Two Spider-Man Questions (Amazing #546)

There has been much drama over Spider-Man making a deal with Mephisto (aka the devil) to make his marriage never have happened in order to save his dear old aunt’s life. (Man, you only get to write sentences like that when you’re talking about superhero comics.) This is called “Brand New Day”, and the story started in Amazing Spider-Man #546.

Marvel has just announced that this issue sold out (which doesn’t mean much if they won’t say how many they printed). They’re going to print a new issue with a variant cover (of course). So my first question is: when are comic customers going to learn that all that counts is sales? If you don’t like the concept or think it’s a dumb choice, don’t buy it. Whatever you say gets ignored if Marvel sells comics.

Second question: This all came about because head honcho Joe Quesada doesn’t like the idea of his supposedly young hero being married. He thinks there are stories you can only tell about a single superhero. (Which shows a distinct failure of imagination.) He wants to do cheap-and-easy romance stories. Oh, no! How will Peter get a date with Girl X when he has to leave the coffee shop in the middle to fight Doc Ock? Should Peter kiss the girl superhero or the girl next door? (Are there any left?)

Yet divorce wasn’t an option. Why, exactly?

If divorce would stain the character, what does that imply? And what does that say about Quesada’s attitude towards the huge number of readers with divorced parents or spouses or other relatives? And since when is a broken marriage a worse moral choice than making a deal with the devil?

The fact is, divorce implies the possibility of reconciliation. (Viz The Parent Trap and all those other fantasies.) Having Spider-Man and his wife of over 20 years (real-time) divorce would give fans an opening to constantly badger Quesada and his crew about the eventual reunion story. Quesada doesn’t want that. He wants to wave a magic eraser instead, because he’s interested in the lazy way out. At least, that’s my opinion.

Sheesh. Trafficking with Satan over simple no-fault divorce. Only in superhero comics. Or should that be superhore?

Update: John Jakala has a terrific conversation with his non-comic-reading wife, trying to explain the situation, and she has a wonderful idea. As she says,

“[Y]oung adults never get divorced? Look at entertainment ‘news’ — it’s almost all gossip about which celebrities are getting married and divorced. They should have gone in the other direction and made Spider-Man’s divorce as trashy and tawdry as possible! Say that Spider-Man was caught sleeping with Wonder Woman! Have there be all kinds of rumors circulating about illegitimate Spider-Babies crawling around! Insinuate that Spider-Man is gay!! It could have made him even more interesting to kids who follow the lives of ‘stars’ like Britney and Jessica Simpson.”

“Well, his wife is a supermodel, so I guess they could have played up that angle and tried to cash in on that whole aspect of popular culture.”

“See? I’m a genius! I should be writing these comic books!”

Yes, yes, she should.


21 Responses to “Two Spider-Man Questions (Amazing #546)”

  1. John Jakala Says:

    Hee! My wife said the same things when I tried to explain the break-up of the Spider-marriage to her. What a mess. (I hadn’t even thought about Marvel not liking the divorce option because it’s not final enough, but even so, I imagine there will still be comic fans pestering Marvel creators about when they’re going to undo OMD and restore the marriage. Hey, if 20 years of stories can be so easily swept under the rug, why not this storyline?)

  2. James Schee Says:

    The first question’s answer is easy, and I know you know the answer Johanna. A lot, if not most, of fans won’t ever really learn that lesson. Because at the end of the day they just want to read a Spider-Man book good, bad or what have you.

    You could put the greatest comic book ever published with a no name character and non-superhero fan favorite. Next to the latest issue of Spider-Man, and more often than not that fan’s likely to pick up the Spidey comic.

    I do wonder with there being 3 versions of Spider-Man now if some might move to a different version. Yet honestly with so many fans being about continuity, I expect them to stay with the “real” one.

    The second one is the odd one for me, as usually if you look at both companies I think most people would say over the length of their existence that DC had a more conservative take on superheroes than Marvel. Marvel superhero characters were younger and edgier while DC’s were parental figures.

    Yet Quesada has made decisions like characters can’t smoke, no children out of wedlock (the Gwen Stacy twins couldn’t be Peter’s because that’d mean Peter had sex out of wedlock), and now no divorce!

    Yet oddly deals with the devil are okay…

  3. Lucas Siegel Says:

    Johanna, the one thing to remember about sell-out announcements, is it means it sold out at Diamond. The orders for this book were placed two months ago, with cut-off being about a month ago, before #545 ever came out. There could be tens of thousands of copies still sitting on retailers shelves, meaning the actual comic fans aren’t buying it (I know at my LCS, they ordered about 30 extra beyond pull list customers, and currently have 28 of them still sitting at the front counter). So, hopefully, we’ll start seeing a change with #549, the first one that can be adjusted based on reaction to the end of OMD. Then again, I’m probably being WAY too optimistic.
    Just remember, Omega Flight #1 sold out at diamond, too.

  4. Johanna Says:

    What’s sad is that in this case, some of the fan-generated ideas (like using Loki instead of Mephisto) are SO much better than what got published. But what should we expect from a company that’s already played with hints of incest? (The Gwen Stacy kids story.)

    James, yes, there are multiple versions, but I don’t enjoy any of them. And I agree, the “real” one matters to the customer base. I just find the “no divorce” rule so oddly repressed.

    Lucas, great reminder, yes. I was going to say “what’s Omega Flight?” but I think that’s your point.

  5. Scott Says:

    I was living with parents talking divorce when Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four were talking the same (back in the 140’s), so it was reassuring to me that Reed and Sue resolved things (as my parents eventually did).

