continuity time bomb, liable to detonate at some point in the future.

The Clone Saga also failed in its objective of providing a Spider-Man who was unmarried. And so Peter and MJ’s marriage survived for another decade, not alienating readers, as far as I know, until editor in chief Joe Quesada and company devised their solution to the alleged problem in the recent “One More Day” story arc which culminated in Amazing Spider-Man #545, whose writing is credited to J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada.

During Civil War, which, as regular readers know, is not my favorite series, Spider-Man publicly revealed his other identity of Peter Parker. He was subsequently reminded of the reason he had a secret identity in the first place, when his Aunt May was shot and fatally wounded. It seemed that there was no way to save he life until the demon Mephisto, Marvel’s counterpart to the Biblical Satan, made Peter and Mary Jane an offer: he would save her life if they agreed to allow him to alter history so that they had never been married. Realizing that May’s life would still be in danger if the world knew that Peter was Spider-Man, Mary Jane insisted that Mephisto make Peter’s dual identity secret once more. Mephisto, Peter and Mary Jane agreed to the terms of this bargain, and history was changed. Peter and Mary Jane no longer remembered being married, and no one knew that Peter was Spider-Man. (It’s now obvious that Marvel only publicly revealed Spider-Man’s double identity in Civil War because they intended to restore it to secrecy again in “One More Day.”)

Oddly, Mephisto threw in some bonuses. He further altered history so that Harry Osborn had never died. Well, since Harry once followed in his father’s footsteps as the second Green Goblin, perhaps Mephisto intends for Harry to cause trouble in the future.

But what motivation did Mephisto have for removing Peter’s new “organic web-shooters” and having him return to his original, mechanical ones? I assume that Marvel gave Spider-Man the power to shoot webbing out of his hands because he can do so in the Raimi movies. Was Marvel’s comics division under pressure from the movie division to make the comics Spider-Man conform to the movie version? (That could well be yet another reason why Marvel put an end to the Peter-MJ marriage, since they’re not married in the movies.) Did the comics division restore the mechanical web-shooters because that pressure was off, or because fans–or even Marvel pros–had protested?

I applaud the fact that Quesada and company did not kill off Mary Jane. Now that the world knows about the character from the movies, if they killed her off there would be outrage in the mainstream media. And besides, she may be in future Spider-Man movies and certainly in licensing and merchandising spinoffs of the movies and comics.

I’m also glad that Quesada and company didn’t do a reboot of Spider-Man. I wish that they’d refrain from reboots altogether. Is J. Michael Straczynski’s Strange miniseries that radically revised the Lee-Ditko Doctor Strange stories (without coming close to matching them) meant to be canonical?

Although I’d prefer not altering past continuity at all, I am relieved that the changes to past Spider-Man stories are less than I’d expected:

COMIC BOOK RESOURCES: So, to get this straight, OMD [One More Day”] doesn’t actually negate the previous 20 years of Spider-Man stories?

QUESADA: Exactly, that’s precisely what we wanted to avoid. What didn’t occur was the marriage. Peter and MJ were together, they loved each other–they just didn’t pull the trigger on the wedding day. All the books count, all the stories count–except in the minds of the people within the Marvel U, Peter and MJ were a couple, not a married couple. To me, that’s a much fairer thing to do to those of us who have been reading Spider-Man for all these years. Like I said, is it perfect? No. As far as we investigated, short of divorcing Peter, nothing really is.”

(http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=12681)

Thus Marvel avoided making the Clone Saga’s mistake of telling readers that the previous two decades of Spider-Man stories are now irrelevant.

But if a divorce would be the “perfect” solution, why didn’t Marvel go for it? Quesada claims to be protecting Spider-Man’s younger readers. He told Newsarama last year, “divorcing them to me sends out completely the wrong message. Imagine you’re a mom and you’re buying little Bobby or little Betty Spidey Adventures or maybe Spidey Loves MJ and you’re watching the news one day and the broadcaster looks right at you and says, ‘Spider-Man is getting divorced, more on that after these messages.’ Let’s just say that as a parent, I’d be upset by the sound bite, I could only imagine how the rest of the world would feel”.

