The Devil (and Joe Quesada) Made Him Do It
January 4, 2008 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Spider-Man and Mary Jane are no more. But what broke up their 20 year long marriage? The stress of being a superhero? An illicit tryst with Ben Riley coming to light? Nope. The Devil made them do it in order to save Aunt May's life. Comic Book Resources has been running a series of interviews with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada (1, 2, 3, 4, 5pending) who wrote and penned the issue as its normal writer, J. Michael Straczynski (his take here) refused to do so. So that distant howl you've been hearing all week is actually the sound of a thousand comic fans gnashing their teeth and rending their Spidey Underoos.

Other retcons include the resurrection of Harry Osborn and the "re-masking" of Spider-Man whose secret identity was revealed to the world as part of the Civil War storyline.
posted by robocop is bleeding (136 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

It was a mistake to put Quesada in charge of Marvel. It's a mistake he's still there.

At least the movies are better than the Roger Corman versions though.
posted by Stynxno at 11:56 AM on January 4, 2008

Man, editorially mandated big event style supercomics totally suck ass these days.
posted by Artw at 11:57 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Is it just me, or are comics fans like the ultimate conservatives? If it isn't issue after issue of That One Plot All Comics Share, they hate it. Or maybe it's a selection bias in what gets reported.

Anyway, on to my idea: Open Source comics. If you hate the way a writer has taken it, fork the project!
posted by DU at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

How could anybody get upset over this? It was clearly a marriage of convenience anyway. I look forward to seeing Spider Man clean up Fire Island, where his help is desperately needed. Some of those clubs are still playing "Gloria." And I mean the Laura Branigan version!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2008 [6 favorites]

fork the project!

The Marvel comics Ultimates line, which was esentially a fork, appears to be involved in a messy merge back into the marvel mainstream right now.
posted by Artw at 12:05 PM on January 4, 2008

Other retcons also include turning Peter Parker into a swingin' 30-something living in his aunt's attic with no employment prospects.

Since Parker is supposed to be Marvel's "everyman" character, the one people are supposed to be able to relate to on a personal level or whatever, I think this particular retcon makes very clear what exactly Marvel thinks about its customers.
posted by casarkos at 12:08 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'm on the scans_daily community on LJ, and, oh dear Lord, you'd think a nuke landed somewhere.
posted by WCityMike at 12:09 PM on January 4, 2008

Anyway, on to my idea: Open Source comics. If you hate the way a writer has taken it, fork the project!

I think that's called "fanfic"?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:09 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

"re-masking" of Spider-Man whose secret identity was revealed to the world as part of the Civil War storyline

WTF! Wow, that's a whole heap of stupidity... well it saves me the effort of trying to catch up with Civil War if it's clearly that much of a waste of time. Perhaps they can resurrect Gwen Stacy and Uncle Ben next...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:15 PM on January 4, 2008

Other retcons also include turning Peter Parker into a swingin' 30-something living in his aunt's attic with no employment prospects.

Spider-Man, starring in: Joe Quesada's Midlife Crisis Wish Fulfillment Extravaganza!

...On the other hand, if the new status quo is anything like the Dan Slott/Phil Jiminez Spider-Book they released on Free Comic Book Day, this might just be a really craptacular way of getting to some entertaining if utterly inconsequential superhero stories. I know that sounds like a meager goal, but after reading "The Other" (for free, mind you -- Borders cafe piracy!), I'll be impressed if they can pull it off. Not impressed enough to actually buy any of this shit, but maybe impressed enough to, you know, read it. Here and there. When the mood strikes me.

For free.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:15 PM on January 4, 2008

I heard in the new version, Parker bites the spider.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 12:18 PM on January 4, 2008 [9 favorites]

DU: "Open Source comics. If you hate the way a writer has taken it, fork the project!"

Internally, I'm pretty sure that's the way Marvel works.
posted by Plutor at 12:19 PM on January 4, 2008

I used to enjoy reading comic books, but in the nineties I had stop, because of the ridiculous promotional tricks--the relatively harmless like holographic covers and restarting series(es?) at issue #1, and the painfully stupid, like these plot twists that are so universe-upending you know it's only a matter of months before they roll things back to where they were beforehand (O NO! They killed Superman!).

What a bunch of lazy asses. And to stitch it all together with MAGIC, to boot.
posted by Nahum Tate at 12:19 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is one of the main reasons I stopped reading comics back in the day, they kept having crises every 6 month or so that totally changed everything. At least with X-men. But if these things happened every few months, then none of it mattered.

I think comic book authors ought to just give up on the 'eternal storyline' idea. I think with Anime they just do new variations on the same theme every few years. I think that would be a better idea.
posted by delmoi at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

God, I used to love, love, love comic books. But prices went up, story lines got ridiculous, and the sheer number of Spider Man and X-Men titles ended up breaking my little Comic Book Boy heart.
I couldn't tell you what's going on, but I saw the term "Marvel Zombies" and figured I was better off not knowing.
posted by willmize at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2008

So it was Quesada that we get to blame for this awful dialogue, then?

Mephisto said he was offering the your-marriage-or-your-aunt deal because Spidey's relationship with MJ "is the rarest love of all. Pure, unconditional and made Holy in the eyes of He who I hate most. A love like yours comes about but once in a millennia and to take that away from Him . . . is a victory like none other imaginable."

Because, I mean, wow. Woof.

And it's a shame this won't crossover to the daily strip, or Fruhlinger might actually enjoy the strip for once.
posted by cortex at 12:25 PM on January 4, 2008

I think that's called "fanfic"?

I was thinking more of a Wikipedia-style thing. But now that I think about it, maybe I don't want to see what Comic Book Guy would come up with.
posted by DU at 12:28 PM on January 4, 2008

You know what would actually be innovative? To have this spidery-man retire and come up with some new super heroes. Then there's no need to reboot the store every x years or come up with crazy explanations for continuity errors.

