Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Three Comic Book Weddings, or Holy Matrimony! – Part 1


The Secret Origin and Messy Ending of the Wedding of Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker, the Amazing, Spectacular Spider-Man

At the Chicago Con in 1986, Stan and I were among the guests. He was scheduled to do a one-man panel. He asked me to do the gig with him.

In those days, Stan’s office was at Marvel Productions, our animation studio in L.A. He spent all his time out there trying to generate film and TV opportunities. That, and writing the Spider-Man syndicated strip. He said that he always got a lot of questions at such panels about the comic books that he couldn’t answer. He was pretty much out of touch with what was going on in the comics.

So we went onstage together. It was a big room and it was packed.

We didn’t do any presentations, just took questions. I think nine out of ten questions were about the comic books.

Turned out we were a pretty good act. I’d answer the basic question and Stan would tag on a funny comment or an anecdote. We were a good tag team.

Toward the end, someone in the back asked Stan if he was ever going to have Spider-Man get married. A lot of people in the crowd voiced support.

Stan said that it was up to “Marvel’s entire editor,” and right then, right there in front of all those people, Stan asked me if I would allow Spider-Man to get married.

Well, I may have been the “entire editor” but anything to do with the comics that Stan wanted I would have cheerfully done.

As Steve Englehart once said, referring to Marvel Comics writers “…Stan is the father of us all.”  Honor thy father.

(By the way, Steve’s comment, which I believe I have represented accurately, was made in a footnote caption in one of the comics he wrote, I think around the time I started at Marvel, which was 1976.)

The audience cheered.

Perfect time for our exit. Thanks for coming, everyone.

By the time Stan and I made it to the door, the whole convention was abuzz about the impending wedding.

Later, Stan and I talked about it. He thought having Spider-Man get married would be a great thing for the newspaper strip. We agreed that it was important to coordinate the comics and the strip so that the event would take place in the same week of the same month and in the same way as much as possible.

Well, we blew that all to hell.

I think David Michelinie wrote the plot for the wedding issue first, but I had some concerns with it. I’m doing this from memory, but I think my objection was that it was too convoluted and unnecessarily continuity-heavy. We planned to do a big PR push. The book was likely to get a lot of attention, likely, therefore to attract a lot of new readers, including people new to comics. It had to be clear and accessible. No need to violate any continuity, but no need to get mired down in it, either. David didn’t have time to do a rewrite, or maybe wasn’t willing. Whatever. I ended up writing the plot.

Getting an art team was more difficult than it ought to have been. It seemed like everyone was stretched thin at that time. But I think we did pretty well, there. Paul Ryan and Vince Colletta did a very good job.

And I thought the John Romita cover was terrific.
The great, iconic heart logo was designed by Penelope Muddlepud.
JayJay here. He means logo designed by Janet (JayJay) Jackson... or Penelope Muddlepud, Sudsella Churchkey, Puffertoon, Megatweezer, Felicity Mugwump, Pondextra Moonbeam, Tillie T. Toiler, etc. in “Jimspeak.” Have I mentioned how silly Jim is?
All the coordination with the strip fell apart, though. Stan had asked for the ceremony to take place on the steps of City Hall, but either forgot or changed his mind. I don’t remember where the ceremony took place in the strip, but I don’t think it was City Hall. I think we got the timing out of sync, too. Sigh.

Here’s my excuse….

The bulk of the work on that issue was done during my final days at Marvel, during which my attention was elsewhere, and, for that matter, I was elsewhere quite a bit. Marvel Comics had been sold to New World Pictures (which soon became New World Entertainment). The deal was signed in January of 1987. I was usually either upstairs, waging war against Marvel’s corrupt top management people who had been kept in place after the sale, or out in L.A. meeting with New World Pictures principals Harry Sloan and Larry Kupin, and CEO Bob Rehme, working to help forge a positive future for Marvel Comics under the new regime, and oh, by the way, one that included me.

Didn’t work out. I’ll tell that tale later. I left Marvel in April.
I’m not shifting blame for the coordination problems to editor Jim Salicrup or Stan, by the way.

Here’s their excuse….

The first few months under new ownership couldn’t have been easy for Stan, either. Stan’s name and reputation were key parts of what New World was acquiring. I’m sure, as Marvel’s key figure in the film and TV development effort, he had many demands on his time. So, what could Salicrup do, if Stan’s attention was diverted? The best he could. Which he did.

Of course, we couldn’t even coordinate between departments at 387 Park Avenue South. Ignoring both the strip and the comic book, Marvel’s crack PR people arranged to stage Spider-Man’s wedding at home plate in Shea Stadium during a Mets game. And, of course, it was Spider-Man, not Peter Parker getting married to Mary Jane. Okay, I suppose that was a change they had to make, for that venue, anyway.

Everyone entering the stadium was given a free copy of the wedding issue.

I was there, invited by the PR people though I no longer worked at Marvel. Hardly anyone paid any attention to the wedding. Almost all the 50,000 or so comic books, it seemed were ripped apart and used to make paper planes, dropped on the floor or thrown in the trash. Sad.

The “wedding reception” was held that evening at the Tunnel, a nightclub in the city. Another bizarre choice, in my opinion. Oh, well. Not my worry anymore. I raised my glass of grapefruit juice to the bride and groom, said good-night to friends from the old workplace and went home.


TOMORROW:  Ménàge a Trois and a Dream Wedding

JayJay here again. I thought I would add my two (or three) cents since I was working as Marvel's art director of advertising at the time and one of our projects was the Spider-Man wedding. I think it was Pam Rutt who convinced up and coming designer Willi Smith to create Mary Jane's wedding dress, which was spectacular! I remember seeing it in her office. I was able to convince Bill Sienkiewicz to do the beautiful Spiderman wedding poster, which I still love:
Jim Salicrup let me draw a paper doll pin up page for Marvel Age that Vince Coletta inked.

We did loads of cute heart logo pins through our POP supplier Thompson-Leeds and our contact Glenn Carlin over there suggested a fun little lighted pin that we offered to retailers through the new point of purchase program. It was a silly thing, but Carol Kalish told me that it, surprisingly, was one of the most popular things we had offered at the time.
Sorry the photo isn't better. I just snapped a quick picture this morning.
And here are a couple of fun items I found... here's a video of Stan Lee with Spider-Man and Mary Jane on TV and a clip of the wedding.
And here is a link to a blog by the actor who played Spider-Man at the time:

109 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't you mean "tag his name on the Spider-Man syndicated strip"? Roy Thomas has written it, like, forever...

czeskleba said...

Stan has been quoted as saying "Never give the fans what they think they want." A wise rule, and it's too bad he chose to make an exception to it on this occasion. I think Spider-Man getting married (and getting notably older, for that matter) were mistakes that undermined the core concept of the character.

Anonymous said...

Jay Jay's heart shaped logo was recently used about 5 years ago in the Mary Jane novels.

-Freyes2011

lpmiller said...

They are only mistakes if your character is never allowed to change or grow. I think you can be too locked into a 'core character' to the extent it gets boring.

Spiderman got married when I was 18, and I loved it. And as he went through life as an adult, so did I. Hell, Mary Jane gave birth the same month my first daughter was born. I like it when my characters change. It makes them alive.

Now, having Mary Jane make a deal with Mephisto to undo the marriage? That violates a core character concept.

I still enjoy the new stories of a single peter parker, but it feels like a step backwards to me. And the idea that there are more stories you can tell because he is single, I always found to be a cop out.

But hell, they are doing it to Superman now too, and maybe that's just to be expected. I mean, both were married for what, 20 years? That's a good run.

Anonymous said...

--The marriage seems, in retrospect, a natural conclusion to those first 300 issues. Peter Parker all grown up and ready to be an adult.

Too bad, no one behind the scenes in subsequent years could figure out the value in going forward.

--Love those paperdolls. Although that seems to be MJ before the implants she got in the 90's.

JayJayJackson said...

I do prefer the natural kind, in all their many shapes and sizes.

Graeme said...

For me, the Spider-Man marriage, and the Superman marriage that followed, made perfect sense. Comic books were finally following the path of newspaper comic strips, which allowed their central characters to marry (Dick Tracy and Tess, Steve Canyon and Summer, Even Lil Abner and Daisy Mae...) while continuing to have adventures.

I think, in the end though, the model was probably wrong: newspaper strips allow for that model because over the days and weeks of continuities, the characters grow with their audiences. But comic books are increasingly about nostalgia: it's not about the development of the character but about the character as the readers or the writers remember it. People love Stan and Romita's Spider-Man, so bring it back to that rather than be married and all that. Superman is best when he's emulating the Silver Age with a bit of Siegel and Shuster on the side, so there goes the marriage to Lois. The classic form of the character now trumps all.

Roberto Guedes said...

Another great text, Jim!

I personally never liked the idea of Peter and MJ get married. I think that made Spider-Man lost part of his youthful appeal. But, well, he's the hero that is like any of us: he grows, works, dates... and marries.

czeskleba said...

lpmiller said:Spiderman got married when I was 18, and I loved it. And as he went through life as an adult, so did I. Hell, Mary Jane gave birth the same month my first daughter was born. I like it when my characters change. It makes them alive.
***********************
Change can be gratifying to longterm readers for that reason, but it can also have the affect of making the characters less appealing to new readers. One of the problems with comics over the past 20 years is that they've been targeted too much to the long-term readers.

Chris Hlady said...

Wow, Jim, this is pretty good, and thanks JayJay for all the extras.

Rob said...

I wasd a new reader and the Spider-Man wedding was fabulous to me. I never understand the arguments made by older fans why newer younger fans wouldn't like it "Young kids dont want to read about married heroes, or older heroes" and yet i was 10 yrs old, loved it, hundreds of thousands of other kids loved it judging by the sales of the Michilinie/McFarlane issues, the kids at school loved Spidey in those days, etc. It wasn't complicated, it didn't make him less accessible or relatable to us at all.

What, hope that us younger shy, Peter Parkerish kids/teens might actually find a beautiful woman one day?

Yeah totally not wish fullfillment for thousands.

It really made sense in Spider-Man's history too. It made the MJ character more mature. It let to a solid 100 issues of good stories in Amazing alone where he was married.

