In reply to the Editor's recent rave, Current Spidey — Not So Bad After All?.
I’m going to have to side on the side of “Good Lord the entire handling of this crapfest blows chunks!” Sure, sure there have been occasional glimpses of decent stories, but generally speaking, those have been in non-Spidey books (New Avengers, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel). As a rule, the stories that have been appearing in Spidey have been poorly conceived, poorly written, poorly executed, and well, just poorly written.
Yeah sure I do like the return of Harry Osborn (and must admit I didn’t realize how much I missed Pete’s friendship with Harry), and I really enjoyed the story where we learned that Flash lost his legs in Iraq (Afghanistan?), but that’s really about it. The early stories has Spidey tripping over himself, unable to catch or even hang onto the bumblingest of criminals. There are just so many out of character bits that just ruin the story (Handing over a vial of his radioactive blood to Mr. Negative, the cops shooting Sarah-Palin-like from a helicopter at a fleeing Spidey, spraying a neighborhood with automatic fire. The entire Spider-Killer thing). Peter getting drunk (later clumsily retconned to mock-drunk) and shagging his roommate, shacking up with Black Cat (who has reverted to her ditzy ‘80s personality).
And let’s not get started on the whole “deal with the devil” thing. Let’s ignore for a moment how abysmally stupid and ill thought-out that moronically in-bred of an idea that was, and skip ahead to the fact that Peter Parker is every bit as stand-up and moral a character as is Captain America. He is essentially incorruptible. We’ve seen him web up a newspaper and web down a dime to the newspaper vendor, he will save villains from being killed, and allow them to escape so as to rescue innocents.
He doesn’t make deals with the devil.
He has already seen his beloved Aunt die once, and she was ready to go.
I understand that you want to change the dynamic of the comic, that it has grown old and staid, but this entire scenario just sucks so badly that the premise of it completely ruins the entirety of everything that follows. I confess, I was never that big a fan of the marriage (except to say that what comicbook nerd teenager wouldn’t want to be married to a supermodel? So I think that Quesada has completely misjudged his audience, but more on that in a minute.) So I’m not really that upset that Peter and MJ are no longer married, but this is the most stupid way to end it.
The premise is that a married and divorced Peter makes him too old for the “teenage” audience. Only there IS NO TEEN AGE AUDIENCE! Most of the folks you see at conventions and comic shops (or at least the ones that I see) are older (unles they are with their parents). All the information I see is that the comic-reading audience is older, more mature (25-35), with a significant portion of it even older. The creation of Ultimate Spidey, Marvel Adventure Spidey, Spider-Girl, and even the Mini Marvels were all designed to appeal to a younger audience, BUT MARVEL IS NOT ACTIVELY PURSUING THAT MARKET!
You know how I know this? Chris Giarrusso (Mini Marvels) has indicate on-line that Marvel is not actively promoting the Mini-Marvels, Marvel Adventures generally cannot be found in book stores, supermarkets, and comicbook spinner racks that are easily accessible to mass markets and, well kids. (need more proof? The variant covers are targeted to the collector’s market, not the average fan, and the collections are targeted to an older audience that frequents book stores, not comic shops, and don’t have the time or interest to stop in every month (week) to pick up comics on a hold list).
All of this indicates that Marvel is still courting an older, specialized audience, and not looking to pick up new, younger fans. (If they were interested in acquiring new fans, they would produce new specialty comics to tie into the opening of their blockbuster films to give away to opening night audiences, they would take out ads in kid and parent mags promoting their lines of kid-friendly comics, but no, they ONLY advertise in comicbook related magazines (which are sold to older, collectors).
But that all is secondary to the question of the horrendously-bad stories and heavy-handed (sloppy) editing on the book itself.
No my friends, this stuff is every bit as bad as the worst sections of Spidey history we’ve ever read, in fact it is worse, because the people foisting it upon us already know how bad all of those previous attempts at retcons have been, and how badly-received the fan-base views them.
Further, they are trying to tell us that by simply making the marriage go away (something that sucked when the TV show Dallas did it with the resurrection of Bobby Ewing), they are making the book more accessible to this younger (non-existent) audience, then they spice the book up by both dumbing down the plots and making it “spicier” by having Peter starting to nail everything in a skirt, which only serves to give lie to their own trumped up rational.
Please don’t try to tell me that any of this can be justified. They could have done most (if not all) of the good stuff without ending the marriage the way they did. (Hey, you want the marriage gone? Divorce them, you know how many folks get married and divorced after a couple of years? You know how many teens live in mixed-family homes with re-married parents? I have teens and quite a number of their friends parents are divorced, so a generation ago having a divorced character might have been a reason to “age” the audience, but kids today are far savvier about this than we were.
You need Peter single? Fine, have Peter get divorced (I’m more a Gwen fan myself. — Hey you want Gwen back, why not a plot that revolves around the fact that the Gwen that Osborn knocked up not really Gwen. After the real Gwen rejected the Pedo-chasing crazy SOB, so Osborn kidnapped her, cloned her, put the real Gwen in stasis, had sex with the clone, then killed her when she reverted to type and rejected him. The real Gwen has been locked up in one of Osborn’s hidden labs all this time. At the end of Dark Reign it comes to light and we can get the whole gang back. Now THAT’s a decent storyline.
As for the Mephisto thing, you have to get rid of that as well. Spidey is every bit as moral and upstanding as is Captain America (I’ve heard at least one writer go so far as to call Spidey my generation’s Captain America. Save for the Super Soldier serum (a radioactive spider bite), being wrapped in the American flag, and all of the military training, Pete IS Cap. But all of that is besides the point.
You want kids to follow Spidey, well, not having the character make deals with the Devil is a good start (I’m still surprised that some right-wing, religious group hasn’t latched onto this title and decried it an abomination). Plus, let’s completely overlook that the audience can buy aliens, super powered people, civilizations underwater, time-travel, mysticism, etc. BUT NOT DIVORCE? I mean, really.
Plus (and here is my real argument). If these writers and editors were any good at what they did, they could MAKE the series work BY WORKING WITHIN THE CONFINES OF THE PREVIOUSLY-ESTABLISHED RULES! What editorial did is cheat. That’s right, cheat. There is a very good Jim Carry film called The Majestic, where Carry plays a film writer sitting in a meeting of Hollywood Execs who are “fixing” his script (“Does the animal have to be a monkey? Can’t it be a dog? Kids love dogs.”) This is writing by committee and it blows. Sure, sure, alter some stuff if you have to so as to make it work, but don’t so completely contort the character so as to make him something he so clearly wasn’t.
Sorry guys, I’m a Spider-fan, and will continue to buy the title, but I weep when I think of how great it used to be, and how just plain bad it is now. I’m personally looking forward to the day (hopefully soon) when upper management changes (which it historically has done every 10 years or so), so that a new regime will enact sweeping new changes, returning Spidey to what he used to be (which is, of course, consistently readable).