It would be harder to sell the breakfast cereal though.
posted by drezdn at 12:29 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Word on the street from people who have the issue in their hot little mitts is that the retcons include swapping the side-arms of every police officer in Peter's New York City and replacing them with flashlights or walkie-talkies.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 12:29 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that "Quesada" is a rough Spanish translation of "covered in cheese."
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:31 PM on January 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

Word on the street from people who have the issue in their hot little mitts is that the retcons include swapping the side-arms of every police officer in Peter's New York City and replacing them with flashlights or walkie-talkies.

This was funnier in the right thread and by the other guy.
posted by DU at 12:34 PM on January 4, 2008

Then there's no need to reboot the store every x years or come up with crazy explanations for continuity errors.

But if there's no canon to memorize, what's the point of comics?
posted by smackfu at 12:37 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I couldn't tell you what's going on, but I saw the term "Marvel Zombies" and figured I was better off not knowing.

Actually Marvel Zombies is quite fun, and not particularly bogged down with continuity guff.

Over at DC I've heard that Sinestro Corps is actually pretty good, and doesn't require reading any additional comics to get it, so I'll be picking up the trade paperbacks of that.
posted by Artw at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2008

You know what Marvel's doing? They're remaking all those campy 1960s-era Superman and Batman comics where Lois Lane gets the chair, or Superman died, or Jimmy Olsen is Superman's son, and then at the end it was all just a dream / Superman hypnotised the witnesses into forgetting / the deus ex machina resets. Only this time emo-style with marketing tie-ins and lots of extra verbiage.
posted by ardgedee at 12:40 PM on January 4, 2008

House of M is the crossover where it was revealed that Magneto is the king of spain.
posted by Artw at 12:41 PM on January 4, 2008

I don't care, I'm reading Vertigo.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:41 PM on January 4, 2008

Don't even get me started on the multiple shitty backstories they've given Wolverine.
posted by Artw at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2008

But if there's no canon to memorize, what's the point of comics?

They could still all exist in the same universe, it's just characters would age and new heroes would emerge as the older ones start to lose their ability to fight.

I'll admit though, I tend not to read most of the hero books any more (unless if one of the weirder writers is doing a run), so I'm not in the target market.
posted by drezdn at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2008

Perhaps they can resurrect Gwen Stacy and Uncle Ben next...

JMS and Joe Q. had to be talked out of bringing Gwen back.

It took several months.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:44 PM on January 4, 2008

The upside? This'll all be retconned again in a couple of months.
posted by klangklangston at 12:45 PM on January 4, 2008

Ok, so I hit up the wikipedia page on this, to see what has happened to Spidey between Civil War and this flaming pile of cop-out. It looked like they were on to a half decent way to ret-con the unmasking with the "Scarlet Spiders", gave up on it at the last minute?

Can any Spidey comment on that cursory assumption?
posted by butterstick at 12:48 PM on January 4, 2008

Even JMS is unhappy with this mess... to the point of wanting his name removed from the last 2 issues of the arc.
posted by Bluecoat93 at 12:48 PM on January 4, 2008 Spider Man going to dress in black, grease his hair and start acting all emo again now?
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:55 PM on January 4, 2008

This is interesting. I'm not a huge comic book fan, but I always enjoy hearing about the politics in their creative process.

I wonder if there always need to be retcons at all. Must every storyline that diverges a little from another storyline be a "fork" or "alternate universe" or whatever? Why can't they just be a little bit different?

Doctor Who would be a disaster by now if they'd have worried too much about continuity.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:57 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Quesada has said on more than one occasion that he hated the Parker marriage and that he thought marriage defined the character too strictly, and that more could be done plot-wise if Peter Parker were single.

When Fangirls Attack have been linking to a lot of commentary on that.

My opinion is that it's pretty sad that a stable of writers can't sustain interest in a marriage, when the marriage itself is only one part of a multifaceted character with an ensemble of allies and a villains gallery. I also don't think they've entirely thought about the impact across the Marvel universe, considering how often Spider-Man was crossed into other books and their separate plots. Will Wolverine remember MJ and Peter were together? What about Iceman's memories? Johnny Storm? How many other characters would have to retcon their memories to wipe out MJ and the Parker marriage? Or perhaps Quesada and company thought of these things and just didn't care.
posted by FunkyHelix at 12:57 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

I don't have a problem with retcons, but I do have a problem with lame ass storylines based on fears of how "the media is going to spin the story" or cloaked in a guise of "we're worried about invalidating years of comics."

First, you can't invalidate years of comics. They're still there, you know. You can go back and reread the stories you loved thirty years ago and, if they're good stories, they'll still effect you. I still can enjoy Star Wars and think that the latest trilogy sucked balls, for instance. Jar Jar Binks doesn't harm the movies that were made before he existed, in my opinion.

Second, divorce and annulment happens. Marvel has had stories of spousal abuse, drug addiction, and a whole slew of socially relevant issues. Mary Jane and Parker getting divorced could have potentially generated a bunch of new and interesting story material. And sold a ton of books. Quesada tries to wrap the 'deal with the devil' storyline in a "think of the children" blanket and that is just lame.

Third, I agree with Quesada that Spiderman works better as a single guy. I thought the whole marriage thing was silly. For that matter, the whole "graduating" thing sort of undermined the character, too. In fact, most of Parker's natural character development undermined what was originally appealing about the character.

This is a challenge that most serial fiction faces. When you write a story that actually allows the characters to grow and develop, you create a much more satisfying story, but you lose some fo the things that were originally interesting about the characters. I'd point to Cheers, for example, where the relationship of Sam and Diane was much more interesting before it was consummated, though the consummation itself was pretty hilarious.

Oh well, stupid storyline, bad writing and another billion into Marvel's coffers.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:06 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

You know what Marvel's doing? They're remaking all those campy 1960s-era Superman and Batman comics ... ... Only this time emo-style with marketing tie-ins and lots of extra verbiage.

