Spider-Man and the Avengers

Avenging Carol Danvers Captain Marvel

It’s possible that the most signfiicant change to the Spider-Man comics while Joe Quesada wasn’t One More Day, but something else that happened under his watch: Spider-Man joining the Avengers.

One More Day muddying the waters about whether Peter Parker will end up with anyone else isn’t likely to affect the films. But the recent Sony and Disney/ Marvel deal means that Spider-Man’s likely to pop up as an Avenger. We also got a monthly title that lasted for more than an year out of Spider-Man joining the Avengers.

So let’s look at events in the Spider-Man comics between Spider-Man joining the New Avengers and One More Day…

The New Avengers

Many comic book fans expect changes to the status quo to last forever, or until the books end, which they seem to want to happen at the time their interest in the title starts waning. I saw a lot of polls asking how long Spider‑Man and Wolverine will remain on the Avengers, often with the implication that once they leave, Bendis’s decision to introduce them to the series (and his entire run on the title) will be a failure. Reading the first Essential Avengers volume is a reminder that the only constant for the Avengers is change. The Avengers team at the end of the first issue couldn’t even last until the end of the second. All of the founding Avengers left in the sixteenth issue, replaced by three B‑grade (and that’s being charitable) former villains. And it was great.

I always thought it was obvious that Spider‑Man and Wolverine would eventually leave the Avengers. It was never meant to be a permanent development, as there never has been a permanent member of the Avengers. The reason Bendis’s New Avengers is so influential—and will remain that way after the departures of Spider-Man and Wolverine—was because of the way it sets the precedent for later writers to put anyone they want onto the Avengers, restoring the series to what it was meant to be: a team book with a diverse array of Marvel heroes.

At the same time, Spider‑Man developed new connections with his fellow Avengers. He has an easygoing camaraderie with Luke Cage, which allows for fun team‑ups. Putting him on the same team as Wolverine strengthens the relationship between Marvel’s two most popular characters. The protege and mentor bond with Tony provided a unique connection between two of the most popular Marvel heroes. While it ended badly (which meant that it made things more difficult for Peter), it was never boring. Thanks to Civil War, while Spider‑Man’s familiarity with some heroes has increased (which leads to less tense encounters with his fellow New Avengers) he has a more adversarial relationship with others—to say nothing of darker vigilantes and younger heroes—who may never have trusted him to begin with.

Life was briefly easier for Peter, when Spider‑Man was on the New Avengers, while his family lived in the Avengers Mansion. Marvel featured stories that wouldn’t otherwise be available, along with unique complications (Wolverine hitting on Mary Jane, a scuzzy tabloid reporting that Mary Jane was cheating on Peter with Tony, etc.) Because things briefly turned out so well, it became all the more dramatic when it ended badly. It’s now going to take a long time before May and Mary Jane can comfortably interact with the Avengers. That brief period of joy ain’t coming back any time soon.

At this point, it seems likely that the sixth appearance of Spider-Man in movies will be in Captain America: Civil War, and that this will be followed by appearances in the Avengers: Infinity War two-parter. And that’s pretty cool. It is worth of noting that the Avengers of the films are basically people who get together for extreme emergencies every few years, which differs from the comics. But the main reason Spider-Man wasn’t closely associated with the Avengers was that Jack Kirby didn’t want to draw a Steve Ditko character in the first few issues, and the Avengers became its own franchise, rather than the lynchpin of the Marvel Universe it has been under Bendis and Hickman.

For many readers, part of Spider-Man’s appeal was that he was a hero who acted alone. Some older comics pros have suggested that launching Marvel Team-Up back in 1972 was a bad idea, because it forced Spider-Man to interact with other Marvel superheroes and become familiar with those guys. So those readers believe that a big mistake occurred under Quesada’s tenure, when Spider-Man joined the Avengers. If there’s a constant in the Avengers membership, it’s change. Spider-Man won’t always be an Avenger, and while he may be more familiar with his former teammates, any writer who wants to tell a story about Spider-Man teaming up with an unfriendly superhero can do so, with one of the many Marvel characters who hasn’t been on the Avengers or the Future Foundation with Spider-Man.