The book was modern, exciting, and you felt like anything could happen. Really a good thing for younger, newer readers.

and I felt betrayed by Marvel with their Crisis like One More Day. I havent bought a Spider-Man comic since.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the real problem that the model is bad? A monthly serial telling the story (and, really, isn't all just one long narrative?) of a specific set of characters is bound to break down eventually: Either characters are not allowed to age and grow, and therefore they become stale and/or repetitive, or they are allowed to go through the life cycle, and risk becoming cloistered in a diminishing fan base and threaten their own financial viability (the corporations that own them won't allow this, which is why reboots are inevitable). It seems that because comic books grew out of comic strips, they adopted the serial model of the strips. But it doesn't really work over the long run for the kinds of stories comic books end up wanting to tell. It works for comic strips (or did--perhaps they're dying with newspapers, or moving digital a la XKCD) because they're not telling full stories, they're telling gags, or because they tended to be strongly identified with a creator who took the strip with them with when they died or retired. (There are exceptions to all of this, to be sure.) That's why, for my money, DC's relaunch won't work: it's clinging to a basically unworkable model of storytelling that is destined to collapse under its own weight.

--kgaard

Diacanu said...

czeskleba-

"Change can be gratifying to longterm readers for that reason, but it can also have the affect of making the characters less appealing to new readers".

I...never understood that reasoning.

Why does everyone have to be young and unnatached to appeal to "new readrs".

How did Spidey ever get a fandom in the first place with that icky old Aunt May and Uncle Ben in the first issue?

Geez, implicit in the very existenc eof every human(oid) character is that someone somewhere screwed, and gave birth.

Why the hell couldn't Spidey aghe realistically, and hand it off to his kids?

Soaps did that all the time, and they alsted decades, so some newbies must have been getting on board.

No, I agree with thos ewho blame it on crappy/lazy writers.

Diacanu said...

Ugh, that's what happens to my posts when internet is acting up, and I can't use form field spell-check as a net...

jimshooter said...

Dear Freyes,

You mean Penelope Muddlepud's logo. Ignore that obstreperous Elf.

JediJones said...

I was also 10 when the wedding issue came out and had been an active reader of the Spider-Man comics for a couple of years. I thought it was a great, exciting time for the character. I was happy for him. I didn't find any fundamental problems with the next several years of issues either.

I don't think I understand the arguments against the marriage. It seems people either think Spider-Man should stay a neurotic loner who can never get the girl or that he should be a playboy always on the market for new dates. I don't see either of those as immutable aspects of the character nor particularly desirable ones. A marriage isn't just "happily ever after." It offers all kinds of other complications, difficulties, neuroses and anxieties to explore.

I do think a marriage made more sense for Spider-Man than it did for Superman. Spider-Man is a more reality-based character and a human being. It would actually make him seem more abnormal and less relatable if he never got married, which is one of the most common, natural and human things you can do.

Superman is a fantasy-based character who, in an almost priest-like fashion, stands as a symbol for humanity of the pure, the noble, the selfless and the good. A human custom like marriage seems almost beneath him. It interferes with his duty to protect earth. His myth is enhanced by the poignancy of him loving humanity so much, but never really being able to be a true part of it. That's why his Clark Kent identity makes sense. He wants to be close to humanity, but can only do it up to a point and through a facade. Even putting all that mythic stuff aside, it's a little "icky" to have a human marry an alien from another planet.

Superman II did a great job of showing how Superman can't be available to the world if he gives himself to one woman and vice versa. There just isn't enough of him to go around. The first Spider-Man movie, on the other hand, just made Pete seem like a confused jerk when he dumped Mary Jane because "he had no love to give." Pete is a guy who wants everything every other man wants but has trouble getting it because of circumstances that he can't avoid or that his nagging guilty conscience draws him into. Superman, on the other hand, is the kind of guy who's willing to sacrifice all of his selfish desires in order to serve humanity. Peter Parker can never be that perfect, and that's why we love him.

The only thing that messed up the Spider-Man character for me was all that Spider clone nonsense. That's when I quit the title and never went back. The whole "Mephisto undoes the wedding" stuff sounds just as bad. They both violate the direction I think superhero comics need to go, which is towards more reality-based stories.

Spider-Man is supposed to be one of Marvel's most grounded, relatable characters. It feels wrong when the heavy sci-fi and fantasy elements of the Marvel universe are used to make major changes to his mythos. The universe can bend when different titles cross over, but each title should then snap back within its established parameters. The appeal of Spider-Man was how one very down-to-earth kid dealt with one fantastic change in his life. When clones and the devil and the like affect Spider-Man's permanent continuity, I lose interest.

If they really wanted to split Pete and MJ up, why couldn't it have happened in a realistic context, e.g. a separation, a divorce, even a death? Why not just have Mary Jane dump his butt to focus on her career? She dumped him enough when they were single and that would have brought back the old lovelorn Pete. Divorce being as common as it is, what a missed opportunity this was to give the audience a story involving a favorite character that they could ACTUALLY RELATE TO! Instead they gave us the worst kind of stupid comic book gobbledlygook that can't appeal to anyone but the most introverted comic book megageek who lives in a fantasy world and is totally detached from reality. End rant.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

I'm trying to piece together the chronology of the weddings.

The Heroes in the Closet blog that JayJay linked to says the stadium wedding took place on June 5.

Mike's Amazing World of Marvel says the wedding issue went on sale on June 9, 1987.

That date is also in this April 25, 1987 column by Liz Smith stating that the wedding "also will 'happen' in the newspaper comic strips appearing June 14, 21, and 28." Did those strips actually appear on those dates? The column also mentions Willi Smith's passing. A shame he didn't see his design come to life. (Three times? Was the same design used in all three weddings?)

Mike's Amazing World of Marvel also covers Gold Key and its Newsstand feature allows one to "view the
covers of comics that were onsale during a given month." VALIANT, DEFIANT, and Broadway are covered. I bought your 90s work as back issues and it's interesting to see what what else was on sale at the time to put it in perspective.

Off-topic, but Jack Adler's recent passing made me think how he "gave [you] an education with regard to art production, coloring and printing". How did that knowledge affect the way you designed covers and laid out stories?

Dear JayJay or whatever Jim wants to call you today,

I'm amazed you have a 24-year-old pin in the original packaging and in perfect condition!

I want to find my copy of Marvel Age #54 for your paper doll!

Rob said...

The Superman your describing Jedi Jones is not the Superman who got married. That person was following in the Byrne revamp and was a much more huiman character where Clark was the real person and Superman the mask.

Rob said...

6/14

http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryPiece.asp?Piece=558988&GSub=87656


6/21
http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryPiece.asp?Piece=558996&GSub=87656

Comic strip from 6/25
http://cdn.comicartfans.com/Images/Category_74/subcat_30365/Thumbs/spidermanstrip6_25_87.jpg

JediJones said...

Rob, I enjoyed reading Byrne's Man of Steel and Superman comics but if there's one aspect of it that doesn't work for me, it was that shift in the duality of the Superman and Clark Kent character. What I'm describing is my ideal or preferred interpretation of Superman. The marriage just furthered the diminishment of the character for me.

I think, practically speaking, Superman's job is too big for him to even have time to be a good husband. He's also a more inspiring and noble character when his duties force him to sacrifice the things he really wants for himself. I see him as very human when he's growing up in Smallville but when he becomes an adult, he realizes he has a greater destiny he has to fulfill. He has to exist above and outside humanity much moreso than within it in order to do that.

Phillip Beadham said...

Dear Jim,
re: "the architecture of storytelling". I've just checked the interview I thought you made that comment in, and you never said any such thing. Sorry about that. I don't know how I've come to associate that phrase with your narrative style. My mind seems to be playing tricks on me more & more, getting into middle age. Once a misconception takes root, the mind remembers information to support the misconception, even if it's wrong. One notices this when others do it, but not always in one's own case. Still, I knew from the real evidence - your stories - that you were very strong on character. Best regards - Phillip.

Pj Perez said...

Jim - Question for you, though you may not have the answer: I never picked up the wedding issue, so I only have that one page you scanned for reference, but MJ's face is distinctively different (and right on-model) from Paul Ryan's other/usual faces. Is it possible John Romita redrew her face in that book, kinda the way DC had someone (can't remember if it was Curt Swan or someone else) redraw Superman's face in Kirby's Jimmy Olsen book?

JayJayJackson said...

Hi Marc,

Just to show you what a pack rat I am... Those 2 pins have been sitting in the drawer of an old side table (my great grandfather's) with a lot of other pins and stickers and stuff since about the time I brought them home.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I've been reading the blog regularly for a few months, but this is my first comment. But first -- thanks, Jim, for sharing all these fascinating stories! It's always great to get behind-the-scenes info about some of my favorite comics.

Regarding Spider-Man marrying: I don't know if it's right or wrong, but I do know that when I first encountered Spider-Man on TV cartoons in the early 80's and became a fan, he was single. All the comics I saw with him featured him as an unmarried character. Then a few years later, he got married. To me, as a kid, that didn't change much. He didn't seem "older". He was already older than I was -- even the original high school age Peter Parker would've been older than I was at the time!

(And whether aging him beyond high school in the first place was the wrong thing to do is a totally different debate. For the record, I think Peter Parker works best in college/grad school.)

So as a 10 year-old kid, I had no problem with a married Spider-Man, and as I kept reading into my teens, it remained a non-issue. Initially, as long as he put on the costume and fought Doc Ock or someone every month, I was satisfied. Later, in my early teens, when I was the prototypical "nerdy wallflower", I thought it was fantastic that Spider-Man, who had started out like me, had grown out of his shell and married Mary Jane! I've heard it said that being married -- to a supermodel of all things -- made Peter unrelateable, but to me it said, "yes, young nerd -- you too could end up with the hottest girl in school".

And let's not forget that Peter had been dating very attractive women almost since day one, and especially since John Romita's run. I'm not sure what it was about marrying one of them that suddenly made him less relateable!

Perhaps the one thing that the marriage changed for the worse was the soap operatic dynamics of the series. Married Peter couldn't break off dates because he had to go fight the Green Goblin, and when he had a wife who knew his secret, she could even cover for him when he needed to get away. Also, there could be no love triangles. I'll admit that I did miss that sort of thing, but Michelinie and Conway, and later DeMatties and whoever else, kept my interest in other ways.

-Matt

Anonymous said...

Just a thought, but after nearly 50 years and thousands of published comics, perhaps all of the Spider-Man stories have been told by now?

And lord knows how many VERSIONS of Spider-Man are swinging around these days, all existing in parallel universes...

Pete Marco

Marc Miyake said...

Hi JayJay,

As a historian of languages, I love pack rats. If nobody kept anything, I'd have nothing to study. Right now I'm interested in the Jurchen small script which only survived on a few "golden, silver, and wooden plates." If only there had been more pack rats in the 12th century ...

