Ever since I read CAPTAIN AMERICA: OPERATION REBIRTHback in 1996 – I pretty much got his entire run for free because I was actually interning at Marvel at the time – I have drawn great inspiration from Mark Waid’s work. In fact, it was his work on Cap, and Scott Lobdell’s run on X-MEN/UNCANNY X-MEN that made me want to be a comic book writer. I consider his time spent on FANTASTIC FOUR with Mike Wieringo to be the best run since the Walt Simonson period. The only CrossGen book I bothered reading was RUSE. I went to the Baltimore ComiCon two years ago for the express purpose of meeting him and shaking his hand…and it’ll probably be one of my favorite convention memories for the rest of my days.
Don’t get me wrong, now – he’s every bit as personable, every bit of a nice guy that he shows himself to be in this interview. Moreover, we should always remember that we are not our opinions. I want to make that clear, because what I need to say here does not mean I’m calling for his blood. But all the same, he did announce that he’ll be writing a story for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN* (still trying to get the asterisk thing to catch on, don’t mind me!), and when he was asked about his opinion of the Spider-Marriage – at about 2:41 into the interview, the Newsarama dude asks the question – Mark says and I quote:
“I’ve been saying this before I got the job. I come down on the side of the debate that says, no supermodel wife, you know, no marriage, none of that stuff. It was a horrible, horrible mistake in 1986…But I understand the rancor and the ire and frustration from readers who grew up knowing nothing but a married Peter and Mary Jane. I just like the idea that…what makes [Spider-Man] Peter is that….it never quite comes together….there’s always something. The great tragedy of Peter is that…he can’t quite have the lucky break that he needs at the end of the day. But he gets up the next morning and he tries again…so when you give him a hot supermodel wife, no matter what – life is not so bad at the end of the day.”
Mr. Waid…Mark…you’re better than this. Really. Mr. Quesada has been lowering my expectations on a regular basis for the last three or four years, while you have been going in the opposite direction. C’mon, now.
I’ve enboldened the parts I’d like to really get into here. And once again, I’d like to say that Mark Waid is and will always be one of my greatest inspirations and a personal writing hero. I’d love to work with him someday, or even work for him, considering he is now Editor-in-Chief of BOOM! Studios. But the parts in bold? Bullshit. Utter bullshit.
Let’s start with supermodel wife. How did Mary Jane get stuck with this buzzword for all-that’s-wrong-with-Spider-Man in the first place? Hasn’t she been a great many things, almost as many as Peter himself? A troubled teenager using a party-girl image to mask a fear of intimacy and the pain of a dysfunctional home? A dancer? An aspiring stage/film/TV actress? A friend? A daughter? A sister? An aunt? A niece? And is she not more than any one of these things, let alone a supermodel? Don’t we have over 40 years of Spider-Man comics that indicate that Mary Jane Watson is more than just an attractively drawn redhead meant to beguile and bedevil our web-swinging protagonist? Of course we do, and that brings me to the next point…how could something that could only have been building since her first mention in 1964 be seen as a horrible mistake?
Not to mention that this “horrible mistake” was the idea of Stan Lee himself. Shouldn’t it count for something that Spider-Man’s co-creator thought it was a good idea for Peter and Mary Jane to get married, even if it was in the newspaper strip? Shouldn’t it count for something that, even if the story itself arguably wasn’t told in the best way possible – there are many that can say with validity that, once the decision was made to marry Peter and MJ in the comics that the story of the courtship, engagement and wedding were quite rushed and could’ve been told better – that this was something that the Marvel editorial staff didn’t even try to screw with for ten years afterward? Where has the nerve suddenly arisen from the incumbent generation of creators in the industry, that they can say they know better than Stan Lee? There seems to be a plethora of evidence that “The Man” has some very good ideas. Like, thousands of characters, merchandise, television and movies’ worth of evidence.
How big of a mistake must it have been for a whole generation of readers to accept that a super hero could be married without questioning it? Can someone show me the fan letters that say, “No, this sucks! Spider-Man shouldn’t get married! Suddenly I don’t relate to him anymore! Super-heroes don’t get married!” I own Forty Years of The Amazing Spider-Man.I’ve read quite a few of those discs up and down. I can’t find them! And that brings me to my next point…
I am 29 years old. When I first became aware of Spider-Man comic books, he was in fact still single, but I didn’t know anything about story – I just saw neat pictures of a guy in a remarkably cool outfit. And really, what more do you need to market to kids than a colorful figure in a dynamic pose?
