Itty bitty comic geeky!

A word or two about Spider-Man, if you’ll indulge me.

Okay, I’m kidding. It’s a bearwall.

This one is so offtopic it’s off the map. Or is that off the chain? I get those two confused, I’m old.

A recent Gutters comic (god I love that webcomic) captured how I felt about the entire Joe Quesada “Brand New Day” Spider-Man retcon… well, perfectly.

Look, I think Joe Quesada has done a lot of positive things for the Marvel line-up. I really do.

I love the entire Ultimates concept that he supported, for example. 

And if we take a look at what actually happened to the mainstream Spider-Man comics, it wasn’t all bad ideas.

For one thing, there were just too damn many Spider-Man monthlies with similar titles, different numbering schemes, and crossover storylines that you had to hop from series to series to try and piece together.

Blech. It’s stupid. If you’re gonna tell a serialized story, put all the pieces of the story under one title, OR do it rarely and then clearly label those seperate issues that are part of the crossover.

I’m gonna have a very limited amount of patience with trying to decide if an issue is a tie in from another series in the middle of a story arc if you’re not gonna clue me in on the cover. And no, I’m not just going to buy everything you ever publish in the hopes that THAT way I’ll get the whole story. Umm, /facepalm.

Now, if you’re in the comics industry, and all you do is think about and follow the comics industry, then I bet you’ve got no trouble whatsoever keeping it all straight. After all, it’s what you do. You read everything done by everybody, and follow it all, and read the authors blogs, and developer diaries, and whatsis.

If the people who do that are your intended demographic… well, okay, then I should shut up ’cause I ain’t who you’re marketing for.

But if, by some chance, you do hope to catch the marketshare of the ‘people who like to read comics along with other stuff’, well, I gots better stuff to be doing with my time than keep track of your entire publication lineup. No, I don’t follow the trades catalog to see if you’ve got a special one shot coming up that will have a critical part of the story from your normal series that I’ll miss otherwise.

NO, I will not pick up a comic purchase story arc card from the comic shop so I can plan wwhich issues come out which month so i don’t miss them (are you f’ing kidding me with this? I’m looking at you, World War Hulk).

Just saying.

No, wait, I can’t let that go. Seriously, LOOK AT THE CHECKLIST THEY GAVE OUT!!!!

That’s just asinine. Joe, I want to bitchslap you so hard your ancestors will be put off sex, that’s what I want to do.

Anyway, Spider-Man and multiple series simultaneously.

Joe Quesada, perhaps bowing to sales figure reality, collapsed all the various Spidey titles under one umbrella… and then made it a triple a month release.

Hey, that should’ve been done years ago. One series to follow, and you bring it out more often per month to catch the sales interest in that character. Good job. Even *I* can follow one series. At least, until you do one story arc across a bazillion other titles.

No, I’m not going to even try to pretend that Joe Quesada is some kind of evil, smelly demon-man. Nah. He’s done a lot I can agree with.

I’ll bring up that Ultimates thing again. Umm, Joe, thanks for helping bring about the single greatest pleasure I have had in comics as an adult… seeing a brilliant re-invention of my favorite comics lines, from the ground up, done by adults.

I know the Ultimates brands are referred to as marketed to the teen audience, but I beg to differ. I prefer to think they were targeted, in terms of story, towards people that like tight stories.

Brian Michael Bendis’ Spider-Man run is my favorite, by far, but a real close second is the Fantastic Four relaunch. I really loved the entire Cosmic Cube storyline, from seeds planted early to eventual conclusion.

Yes, I know that a ton of pop culture is embedded in them… hey, that’s one of the things I like about them. I can identify and relate. Spider-Man interrupting a film being shot in New York about him? His fight action getting recorded and included in the film… and since he can’t reveal his identity, his not making a dime on it? Oh, that was hilarious.

I won’t pretend to like or enjoy the Ultimatum Wave ending, it felt pretty half-assed compared to other aspects of the overall Ultimates storylines, but hey… At least Ultimate Spider-Man is still continuing on.

But let me get back to that Gutters comic, and Joe Quesada’s continuity retcon.

I really liked J. Michael Straczinski’s run on Spider-Man. I did. He brought a ton of great concepts and built them very well.

And then, and pardon me if I still choke a little, Joe Quesada kicked all us fans right in the nutsack.

Peter Parker, after decades of us growing up right alongside the smartassed, wisecracking little nerd trying his best to fight the good fight, the kid with all heart and no quit, married the woman of his dreams. A real marriage, hard times, problems, stress, and working through it. He decided to try and do more with his life than swing around looking for muggings to interrupt; he got a job teaching a class in a school. Just a regular class, trying to make a difference, a difference we could relate to, a damn hard task for anyone, making a difference in the lives of some real kids who need a mentor and understanding teacher more than they do a guy in spandex.

