Blah Blah Blog – Spidey Answers pt. 4

An entry from my Marvel blog of years gone by, this one further answers to assorted reader questions concerning the then-active “Brand New Day” era of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

Spidey Answers pt. 4

October 15, 2008 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

It’s Day Four of Spidey answers, and we’re nowhere near close to the finish line yet! I can hear HiddenVorlon and Rrargh sharpening their knives already, so let’s not waste a minute!

>Will ASM be crossing over into other stories next year? Event stories and such like? Or will the title be left alone to develop its own stories?

Posted by eamonmcgrane on 2008-10-08 10:25:01>

There’ll be a bit more integration with the rest of the Marvel Universe over the next year. You’ll see issues that directly tie into DARK REIGN (the aftermath of SECRET INVASION), for example. I don’t know that there’ll be a ton of them, though—due to the way we have to run AMAZING so that it can ship three times a month, by necessity we have to be further ahead than any other book, and that diminishes our ability to course-correct quickly when an event shows up. It’s probable that we’ll also do some side tie-in Spidey books along the lines of SECRET INVASION: SPIDER-MAN in those instances where AMAZING itself can’t connect to a given event.

>Peter went through some seriously unnerving issues during/after House Of M. I speak of course in regards to his new, second life, containing all his loved ones that had died, and also his apple-of-his-eye son. With the knowledge that this whole world was untrue, and then eventually taken from him, reality returned to normal. Peter’s only response to this is in a panel or two in the final HoM issue, and then in Son f M #1. It’s obviously too late now for the character to all of a sudden ‘recall’ all of this, so dealing with it in future storylines seems unlikely. But why was it this was never followed up on? >

Individual choice of the writers and editors, I would guess. I wasn’t editing Spider-Man at the time outside of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, which was winding down, so I can’t speak for anybody else. But my guess is that JMS had his own stories that he was interested in focusing on, I don’t remember offhand where MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDEY was at that point, but it had it’s own track going on as well, and the opportunity simply didn’t present itself (outside of SON OF M).

> And should it have been followed up on, don’t you think the stresses of such a tragedy on his life would have wedged Peter and MJ apart… thus dissolving their marriage, giving Peter his ‘Back In Black’ moment of emotion, followed by his Brand New Day?

Posted by dp_lombardo on 2008-10-08 10:28:47>

No, I don’t think so. We’ve seen Spidey grapple with similar alternate reality scenarios before, and his union with Mary Jane always came out of them hale and hearty before. Plus, MJ along with most of the people in the world remembered nothing of the events of HOUSE OF M, so unless Spidey told her all about it (which would be a pretty stupid thing to do, all things considered) there wasn’t any way that it would affect things on her end. Plus, as we’ve said all along, divorcing Peter and Mary Jane was never considered a viable option, so this wouldn’t have achieved the ultimate goal anyway.

>Joe Quesada made a statement at the start of BND to the effect that going the deal with the devil route as opposed to the divorce route was better, because divorce was an inappropriate theme/hot button topic, or an ugly blackmark on the name of Spider-Man.
How exactly, is a man whose whole mantra is, “with great power comes great responsibility”, making a deal with the devil any better or even remotely acceptable? You are effectively stating to children everywhere that if life gets on top of you, making a deal with evil incarnate to get out of a jam is okay. I simply can’t muddle my way through that one! >

This is such a simple and obvious issue to all of us that perhaps we haven’t been stating it as directly or as plainly as we could, and thus generating the confusion we’ve heard ever since.

Spider-Man making a deal with the Devil is acceptable because it is fantasy. It is every bit as impossible and implausible as a man who crawls on walls and shoots webs. It is a non-duplicable phenomenon. It’s make-believe, in the same way that everything we do is a sophisticated form of make-believe.

