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The editors vs. the Spider-marriage

December 21st, 2007

Of the A-list comic book heroes, who is most like his readers?

Superman, an alien from another planet? Batman, a billionaire industrialist? Or Spider-Man, a nerdy teenager?

The answer—and the character’s appeal—is fairly obvious.

But, over the years, Spider-Man, the nerdy teenager, grew into a self-assured man who happened to be married to a supermodel, Mary Jane Watson-Parker. Today, over 20 years after the wedding, Spider-Man is just as much like his fans as is, say, the Martian Manhunter.

The editorial staff at Marvel knows this. But, a divorcee or widower is even more removed from Marvel’s target au-dience. Finally, they have an answer, a way to un-marry Peter Parker without a messy divorce or killing off MJ.

Peter, it seems, will strike a deal with the devil: His marriage for Aunt May’s life.

The four-part storyline, “One More Day” (which, come to think of it, sounds more like a Mitch Ablom novel than a Spider-Man adventure) kicked off with Spider-Man frantically trying to save a mortally wounded Aunt May. Science and magic both fail. Finally, at the end of the third installment, Mephisto, the Marvel Universe Satan, offers Peter and MJ the Faustian deal.

Peter hasn’t struck the bargain yet—the final chapter, Amazing Spider-Man #545 hits stores Dec. 28, according to Mavel.com. But, all signs point to the unraveling of the Spider-marriage.

Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Joe Quesada has made his stance on the marriage clear.

“I’ve got nothing against marriage in comics, with the exception of the Spider-Man marriage – which I have been very public about.” Quesada said at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con, as reported by Newsarama.com.

The issue hasn’t shipped yet—and I’m avoiding Internet spoilers—but it seems the marriage is over (at least until another editor undoes this story).

The controversy isn’t. In fact, Spider-Man writer J. Michael Straczynski wanted his name OFF the last two issues of One More Day.

“Eventually Joe talked me out of that decision because at the end of the day, I don’t want to sabotage Joe or Marvel, and I have a lot of respect for both of those,” writes Straczynski on his message board. “The only thing I *can* tell you, with absolute certainty, is that what Joe does with Spidey and all the rest of the Marvel characters, he does out of a genuine love of the character.”

Many fans—quite vocal about their views on the Internet—don’t see it that way.

Google “Joe Quesada Spider-Man Marriage” and the fifth entry down is titled “Fortress of Soliloquy: Joe Quesada is a dumbass.” What follows is a 1,700-word manifesto chronicling Quesada’s perceived mishandling of the character.

I’m inclined to agree with Straczynski. I don’t think Quesada is a “dumbass” or has any malicious intent. I believe he’s acting in good faith. However, he has been very vocal about his stance on the Spider-marriage. If Spider-Man is to be un-married in the next issue, it’s transparently an editorial decision, not something that grew organically out of a story, despite what Quesada would have the readers believe.

I also don’t see a reason to un-marry Spider-Man. I read about a single, teenage Spider-Man every month in Ulti-mate Spider-Man. This title takes place in the Ultimate Universe. Launched in 2000, the “Ultimate Universe” updates the classic Marvel heroes for the new millennium. Spider-Man and the X-Men are teenagers. The Avengers—now the Ultimates—operate within the War on Terror.

Long time fans can have their married Spider-Man; new readers have the (superior) Ultimate version. No matter how they dress it up, un-marrying Spider-Man, undoing more than 20 years of stories, is a slap on the face to readers, as if to say “these stories you’ve invested your time and money following didn’t happen.”

I’m hoping for these readers that Quesada is right—and better Spider-Man stories will result for future readers, in-suring the character continues into the next century. But, as it’s happening, it feels more like an insult. 

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached at 703-878-8072

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