Superior Spider-Man and Mary Jane… An Update

Amazing Spider-Man Parallel Lives-00

Previously, I considered the speculation that Superior Spider-Man would feature a romantic relationship between Doctor Octopus, who possesses Spider-Man’s body, and Mary Jane, who is unaware of that fact. There were concerns that this relationship, if consummated, would constitute rape.

Dan Slott discussed the moral outrage in an interview with the Word Balloon podcast. He was asked if it was frustrating when fans complained about stuff that hadn’t happened in the comics yet. He thought it was.

It’s getting silly. It’s getting very silly. I’ve seen Peter David go off about this. So many people get bits and pieces from stuff that I’d rather they didn’t know- from previews three months into the future, or any interview, or like what we’re doing now with this podcast. They try to sift through the bones and then they build it wrong. It’s like they pick up all these Legos that you left, and they build a completely different thing, and they go “That thing I built in my head sucks! So, therefore, You suck!” And when you put the book out, you do something that is completely different. And they hold onto the fake story that they came up with, and it’s usually the worst case scenario.

I can’t tell you how many articles and comments I’ve seen where people go “RAPE!” and I’m like “What book are you reading?”

John Siuntres, the host of Word Balloon, relayed a fan’s question about whether Amazing Spider-Man #700 meant that Doctor Octopus was now going to rape Mary Jane on a regular basis. Slott saw this as an example of the problem.

What they’re talking about right there is the worst-case scenario that they’ve come up with in their head. Talk to me after you’re read Superior Spider-Man #2. There was a blogger I saw leading the charge on this, and a lot of people were linking to their blog, and I’m like “Did you people read their previous blog? This is the same idiot who was upset that in Ends of the Earth Spider-Man wasn’t going around killing North Koreans. I’m not making this up. When the Rhino is destroying the base in North Korea, and Black Widow, Spider-Man and Silver Sable are fighting the Rhino, there’s a point where fallen North Korean soldiers are going to die, and Spider-Man goes over to pull them to safety. And this guy is upset because he’s a neocon, and obviously, North Koreans are evil people, who deserve to die in his eyes, and dear god, how can Spider-Man save them? If you changed it, and that was a Hydra agent, and Spider-Man saved a Hydra agent before their base blew up, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Superior Spider-Man #2 came out yesterday. Technically, there was a romantic relationship between Spock and MJ. But it was never consummated.

SuperiorSpiderMan_2_TheGroup-008

Over the course of the story, Otto decided that he didn’t have to seduce Mary Jane. He had access to all of Peter’s memories, so he could enjoy those experiences vicariously, without going through the effort of maintaining a relationship with MJ. He then decided to start hitting on other women, because those experiences would be new.

It was an interesting payoff to two months of set-up. The question of whether Otto as Peter sleeping with Mary Jane would constitute rape proved irrelevant. Some who were upset about this have suggested the specter of Spock seducing Mary Jane should not have been raised. They interpreted that as rape, and thought that there is no place for even the hint of that in a Spider-Man comic.

One problem with that approach is that it’s crippling for fiction if writers aren’t allowed to hint at the possibility that specific bad things can happen to characters. I can appreciate how it’s different with this type of storytelling. In serial fiction, readers can get very invested in the characters, and spend more time worrying about what can happen between installments of the story, as characters will struggle with something horrible that happens at the end of an episode.

In a finite work, the consumer doesn’t come in with this type of baggage. Characters can move them to tears, but they can’t spend any time pondering what can come next. They get the answer before they’re able to discuss the possibilities in great depth. A film like Slumdog Millionaire would be much more painful if viewers spent weeks or months between installments considering the horrible things that have happened to the female lead. The experience is different when the guy and the girl are reunited after two hours.

In an op-ed, Newsarama’s Lucas Siegel ponders the problem.

What this really speaks to is the nature of serialization in the internet age. With feedback and conversation truly instantaneous via Twitter and other social networks, solicitations showing covers and teasing at storylines three months ahead of time, and a constant need for immediate gratification, it seems that comic book readers may be losing the ability to simply enjoy serial fiction. Rather than thinking about what actually happens in the pages of a just-read book, readers have been trained — partially by themselves and peers in the internet indignation machine, partially by the culture of previews and interviews (of which we acknowledge our role in) — to always be thinking several months ahead in the future.

He thinks this is a situation in which the fans should change, rather than the writers.

What people were angry about at first was the mere suggested possibility of more than a kiss, then the anger turned more towards Wacker and Slott’s unwillingness to accept their argument, or, in their own defense to tell readers how the story would play out a month in advance of the issues where the resolution took place. And that’s just not how serial storytelling is supposed to go.

So what’s the solution? Should solicitations not go out over the internet? That seems impossible at this stage, and fans have clear and easy access to the monthly Previews catalogue, anyway. Should creators and editors stay off of social networks and not interact with fans? Again, both impossible and frankly a bit silly. The positive examples of interaction are often overshadowed by the extreme fringe negatives with attacks and death threats, but the positeves tend to actually be more frequent and outweigh the negatives, with fans getting a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the media they so enjoy.

No, the only real solution is for fans themselves to take a step back into the days when serial adventures were taken one at a time. Just because there can be an instant reaction doesn’t mean there has to be one.

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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