I for one grew up reading Spider-Man comics.

I wasn’t some idiot who tried to be Spider-Man when he grew up, but I could definitely relate to the underdog aspect, the trying your damndest and never giving up aspect of it.

Okay, so i also loved that he was a smartass. To EVERYONE.

Who else do you know that will be a smartass to Galactus? Yeah, ahuh.

People talk about inspirations and examples for our formative years. The importance of having something to look up to, someone to admire.

And then, for the most part, we’re told to look at politicians and sports athletes and rock stars and movie stars to seek that inspiration.

Umm, no. Athletes pretty much equals a desire to take any perfomance enhancing drug if they think they can get away with it, drunken wild orgies on boats on lakes in Minnesota, driving over policewomen in downtown Minneapolis, and flying personal jets to training camp after the actual ‘training’ part is over, blowing off practice because you’re apparently too good to need any of that teamwork building crap, and making me applaud one brave announcer who proclaimed “The Ego Has Landed” when Farve touched down.

Wait, what was I saying?

And politicians? If you use a politician as your role model, well, jeez. Anyone aspiring to be a politician when they grow up might as well just be a bank robber – it’s a less dishonest way of making a living. At least you’re stealing it all at once without pretension to a higher calling of public service.

Rock Stars? Umm… okay, I’m not gonna go there. And movie stars? Man, give me a target that takes at least SOME effort.

But you open up a comic book, and what do you have?

You have an attempt to depict, for the most part, people trying to do the right thing… and exploring what that means. Whether they be aliens from another planet, or normal people overcoming great personal tragedy, or anything in between, one of the most prevalent recurring themes in comics is struggling to do the right thing… even struggling to understand what the right thing even is.

It goes way beyond “with great power comes great responsibility”. Many modern storylines take serious looks at what it might be like if someone with godlike power but flawed concepts of morality or ethics tried to impose their will on various cultures.

One of my favorites was the recent Black Summer by Warren Ellis, who writes some damn fine pieces of speculative fiction hiding behind pretty pictures.

Getting back to Joe Quasada’s gutting of Spider-Man.

The Spider-Man had it. His life was hard, it wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t even fun most days. It was frequently bleak, long hours of dedicated back breaking work, trying to do the right thing.

But he had the most wonderful, vibrant marriage to the woman he loved above all else in his life. That, and knowing in his heart that he was doing his best to actually make a difference, in costume and in normal life. that, and the struggle, was enough.

And Joe Quesada not only broke up Pete’s marriage and dumped Peter back into the Daily Planet, but he also decided in his massive retcon that all of that grown up crap NEVER EVEN HAPPENED ANYMORE.

It didn’t exist. No marriage. He didn’t even get along on speaking terms with MJ. Just, slam! Didn’t like that, did ya Joe? It’s more fun to have a single, angsty, dating problems Spider-Man with crap tossed in his direction by old tired super-villains, and teaching? What, teaching kids in school? SPIDER-MAN? Hell, who can relate to THAT? Nah, make good old Peter a struggling kid out to make a buck taking photos, and hiding his secret from Aunty May.

That… that was a galactic level kick in the nuts.


Because, there are SO DAMN FEW GOOD EXAMPLES OF A NORMAL LIFE in the media!

I actually, mentally just did a Jesse Ventura “meee deee ahhh” there in my head. I knew I should have stopped for beer on the way home tonight.

Take a good, long look at comics, or television, or really any other form of media.

Just how many examples of a strong relationship that weathers any storm do you SEE out there?

Look, emotional turmoil makes for spicy drama, so I know, I KNOW that for a quick and cheap dramatic turn by a lazy writer, you build up a quicky relationship JUST so you have something to tear down later. 

But it’s everywhere. That kind of writing, that relationship foundation is the norm out there. That is the most prevalent example you’ll ever see… nobody, but nobody has a stable relationship for long. They all fall apart eventually.

How many incidents of true love, true enduring ‘can’t touch this’ love can you name in comics or television media?

Relationships that lasted, and grew, and no matter what bullshit went on around them, just stayed strong because no matter what else, the two people loved each other and trusted each other, and no lazy writer came along and decided to shatter that trust by writing in a bullshit cheating or lying or deceiving moment?

Now… of those loves… how many were ended by the death of one or the other to provide some good old fashioned grief or revenge?

