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Subj: Spider-Man Revisited 46: David Michelinie Part Two
Posted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 10:45:18 pm EDT (Viewed 10 times)
And now, the story That Ruined Spider-Man Forever (depending on who you ask).
ASM #290-292, Ann #21 (The Wedding) (A#21 plotted by Jim Shooter)
So Stan Lee had decided to marry Pete and MJ off in the newspaper strip and TPTW opted to follow suit in the comic books. All well and good except for one minor problem. Peter and MJ weren't exactly "together" at the time.
Conveniently, neither was in a serious relationship at the time. MJ never seemed to be serious with anyone after she got back. Peter was sort of doing a reunion fling with the Black Cat, but that was hardly addressed anywhere. The kiss in Spec #123, a non-romantic appearance in ASM #288, and a "could be interpreted either way" moment in ASM #289 was it. Besides, that was already planned to end soon, anyway.
But how to get them from "just friends" to married? First, they weren't really "just friends." They were together fairly often. She'd cook for him, had a key to his place, complimented him on his buns... and there was certainly romantic interest on MJ's part. Both subtly, when MJ was jealous of the Cat, and more overtly thanks to the occasional thought bubble. There was even the occasional "lover's quarrel." They were probably emotionally closer then than they were back when they were officially dating. (Lest you think I'm engaging in revisionist history, Tom and Ron have said they were planning on a Peter/MJ wedding by #300, albeit an unsuccessful one.)
The main thing keeping true romance out of the equation was MJ's issues with a) commitment (stemming from her youth) and b) Peter's "hobby." That was the goal of this story and I thought they did a decent job of it. MJ reconnected with her sister, found a degree of closure with her dad, and Peter was there to help her through it. Sure Alistair Smythe (crippled after the end of Ann #19, but looking less creepy) was there to cause trouble, but they worked it out.
Now yeah, it was a little abrupt, but more in what probably should have happened before the proposal. (I.e., a brief period where they actually were dating.) Although, given that the main thing keeping them from dating was that it wouldn't go anywhere because of MJ's issues, I don't if anything would have happened without Peter kicking it in the butt with the proposal. But I'll admit to some rationalization there. Then again, superheroes getting married in quick fashion is nothing new. (See Aquaman, Elongated Man, Hawkeye, Elasti Girl, etc.) Still, a more realistic engagement period would be more appropriate for Spider-Man as a series, I suppose. But it didn't bother me then and it doesn't bother me now.
(Plus, my own marriage kinda happened pretty quickly, as did some others I know. So it doesn't seem so unusual to me. )
The wedding issue went as you'd expect it to. Jitters here, temptation there, but love conquers all in the end.
Reading this story now is enjoyable, but makes me nervous about how the "what really happened" story (coming in #600, maybe?) will be handled. There are several moments throughout which the Web guys can "tweak" and I'm concerned that the "tweaks" will make Peter or MJ look bad, if that's the route they go for. I guess I can rationalize it as Mephisto's doing, but it still concerns me. (Wish they'd gotten the whole thing over with already.)
The Spider-Man wedding did a lot to cement me as a Spider-Man fan, and even a Marvel fan as a whole. It seemed like a logical development to me. They've done a few relationships which ended because of Spider-Man (one of which, tragically) and a few that never really went anywhere. They'd even done a variation on the theme and had a relationship end because of Peter Parker. So why not let him actually get a girl who can accept both sides of his life and see what happens next? MJ's the most popular of the love interests so she'd be the one, obviously. So allowing a logical development rather than shutting it down because "that's not how things are Supposed to Be" got Marvel a lot of credit from me.
Which they've been working to burn down ever since... and finally succeeded for the most part. (Must... avoid... OMD... bitching.) Ahem. Sorry.
Of course, it also pissed off a lot of fans, as well.
Easy to see why. If you like Peter Parker as a single guy who never really succeeds at anything (at least, not for long), a wife doesn't fit into that. And while I think the Wedding story did the best it could in the time allowed, I don't think it was quite good enough to sell people on the marriage idea if they weren't inclined to accept it to begin with. Or if you didn't like MJ to begin with... Whatever. The abruptness IS a strike against the whole notion, but most fans I see opposed to the marriage don't seem like they would have been any more enthused had a more "natural" approach been taken.
