Dave Galanter
December 1st 1969 - December 12th 2020
He was loved.

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In Reply To
Dave Phelps

Subj: Re: Spider-Man Revisited 46: David Michelinie Part Two
Posted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 12:55:37 pm EDT (Viewed 6 times)
Reply 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).

Hoo boy, this'll be an interesting one. We actually agree on a number of the fine points, even though we're worlds apart on the overall opinions.

    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.

Yeah, the Black Cat wasn't a sticking point for me, even though I've brought it up before. It just underlines that the creators had this sprung on them, and that it didn't evolve from natural story logic (at least in the timeframe that it was presented).

    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.)

I'm on board 100% here. They were certainly becoming closer and moving beyond the friend zone. I think that if Tom and Ron had stayed on the book, they could have pulled off a believable proposal / rejection by #300.

    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.

Those were hurdles to overcome, and they were fairly well addressed here. However, those are issues to true romance, not to Peter asking a close friend to marry him out of the blue. I have much bigger issues with Peter's logic than MJ's. Also, having seen how most writers perverted MJ's character post marraige, and seeing the restrictions it placed on the book in gerneral, it doesn't make sense to me from a (unending) serial storytelling perspective to have Peter get married, even if they could have put together a plausible story that got them to that point (which I obviously feel they failed at).

    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.

Here I disagree with you completely. Again, this is in a large part because I think it was a bad idea, but even if there was a brief period where they were dating prior to the proposal, I don't think that the sudden marraige would have felt any more realistic / genuine to me. (I didn't find the original MJ proposal in the 100's to be logical, either.) Also, a number of those other superheroes are more minor characters without a regular solo book (let alone three) so you see less of their private life, so it's easier to infer some behind the scenes romantic buildup. I would also argue that the core appeal of those characters would not be diluted by a marraige. I know that there are plenty of readers who would disagree with me on this point, but I think most creators (including the current powers-that-be) DO agree with me, so \:\-P ;\-\)

    (Plus, my own marriage kinda happened pretty quickly, as did some others I know. So it doesn't seem so unusual to me. \:\-\) )

Well, I have no way of refuting this, other than to say I've had very differing experiences in my personal life, and those that I know (at least among the successful marraiges). So I will admit that part of my issue with Peter's actions is based on personal experiences. Had I had differing experiences, perhaps I'd have reacted differently/

    The wedding issue went as you'd expect it to. Jitters here, temptation there, but love conquers all in the end.

Speaking of temptation, who was "Bruce" supposed to be? Bruce Willis? I feel like it was supposed to be a known celebrity, but I read these after the fact (didn't discover Spidey until age 11 in 1991 when ASM was in the 350s, and didn't read this Annual until some time after 2000).

    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.)

I'll agree with you that it should have been addressed before now. I'm pretty sure we'll see the "what really happened as of now" story in 600. I'm more curious than nervous, as I like the new status quo, although if done wrong, it could leave a bad taste in my mouth (like OMD did).

    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.

I agree with the sentiment, except that I think marraige was a step waaaaaayyyyy too far. I liked what they'd done with MJ prior, and I think I could have really been on board with a close friendship that moves into the romantic realm. It was certainly interesting to see Peter have someone that accepted him as a whole even though they knew his "big secret".

    Which they've been working to burn down ever since... and finally succeeded for the most part. (Must... avoid... OMD... bitching.) Ahem. Sorry.

OMD is an awful story. Go ahead and bitch. ;\-\) (I'd call it a necessary evil, but I'll never defend the story itself.) Also, with my interpretation of what the new status quo is (pending the new "marraige" story), the releationship wasn't burned down, just the marraige portion of it. Since I like the relationship but not the marraige, I'm happy with things...

    Of course, it also pissed off a lot of fans, as well. \:\-\)

It sure did. Even those of us who like how the pieces fell dislike the story, so if you don't like where things are today, I can only imagine how mad you'd be...

    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.

Very true. I would struggle to accept a marraige even if the exectuion was much better. It's funny, since Spider-Man was already married when I discovered him, and it didn't bother me until I saw how good he could be when he wasn't married (and even more so once I saw how poorly executed the marraige itself was). I still was relatively pro-marraige until just about a year and a half ago when I finally ready Tom Defalco's Comic Creators on Spider-Man and saw all the negativity towards the marraige from the creators I most admired (and that I felt had the best understanding of the character). Finally, seeing how much I'm enjoying the post OMD era was the final piece for me.

    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.)

Well, it all comes down to how much of a mistake you believe it was to begin with. If you feel that it was a mistake and is hurting the character, and you're in charge of ensuring the health of the character long term (like 20 years from now and beyond), it might be worth biting the bullet and just doing the switch and take the flack because it won't matter to many people in five to ten years (you hope). It's similar to how they ended the Clone Saga and how they brought back Aunt May. Sometimes, bad stories are needed to "fix" thins, and then you sweep them under the rug and eventually the roars of protest die town to grumbles...

    "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?

The permanency and the lack of relationship drama (other than making MJ bitchy, or start smoking, or some other thing) are the biggest to me. I think that while Pete as a permanent sad sack gets old, he needs to have his share of lows throughout all phases of his life with the occasional highs thrown in (so you can share in his victories). His romantic life is a big portion of this, and with the marraige instead of a roller coaster, we essentially flatlined or had a permanent high. I feel that a lot of the drama was lost, and that the attempts to force the drama in were unappealing at best.