Don’t you think that such a relationship, depicted in fiction, and left alone to just keep going is a rare enough thing that it makes for an interesting story concept on it’s own?

Ahh, but it’s almost never done… so, for lazy writers, you’ve got to actually WORK to keep it interesting, don’t you? Nothing much to copy out there, is there?

But there was one. call it what you will, Peter and MJ finally had a strong, enduring relationship and marriage together.

And along came Joe Quesada, who saw nothing worth saving, nothing of value, in the enduring love of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Just tear it down, that stuff doesn’t make for gripping drama.

Hey Joe? Yeah, for that, and that alone, kiss my ass.

You know what I thought when I read that issue? The One More Day/Brand New Day arc?

I thought of the death of one other enduring, unbreakable love that really pissed me off.

I would be talking about the Willow Rosenberg/Tara Maclay relationship from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now, episode after episode, once it got going, that was true, unshakeable love. It was hard at times, there were issues, there was some shaky writing in there, and there were moments of real high drama. But the drama was in our expectations… the episode where Tara’s got a group of, umm, ‘people’ who come to try and bring her back to their, umm, ‘home’ with them, in particular, was one of the most intensely worrying ones, because it really looked like there was an intentional storyarc building to show that Tara’s love and trust was a deception after all. The drama from that one came from the way you just can’t trust a storywriter to NOT write in a bullshit twist to cause a TV relationship to fall apart.

But no, that was a romance and a relationship that made me cheer what I hoped was a new age in TV writing. Writers daring to show a strong, trusting relationship that didn’t get betrayed by one damn thing or another, or by some stupid misunderstanding that could have been worked through if there was actual trust between the two. Damnit, I would have loved to have seen those two get married on top of a sealed Hellmouth as the series ending.

I’m not going to belabor the way that relationship ended. Aside from noting that, and I am not exaggerating, that moment, that exact moment when the relationship died in the backyard of their house stands out as one of the few moments in my life where I was truly pissed off and livid at a television show.

I mean, ‘choke the living shit out of the writer if he was in front of me’ livid.

But, that’s where they took it, and I guess a lot of people agreed it was a good direction to take the story, so whatever.

I’ve got a big middle finger for how they did it because i wanted it to keep going… but then again, if they started by wanting to get to ‘Dark Willow”, and were trying to find a way to do it, I’d rather they did what they did than that they cause some form of deception or failure of trust or messy bullshit breakup be the reason.

IF they really wanted to get to Dark Willow and were looking for a way while still treating their relationship with repsect, that is. And that’s what I think happened there. They wanted to get to a Dark Willow story arc, and wanted to find a way to do it while treating Willow’s relationship with Tara with respect.

Joe Quesada, from what I saw while reading those comics, simply wanted to destroy the marriage. He didn’t treat it with any respect, he treated it as something to shitcan for expedience in the name of a series reboot and as an attempt to boost sales.

Seriously, I honestly think that if I want to see a long lasting, enduring romantic relationship that withstands the test of time, two people that never lose faith in each other come what may, I’m going to have to write it myself.

Ahem… one shot movies like the Princess Bride, and Romeo and Juliet, don’t count. And R & J [spoiler] both die at the end, which cuts down on the recurring episode market for that one.

You know, even the most powerful on-screen recurring relationship I can think of, Beauty and the Beast, couldn’t maintain it without destroying it eventually in the name of ratings.

You’d think they could, considering the structure of the show… and if you stop watching after season two, and DO NOT WATCH season three, you can retain your blissful ignorance of any eventual tragedy, and prefer to believe, like I do, that Catherine and Vincent remain forever in love, sharing their lives in the Tunnels Below with their family.

Ahh, I miss that show, damnit.

Anyway, in the name of shining examples of actual, enduring love and trust and mutual respect, Joe Quesada, this middle finger’s for you!

15 thoughts on “Itty bitty comic geeky!

  1. Glad to see Lois McMaster Bujold mentioned, Labrat. She’s one of the few authors who can convincingly write mature, long term relationships. And Cordelia and Aral’s has certainly been one of those tried in fire ones.

    To the TV list, I’d add Lois and Hal on Malcolm in the Middle.


  2. I know what you mean. One of my favorite set of characters was the Vision and Scarlet Witch. So much for that. (Damn you John Byrne!). Then Hawkman and Hawkgirl (So many bad writers – so many convolutions).

    The general excuse is for the drama or to do (dun dun duunn!!) something new. Got news for you. Better writing gets you there. I guess after decades of reading, I just got good at seeing it coming and avoiding it. Such a small pull list these days.

