Spider-Man in Love
January 27, 2015 6:32 PM   Subscribe

"I knew, from a very early age, that there was love in my house, imperfect love, love that was built, decided upon, as opposed to magicked into existence. That was how Peter loved Mary Jane." In The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on love and marriage as portrayed between Peter "Spider-Man" Parker and Mary Jane Watson.

Eight years after the controversial Spider-Man: One More Day storyline erased the "spider-marriage" from Marvel comics continuity, Marvel now teases a forthcoming storyline Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows. (Previously, in Marvel events.)

For a comicbook world that never split up the Peter/MJ relationship and that is also completely insane, you have the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip. As Chris Sims describes it, "There is so much I love about this comic strip. It is beautiful and perfect in so many ways, and all of those ways are monumentally dumb."

For an almost-terrifyingly-detailed history of Mary Jane Watson and the Peter/MJ relationship in Spider-Man lore, check out the commentary "Why did it have to be you, Mary Jane?" by J.R. Fettinger.

And if you'd like to wallow for a bit in Spidey/MJ romaaaance scans, Scans Daily is less up-to-date than Tumblr, but it still has quality posts with the images working. Here's a handful.
Aunt May plays matchmaker
First date
The Night Gwen Stacy Died
First kiss
Bringing the ice
Mary Jane + baseball bat vs the Chameleon
Lobster-Man Loves Mary Jane
Naked lightning science
Pete, MJ, and the Silver Surfer
"To Have and to Hold," nominated for an Eisner
Colleen Coover cuteness
posted by nicebookrack (42 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Anyone who believes that Spider-Man is a better story/title/hero with Peter & MJ split up is deeply wrong. Literally Hitler wrong.

Pairings of Peter with others, including other superheroes, can be greatly entertaining. That's what alternate universes and fanfic are for.

Mary Jane Watson-Parker or GTFO.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:53 PM on January 27, 2015 [13 favorites]

I used to love the newspaper strip. I still remember figuring out how insane it was when a plotline had Peter Parker forgetting his spider suit at the gym. One of the strips was titled "Let's Get Physical."
posted by teponaztli at 6:59 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

More to the point: some people complain that a stable, mature relationship somehow makes characters in ongoing series boring. I'm not insensitive to that, both as a writer and a consumer; it's difficult to keep a property fresh without changing things, especially after fifty-plus years like with Marvel comics.

Thing is, though, you look around at these ongoing properties, and you realize that the stable, long-term romances are rare. Peter & MJ were a pairing that worked, and splitting them up was...well, a failure of imagination and creativity, is what I'd call it. DC doubled down on this when they split the new Batwoman up from her love interest, claiming that superheroes shouldn't be happy, and that was straight-up appalling, too.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:59 PM on January 27, 2015 [12 favorites]

Quesada is worse than Hitler for making the awful mistake that swinging bachelor Peter was somehow more relatable to the average comic book reader than married to MJ and having to deal with 30+ year old grown-up issues.

Has he really no clue as to who the average comic book reader is? The average Marvel Zombie is probably pushing 40, has 2.2 kids and mortgage just like Peter.
posted by vuron at 7:02 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Long ago (literally years) on MeFi, based on a comment I made in a thread, someone sent me a PM asking for Peter/MJ-centric comic recs. Between deleting the message/never checking my inbox/something happening, I never replied to that MeFite. THIS POST IS MY APOLOGY!

And for the record, my answer would have been "Start with the J. Michael Straczynski run on Amazing Spider-Man and work your way back. Throw Kraven's Last Hunt in there somewhere."
posted by nicebookrack at 7:05 PM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

Quesada is worse than Hitler for making the awful mistake

It's worth noting that the retcon divorce tied in with Civil War, which was also a monumental pile of bad decisions affecting a lot of titles. The only really good thing I saw going on in Marvel that year was Annihilation, which was far from that whole mess (and, notably, led directly to the Guardians of the Galaxy film).