Dear Rob,

Thanks for the links to the wedding strips. I don't remember the strip being in my local paper and I've never seen Floro Dery's non-animation work before.

I also learned Janice Cohen is also known as Janna Parker. The late Jerry Bails' Who's Who notes that she is also known as "Janni Parker" and is Sol Brodsky's daughter. I had no idea.

Brunomac said...

I just remember how icky it seemed that Peter Parker was marrying a girl who had slept with at least two other guys on the cover of that comic book. Considering what they eventually did to Gwen Stacy (an affair and children with Norman Osborn), I would not be suprised to find that JJ Jameson and Robby nailed MJ as well.

czeskleba said...

So, a question to all those here who are saying that Spider-Man (and super-heroes in general) should grow older and change in order to keep them from getting stale: At what point do you stop aging them? Or should it never stop? Should Spider-Man be in his 60's now? Even if you don't think a 30ish Spider-Man diminishes his appeal to new readers, do you think a 65-year-old Spider-Man does?

To Diacanu: I don't think soap operas are an apt comparison. The characters on them have to age because the actors playing them age. I think Spider-Man shouldn't age for the same reason the Simpsons don't, and James Bond doesn't.

Diacanu said...

czeskleba-

I dunno, DC realistically aged Superman with the whole cre-crisis universes thing.
...which they brought back.
People seemed to really dig it back in the day.

As for Simpsons, I think they're played out, frankly.
And, IMHO, some of their best episodes were where we got to see flash-forwards to adult Bart & Lisa.

Anonymous said...

Peter Parker actually DID age fairly normally throughout the '60s... he started out being 16 and got to around about 22-24 or so before he stopped for the next 40 years.

Pete Marco

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

I don't remember the dates. I wasn't paying much attention to Marvel in those days.

My work was influenced by all of the great people who passed wisdom along to me, including Jack Adler. It's sad that he's gone.

jimshooter said...

Dear PJ,

I don't know whether John Romita touched up the faces. I was probably gone by the time the book was in production. I suspect that Vinnie, who was terrific with romance stuff and pretty girls, probably refined the faces a little.

Gregg H said...

I was like thirteen when the Spider-wedding happened. I loved it. Although I was only thirteen, I had already been reading about the charachter for almost a decade (I learned to read with Spidy and the others), so I'm not one of the 'of course he preferrs that, it's all he knows' fans.
I keep hearing the argument that having Peter being married somehow limits the stories you can tell about him. Sure. But having him being NOT married places the EXACT same kinds of limits.
If charachters HAVE to all be teenage single outcasts, then why is Batman so popular? Sure, he's single, but he is the antithesis of the idea "young kids need to relate to him on their own level" because he is the ultimate father figure as well as being rich, handsome, popular with the ladies, etc.
Why can Reed Richards (as an example) be prety much the OPPOSITE of Peter Parker, yet still be considered viable, but if certain of his traits are imprinted on Peter (getting older, married, financially stable), some people think that the charachter is inherently doomed for failure?

czeskleba said...

I don't know that I'd agree Peter was 16 when the series began. He's a high school student, but as far as I recall his age was never stated. He could just as easily be 17 or even 18 at the time the series starts. And I would disagree that he was "around 22-24" by the end of the 60's. He was a college student, so he likely was under 21, and could easily have been 18 or 19. So by a more conservative estimate, Peter could have aged as little as 2 or 3 years in the ten years Stan was writing him. It seems like the gradual creeping up of his age happened more in the late 70's and 80's.

I enjoyed the episodes of the Simpsons in which they show the kids as adults, just as I enjoyed the Adult Legion story. But I wouldn't want either to become the new status quo.

Gregg H said...

A lot of people make the silly comparison with a show like the simpsons. Here is why that is a deeply flawed angle.
Bart Simpson is all about 100% humor. And the most slapstick, inane, mind numbingly stupid humor that you can imagine. ANd it works. I'm a huge fan. Spider-Man is about drama and intensity, far more than it is about action and funny stuff.
When reading Spider-Man, you are SUPPOSED to think. Things are supposed to actually make sense in their own way. Not so with the Simpsons (or Family Guy or any of the others).

When you actually think about Peter Parker, you really can't help but think 'he has fought Doc Ock 87 times, and Kraven 19 times. And Electro 45 times. He's done a lot of stuff in his career. It is pretty stupid for them to try to say that he did ALL of that stuff in the span of four years of high school."

Don Hudson said...

Hi Jay Jay, you can see some photos I took of the wedding reception with Stan and some Marvel staffers on an old blog post. At my blog -
Attack at Don.

JayJayJackson said...

Hi Don!!!

Great pictures! Wow, look at Dawn and Steve! And I think I still have my Spider-Man wedding t-shirt, too! lol.

William said...

I have very strong opinions on this topic. Spider-Man has always been my favorite super-hero / comic-book character. In fact, I have every issue, of every Spider-Man comic that has ever been published (at least as far as I know) and that's the truth. (FYI, those issues that were published before the mid-70's I bought as back issues. I'm not quite that old).

Still, I had been reading Spider-Man for many many years by the time of the wedding, and I thought it was a huge mistake back then (and I still do today). In fact, it upset me so much that I briefly considered dropping the book. But it was just too much a part of my life, and I couldn't bring myself to do it. So, I kept on reading, but it was never quite as good again as it had been. There is not even one Spider-Man story that was written after he was married that I consider to be one of my favorites. :(

I've heard all the arguments of why marrying Pete and MJ was a good idea and almost all of them go something like this...

*********
lpmiller said:

They are only mistakes if your character is never allowed to change or grow. I think you can be too locked into a 'core character' to the extent it gets boring.

Spiderman got married when I was 18, and I loved it. And as he went through life as an adult, so did I. Hell, Mary Jane gave birth the same month my first daughter was born. I like it when my characters change. It makes them alive.
********

I find this to be one of the most short-sighted arguments for the following reason….

Spider-Man isn't being written just for YOU (or me) or any one single person. By that logic, if you are 50 years old now and had prostate surgery, should Peter Parker's character mirror that aspect of your life as well? In fact, when you die, I guess Spider-Man should be killed off and the book canceled because you're not around to read it anymore. Screw everybody else who doesn't share your exact age and life experiences.

Also, when they married off Peter Parker they got locked into a whole new status quo that was even more limited and grew even more stale over time than when he was single. Now he was some guy who'd been married for 20 plus years. Yeah, that's really some exciting stuff there.


********
Rob said: I was a new reader and the Spider-Man wedding was fabulous to me. I never understand the arguments made by older fans why newer younger fans wouldn't like it "Young kids dont want to read about married heroes, or older heroes" and yet i was 10 yrs old, loved it…
********

I'm sorry, but 10 year boys who think weddings are "fabulous" and identify with an "older married couple" have got to be a huge minority.

********
And then Diacanu said:

Why does everyone have to be young and unnattached to appeal to "new readers"?
*********

Every character doesn't have to be "young and unattached", but that was an essential part of Spider-Man/Peter Parker's character from the very beginning. In fact, it was basically the core concept of the book. Spider-Man was marketed as the first teenaged super hero who was the main hero in a comic and not just a sidekick. Peter Parker's youth, nerdiness and girl troubles have always been as much a part of his long-term success as a character as his Spider-powers, web-shooters and colorful costume.

So, when you take away such essential and successful elements of a character's core concept, (basically the very things that made the him work in the first place) I would argue it's no longer even the same character. Why do you think that any time Spider-Man appears in any other media, he is always based on his original concept? As a young, SINGLE, nerdy, smart and down on his luck everyman? Because that is who the character is and always was intended to be. It's how people think of him and it's how he works best. Nuff said.

Andy E. Nystrom said...

I don't have a problem with most superhero marriages as long as it's written well enough. The age thing, well, shrug, some people marry really young.

A few weeks ago (after the announcement that Barry Allen's marriage was also being retconned away) I wrote a post on my blog of 25 ways to make a superhero marriage interesting. Not all would work for Peter specifically, but my point was that a superhero marriage is as interesting or uninteresting as the writers choose for it to be.

http://saneinsanities.blogspot.com/2011/09/25-ways-to-make-superhero-marriage.html

JediJones said...

This is comics, so things like age can be flexible. We can jump to different points in time in different stories or titles. Of course they can always flash back to Peter's teen years whenever they want and tell stories about that era, which they have done. Of course, this is nothing new for DC having done Superboy and Superman concurrently since before Spider-Man was more than a gleam in Stan Lee's eye.

I'd be really curious to see stories about Spider-Man or other Marvel characters in, say, their 40s or even older. Marvel apparently toyed with slightly aged versions in a strip feature called Mr. and Mrs. Spider-Man tied into Spider-Girl, but DC really explored aging their heroes in depth with Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, and to a lesser extent Batman Beyond (that was a bit more of a 2099 thing, but it had the Old Bruce character). The Maestro Hulk was a good idea, but I'd like to see the aging hero concept taken really seriously with Marvel characters. When they do it, it seems to be a gimmick, just a new coat of paint on the same old same old, and not a serious re-imagined look at the characters.

To me, the possibilities for a character like Spider-Man are vast. What era of his life wouldn't be interesting to explore? It would be quite something to be able to know his entire life story, maybe even how he eventually dies, and still be able to get new stories about everything that happened in-between. That is I think how the Star Wars comics play out now, where we know the beginning and end of the story from the movies but all the stories in-between get fleshed out in the comics.

If there are going to be so many different Spider titles, why not do something different in each one? At least Byrne tried to say with Superman that Action Comics would have your basic slugfest action stories while the main title would have more fleshed out plots. When it gets to the point where all of a character's different titles are crossing over with each other every month, I fail to understand why they exist. Why not just have a single weekly title?

Instead of all the crossovers, give me one title with a teen-age Spider-Man, one with the current Spider-Man and one with a middle-aged Spidey. Give their books their own identity and even gear them to appeal to different audiences. Ideally they could have been the unmarried teen Peter, married Peter and then a darker tone for a title with an older divorced or widowed Peter. The older Spidey could address an adult audience, to the point where it's over the heads of younger readers. I'd really rather stay away from the insanity of alternate timelines and try to just look at a character in our world and how he changes over the years.

Andy E. Nystrom said...

JediJones: Interesting, I was thinking something similar about an hour ago. Of course this might be tricky in terms of the larger Marvel continuity, but there's ways around that (a possble future, for example).I didn't read Conan growing up, but wasn't the basic concept of King Conan/Conan the King that we were seeing the character at a later point in his life?

JediJones said...