When the Mask Came Off

There was another major development in the later hald of Quesada’s run. The unmasking allowed for an year of new stories which could otherwise not be done, although it did coincide with declining sales for both Friendly Neighborhood Spider‑Man and Sensational Spider‑Man. The only reason “Spider‑Man Unmasked” happened was that the people at Marvel were planning a giant retcon anyway and understood that this provided an opportunity to see what type of material they could do if the world knew that Peter was Spider‑Man. Some of it was really good, especially Peter David’s Vulture storyline and Matt Fraction’s Sensational Spider‑Man Annual.

There was some objection to ending the “Unmasked” status quo while there were stories left to tell, though it’s preferable to end it too early than to end it too late, especially given the declines in sales, and the way it was obvious the unmasking wasn’t going to last forever, which may be the reason readers left the satellite books.

Organic Webbing

One fairly controversial change under Quesada involved giving the comic book Spider‑Man organic webbing, like his movie counterpart—at least in the Raimi films. With this, there weren’t many arguments that good writers could make it work. It doesn’t really allow for many new stories, and actually just makes things a bit easier for Spider‑Man.

Good drama is about making things as difficult as possible for the protagonist, and organic webbing denies that, by removing a source of conflict and pressure. The only story the comic books haven’t really told that requires organic webbing would be Spider‑Man’s reaction if his webbing starts malfunctioning (although that was pretty much covered in the first two movies.) Well, you could also do a story where Electro zaps Spider‑Man’s webbing, and he’s internally barbecued. But that’s pretty much it.

While the Brand New Day guys went a bit overboard with webbing problems in the first few months, it was preferable to the alternative. Wags noted that Bendis never gave Ultimate Peter Parker malfunctioning webshooters, this shouldn’t be used as a reason to limit Dan Slott.

The flipside of the duplicity question is whether Quesada and Marvel have been hypocritical in their reasoning behind One More Day to allow post-Brand New Day developments in Amazing Spider-Man.

The Infinite Spider-Man is a series of mini-essays regarding Marvel’s options for the future of the best character in comics.

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The Infinite Spider-Man: Other Franchises And More Complaints

Frank Miller's Spider-Man and Daredevil

Other Series

Fans of other Marvel titles often complained that their favorite series could establish a new precedent for Spidey.

Developments in DC titles like Batman, Superman (Pre-Flashpoint), The Flash ( and Teen Titans were compared to the Spider-Man comics.

The same approach was taken with Marvel titles considering whether characters like Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones could be a model for Peter Parker.

Finally, I looked at superheroes from outside of the Marvel Universe with the Incredibles, Goku from Dragon Ball Z and a few Image heroes.

One More Day was compared to stories that changed long-lasting DC franchises. Was it like Green Lantern: Rebirth, or Emerald Twilight? Or was it like it like Flashpoint? That mini-series changed Superman in a big way.

Lies and Misdirection

There were a few questions about reader expectations on the current direction of the book which were worth addressing, starting with whether One More Day made it too obvious to readers what can and can’t happen in a comic book.

That led to another questions: How much does the typical reader really know regarding the storytelling decisions in comics?

There is an alternative question: Is there a point when the fans are being misled?

Questions about whether fans were misled were followed by questions about whether individuals at Marvel were lying. So, was Joe Quesada too dishonest?

Comments Joe Quesada had made about One More Day were considered in the context of later changes to Spider-Man: Did decisions in the Brand New Day era contradict the rationale for OMD?

Why was it okay for Spider-Man to become an Avenger?

Did decisions in the Big Time era contradict the rationale for OMD?

The Infinite Spider-Man is a series of mini-essays regarding Marvel’s options for the future of the best character in comics.

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The Lizard Image Gallery

I came across enough images of my favorite Spider-Man villain for an entire post, starting with a John Romita Sr. splash page.

