Benefits of the Spider-Marriage Part 2

There were a few more advantages to the spider-marriage, which would remain applicable if it’s ever brought back.

Marketing

Having Mary Jane as Peter Parker’s wife is good for branding. It elevates her status inside the Marvel Universe, which results in her appearing more outside of the comics. This essentially creates an A-list comic character, one who Marvel has tried to use to appeal to women and girls, with the Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series, young adult novels, and dolls. Having a young woman as such a consistently important character can help reach female readers, an untapped audience that buys plenty of manga, and watched the Raimi/ Maguire/ Dunst Spider-Man movies, which were successfully promoted with Mary Jane’s expanded role.

As a gorgeous redhead, Mary Jane is visually distinctive. That means she’s marketable for posters and statues. The marriage cements her as Spider-Man’s primary romantic interest, so that most readers of The Incredible Hulk could be expected to know who she is, which could increase their enjoyment of a brief one-page cameo. This wouldn’t work as well with a generic girlfriend who might not even be in the book five years from now.

As Spider-Man’s been a superhero for more than a decade, it makes sense to have a significant character be less jaded with the superhero stuff. This provides an “ordinary” person’s point of view. Although a counter-argument is that there has to come a point when MJ should also be jaded. And it’s problematic for a character with everyman appeal when he consistently needs someone else to serve as a bridge between the readers and his adventures.

Peter & MJ A

Society Approves

On the question of whether it’s easier to relate to a married guy than a single guy, there is a flaw in the OMD defense that everyone’s been single at some point, so it should be easier to identify with a single guy. It’s not as universal as it seems. There are plenty of readers who married their high school sweethearts, and who had boring lives as single guys and girls prior to satisfying marriages.

Even if you’re not married, if you’ve been in love, you’ve probably imagined what it’s like to be married to a specific person. There’s something sympathetic about a young guy without many resources having to support a family. It adds to Peter’s responsibilities, and distinguishes him from all the characters with contrived romantic troubles.

Fully two-thirds of Americans believe in soulmates. So many readers would be very willing to accept that these two characters belong together. Even five years after Brand New Day began, it’s difficult to convince readers that these characters could have other soulmates.

For the last two decades, the median age for a first marriage for men has been 26-27, roughly Spider-Man’s age now. So it would also be completely normal for the lead to be married.

Sexy scenes, double-entendres and the like are also just more socially acceptable between a young married couple than between a young unmarried couple. Ministers and parents are less likely to complain about the following.

Selfish EICs

There have been some rationalizations that undoing One More Day, or at least restoring the marriage, comes with some pluses for the Editor in Chief. It allows Alonso or any subsequent EIC to differentiate himself from Joe Quesada. The removal of the marriage is seen as illegitimate by some detractors due to Quesada’s opinions on the matter. Therefore the next Editor in Chief restoring the marriage would demonstrate to the readers that these decisions won’t be determined purely by the preference of the EIC. Though this might encourage the EIC’s successor to do the same with one of their biggest developments, so it might not be a great precedent to set.

But there are some other other positives. It’ll provide an Event for the Spider-Man comics in about five or so years. The next generation of comic book writers grew up on a married Spider-Man, so this would be a way for Alonso to get a head start, before these guys start writing Spider-Man scripts, based on ideas they came up with when they assumed Spidey would be married forever.

Who’s Interested?

Restoring the spider-marriage would make the book more appealing to the older readers who make a majority of Marvel’s customer base. And it does seem that the people who prefer Spider-Man to be married are more passionate than those who prefer the character to be a bachelor. I doubt that there would be as much of a short-term backlash.

Also, the comics are just less diverse if every version of Spider-Man has a somewhat similar set-up. If Spider-Man’s married in the comics, Marvel’s still gong to publish stuff featuring a single Spider-Man (IE- Untold Tales) resulting in more variety, which accommodates a more heterogeneous readership, which should also provide more of a cushion against declining sales.

Implications For the Character

It’s complicated, but some would contend that unless One More Day is undone, Peter Parker will be pigeonholed as the lovable loser. They’ll suggest that a core aspect of Spider-Man has always been that he’s a character who grows. Therefore it could be advocated that the regression must be undone, so he could get older, and have children, and get a steady nine to five, all of which is part of the character’s growth.

One could argue that One More Day also violated the trust readers had when following Spider-Man’s adventures. So either the storyline has to lead somewhere (a reckoning of some sorts), or it has to be undone to restore the sense that Peter Parker’s adventures matter. This does get to the heart of the responses to the story. It undid more than just the marriage, as Aunt May forgot that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, Harry Osborn came back from the dead and even Spidey’s organic webbing went away. The story existed to get the characters from Point A to Point B, but it’s so significant that new readers will discover it and be disappointed that the consequences are intentionally ignored. There were other stories that existed to change elements of the status quo (The Night Gwen Stacy Died, the wedding annual, etc) but there were still follow-ups to those, which made it easier to enjoy the big stories as part of a larger arc.

The Writers

There are some pleas that undoing OMD will help the writers in certain ways. One common complaint is that writers ran out of stories to tell with a single Peter Parker, but I don’t quite buy that part. How have the storytelling opportunities behind a single Peter Parker been exhausted when they haven’t for a married Peter Parker? If Spidey’s a bachelor, at least you can shake things up by changing his partner, and by changing MJ’s partner, as well.

I think that the marriage limited the writers, but it could be argued that this forced them to be more creative. When a young woman was introduced in the supporting cast, she had to be more than just a possible romantic interest for Peter Parker. Writers also had to manage the short-term aspects of the protagonist’s private life, without the cheap escapes allowed when the character is single.

Web Of Spiderman 032-17 MJ

Web Of Spiderman 032-18 MJ

Some have suggested that earlier writers failed to take advantage of the marriage, but I think that claim is flawed. It’s largely untrue, since many top writers did a good job of exploring their relationship. The guys who didn’t do well typically had other problems with their runs. Also, blaming the writers isn’t an effective way to advocate for a preferred direction. It’s better to suggest why something was advantageous.

While there are many reasons to undo One More Day, just as there were many arguments to keep the marriage five years ago, I just don’t believe those to be as powerful as the arguments for keeping the current status quo. Or for getting rid of it in the first place.

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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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
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