Yep, we’re doing this again, kids.
I’m not sure how you restore the Spider-Marriage and undo the devil deal that erased it at the same time. It’s gone on long enough that there are new readers as detached from the Parker spouses as I am from Gwen Stacy. However, she keeps popping back in so who knows? Comics are weird.
I was wondering what I was going to discuss at the end of the week, especially given the busy week I have and then Benny from Comicstorian gave me something to respond to. Put him on the list of people against the Spider-Marriage for reasons I don’t agree with. That means put me on the list of pro-Spider-Marriage people who don’t agree with him. I’ve had this argument with Kurt Busiek himself, one of my favorite writers (provided we never discuss politics), on Twitter about superhero marriages. Not every superhero should be married but Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson were made for each other and the disagreement comes to how we view what Peter stands for as the “everyman” and how that should be approached. As it turns out we also disagree on what role Mary Jane can have when it comes to her life with Peter. It’s actually quite easy to fit her in. Let me show you what Benny said and then I’ll offer my counter position.
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First off, what is this idea that Peter can never “get the girl”? Too many Spider-Writers lean waaaaaaay too hard on the “Parker Luck”, the idea that everything bad happens to him because he’s Peter Parker. I have mocked this quite often.
Peter Parker is not Charlie Brown. His “luck” is a result of his life as Spider-Man. “With great power comes great responsibility” is the line that gets used constantly when it comes to Peter, his “I’m vengeance, I am the night” line that supposedly explains the character. Peter feels that by not using his powers, or even just tripping the guy with his foot so he didn’t even need powers and a web squirt gun on his wrist, led to his uncle’s death. His fault. He was mad at the world and it cost him his own world.
Since that night Peter has decided that his powers weren’t meant to be a sideshow, or in the wrestling ring depending on the time period. He would use his powers to help people, save lives, to do what he failed to do that one afternoon that didn’t even require powers. This is what drives the character, not his love life nor his supposed bad luck.
It’s those decisions that cause him to miss events in his life, be late for class, having to fight to be there for Aunt May when she needs him. It’s the battle between his responsibilities as Peter and his responsibilities as Spider-Man that make me relate to him, what you need to do versus what you want to do and when it’s right to care for yourself. Peter’s personal life, what he wants to do, is hampered by trying to be responsible all the time in two identities, leaving nothing for himself. It didn’t matter as much in high school because he didn’t have friends there anyway. It wasn’t until college that Peter started making friends. Anyone in his supporting cast who wasn’t Aunt May or the Daily Bugle staff didn’t show up until after Peter graduated college…which was his status quo throughout my childhood.
Classic Spider-Man cartoon? We never see him in school, even when they finally got to adapting his origin story in season two. Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends has Peter in college. The Fox Kids Spider-Man had him out of college taking classes. Spider-Man Unlimited had him on another planet trying to clear his name back home and return to Mary Jane. Gwen Stacy only existed in an alternate world for the Fox Kids show and that was the first time I saw her outside of a comic book. MJ was the first serious relationship I saw him involved in and I was totally into it. That’s why more Spidey productions have not sat with me. He meets everyone in high school, something that hasn’t been part of his status quo since before the first Spider-Man comic I read, because the writers want to do his origin story. Control the origin, control the character. That’s why the retcon is so dangerous.
I also think Marvel is ignoring much of their “editorial mandate” looking at the Spider-Home movies of the MCU, demanded by Sony because they wanted to protect the iconography in case the deal went bad while they still owned the license. Those changes were the start of the current “we don’t care what’s in the comics unless we can use it as a defense” way of doing things at Marvel Studios currently.
Mary Jane doesn’t have to just be a “plot device” and she doesn’t need to be a superhero to be with Peter. Peter’s being poor isn’t a prerequisite. The responsibilities of being a husband, and yes even a father, can be used in the story. This is what grounds Peter, gives him a new responsibility besides Aunt May. Do we really need another “May is in the hospital” subplot? Really? It’s been done to…well, it’s been done a lot. There is nothing wrong with superheroes having among their family and friends a support person or team who knows his or her identity and can help either protect their secret or offer their skills and knowledge to the hero’s war on crime. MJ being a model and occasional actress gives her access to people that can either form a plot for Spider-Man to deal with or offer information he wouldn’t have otherwise without her being the damsel in distress or a fridge victim. Peter already has Uncle Ben and to a lesser extend Gwen for that.
We have a great example: the Flashes. Joan Garrick, Iris West in the past, and Linda Park all married their respective Flashes. They offered moral support, someone with a new perspective on whatever the hero is dealing with that may be helpful, and a tie back to the normal world, to the people that Jay, Barry, and Wally protect. It’s their connection to normalcy. This they share with mutual friends or their own friend circles who don’t know the hero’s alter ego (though by Linda’s time that was out the window for Wally). In the Bronze Age Lois didn’t need superpowers to keep up with Superman in her own title. He helped a time or two, like teaching Lois a Kryptonian form of martial art by bringing her to Kandor, but it stopped being about “I want to be Mrs. Superman” from the Silver Age and became Lois investigating stories in a superhero world with advanced gadgets and magic running around. How many police officers and rescue workers have people in their lives who aren’t part of their jobs but are part of their lives. By insisting superheroes can only date superheroes or other crimefighters you weaken real life people who stay married to cops, soldiers, EMTs/paramedics, firefighters, and anyone I’m missing who risks their lives to help people in danger. The Iris Wests and Mary Jane Watsons of the world could be used to honor them. MJ doesn’t have to be a victim or a hero to be of use to Peter’s adventures.
