Friday, March 14, 2008

I’m Mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!

This is going to take a while, so I beg your indulgence for the full run of my — admittedly — rather lengthy rant.

Yep, that’s right. I not a happy camper. Why (you may ask)? Well, it’s simple, it has been 10 issues of Brand New Day Spidey (11 if you count the Swing Shift Director's Cut one-shot). And no, I'm not going to rehash the stuff I’ve said about this in the past. All of that was (essentially) sight unseen of the new direction, and simply reacting to the concept. Now with 10 (11) issues under our collective belts, I can comment on where we actually are.

Let’s start out here: I have never seen such bad, formalistic, cliché-ridden dreck in the pages of Spider-Man in my life. Seriously. This isn’t so much Spider-Man as it is Spider-Mania (not Spider-Man, but in incredible simulation) and not even a good one at that. What do I mean? Well in the space of the nine issues of Amazing Spider-Man all of the following things have happened:

1. Peter has been mugged (his wallet and web shooter were stolen)
2. Pete lost his shoes while chasing said mugger
3. Spidey has been blamed for a series of muggings by a Spider-masked wearing bandit
4. Peter not only lost not only the mugger that stole his stuff, but (just a couple of issues later) another one that ripped off the donation box at the soup kitchen were Aunt May works
5. As Peter, apparently caused a heart attack in JJJ
6. Was forced (as Spider-Man) to give a vial of his (irradiated) blood to a supervillain
7. Has (as Spider-Man) been accused of five murders
8. As Spider-Man is being sued by a guy who's life he saved
9. As Spidey, gets the crap kicked out of him by a new supervillain
10. As Spidey is accidentally involved in the death of a NYC Council woman who is running for mayor
11. Rips the seat of his Spidey costume and flashes a crowd of bystanders
12. As Peter is forced to wash and repair his costume (oh where is the Mary Jane Comiquette now?)

Now, this may seem like an ordinary series of events in the life of Spidey, but I (who have been reading Spider-Man longer than Marvel Editor-in-Chief, and chief architect of OMD/BND Joe Quesada has been alive) say it simply ain’t so.

I remember back in the early ‘70s when Stan left the writing chores to others, who seemed to understand (at least superficially) what Spidey was, but not who he was. That is to say, they knew the formula, but didn’t understand the motivations. Thus, for a time Spidey literally stumbled from one crises to another. We were give “the illusion of change, with any actual change.”

Those of us who lived through that era call it The Bronze Age, and no, not fondly.

Spider-Man has long been described as Charlie Brown in tights, only that is so not true. Neither Peter Parker nor Spider-Man are losers. Sure, sure they are both habitually beset by the drama of the world that swirls around them, but neither one of them can truly be described as a loser. Science geek, sure; social nerd, without a doubt; a loner and something of a misunderstood misfit withing the superhero community; perhaps (though not so much lately — except for that whole Civil War/Superhero Registration Act thing), but a loser? Never. Not Spider-Man

I don’t read the comicstrip Cathy. I Stopped watching Cheers during the second season; and I certainly don’t buy any For Dummies or Idiot’s Guide to anything. Why? Well, the books (I feel) insult my intelligence and As for the others I can’t stand reading about someone who is always a whiner (Cathy) and the Cheers group simply stopped being interesting when they kept looking at themselves as if they were all losers. I don’t hang with those types of people in real life, so why would I seek them out as a form of entertainment?

The story of Spider-Man is the story of the struggle of the common man against the greater forces of nature. When Stan (co)created Spidey, he envisioned him as the anti-Superman. In Superman you have an adult male, who is a respected reporter for a daily metropolitan newspaper. Superman is (and always has been) a well-respected cultural icon. He has never been wanted by the police, never had a bad hair day, and never been on the losing end of anything. By contrast, Peter couldn't get a date, was constantly bullied by a classmate, was constantly being lorded over by his boss, and the cops are never really sure of his standing.

To be sure, the other superheroes always respected Spidey, and yeah, he did date some of the hottest women in comics (eventually marrying one of them — or, did he??) Casting him in the role of a hapless loser is just wrong (Oh, yeah, I also don’t actually like any of the Harry Potter films, because he isn’t so much of a hero as someone who is buffeted about by the forces around him,and is always saved at the last minute by someone else’s intervention).

Spider-Man is a hero. He stands up to villains with far greater power and ability than himself! Peter Parker is a certifiable genius. He designed his web shooters when he was 15! To write them any other way is simply not understanding either character. Loading Spider-Man up with all sorts of random obstacles over which he has to come is just stupid, and a bad approach to not only the character, but simply bad writing. I don’t read the comic to see how much Crap can be dumped on him by the writers, I read it to see the hero who is Peter Parker rise up and become.

