Spider-Man: Renew Your Bullshit

As I mentioned in the recap of my old Spider-Man review, I’m not a fan of the character anymore, and haven’t been for a very long time, which is entirely because of Marvel’s fuckhanded handling of his existence over the past decade or so. I originally became worn out on the character during “The Clone Saga,” because Marvel took a very good opportunity to do what they’d always wanted (have a single, YOUNG Spider-Man) and flushed it down the shitter. They had Ben Reilly, who could have been the Scarlet Spider in his own set of two books and had all of the dating drama, while Peter could have stayed Spider-Man and had all the married life storytelling, and instead they killed Ben (and brought him back because why the fuck not right?), reinstated Peter as the one, true Spider-Man, then made his life hell over the next several years. Threats of marriage problems, the revival of Aunt May, the death of Mary Jane, the fake-out of Mary Jane’s death, a trial separation, a terrible rebooted-then-ignored origin reboot… it got to be a bit much. I was back on board for a while when Spider-Man became an Avenger and his life seemed to be sorting itself out, but then “Civil War” screwed up a lot of his existence, and after unmasking him and nearly killing his aunt, Marvel finally, finally drove me away as a fan in the single most prominent way they could have: they undid his marriage to Mary Jane Watson at the hand of Mephisto, all so they could have their “single” Peter Parker again.

Now, I want to make a couple of points clear here. First, when I say I gave up on Spider-Man, I mean it. I haven’t seen a Spider-Man film in a way that required any expenditure of money since Spider-Man 2. The last game I paid money for was Web of Shadows. I generally bought a few trade paperbacks and action figures a year, which I’ve since devoted to other things. More importantly, though, I’ve mostly given up on bothering with superhero anything since, because frankly, it gets tiresome keeping up with something that’s going to change in a way you don’t like (hello New 52). I saw The Avengers and other Marvel movies because someone else asked me to, and I didn’t pay for it because I just… don’t want to. The whole concept is simply beyond me anymore; you can’t become invested in a character, franchise or universe because eventually someone is going to get it into their head to change fucking everything and you’re left to enjoy it because “the writing’s good,” or you’re left to hate it because they’re changing things you liked. You either have to like something from a detached, dispassionate perspective that leaves you appreciating only the concept and writing but nothing about the history of the character, or you end up hating it when people shit all over the history you remember and love, because it means they’re basically saying fuck you for being a long-term fan, we don’t want your kind anymore.

Also, I’m aware of what that says about me, and that’s why I don’t spend my time online bitching about it. Now, the reality, of course, is that the people running the show are people who grew up with Spider-Man when he was young and single, and since they’re in charge they can do whatever they want, then call you a fucking fanboy if you don’t like it. They, like the people before them, are simply fans who got a job in the industry and decided to change everything so that it’s the way they want it, and when you don’t like it, hey, stop being such a whiner. They mock you for doing the same thing they’re doing, except that they’re the writers and you’re just a fan on the outside looking in. You literally cannot win: if you choose to go along with it, you either can’t get invested in the characters because they’ll change something major, like strip Peter of his Spider-Sense, or kill him and have Doc Ock take over his brain or whatever, and you either have to wait it out and hope they’ll unfuck it eventually or give up and “enjoy it for what it is,” because having strong opinions about a comic character gets you made fun of by the people in charge.

It’s like being a wrestling fan, except Spider-Man himself can’t make fun of you for liking him, so his writers have to do it for him.

Generally speaking, the writers normally have to undo the changes in some form or fashion, because they get too problematic in the long-term: Spider-Man can’t not have Spider-Sense, because the movie version has it or everyone knows he has it or whatever, so boom, a year later it’s back. Spider-Man can’t be Doc Ock because they can’t incorporate that into the movies, so, boom, a year later Peter’s back in charge. For the most part, the changes that have been made have either been temporary or unimportant, save one: the magical divorce of Peter and Mary Jane. That event has stuck, due to a number of factors: the writing went on a tear immediately following the event and kept a lot of people sticking with the comics to see where it went (of course the great writing didn’t need Peter to be single but whatever), the EIC at the time was the one who insisted on the change and insisted it be more or less permanent, new events keep things moving along, so on and so on. Of course, we need to keep bringing Mary Jane back every couple issues to reinforce how happy she is now that she’s not married to a superhero, even though Peter can’t manage to have a healthy relationship now that he’s single. It’s literally to the point where the current writers are essentially actively going out of their way to ruin everything that happened to Spider-Man from the mid 70’s until now. Relationship with Black Cat? Nope, she’s a super heel now, but we’ll make a whole new woman with Spider-Man’s powers and they can date because that’s not contrived. Did you like Spider-Girl, y’know, alternate universe May Parker? Good, they just killed Peter and MJ in her universe. Hell, they even put in a quick one shot of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, except that it’s the bad guy of the current storyline MURDERING THEM, because fuck you.