William, you undercut your own argument when you say "Spider-Man isn't being written just for YOU (or me) or any one single person" and then say "I'm sorry, but 10 year boys who think weddings are 'fabulous' and identify with an 'older married couple' have got to be a huge minority."

What are you basing that on other than your own preference? You clearly want the story to be tailored to your own tastes, so you can't criticize someone else who wants the same thing. It's no surprise that as a long-time reader, you wouldn't want to see Spider-Man change at all, and that's perfectly understandable. But you can't assume that was the opinion of the rest of Spidey's audience. Sales of the Spider-Man titles didn't go down anytime soon after he got married as far as I know. Spider-Man #1 of course set sales records.

The short-sighted attitude I see is one that thinks marriage is something that's necessarily boring or lacking in dramatic tension. That's not the case in real life, why would it need to be in fiction? You can have "girl troubles" with your wife. Just because Pete got married didn't mean he had to be good at it.

As for the nerdy Parker, he went away YEARS before the wedding happened. Jim has remarked in a past blog entry about Rom that even Steve Ditko only intended for Peter to be bumbling and nerdy when he was younger and still learning things. Most cartoons and comics I saw in the '80s had Pete fighting off hot babes like the Black Cat, Betty Brant...heck I just read a mid-1980s issue where Pete's hot blonde neighbor started openly flirting with him when he popped out of his skylight onto the roof. Pete seemed to have gradually matured the way Steve intended. There's only so long you can have that lean, mean superhero physique and not get noticed by the ladies.

Honestly, the marriage was about as IN CHARACTER for Pete as you can get. He was on the way to becoming a swinging playboy bachelor the way the comics were going. Aunt May's favorite nephew was supposed to be a square. Getting married is one of the squarest, most old-fashioned things you can do. It fits his character more than staying single.

As far as some people saying MJ being "hot" somehow makes Peter less relatable, this is comics. It's entertainment. In comics, movies, TV, etc. every character usually ends up being abnormally hot because that's what the customers want to see. That's just the way entertainment works. You can't read too much into it. I really don't think most people wanted to see Spidey marry someone with Sandra Bernhard's face and Roseanne Barr's body, but I could be wrong.

The other bottom line is that, again, this is comics and you can flash back any time you want. There's no reason Marvel couldn't have given us two titles, Spider-Boy and Spider-Man, a la DC, to satisfy the demands of both audiences.

To follow up on my previous post, I should mention that the Marvel "MC2" continuity, which was basically comprised of the fairly long-running 1990s Spider-Girl series and a few short-lived related titles, did feature Pete and MJ aged about 15 years. I've never read the series, but it sounds a lot like Batman Beyond or 2099 to me. It sounds like it had a lot of "new" characters all wearing versions of the old heroes' costumes and doing similar stuff. It doesn't sound terrible and I can see why the Spider-Girl character attracted some substantial popularity. I might go back and read it, but I'm really looking for a serious, mature readers take on the classic Marvel heroes, and in my mind aging them a couple decades is a good way to kick off that kind of story.

Brian Doan said...

I alluded to this in a different thread, but one of the nice things about the current run of Spider-Man is that Dan Slott has Peter working at a cutting-edge think tank, which really allows the "Reed Richards" side of his personality to come out (and in fact, having Peter as part of the current Future Foundation makes the comparison explicit-- it's very sweet in that "well, FINALLY!" kind of way to watch science geeks Parker and Richards bond and work together). As much as it pains me to say nice things about J. Michael Straczynski's writing, one of the nice things on his Spidey run was the relationship he built between Peter and Tony Stark (if I recall, he went to work at Stark Industries for awhile), a kind of prickly older-younger brother relationship, but another way in which Peter's real "super-power"-- his brain--created a new set of interactions with long-established characters.

For all that the current Marvel could do better, there are some good titles being written and drawn by talented folks, many of which are actually addressing some of the issues of change, growth, and stasis that folks here want to see addressed. Slott's Spider-Man, Waid's Daredevil, Hickman's FF, Fraction's Iron Man-- these are really thoughtful titles that carry on the 80s legacies that we all enjoy exploring here, and I'd commend them to anyone who wants a Marvel that's both modern and recognizable/familiar. I'm also looking forward to picking up AVENGERS ACADEMY, as someone praised that on a thread yesterday. And you know, that's just Marvel, and doesn't even cover Batwoman and Action Comics over at DC, or PS 238, or the recently completed (but still fab) EX MACHINA, or...

czeskleba said...

JediJones wrote:
William, you undercut your own argument when you say "Spider-Man isn't being written just for YOU (or me) or any one single person" and then say "I'm sorry, but 10 year boys who think weddings are 'fabulous' and identify with an 'older married couple' have got to be a huge minority."

What are you basing that on other than your own preference?
*****************************
I'm not William, but it's clear he's not basing it on his own preference, but on informed speculation about the preference of children below the age of ten. I think it's a reasonable assumption that the average casual child reader would prefer the younger, nerdy, unmarried Spider-Man.

I know several folks here have chimed in and said they liked the wedding when they were ten, but I believe they are anomalies rather than being indicative of how ten year olds in general would feel. Everyone here is a comics fan, which is a different breed than the casual reader.

One of the biggest problems in comics over the past 20 years is that they have been aimed too much at the longterm reader and the casual reader has been neglected, to the point that casual readers have become pretty much extinct. New readers have also become extinct. A large part of that is the distribution system, but content also has played a role. In the rare instances when comics are able to make inroads into mainstream distribution, they are not accessible enough to attract new readers.

Gregg H said: When you actually think about Peter Parker, you really can't help but think 'he has fought Doc Ock 87 times, and Kraven 19 times. And Electro 45 times. He's done a lot of stuff in his career. It is pretty stupid for them to try to say that he did ALL of that stuff in the span of four years of high school."
*****************
The amount of adventures Spider-Man has had could not realistically fit into a 15-year time period either, so aging him to 30 or whatever doesn't solve that problem either. Given the amount of stories written about him, you'd have to make him about 200 years old to construct a credible timeline. That's just one of the conceits of a serial fiction character, that they have more adventures than could realistically fit into the time period in which they are active. It doesn't strike me as a valid argument for aging a character.

Jacob said...

Speaking from the privileged position of someone who was actually ten years old in 1990 and gladly read many years of post-marriage concepts, I want to take a moment to assure everyone that no, it did not confuse or frighten me, nor did I run off shrieking into the night at the thought of Peter Parker kissing icky girls.

Here's the secret. Kids aren't that hung up on relateability - my friends and I cheerfully read story after story about talking dogs, talking ducks, talking balls, transforming robots, and ninja turtles, and I can confidently say that we are none of those things. What kids want is wish fulfillment. Is the character doing cool things, and going on exciting or scary or funny adventures? Is the drama gripping? Is Spider-Man webbing dudes up in a way that feels exciting instead of perfunctory? Then we're good. I'll take an interesting comic about a space alien or a dude made of rock over a boring comic about a guy just like me every single time.

Ronnie said...

And here I was, looking forward from the title to seeing you give your opinion on One More Day.

Hunter said...

There are two kinds of comic series, those intended to last forever (well, at least not planned to end) and those intended to end at some point.

The vast majority of US super-hero comics are of the first type, it goes without saying, since most of them are company-owned - and thus subjected to commercial interests far more than creative interests.

For that kind of "infinite" series, aging the character is a Bad Idea, since it implies that, yes, SOME kind of ending will eventually happen (the character growing old and dying), which goes against the commercial interests of the property.

And, no, making the character be replaces by his children has NEVER worked. Uncle Walt and Skeezix are still major figures on Gasoline Alley (even though Uncle Walt is by now a supercentenarian...), Prince Valiant's son has never replaced his aging father (same for its closest european equivalent, Thorgal).

Even on a long series intended to be finite, like the Dragon Ball manga, the author was unable to replace main character Son Goku by his son. The public wanted the original back.

So the main character of a sucessful "infinite" series is pretty much irreplaceable. He can't die or een get too old to cease to be a viable character. So he HAS to stop aging sometime. When? By the time he leaves college? At marriage? When he has kids?

Isn't it more logical to just keep the characters the same age they had when created? Works with The Simpsons...

You'll notice that, outside the newspaper strip, NO Spider-Man spinoff ever used the married version of the character as the standard one. Or even the out of college one...

And as for the newspaper, newspaper strips tend to favor "family" protagonists. That why pretty much every single newspaper strip protagonist has married! On that media, that's the standard fare. But newspaper strips are read by the whole family, while, say, comic books certainly aren't!

Think about it.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

J.A. Morris said...

Everyone better post their comments before Mephisto deletes this entire post!

bmcmolo said...

That Sienkiewicz poster is brilliant.

Rob said...

Like i said, my friends and I were all 9 or 10 when the marriage happened and we were still very happy to read comics. and im the only life long comic reader of the group.

This argument about what kids would want would make sense if sales suddenly plummeted post marriage.

They didn't. They increased (not because of the marriage but the marriage wasn't objectionable).

A married young in his 20s spider-man is not objectionable to kids or teens. The sales figures prove it. and common sense.

As far as the movies, while they weren't married, Peter Parker had one GF-Mary Jane and the movies (not to mention the Broadway show) clearly showed they were "meant to be" loves. There wasn't e ven any competititon (save briefly for Gwen who he only went to when he was black costumed evil). Fans still loved it.

The 90s animated series moved in the same direction as the comics. First Felicia and MJ, then essentially just MJ. Still popular.

If you don't like it, fine but stop pretending this is an argument you are making on behalf of these mythical kids who run screaming from a young married couple.

Sales didn't plummet. They increased. Just deal with it.

Rob said...

and there's nothing inaccessible about having a wife. It's pretty standard and you can get upt o speed in one caption or word balloon lol. Who are these casual readers so confused? "I can't figure it out, there's a woman there, and she doesn't leave. They share a bed, and he calls her his wife. What's it all mean?"

The last great number of casual and young readers came in the late 80s/early 90s....

and they read a married spider-man. and they were content.

Anonymous said...

Since it was asked earlier, I definitely do not think characters such as Spider-Man should continue to age. Yesterday I said that I believe Peter Parker works best as a college or grad school student. If he'd been frozen at that point forever, I would have no problem with it. For whatever reason, I've never been big on high school Spidey. I'm not sure why.

But as I also said yesterday, I never had any problem with the character getting married. That doesn't mean I actively supported it... it was just a non-thing for me. It happened, but he was still Spider-Man, so that was what was important to 10 year-old me. I would've felt the same way if he'd broken up with Mary Jane and never seen her again.