Divorce is real. Divorce is ugly. And divorce is still a hot-button issue in parts of the country. When you talk about the moral implications of Spider-Man making a deal with the Devil, they are magnified a million times if he chooses to get a divorce. Like it or not, in addition to being a comic book character, Spider-Man is a corporate and cultural icon, whose perception in the larger world doesn’t mirror the way we think about him solely within our own little field. Spidey getting a divorce would be seen (and spun in the media) as Spidey endorsing divorce, Spidey selling divorce and the impermanence of the married union to children around the world. And that would have an impact not only on Spider-Man in the comics, but Spider-Man in the movies, Spider-Man on television, Spider-Man on underoos, the works. I’m sure that people in the comments section will poo-poo this notion, but take it from a guy who lived through the media coverage on the Death of Captain America and the way that got spun by various news outlets and interests groups, “Spider-Man Endorses Divorce” was a real, genuine issue. Ironically, nobody in the wider world cares at all that Spidey made a deal with the Devil—the public at large understands in that it’s all make-believe. The “faustian pact” is a staple of literature that they can understand. And they’re aware that the Devil is as likely to show up in their kids’ bedrooms as they are to go climbing up the walls.

On top of that, within the context of the books themselves, Spidey getting a divorce makes him feel even older. And if he’s got a failed marriage behind him, one that fell apart because he’s got to be Spider-Man, how can he possibly get into any new relationship with anybody else? It’s a dead end.

>A lot of people at Marvel seem to be glossing over the anger of fans in regards to the result of OMD and the subsequent establishment of BND (with the exception of this opportunity to speak out, of course!)…..the very existence of this blog giving us this opportunity means that at least you can see the anger of us, your fans…but do Marvel as a company intend to publicly address said anger to at least ease the bitter rift between yourselves and your previously loyal-now departed fans?

Posted by aussie macca on 2008-10-08 11:07:51>

I’m not sure how you’d like us to address your anger, other than by doing the one thing that we have no intention of doing in reversing the story. But nobody’s saying that there aren’t people who are upset about this. There have already been more interviews and columns and text pieces and public communications about this story than anything else in recent memory. I think that, by and large, we’re all, fans and pros alike, pretty sick of talking about it at this point. I know that whenever we bring it up as a potential topic of conversation at conventions, nobody wants to get into it. So I guess my question to you would be, how do you think we should be addressing this anger?

>Any chances for an upcoming Nova/Spidey meeting?

Posted by jaredgood1 on 2008-10-08 11:31:52>

Given enough time, sure. I don’t know that anything specific is planned at the moment, but it’s only a matter of time.

>Do you feel that Peter Parker was in character by making a deal with Mephisto? Do you think it was a necessary evil plot wise, or that Peter Parker has seen so much pain and death in his life he would be willing to do anything to save another life (Gwen Stacy, Captain Stacy, Jean Dewolf, Uncle Ben, Captain America ect.)?

Posted by DevynR. on 2008-10-08 11:37:18>

I think that, especially given the premise of that storyline—that Spidey was determined to save Aunt May no matter the cost, and the way that he turned over every other rock in the hopes of coming up with a solution– it’s completely in character for Peter to put the welfare of others above his own happiness. Turning this question slightly on its head, if Pete and Mary Jane had turned down Mephisto’s deal and allowed Aunt May to die, would you have felt that he was acting heroically? I tend to think not—he would have failed in his quest, and ultimately for selfish reasons.

> After all this time do YOU feel that the OMD/BND arc has helped or hurt the Spiderman comic. >

I think it still casts a pallor over the Spidey books at the moment, but one that’s lightening all the time (as witnessed by the enormous sales and the issue-after-issue sell-outs on “New Ways To Die”), and I think that in the long run it will have helped a very great deal.

2> As an engaged 24 year old man myself; Why did you feel a married Spiderman injured or hurt the comic in any way and do you feel there are any instances where a married Spiderman can actually be a positive writing device.

(I myself have never read a Spiderman comic to see who Peter was dating but how he dealt with real challenges in his life. I guess I never saw the appeal of a single Spiderman since I was only 3 or so when he got married. I just am at a lost that Marvel would so drastically change a character in his selling high. It wasn’t like Spiderman was failing or selling low when the change occurred… So who fought for the OMD changes? The editors? The fans?)