Well, yes, I can see that small children might be afraid that their own parents would split up, so the idea of Spider-Man getting divorced might disconcert them. Then again, small children who are Spider-Man fans might be even more upset if they found out that his eye had been brutally gouged out, as it was in 2006 (see “Comics in Context” #118: “O Other, Where Art Thou?”). Okay, that wasn’t widely reported in the mainstream media, and Marvel was lucky that it wasn’t. But what the mainstream media did make a big fuss over was the assassination of Captain America in 2007 (see “Comics in Context” #168: “O Captain! My Captain!”). Gee, if I were a small child who read comics about Captain America, I bet that would upset me. Why, reading about Cap’s death might even be the first time that little Bobby and little Betty grapple with the meaning of death. And Cap’s still dead in the comics.

Here’s something else. Divorce is far more widespread and accepted in this country than it was back when we Boomers were children. I recall when people claimed that Nelson Rockefeller’s campaign to be nominated for President in the 1960s wouldn’t succeed because he’d been divorced, and it didn’t. But two decades later Ronald Reagan was elected president, and no one cared that he had been divorced and remarried.

I expect that little Bobby and little Betty who read Spidey Adventures may well have friends whose parents are divorced. Maybe little Bobby and little Betty have an aunt or uncle who is divorced, or maybe their own parents are divorced. The traditional nuclear family unit is not as common as it used to be. So maybe these children wouldn’t be as upset by the idea of divorce as Joe Quesada thinks they would be.

But you know what? I bet that if little Bobby and little Betty are being brought up to be religious, they might be really upset by Peter Parker making a deal with the devil. Mommy, mommy, is Spider-Man going to hell?

Spider-Man has a tradition of dealing with disturbing subjects. Consider that Spider-Man’s origin not only centers on the death of Uncle Ben, Peter’s father figure, but makes clear that Spider-Man feels responsible for allowing the murder to happen. And yet somehow for over four decades kids have been able to handle the notion that their hero Spider-Man is partly guilty of patricide. Spider-Man likewise feels guilty for the death of Gwen: the Green Goblin pushed her off the bridge, but her neck snapped when Spider-Man caught her.

Besides, have we forgotten how Stan Lee defied the Comics Code to publish his groundbreaking anti-drug storyline in Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (1971), which showed Peter’s friend Harry deathly ill from drug addiction? What about that 1986 Spider-Man & Power Pack special, aimed at small children, that revealed that as a young boy Peter Parker was a victim of child abuse? Marvel has a tradition of dealing with such hard issues. Is divorce, then, really too much for Spider-Man’s young readers to handle?

In the year 2008 Quesada’s attitude towards divorce seems, at the very least, quaint. He told Comic Book Resources, “Sure, divorce is a reality of life, but Peter Parker and Spider-Man are not the types of characters that would do that. Spider-Man is a worldwide icon and is considered one of the good guys, like Superman”. So the “good guys” don’t get divorced, presumably because divorce is evil. So anyone who gets divorced is a bad guy?

Quesada has also said that he opposed divorcing Peter and Mary Jane because he wanted to present them as a “strong loving couple”. Well, by breaking them up via Mephisto’s magic, Marvel has put an end to that theme, at least for now. Isn’t it possible that Peter and Mary Jane could continue to love each other but still get a divorce because it is simply too dangerous for Spider-Man to be married, as the assault on another of his loved ones, Aunt May, demonstrated?

Isn’t it also possible that Marvel’s writers could have crafted a storyline that maturely and sensitively handed a divorce between Peter and Mary Jane, written in a way that could explain to younger readers that divorce is sad but sometimes necessary? Maybe reading such a storyline could actually help children of divorced parents reconcile themselves to the idea of divorce.

On reading the conclusion of “One More Day” in Amazing Spider-Man #545, I wasn’t as upset about Peter Parker’s deal with Mephisto as I thought I’d be. Spider-Man is the everyman as superhero, and how would you or I react if the only way to save a loved one’s life was to make a bargain with the devil? Could you justify allowing a loved one to die by refusing to make such a deal?

