Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Looking To The Stars - On Weddings and Webbing

Long have I said that there is little at Marvel worth reading. This week, I figured out the overlying problem.

There’s no sense of hope, anymore.

Let me be clear upon this point; I believe that the reason most of us read superhero comic books is because of the sense of hope they embody. Because no matter how gaudy the costume or fantastic the powers, the great abiding common ground between all superheroes is that they exist to inspire us. To see ourselves as we wish we were, not with super powers but as truly good people.

It may be a little corny to say so but I know plenty of people who live by the examples they were given in comics. I know soldiers who learned their love of country and bravery from Captain America. I know a cop who honed his detective skills reading Batman. Heck, I even once went to school with a girl whose library career was indirectly inspired by Batgirl.

With this premise in mind, let us consider a recent interview by Marvel Editor In-Chief Joe Quesada. In said interview, Joe talked about “the problem with Mary Jane Watson” and how it is his opinion (and, for that matter, the opinion of Marvel editorial for most of the last 20 years) that the Peter Parker/Mary Jane wedding was a mistake.

Most of the history is recanted in the above article, but in short the only reason the wedding ever took place was allegedly because Stan Lee was going to marry the two lovebirds off in the daily Spider-Man newspaper comic, which he still wrote at that time. Not wanting the comic books of the day to clash with the stories of the comic strip, Marvel editorial kicked into overdrive to get the two love-birds together in the comics. This was something of a challenge as not only were the two not dating in the comics at that time – MJ wasn’t even living in New York!

There is a general consensus among some Spider-Fans and most of the people running Marvel since about 1990 that the wedding was something of a mistake. They believe that since Spider-Man was created as a teen character and continues to be a “hook” for that audience. They argue that the marriage instantly aged Peter, making his character inaccessible to younger readers. They also argue that the soap opera dynamic, which depended on Peter trying (and failing) to win the attention of some girl or another, would be completely lost with a married hero.

Of course the people who believe this have an interesting Catch-22 now. They can’t have the marriage end in divorce. Having either character have an affair would be unthinkable. Even if it were a no-fault situation, a divorce would still make Peter seem “old” to the young readers. And Peter can’t be a widower. They tried that right before JMS took over Amazing Spider-Man and the fan outcry then proved that the majority actually like having MJ around, whether Joey Q likes it or not.

And that brings us back to my point and my response to Mr. Joe Quesada. You say that Mary Jane is an albatross. That Peter became Billy Joel; the backstreets guy who married an uptown girl. That Peter has lost his everyman edge and is no longer a relatable character.

I say bollocks to that!

For most of my childhood, Peter was my favorite character. This was back in the days when my librarian mother kept me away from comic books and other “low” literature. All I knew of Peter was from those comic strips Stan Lee wrote and the Spiderfriends cartoon. And you know what? I didn’t have any trouble relating to a married superhero in what we will charitably call my innocent years.

You see Mary Jane as an anchor dragging Peter down. I see her as a beacon of hope to Everymen everywhere.

There are a lot of us out there who relate to Peter. We are the every-day, ordinary people who don’t get the hot dates or the good jobs or the big breaks. But that doesn’t get them down. They are still good persons who try and make the world a better place in whatever small way they can because it is the right thing to do. They don’t expect any reward save whatever karma may grant them.

Mary Jane is Peter’s good karma reward.

Yes, his aunt is always sick. Yes, he has a crummy job. Yes, he is pushed around by arrogant professors. Yes, he can’t quite get his thesis finished. And yes, until recently, he was a wanted outlaw who had about as much respect in the professional superhero community as Long John Silver’s parrot did from the crew of the Hispaniola. He’s not that good looking. He’s not all that charming. About the only thing he has going for him is his brains and his sweet nature.

And yet, despite all of this... in spite of every single bad hand that life has dealt him... he wins the heart of this woman. This smart, funny and drop dead GORGEOUS woman. Not because he is popular. Not because he is a superhero. But simply because she sees the good man underneath all the flaws and she loves him for that.

I don’t mean to objectify Mary Jane or any woman with this observation. I just want to make the point that in a way, Peter’s marriage gives hope to the rest of us ordinary guys. The guys who don’t want a supermodel but are hoping for a woman who will love them for who they are, minus any flashy clothes, fat wallet or fast cars.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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