I think you're on to something. The only reason to merge the Ultimates universe is so they can do their own version of "Crisis on Multiple Earths". Get ready for about a decade of wacky misunderstandings that cause Wolverine-616 to fight Wolverine-1610.
posted by Gary at 1:09 PM on January 4, 2008

I watched Spider-Man 3 last night and it actually made me pretty interested in the soap-opera aspect of comics. Which is to say, the movie did something good. Which is astounding.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:10 PM on January 4, 2008

Nice to see them plundering ancient Greek mythology to keep the story line moving along... maybe kind of sort of? I see similarities but I could be wrong.
posted by wowbobwow at 1:13 PM on January 4, 2008

I really liked when Magneto told Hugo Chavez to shut up.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:20 PM on January 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

Incidentally, I'd like to thank Astro Zombie for getting "Gloria" stuck in my head, where it's been playing for the last hour and a half. Bastard.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:32 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

The good news is this opens the door for a Marvel Team-Up run with Daredevil and Spider-Man where Matt Murdock shows hapless with the ladies Peter Parker how to pick up the chicks. All they have to do is get rid of Daredevil's wife, which shouldn't be too hard since he loses lovers at an alarming rate. Just send in Bullseye.
posted by Hugonaut at 1:34 PM on January 4, 2008

Second, divorce and annulment happens.

I'm with you, but the approach Marvel's taken to their canon in recent years is a disappointing. I'm kind of over super hero comics that aren't Warren Ellis scripted or the Green Lantern, but I did go back and grab a torrent of ASM 1-400 a few years ago to peek at the issues I missed. And the last 25 or so issues were a huge disappointment, like you can just walk in and blow everything up and tie back to some obscure shit villain and make everything new and interesting, except it's not "new and interesting" for the fans, it's something hack writers do to try to leave an impression. Be like Walt Simonson on Thor if you want to leave a legacy. Dropping a nuke into the story isn't the way to do it because, as suggested above, it will all get swept under the rug next retcon. Marvel's definitely going through DC's '80s pain and it sucks that there isn't ab etter man at the helm.
posted by yerfatma at 1:42 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but ColdChef really has it here. After they cast that dog to play MJ, the films were already dead to me. Exhibit A != Exhibit B.


Zeroed out!
posted by prostyle at 1:45 PM on January 4, 2008

Are MJ and Iceman gonna hook now? Or MJ and the Black Cat?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:45 PM on January 4, 2008

He better motherFUCKING wake up from a terrible nightmare a la that crappy soap opera/ending from Family Guy.
posted by shmegegge at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2008

this has fucking ruined my day. and i don't even read superhero books any more.
posted by shmegegge at 1:59 PM on January 4, 2008

But it wasn't a divorce or annulment here.

What happened here was one man hating a fictional marriage so much that he wiped it out entirely so that it never happened, enabling him to clean slate any character development made since the beginning of the character to go backward into a place Peter Parker has already been.

Fans already read through the Spider-Man awkward years where he lived with his aunt. Instead of being allowed to mature, maybe figure out where to go with a public persona ala the Fantastic Four, family life as a superhero dad, and maybe passing on the mantel, fans now get to sit through crap plots cribbed from movies like 40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and all the other awkward man-child can't get his act together and sustain real relationships.

Why go for complex, mature, and interesting when you can strive for the lowest common denominator-type stories like how to get hot girl action when your elderly aunt is in the room next door.
posted by FunkyHelix at 2:06 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

At least this will be a relatively easy mistake to correct. Historically, most "Deal-with-the-Devil" plot-lines follow the same basic arc:
1) Tragedy or unfulfilled desire leads hero (or anti-hero) to make deal with the Devil;
2) Tragedy is (temporarily) averted; desires are (temporarily) fulfilled;
3) Devil fulfills agreement utilizing malicious compliance, whereby the requested result is ironically used to cause even greater damage than the original situation the hero (or anti-hero) was trying to avoid (in this case, one presumes that Spidey not being with Mary Jane will ultimately lead to the horrific deaths of both his aunt AND Mary Jane - or the destruction of the universe, which is pretty much the same thing);
4) Hero (or anti-hero) learns important lesson;
5) Hero (or anti-hero) discovers previously undisclosed loophole to back out of the deal, and everything reverts to where it was at the beginning of the story, EXCEPT...
6) Hero uses lesson learned in plot-point 4 to avert or deal with the original tragedy, or fulfill or get over the original unfulfilled desire.
7) Back to square 1.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:07 PM on January 4, 2008

Incidentally, I'd like to thank Astro Zombie for getting "Gloria" stuck in my head, where it's been playing for the last hour and a half. Bastard.

Don't worry, I have the perfect antidote.
posted by Rangeboy at 2:09 PM on January 4, 2008

When Joe Quesada took over as EiC, the Spider-Man books and what readers remained were badly battered by The Clone Saga. In this molestation of the mythos, it was revealed that the Peter Parker we'd been reading about for about the last twenty years was a clone of the genuine article, who'd been in hiding or something. Parker's powers faded, and he retired the webs for the new (old) guy, who bleached his hair and went by "Ben Reilly." Reilly also wore a Spider-Suit with a Spider-Hoodie for awhile.

Fans were apoplectic, cuz it kinda read like Marvel had canceled out a couple decades of stories -- that we hadn't read about the 'real' Peter Parker since the seventies. Since I started reading Spidey in the eighties, that meant I'd never read about the real guy. After a long stretch of increasingly stupid developments and the introduction of some astonishingly stupid villains, Marvel at last gave up the ghost and switched things around so that everything that had happened in the last three years or so was a dirty trick engineered by the still-living Green Goblin.

This included retconning the death of Aunt May by saying the goblin hired a terminally ill actress and operating on her so she looked just like Aunt May, so Peter could be put through the pain of her dying. They also side-stepped Mary Jane's pregnancy by having the baby abducted, swapped with a stillborn and carted off to Europe to never be discussed again. Oy. They killed the Ben Reilly dead, and he turned to purple clone dust.