Moreover, I like the grand, operatic romanticism of Mary Jane’s speech to Peter that not even the devil can destroy their love for one another, and that even if he makes them forget what they meant to each other, they will inevitably be reunited. It puts me in mind of the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or stories about reincarnated lovers reunited, from Hawkman to Dark Shadows, which deal with a similar concept.

But still, I remain repulsed by the idea of Spider-Man making a deal with the devil. In his CBR interview Quesada points out that “One More Day” is based on the myth of Faust. Yes, indeed, and the point of Faust and the many variations on it is that making a deal with the devil is always wrong.

Just look at Marvel’s previous leading version of the Faust myth: the origin of Ghost Rider (in Marvel Spotlight #5, 1972). Like Peter Parker, Johnny Blaze was desperate to save the life of the person who had acted as a parent to him: “Crash” Simpson, who was succumbing to cancer. Blaze made a bargain with the devil, who was subsequently identified as Mephisto, and who did indeed prevent Simpson from dying of cancer, only to let him die soon thereafter performing a motorcycle stunt. Then Mephisto transformed Blaze into the human host of the demon Zarathos, turning him into the Ghost Rider. The Ghost Rider’s origin follows the standard pattern of the Faust myth. The moral is that making a deal with the devil leaves you far worse off than you were before, and that you do not even gain the original goal for which you sacrificed your principles and perhaps your soul.

Therefore, the truly heroic choice for Spider-Man to make may have been to resign himself to letting Aunt May die rather than provide Mephisto with the opportunity to wreak even greater harm.

Indeed, as soon as Peter and Mary Jane agree to the bargain, Mephisto shows them a vision of the daughter that he claims they now will not have. This, presumably, is Marvel’s way of disposing of that “time bomb’ baby: if Peter and Mary Jane were never married, they never had that child. In Tom DeFalco’s Spider-Girl series, set in the future, that child grew up to become the teenage title heroine. But “One More Day” suggests that Spider-Girl takes place in the future if an alternate reality, not that of the “mainstream” Spider-Man.

So there is one consequence of Peter and Mary Jane’s satanic bargain that is arguably worse than the death of his elderly aunt: it’s like an abortion via black magic. And just how many lives would Spider-Girl have saved if she existed in the “mainstream” Spider-Man’s reality? You can expect that Spider-Man writers will be tempted to do still more stories about how far Mephisto has sunk his claws into Spider-Man’s life, if not now, then in the future.

How dense do Peter and Mary Jane have to be not to realize any of this? Have they never seen any version of the Faust story–not even something like Damn Yankees or Bedazzled? There are already mainstream media reports about “One More Day.” How can making a deal with the devil possibly be good for the public image of Marvel’s flagship hero?

Furthermore, to my knowledge, Mephisto has never before demonstrated such power to restructure reality and even resurrect the dead (Harry). But there are plenty of Marvel characters who do, who could have been used to retcon the marriage without morally sullying Peter and Mary Jane’s characters. Over at his online forum, John Byrne has explained how he and writer Howard Mackie would have used the alien Shaper of Worlds to undo the marriage. I find myself leaning towards using the Grandmaster, who has been established as having powers to control time, space, life and death.

For twenty years Marvel writers and editors thought that Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage was a mistake and longer to undo it, and finally Marvel did. And you know what? Right now I expect there are people who are professional comics writers and editors, and people who will someday become professional comics writers and editors, who are outraged that Marvel had Spider-Man make a deal with the devil. And these present and future writers and editors will be determined to undo it. We shall see whether it takes twenty years this time, or much less.

Still, despite my qualms about Marvel brought it about, maybe Peter Parker and Spider-Man should be single. But I don’t feel any enthusiasm about this. Over the last twenty years I have grown very, very weary of reboots, resets, and revisionism.