    Don’t even get me started on crossover events…


  3. I “collect” examples of strong, committed couples for whom the relationship is the stable point rather than the source of conflict in fiction because it’s a bugaboo of my own. My current favorites:

    Lady Sybil and Sam Vimes, Discworld. Established in the first of the Watch novels and still going strong seven novels later.

    Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series.

    Elizabeth and Peter Burke, White Collar. The show has plenty of weaknesses, but my god I keep watching just because this kind of strong, affectionate marriage is so damn rare in television. The show sets them up for hilarious misunderstandings that turn out not to be because the characters actually turn around and exchange the VERY FEW WORDS it would take to clear everything up.

    Gomez and Morticia Addams, my very favorites. In TV or the Barry Sonnenfeld movies, not only are they happily married, they are madly, passionately in love with one another after decades. How many media couples can you say that of? Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston’s version makes me all warm and fuzzy each and every time.

    Pixar is good at this too- Bob and Helen Parr’s relationship makes for a surprisingly adult core storyline in Incredibles, and I am incapable of watching Up without tears.


  4. It’s moments like this that make it clear to see that the quality of the story and the quality of the art are not linked. You can have the greatest art in the world, and it will make it very pleasing to look at, but if the writing is at that caliber, you just want to throw it across the room.


  5. No Gekko, actually, what happened was, Aunt May had been shot by a sniper trying to kill Peter, and was dying.

    Peter tried to find anyone to save her life, and failed.

    Mephisto/Satan then appeared, and offered Peter a deal with the devil – he’d save Aunt May’s life, in exchange for consuming the existence of the love and marriage of Peter and MJ. He gave as his reason that true, deep, committed fulfilling love like that between MJ and Peter was so rare and dangerous to evil, that it was a fair trade.

    And Peter said yes, did the deal with the devil, and now all of the love they had has been consumed by Mephisto, gone, poof. Don’t even like each other anymore.


  6. Did Peter Parker all of a sudden wake up in the shower and realize it was ALL a dream…………………..????

    …….it all started with Dallas……….


  7. And *then*, just to annoy the Spidey/MJ fans further, there is the current four-part One Moment In Time series. This shows how the PP/MJ marriage never happened and what sort of history the two have had in this magically-altered new timeline. This could, perhaps, be awesome, and help smooth things over, right?

    So. In this new, magically-altered timeline, the marriage doesn’t happen because…

    Dun dun DUUUUUUUUN

    …some fat guy falls on Peter, knocking him out cold. Like, just some average fat crim that, for some reason, is too heavy for Peter to deal with.

    This is Joe Quesada giving us the middle finger, saying, “you don’t like that he’s no longer married to MJ? Well, hah! Tough! Take THIS! And this too!”


  8. Holy crap. probably the only Spiderman comic I remember is the one where he beats the living crap out of the Firelord…Awesome stuff


  9. Yeah Xathras, I know what you mean.

    The sad thing is, I actually like watching Favre and the Vikes play, and I don’t have a problem with people making it big and then living the wild life.

    What bugs me is how the reality of successful people with insane levels of wealth acting as they do, and image specialists attempting to package and control the presentation so that one of the draws is supposed to be that we look up to, admire and see these people as role models.

    I just don’t think you should even pretend to expect to have it both ways. If you want to do drugs and bang prostitutes (or assault women, for that matter), don’t expect me to then say “boys will be boys, aw shucks, but they’re really heroes!”. Umm, no. I don’t care how many appearances at charities and local events your publicist arranged for you.


  10. I don’t really follow comics all that much, and I admit that after your paragraph about Favre and the Vikings I just kind of skimmed. But I agree that “all that stuff you’ve been following for the last X number of years never happened” is a real cop-out. If you don’t like the direction spider-man has gone just wrap up the story in some meaningful way and start a new comic over from scratch. One of my biggest problems with WoW is how some of the novels override events we as the players have done ( Onyxia and Varian Wrynn). Oh, BTW. Your rant about Favre and the Vikings sums up my whole feeling about the situation as a fellow Minnesotan.


  11. The only Spiderman story I’ve actually read was the novel Jim Butcher wrote with Spidey, Black Cat, MJ, Dr Strange and assorted bad guys. Very cool, and the interaction between Peter and MJ was great fun (they were married and he was a teacher in that book, so it sounds like it was set around the time frame you’re talking about). If they killed that relationship in the main comics storyline, that’s dumb 😛

    As far as long-term relationships in sci-fi/fantasy stuff goes…

    I was going to say Zoe and Wash, but that didn’t survive the movie (although during the TV run, it did help make War Stories one of my favourite episodes of TV).

