Peter Parker: Player Or Loser

There were a few misconceptions about what making Peter Parker single again would entail. Some suspected that the development would have the inevitable result of writers portraying him as an unlikable Casanova. They’re afraid that unscrupulous writers would try to live vicariously through the character, though I suspect in that case, the writers would prefer Peter remain married to the gorgeous and loving twenty-something supermodel actress redhead.

While Spider‑Man being single again would inevitably bring up comparisons with other Marvel bachelors like Tony Stark and Johnny Storm, there’s no reason for those comparisons to be unfavorable. Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Roger Stern and other writers were able to feature an unmarried Peter Parker who was not an obvious manwhore, so I don’t see why that would be a problem with future creative teams.

The writers have a big incentive to not make Spider‑Man into a James Bond type womanizer. A lot of the fun of a single Peter Parker is in the times it’s worse than marriage, such as bad dates, and the periods when he’s not seeing any woman. This is what the writers did for their first fifty issues after One More Day. Then Peter slept with two women over the course of seven issues, and the manwhore claim was briefly resuscitated.

Conversely, some suspect that the single Spider‑Man would always be a loser, or made to appear too young. This was the “we already have Ultimate Spider-Man” refrain, which wasn’t as valid in the last few ywars. I think a single twenty‑something Spider‑Man could be accessible to new readers, without tying him to modern slackers or making him seem obviously younger than the guy in his mid to late 20s in the current book. He could have continued as a young high school teacher if the writers choose to do that (I’ve had a few who were in their early twenties.) He can’t screw up like he did when he was a teenager, but at this point, he probably shouldn’t. At least not as often. While Peter Parker should not be portrayed as a perpetual loser, he should have his ups and downs which requires some significant losses (IE‑ He gets hired in one issue, downsized twenty‑seven issues later).

For either perspective (Peter Parker Casanova, Peter Parker Loser) you have to assume a fixed status quo. You have to expect that Peter Parker would always be lonely or he would also jump into bed with willing and inconsequential women. Perhaps because the marriage brought so much stability to Peter’s private life, fans of it assumed that any status quo is permanent, including ups and downs.

With a single Peter Parker, there’s no need for a particular status to be cemented, nor should it be. He could meet a girl in one issue, and have any ups and downs as their relationship progresses and comes to an end 46 issues later. That could be followed by a period when he’s unlucky in love (which won’t be as tedious as a married Peter Parker working out his problems with his wife every now and then) and Marvel could always end the monotony of that by giving him a serious girlfriend for a few years, or just a few issues.

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With the serious relationship, there always remains the possibility of a bad break‑up in the horizon, or even an amicable one, with the writers being able to explore the aftermath of both. Once the relationship becomes stagnant (or even before it has a chance to do so), the writers have the solution to just have him or his girlfriend walk away. Any problems are more significant as both parties always the option of leaving out the back door. This makes the status quo of Peter being single conducive to one of the most important techniques in comic book serials: The Illusion of Change.

The strongest argument against Peter being single from a storytelling standpoint is that this can all add up. Regardless of how the writers depict the character, if he has dozens of ex-girlfriends, it’s going to affect how Marvel’s flagship hero is perceived. It would be easy for a reader to come to the conclusion that Spidey’s either a loser who can’t maintain a relationship, or a cad. But I suspect that writers can circumvent this in the portrayal of the various pairings, as well as storytelling decisions involving Peter’s exes. For example, his brief Friends With Benefits arrangement with Black Cat didn’t change the number of former partners. He also had the best of intentions in his relationship with Carlie Cooper. Even if all the relationships add up and start seeming suspicious, this won’t be an issue for some time. So far, he’s still less of a player than anyone on Friends.

One More Day didn’t just change Peter Parker. As Peter Parker became single, there were similar changes to members of the supporting cast.

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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