Which brings us to about a month ago. For those who skipped the link, here’s the gist: Spider-Man is currently in the middle of some kind of storyline dubbed “Spider-Verse,” where, among other things, Spidey’s now friendly (in the biblical sense) with a lady named Cindy Moon who shares his powers, Morlun’s back again, and a shitload of alternate dimension Spider-Man characters are either teaming up with Spider-Man or dying at Morlun’s hands, if not his insanely powerful family’s hands, just because. Fine. This coming spring, Marvel’s trotting out “Secret Wars,” which may or may not be related to the original one from the 80’s where Spider-Man got his black costume. Also fine. As a long-term teaser, for “Summer 2015,” they’ve created a cover image called “Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.” It apes the style of the original cover of the comic where Spider-Man married MJ back in the 80’s, except it features Spider-Man, Mary Jane, and his daughter May. It’s really cute, and aesthetically I quite like it. It was also more or less introduced by current Spider-Scribe Dan Slott posting on Twitter, “Set your watch. Your next Spider-Man related freak out is on the way.” while changing his Twitter Icon to the original marriage cover. Of course he also purportedly changed his Twitter icon to a pic from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends when the issue where he killed them came out, so he’s basically 4chan in human form.*

Real talk: we’re not going back to that continuity.

Now, I’d honestly be fine with the idea of Spider-Man dating a female version of himself; this Cindy Moon/Silk character would, admittedly, be a pretty great character to pair him off with romantically (even if she looks exactly like Miranda from Mass Effect 2) if I had any faith at all that they aren’t going to kill her/turn her heel/send her to another dimension/whatever to fuck with people who get invested***. I’d also honestly be fine with them bringing back MJ, even without May, if I had any faith at all that they’d stick with it for any period of time and not make it a shitty alternate reality. Hell, after a friend of mine lent me the current eleven issues that are out, I’d be happy if they weren’t running a massive Spider-Franchise-wide storyline that’s going to kill off 90% of all Spider-Men in existence and almost certainly end with the death of Cindy Moon right after they JUST ran a massive storyline that involved the return of Peter Parker, like LITERALLY less than a year ago. Let’s be honest with ourselves, though: we all know Mary Jane isn’t coming back as Peter’s wife, and we definitely all know that they’re not giving Spider-Man a kid for any extended period of time. At best, it’s a hype trick to get people interested for whatever they’re going to do during the summer, at worst it’s a temporary change that they’ll institute for a period of no less than three months but no more than a year. Put simply, Marvel is releasing a cover something like seven months out with the sole intention of getting comic fans into a tizzy, so that they’ll be anticipating it when the time comes. Either nothing will change, or absolutely everything will, but for a very short period of time.

I get it, though. I used to be a wrestling fan for the same reason I was a comic fan. Even when the creators actively acted like it was funny that I was passionate about the things they created for my enjoyment, when they did something well, it made it all worth it. When I could lose myself in something truly magical and well done, it was awesome and it made me glad I’d held on as long as I had. Hell, even when something drove me away (the Chris Benoit murder/suicide in the case of wrestling, the above in the case of comics), I’d occasionally poke my head back in to see what was going on, be pleasantly surprised for a bit, then see reminders of why I wasn’t a fan anymore and leave again. When both of them are good, they can be truly magical: see Daniel Bryan’s Wrestlemania title win or this past Thursday’s NXT PPV for wrestling examples, or Justice as a comic example. I’m even kind of interested in the Silk character, and willing to pick up trade paperbacks if that doesn’t end up going in the exact direction I described above and she sticks around as Peter’s romantic interest for longer than a year. I’d also be willing to sign back on as a paying customer full-time if either Silk or MJ were brought back as Peter’s long-term romantic partner, because that’s a thing I grew up with in the Spider-Man comics and hope springs eternal.

But when the people in charge are posting these kinds of things with semi-mocking “here comes the next freak out” comments, you kind of know that it’s not going to be that way forever, and that the same problems you left because of will still be there. Ultimately, it becomes a problem because the same people who don’t understand why you’re freaking out make fun of you for doing it, because they don’t understand that fans value continuity, and have feelings for these fictional characters they’ve grown up with. Not that they don’t have those same feelings; they just assume that because they grew up with these characters, they know the right way to handle them. They know what’s best for wrestling/comics, and you’re just being difficult and obstinate because you think you know everything. They know that the best thing for you is Roman Reigns as champion/Spider-Man as a single guy who’s bad at dating, and if you don’t agree, you’re just jaded and prone to overreacting on the internet. They know what’s best, essentially, and they’re doing fine whether or not you appreciate what they’re trying to do, so you should just accept that they know best because the rest of the fanbase has.**

The best way to win is not to play, essentially.