Romita Lizard

 

Someone posted a page of Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man #6 online.

Black & white page from Amazing Spider-Man #6 by Steve Ditko

The crying Lizard from that issue makes me laugh.

Steve Ditko's Crying Lizard

As far as I’m concerned, the definitive take on the Lizard still comes from Todd Mcfarlane. Torment was probably the story that introduced me to the villain.

spideycover24

Jon Totlebon had a unique take in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, which was probably the definitive origin story.

Ultimate Lizard

 

For the hell of it, here’s a weird looking real lizard.

real lizard

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Does the next movie Spider-Man have to be white?

African-American Spider-Man

There is currently some speculation that the film Spider-Man shared by Sony and Marvel/ Disney is going to be depicted by an African-American actor.

One way this would happen is if they decide to introduce the Miles Morales Spider-Man, instead of having Peter Parker be Spider-Man. The best arguments I’ve seen for Miles is that there are too many MCU films with white guys as leads, and that it would be a break from the earlier films, but I don’t think that’s good enough. I like the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, but the source material is better for Peter Parker, and there’s simply a lot more of it.

Miles Morales also doesn’t have a story engine that makes sense in the first appearance of a Spider-Man to a cinematic universe. He’s a guy taking over the legacy of another hero, which doesn’t work in a Marvel Universe where Spider-Man hasn’t made an appearance yet. Things might be different after a few films with the Peter Parker Spider-Man, but that’s a different story.

Miles Morales Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy

The other possibility is that they won’t have a white Peter Parker. It is worth noting that there are two ways to get an African-American Peter Parker, each with its own arguments. One is to limit the role to young black men. The other is to allow young black men to audition, along with young white men. And young Hispanic men. And young Asian men.

There’s some pushback to the idea, with fans claiming that there’s no reason for the change, although that’s obviously incorrect. These would serve numerous purposes. It could allow for a good performance. It adds diversity to the MCU, and to the tops of the box office charts. It reflects demographic changes in New York City.

There are also arguments for limiting the role to young white male actors. One issue is that certain scenes might have negative connotations that wouldn’t exist with a white Peter Parker (IE- Is J Jonah Jameson being a racist by ripping him off? Why is Flash Thompson pissed that he’s talking to Liz Allen? Is his academic scholarship affirmative action?)

The main argument for Peter Parker to be played by a white guy is that some fans want to see the character in the film match the way the character in the comics looks. They’ll prize this kind of fidelity, as is evident in many discussions about potential casting, where relatively obscure actors and celebrities are often suggested for roles just because of physical similarities to the comic book character. It’s not a position I hold but I can understand it. I do think capturing the spirit of the character is more important than capturing the likeness.

Visually, the thing that matters the most is that he’s non-threatening. He’s a bit generic-looking (neither short nor tall, neither chubby nor fat, etc.) This works in two ways: It’s easier for readers to imagine themselves as him. And it means that the people around him will often underestimate him. This doesn’t require a white actor.

milesmorales-0-peter-parker-or-miles-morales-as-spider-man-why-not-both

Some wonder where the line will be drawn. Why should casting be limited to young men with relatively low BMIs? If race isn’t important, why does age or physical fitness matter? There is a serious answer to this smartass question. Certain aspects of the character are necessary for particular narratives. Age is relevant, because the actor is supposed to match age-specific settings for the character in the film, be it High School, College or wherever he works. It matters that Peter Parker’s in shape, because if Spider-Man doesn’t look fit, the film will appear to have a different tone. Gender matters because it informs relationships with Peter’s contemporaries. It’s not clear that race is relevant.

The Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, and the Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man series would not have been radically different if the lead were an awkward black guy instead of an awkward white guy. Sony might have gone with a different Uncle Ben (James Earl Jones rather than Cliff Robertson, Morgan Freeman rather than Martin Sheen) and the parents would have been played by different actors, but as Aunt May isn’t even a blood relative, they don’t have to change a thing there.