Posted by NinjaDan2000 on 2008-10-08 12:24:11> >

Spider-Man is the greatest and most successful youth-property in the history of comics. That’s what defines that character, what has always influenced his positioning in other media, the thing that made him distinctive. Older characters like Superman or Batman were and are authority figures—Spider-Man was the readership, with all of the flaws and foibles that come along with that. In short, when you cut to the heart of what makes and made the series what it was, Spider-Man is about youth.

So Spider-Man getting married is totally at odds with the core, central appeal of the characters. Getting married is something your parents do. Marrying Spidey off aged him, and also limited the number of interactions he could have with a wider cast. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we’ve seen the size of Spidey’s supporting cast continue to dwindle over the last two decades—there just aren’t as many entry points that make sense when your lead character is happily married for other characters who can impact on his life in a way that’s relevant to him being Spider-Man.

Now, that’s not to say you can’t tell interesting stories about Spider-Man with him married—people have been doing that for two decades. But all of those stories are laboring under a restriction—they’re just harder to do (and not in that good way where you end up with something better because the journey was hard.) It’s like trying to fly with only one wing—you may be able to do it, but it takes twice the effort, and the flight’s not going to be all that wonderful. SPIDER-MAN the series has been operating under a handicap from before some of the current readers were even alive. And that’s a real problem.

And this isn’t just the opinion or the fiat of the couple of guys who are here now. I’ve been at Marvel for 18 years now, and virtually everybody who’s walked these halls has felt the same way. It’s just that nobody quite had the wherewithal to take the steps that needed to be taken to remedy the problem. Understandably—this is not really any fun for anyone. But as a result, the problem’s just become more and more embedded. By contrast, marrying off the Human Torch was also an enormous mistake, but that one was dealt with quickly and effectively, in only a couple of years, so the damage done wasn’t significant. Spidey, however, has been another story. (It’s also neither here nor there, but I think you’ll see DC split up the Clark Kent-Lois Lane marriage within the next five year or so as well, for the selfsame reasons—it takes away too much from the core appeal of the strip.)

I think a married Spidey makes sense for future-looking projects such as SPIDER-MAN: REIGN that extrapolate the final days of the web-slinger. But as an element of the ongoing saga, not so much.

(Also, just as an aside, you’ll know that the SPIDER-MAN movie series is finished the moment they marry Peter and MJ—or anybody—in one of the films. Kiss of death.)

>My point is that there are those of us who remain open-minded and respectful of your collective efforts, but when editors suggest that the readership consists of a bunch of whiners, or that the readership would complain no matter what, or that we are just a bunch of fanboys that spend too much time on boards, I feel lumped in there, and it’s kind of off-putting. I’m not saying I’m dropping the book because of it…that’s trite. But it makes it harder for you to get the fan base excited about upcoming projects when reading an interview sometimes makes the reader feel scolded for having different opinions.

Almost every time I read an interview or article where you or Steve Wacker are talking about fans’ reactions to this flagship character, you sound condescending and very defensive. I know it’s frustrating to have your work judged before it’s read and your decisions armchair quarterbacked to death. I’m in a creative field, too, and I hate it when people second-guess what I’ve worked very hard on. It stings. But when you make it seem like our opinions don’t matter, or that we don’t know what the hell we’re talking about, it gets really old. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for some time now, and I will continue to read it because whether or not I agree with everything Marvel does, I do appreciate the bold moves the books have made over the last few years.

Posted by macwagen on 2008-10-08 12:49:14>

Mac, I’m sorry if you felt condescended to in any way. One of the limitations of time and the means we have with which to communicate is that it simply isn’t possible to correspond with each fan individually. So as a shorthand. We tend to start referring to the patterns of large blocks of fans, and painting them all with the same brush. It’s a necessary evil, but I never mean to imply that each and every reader feels the same way. That all said, I think I can state without reservation that especially when it comes to subjects such as sales figures and profitability and Marvel’s internal goals, I probably have a slightly more informed vantage point that you or any other average fan does. That’s not arrogance, or meant to be condescending, that’s simply a statement of fact.

