Or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Love Procrastination

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Love, Power And Responsibility

An Open Letter To Joe Quesada

I wanted to write about your editorial decision to separate Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in the Spiderman comics.

You have made many claims that a single Spiderman is a better Spiderman. It gets more into the core of the character. The struggler. The melodrama. The soap opera. By making Peter single again, it will tap into the golden spirit of Spiderman.

Fuck the golden era of Spiderman.

If you were to retell those golden stories now, it would be a dated pile of shit. Terribly ham fisted plots, one dimensional characters and cheap pulp novel dialogue. We really, really, need to say goodbye to the Stan Lee era of comics. The era when comics were made for an unsophisticated child audience. Because that is no longer your audience.

You can’t expect to turn back time and get Paul McCartney to wear a Beatles wig and write you a new Can’t Buy Me Love. You can’t expect Dylan to write another Times They Are A-Changin’. And you can’t change the modern Peter Parker into the nerdy, struggling teenager, being terrorised up by Flash Thompson (or some updated version).

There is a unique quality of comic book serials that is, as far as I’m aware, unwritten about. That is it’s strange use of time over a long period. Batman is 70 next year, yet still has a decent set of abs. It’s something that cannot happen in TV shows, as people age. And I can’t think of anything other than comics where you have characters that survive continuously for 50 year plus without “aging”.

But not aging doesn’t mean not changing. Superman was a villain when he started. Over the years, talented writers and artists refined him into the classic image of him. They introduced kryptonite years later. Perry White. The bird/plane line. Then the up, up and away line. The whole Smallville thing. Then Supergirl came a long.

Superman is such a great example, actually. Because in so many ways, the public view of him is frozen in that first, Richard Donner directed Superman movie. The phone booth. The glasses. Lois and Jimmy. But so much has happened to the character since. On an adventure level – the dude DIED. On a personal level, he shares his secret with Lois. Characters have to grow.

And Spiderman is no exception. If, as you claim, that the core of what sets Peter Parker apart from Batman and Superman is the secret identity side, that Peter is dealing with the true struggles of life behind the mask, then I don’t see why that has to change when he’s married.

A good writer, and there are many, can turn the Batman/Robin relationship into a powerful drama. A man with HUGE parental issues trying to be the guardian of an angry, reckless kid? There is a wealth of stories here.

I’ve never been married, but I can imagine dealing with life is not necessarily easier. And think of all the great modern fiction about married couples, as they struggle to make their marriage work. Set that to the backdrop of “great power comes with great responsibility”. Drama. Struggle. Soap Opera.

In the end, I don’t think you have a bad premise. You have a bad approach to writing. There are no bad stories, just stories badly told. And having no good stories for a married Spiderman is not going to help you find them for a single Spiderman. You can’t use a 64 track recording studio with a one track mind. And stop looking to the Stan Lee era to solve your problem.

Why do I care so much?

Because I love, more than Peter Parker (the name of my first ever band too), I love Mary Jane. I love that relationship. I grew up with it. I fell in love with it. As a teenager, reading the comics, it was (as I’m sure was the writers intention) how I felt about girls, right there in four colour. And I followed it all, rooted for Parker all the way. And when they got together, it meant a lot to me. It made me, lets face it, think about Love.

(And yeah, OF COURSE it’s fictional. Yes. It’s just a character. So was Dumbledore. And it was pretty sad when he died, wasn’t it? So shut it.)

So seeing you piss on that, Mr Quesada, all those good times I spent disappearing into that world, is sickening to me. It’s like finding out that those love songs I love were written and performed with indifference.

And think of all the writers who poured their own hearts, and their own stories, into Peter and Mary’s. But you’re the Editor In Chief of Marvel Comics and I’m not. But I’ve lived through many of you, and someone will come along and correct this. I lived with John Howard for 11 years. I can wait this one out.

And even if it never happens, you wont be able to rewrite the history in my mind. When I think of Peter Parker, I will think that he loves Mary Jane Watson, and she loves him right back. Always.


No comments: