Monday, March 15, 2010

Defending the indefensible

I don’t normally blog like this, but I just read most of an article on Comic Book Resources (CBR) that reported on a Marvel panel at the Emerald City ComiCon. Most notably at this panel was Marvel EiC, Joe Quesada, who fielded some questions about the current non-state of Peter and MJ. Personally, I really wish I had been there, because I have some follow-up questions that I'd like to posit to him.

The first question Quesada was asked was:

To what level do I have to debase myself to get Spider-Man and Mary Jane back together?” The fan then threw out a couple of suggestions, including “I’ll even take a guest spot on ‘Heroes.’”

His response was that he acknowledged the controversial un-marrying of the couple and indicated that Marvel have no plans to undo the undone. He then explained:

“We worked too hard to get Peter to this point. I can understand why some of you want to see the characters grow old, but we have to manage these characters for the future – a future beyond you and me. A married Peter Parker – as cool as that may seem – from a creative standpoint, it handcuffs the character. It’s a very problematic thing for Peter because it cuts him off and makes Peter the oldest person in the book.”

OK, let’s parse this for just a minute. “We worked too hard to get Peter to this point...” A valid point, but how about the 25+ years of work that it took for the previous creators took to get Peter and MJ to the alter, and the 20 years that they spent as a happily married couple? What gives you the right to simply undo all of that?

“...from a creative standpoint, it handcuffs the character...” Doesn’t making him a white male from a working, middle-class, Christian background also handcuff the character? Not to mention loading him up on such high moral standards? Why not make him more like Wolverine and have him simply gut bad guys? Well, that because that‘s so not who the character is. You‘ve set the rules, now you need to abide by them.

“it cuts him off and makes Peter the oldest person in the book.” Ah, Joe, do you read the book? Aunt May? Joe Robertson? Ben Urich? JJJ? Seriously, your answers are making less sense than some of the silly crap I’ve heard attributed to Stan (and I really like Stan).

Joe continued with ...

“It’s very tough to write because you want to see Peter and M.J. happy, and in a book where, really at its crust, is a soap opera about Peter’s life, the minute he gets everything he wants and life is happy, the stories get boring. So how do you create [the conflict the drama needs]?” OK, that’s a valid point, but my counterpoint to this is, if you can’t find writers who can write interesting stories based on the parameters of the character, then, well, you need to hire writers who are more talented.

John Byrne once told me that, when writing Superman, he really needed Superman to utter a curse word, only, Superman simply doesn’t talk like that, so it required John to challenge himself to write believable, powerful dialogue that conveyed the same range of emotions without using the epithet. To my way of thinking, if your writers can't write compelling stories, stop making excuses for them and admit they are simply not talented enough, and you need better writers.

When the fan countered that reading the current spate of stories of a single Peter Parker felt like the character was treading over preexisting territory. Quesada responded by saying,

“I totally understand. But while it may feel like a retread to you, if I talked to a ten-year-old right now who just started reading Spider-Man a year and a half ago, this is totally brand new. And when you look at every iteration of Spider-Man out now – the movies, the cartoons – he’s a single guy.”

Again, is Joe Q. that far out of touch with his fan base? I truly believe that if you spoke to a 10-year-old about Spidey, they would all know who he is, but you would be hard-pressed to find one that was actually reading the comic. I’ve said it over and over, but Joe is not only pitching the book to an audience that simply does not exist, but to one that hasn’t existed in the better part of a decade-and-a-half. Further, isn’t that why the Ultimate and Marvel Adventure universes created? To appeal to a younger (more diverse) audience?

Sure you’ll find youngsters who go to the movies, play the videogames, and watch the animated adventures on TV, but few (if any) of them are actually buying the comic (if they were, sales of the comics would be at those over-inflated ‘80 & early ‘90 numbers, instead of where they currently are today).

No, I'm not buying the company line that Spidey has to be perpetually younger, not when the same folks who are buying Spidey are buying comics featuring adventures of adult characters, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc. Also, Peter is one of the most moral and upstanding characters in the Marvel Universe. He would never make a deal with the Devil (completely ignoring that any deal with the devil always ends badly for the person making the deal, as well as the fact that my own moral upbringing prevents me from acknowledging that Mephisto has that much power).

As I’ve told Spidey editor, Stephen Wacker, I’m too much of a fan of the character to boycott the book, and I’m too professional to get mad at the creators to yell at them in public, so I’ll keep reading the title and hope that eventually editorial will come to their (spider) senses and simply fix the book. ‘Til then, I feel that it is my own moral imperative to continue to remind them that “With great responsibility...”


Tommy said...

Heh, I honestly would not knowingly hand any kid a current issue of Amazing with the sort of stuff that is in it. Considering my cousin's kid is getting older, I might have to suggest to the fam that they don't grab anything that is 616 Spidey.

There's a big difference between being exposed to mature content and issues vs. the silly stuff you might enjoy off of movies like American Pie and Animal House. It doesn't gel for Spidey like this in my opinion, nor for really the entire supporting cast in some cases.

In the end, I think I'm only going to get any current Spidey due to continuity duties. I'm drawing the line at them not even getting the character and thinking they're being clever or funny.

Robert J. Sodaro said...

I'm with you, Tommy, but I fear that a) we’re in the minority, and b) Marvel editorial sees us as supporting what they are doing