There were a whole lot of good things going on in the mainstream continuity right up until that point, and then bam, everything went to shit and I stopped buying.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:09 PM on January 27, 2015

I'm still trying to get my head around Ta-Nehisi Coates writing about Spider-Man in The Atlantic.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:09 PM on January 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

I am torn between glee at at Ta-Nehisi Coates writing about Spider-Man in The Atlantic and jealousy because I want to write about Spider-Man in The Atlantic.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:12 PM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]

Quesada is worse than Hitler

Really? Quesdada eats meat?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:17 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm still trying to get my head around Ta-Nehisi Coates writing about Spider-Man in The Atlantic.

How is this a shock? Coates is cool! This is way more important than some bullshit about under-inflated footballs!
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:22 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I hope there's a Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Marvel Multiverse, 'cause that would be awesome.
posted by RakDaddy at 7:52 PM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

No Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane? That was the best Spidey comic going for a while.
posted by davros42 at 7:59 PM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Spider-Man syndicated comic strip is a frequent target for The Comics Curmudgeon, and rightfully so.

If I wanted Alternate History Spider-'Man', I'd go with "Spider-Gwen" myself.

Or just go completely off-Marvel for Spinnerette in her ridiculous comic universe with Greta Gravity, Super MILF and the Werewolf of London, Ontario. Oh, also Benjamin Franklin, 'lost in time', but doesn't EVERY webcomic have him?
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:07 PM on January 27, 2015

Mary Jane / Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane isn't the main 616 continuity, so Peter and MJ weren't married, which was the main topic of the post. But that was and is one of my favorite comics ever! SM♥MJ was a near-perfect blend of shoujo manga introspective drama and superhero comic. MJ as the main character was just wonderful.

Relevant Scans Daily posts: "How'd you know where I live?"
"Hey, look at me! I'm Spider-Man! I'm cool!"

If I ever find that Marvel sent the spider-killing dimension-hopping baddies from Spider-Verse anywhere near the SM♥MJ verse, I will MAIL EVIL GLITTER to all their houses.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:13 PM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

How I Made My Peace With Retcons:

I'm very into Grant Morrison's idea that comics characters are beings who exist in a two dimensional universe adjacent to our own, that we can gaze into through a comics panel. I've always been into the multiversal notion, that sometimes a character's story played out like this and other times like this. For a long time, I was one of those nerds who got all bent out of shape when a movie "got it wrong" and wasn't "accurate" in their retelling of a legend, as if that's what's important. It wasn't until the near 100% fidelity of the Sin City adaptation bored me to tears that I realized perfect adaptations of comics I'd already read were basically reruns. Reprints. Yawn. Is Sandman shooting movie Uncle Ben "wrong?" I dunno, but at least it's a surprise. And on Earth-Raimi, that's how the story happened.

On Earth-Burton, Batman falls over a bunch. On Earth-Lucas, Midichlorians are a real thing that count and aren't dumb. Even within supposedly cohesive comics realities, certain stories just don't stick or count. When was the last time you heard the Time Traveling Teenage Tony Stark Fights his Evil Adult Self story referenced today, for example? Or the way the Ultimate Iron Man miniseries got retconned into an in-universe animated series that Stark commissioned? Some stories don't count outside of themselves. Not everything can be Kraven's Last Hunt, you're not gonna make it into the legend every single time. For my part, when I read a comic, the backstory that counts is the backstory that's referenced and that's it. The creators are as free as I am to ignore this or that issue if it doesn't fit into the imaginary world they're trying to build or exist in.

All of which is a very long way of saying that on Earth-ETW, even when I read and enjoyed the stories that followed it, One More Day never fucking counted because it was vicious and stupid and lazy. Laziness was the biggest crime against story Quesada committed with One More Day: his insistence on reruns when Spidey & MJ were set up for some fascinating stories coming out of Civil War.

Remember the set up? MJ was crushing it career wise and beloved nationwide. Then it comes out she's married to a criminal, practically a terrorist the way things were getting spun. Think of how Earth-Us would react if it came out that a top grossing actress and model had been married to public enemy number one with super powers for her whole career. What would it be like to discover one of the top photojournalists in New York city had been running a long con the whole time? And what would they do next with in a whole world that knew their secrets?