One reads fiction on two levels. The reader knows that it is fiction and can admire and analyze the craft of the author. But the fiction should also persuade the reader simultaneously to suspend his or her disbelief, to pretend that the story and its characters are real, and to become emotionally involved with them.

But why should we invest ourselves emotionally in the Marvel Universe–or the DC Universe, for that matter–any longer?

For twenty years Marvel has sought to make its readers care about the marriage–and about the love–between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Did they succeed with you? Too bad, because they just retconned the characters’ past so that their marriage never happened. So why should you care about any other romance in Marvel stories, since it too could disappear from Marvel history with the snapping of an editor’s fingers?

When Spider-Man revealed his secret identity in Civil War, did you think that this would change his life permanently? Did you wonder if and how Spider-Man could ever find a new secret identity? Well, Mephisto just wiped out everyone’s knowledge of Spider-Man’s dual identity through magic. So why should we ever care about any disastrous situation that befalls a Marvel character in the future? All they have to do is hit the magical reset button.

Did you feel moved by J. M. DeMatteis’s well-crafted story of the death of Harry Osborn in Spectacular Spider-Man #200 (1993)? Surprise! Harry’s death was retconned away! Now that Bucky has turned up alive, it is clear that no death is sacrosanct at Marvel. It’s as if every character had a version of Wolverine’s fast healing power; it just takes some of them longer to recover from the dreaded deading (as The Goon Show used to put it) than others. Death has just turned into a means of demeaning noble characters–like, say, Captain America, symbol of our nation–and exasperating longtime readers we wait, sometimes years, for Marvel to get around to bringing them back.

One of the main points of the Marvel Revolution was that Stan Lee wanted to explore what would happen if a superhero existed in what was basically our world. In the real world death is irreversible, one’s problems cannot be made to disappear by magic, and reality is not malleable, capable of being shaped and reshaped at will.

How can a reader continue to suspend disbelief when the stories make it all too clear that the characters are merely puppets, and we are all too aware of the puppeteers pulling their strings?

ADVERTISEMENTS FOR MYSELF

To my astonishment, Marvel has just released Essential Marvel Saga Vol. 1! This is a paperback collection of a series that I wrote in the 1980s which outlined the history of the Marvel Universe from Fantastic Four #1 through the Galactus trilogy, with appropriate illustrations from the original stories. It was abruptly canceled with issue 25, back when conventional wisdom had begun to decree that no one wanted books like Marvel Saga and The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. i am glad to see that history has proven them wrong.

-Copyright 2008 Peter Sanderson

Comments:

23 Responses to “Comics in Context #210: Divorce, Marvel Style”

  1. George Says:

    Going back to the last issue of Green Arrow before they jumped forward “One Year Later” the eponymous character has seemingly died from an arrow through the heart, an arrow through the neck, and watched his son shot and placed into a coma… for the second time.

    For the first time in 20 years the book has gotten to the point I can’t read it anymore.

  2. joe Says:

    i was in the fifth grade when peter and mj were married and had only just become a dedicated collector as opposed to mere purchaser of comics. gwen stacy (who i only really knew about from the official handbooks that had just been released) was a past defining character like uncle ben and there was that little black cat romance but mj was the love interest regardless of how behind the scenes politics made it happen. for twenty of my thirty-two years peter and mj have been married–a single peter parker means nothing to me and those younger than me; for all intents and purposes this is an all new character, not the spidey i’ve loved.
    the other thing that bothers me is that, like you mentioned, it all seems to be baby boomer nostalgia. the powers that be are always lashing out at us fans who “obsess” over continuity and that we can’t have the characters stay the same as they were when we were kids. then they up and change things so it more resembles the stories they read when they were kids. ego, ego, ego. “because this is the way it was when i was a kid this is the only way it can be accessible to kids today” b.s.
    p.s - i bought every issue of the marvel saga as they came out. my dad would give me money to buy the paper and for a comic and candy. i missed it when it was cancelled. it just disappeared. i’m glad to see it back again.