It was a stupid way out of a stupid story, but at last the Clone Mess was over with. Quesada came on as EiC soon after, and all was well for awhile. But what they've done here is far dumber. At least during the Clone debacle, that twenty-odd years of stories still 'happened.' Now everything from Kraven's Last Hunt to the unmasking is off in some pocket universe or some shit. For all Quesada's bold moves of late, he's turned out to be kind of a chickenshit. "Deal with the Devil" is way easier and lazier than dealing with the ramifications of the unmasking. And no wonder Strazynski wanted his name off those issues. They marked the end of his run, and essentially said that every other issue he wrote never happened.

I thought the prospect of an unmasked, fugitive Spider-Man married to the minor celebrity that Mary Jane was in the Marvel U was a wonderful set up for years of stories. But Joe would rather pave this over to do love triangles stories from forty years ago. Arg!

posted by EatTheWeak at 2:10 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

A love like yours comes about but once in a millennia

Did they just retcon that word to be singular?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:15 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Or maybe he's referring to the time they banged in a shitty Mazda. And Peter's radioactive jizz gave her cancer.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

Exhibit A != Exhibit B.

True, Exhibit B actually exists.
posted by drezdn at 2:17 PM on January 4, 2008

Did they just retcon that word to be singular?

No, no, see, like: okay. A millenium. A thousand years. Long time. Big big love. Great. But.

But! So, okay: once in a millenium is a while, but once in a millenia is once in some unspecified and, like, maybe even totally unbounded plurality of thousands of years, and that's, like, fucking deep. That's rare. That's a mint Action Comics #1. No, better, #0.

I'm available for writing sessions, Joe. Call me.
posted by cortex at 2:19 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just told someone at work about this, and though neither of us have read spider-man in a long time he said "let's go find the guy who wrote that. right now."

I said "it's the editor in chief. he's a couple blocks from here, if he hasn't left work yet."

him: "let's go."

he was kidding, but that's the frustration that's floating around the city right now.
posted by shmegegge at 2:20 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

True, Exhibit B actually exists.

Which is exactly why it has no place in outrageous comic book fantasies.
posted by prostyle at 2:21 PM on January 4, 2008

The Devil making them do this for Aunt May is what makes this story lame. I'd be OK with Peter and MJ getting divorced. People do that from time to time with no Devil needed at all. When I last read Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter and MJ (in high school, dating) had broken up and Peter was dating Kitty Pryde of the X-Men, and I think MJ was still pining for Peter.

I'd be OK with the Devil wanting them to get divorced. It's what Mephisto, and the Devil more generally, does: he fucks with people, for no good reason. The way to do this, IMO, is for the Devil to say to Peter, "You know who I am. You know what I do. It's your turn. Here's the deal. Divorce MJ or I will kill her stone dead and take her soul to Hell. You can protect her while you're near her, but you can't be around her all the time. I have all the time in the world. I can turn invisible, I can phase through walls. See this pitchfork of mine? Not just for show. Any time you leave her side - bam, right through the neck. Blood all over this nice red suit. You're my new pet project. See you ... some time."

Mephisto's reasons are immaterial and any digging into them is worse than pointless, it distracts from the main question: How do MJ and Peter react? He's always been too eager to abandon her in order to protect her life; he knows this, he's not going to do it again. But he sees her as weak and vulnerable and needing him to protect her. That's a well-known character flaw. She finds that annoying. (I wouldn't call that a flaw.) So, he hangs around her 24/7. When she's in the bathroom, he's outside sniffing for the brimstone (hmm ...) and listening for the screams. He comes to work with her. Eventually, she has enough. "Leave me ALONE!" Slams the door, runs outside. Poof, there's the Devil. Peter hears her scream in the corridor, runs outside, sick with fear. Mephisto has MJ pinned, by the neck but not through the neck, to the wall. "Hiya. Anytime you want this to stop, you know what to do." Hands him a notarized, valid, divorce paper. Grins. Retrieves his pitchfork. Disappears.

Peter calls in favors. Dr Strange: "I can't do anything more than you can. I can protect her, I can give you some time away from each other, although I can't give her any time on her own. In the end, he can't be stopped unless he wants to be. He's nine thousand years old and commands legions of demons. He is that powerful. Frankly, any time any of us have set him back, it's because he wants to. Thank the Omega Pumpkin that he confines himself to arranging divorces and such. Just sign it, get divorced, and live in sin." "We can't, the contract specifies a 500-yard mutual restraining order." "Contract? You need a lawyer."

Daredevil: "Yeah, it's ironclad, to no-one's surprise, under every jurisdiction in the world. Even the Latverian interpretation of sharia law, which I had thought specifically forbade divorce. He's even found a way to include an open third-party right to sue either of you on this for specific performance. Mind if I borrow it to photocopy? I do divorce work myself sometimes."

Days go by. Panels show MJ, always bodyguarded by someone, either in costume in the Parker apartment, or in civvies at MJ's workplace. Eventually, she says to Peter with tears in her eyes: "I just can't take it any more. I liked that we were away from each other for weeks at a time. I need my privacy. I'm sorry, it really is not you, it's me. I've signed it." A page of panels of him sitting in the dark in a chair. Last panel: he signs it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:26 PM on January 4, 2008 [18 favorites]

I've never been more proud of my ignorance than just now, when I had to google "retcon" to figure out what the fuck it meant.
posted by dersins at 2:26 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's from the Latin: "To retch, unconditionally."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:31 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Kind of related, Mark Waid on leaving The Flash

And at this moment in time, I just ... in terms of superhero work, I feel frozen. I kind of... I feel like I'm momentarily out of step with what fandom wants because I don't get it. The same voices that are screaming that we gave Flash a wife and kids and family, because they say that's not what Flash is, are the same people who are screaming that they've broken up Mary Jane and Peter Parker. "How dare you take his family away!" I'm like, wait! Wait! What? Which way is it? So... growth and change good... or growth and change bad?
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on January 4, 2008

And, because it;s really the only hting other than what;s in that interview that I know about The Flash these days: Some awesome Brian Bolland Flash covers
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on January 4, 2008

That's a shame. I didn't know people were flipping out about the Flash's family. Waid was writing a pretty interesting take on the thing, with the kids inheriting portions of the Flash's power. And the art was gorgeous.