    "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?

I don't actually have much an issue with the age thing, although once he moved beyond newlywed, I'll admit he felt a good deal older. Marvel was faced with a dillema of how to handle a character that was first famous and appealing as an adolescent dealing with sudden changes in his body (an obvious puberty metaphor) and who seemed to have everything go wrong no matter how hard he tried (a feeling that most people can relate to, but seems to be accentuated during your teenage angst phase of your life). Unfortunately, the other part of his appeal is that he grew and matured, starting out as at 15 year old sophomore and graduating high school withing 2 1/2 years. The readers who grew with him wanted to see him continue on that journey with them, and Marvel knew that at some point they'd have to really stunt that growth or they'll lose some of what made the character special to begin with. The obvious solution is that once Peter was a 20-something and out of school, his age is a lot more nebulous and they can sort of delay forever. The problem with someone who's been married for 20 years of real time is that it's hard to accept him as a 20-something anymore, especially as the age when people get married in the "real world" continues to move higher. It's definitely just a line in the sand, but they felt they needed to have one less thing keeping the character from feeling "old".

    "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.

I think they don't feel they could pull off a restart, especially after Heroes Reborn and all the pot shots they've taken at DC for their crisises (crisees?)... Another problem with the marraige is that most people would expect him to have kids at some point, and if they ever did that, it's a permanent stake in the ground that cannot be shuffled down via marvel time. The kid would have to age somewhat and now you have to start portraying Peter as moving towards 40 as opposed to being in his late 20s. If you say "fine, no kids" you're stuck in the static marraige which is reducing the drama you can insert into the character's life.

    "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.

Sure there are ways around the marraige, but in a way it's putting a band-aid on a bigger issue. I can support the idea of a married Peter in a What If or an alternate reality. However, when dealing with an (for all intents and purposes) infinite serial fiction, it doesn't really fit the story, because the stability removes the necessary drama. I think that some of the limitations of a never ending series mandate certain things not to happen, even if you could present them plausibly. If there was a finite ending to the series, then I'd be all for Peter getting married, having kids, and whatever else. I just don't see it as being a good idea if Marvel plans on staying in business and continuing publishing the stories.

I will say it took me a long time to come around / come to grips with the concept of an infinite serial production and the limitations it proposes. I like Pete and want to see good things happen to him. It's just when I moved beyond my own desires and started to see the big picture that I really got behind the idea that Peter can't be married (well, that and a few decades of seeing what happens to the stories once he is married).

    "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...

I actually buy that argument somewhat. Why do Reed and Sue married with kids work and Pete and MJ don't? Well, the FF is a family. That's their concept. Pete's appeal comes from (or at least initially came from) somewhere else, and since that's the Spider-Man I like the best, that's the core concept. ;\-\)

    "Stan was just doing the newspaper strip. The comic is different." Still the same character though. (And arguably the newspaper strip had more exposure.)

I will say I don't think the newspaper strip counts, and it certainly isn't the 616, which I feel matter more. I don't care what Stan does in the newspaper. I've never even read it (although I will be buying the upcoming hardcover reprinting the first few years).

    "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.

As I said above, it removes the rollercoaster aspect of a major component of the character, and replaces it with a permanent high plateau with small peaks and dips. Fiction is one thing, infinite serial fiction with heavy soap opera elements is another, and I for one don't want to have to resort to the temptation of cheating or smoking as the soap opera drama bits (which seemed to be all we got after the marraige).

    "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 should get the girl. He just needs to have the potential to lose the girl still out there. Marraige screws with that, because divorce and widowing are very unappealing stories for Peter. (So are magical demonic pacts to retcon a marraige, but at least it's not referenced in the books all the time, and I can forget about it while I'm reading. I imagine if I couldn't forget that as I read, I'd be more pissed off still...)

    "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.)

I don't buy this particular argument. I first discovered Pete when he was married already, and I related to him just fine. I just think that it removes a major component of the drama that makes the character most compelling, so it's a bad idea because his story never ends).

    "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.

I do think that the marraige made the books too focused on too small a cast. MJ had way too big a part, but she kind of "had to" because she was the wife. I think that the lack of (compelling) soap opera parts is a bigger issue, though.

    "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.

I've covered above why I do think it limits the stories you can tell. Also, while I have no problems with Untold Tales (love 'em in fact), when the most compelling stories of your ongoing character can only be told via untold flashbacks, which by their very nature feel less important due to their being set in the past and not having been important enough to tell at the time, something is very wrong with your character's status quo...

    "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.

I don't really buy this, especially when the significant other knows of the dangers involved. Was it fair to Gwen, probably not, and she died for it. Would it be fair to MJ or Black Cat, sure. It's not like cops, fire fighters, and / or soldiers can't / shouldn't get married. I do think that the responsibility of being a father would be enough to coax Peter to retire, but that's as much due to his personal experiences of having lost his parents to danger at an early age as anything else.

    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. \:\-\)

My arguments are all used up. If you haven't read Comic Creators on Spider-Man maybe that'll do it. That's what really caused my turnaround.

    (I figured it was about time I rambled on about a controversial creative decision I actually liked... \:\-\) )

Nothing wrong with your ramblings even when you don't like something. It's been very entertaining to see a different point of view on everything from someone who's as well read and passionate about the the subject as I am. \:\-\)

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