I liked Civil War a lot and I don't care if that's anathema: the Broken Status Quo intervals are always more interesting in superhero universes. I was dumb enough to think it would stay broken coming out of Civil War. The series I would've pitched would have been a relaunch of The Web of Spider-Man. Peter and MJ on the lam, fighting crime and early 21st century despair with glamor, gonzo journalism and friendly neighborhood Spider-Manning. They uploads their exploits and evidence to their site's secure server, the nation thrills to the adventures of their new outlaw heroes even while they wring their hands and Tony's SHIELD isn't sure if they can go after them or not without proving them right about everything. MJ would learn to use a webshooter. Peter would learn to use his celebrity. They would have been under pressure like never before, permanently out of their comfort zone but also together in a way they never could have been when they still had secrets from the world.

But heck, Superior Spider-Man was a great time and the marriage would have made that pretty tricky to write. So I ignore its absence when I visit Earth-Slott.
posted by EatTheWeek at 9:08 PM on January 27, 2015 [16 favorites]

I'm still trying to get my head around Ta-Nehisi Coates writing about Spider-Man in The Atlantic.

"I won't bore all the non-comic book fans here with a recitation of the arcana. But I'm going to talk to my people for a second. Nope, not even black people. I'm talking to those kids who came up like me, whose folks mistook Malcolm's Autobiography for the Bible, gave them African names, but didn't prohibit them from watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. If a 12-sided die and Swahili mark your childhood, than this is for you: Dwayne McDuffie has turned Anansi the Spiderman into a villain."

"Doom was born a gypsie—which in another place, is another way, of all the many ways, to say he was born a nigger. Put differently, he was one of us. His aspect was scarred from his attempts to transcend himself, and so he donned a mask."
posted by oneirodynia at 9:32 PM on January 27, 2015 [18 favorites]

Wow. Thank you, oneirodynia!
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:05 PM on January 27, 2015

You're welcome. :)
posted by oneirodynia at 10:43 PM on January 27, 2015

MJ is unfairly overlooked as one of the all-time great superhero characters, never mind that she's "just" a love interest. She's a glamorous hypercompetent scene-stealer and a complete mess in almost equal measures and even more neurotic about her secret identity as not-a-party-girl than Peter is about his as a crimefighter. Although their relationship hasn't always been treated well, at the heart of it the Watson-Parkers make each other better people and more interesting characters, which is why it's so darn satisfying when they're together -- and why One More Day was such an infuriating cop out. Even without geting into the bit where somehow having Peter and MJ make a deal with the devil was the preferred option over a divorce. Still boggling over that one.

I have mixed feelings about what I've read of Slott's run for reasons which have little to do with the unmarriaging, but I will say I enjoyed Spider-Island not only as a fun summer blockbuster romp but a really sweet take on MJ and Peter's relationship post-breakup.
posted by bettafish at 11:26 PM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

One of my favorite depictions of the spider-marriage is, weirdly enough, a trio of tie-in novels by Diane Duane, starting with The Venom Factor from 1994; books 2 & 3 are The Lizard Sanction & The Octopus Agenda. The chapter POVs switch equally between Peter/Spidey and MJ as they go about their married lives, with equal weight given to their respective storylines: usually Peter investigating or punching supervillains and MJ plugging away at looking for work as a model/actress/voiceover artist/whatever, because when your husband spends all his time punching supervillains, you have to be the main breadwinner.

I don't actually know if they're good. I've loved those books since I was 10; I own them in hardcover; I read them for comfort when I'm sick; I'm not rational about them at all. I could write an article, How Cheesy Comic Book Tie-In Novels Made Me a Baby Geek Feminist, because I still remember the light that went on in my superhero-comic-obsessed head reading those MJ POV chapters: "holy crap, you can be a non-superhero and/or woman in a superhero universe and still be an interesting and complex character with a rich inner life." They were my Mrs. Dalloway of cheesy comic book novels.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:13 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

And for the record, my answer would have been "Start with the J. Michael Straczynski run on Amazing Spider-Man and work your way back.

That MeFite dodged a bullet if that's your advice. Straczynski is godawful. Spider-magic. Urgh.

Best Mary Jane/Spider-Man is of course Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane which is out of continuity set back in their high school days and is a romance centric re-imagining of the early Spider-Man comics. It's adorable, funny and brilliant.

I have a soft spot for the David Michelinie/Todd McFarlane run on Amazing Spider-Man, in the early days of their marriage, as it showed them struggling with learning to live together and all the insecurities of being married quickly, without it becoming a soap opera.

And of course everything that Stan Lee did with Ditko and then Jazzy John Romita on Amazing.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:13 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm kind of surprised no one's mentioned the Parallel Lives graphic novel yet.
posted by kewb at 3:09 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had no idea that Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about Spider-Man. That is delightful.

I think it's fine that the marriage has dissolved for a while. MJ and Peter were married in a ton of stories in the past; they'll be married in the future; you have to really fetishize canon to complain that they're not married in the stories that are published at the moment.

The entire MU is basically modeled as one big company-wide What If at this point, which is how it has to be: there are only so many stories that you can make a part of any one heroes back history before it crushes them completely. So many complaints about Marvel events would go away if you just asked the criticizer, "Would you be OK if this were just a What If? issue?" A What If? issue where Spider-Man and Mary Jane were divorced would be fine, so it's fine for them to be split up in the "canonical" MU.

Here's the way it works now: the editorial board decides on some temporary but still relatively long-term universe-wide premises (things like: Professor X is dead, MJ and Spider-Man aren't married, Norman Osborne runs SHIELD, the Illuminati are working behind the scenes, Valhalla is in Oklahoma, etc.), and individual writers see what they can do with these premises, feeling free to selectively choose whatever stories from a character's past. Nothing will necessarily stick, but if a writer comes up with a really compelling story for a character, it'll become part of that character's individual canon: something that is assumed in stories about that character unless explicitly denied.

This mutability is a really neat way to handle canon, I think. Want to write a Spider-Man story? Here are 50 basic premises about Spider-Man. Choose 30. If you write something really cool, maybe a future writer will have 51 premises to select from.
posted by painquale at 3:44 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Straczynski is godawful. Spider-magic. Urgh.

I WILL FIGHT YOU THROUGH THE INTERNET which will end in a draw over mutual Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane respect

I don't care about spider magic; I like dorks in love. And Chris Yost ended up doing surprisingly great things with the spider magic over in Scarlet Spider with spider-clone Kaine, so there, a win for everybody.

Seriously, Quesada, if you needed swingin' single Spidey, Kaine has the social skills of a fungus and Ben Reilly is only mostly dead. Ooh, maybe new Spider-Gwen can be swingin' single Spidey. Her heart belongs to ROCK!
posted by nicebookrack at 5:13 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Have Mary Jane and the Wasp every hung out? Since they're both in fashion, they'd cross paths and I can see them hitting it off. Plus the Wasp would probably train MJ in a bit in fighting or hand her a couple of devices in case some bads come after her.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:30 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

I love how bettafish describes her above (emphasis mine): "She's a glamorous hypercompetent scene-stealer and a complete mess in almost equal measures and even more neurotic about her secret identity as not-a-party-girl than Peter is about his as a crimefighter."

Part of why she works so well as a character is that she too has a dual identity, but in a more straightforward, (relatively) realistic fashion. Her interior and exterior don't match, and that is a deliberate choice on her part. As part of the gearing up for the Spider-Marriage in the late Eighties, DeFalco and Frenz expanded her backstory to explain that "airhead party girl" was a defensive pose, and that underneath she was perceptive, compassionate, and worried.

MJ with Spider-Man creates two couples: the wisecracking superhero with the party-girl model/actress, and the two caring, decent people who have been through a ton of shit separately and together. On the surface, they don't match at all, but behind the masks they're a great fit. Peter's previous love interests weren't. Gwen and Betty loved Peter but hated Spider-Man, and the Black Cat was into Spider-Man but couldn't stand Parker. Mary Jane was the first, and still I believe the only, woman who appreciated the wholeness of Peter Parker. She was the only one who knew his secret and who understood why he kept it. What's more, over time he understood her secrets and why she kept them.