They had Waid back on the book, which they'd wanted for years. They had Wally West back in the Flash suit, and everyone says he was their favorite. And they bitched Waid off the title!

For some folks, the best thing about comics is complaining about them. I'm guilty of it myself at times (see above).
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:37 PM on January 4, 2008

RollTruckRoll: "Doctor Who would be a disaster by now if they'd have worried too much about continuity."

Actually, Doctor Who IS A disaster. That's a part of its charm. It doesn't make sense outside its own fractured, superficial, deliciously pretentious pseudo-reality. This ain't Agatha Christie we're talking about here. This is mass-produced entertainment. If you want class and high quality, go back to the Victorian period.

I have admittedly been following this post-Civil War crap with some level of interest, and found it amusing that it was taking place about the same time as DC's multiple crises. I enjoyed Crisis On Infinite Earths back in 1985, but if you've been watching the recent multiple crises that they got going now. Oh man. Somebody's a few threads short of a cape.

I wouldn't necessarily blame Quesada alone. It's actually the purse strings behind Marvel. Spider-Man's a very valuable commodity. You can't let him age. You crazy? He's not wine. He's a comic book character.

Do people rush to book stores today for stories of Sherlock Holmes or Captain Nemo? No. You know why? They aged. They got old and predictable and viewers wanted something new. So Marvel is juggling on a very taut tightrope: they have to keep their product lines exciting and new without changing the product itself.

Ever noticed when something is marked 'new and improved' it's rarely either? Yet somehow it sells...

There's a point with any of these big money names that the writers and editors realize they can only stretch so far. You can keep Aunt May sickly and near the brink of death, but can you actually kill her? In the eye of the reader, would that mean Parker failed?

Just what is Peter Parker? What is Spider-Man? What variables in his character make-up make him who he is? Can you move Spidey out of New York City? Does he have to live with Aunt May and scrape money together month after month? Or if you give Peter Parker everything he wants, is he still interesting to your readers?

Can they have a Spider-Man without Peter Parker? They tried that with the whole Clone Saga, but the sales dropped so they backed off on that. That's essentially how they figure these things out. They try something, and then watch their audience's reaction.

They try changing the variables of all their major titles, but they can only do so much changing before the audience responds by turning their backs on it. Is Spider-Man still interesting if Aunt May dies? What if Uncle Ben comes back to life? Spider-Man lost Gwen Stacy, and the public at the time was up in arms about that, but sales didn't dwindle. Eventually the audience warmed up to Mary Jane, and Gwen is hardly ever mentioned in the story today. It's almost as if she never happened.

So Marvel has learned they can't really take Peter out of his Aunt's shadow for long. That's part of what makes him who he is. However, he can have a different lady to drape on his arm. They've tried first a blonde, and then a redhead.

Who's next? Why, brunette Betty Brant, of course.

My point is, the stories need certain touchstones that make it what it is, and other variables that keep the viewership guessing. Do you honestly think Steve Rogers is dead permanently? Hell, we're talking about the company that created a revolving door on death.

Marvel knows exactly what it's doing. Maximizing its product for monetary gain and overall success in the audience's perception. If you don't like it, stop buying the comics. That's the only thing to which comic book publishers really respond: sales.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:41 PM on January 4, 2008

It's from the Latin: "To retch, unconditionally."

Actually, it's a conditional retching, hence it's not "retuncon."
posted by shmegegge at 2:41 PM on January 4, 2008

“I think this particular retcon makes very clear what exactly Marvel thinks about its customers.”
posted by casarkos


Although I’ve been slowly picking up the World War Hulk stuff. Not bad. I suspect the reason this particular move - and stuff like this - sux so hard is because you see what some folks are capable of (I greatly enjoyed Peter David’s run on the Hulk f’rinstnce), and it emerges sometimes, but Marvel (and to a lesser extent DC) insists on flushing it down the toilet.

“for instance. Jar Jar Binks doesn't harm the movies that were made before he existed, in my opinion.”

No. But going back an inserting Han shooting first does. As does “midichlorians” out of left field.
Same thing. They’re not merely saying ‘this is something else’ (see below) they’re, as the word implies, retroactively rewriting history such that the previous work is invalidated.
In the World War Hulk series ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross alludes to things occuring in the Hulk’s past. He says “a few years ago” so Marvel time moves differently. No problem. But this is saying the equivalent of “that never happened.”
It’s not a problem in terms of story. It’s a problem in terms of aesthetic. As in freeking laziness.
Gee, too hard to write the character the way it is? Well hey, why don’t I buy Marvel and make Spiderman a chronic masterbator from day one and he wears bozo shoes and blah blah blah - whatever I want without any respect at all to previous artist’s work or the readers because I want to winepress as much money out of the fans before they see what a fraud this all is.
As opposed to, y’know, working for a living and producing a good product.

“it's just characters would age and new heroes would emerge as the older ones start to lose their ability to fight.”

Read Astro City with the story about Supersonic. Outstanding. (And Astro City with the Junkman - also excellent)

Why the need for continuity? They’re comics. Only the world itself needs continuity. F’rinstance Sin City is always Sin City even if Marv is electrocuted. There can be previous stories, there can be stories related.
Worked just fine for the Norse, the Twilight of the Gods didn’t prevent them from telling all sorts of tales.

On the other hand, doesn’t look like Marvel can be bothered to maintain even a cursory connection with even their worthwhile work.
“Say Bjorn! What if Ragnarok HAPPENED!? But then THOR came BACK as an EVIL TWIN!? And LOKI was his FATHER!? But then it turns out RAGNAROK was just a DREAM!? And everyone came back, but as ELVES!? But EVIL ELVES!? Except THOR was a GIRL and ... er, what was I talking about in the first place?”
‘Just paddle the F’ing boat Sven. You’re first on shore, ok?’
posted by Smedleyman at 2:41 PM on January 4, 2008

Who ever reads this, if you find yourself near Joe Quesada, you owe it to every current and former fan of Spider-Man to kick him in the balls.
posted by JWright at 2:54 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Do people rush to book stores today for stories of Sherlock Holmes or Captain Nemo?