That's all personal preference, though. Objectively, I have yet to find an anti-marriage argument that makes that much sense to me. (There are a few that have come close to getting me to concede that it may have been a mistake to do it at all, but none that have managed to justify the "any means necessary" approach towards coming up with options to get rid of it.)
"Peter shouldn't be married to a supermodel." Job aside, a supermodel didn't just pick Pete off the street and drag him to the altar. He's known MJ for years, since they were set-up by their aunts. Plus, no one seems to mind Peter DATING MJ, so what's the difference?
"Marriage ages the character." Peter has been 13 going on 50 since he debuted, for one thing. Beyond that, he's already out of the house, in the workforce and periodically trying to get married. Most of his contemporaries were married (or dead). How does actually succeeding make a difference?
"Peter's supposed to be young." I know he started as a teenager, but considering that in 20 years he'd started in high school and made it past first year graduate studies (22 for most; so aging 6 years in 20 of publishing), there's little evidence to support he was supposed to stay that way. (Regardless of assumptions of what Stan might have done had he suspected the "Marvel Universe" would have lasted more than 10 years.) I understand concerns that kids don't want to read about a 50 year old superhero (although if he keeps the costume, does the tricks and doesn't spend all his time complaining about his age, I doubt they'll care all that much), but with decelerated aging, it would be a lonnnnnggggg time before that's a factor. And by then they'll probably want to restart anyway.
"Peter's supposed to be a sad sack. How bad can things get if he has a hot wife at home?" Spoken as someone who's never been married... Yes there are joys, but reasonable stability in one area of your life doesn't lead to flowers and rainbows in the rest. Plus any problems in those areas can be magnified because now there's more than one person who has to suffer. Besides, if you ever need to have Peter have a really bad day - you can have it be MJ's fault (within reason) or have her temporarily unavailable.
"The character's not supposed to be married. It goes completely against the core concept." I'm not sure what evidence there is to support that, but regardless, Stan Lee married them off. If anyone knows what the core concept is supposed to be...
"Stan was just doing the newspaper strip. The comic is different." Still the same character though. (And arguably the newspaper strip had more exposure.)
"Marriage is the end of the story; not part of the middle." Why? There's plenty of fiction involving married characters. Not so much in adventure fiction, but what's wrong with being different? That's how Spider-Man started in the first place.
"Peter should never get the girl." He frequently gets the girl. It's keeping her he's had trouble with. Isn't that what marriage is all about?
"He's no longer relatable to the target audience." Assuming the target audience is 8-14, I don't know how specifically relatable he was before. When I was that age, I wasn't concerned with supporting my family, paying the rent (since I wasn't living on my own...) or considering quitting school so I could make more money and cover my hospitalized girlfriend's medical bills. The really young ones would probably be wondering why he's bothering with girls anyway. The older ones probably can't relate to dating the hottest girls in school and a sexy cat burglar. It's the overall themes that you relate to, and those don't change. Besides, never forget the matter of wish fulfillment. As one of the nerdier types in school (not as smart, but I had the glasses), Pete getting married gave me hope for the future. (I was 14 when he tied the knot.)
"Peter being married marginalizes the supporting cast." Judging 20 years of stories based on the JMS run isn't accurate. All of the pre-marriage characters, and other new ones introduced along the way, had plenty of time in the sun.
"It limits the kinds of stories you can tell." The only story you can't tell is Peter sleeping with someone else (well you could, but that would be bad). And that's just in current continuity. If you have a story idea that really needs Peter single, do it as an Untold Tale.
"It's irresponsible of Peter to go out as Spider-Man when he has a wife at home." Reasonable, but that means he shouldn't be dating at all. If there's no potential future, he shouldn't be wasting a girl's time to begin with.
And so forth and so on. Now if someone has a new argument, I'd love to hear it. I'm not so old that I can't be convinced to change my mind.
(I figured it was about time I rambled on about a controversial creative decision I actually liked... )
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