The post-OMD stories that have Spidey dating around are entertaining, but there's a predictable quality to them. The women like Peter or Spider-Man but never bridge the gap between the disparate parts of the man. His dating around feels like a delaying action until they reunite. When we see Mary Jane post-OMD, it's clear that she's in the same situation: men here and there, but none who get past the surface. Much like with Peter, maybe it's because she won't let them, maybe they don't want to look.

That honest connection they have is one they could form with other people someday, but given the circular nature of comics, it doesn't seem too likely.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 5:53 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

It's poignant that MJ in large part fell in love with Peter for his sense of responsibility, which is his bedrock virtue and also the cause of most of his personal problems.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:20 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

you have to really fetishize canon to complain that they're not married in the stories that are published at the moment.

For me it has a lot less to do with "fetishizing" canon (although I do consider continuity to be one of the most interesting aspects of serial superhero comics as long as it's used to build richness and depth in stories and not prevent them) as that breaking up the marriage was literally the laziest narrative option available at the time* and all the editorial reasons for it as given in interviews were steeped in misogyny. MJ was the ball and chain holding Peter back from the swinging single stories, so she had to go.

One More Day had a secondary benefit, too -- by wiping Spider-Man's secret identity from everyone's minds, including Norman Osborn's, Marvel was able to tell a big linewide story about Osborn taking over America without disrupting their "classic status quo" Spider-Man title. Which, again, was the less interesting option -- why even tell a story like that about the Green Goblin if you're going to sideline his nemesis?

*Speaking of AUs, EatTheWeak, if you write that fic I will read the hell out of it.
posted by bettafish at 7:54 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Plus the Wasp would probably train MJ in a bit in fighting or hand her a couple of devices in case some bads come after her.

This sort of thing is where comics often fall flat on their faces. The love interest is usually left being more or less helpless rather than anyone doing something proactive about it, and that's just flatly stupid.

Mary Jane, at least, showed great growth there, too--somewhat inconsistently, but that's what you get from having so many writers over a long period of time. She briefly carried a gun in her purse, which wasn't an endorsement of everyone getting concealed carry permits, but rather yes I really do get caught up in stupid supervillain bullshit. And yes, Peter freaked out about that, as one might.

She beat the hell out of at least one of his supervillain enemies with a baseball bat. Venom once kidnapped her and she not only remained perfectly calm (more annoyed than anything else, really), she actively took part in helping Peter take him down--because, again, "This shit happens to me all the time, do you think I'm gonna cower in the corner screaming?"

It's not fetishizing. This was a solid piece of character development, with one of the greatest supporting characters in super-comics -- I'd say the greatest, even better than Alfred and JJJ and Lois. Marvel threw it away so they could go back to the same predictable "swingin' single" bullshit done with virtually every other male hero figure in an ongoing property.

Spider-Man was different. Peter grew up. Quesada did not, and more's the pity for that.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:41 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Everything done with Osborn was a fucking disaster, from his return, to him impregnating Gwen Stacey somehow to the idea that he was the sort of hypercompetent super supervillain rather than the screwup he actually was.

One more strike against letting fanboys write comics.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:42 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

The women like Peter or Spider-Man but never bridge the gap between the disparate parts of the man.

I only follow comics distantly since CW and OMD. I just don't want to reward the bad decisions with my money--but I do flip through 'em occasionally and I see plenty of bits posted to tumblr, articles here and there, etc. Through that, I found the flirtation with Peter and Carol Danvers dating really intriguing for much the same reasons as this.

Carol, like MJ, has that dual personality: she seems tough and competent and serious and mature, and she is, but she's also (as shown in DeConnick's brilliant line, which I do buy) as much of a basket case and a spazz as the rest of us. She's just better at managing it all. They might seem like a ridiculous match, but I don't think they are. The thought that Carol could see through Peter's spazzness and the shortfalls in his personal life was something I really, dearly liked. He really is the MVP of the superhero set; he gets the most shit done, he's covered the most ground, he's put in the most hours and done the most good. Why wouldn't Carol, who is part of that top tier herself, be the one to see that?