Well, I rushed out and bought the last League Of Extraordinay Gentlemen GN, for what it's worth.
posted by Artw at 2:58 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I thought I'd try picking up Spider-Man again now that Dan Slott's going to be on it.So I bought the first issue of this storyline (the last arc before the new writers start.) The issue was extra-long, and cost a dollar more than usual.

The actual comics content wasn't any longer than normal though -- turns out I paid the extra dollar for a prose history of Spider-Man on glossy paper.

Boy, am I now glad that that annoyed me enough to drop it.

Speaking of Mark Waid, this is extraordinarily reminiscent of a Flash storyline of a few years ago, in which DC's stand-in for Satan, Neron, plots to destroy Wally West and Linda Park's love because it's so perfect it's an affront to him (as the linked blog post points out -- it was the best description of the Flash storyline I found.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:59 PM on January 4, 2008

Marvel has been doing some pretty stupid shit with comics lately. Both this and bringing Ultimates into the regular's just dumb. (And re-hiring Liefled? Oh, don't get me started.)

That doesn't change the fact that comics as a whole from the big two are pretty fantastic now. Agree with the results or not, Civil War was a riveting read. Planet Hulk was great, and actually got me interested in the Hulk (the World War Hulk follow-up was weak, but still fun). Annihilation is the best crossover event Marvel's done in a long time.

DC's fucked up Countdown pretty well, but 52 was a great weekly comic. The Sinestro Corps War was great, best event in a long time.

For every boneheaded move like this retcon, they're also doing some interesting work. Comics are great now. Not perfect, but great.
posted by graventy at 3:00 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, thumbs-up for the Sinestro Corps war. When reading the last couple issues, I felt like I should have O Fortuna playing on a perpetual loop.
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:04 PM on January 4, 2008

You know what Marvel does that fucking rocks? Garth Ennis on Punisher MAX.

Yes, it's the Punisher, which should be utterly dumb, and still it manages to be the best ongoing monthly comic there is.

Of course to a certain degree you have to like relentlessly grim emotionaly retarded nutcases shooting the shit out of each other with automatic weapons or you'll not get much from it. It's pretty well supported in trades as well, so if that's your bag I would strongly suggest picking it up.

Sadly it looks like it'll be coming to an end this year, which will leave a big hole in comics for me. Looks like it's going to be going out well though.
posted by Artw at 3:10 PM on January 4, 2008

I like best the comics that sit around the edges of DC and Marvel, take the good bits, and put them into sensible, coherent continuities. Examples: Planetary, Invincible, Powers, Top Ten, Astro City. They don't pretend they'll last forever, they're not afraid to drastically change or kill off characters, and much of their appeal comes from their willingness to do that, to follow a story through without concern for leaving the characters as they found them.

On the other hand I also like continuity-free cartoons, the Simpsons and Invader Zim for example, where characters killed or drastically altered at the end of an episode are back to normal at the beginning of the next, and only a few characters have any inkling of previous events.

A friend of mine made an excellent comment about DC continuity once: that the place for canon in DC is in the mind of the Joker. He remembers all of the pre and post-Crisis worlds, the Elseworlds, the Superdickery. It's part of what makes him effective, able to do the things he can do, and it's the core of his otherwise inexplicable insanity. He knows he's in a comic, and he's playing along with it. The Joker is a griefer in the game.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:12 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Joe Quesada is the new Jim Shooter
posted by GavinR at 3:13 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

From the Straczynski link:
“The only thing I *can* tell you, with absolute certainty, is that what Joe does with Spidey and all the rest of the Marvel characters, he does out of a genuine love of the character. He's not looking to sabotage anything, he's not looking to piss off the fans, he genuinely believes in the rightness of his views not out of a sense of "I'm the boss" but because he loves these characters and the Marvel universe.”

Wow. That makes it so much worse. I mean, if he was just some soulless shlub grubbing a nickel that’d be one thing. But he actually likes this dreck? People who don’t have the slightest idea about exposition and writing and stuff, generally, don’t write for a living. Why people who are big fans of something think they can do it I have no idea. I’m enthralled by the brain and neuroscience. Doesn’t mean I’m a neurosurgeon.

“’How does making people forget he's Spidey bring back his web shooters?’
‘It's magic, okay?...It's magic, we don't have to explain it.’”

Man, that’s consummate professionalism right there. So Joe Quesada is actually Doug Henning? (Thenkew!)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:16 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Clearly, someone requires a stern talking to from James Randi.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:24 PM on January 4, 2008

Wow. I remember hearing about the Spidey and M.J. marriage on the evening news when it was happening.

Back when I was in middle school. Thanks for making me feel old.

Forgot about Kraven's Last Hunt. I have that around here somewhere. I need to go dig it up...
posted by Cyrano at 3:28 PM on January 4, 2008

Rangeboy, I can go you one better...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2008

AeschenKarnos? Great story. Only one problem. Not a single punch.

Mephisto pinning MJ to a wall and Peter taking no action? Notice that at least once every issue, Spidey is in a power position. If only fleetingly. Fans like to see him down, but they also like to see him get back up.

Takes too long to convey the story you're describing. Would probably have to transpire over several issues, and you'd need to mix it up with other plots where Spidey actually hits something now and then.

The editors apparently had explored Parker's public identity as long as they wanted to take it for now. It was a publicity stunt but like the death of Superman, not something they could possibly keep indefinitely. This Mephisto thing was an editorial decision. Perhaps it had been planned all along. If they had ever wanted Spidey to be a public figure, they would have had him join the Fantastic Four many decades ago.

