Benefits of the Spider-Marriage Part 1

There are two contexts to consider the benefits of the spider-marriage. Was preserving the relationship preferable to One More Day? Is restoring the relationship a good idea now? The latter question is the one that matters for Spider-Man writers and editors, as it’s about what Marvel can do in the future, rather than what they should have done years ago.

Joe Quesada articulated his reasons for preferring Spider-Man to be single. So if Alex Alonso, or any future EIC decides to reverse the decision, they’re going to have to explain the benefits of their approach as well. Instead of arguing why One More Day was bad, they’re going to have to provide reasons why it’s a good idea to undo the most successful attempt at accomplishing something Marvel editors and writers have been trying for years.

Some arguments will be better than others. Many are based on continuity, and the question of whether the backstory of the characters should have changed in the aftermath of One More Day. It has been explicitly stated that, for the most part, Peter and Mary Jane had the same adventures post-One More Day, as they had before the story happened. They just weren’t married. Taking that into account when reading back issues is sort of like taking into account anachronisms in a story published decades ago, even if it’s supposed to be set much more recently thanks to the sliding time scale. Some of those stories haven’t aged well.

MarvelTeam-Up008

But some readers think the changes should be more consequential. ĐØМ, a poster at Comic Book Resources, suggested that if it weren’t for the marriage, Peter Parker would not have refused a good job offer in Kansas in Amazing Spider-Man #302. Proponents of a married Spider-Man often point to lines of dialogue, to suggest that if it weren’t for the events of Amazing Spider-Man Annual 21, the character would have made starkly different decisions. And that the stories would have been fundamentally different.

It’s also easy to explain to new readers how Spider-Man got married, in case they were familiar with older stories and wanted to understand the status quo of later books. It’s more convoluted to clarify how things have changed since the notable stories in which Spider-Man was married, such as Kraven’s Last Hunt, Amazing Spider-Man #300 and Spectacular Spider-Man #200. The latter two were reprinted in post-Brand New Day issues of Amazing Spider-Man Family.

Another argument is that using a supernatural method to retcon the marriage was contrary to the spirit of the series. Therefore the marriage should be restored, and if the next EIC wants to get rid of it, he should use natural means (death, divorce.) Because otherwise readers who pick up a controversial and much-discussed arc might get the wrong impression about the franchise. And undoing OMD also resolves the awkward continuity questions about the Clone Saga that you get when a major character’s pregnancy might not have happened, even if it seems to have been mostly forgotten.

A few readers claimed that the marriage should have been preserved, because it was responsible for some of the great Spider Man tales. Rereading the first Venom storyline or Kraven’s Last Hunt (often cited as examples of this) demonstrates that many fans of the marriage exaggerate its role in amping up the tension in those tales. If Mary Jane was just Peter Parker’s girlfriend (or friend), would she have tried any less harder to find him when Kraven buried him alive? Would Peter have been any less upset when Venom paid her a visit? Hell, if she didn’t know that he was Spider Man, Peter would have different reasons to be pissed at Venom, and she would have new reasons to be afraid.

“I know who your wife is” “Mary Jane worries about Peter’s job” and the “Damsel in Distress” plots have been done before many times, often very well, but there is a need for more types of narratives. The stories could also be done with other characters than Mary Jane.

There is the argument that there are differences between how a girlfriend would act, and how a wife would act in those circumstances. A newlywed finding herself in this predicament may make for a more dramatic situation than a girlfriend who can dump the guy with more ease. However, if Peter’s girlfriend found herself panicking because someone dressed up as Spider Man is going around beating crooks to death, the readers will have legitimate concern that she may later consider this as a reason to leave him.

Much of the tension in the earlier narratives was also due to Mary Jane and Peter being newlyweds, as both slowly realized what they were getting themselves into. With that gone, and all the subsequent stories about how their marriage is strong, that pressure no longer exists and would not be a source for future plots.

Without the marriage, Peter would still have decided that it was better for him to be in New York City than in Kansas. Mary Jane might not have told a SHIELD agent “He’s my husband, you’re just some guy.” But she would have said something similar. Norman Osborn would still have reasons to return to New York City. While there are a handful of stories that could only be done if Peter & MJ were married, this was rarely explored in the comics.

There was one significant practical advantage of the Spider-marriage, though. While she was the most significant character in the Spider-Man’s book, as Peter’s top confidante, romantic interest and roommate, Mary Jane was Peter’s anchor, someone for him to interact with in almost every issue. There are some benefits to that for writers and editors. It’s an artificial way to give the issue to issue developments more weight, when there’s someone the lead can discuss all this stuff with.

In Amazing Spider-Man, she can ask Peter about something that happened in Avenging Spdier-Man, thus making the satellite book seem more significant without any changes to the artwork. It also works with the Brand New Day format of one title with multiple rotating creative teams. If Writer A has a fight between the two, Writer B can open his story with MJ still a little bit angry. These things don’t work as well when there is no one constant presence in the title, which can result in stories seeming inconsequential as there’s no carryover to the next issue.

Knowing that there’s one element in Peter Parker’s life that’s relatively stable (you could also argue that it’s at least two elements, as Mary Jane is his romantic partner and his room-mate) is a blessing for anyone who doesn’t know when exactly their work is going to be published, such as writers providing evergreen fill-in work, or an artist with a time-consuming approach.

The writer may not know whether his five part epic with Paolo Rivera is going to be published before or after Peter Parker gets a new job, Harry Osborn returns to New York City and Aunt May moves to Florida with Jonah Sr. But knowing who Peter Parker is certain to be living with makes it easier to set the story between other issues. And the guarantee of a confidante means there’s someone for Peter to communicate to, and talk about events in earlier issues. Alfred serves this role in the Batman comics, and Spider-Man doesn’t always have an equivalent to that.

And if the character has multiple constants, it’s tougher for the writers and editors to shuffle the publication schedule around. If a story in which the Daily Bugle is bombed is delayed, that will complicate the publication of the story in which the Bugle staff deals with the fallout. However, if Peter isn’t at the Daily Bugle every issue, but he does interact with his wife in every story, a small change to the dialogue is all that it would take to avoid a scheduling snafu. This wouldn’t prevent the creative teams from sending MJ away for a limited time, if that fits their narrative purposes better. But her consistent presence could still help the series in many ways.

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

<<PREVIOUS      INDEX      NEXT>>

Advertisements

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
This entry was posted in Spider-Man, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s