Again, it's still Watson-Parker or GTFO. Carol/Peter is cool for a lark, or an alternate timeline or whatever, and in the end the direction they're taking Carol toward Rhodey is very cool, but it was a nice thought.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:55 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just popping in to mention that Spider-Girl is wonderful and amazing and I love older married Peter and MJ in it, so much. Because it hasn't been mentioned yet, but it was my favorite comic and half of what really got me into into comics as a teen.

(The other thing was Superman, specifically Lois Lane and Clark Kent's relationship/marriage and I'm still bitter that DC's reboot broke them up and ruined Lois's characterization. Why do comics have to break everything I love about them?)

Ahem. Anyway, I've always been a fan of the two when they're together, because they make a really good team, and I love reading that dynamic on the page. To me, it helps give the courageousness of comics something grounded and relatable to keep me invested.
posted by PearlRose at 10:14 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

the Broken Status Quo intervals are always more interesting in superhero universes.

Well, they can't not be, almost by definition, because the regular status quo is so stale, most of the time. That doesn't mean that the BSQ plots and scenarios are particularly good. OMD/BND suffered from badly-thought-through editorial mandate, and further from Dan Slott seeming to spend more of his time and energy baiting fans on various comics message boards than turning the situation into something actually good, and relying on things such as new costumes for Spidey to temporarily boost sales. The "Superior Spider-Man" thread was the culmination of these, with a bog-standard SF/comics plot being stretched out ridonkulously for no other apparent reason than to make it seem as if the reversion to the status quo weren't inevitable, which it was, of course. And it's not that Slott isn't a good writer; he is more responsible than anybody for the rise in popularity of Squirrel Girl, and I'm thinking of picking up his Silver Surfer book when it's out in trade paperback form, although that's mostly due to Mike Allred's art. For that matter, the Spider-Man/Human Torch miniseries that Slott did with Ty Templeton was a great book. But there's nothing of his current Spider-Man run that I can really enjoy, save for occasional uses of the characters by other writers (Norah Winters and Carlie Cooper in Rucka's Punisher, the Superior Foes of Spider-Man by Nick Spencer).

also, seconding PearlRose on Spider-Girl, easily my favorite thing of anything Tom DeFalco has ever done.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:37 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Spider-Girl IS wonderful and amazing, and (SPIDER-VERSE SPOILERS) Spider-Verse has not been kind to it, which has not endeared that part of the event or writer Dan Slott to me.

I haven't been a Superior Spider-Man fan, but I have a huge soft spot for Anna Maria Marconi, the woman who (unknowingly) dated Otto Octavius in Peter's body. She's smart, self-possessed, and practical without being cold. There are too many tangled consent issues now (and probably for years if EVER) for Anna and Actual Peter to work romantically, but they work wonderfully as friends. Too many of Peter's female friends have either vanished completely, become angry ex-girlfriends, or turned to villains. (Is Liz Allen actually evil these days, or is she just acting that way over in Spider-Man 2099?) I agree with bettafish above; as bittersweet as it was seeing the Peter/MJ relationship in Spider Island, that was also a lovely portrayal of them as friendly exes.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:01 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

MJ was the ball and chain holding Peter back from the swinging single stories, so she had to go.

You know I figure if they really want Peter to be a swinging single, they could always declare that he and MJ have an open marriage. That way we could also have MJ sleep with Hercules, Luke every other woman in the Marvel Universe.
posted by happyroach at 12:30 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, nicebookrack, when I mentioned mixed feelings about Slott's Spidey work the repeated consent issues are a big part of that. He's an idea machine with a great sense of fun but then he applies that same flippant writing style to everything, including the intersection of superpowers and sexual consent, and it can turn really ugly (without, judging by his social media presence, any awareness on his part). I bailed on Superior Spider-man after the second issue because I got squicked so badly.
posted by bettafish at 1:00 PM on January 28, 2015

Yeah, it's a fun toss-up between which was creepier, Spider-Ock's renewed relationship with MJ that was chaste and based on total deliberate deception, or SpOck's new relationship with Anna Maria that was honest in everything except names and involved Peter's body being used for sex for months without his consent. I just. My brain. I have seen this dystopian scifi horror story already, sitting in Margaret Atwood's files somewhere! Why is it playing out like a romantic comedy, Slott?

