Love is a BFD

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At this point, I’ve spent a lot of time discussing Spider-Man’s relationship with Mary Jane, so it’s fair to consider once again whether this is even an significant part of an action/adventure series. In a response to an earlier entry, bulletproofsponge suggested love wasn’t very important in the Spider-Man comics.

Most of these stories mentioned all have to do with love. Technically Spider-Man is more about action and adventure, to most kids at least. These love stories of a single Spider-Man will probably not matter to a young boy ( or teen ) and will most likely not influence his buying decision.

When I was teenager, I remember seeing the issue in which Ultimate Spider-Man gets hooked with Kitty Pryde. At that point I lost interest in USM as I preferred to read about Peter’s relationship with his wife MJ, as opposed to complicated love stories in USM. Food for thought

I would disagree here. Love is astoundingly important in fiction. It’s important to us as individuals, and it’s important to fictional characters. To use the Vice-President’s vocabulary, in fiction, as in life, romance is a big f***ing deal.

Peter’s bad luck with the girls was mentioned in the second page of Amazing Fantasy #15. In Supergods, Grant Morrison argued that Peter’s problems with girls were one of the aspects which distinguished him from the other Silver-Age superheroes. Two of the contenders for best Spider-Man story ever included the ends of his romantic relationships: Betty Brant in Amazing Spider-Man #33 and Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #122. The first Spider-Man movie broke box office records by turning the series into a romance in which the guy didn’t get the girl at the end of the movie.

The continuation of the current continuity into the next generation and beyond depends on many factors, some of which are tied into whether or not Peter Parker being married to Mary Jane is the appropriate situation for “Brand New Day.” Which status quo will keep future readers hooked? Which status quo allows for the most great stories? Are the writers mindful of the probability that the story will continue for at least another decade, and should be as interesting and accessible then as it has been at any other point?

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The guy trying to get the girl, and encountering tremendous obstacles, is at the heart of many of the most acclaimed stories of all time in novels, film and theater. Most films are composed of at least two often intertwined story arcs: one in the public sphere and another in the private sphere. The public plot is about how the protagonist affects the world. The private plot is about his/ her social life. This includes mediocre films and great films too, and everything in between. In Casablanca, viewers want to know if Rick will aid the resistance (the public plot) and if he can win back Isla (the private plot.) In Avatar, the suspense comes from whether Jake can save the Na’vi and find happiness with Neytiri. It’s not unusual that the focus on Peter’s private life has been a major part of Spider-Man’s appeal.

There could still be conflicts in Peter’s private sphere if he were married, and there are notable works in which there really aren’t romantic subplots. But it’s still a tremendous source of storytelling potential, and the alternatives just aren’t as compelling.

The Illusion of Change applies to fiction, but not to the real world. Some current debates about the direction of the comics may be settled by changes in social norms. I’m not sure Spider-Man’s love life will be one of those. Many of the reasons against the marriage will still be applicable, as will reasons for the marriage, regardless of what happens in the real world.

For example, unless open marriages become a lot more socially acceptable, many stories involving other romantic interests for Peter and MJ will be closed for the writers if they’re married to one another. Likewise, if Mary Jane is Peter’s wife, this cements her as Spider-Man’s primary romantic interest, establishing her as a major character within the Marvel Universe. Among other things, it would allow writers of other titles to reference the character and expect most readers to know who she is and what her relationship to Spider-Man is, which sometimes has storytelling benefits. This reason in favor of the marriage would remain applicable twenty years from now.

Most of the current objections will remain twenty years from now, although there might be a few new ones. Most of the reasons to restore the marriage will remain twenty years from now, although there may be a few new ones.

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It’s quite different to any developments in other aspects of Peter Parker’s private life, such as his educational progress. For dramatic purposes, high school can be exchanged for college, which is roughly equivalent to grad school. There’s no expectation that a job he has will be permanent, and it’s always possible for him to work for two places at once. A friendship with one character usually doesn’t preclude a friendship with another.

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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