The reason I’m writing this isn’t because I think it’ll make a difference, because I know better; the opinions of the fanbase (or ex-fanbase as it were) rarely matter unless they’re supportive of the current status quo. The reality is that Marvel has a good thing going; the movies are doing gangbusters, the comics generally have enough events to keep people interested, and with random external events, like signing CM Punk (a former wrestler!) to a writing contract, they have plenty of hype to keep business moving. They can swap and switch storylines around as much as they like, and it doesn’t matter if I spent $5 or $500 a year on their product (and it was almost certainly closer to the latter), they make more than enough that losing a fan doesn’t mean anything since they have more. It’s mostly just a form of catharsis anymore; I write because Marvel does things to try and engage with people like me who have left the fandom, either to try and draw us back in or to take shots at us because we shit on their decisions, and this is, essentially, a form of therapy. Talking about it in public is little more than screaming into the void, obviously, but it doesn’t stop us from doing it. Honestly, the reality is, it’s the same with anything you used to love and now hate: even if that thing passed you by, the choice is to say nothing and be pissed off in silence or to say something in public just to get it out, and even if we know it won’t change anything, it’s better to get it out and feel better than not.

It’s not going to fix anything, but it feels good to say “No, fuck you,” at least.

*One thing I did notice while doing research for this piece, though, is that holy shit a lot of people hate Dan Slott. I mean, I kind of understand it; I find that people generally tend to have a huge hatred for people who’ve done Spider-Man as a character and/or as a franchise dirty, and Slott most definitely has. He keeps having MJ pop up to remind everyone how much happier she is without Peter, psycho-insane Black Cat is his fault, he killed off characters from at least two beloved alternate reality Spider-Man universes, Superior Spider-Man is entirely his fault, and he’s almost certainly priming the comics for 1.) a big event where Spider-Man loses the corporation he’s in charge of in spectacular fashion, and 2.) the aforementioned Silk character is in some way taken out of contention as a romantic interest for Peter Parker even though she’d probably be a fine enough fit for him.

He also likes to post pictures like this and like this on the internet to piss off his internet critics, because he’s a popular guy. He did, however, give the world Spider-Gwen, who will apparently be getting her own fucking everything so more people like him than Joe Quesada, I’d imagine. I don’t really have an opinion of him except “he assumes that controversy and high sales** mean he’s doing a good job, because that worked out so well for the writers in the 90’s” and “he kind of looks like Danny DeVito” but I thought it was funny that everywhere I’ve gone people hate the dick out of this guy, and I didn’t even know who he was until a couple hours ago. I’d totally be cool with him if he either made Peter/Silk a full-time deal or brought back MJ, but we have a better chance of being struck by lightning than either of those happening so I think the above impressions are about all I’ll ever think of him.

** One of the wonderful things about the information age is that you can essentially find out, within minutes, that for all of the beliefs out there that the current Spider-Man run is doing well, the reality is not so much. While the BRAND NEW FIRST ISSUE did a huge print run, the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth issues… not so much. I mean, it’s doing better than the last two months of Superior Spider-Man, but when you compare those numbers to the prior years of Amazing sales before the “One More Day/Brand New Day” storyline… well. There is, you will note, an especially large drop-off when this new event starts, though I’m sure “Black Cat turns heel and tries to kill Spider-Man” didn’t help. I’m not saying we need MJ back, but maybe we do need a storyline where Peter is actually just a normal fucking dude with a significant other who loves him and a non-world/universe-encompassing plotline for a while. Just saying.

*** This is a little late to the game, but no, it turns out that they apparently introduced her specifically to give her a brand new book, for reasons I cannot even begin to fathom. The event based around her existence tanked, sales-wise, after the first couple of issues, Spider-character spin-offs have succeeded exactly one time and that’s only if you count Jessica Drew as a spin-off (and even then she had to retire for two decades), and her only, and I mean only, beneficial use would have been as a Spider-Man supporting character. Notwithstanding that they made this whole side-point where they made Peter and Cindy super-horny whenever they’re near each other, which I guess was made to say “Here’s why they can’t be near each other,” which, no, you wrote that, we know you did, you’re being dicks now, so it’s literally a case where they unmade one romantic interest, made a new one and then divorced her from the comic, and are spending their time telling stories about Spider-Man running a corporation he almost certainly won’t get to keep.

My point being, in a year, a relationship with Cindy Moon might have mattered in continuity. A relationship with the Black Cat not only would have mattered in continuity, but would have also made sense relative to original continuity. Having Peter pal around with a bunch of Superior Spider-Man supporting cast members and run a company he knows nothing about almost certainly will not matter even a small bit. If you wonder why people don’t want to spend four dollars on your comic, it’s entirely because nothing matters and everyone is stupid.

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