The Bullpen likes it better when Jameson doesn't know who Peter really is.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:53 PM on January 4, 2008

ZachsMind - in the Quesada interviews, he actually lets slip that they decided on this Mephisto bullshit before the unmasking. They planned to chicken out well ahead of time, which somehow is even more annoying.
posted by EatTheWeak at 4:31 PM on January 4, 2008

I have trouble seeing why so many people care about this. Are you worried that Spiderman stories in the future won't be as good or as interesting or something? Because that's really the only reason I can see for caring so much about a development -- even an absurd, nonsensical one -- in a fictional universe that was absurd and nonsensical from the very start. Presumably, the writers did this because they didn't like where the story had gone, and thought they could improve the series in the future by simply reverting back to a previous state, even if it screwed with the continuity a bit. What's the big deal? I haven't been a comic book reader for a while, but I'd think better stories would win out over some oddly overvalued sense of universal continuity.
posted by decoherence at 4:34 PM on January 4, 2008

Are you worried that Spiderman stories in the future won't be as good or as interesting or something?

Being as how this appears to be a big red reset button—a means of returning the character to a state he had been in before—I think people are, yes, concerned that this is a path toward More Of The Same. Arrested, even regressed character development. They might do something really, really interesting with it, but it sounds more like they're fleeing from Hard Writing.
posted by cortex at 4:38 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stynxno writes "At least the movies are better than the Roger Corman versions though."

Roger Corman rocks.

That said, I'm not really a comic fan, so I'm not familiar with what you're referring to ... I like Corman for his b-movies.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:48 PM on January 4, 2008

Oh ... and ...

Spider-Man got married? Wow. Things have changed since I was a kid.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:49 PM on January 4, 2008

I've been reading Spidey for 20+ years now (my first was Spectacular Spider Man #3) and OMD has got to be the most depressing, sickening, worthless deus ex demonica I've ever seen. And this is coming from a 36 year old comic fanboy who spends far too much of his salary on books.

And please, if any of you aren't comics fans, I dare you to read the first trade of Y: The Last Man and tell me comics suck. go on. try.
posted by Dantien at 4:51 PM on January 4, 2008

Wait, Wally West was the Flash again? Not to mention alive?

Man, I've been out of the comic scene for too long.
posted by yhbc at 5:22 PM on January 4, 2008

And please, if any of you aren't comics fans, I dare you to read the first trade of Y: The Last Man and tell me comics suck. go on. try.

Eh, the ending is just as important as the beginning. And in "Y"'s case, the ending is sucking something awful. I only hope that Vaughn's Ex Machina sees a better wrap-up.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:30 PM on January 4, 2008

Well, it's stuff like this that drives people like my partner away from superhero comics and to the manga trades, and single-volume autobiographical works like Fun Home and Persepolis. For that matter, I'm reading much less Marvel and DC and picking up Umbrella Academy (I was hooked with "Robot zombie Gustav Eiffel!") and B.P.R.D.. Spider Man joins * X-Men in the list of series that are pure crap because you can't tell what parts of the stories are in and out of continuity, and all of the writing is sucked into a black void of trying to hammer out the problems with the last continuity crisis.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:34 PM on January 4, 2008

"...if any of you aren't comics fans, I dare you to read..."

Alan Moore's Watchmen
Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns
Neil Gaiman's Sandman: Brief Lives

And now Brian Vaughan's Y: The Last Man. I'll check it out. Thanks DanTien.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:36 PM on January 4, 2008

Stupid plot manipulations like these (never happened, he has amnesia, she's dying, etc. etc.) are why I do not read comics any more.

It all started back when I was a girl, and read comics all the time. Incredible Hulk, the Thing, you name it. I especially loved Thor. Remember Thor, God of Thunder? The blond winged guy with the cool Hammer?

He had this beautiful wife, named Sif. She had gorgeous black hair and was feminine and sweet and strong all at the same time.

So of course, the idiots killed her. Just murdered her. She's a frickin' goddess, and they kill off her character.

Naturally, fans complained. Not only was she well-liked, but the whole "gods aren't supposed to die" argument is a hard one to counter. I remember my older sister reading some really touching fan letters from dejected, let-down readers who loved Sif.

So you know what they did? They took this bitchy, annoying reporter character, Jane Foster, who was a "friend" of Thor's alter ego. She was always getting into trouble because she was stubborn and demanding, and I guess it was supposed to be attractive for some reason.

They had the two of them delve into the Amazon basin on some stupid drug-running story, where, if I remember correctly, Jane had to knife-fight some drug moll while both of them held on to one end of a scarf, because of course that's what makes the whole fight fair. That, and the fact that Jane had to rip off half her shirt from the sultry heat...they figured comic fans love cat fights, I guess.

Anyway, of course Intrepid Photo Journalist Jane won the fight, even though she's a city girl and the drug moll probably runs around all the time holding a scarf in one hand and her knife in the other, just looking for someone to fight her.

And Jane, somehow, ends up finding Sif's sword in the jungle.

And so they reincarnated Sif in Jane Foster.


Just ruined the comics for me, really.
posted by misha at 5:36 PM on January 4, 2008

I've been an off-and-on Spider-Man reader for about twenty years. Comics, moreso than school, taught me to read. (I say that as a working high school Social Studies & Language Arts teacher, btw)

Frankly, I've dreaded something like this ever since they got married, because there are too many shallow-minded writers who don't really know what to do with a strong marriage as an ongoing characteristic for their protagonist. You can see writers who've agonized over it with Reed & Sue Richards. And it's sad, because really, the marriage is a wonderfully original thing for precisely that reason. There aren't many characters with that sort of background. It hasn't been done to death at all.

But Quesada... just wow. Bad enough that he had the contempt for his fan-base to buy into Mark Millar's Civil War crap, kill off Captain America and send Iron Man into grand ascendancy in some sort of "Iron Fascist Douchebag" persona, but now THIS...

I used to think it was a crime to hand Rob Leifeld a pencil. Now I think it's an atrocity to let Quesada into the office.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:41 PM on January 4, 2008

Recently DC has been publishing "All-Star" titles, which are outside commonly accepted continuity, and attempt to use the plot elements of a given hero's story to write what I thought would be the final word on that story. However that's not what they're doing. This is like Marvel's 'Ultimate' line. They're just playing with the variables and trying to tell all new plots using the different plot elements in seemingly random ways. Their recent mess with Superman discovering a Bizarro World is so B-Movie it's hilarious.