That said, I wouldn't have wanted Spidey to go past the point where he got married. Spider-Man in his mid-twenties or so is old enough. And I definitely wouldn't have wanted him to have a baby, because that adds a whole new set of problems, and it really does forcibly age the character (which I think marriage alone doesn't do).

-Matt

Chris Arndt said...

I understand that all characters need relatable or realistic motivations but beyond that if we really wanted relatable main characters we would have overweight, lazy morons.... Or boring hard-working.g folk.... That are usually out of shape. Spider-Man can't be a 1960s Superhero and live a normal life or be average. It's a direction they have takrn since the nineties but the fact is that Spidey shares cote concepts with Iron Man and Superman and Batman simply where he builds his own weapons and gadgets.

Who says Spidey isn't a sci-fi character? His second supervillain had an antigravity pack and reversed it with a gadget. His third had cybernetic arms fused to his central nervous system and he attacked those with a chemical compound. In issue 6 he fought a human animal mutate and formulated an antigen.

Anonymous said...

Stop publishing comics as monthly serials. Publish a new story--either as a limited series or as a book--when you have a good one to tell. Stop trying force an ongoing narrative structure into a delivery mechanism that doesn't work for it. Give the creators time to make it good, instead of imposing a relentless, unforgiving deadline. What medium does this, other than comics? Yeah, books, movies, TV shows, and music all have release dates. But they tend to driven by a production schedule with realistic assessments of time needed to make it happen. Television is probably the closest to comics, but it has built-in relief in the aging of performers (pointed out elsewhere by someone, I forget who), long gaps in new shows being released (usually summer, though that's changing), and an expectation that, yes, this will end someday.

I expect the economics of this are brutal. But my impression is that the economics of the industry are brutal as is. I don't think comic books need to be "saved"--the medium would survive in some form if DC and Marvel went out of business tomorrow. But the thinking can't just be "Should Spider-Man be married or single?" Who cares? The problem is structural, not individual.

Also, to piggyback on an earlier thought, how much better would it be if all of these characters--Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America, Flash, etc.--were public domain? Better for creators, because they would have more available material. Better for the audience, because they would have a greater wealth of stories to choose from. And better even (though their corporate masters would likely not see it this way) for Marvel and DC, because they could no longer rely on their security blankets of regurgitating old storylines about the same characters with a monopoly. They'd either have to produce the best stories about the characters in an open market, or god forbid, create something new.

--kgaard

Diacanu said...

Chris Arndt-

I would read a book about overweight lazy morons.

"It's always sunny in Philadelphia", is pretty much that, and it's a laugh riot.

Speaking of morons, Marvel did a "Beavis & Butt-Head", book back in the day that was true to the show.
I thought it was a good job.

And speaking of hard working out of shape shlubs, how about a little book called "American Splendor"?

Gregg H said...

Matt-
So having a Peter in his early/mid 20's is okay. Having that Peter being married is okay.
But adding a child into that dynamic somehow 'forcibly ages' the charachter? makes no sense.
He is Peter doing his thing in his own little Spider-way as a 25 yr old research assistant somewhere who takes a web swing through the city to catch some muggers on his way home to his wife.
But if he is swinging through the city on his way home to his Spider BABY and his wife, that somehow doesn't work for you. I just don't get it from a chain of logic perspective, since there is none to your argument.

Anonymous said...

Gregg:

I appreciate your point of view, and I'll try to explain mine better.

The presence of a baby alone doesn't age the character. The character is aged when the baby ages. If Spider-Man is married at 25 (not that an age was given, but let's just use that as an example), he can be a married 25 year-old forever. When a character is nebulously "in their twenties", they still seem young. Adding a child somehow makes them seem older, even if they really aren't. I can't explain it, and it may just be my own hang-up, but that's how I feel about it.

Besides that, there's something about kids in comics that makes writers want to grow them some. A baby isn't very interesting, but you can do so much more with a 2 year-old, or even a 5 year-old, and before you know it, Peter is 30! Which isn't a bad thing, but it is unnecessary. I guess the problem becomes, as was stated earlier by others more articulate than me, when do you stop?

That said, I've already admitted to liking college-age Parker best, so clearly I feel some aging is acceptable. I guess it really all comes down to personal preference. It's very hard to be objective about these things, for me at least.

-Matt

Chris Arndt said...

Diacanu... We also have sitcoms like the Middle and the Drew Carey Show. But Pekar isn't s Superhero and the concept he sells is true to the genteel and true to the character as written. Spider-man, written true, still guys into the Superhero genre, and doesn't comply with the "Stan Lee presents" pitch in the nineties. The only thing normal about Spidey is his motivations.

I also think, of course, that Spidey in the eighties or seventies got slightly derailed from some ideas of the sixties. Maybe it wad the 90s.

I read a piece written by Stan and drawn by Ditko going.over his powers and what he cam do with his webbing. The tone was implying how impressive the whole thing was. He was the fourth strongest hero in the Marvel Universe. In the 90s cartoon he complained that he had trouble lifting a Volkswagen.

And in Greg Pak's story he was not one of the eight smartest men.

William said...

Thanks czeskleba, you basically said what I would have said and then some. You made an excellent point about how Spider-Man would have to be about 200 years old to have done all he has. (Especially if you take into account all the team-ups and guest appearances he's made). So, it's really sort of ridiculous to bother aging him at all.

Jedi basically seems to have missed the main point of my argument anyway. I never said that Spider-Man should stay the way that 'I' want him to be, I said he should stay true to his original (and extremely successful) concept. The fact that it happens to be the way that I prefer the character, actually strengthens my position. Because, the reason that I, and thousand of others, started reading the comic in the first place (and the reason Spider-Man became so mega-popular) was because the original concept was so appealing to so many people. Thus, when you drastically change the entire formula it's no longer the same concept and thus not as appealing to the majority of your readers (old and new). So, my real point is basically.. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!!!"

Spider-Man was one of the most successful and iconic fictional characters of all time, and had basically remained unchanged for almost 30 years, when the powers that be decided to completely alter his entire dynamic by having him get married. Now instead of being locked into a young, single version of Peter Parker, you are locked into the older married version. So, where do you go from there? That's it. His personal life is now pretty much set in stone, and in order to change it, you either have to do something drastic, like divorce him or widow him, or something stupid like a magical ret-con. Both options further tainting his original personality and core concept. It's very hard to un-ring a (wedding) bell. So, Marvel really should have thought more long-term before permanently changing their best and most beloved character.

czeskleba said...

Again, a question for those saying it's okay to age Spider-Man to 30. Should he continue to age, to 50, 60, or 70? If not, why not? The same arguments that support him aging to 30 can be made in favor of continuing to age him.

Rob said:
As far as the movies, while they weren't married, Peter Parker had one GF-Mary Jane and the movies (not to mention the Broadway show) clearly showed they were "meant to be" loves.
**************************
An essential part of the character is that he has real problems that everyone can relate to. A significant part of that over the first 25 years of his history was that his romantic life was a soap opera, filled with ups and downs and misunderstandings. The movies presented him in that manner, even though Mary Jane was presented as his true love. Making Spider-Man happily married takes away a significant portion of the real problems that make him relatable. I think it's telling that the filmmakers chose not to proceed with a late-30's Tobey Maguire playing a happily-married middle-aged Spider-Man.

Diacanu said...

czeskleba-

*Shrug*
If the writing were good along the way, I'd age him to dust and bones.

Rob said...

An essential part of the character is that he has real problems that everyone can relate to.
***

Well of course no one at all can related to the problems that come from being married since we have never seen married couples lol

I would just like this admission, because it's honest

"I want it this way because that's how it was when i was a kid. It's not becuase of what I think is best for new readers, or the character's core."

I mean i just find it an amazing coincidence ;)


Anyway, i think kids are pretty adaptable. I was reading Lee/Ditko in Marvel Masterworks-dating Betty, Conway in Marvel Tales, and married Spider-Man in amazing, Spectacular and Web. all at the same time.

I wasn't confused. It was life. Pete's not a loser who would never get married. He's an everyman. They tend to.

czeskleba said...

Rob wrote:
I would just like this admission, because it's honest

"I want it this way because that's how it was when i was a kid. It's not becuase of what I think is best for new readers, or the character's core."
********************
Ah... you disagree with my opinion, so you're trying to devalue it by accusing me of dishonesty. Cool. Sophistry at its finest.

Surprisingly, I actually do believe that Spider-Man is more appealing to younger readers if he is young, still-in-school, and has a soap opera romantic life. I think those things are part of the core of his character. Nostalgia has nothing to do with my opinion. I'm not sure why it's difficult for you to believe that. As I've noted, the makers of the Spider-Man films seem to hold the same opinion.

Diacanu said...

Czeskleba-

"I think those things are part of the core of his character".

I don't agree.
I think they're just a core part of his origin story, and early years.

Is Superman only able to leap high, and being resistant to bullets, but not say, missles, a core part of his character?

Cuz, that's how he started out.

If so, that got ditched when they made him able to fly, and invincible to boot.

I don't hear anyone complaining.

Is being green a core part of Hulk's character?
Cuz, that wasn't even in the first issue, and Peter David ran that whole deal through a blender.

I really think you are just arguing from personal preference.

lpmiller said...

I guess it's what you prefer, Spiderman as Charlie Brown, who never wins a game and never kicks the ball, or Spiderman as Tarzan, who grows and changes, at least to a point. I think they are both valid views, but one leaves comics rather stilted, and it's not the 50's anymore. No, I don't expect a middle aged spiderman to bitch about his back while making stale quips at the child of Doc Ock. But there is a level of growth that is acceptable.

I mean the biggest arguments to end the marriage, by Marvel, involved the fact that married Spiderman was too happy. He was married, he was with the avengers, he had a great job with Tony Stark that got him cool tech and better suits. He wasn't the nerdy, well meaning guy who was a great hero with a lousy personal life.

Well, now he's not married, but he is happy, he's got a great job (that gets him better suits), a serious girlfriend, and not only is he an avenger, he's in the fantastic four too. So I fail to see what they changed, other then his marital state. And if that was such a big road block to him, then have him get divorced like half the couples in the world. It's a lot more relatable to the kids then a deal with the devil. To me, the argument is flawed, the proof of it being in the end result not being radically different, and the path to it was dishonest when it's all about being someone you can relate to.

Chris Arndt said...

The only comic book character I can think of that is actually an everyman might be Firestorm

William said...

