According to All The Rage, those longing for Spider-Man’s freewheeling days as a fun-loving bachelor may soon get their wish. All I can say is: be careful what you wish for. I don’t know if I trust this image*, necessarily. It could be from any number of other projects. I’ve seen speculation that it may be from Spider-Man: Reign. That sure does look like Steve McNiven’s art though. As much as I otherwise am enjoying the Civil War, I’m not going to be happy if Mary-Jane Watson Parker ends up a casualty.
Many see the Parker-Watson marriage as a huge liability to the Spider-Man character. They feel that Peter Parker should remain single, and perpetually youthful, with a young man’s life and problems. Marriage, to them, cuts off story potential, and eliminates the possibility of romantic subplots. It makes Spidey seem old.
But Peter did get married. I remember it well. In 1985-86, MJ had only just reappeared after many years absence, and she had recently confessed to knowing about Peter’s life as Spider-Man. They barely began to deal with the ramifications of that, when abruptly and with little fanfare, Peter and MJ were engaged to be married! As a fan, I was nonplussed. Apparently, the Comics were playing catch-up with the Godawful Spider-Man newspaper strip, which had just announced a wedding story! Comics are full of tail-wagging-the-dog moments, and this was one of the worst. Marvel scrambled to react, and the wedding story in ASM Annual #21 was a sloppy, rushed and disorganized affair, as was the fictional wedding.
Suddenly, Spider-Man was married.
He’s been married for almost twenty years now. To a lot of his fans, Spidey’s been married longer than they’ve been alive. In my opinion, it wasn’t Peter’s marriage that was the problem; it was Peter’s marriage to a supermodel. Peter was now married to a glamorous celebrity, and that’s where his “everyman” status truly fell by the wayside. Most Spidey writers didn’t know what to do with MJ, and usually resorted to clichéd stalker storylines. Since 1987, MJ has been victimized by three stalkers that I can remember, and I wasn’t even paying close attention. The celebrity problem has been mitigated in the last few years, as MJ’s supermodel career is over and she is currently appearing in off-Broadway productions. Or off-off-Broadway. As far as I’m concerned, that went a long way toward making the marriage viable.
So what’s broken today? I agree that the marriage was maybe not the best idea, but it’s been going for almost 20 years now. Whatever the original reason, it’s now a MAJOR part of Spider-Man canon. The nagging problem of MJ’s celebrity has now been corrected. Despite this, the powers-that-be still see the marriage as an albatross, and still seem to be determined to “do something” about it, even though Joe Q himself has admitted to having no idea as to what can be done. He’s said that a widower Spider-Man is not a viable option, but it sure as hell looks like we’re headed that way.
More to the point, what happens after they kill her? Peter isn’t going to suddenly revert to the carefree bachelor he once was, because his wife is dead. He’s a widower. He’s going to be one very depressing cat for a while, unless he gets over it quickly, in which case he’ll look like an uncaring creep. It’s a no-win situation. When he does get back into the singles scene, whom will he date? The romantic subplots had gotten very tedious by the time MJ returned in the mid-80’s, with Peter dating no-hopers like Marcy Kane and Deb Whitman. Can we look forward to more of that? More cipher characters introduced to supply false tension? There’s always the Black Cat, I guess, but that never went anywhere either.
Many fans and all too many pros think that Spider-Man is at his best when he’s broke, single, and plagued with problems. That’s fine, but they forget that time does move on in The Marvel Universe. If Peter were still single, still perpetually broke, still living in a crappy apartment with a cable spool for a table, he wouldn’t be more “identifiable”; he’d be a LOSER.**
The Spider-Man these fans long for can only be found in the past, in back issues released when you were 12 years old. There’s already a non-married Spider-Man for anyone who wants that. Young, broke, single Peter lives on in Ultimate Spider-Man. Over there, they’ve learned the lessons of history, and are aging their young Parker much, much more slowly. Marvel Adventures features done-in-one tales of “classic” Spider-Man. There’s a Spider-Man title for everyone, so again, what’s the problem?
For myself, I’m a longtime Spidey Fan. I started this crazy hobby/obsession with Spider-Man, and I’ll probably always be interested in what he’s doing, but I really, really would hate to see him be a widower. I think Marvel underestimates how important MJ has become. She’s been a major player in the movies, and has become the girl in Spidey’s life to the general public. Far from a liability, she is the one person Peter can count on in the insanity that is Spider-Man’s life. I have a loving, supportive wife, and I find it a bit insulting that there is no place in comics for such a person. Mary Jane apparently has no value as a character unless she and Peter are both “in play”.
I guess we’ll find out what Marvel has in mind soon enough. For all the complaining I hear about the marriage, these guys had better have some FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC romance plots cooked up to replace the marriage, if they’re going to end it. Otherwise, look for Spider-Man books to get a LOT more depressing in the near future.