  3. OldHead Says:

    I just don’t care anymore. I used to be as close to a “Marvel Zombie” as you could get back in the day, reading and “collecting” (actually, just not throwing out books that cost me a whole $1). My Marvel to other (DC, Comico,etc.) ratio had to be 30:1 monthly; long before Image and their pretty, but stoy-less books. I used to work all the conventions in the area and got back issues by the pound (literally); I loved seeing each character’s evolution and progress.
    Now?
    The Marvel “Universe” is an unreadable mess of 6 issue events that will be undone by the next writer’s 6 issue arc. “Civil War”? and event with the names of Marvel characters wrapped around it. I thought the whole reason we read these books was for people who act heroically, not for pitifully unremarkable people who can lift cars. Where are the choices heroes make? Why use the names if they simply act out of character anyway? Here’s a thought, write a “New” character. Iron Man an Iron Handed tyrant? No problem. Peter Parker making stupid decisions and never invented web-shooters? Don’t worry, he was never a genius anyway. And don’t get me started on X-Men.
    *sigh* When is the next issue of Tek Jansen coming out? That’s something I can wrap my head around and makes far more sense than 97% or stuff on the racks currently.
    And Marvel Saga rocked. I’ve got plenty of those in my stacks in the basement.

  4. Tracer Bullet79 Says:

    I’m having a real problem with comics almost as a whole these days. At the moment I’m trying to keep up with Daredevil, the New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, a couple of other random titles and i’m buying the invincible trade paperbacks (which are amazing!) But here’s the thing, I agree whole heartedly all the ret-conning, re-shuffles, 30 titles a month, cross overs, bi mothly events and other such happenings are just far too common in the likes of spider-man, batman, the X men etc for me to get excited about them any more and it has been like that for a long time now. I am sick of buying Wizard and reading an “everything you thought you knew about…… insert title here is wrong! There’s a change in the status quo!
    Now before i really get going I acknowledge that the comics companies are only doing what they do for one reason. Money. I know there are other very valid and artistic reasons to tell stories etc but it all boils down to cold hard cash. The point I’m trying to make (badly) is that these titles have been going and will keep going for as long as people out there are will put their hands in their pockets and part with their money for their monthly fix. (and we all know it’s a fix so don’t try and deny it!) As these titles keep churning along, there will inevitably be a time when they are out of fashion for whatever reason, be it a team isnt popular or a storyline proves unpopular. The reason these characters sometimes feel old and tired is because they ARE old and tired. Creators put these characters through these huge changes in their status quo in an effort to battle what is surely an ongoing comics biggest threat, which is to try and stay relevant, interesting and exciting month in month out, forever.
    Now lets take spider man for example. Can you ever imagine Spider Man being stopped totally? I mean imagine Marvel just puts their hands up and tells us there are no more interesting stories for Peter Parker, he’s had a good run and now it’s over. They give him a happy sunset to walk into and end it.
    It would be a monumentally stupid idea financially but on the grounds of artistic integrity alone i have to say I would applaud it.
    When you look at some of the greatest works of comic literature you see titles like Preacher which was an outstanding, wonderful series, but it’s done and dusted. Bone was an outstanding achievement and stands almost with no peer. You only need to whisper the word: Watchmen to some people and watch their eyes light up. These titles have a beginning, a middle and an end. Titles like spider man, Superman, Batman, the X men, all have a beginning but from then on in its all middle. I realise that may be a bit of a muddled metaphor but hopefully its makes clear what i’ve been thinking for a long time. These comics will never give me the satisfaction of the likes of Preacher because there is no resolution and really no end in sight.

  5. Andrew Says:

    Having spent the better part of my twenty-two years being an avid Spider-Man reader, I can’t help but let out a sigh when I read about this. It doesn’t help that Joe Quesada’s reasoning (”kids can’t identify with a married/divorced Peter Parker”) is dubious at best, or quaint, as you wonderfully put it, at worst. My own parents divorced when I was young, and they were not much older than the Spider-Man that Mr. Quesada wishes to present. I also know a number of people my own age who are married, and some of whom have been divorced, and none of them would be mistaken for being “older.”

    I suspect that the real reason Joe Quesada wants to undo this is because it’s easier to pander to younger readers by contorting their flagship character into a conveniently in-place image of what a young man is, rather than to actually write the character in a way that suggests youth. In other words, it’s completely lazy writing.

  6. catbeller Says:

    I remember reading stories as a kid, and what I did not want to read about was some super-kid doing things I could never do; I wanted to read about men living lives that I could aspire to. I didn’t want to be a kid, I wanted to be a grown man. Fiction in a way teaches us how to be people. We already know how to be kids. Adulthood needs rehearsal.

  7. catbeller Says:

    And one more thing for the writers and Quesada: What would Aunt May’s opinion of Peter’s decision to eliminate his life to give her a few more years with Peter acting like a teenager? What else than:

    “Peter — grow up and take care of your woman. Are you out of your mind? Do you think I’d be impressed? I’m 78 years old, Peter, if it’s time, let me go. Or are you going to keep on making deals to stay with me every time I have a heart attack? Are you going to stop being Spider-Man? If not, Peter, I most likely will be shot again, as will you. If you really wanted to keep me safe, you’d have redone it so you’d never been Spider-Man. It may disturb you to realize, Peter, that you’d give up your wife and future children for me, but won’t stop playing superhero for me. Is Spider-Man, is playing hero, more important than your wife or me? You’re not making sense, boy. Let me go… it’s not healthy, to say the least.”

  8. catbeller Says:

    One more one more thing. Marvel and the wise heads have it wrong: kids aren’t their customers anymore. They need to give up the delusion that they are writing for people who’ve not read their books before. There are darned few kids reading comics, and those mostly because we adults introduce them to the books.

  9. David Says:

    Fantastic, insightful article. I would point out that the baby the Green Goblin kidnapped is the one which grew up into Spider-Girl in her continuity (where, happily, the marriage and Peter’s morals are still intact). For that matter, the very well-written death of Aunt May in #400 really happened there (in mainstream continuity it was retconned out as an actress with genetic surgery … my God, how stupid that sounds as I type it).

    In a sense we have that Peter-walking-into-sunset story: Spider-Girl. When he saved baby May from the Goblin, he lost a leg, and retired, but lived happily ever after with MJ and his daughter, and now his legacy continues. Works for me.

  10. Maitiu Says:

    I have read every issue of Spiderman from Amazing Stories #15 to the present. I have to say that I share the opinion that this was a poorly made decision by an editorial board that feels it knows what is best. It reeks of the clone saga in it abruptness and cheap feel. I can honestly envision a time in the near future when another editor comes along and says now we are going to put them back together.

    The worst part for me, however, is the number of potential stories dealing that have been lost. I think the Peter/MJ marriage had become much stronger and better written in recent years as writers had begun to “get it” and understand how the dynamics worked between them. However there will be no stories dealing with that. Or how Spiderman would deal with being outed, or how his relationships with his friends would be altered. It is a bad decision and I mourn the potential Marvel is throwing away.

  11. Ann Marie Mille Says:

    This is definitely an interestng article to read. I work for http://www.firstwivesworld.com, an online community for women in the various stages of divorce. I just graduated college and am not divorced, so I read a lot of articles and blogs to see what people have to say about the topic. I never really gave this idea much thought. But I think it is true that divorce is much more accepted now in this country then it was a generation or two ago. It is rare to come across someone who has not been directly or indirectly effected by divorce or someone who knows someone that has been effected by divorce. It isn’t a no no anymore, it’s ok to mention it. People don’t keep it so much under-wraps anymore. I work for a website dedicated to helping people in the various stages of divorce, and our membership has doubled since it’s inception. It’s an interesting thought how much our country has changed yet this article shows it’s hesitance at certain points.
    Just my two cents
    Ann Marie Miller

  12. Paul Gibson Says:

    Surely the place for exploring options like a single Peter Parker is in something like the Ultimate imprint?

    Wasn’t that setup in order to use the characters without the continuity etc, that the main titles have?