**********
Rob said:
I wasn't confused. It was life. Pete's not a loser who would never get married. He's an everyman. They tend to.
**********

Yes, but from a storytelling point of view once you marry him off, it's pretty much FOREVER! END OF STORY! No more romantic tension between Pete and some new girl at work or school. No more wondering if Peter Parker will ever actually get married? No more possibility of him dating someone like the Black Cat (which was more interesting than his relationship with MJ, IMO), etc. It becomes just, "Hi honey, I'm home from beating up Doc Ock. What's for dinner? Meatloaf again?! Uhg?" ZZZZZZZZZ.

Also, I can argue that it would be out of character for a guy as responsible as Peter Parker to marry someone and drag them into his crazy and dangerous life. It's really a very selfish thing to do if you think about it. And I don't think PP would do that to someone he cared about.

And lastly, most of you people who are arguing that you prefer the married Spider-Man probably started reading the book after he was married, so that became your status quo for the character. You argue that all of us who don't like him married are just being nostalgic and pining for the way the book was when were young, and our only issue is we don't want it to change. Well isn't that exactly what all of you are doing as well? You grew up with married Spider-Man and that's the way you want him to stay, because that's the way you remember him.

lpmiller said...

I started reading spiderman in 1976 when I was 7 years old. So no.

And life has plenty of tension in it, including romantic tension, even after you are married. You can't have it both ways. You can't say being married doesn't relate to the young audience and they don't like it, then go on about romantic tension like 10 year olds are all about sexual frustration.

Gregg H said...

lpmiller said it great. Good job!

A certain level of growth and change is imperitive in order to keep the charachter from getting stale.
It seems like when companies do allow changes and growth in theor charachters, it is done in a very choppy and awkward way. It needs to be done in a more organic way than we generally see.
I don't see what is wrong with a charachter spending a solid ten years in a certain 'stage' of life and then progressing on to the next one.
I don't see anything wrong with Peter being an adolescent for ten years in high school, then transitioning unto young adulthood trying (and failing) at a college career, then actually finding success for a few years as a young adult. Then another decade as a full on adult in his mid/late 20s where he can get married, and mine that ground for a while. Then after a long while jump into the having kids thing when he is around thirty or so.
Even at that point, there is plenty of ground to cover with a thirty year old spider-man with a young child that he wouldn't be 'ruined'.
How old is Tony Stark supposed to be? I guess pushing 40 at least. He is viable. Why would Spidy NOT be viable?
Whenever I have this argument I do it the same way and I have never had anyone come up with a GOOD debunking.

The other side says 'he needs to be young, single, and a loser. It's part of the core of the charachter.'
I answer 'Why? Is Peter being in high school more important than his guilt over Uncle Ben? Does "With Great Power Must Also Come Great Responsibility" all of a sudden stop applying to him the minute he gets his diploma? Are teenagers the ONLY ones that can have the drama that comes with trying to reconcile a normal life with being a superhero?'
They say 'But having Peter finally getting the girl and being successful ruins the Charlie Brown aspect of the charachter. Him getting married is like Charlie Brown finally kicking the ball.'
My answer is 'Yeah. Poor guy. Before getting married, all he got to do was have hot Spider sex with the Black Cat and date girls like Betty, and have hot nerd chicks like Deb Whitman lusting after him. Truth is, getting married to MJ was actually a step DOWN for his romantic life. Much more realistic than the revolving door of hotties he had before.'
And there is the 'But having him married limits the kind of stories you can tell about him!' And that is assinine to be honest. For every single story idea that you can come up with that CAN NOT be done with him married, you can honestly come up with one that CAN NOT be done without him being married. It is a net push. Just like for every story that NEEDS him to live in NYC for, there is a story that can't be done because it NEEDS him to be in LA for. See the point?
At least I wish people would be honest and say that 'I don't LIKE the stories with him being married' instead of the intellectual dishonesty from when they say "they CAN'T tell any good stories with him married'.

Diacanu said...

So, there you have it. comics aren't stagnating because of horrible writers, horrible artists, horrible editors, or horrible suits...it's horrible readers.
You're all blame.
Hang your heads.
*Crosses arms, shakes head, nose in the air*
Humfh!

Diacanu said...

That was a bad post, and you're a bad man. I bet they ban you.

jimshooter said...

So what else is new?

William said...

**********
Greg H said…

I don't see anything wrong with Peter being an adolescent for ten years in high school, then transitioning unto young adulthood trying (and failing) at a college career, then actually finding success for a few years as a young adult. Then another decade as a full on adult in his mid/late 20s where he can get married, and mine that ground for a while. Then after a long while jump into the having kids thing when he is around thirty or so.
Even at that point, there is plenty of ground to cover with a thirty year old spider-man with a young child that he wouldn't be 'ruined'.

How old is Tony Stark supposed to be? I guess pushing 40 at least. He is viable. Why would Spidy NOT be viable?
Whenever I have this argument I do it the same way and I have never had anyone come up with a GOOD debunking.
**********

I don't have to debunk your argument because you basically debunked it yourself. You obviously don't really understand the appeal of long-running and eternally viable fictional characters.

However old Tony Stark is, he is still basically the same age he was when he became Iron Man. (At least he sure as hell isn't drawn to look any older). Tony Stark was always depicted as being somewhere in his mid-30s or so (back when he was wounded during the Vietnam war). He is also still single and still a playboy. Why? Because that's who is character is, and always has been!!! Why? Because it works!!! If that formula was changed, it wouldn't work anymore.

If you don't believe me, just ask the guys who came up with "New Coke".

Let's examine some other popular characters using the same flawed logic you present above. How old is Reed Richards supposed to be? Well, he pretty much appears to be very close to the same age today as when he first appeared in 1961 (silver temples and all). And Franklin Richards is still like 5 years old even though he was born around 1968!!! What about Bruce Banner? Hmmm, still seems to be about the same age as when he first appeared in 1962 as well. Matt Murdock, still around 30? Steve Rogers, still looks the same as when he was thawed out in 1964? Why? Because that is the age at which those characters work best. Sorry, but most people don't want to read about 65 year-old super heroes!!!

How about over at DC? Let's take Bruce Wayne for example. He's raised about 3 young sidekicks from the age of 10 into adulthood and he is still portrayed as being about 35 years old. Hell, he'd be over 50 by now (even in comic-book time)! It was once said by someone at DC (I can't remember who) that it was company policy that Superman is eternally 29 years old. Why? Because you don't change a winning formula. Simple as that.

But you seem to think that Spider-Man should be the exception to this rule and should be 40 years old by now. What a ridiculous notion.

Human nature is basically the same as it's always been. The same essential iconic concepts that appeal to one generation appeal to the next.

If you've ever read the works of Joseph Campbell you'll find that the same myths and stories have been told and retold for generations on end. Stories about a hero and the heroes' journey have been present in every culture on Earth from the dawn of mankind. It's something that is embedded in the human psyche. It is a formula that resonates throughout the human experience. When you deviate from that formula, the material ceases to have the same impact and meaning. It's the same with iconic comic-book characters. They are a sort of mythology that have been passed down from generation to generation, and each concept (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, etc.) only works when they are kept true to their original intent.

Spider-Man doesn't belong to one generation. He belongs to many, and his character should be preserved as close to it's original concept as possible for future readers to discover and enjoy as we did. Nuff said.

Pete said...

"He belongs to many, and his character should be preserved as close to it's original concept as possible for future readers to discover and enjoy as we did"

Two words: Ultimate Spider-Man.

In regards to the marriage. I was about 13 years old then and had read Spidey for a couple years. I didn't mind. I don't mind getting him out of marriage. What i DO mind is the way this happened. Making him a widower or a divorcee would be perfectly fine for me, making a deal with the devil is lousy writing. I stopped reading Spider-Man after One More Day, after more than 25 years following his adventures.

bmcmolo said...

I stopped reading Spidey in 1990 or so, when I quit all Marvels. The Michelinie years were just terrible. I know plenty of people loved them and more power to them, but coming off the Stern/ DeFalco years (and having devoured all the stories before it via Marvel Tales and oh-so-much-money on back issues) I was completely turned off. What had been a three course meal became a bunch of suzy-qs and bubble gum. Plus, that what-became-known-as-the-Image-style art was just awful. (Still feel that way - the stink of that style is still all over the place. Give me Johnny Craig over any of it.)

The wedding didn't bother me - who cares. I liked the way Peter Parker aged. As Stan Lee remarked, when John Romita took over the art, Peter Parker slowly and realistically transformed, slowly, from an awkward teenager to a good looking twentysomething. I believe Stan attributed this to John Romita Sr.'s background in romance comics - who knows? Outside of JayJay's lingerie profile above, he drew the sexiest Mary Jane. (Not that I'm a perv.)

The Ultimates line is I guess an interesting idea and all. I hate it, though. I'm a fossil; get off my damn lawn.

As for aging/ life changes, who knows. It's an interesting question, and I sympathize with many of the perspectives offered here. I think retcons and reboots are gimmicky and pretty lame, after awhile. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn't have this problem, but then again Sherlock wasn't locked into a new-adventure-every-month-for-decades format. Marvel was perfectly situated during Jim's EIC run because it didn't have the problems of maintaining a 50 year old continuity with the characters all looking 23. Right place, right time.

Making a deal with Mephisto to undo something is like the Marvel equivalent of DC's Yet-Another-Crises. Wish they could make a rule banning all that.

William said...

**********
Pete said...
Two words: Ultimate Spider-Man.
**********

Two more words: No thanks.

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

One more thing on "Ultimate Spider-Man". If I'm not mistaken, in the Ultimate Universe Peter Parker/Spider-Man is freaking DEAD! There is now a totally different person, Miles Morales, running around as Spider-Man, and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Yeah, that's a great example of how to preserve the integrity of a classic character for generations to come.

Way to prove your point there, Pete.

Matt Adler said...

I'm glad to hear your take on this, Jim. In the run-up to One More Day (the storyline that dissolved the marriage), Joe Quesada and Tom Brevoort frequently said that you made the decision to marry them because you found out that Stan was going to do it in the comic strip and you didn't want the comics to be left behind... and that you didn't consider the ramifications it would have on the character (in their opinion, that it would ruin the character by taking away the soap opera elements involved in having different romantic relationships).

Diacanu said...

Jim-
You know I was addressing Diacanu, right?
Hope there wasn't any confusion there...

Pete said...

William,

we all know that Miles Morales is a temporary thing. Sooner or later you get your fix of nerdy Peter Parker in High School again.

"integrity of a classic character for generations"

Who is to say that the integrity of the character is "keeping Peter Parker in High School"? Just because he was introduced a teenager he doesn't have to be one for all eternity.