    Sheridan and Delenn in B5 got to live out to a peaceful ending, but that relationship was so tied up in mystic mumbo-jumbo and interstellar affairs, it hardly counts as the kind of normal relate-back-to-real-life relationship you’re talking about here.

    So, yeah, I think you’re right that that kind of depiction is unfortunately thin on the ground 😛


  12. I’m only a very casual spiderman fan – not a huge fan of American comics – but I like what you have to say here for the bigger aspects. When was the last time in a movie that a couple actually manages to stay together when something bad hits? Every single time I see a movie with the “our kid died so we divorced but we still care about each other” bullcrap it annoys me. Hey, writers, sometimes that sort of thing happens and the people don’t turn on each other, ok?

    Ok so I’m a social conservative and see it as a symptom of the breaking down of marriage – and no I don’t blame “the gays”, at the most they’re a symptom not a cause. Go a couple generations with marriage regarded as something less than permanent and this is what you get. It’s a problem of seeing relationships as a “what can I get out of this” deal. We no longer understand the concept of “helpmeets”. Or that love is a choice and not a hormonal state.

    I wish there were more good relationships in stories, too.


  13. Thank you Tesh, the third part of that, perfectly details the entire “Brand New Day” bullshit EXACTLY the way I was trying to lay out…

    and just like the author of that article, I also read it, and followd it to make absolutely sure it wasn’t an April Fools Joke, and then said “No more Spider-Man”.

    Except for Ultimate Spider-man. Unlike that writer… I have no problem enjoying the new Ultimate Spider-Man, I really like Bendis. I love his Powers writing, too.

    You know, call them as cheesy as you’d like, there were moments in Spider-Man over the years where the writers really nailed his character. That ‘I may not be the hulk, but I will not surrender while innocent lives are at stake’ attitude.

    It was the core of what i loved about him. He may not have had faith in himself, he may have been uncertain or even at times afraid of the consequences, but when it came to character, he would not quit. He’d never give in, or give up, no matter the odds.

    I’ll never forget one particular issue, Peter is swinging around town, and due to an earlier altercation, he’d somehow managed to piss off Firelord, a former Herald of Galactus.

    Firelord comes to town looking for a spider to fry. He wants payback. And he flies, shoots fireballs, blows stuff up, is generally super strong and damn near invulnerable, power cosmic, all that shit. Real end of the world type stuff. “Call the Avengers or the Fantastic Four” type stuff. Back when Herald of Galactus meant something.

    And Firelord is a tracker. So he’s on Spider-Man like white on rice. He’s hunting the guy down, blasting away with taht big fire staff of his. Boom boom boom! Trains blow up, streets explode, buildings topple, Spider-man swings for his life.

    And Spider-Man is just so outclassed it’s not even funny. Herald of freaking Galactus! He’s calling the avengers in a panic while swinging and hopping… nobody home. He’s calling the Fantastic Four hotline for alien abductions and free beer specials at Yancy’s Tavern… nobody home. He’s calling Nick Fury looking for a Helicarrier to nuke it from orbit… the only real way to be sure. Nope, nada, please deposit 25 cents.

    And at one point, on his own and swinging for his life, he happens to take a second, and it really registers on him that Firelord is truly blowing the SHIT out of New York City. Spider-Man is running, and innocent people are going down.

    And there’s nobody else. It’s just him.

    He goes for it, no hope in hell, not a spit’s chance on a hot griddle, one lowly human against a Herald of Galactus, and he knows there is just no way, but he cannot let Firelord hurt anyone else chasing him.

    He launches himself at Firelord, he grapples with him at close quarters, and begins to go all out just laying into Firelord, giving it all his heart, everything he’s got.

    A few panels later, and you see a hand land on Spider-mans shoulder.

    You pull back, and standing all around Spider-Man is like, every single super hero from the eastern seaboard. Like, dozens of holy shit heros, all finally showing up in response to Spidey’s frantic calls.

    And the hand is to pull Spider-Man off of Firelord, who is just beat to a freaking pulp. Dude is gone. He’s just catfood on a cracker. A bleeding smear on asphalt.

    And I swear, in the background, is the Thing or some other vulgar badass saying, “damn”, or words to that effect, in awe of the unholy pounding that this kid just handed out to Firelord.

    Like, “Why are you calling us, kid? Next time Galatcus comes to town, we’ll give you a ring… you badass.”

    That was just a great damn comic. He overcame his fear and his own lack of confidence in himself and stepped up, not for himself, but to protect and defend others, to go beyond what he thought possible, all heart no quit.

    Do I see ANY writing remotely like that after Brand New Day?

    Not even with SETI.


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