  13. Rosie Powell Says:

    One, I don’t consider Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane as a mistake. Why is it a rule that costumed superheroes have to remain single, due to “continuity issues”? What a load of crap! It’s just another lame excuse so that the leading character can be some poor man James Bond.

    Two, MARVEL’s way of breaking up the couple was a load of crap that it boggled the mind. I have never heard of anything so convoluted in my life.

  14. Bev Hisey Says:

    I am a woman.

    I am a Spider-Man fan. I have every issue since Amazing Fantasy 15 up to One More Day. I loved the marriage of Peter and MJ. It was actually being written beautifully lately.

    Now the hero I loved is missing in action. The Spider-Man who is found within the pages of the new books is a stranger that I don’t recognize in any way. A mere photo copy of the original character to which I was emotionally attached.

    I no longer care what happens to the character, as it matters not whether he hooks up with another girl or again with MJ, as Joe Quesada will not permit anything to come of it, or any progress whatsoever to occur. He has, as far as I am concerned, completely destroyed his own flagship’s character.

    I can only hope that one day someone will undo the damage that has been done to my very favorite fictional character.

  15. badman06 Says:

    I had to make a username come here to complain, after you have ruined my favorite character I have stopped reading spiderman because of this, i can understand the retrocon but it was un-needed and awful. They have titles already that appeal to the audience they are trying to reach with this retrocon. More importantly One More Day undermines and abolishes some of the best stories told, for instance, “The Other” which i thought was one of the best written spiderman stories in awhile, and i am really disappointed that they downgraded all of spiderman’s powers for instance the organic web shooters. I loved many of the new stories pre-OMD, and i honestly thought that a world in which spiderman’s identity was revealed and his aunt finally dead (That is really long over do) we could begin to read about new interesting stories as Peter Parker finally progressed to the next stage in his life, i assumed this would just be natural, you have him going to college and getting married, the next step would be dealing with the death of your last parent figure. I was excited about the possibilities, was marvel finally taking the next step and doing what most character dont but spiderman has pretty consistently: Elvolving and growing? NO, they took they easy way out, they ruined a character. Thier is plenty of title out thier that appeal to these “kids” but this title appealed to the older audience, it was daring, it was mature, it dealt with real issues, and it made the reader connect with the character and suspend disbelief which is the goal of writing fiction, it was a great comic. Over all though, this was simply just BAD and from this point on spiderman is dead to me, as a protest i refuse to buy or read another marvel comic until something is done to fix this grave injustice, and any true fan of spiderman would do the same. I thank you for bringing me these great tales and stories, but right now i hate marvel for destroying them.

  16. badman06 Says:

    *edit, I sent that message to marvel, i do not mean it for Peter, accidentally copied and pasted the wrong thing, sorry about that, but at least you can see my stance

  17. Jeff M. O'Boyle Says:

    >> In response to:

    >>>> Back in 1987 there was a party at a Manhattan nightclub called the Tunnel to publicize the wedding of Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man, to Mary Jane Watson. Actors portraying Spidey (in mask and tuxedo) and MJ (in wedding gown) were present as was Stan Lee, as himself, and I attended as well. This week I informed my companion for that evening that Marvel had just retconned Peter Parker’s life so that he had never been married. So, I told her, I guess we never attended that party either. Too bad, because she was really proud of the dress she wore for the occasion….

    >>>> Jim Shooter, not wanting the comics to get scooped by the newspaper strip or whatever, decided that the publicity surrounding the marriage (there was talk of a faux wedding ceremony taking place at Shea Stadium to commemorate the event) and the fact that this was Stan made it worth doing in the books as well.” (And I wonder if Peter and Mary Jane will remain married in the Spider-Man comic strip, and if not, how Stan will explain it.)

    >>>>>>>>>>>>

    Just wanted to mention that the “faux wedding ceremony” at Shea Stadium actually was held on the day or early evening of a Mets game, with an actor in a Spidey costume and a tux and an actress dressed as MJ in a gown, just like you described at the nightclub. I was not at the game, though as a Mets fan and comics fan I would have probably tried to go if I knew about the “real-world” ceremony in advance. I learned about it soon after-the-fact from ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, which filmed and broadcast a report of Spidey’s wedding at Shea. Stan Lee officiated at the ceremony.