The true integrity of the Spider-Man character is the moral core of Peter Parker. And this core is the same whether he is 15 or 25.

Anonymous said...

Gregg H, please learn to spell "character" if you're going to use the word so often.

Urk said...

I just wanted to flag Kgaard's comment above and totally agree. The aesthetic and practical problems relating to continuity, storyline, and at least the illusion of development are a symptoms of a friction between the comics medium and the delivery system, the never-ending serial. Kgaard is entirely right: the problem is structural.

Anonymous said...

I may be the youngest here (I was born in 1991, and didn't get into comics till 2008), but for some reason...I actually thought them as a married couple was fine. It was like, now Marvel has an answer to Elongated Man and Sue Dibny. I didn't mind it at all. It had nothing to do with what people want to read in the comics or anything else all of you have talked about earlier. I am on the side of those who absolutely abhorred One More Day and Brand New Day.

Mr. Shooter, what were your thoughts (if any) on those particular storylines?

Anonymous said...

"Now, having Mary Jane make a deal with Mephisto to undo the marriage? That violates a core character concept."

[MikeAnon--] I couldn't agree more, and I think the core concept of Spider-Man that was violated by "One More Day" is responsibility. Through an irresponsible choice Peter Parker inadvertently caused the death of his Uncle Ben, and his career as Spider-Man has been a continual acceptance of his responsibility from that day forward. But faced with the death of his Aunt May from another bad choice -- one that might well be deemed responsible given the larger issues involved, although it came to backfire on him personally -- instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, he chooses instead to *let the devil alter history to undo his marriage.* Even aside from the basic irresponsibility of forsaking your marriage vows, can there be a more irresponsible act than to allow the living personification of evil to alter history to erase a mistake you made? Especially seeing how that devil (1) acknowledges the existence of a good higher power and (2) explains that the undoing of the marriage will be a blow against that higher power? I mean, what is Spider-Man's choice supposed to teach kids -- that allegiance to one's blood relatives is more important than fidelity to one's spouse, or that love for one's family should supersede obedience to God (or at least all the values that the concept of God in the Marvel Universe is permitted to personify)? I hadn't actually thought of this before, but if someone were today to accuse comic books as being riddled with subversive programming to steer kids away from traditional values, I'd be inclined to agree. In any case, with "One More Day" I simply lost all respect for Spider-Man, and he has never in my eyes been the same caliber of hero since.

As for the Superman marriage vs. the Spider-Man marriage, I think was made the Spider-Man marriage work so much better is that (1) there was no love triangle between Mary Jane, Peter Parker, and Spider-Man that made things interesting and comical in the same way that the Lois/Clark/Superman triangle did, and (2) on a power scale Superman is just so far above any ordinary earthling that it's hard to conceive of any unpowered woman as being Superman's equal and partner, despite however intellectually and emotionally compatible Clark and Lois might be; whereas Spider-Man has always come across as more human-level than superhuman-level despite his prodigious abilities, and that allowed us to see Peter and Mary Jane on the same level, even when MJ was involved in Spider-Man's wars with supervillains like the Green Goblin or the Jackal; plus MJ was a supermodel, which made her "super" in a whole different-but-equal sort of way that forced Peter to stay on his toes and keep her happy. I just felt the Spider-Man/MJ match came across as more balanced than the Superman/Lois match. Or maybe I just find nosy, pushy women like Lois irritating. :) [--MikeAnon]

jimshooter said...

Dear Anonymous,

I never read "One More Day" or "Brand New Day," sorry. I gather that Mephisto undid Peter and Mary Jane's wedding. If I have that right, then I don't like the idea from the get-go. Deus ex machina. Feh. But, I think many mistakes were made with the handling and direction of Spider-Man before that, possibly including having him get married in the first place. The clone thing? Good grief. So anyway, it's like running the bases backwards -- you're out at third, you're out at second, you're out at first...who cares if you slide in under the tag at home?

Anonymous said...

I don't really like Spider-Man so I don't really give a hoot either way (yes, I'm a heretic), but I gave in and read the last issue of "One More Day." Yeah, deus ex machina and all that. But you know what? It was a well done story. I really got into the characters and situation. And considering the alternatives that Howard Mackie and John Byrne talked about (The Shaper of Worlds), the story was done as well as it could be done.

If there had been more stories of that caliber, who knows, I might've become a regular reader.

--Rick Dee

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your take, Mr. Shooter (I'm the one who asked you about the One More/Brand New Day storylines). Though I have to say your point brings up the whole argument of 'instead of stunts or such, comics need better writers/artists to stay aloft'--maybe that could've been applied to the post-wedding Spider-Man years. Then those two story arcs wouldn't have happened--heck, even the sequel Clone Saga wouldn't have been so prolonged and badly handled as a result. Many people, as you see in all these comments, say that the story was badly handled and Peter was completely out of character on this one. But that wasn't even the first time Aunt May had died/been dying. During the 90's Clone Saga, she passed away. Peter managed to get over that--couldn't he have done the same for this? Or maybe they just shouldn't have unmasked him in Civil War.

But when it comes down to it (depressingly), the corporate stuff usually has more influence, right? They want to make more moolah off the web-slinger, they need to tweak him to make him relevant again--that's when things go south for the character.

As an experienced editor (and writer), let me just ask, to start off (and continue in another comment at some point)--do you think they should have just let Aunt May pass on?

jimshooter said...

The comic book industry today is rife with creators who don't know their craft -- creators who are in love with their ignorance and defiantly cling to their destructive self-indulgence. That's the greatest reason for the decline of the industry. It's not poor distribution, lack of promotion or anything else. If there was a comic book shop on every street corner with big neon signs, people still wouldn't buy un-entertaining, impenetrable, rehashed, derivative masturbatory crap.

Ill-conceived storylines, reliance upon "shocking" or sensational events, dependence on gimmicks and marketing ploys, oppressively derivative material and the dearth of new ideas are all evidence of visionless, clueless creative leadership at the top and untrained, clueless (though often very talented) creators on the firing line.

It's really not the corporate execs. Yes, they want to generate revenues and increase shareholder equity, but almost without exception they have no idea of how to make that happen and, therefore, rely upon the comics people, from creative management to the troops.

Whether Aunt May dies or not isn't the question. If she dies, does it mean anything beyond a brief sales spike because collectors/speculators think they'll be able to make a profit selling the book later? That is the question. Back when, Stan and company won our hearts and minds. I cared about Spider-Man and the other Marvel characters as though they were friends. I cared every time Aunt May got sick. That's what good creative work does.

Sometimes I think that unless you're around my age and you experienced the total involvement we, the readers, had with Spider-Man and the other Marvel peoples' lives -- yes, they seemed more like people than characters -- back in the early 1960's, courtesy of Stan, Jack, Steve, Dick, and many other creators who had a clue, you just can't grok what it should be like.

If we as an industry now routinely created wonderful, compelling works, if comics were as good as they could be and ought to be -- and as clear and accessible as most TV, movies, books and other entertainment media offerings -- the audience would find us. Just as the audience found a wonderfully well-written property in a genre that had pretty much been confined to the fringes before, Harry Potter.

Matt Adler said...

But it should be the job of the editor to prevent bad stories from being published. There were probably just as many bad writers and bad ideas back in the day-- but the people in charge of the characters were better stewards.

Anonymous said...

"The clone thing? Good grief."

[MikeAnon:] The clone thing was actually a pretty inspired way to hit the reset button on Spider-Man without violating continuity. It even got rid of the marriage by sending Peter and MJ off to some other state where he got depowered and a science job (i.e. getting the happily ever after he always deserved). Meanwhile we still have Peter Parker (in the guise of "Ben Reilly") back at his sad sack, paycheck to paycheck, single life with a new supporting cast and everything. The problem is that Marvel got such a backlash from fans that they chickened out on the story and starting undoing it almost 2 months in. That's what I find disgusting about the Big 2 these days: You can't count on them to stick by any story they've done. What you buy today could be completely invalid tomorrow. Marvel isn't quite as bad at this as DC (though Marvel nearly hit that low with their "Chapter One"/"Lost Generation" experiment), but still: Spidey's a clone, no he's not; Cap's dead, no he's not; Bucky's dead, no he's not, yes he is; Prof X can't walk, now he can, no wait he can't, okay *now* he can; etc., etc. -- with all this back-and-forth nonsense, what's the point? [--MikeAnon]

Urk said...

"Sometimes I think that unless you're around my age and you experienced the total involvement we, the readers, had with Spider-Man and the other Marvel peoples' lives -- yes, they seemed more like people than characters -- back in the early 1960's, courtesy of Stan, Jack, Steve, Dick, and many other creators who had a clue, you just can't grok what it should be like."

Jim, I think that what your talking about is part of a historic shift in the industry, one that in some ways is like the big bang of today's expansion into serious money movies. (That's kind of an unformulated thought that I want to think more about) I also wanted to say that I'm about 14 years younger than you and that sense of engagement was still very strong as I grew into comics.

Anonymous said...

(The guy who asked if they should have let AM die)
So, what you're saying is...people are right about BOTH parties being at fault?

chuckdawg1999 said...

Anybody know who the actress was who played Mary Jane?

JayJayJackson said...

Tara Shannon, I believe.

Stephen said...

Interesting stuff here. For those who are saying that geriatric superhero stories can't work, take a look at British superhero Supergran (she had books and a TV series but not, as far as I know, a comic book). Kids of the 80s enjoyed the books and the show, and there's no reason why that couldn't be replicated in comics, if the stories are well written.

And for those who say that the medium is incompatible with ageing characters, Judge Dredd has been featuring in British comic 2000AD since 1977, and ages in real time. The comic has outlived pretty much all of its British contemporaries (the only exception I can think of is what's now Doctor Who Magazine, which has been a magazine containing a comic strip, rather than an actual comic, for most of that time) and is still a commercial success (as is Dredd's other title Judge Dredd Megazine).

So basically, having Spidey and MJ married, and even giving them a kid or two, doesn't necessarily mean the death or decline of the comic. As long as there's good writing, and especially if writers take advantage of the new stories they can tell as a result of Spidey ageing, then it can work just as well - if not better - than leaving him in stasis for decades worth of stories.

Anonymous said...

"For those who are saying that geriatric superhero stories can't work...."

[MikeAnon:] I would never say that anything *can't* work, but if you're looking for audience appeal, starting with a geriatric superhero is probably not the way to go. I'm reminded of WARRIORS OF PLASM, which featured (IIRC) a grandmother, an older black preacher, a young and naive department store counter girl, a one-armed overweight ex-factory worker, and an abrasive ex-military guy. Granted, the premise of WoP was that Lorca took about 5000 people at random and gave the survivors powers, and you can't get much more random than that assortment, but seriously, there was not one of those characters with whom I felt I could identify or even wanted to identify that much. Of those five, I think the grandmother was the most palatable to me just for her old-fashioned do-right going-gets-tough-you-get-going nature, but she was kinda dull, too, so far as her home life went. Almost like, "What if Captain America were a married grandma?" -- interesting concept, but is it really something I want to read about? (And, let's face it: Sex appeal is at least one component of why most guys read female superheroes. Even as fit as grandma was, I just cannot go there. I'm just...nah. Especially w/ the wedding ring in the way to boot.) [--MikeAnon]

jimshooter said...

Dear Stephen,

At DEFIANT we planned a title starring a grandma, Glory, that sadly never saw the light of day.

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] Interesting aside, if anyone cares:

"...WARRIORS OF PLASM...featured (IIRC) a grandmother, an older black preacher, a young and naive department store counter girl, a one-armed overweight ex-factory worker, and an abrasive ex-military guy."

It hit me as I was rereading my post that I specified the race of the older preacher but not anyone else's race. At first I thought this was standard white bias on my part -- I'm white myself, so I'm not as inclined to note the race of white characters as I am of nonwhite characters. But when I went to remove "black" from my description, I stopped because something felt wrong about doing that. I felt as if I would be giving an inaccurate or at least less specific picture if I were to just say "older preacher." I'm wondering now if that's actually racial bias or if that's because there really are in fact different stereotypes associated with "white preacher" characters and "black preacher" characters, and the stereotype assoicated with the "white preacher" is negative whereas the "black preacher" stereotype is positive. Am I right about these stereotypes? I'm trying to remember the last few "white preacher" characters I saw in comics, and most of them were written by Garth Ennis, and he wrote them as either intolerant, brainless bigots or overliberalized, wouldn't-know-doctrine-from-a-hole-in-the-ground independent thinking "heroes." But the "black preacher" character by contrast immediately resonates as a man of genuine faith who cares and works for the poor and downtrodden. And I honestly felt that if I excluded "black" from my description of the preacher character from WARRIORS OF PLASM, I would have been serving up the wrong image on account of the stereotypes. Am I wrong about these stereotypes? Anyone seen any genuine "white preacher" characters or any villainous "black preacher" characters lately? (Not that religious figures get all that much airplay in comics to begin with.)

P.S.: Note that I am only talking about "white preacher" characters, not "white priest" characters. Priests and preachers resonate differently, and white priests come off positive compared to white preachers, I suspect since with priests we tend to see the office ("black robe = good guy") first and the man second. [--MikeAnon]

Anonymous said...

"At DEFIANT we planned a title starring a grandma, Glory, that sadly never saw the light of day."

MikeAnon: I picked up Glory #0 when it was split over 3 issues of the montly Overstreet magazine. I remember it had some interesting concepts -- e.g., family at the center of one's life, Depression-era values, a husband holding down the fort while the wife goes off to war. I know I would have picked it up, especially since I was in full-on OCD mode where collecting DEFIANT was concerned, but would I have really enjoyed it? I don't know. I was very, very mixed on a lot of the DEFIANT titles. I never really felt like I was "getting" the points of the stories, or what the overarching themes of the individual titles were supposed to be, especially with titles like DOGS OF WAR or PRUDENCE AND CAUTION. I would love to hear the history of the DEFIANT books someday, not just the company battles but the process of developing the DEFIANT universe and the books themselves and the themes and messages those books were intended to communicate. [--MikeAnon]

Gregg H said...

William-
You have managed to pack a whole lot of wrong into this discussion. Here is why I say this.

“You obviously don't really understand the appeal of long-running and eternally viable fictional characters”
You obviously don’t really understand that I have an opinion that is entirely valid and shared by many others as evidenced here as well as many other places. Sorry if I am not automatically wrong because you say so.

“However old Tony Stark is, he is still basically the same age he was when he became Iron Man. … If that formula was changed, it wouldn't work anymore.”
You give a whole paragraph saying that Tony is a CERTAIN way because that is how he always was and must always be, and that is the only way he can be successful. First off, you are jumping to a completely unsubstantiated conclusion.
What in the world makes you think that Tony’s age/romantic status has anything particularly significant to do with his popularity (popularity that up until the movie was hardly of an iconic level to begin with)? He has gone through a ton of changes from being sick/crippled/healthy, filthy rich/dirt poor/moderately successful, ladies’ man/committed in love/socially uninvolved. You are making the unsupported claim that he always reverts to form because it is the only thing that works. It is pretty clear from an objective appraisal of the industry as a whole (particularly the big 2) that everything always reverts to what a particular grew up with and HE thinks it MUST be that way. It has nothing to do with what works, it has everything to do with personal preferences. Look at Geoff Johns has done with Green Lantern, Flash and Young Justice/Teen Titans. All three properties were pretty successful but Johns HAD to revert to previous type because it was what HE wanted, not because the market necessarily DEMANDED it.
Furthermore, if the factors that you are attributing as what certain characters HAVE to be are what many people see as window dressing. Teenage angst over getting picked on in high school vs. power and responsibility? What one do you REALLY think wins out?

“Spider-Man doesn't belong to one generation. He belongs to many, and his character should be preserved as close to it's original concept as possible for future readers to discover and enjoy as we did. Nuff said.”
I guess that at least some people agree with that sentiment, no matter how badly it is applied. Look at Superman now. Back to leaping over buildings and only being proof against exploding shells. No heat vision etc. Is that the ONLY version that can work? Or is that only A version, that may or may not work based on the quality of the work? Or is the 1970’s version the ONLY one that can work? Or what about the Superboy version from the Legion? Is that the ONLY version that can work? Or the version of Super Can-Do- Literally-Annything Man no matter how little sense it might make? But you seem to think that there is only ONE valid interpretation of the character. So what is it?

Gregg H said...

“…only works when they are kept true to their original intent.”
So you would agree with the original intent that Peter Parker be shown as a flawed young man with powers, GROWING and LEARNING as he AGES into a truly realized hero, since that is exactly how Stan and Steve wrote the character. Good to know.

The biggest thing you are not taking into account is that a huge part of these characters is their HISTORY. If it wasn’t for the decades of rich texture, these characters wouldn’t be iconic enough to be worthy to carry on to the next generation. Look at your example of Iron Man. On a very basic level, Tony Stark is a whole lot like DC’s Mr. Terrific. Brilliant, successful, rich, popular with the chicks, builds really cool stuff, also a super hero. Will Mr. Terrific EVER be 1/10 the character of Iron Man? Hell no.
What sets them apart? An extra 40 years worth of stuff that is built into the character. The big selling point of Civil War (and an important plot point in several other stories that were actually written well) was Tony Stark and Steve Rogers leading opposing sides in the ultimate conflict (it was such a cool idea that was mutilated in the execution).
That story has zero gravity if it was written in 1965 when the characters were virtual strangers, but written today, it should have SERIOUS impact and the fans should really care because it is something BIG. That is because of the history. With the history there is by definition growth and change.

Often super heroes are compared to legendary figures like King Arthur, Lancelot, D’Artanion, Beowulf, Robin Hood, Achilles, Ulysses, and others out of mythology and fiction. Here’s the rub. Does pretty much EVERYONE know who they are, and know something about them? Pretty much, yeah. But how interesting are any of them if the stories only went so far and stalled? Would King Arthur be regarded the same without Le Morte D’Arthur being written to show where the story goes? It would seem that you would prefer that Arthur becomes a wise and benevolent King, and then an endless series of stories were written about him sitting there ruling Camelot just like that for all time. As if anyone would actually care after the first century or so.

Anonymous said...

"However old Tony Stark is, he is still basically the same age he was when he became Iron Man....If that formula was changed, it wouldn't work anymore."

[MikeAnon:] Actually, one of the most entertaining changes Marvel once made to the status quo of Iron Man was to have Earth-616's Tony die and be replaced by his younger self from an alternate past (or something like that...AVENGERS: THE CROSSING was good but confusing). I ate that stuff up, but then Marvel ditched it for HEROES REBORN (the Iron Man portion of which was pretty decent under Scott Lobdell but one-note and stale under Jeph Loeb) and HEROES RETURN (which cemented with me the idea that Marvel is really not going to let anything change anymore). [--MikeAnon]

jimshooter said...

Dear MikeAnon,

Re: WARRIORS OF PLASM
Oh, sure, but you throw the word "old" around with reckless abandon! Sincerely, old Jim.

OM said...

...Gregg H. Sez: "It would seem that you would prefer that Arthur becomes a wise and benevolent King, and then an endless series of stories were written about him sitting there ruling Camelot just like that for all time."

...Hey, it worked for Hal Foster!

Harry said...

Just to throw in my tuppence worth: by the time I was BORN, let alone when I first became aware of Spider-Man, Peter Parker had long since left high school, so, to me, while I was aware of what happened while he was there, that period of his life was always just history. By the time I encountered him in comics, Peter had left college, but was still single, and, as such, he was somehow believably 'ageless'. Did the marriage tie the character down? Maybe it didn't help, but I'd say his marital status wouldn't have mattered had every single story told after he tied the knot been compelling and entertaining. If they wanted a single Peter Parker again, as they now have, then excuses that a divorce would age him don't wash with me: it's more realistic to have a character defined by a strong sense of responsibility and always striving to do the right thing make a deal with an ersatz Satan to undo his marriage just so that his aunt can live than it is to have him divorce or seperate from MJ???

Anonymous said...

"Oh, sure, but you throw the word 'old' around with reckless abandon! Sincerely, old Jim."

[MikeAnon:] Hey, I never once said "old"! I always said "older"! Ironically, "older" gives a younger impression than "old." Compare, "She's dating an old man!" with, "She's dating an older man!" "Old" is categorical; "older" is relative. Like, to the 20-ish girl I asked out a couple weeks ago, my nearly-40 self was an older man. :(

P.S.: Wow, this site works so much better under Google Chrome than IE7! [--MikeAnon]

jimshooter said...

Dear MikeAnon,

I stand corrected. But, I hope you know I was kidding about the "old" thing.

I also hope things went well with the 20-ish girl, and that I mean sincerely. Best, older Jim.

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] But of course!

Things didn't go well with the 20-ish girl, though. But that's old news. Categorically. :) [--MikeAnon]