There are some questions about why it would be okay to have a black Peter Parker, but not a Shaft played by Bradley Cooper. There’s a serious answer to this one as well. Race is unambiguously relevant to the background of certain characters. Bruce Wayne is old money. Captain America was the face of America at a time of legal segregation. Black Panther is the king of a mysterious African nation. Shaft is a private detective in mostly urban settings. Black Widow is Russian.

There are more roles for white male actors than African-American, Hispanic and Asian actors, so expanding casting to possibly include minorities helps combat institutional problems, whereas the reverse isn’t true if a studio is thinking about Clive Owen as Robbie Robertson. When Donald Glover launched a campaign to be Spider-Man in the Marc Webb relaunch, Stan Lee was in favor of it, so the co-creator of the character doesn’t think Spider-Man has to be white. I do think Peter’s race is more of a bug than a feature. Stan Lee would probably not have been able to depict a young black lead in the 1960s. But this doesn’t make Peter’s race a defining part of his character. Peter’s religious and political views have rarely been relevant to the comics or any of the various adaptations, so it doesn’t seem like an important part of the character. It seems to be the same way with race.

Spider-Man says he's black

There are some concerns that Marvel would be unable to change this element of the character in future iterations. I don’t think there would be an expectation that all subsequent versions of Peter Parker be black. We’ve had two white guys playing Peter Parker across five films, so a new casting wouldn’t define the character for audiences the way John Stewart might have defined Green Lantern for fans of the Justice League animinated series.

There is some concern that a black Peter Parker might make it less likely that we’ll see Miles Morales in the films, but this seems to be putting the cart before the horse. It’s possible that the films won’t get to the point where the character is introduced, so I don’t know how much they should worry about that. And a young half-hispanic/ half-African American kid can be influenced by a black superhero just as much as a white superhero.

There is a counterpoint that we do generally make the assumption that whiteness is neutral even though it isn’t. So by that standard, a black Peter Parker would not be the same guy we have in the comics. On the other hand, people interested in more diverse casting suggest that it could allow for more meat to the story. My concern is that there may come a point where the meat results in a character that is fundamantally different. I get an argument that it can be an interesting way to highlight social problems, but it might also make it easier to dismiss the implications of events in a story (A suspicious security guard is just an example of the Parker luck, therefore this scene suggests that racism is exaggerated.)

That said, the Peter Parker of the comics has changed from a guy who grew up in the 1950s to a millennial, so that’s probably a bigger difference than whether Peter Parker is a white guy born in the 1990s or a black guy born in the 1990s. Two hour films also do not need to address these issues.

There’s a final argument that we should just create new iconic characters with greater diversity, rather than allow changes in existing characters. Writers and artists don’t choose in advance which characters take off, and many of the older characters benefitted from filling needs generations ago when the old lead characters were always white and generally male. Spider-Man was a teenage hero who wasn’t a sidekick at a time that was unique, and that’s a major reason he’s popular 50+ years later. That’s not particularly fair.

As a dorky brown-haired white guy from Forest Hills, I did see Peter Parker as being a lot like me. But that doesn’t seem like a good reason to prevent others from having that experience, especially if the guy who looks more like them gives a better audition than the guy who looks more like me.

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When Mark Millar Pitched A Shocker Mini-Series

Mark Millar Wanted To Write A Shocker Mini-Series

There was an interesting tidbit in Mark Millar’s interview with the Let’s Talk Comics podcast. When Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palimotti were launching the Marvel Knights books, Millar pitched a mini-series with B-list Spider-Man villain Shocker.

I pitched them a Shocker mini-series. This is what I mean, I was really struggling. I was trying to come up with something, and I knew that the Fantastic Four was taken. I knew that Spider-Man was taken. I had a feeling that nobody was working on a Shocker mini-series. I sent in a six month series, and it was a rehash of something that had been rejected by DC called The Secret Society of Supervillains. I just had this idea for a villain book that eventually I did as a creator-owned book called Wanted.