As far as Kyle and Alex goes, it was the unnecessary murder of Alexandra DeWitt that stopped me from pursuing Kyle’s version of Green Lantern for years. Kyle was so…pardon the term…green that he needed Alex’s help in growing into his role as superhero. That was a great character dynamic and why I was willing to give a Lantern I didn’t grow up with, not knowing about Hal going insane, a chance to impress me. I liked their character dynamic and relationship and then Ron Marz kills her off and ruins all that potential. She didn’t need to die to make Kyle a better superhero; he sought her out after they broke up because he needed her help to be a better superhero. I wanted to see more of that.
I don’t want the superhero’s relationship to be the main plot. This one of my issues with the DC “YA” graphic novels that just slap DC Universe characters into slice-of-life dramas with the occasional superpower, or anytime a character comes out of the closet and the writer forgets Iceman and Superjunior are still superheroes in a superhero world. However, it can be a good subplot, the part of the story that forms the continuity rather than six-issue storylines padded for the trade, how we connect with them as people to root them on beyond not wanting to see people killed. You come for Spider-Man punching out Doctor Octavius and you stay to see him balance his life and helping his pregnant wife.
Yes, I want to see the pregnancy. I want to see Peter changing diapers and choosing between washable and one-time use options, finding he ran out, and making the mistake of using his webbing until he can get to the store. I want him trying to figure out how to care for his baby and still deal with Shocker’s latest crime spree. THAT MAKES PETER RELATABLE TOO! Fathers have to choose between their various responsibilities, hanging out with the boys for their own mental health, and still being their for their family, choosing which is more important at a given moment. And with a bunch of other Spider-People all over New York–a city full of superheroes, some of which he’s friends with like Johnny Storm and Iron Man–it’s not like Peter can’t call Miles and say “I hope your homework is done because baby May is looking colicy, and Mary Jane is at a fashion shoot in Milan, so you could smack Sandman around a bit for me?” because he has no choice. Then what does he do if Carnage shows up? Get Silk or Black Cat to look after his baby girl (because he never has a son in alternate universe) or stop by Aunt May’s and come up with an excuse. How do you not relate to this? It fits in with the whole power/responsibility thing. If that’s not part of his character THEN STOP USING THE LINE!
I don’t follow the whole Jay Nakamura thing but it does sound like DC is pushing too hard to make him a thing. The usual suspects will get mad if the relationship doesn’t work, accusing DC of not caring about LGBT representation. If you don’t believe me, a character on the soap All My Children came out as lesbian but when she broke up with her girlfriend the community had a fit. It’s a soap opera! You can count the number of successful relationships from every soap opera ever, day and night, without getting close to 100, but they wanted the gay relationship to be different from the straight ones. So even if you’re in favor of Jon being gay or neutral on the whole thing, if Jay is being forced in like Tim Drake’s boyfriend (which meant tossing Steph out off-panel so he could be gay) then the problem is that they aren’t allowing the character to organically fit into the world like Lois did.
Mary Jane isn’t a new character. She’s been there since Peter went to college. Initially she was a rival character for Gwen but over time fans and writers saw a closer connection with her. She was someone who could handle Peter’s world. So after Gwen’s death they started getting closer together. She had to deal with Daddy issues, learn to trust herself in a relationship, and then finally she married Peter. She had a character arc that led her to Peter instead of away from him. I once posted a NerdSync video going over why Mary Jane was the only one in all the relationships Peter has had to work. Just as Peter isn’t Charlie Brown he isn’t Archie Andrews. That’s the “R” in the example image earlier of how Marvel today sees Peter, and they’re wrong. As I said in that posting:
Apparently, despite Stan creating Gwen to be the love interest and using Mary Jane to bring them together, it looks like “Mary Jane Watson” was having none of that. She learns Peter’s origin by accident and doesn’t tell him for a long time. Aunt May and MJ’s aunt, Anna Watson, keep pushing for them to go out. MJ had her own demons to face, due to her fractured relationship with her father, but once she got past that, she became Mrs. Peter Parker, the only character who could love a man like Peter and accept his alter-ego as Spider-Man rather than one or the other. For example, there are those that say Gwen couldn’t accept Spider-Man, especially after he was (as usual) wrongly accused of causing the death of her father. The aforementioned Black Cat had no interest in a “normal” persona like Peter but was fascinated by the world of Spider-Man’s persona. She even said “I love you Spider-Man” despite knowing Peter was Spidey and him not wearing the mask at the time when he proclaimed his love for Felicia, the woman behind the mask. You may remember the multi-part article on Spidey Kicks Butt [currently archived elsewhere] where he went over all of Peter’s many love interests up to that point and proved none of them would accept both of his identities…except for our favorite redhead.
Peter’s failing at love doesn’t make him any more or less relatable than succeeding at it. That’s just part of life. I’ve had more failure than success and even the success ended in failure. However, successful romances are also relatable because I’ve seen it and wish I had one. But Benny lost me at family being a weakness for Superman. Wally’s identity was in the open and neither Linda nor their children were a weakness. Love life should be a subplot, not the main plot, and if the opposite happens the problem is with the writer, not with the characters. The Spider-Marriage shouldn’t be the focus but it is part of the hero’s life, what makes the comics serialized rather than the wanna-be graphic novels they’re doing now. Peter and Mary Jane can totally work without her being a victim or a superhero and with all the people who want it back are proof people want to see it.
We’ll get into why Benny is wrong about Dick and Barbara/Kori another time.