I watched The Pursuit of Happyness, and while it was a powerful film, it was easily the most depressing film I had ever seen, because every time this guy turned a corner something worse happened to him, and yes, while he eventually overcame all obstacles for two hours I just got more and more depressed. I don’t want to read the on-going life story each and every month of this guy. I just don’t. But this is what Brand New Day is fast becoming. There are no clear-cut victories, there are just missed opportunities, loses, and “better than being poked in the eye with a stick, only not by much.”

I don’t like reading Spider-Man much these days. I hope it gets better, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon — and that just gets me depressed.


Reggie White Jr. said...

I know exactly what you mean and I agree 100%. Joe Q doesn't have the slightest idea what Spidey is about. That "lovable loser" is the biggest load of horse crap I've ever heard.

My comic shop is pretty generous so I read the first 6 issues of BND in the store. I really wasn't impressed and I'm glad I stopped buying the book after OMD. These guys, while talented writers are spoon feeding decade old stories down our throats and trying to pass them off as "new." Why pay $9 a month to be kicking in the nuts?

Tommy said...

I find myself in a weird spot with this.

With the issues I've gotten so far, I can't help but feel in the back of my mind that this is some pseudo-reality. I don't care how many other characters they want to stick in from other series to try to make it fit (I think Wolverine was advertised to come out in April's isues), that's how I'm always going to feel.

But the exact weird spot, besides that, are my timeline duties at Spiderfan.

Granted, the stories are tighter knit and it should be much easier, but never know.

That, and I can be very specific with nitpicks when I read it for myself and thrown down the continuity gauntlet cause it seems like Marvel is so anti-continuity these days and I think I'm one of the kinds of people that annoy 'em. :)

I dunno...maybe I figure it's easier to back up the pocket reality by pointing out all the stupid errors, arguing the flaws from a logical standpoint, besides what would be a mix of emotional and logical.

I'd probably get the 'It's magic' answer, and maybe we should respond, 'It's bull****'.

Another thing that's pretty obvious, is if the Editors at Marvel felt there was something wrong with Spider-Man, they sure didn't have any problem putting him in any sort of wrong light to make some more, I can't help but feel they're full of it and maybe they should ease off the writers by avoiding the use of major events and let more focus be given to characterization...and not baseline characterization either.

No...they need to remember that characters, much like any of us, evolve over time through the events we've been through. But if that means nothing anymore, if continuity is making things "too restricting" for writers, then I have to wonder...what is the motivation (outside of money) to even do any work at Marvel?

Knowing that anything you do is guaranteed to be wiped out is a bitter pill to swallow. If I were a writer at Marvel, I'd want to leave some piece or mark behind (as long as it didn't stink, hehehe) in the Marvel tapestry. Something that adds, not detracts, and most of all, it makes sense.

I think it's time for more brainstorming, the kind where they push themselves further than they thought they could, and maybe, just maybe, they might understand Spider-Man a bit better. And maybe themselves too.

Robert J. Sodaro said...

Here! Here!

Reggie White Jr. said...

Here, here, here!!! It really is sad what they've turned Spidey into in the pages of BND. After reading six issues, I couldn't bring myself to do anymore Byrne-stealing at my comic shop. By then, I'd just had enough.

What really sucks is that as bad as BND is, it still gets the most attention on message boards, even from readers that loathe it. Spider-Girl, Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, and Spider-Man Family, books that feature the REAL Spidey (as far as I'm concerned) can't be seen for dust.

Oh and Mr. Sodaro, guess who joined the Spider-Fan writing staff as a contributor? =)

Robert J. Sodaro said...

Yes, Reggie, I saw that, welcome aboard. As for the increase of BND Spidey references on the Boards, I happened to see comments on a DC board recently, and the folks there — who admittedly didn’t even read Spidey — were deriding Marvel for what they had done to the character.

Several of them were even suggesting that Spider-folks drop ASM and go over to DC and pick up Nightwing, as he was now more like Spider-Man than was Spidey (without, of course, the whole Mephisto thing — their reference, not mine).

Reggie White Jr. said...

Recommendations for Nightwing, eh? I've never been a huge DC buyer despite liking a lot of the characters. But I've heard Nightwing is a good book.

It's hard for me to get excited about any 616 Spidey story and it isn't just because they erased his marriage. They've literally set Peter back decades as a character. What was good for the '70s isn't good in 2008. It sucks to see Peter be written like such an idiot who constantly makes rookie mistakes.

Robert J. Sodaro said...

Join the club, Ol’ Son, Join the club!