Joe knew who I was, and was always looking for something for me, but couldn’t quite find it. One of the things I liked about Marvel, and they’re kind of up front about it, is that they want people who are going to move books. DC was run at that time as the Roman empire, where they granted favors. It didn’t matter if the book was selling whereas Joe, I liked Joe immediately, Joe said “I’m not sure you could really sell a Shocker book. You know, your name isn’t big enough and the character isn’t big enough.”

Millar eventually got to work with Quesada on Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates. Shocker did not appear in his twelve issue run of Marvel Knights Spider-Man. It is interesting to consider what this could have done to the reputation of the perennial Spider-Man punching bag. Perhaps it would have flopped, sending Millar’s career in a different direction. It could also have been forgotten, kinda like Millar’s earlier Skrull Kill Krew mini-series. Or maybe Sony would be announcing a Shocker movie.

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The Political Positions of Obama

This was one of my favorite fivethirtyeight entries, an assessment of the political positons of President-Elect Barack Obama.

nate

The chart was surprisingly hard to find, as it’s no longer included in the fivethirtyeight archive.

A subsequent piece comparing Obama to Democrats in Congress was interesting.

By contrast, there has been no consistent pattern among Democratic presidents. Mr. Obama, according to the system, rates as being slightly more conservative than Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, but slightly more liberal than Lyndon B. Johnson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman — although all of the scores among Democratic presidents are close and generally within the system’s margin of sampling error.

Another finding is that the Democratic presidents, including Mr. Obama, have often adopted a different strategy than Republicans. Whereas Democratic presidents usually have scores fairly close (but just slightly to the left of) the median Democratic member of Congress, Republican presidents — with the very clear exception of Eisenhower — articulate legislative positions that are equivalent to those held by one of the most conservative members of their party.

I would disagree, largely because the center has shifted so much, some of FDR, Truman and LBJ’s views would be considered abhorrent.

Another interesting post was one which suggested Michelle Bachmann had a 12 percent chance of winning the Republican party’s nomination in 2012.

My view is that if Ms. Bachmann’s polling settles into the mid-teens, she will have elevated herself from being a wild card to being a legitimate contender for the Republican nomination. In fact, there is probably some upside in the numbers: her name recognition is not yet universal (62 percent of Republicans could identify her in the most recent round of Gallup polls), and as it grows, she may gain support from low-information voters who had previously expressed a preference for well-known politicians like Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich.

Of course, her candidacy has its issues. One is that she is a member of the House of Representatives, and members of the House don’t have a very good track record in primary campaigns. I don’t think this is a major drawback. My analysis suggests that while governors perform better than members of Congress there is little difference between how senators and members of the House perform, relative to their polling. And Ms. Bachmann has essentially been a nationalized figure for several years; she is the leader of the Tea Party Caucus, and her re-election campaigns have drawn tens of millions of dollars in contributions, tantamount to what a Senate or gubernatorial candidate would normally receive.

The more significant barrier is that Republicans might be worried about her chances in a general election. Ms. Bachmann’s voting record, according to the objective system DW-Nominate, is roughly as far from the middle of the electorate as George McGovern’s was in 1972 — and her red-meat rhetoric does nothing to disguise those positions. If Ms. Bachmann won Iowa, there would be an effort to rally around some more moderate alternative, most likely the candidate who wins New Hampshire.

Ah, hindsight.

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Spider-Man Image Dump Jr.

Some more Spider-Man images I found. XKCD shows why Spider-Man shouldn’t be too accurate.

XKCD Spider-Man

 

Jack Kirby demonstrated that he can draw a cool Spidey.

Kirby

As did Robert Hough.

Robert Hough

 

JH Williams III focused on wallcrawling.

Williams Spider-Man

John Cassady emphasized the webswinging.

John Cassady's Spider-Man

Let’s finish with a Steve Ditko wide panel.

Amazing Spider-Man 11 Expected

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