    It seems like Marvel could have done something socially relevant by dealing with a divorced superhero… since it is more accepted these days and there are likely some who would like to read about an amicable divorce for a good (so far as divorce goes) reason (to save the spouse from harm).

    Also, as Johanna pointed out, the carrot of reconciliation can also be a powerful story device if used well.

    Perhaps JoeQ was thinking that married readers wanted to live vicariously through a single Spider-Man?

  6. Richard Marcej Says:

    What this whole fiasco proves to me is that Quesada isn’t too creative.

  7. James Schee Says:

    Wasn’t the whole House of M thing a universe changing event with a new timeline? (That was my impression looking from the outside, never read it.)

    If so it seems to me that it would have been a better time to make this move. They could have just said that not everything went back to the way they were, as the universe isn’t so easy to put back.

  8. Bill D. Says:

    I remember reading somewhere that Quesada didn’t want Spidey divorced for the same reason he didn’t want him married… he thought that “aged” Spider-Man. The whole point of this exercise to make it so that Spider-Man never really reached adulthood. And like Kevin Church said a week or two back, I can’t help but wonder if that’s some sort of commentary from Marvel about its fans.

  9. Johanna Says:

    James: Who can keep up? I have event fatigue: too many one after the other.

    Bill: There’s also the point someone made that even with the changes, you’ve got a mid-20s single guy living at home with a parent-type. Which says “loser”. The character’s already too old. Once he got 40 years worth of stories under his belt, there’s no way he can’t be.

  10. Torsten Adair Says:

    I am not a regular Spider-Man reader, although he was my favorite as a child, and it was his new costume which made me a collector and reader of comics. I read the last chapter of One More Day, and was disappointed. Peter is out of character. The couple do not consider May’s wishes. Peter is making a deal with the devil… But I like the whole WHAT IF idea, which Marvel has botched. How far back was the story sent? Are we now back in the 70s with shag carpets, feathered hairstyles, and ducks running for President? How does this affect the current Marvel history with fascist Iron Man and hidden Skrulls? And, most important of all, if only one little thing, the marriage, was changed, and we’re back in the past, doesn’t that just make Amazing Spider-Man “Essential Untold Tales of Classic Spider-Man”?
    Oh well… lots of other stuff worth reading, like The Invention Of Hugo Cabret.

  11. rich Says:

    “‘See? I’m a genius! I should be writing these comic books!”
    “Yes, yes, she should.”

    No, no, she shouldn’t.

    Gay insinuations, and spider-babies??

    The deal with the devil is looking better …

  12. rich Says:

    “And like Kevin Church said a week or two back, I can’t help but wonder if that’s some sort of commentary from Marvel about its fans.”

    Some people have wondered if it isn’t saying more about Joe Q … some suspect that he’s living his mid-life crisis through Peter Parker.

  13. Johanna Says:

    At least she’s got a lot more imagination and freshness than most working on the books today.

  14. Jim Perreault Says:

    Johanna wrote:

    James, yes, there are multiple versions, but I don’t enjoy any of them.

    Not even Spidergirl? That’s perhaps my favorite Marvel book at the moment. Or doesn’t that count?

    Jim

  15. Johanna Says:

    Spider-Girl has so many ties to Marvel continuity I’m unfamiliar with that I’ve never felt like I’m included in it. I like it as a concept, but not as a reader, unfortunately.

  16. Jim Perreault Says:

    Spider-Girl has so many ties to Marvel continuity I’m unfamiliar with that I’ve never felt like I’m included in it.

    Interesting. One of the reasons I’ve always liked the book is that it has stayed away from traditional Spider-man villains, and focusing on newer characters.

    Although, I have recently found out that many of the characters that I had thought were original to the series are in fact DeFalco creations from earlier stories. But they still are relatively newer characters, so I still find that a good thing.

    There seem to be a lot of references to the clone saga, which I’ve never read, but they are far enough into the background that they don’t bother me.

    Jim

  17. Johanna Says:

    I think that’s just a difference of temperament — I know they’re older (or related to older characters or plotlines), and that knowledge gets in my way. You’re able to ignore it, which can be a useful skill.

  18. Patrick Says:

    SO glad I hardly read this shit any more. The really amusing part of the whole thing is that Spider-Man’s unmasking, the great media event that was going to have such great repercussions for the character and the entire Marvel universe, has also been undone with this story.

  19. Johanna Says:

    Is that what did it? I was talking over this with curious work friends who don’t read comics (mainly because of the divorce! headlines in the media), and one of them knew he’d unmasked. He asked if this was what reversed it, and I wasn’t sure of the specifics.

  20. Al Says:

    I think there’s a lot to be said for both. It does make Peter seem old, but he’s not a young guy anymore. Quesada want to present moral values… sorta… but this event seems like an event for event’s sake and with the devil?

    But I think it works from a celebrity standpoint. How old was Britney Spears when she divorced? Mid-twenties I am assuming. I can picture Mary Jane leaving Peter, especially if her career took off.

    And incidently, I think Joe Quesada is VERY creative, but he shouldn’t run with every idea that pops into his head.

  21. Jim Perreault Says:

    The thing I find interesting about this is that it marks at least the third time that they’ve tried to get Spider-man “back to his roots.”

    The first being the badly received clone-saga. Personally, I think having Peter retire in order to raise a kid and have his clone substitute for him is a great idea. Too bad it was badly handled.

    The second being Ultimate Spider-man which was very well received. Which begs the question, why do it again?

    What I find sad is that they have assembled a very strong creative team (Dan Slott was born to write Spider-man) but there is no way I’m going near the title with this going on. I feel that writers should move characters forwards and not backwards.

    Jim

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