Now, when I first actually started reading Spider-Man comics, he was already married to Mary Jane. So technically, I’d say that makes me one of the readers who grew up knowing nothing but a married Peter and Mary Jane. But like anybody who gets pulled into comic books…I’ve read back issues. I’ve bought volumes of THE ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN.I have 40 years of Spider-Man comics burned onto CD-ROM. So I’ve known more than just a married Peter and Mary Jane. I’ve seen where Peter has been. Up until ONE MORE DAY, Peter Parker had been following a path that had been established for the entire Marvel Universe the moment he graduated high school and Reed Richards proposed to Sue Storm. The Marvel Universe is not like any other comic book universe; this is a universe that is meant to move forward, and the flagship of that universe must lead the way. Studying those back issues revealed that truth to me. So while I may not have been alive when single Peter Parker was around, I have still seen single Peter Parker, and you know what? He’s been done.
I think there’s a gross misunderstanding at work here, for why this bothers so many of us. I’ve read many a post on the internet of fans who would’ve accepted Peter & MJ divorcing, or separating in any number of ways other than the manner that was ultimately chosen. I don’t agree with that move – you try it twice and it doesn’t work? Take the damn hint, that’s what I say – but like those who could’ve dealt with it if it were done right, my rancor, ire and frustration does not come from come from having something familiar taken away. It comes from having things turned backward in one of the most forced, contrived ways possible, that goes against the very concept of heroism and the very rules of the universe I and many others had invested time and money in, and have derived great joy and life-lessons from. Say you’re a chess enthusiast. You’ve been playing for years. You love it. It gives you a certain satisfaction and enjoyment that you get only from playing chess. Sure you could play Parcheesi every now and again, but someone busts out that chess board, and you’re in!
Now, can you imagine how confused, cheated, even aggravated you’d feel if, one day your opponent decides to take one of his pawns and jump half the pieces on your side of the board and declare himself the winner? And then when pressed to explain himself, he says, “What? Chess is better this way. It’s more fun. You watch, in a few years millions will be playing chess like this. And in the end, isn’t that what’s best for chess? Oh – by the way…I jumped your rook. Draw four.”
And wouldn’t you feel a little less insulted if he just said, “This is how I want to do it”? At least there, he’s being straight with you.
I’m not even going to get into the absurd notion that somehow having a hot, supermodel wife is the equivalent of discovering Shangri-La, but I think that’s what really irks a lot of us who, when polled on Newsarama.com, said in a resounding 67% majority that no, we don’t want Peter Parker’s marriage screwed with. Because we may be a lot of things as comic book readers and enthusiasts, but we’re not stupid, and we know when our intelligence is being insulted. It’s coming through loud and clear: a group of people in the industry, specifically at Marvel, are in a position where they can steer a character in a direction that’s already been done, because that’s what they want to see, whether it makes sense or not.
That’s all there is to it. Joe Quesada didn’t even care enough to put in the work to make ONE MORE DAY a decent story.JMS wanted to BAIL, for cripes’ sake! It flew in the face of everything we know makes a hero, and BRAND NEW DAY flies in the face of everything we as readers had been promised through 47 years of publishing. The evidence is all there. Marvel itself made it available. I can only channel another hero of mine – the late social commentator and comedian’s comedian Bill Hicks – when I say this is not a matter of opinion, or perception, or taste. I can prove this on an Etch-a-Sketch.
There were a million reasons to keep Peter and MJ together: because fans like seeing them together. Because Peter’s character arc is meant to contain growth and maturation. Because Peter’s character arc could’ve allowed for some real happiness. (He’s not Bruce Wayne, for God’s sake!) Because it was already tried twice before, and Peter & MJ breaking up, agonizing over each other, and then reuniting only to break up again is almost as cliche as confrontations near bridges and being buried under huge piles of rubble while Aunt May’s life hangs in the balance. Because THE AMAZING SPIDER-GIRL just won’t go away. I’ve yet to find one good reason for what we have now.
That’s where the rancor and ire and frustration lies, Mr. Waid. Because there’s not a whole lot of evidence that a “huge mistake” was in fact made in 1986.
But there’s a mountain of evidence that an egregious crime was commited in 2008.