MJ and Anna Maria need to meet up for drinks and commiserate / facepalm.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:03 PM on January 28, 2015

Also, Peter needs therapy, but what else is new. Poor guy.

A lot of my favorite MJ recs have been mentioned at this point, but I will mention:

1. The Conway run, in the Silver Age. Aka when Peter and MJ went from not really liking each other except by default because they had the same friends to grieving together to becoming close friends before they finally started dating.

2. Spectacular Spider-Man #121: a Rashomon style story about a bank robbery starring Peter, MJ, JJJ. You heard me!

3. Adam-Troy Castro's Sinister Six trilogy, for cheesy good tie-in novel late 90's fun without any of the bad parts of late 90's Spider-Man. Castro nails characterization so well he's one of my favorite Spidey writers despite never having written a comic, and his Mary Jane is an action star both literally and figuratively. There's a Chameleon rematch, but I will say no more. nicebookrack, these are loosely in the same timeline as the Diane Duane books, and if you like those you will probably also like these.
posted by bettafish at 7:36 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

And it's not that Slott isn't a good writer; he is more responsible than anybody for the rise in popularity of Squirrel Girl

To be honest, that's not exhibit A I would use to make my case. Squirrel Girl is the epitome of fanboy "humour": take a one note, throw away Ditko character and make her har har more powerful than Galactus, then do worse and take her seriously, not to mention getting all grim 'n gritty with the Great Lakes Avengers.

Almost as bad as turning that other Ditko one note character, Speedball, into Penance.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:16 PM on January 28, 2015

The Sinister Six trilogy!! Oh man, I haven't read that in years, and now I have to hit the used bookstore for it immediately.

If we're recommending single issues, I'll always love I ♥ Marvel: Web of Romance (Valentine's Day special!), which is set during the time the Parker family lived at Avengers Tower and is 100% flawless cozy romantic fluff. Also, MJ explains basketball to Captain America.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:11 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

EatTheWeek and I apparently share a brain about continuity and the spider books and stuff only s/he gets to be way more articulate and stuff. Nicely said.

That MeFite dodged a bullet if that's your advice. Straczynski is godawful. Spider-magic. Urgh.

Eh, I have some serious problems with Straczynski as a writer and a human being but I didn't mind that. It did some interesting mythological stuff and kept my interest.
posted by phearlez at 1:38 PM on January 29, 2015

MartinWisse, that's an uncharitable and actually pretty wrong take on the character.

- Squirrel Girl has never been more powerful than Galactus; that whole riff was based on the fact that she did beat Doctor Doom in her first appearance, her and her posse of squirrels, and Slott was reacting against people trying to retcon it away by saying it was a Doombot, as they tend to do with any appearance of Doom that they don't approve of in their view of the character. It kind of mushroomed from there. Most of the rest of her victories over the likes of Thanos occur off-panel; this is deliberate. (You may not like the joke, but it is meant as one.)

- Similarly, the "getting all grim 'n gritty with the Great Lakes Avengers" was also Slott's piss-take on both Avengers: Disassembled and DC's Identity Crisis, with Squirrel Girl introducing each issue and directly criticizing the bogosity of both events.

- She also had an appearance in which she got on Robbie "Speedball" Baldwin's case for the whole Penance thing. Again, not everybody's cup of tea, but how can you not get the gist of things from the likes of P-Cat the Penitent Puss?

Again, humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and not everyone treats SG the same way; Bendis, for example (the same writer behind Avengers: Disassembled) seems to treat her pretty seriously. But overall? SG is the antidote to grimdark.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:11 PM on January 29, 2015

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