    I enjoyed hearing about you and your date being at the nightclub with Spidey and MJ!

  18. Mr. Shawn Says:

    I jumped ship when the clone thing happened with Spidey. That was it! Hard core comic reader was so turned off with where they wanted me to care about my Spidey see ya! Now I see it was he right time to bail. Thanks Kevin serious, your my link to that world since I had to go cold turkey. I worked at a comic shop for books and small cash something. I had a $100.00 a week habit with a store that gave me a 40% discount. Note to readers if you are are stashing at least 10 titles a week at your store 20% off book is not unfair as long as you constantly pick them up as the rabid fan you are. Clones Smones, cheap excuse for writing.! I equate that to the I woke up and it was all just a dream shit cinema throws at us. I just got sucked back in a little subscribe to the Marvel Digital realm and and a student showed me the civil wars stuff to a point. Caps Death and Wolverine making sure it was true. That said I can back up kevin on the how did they get there magic to confirm it was cap dead. Magic is the loop hole and as long as it is in check whit Dr. Strange I am cool with it. Didn’t know Spidey had to say latter to MJ as a result of keeping aunt May who should have died 20 years ago (not being harsh but she looked like vulture and that should have been the out with him) with Spidey not 40 years latter. She should have died with the vulture thing as it would have made sense. Featured then gone. Whatever my two cent.

  19. Jon Mundy Says:

    It’s argued that the baby Peter and Mary Jane had during the Clone Saga was never conceived and never born. But according to Joey Q, “All the books count, all the stories count–except in the minds of the people within the Marvel U, Peter and MJ were a couple, not a married couple.” Joey makes a point to always state that. The stories did happen Mary Jane and Peter never married. They only lived together as a couple. They lived together, fooled around and MJ became pregnant. That did happen occording to Joey Q. He said all the stories happened. If not, he’s lying again.

  20. Gibernet Says:

    This month the ODM story has been published in Spain, my country. I have to say that I agree with you. The spiderman that I know don’t deserves that. And also I hope that, someday when Quesada leaves Marvel (he will not stay there forever), someone will undoit.

  21. MattK Says:

    I think Quesada saying “All the stories happened, just not the marriage” is bunk, because Harry Osborn didn’t die because Peter and Mary Jane weren’t married, and neither did Aunt May get shot because they were married. Blaming problems on an aspect that the writers can’t properly write around really makes them look immature and poor. And honestly, the Clone Saga didn’t ruin things for me by saying “we’ve been following a clone all this time” because there was always a plausible back door out. With Mephisto, it’s a magical reset button akin to the Silver Age DC Comics, only without the charm of whimsy that those old comics have. They might as well have printed on the cover “Not a Hoax! Not a Dream! Not a Poorly Written Idea!”

    But hey, I’ll vote with my money, by which I’ll pay for the Spider-Girl stories (even when they cancel the series and move it to Spider-Man Family) and not bother with the mainstream continuation of the Crisis on Spider-Man’s Lovelife.

  22. MattK Says:

    I think Quesada saying “All the stories happened, just not the marriage” is bunk, because Harry Osborn didn’t die because Peter and Mary Jane weren’t married, and neither did Aunt May get shot because they were married. Blaming problems on an aspect that the writers can’t properly write around really makes them look immature and poor. And honestly, the Clone Saga didn’t ruin things for me by saying “we’ve been following a clone all this time” because there was always a plausible back door out. With Mephisto, it’s a magical reset button akin to the Silver Age DC Comics, only without the charm of whimsy that those old comics have. They might as well have printed on the cover “Not a Hoax! Not a Dream! Not a Poorly Written Idea!”

  23. MattK Says:

    Oh, and a bit of miswording on my last comment, meant to say that Harry Osborn didn’t die because Peter and Mary Jane WERE married, therefore, the marriage becoming nonexistent shouldn’t have brought him back to life.

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