I don’t think I’ve ever scolded the readership for having different opinions, certainly not intentionally. (There may have been one or two individuals whose opinions I’ve taken to task over the years, but I think that’s fair game.) And I’ve always stood behind a very straightforward opinion: if you don’t like what we’re doing on any given title, don’t buy it. I legitimately don’t want people taking home comics every week that they’re not satisfied with, and that they’re buying by rote, or out of a blind love for the character. I was that guy for a bunch of years, so I know how easy it can be to hop on board that train, and I’m here to tell you—there’s no shame in dropping a book that you no longer like. That all having been said, I think it’s important for every fan to realize that there are thousands of other readers out there besides himself, including those potential readers of the next generation or who have lapsed in the past. Not every comic book is for every reader, but I sometimes get the sense that some readers can’t handle this notion. It’s always about “you”, the overall readership, but not always about “you”, the individual with individual tastes.

More tomorrow.

Tom B

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7 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – Spidey Answers pt. 4

  1. While I understand the arguments for unmarrying Peter, I suspect forty years earlier people would have made the same youth-oriented claims about Peter graduating high school or going to grad school — he’s too old!
    Also now that I’m married Peter’s choice feels like the shittiest thing someone could do their spouse — not simply divorcing them but erasing everything they had together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would make that argument about Spider-Man graduating high school now. If Lee and Ditko had had any inkling as to how long the character would run, they’d never have graduated him in 28 issues. By contrast, Ultimate Spider-Man was in high school for 166 issues—and he never graduated, he died.

      Like

      1. I’d have let him graduate high school, but not college, I think.

        The high school graduation felt like it worked as Stan’s “illusion of change” of later years — he’s still in school, his world is altered a bit (he can get his own place, and a roommate), but he still feels like he’s young and still figuring out adult life.

        kdb

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      2. Yeah, it’s a real change, but it’s not a structural change — when Peter’s in college, the series is still about a young guy trying to figure life out, juggling school and freelance work and responsibilities to his frail aunt. The machine’s the same machine, with some different surface styling to it.

        So it’s a change you can point to and say, “Look, a change,” but it doesn’t actually alter the mechanisms of what makes the series work, which is why I consider it an illusory change. If you move stuff around and end up with essentially the same pattern, then you haven’t changed the heart of things.

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  2. I’m always curious with these older posts if your thoughts have changed over the years.

    Also, you did call DC trying to take back the Lois/Clark marriage as one of the (many) changes in the New 52, but boy they reverted back to the marriage pretty quickly, and now have gone so far as to give him a son. Personally, I like having some married superheroes in the mix, and I think Superman is perfect for that, as he gives off major “dad vibes,” and I think Lois and Clark have a great partnership and are much better together than the perpetual love triangle of the Golden and Silver age.

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    1. I don’t think Superman should give off “dad vibes.” I think when DC relaxes into that, they lose something important to the character.

      Christopher Reeve was 24 when he started filming SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (and 26 when it wrapped, thanks to shooting most of the first two back to back), and at the time, DC said Superman was 29. It wasn’t exactly credible, since Curt Swan’s Superman looks like he’s in his 40s, if not older, but it’s the age they insisted he was.

      I think a young Superman (say, early 30s?) would help the character be more popular; if he felt like a brother to the world, not a dad.

      As such, I think there are superheroes who work well married — Hawkman and Hawkwoman, Reed and Sue, the Dibnys, Hank & Jan (mental-health disasters aside), the Atom and Jean (ditto) and many more. I just don’t think Superman or Spider-Man should be among them. It’s fine for stories set in the future, where the characters can be dads without starting to feel old to the readership, but I think their “present day” incarnations should be young. Spider-Man maybe 20, Superman 32.

      kdb

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