Some can argue this is all nitpicking, but for me it's a sign that comic book fans of recent decades have raised the bar of expectations, and try as they might, comic books are unable to meet said expectations. Personally, I want everything I know about a given character to be consistent. That carries over to other media. They made the short lived TV series for The Flash and some aspects of that series were great, but the heart of it was empty. They called him Barry Allen, but he acted more like Wally West. You can't have both.

I want continuity to be consistent in ALL the tales told, but these production houses can't even keep track of the continuity of any one given medium for storytelling. I'm afraid historians who tackle the comic book medium in generations to come may have to break down the 'continuity' of a given comic book series by editors. Whenever a title changes hands (and that's very often) future reviewers of these chronicles will only be able to make heads or tails of it all by separating it between editorial tenures.

If consistency can be seen inside a given editor that's a sign of good work. If it breaks down inside one editor's given tenure, we know who to blame. However, trying to keep continuity of previous works by others? A for effort, but rarely even possible. Perhaps not plausible.

The attempts at continuity between editors, and even between writers, has been laughable. Then further attempts by yet other future editors to incorporatie discrepancies into future storylines - equally laughable. Whether they embraced a discrepancy as a plot element to another story, or just retconned it out of existence, there's no good answer. It's just bad writing to let this sort of thing happen in the first place. Plain and simple.

From editor to editor, inevitable. Simultaneously, deplorable. It's a lose lose no matter how I slice this. There's just so many variables in trying to keep these story franchises viable. You want change, but not to the point where the commodity becomes unrecognizable. Audiences are fickle.

What would happen if McDonalds changed their 'secret sauce' in their Big Macs? Would they still be Big Macs? We saw what happened recently when rumors indicated Burger King was ending their Whopper product. We've seen what happens when Coca Cola changes their recipe. Imagine a Spider-Man who just stopped wearing the mask. Why was he still wearing the mask after telling everybody? That made no sense at all, aside from the commercial disaster if they changed the costume THAT much. They say necessity is the mother of invention. So long as people continue buying this crap, there's no necessity to change.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:09 PM on January 4, 2008

See, we're living in the post-South Park world, so the way I would have ret-conned Spiderman would have been to just start the title over from just after he's decided to become Spiderman, and then start every new issue or story-arc just after he's decided to become Spiderman no matter what happened in the previous issue or story-arc. Sort of like how Kenny is always alive again, know what I mean?

So, first storyline. Spiderman tries to get Gwen to fall in love with him while battling Green Goblin. Green Goblin kills her. Spiderman kills Green Goblin in retaliation and is wracked with sorrow and guilt.

Next issue, Spiderman tries to get Gwen to fall in love with him while Dr. Octopus tries to seduce Aunt May. Aunt May kills Gwen and Spiderman kills Dr. Octopus and they both are wracked with sorrow and guilt.

Third issue, Spiderman tries to get Gwen to fall in love with him, but Flash is competing for her love. He reveals himself to be Spiderman to Gwen after saving her life and she is so stunned that she accidentally runs off the roof of a building to her death. Spiderman is wracked with sorrow and guilt and Flash vows revenge, then falls off the same roof.

You get the idea. This way, you can tell the exact same story over and over with new costumes for the villains and since everyone knows that the stories are getting reset every single time, they don't have to remember anything that happened in the past ever.

posted by Joey Michaels at 6:13 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would totally buy those issues, JM.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:18 PM on January 4, 2008

Here's the secret to enjoying comics. Buy low and sell high.

After that, what's not to like?
posted by humannaire at 6:34 PM on January 4, 2008

what i don't get is why it was so important to get rid of the marriage in ASM. if you're sick of writing against that, then concentrate on Ultimate Spiderman (which I've really enjoyed for the past few years). let ASM deal with the older, wiser, married pp, and then use the ultimate version to handle your silly need to have him live with his aunt. good grief.

*spoiler alert*
i really liked how they handled harry's death in ultimate spiderman last ish. that was better than the entire one last day arc.
posted by mrballistic at 6:44 PM on January 4, 2008

Hugonaut: "The good news is this opens the door for a Marvel Team-Up run with Daredevil and Spider-Man where Matt Murdock shows hapless with the ladies Peter Parker how to pick up the chicks."

Back when Deadpool was worth caring about (i.e. before he got saddled with Cable), there was another ONCE IN A LIFETIME CROSSOVER EVENT summer special where Deadpool and Daredevil went off to fight crime of some sort for pay while Weasel and Foggy went out chasing chicks and getting drunk. It was just as bad as you can imagine, unless you particularly like Weas' and Foggy (which I don't).

[/Deadpool nerd]
posted by subbes at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2008

Joey Michaels: I'm not sure if you're being facetious or not, but it's a good idea. Rebooting every story arc is overkill. But why not just start a new universe every 5 or 10 years. You can have a beginning, middle and most importantly, and end. You can let characters age, you can have characters get married or divorced or killed. You could sign writers on to a limited contract to tell the entire story (like they did with Starman) instead of coming in and trying to wedge their ideas on top of whatever the last writer did.
posted by Gary at 6:46 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Regarding Garth Ennis, he was very fresh and fun when he wrote Preacher, but after that he's just been repeating himself (a bit like Warren Ellis, except I like Warren Ellis more, and he at least has more ideas to repeat, and gets a few new ones once in a while). Also, the homophobia and sadism in Ennis' work gets really tiring after a while (see Preacher and Punisher for examples). I don't think Ennis has very much more to contribute to comics, or at least I haven't seen anything interesting from him in a long time.

While I'm busy making people hate me, I could mention that while Steve Dillon's art in general is quite good, he has no sense of scale sometimes. Especially, take a look at the size of cigarettes in Preacher. They're about half the size they should be (or people have incredibly huge heads).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:57 PM on January 4, 2008

Alas, I just got back into comics, and just subscribed to ASM, and my first issue was the last to be penned by JSM. Suddenly, Spiderman will be delivered 3 times a month. They've given me the option to transfer to another title.

So, important question: which Marvel books are the best? (After some research, I'm already subscribed to Thor, Daredevil and Astonishing X-Men, and hoping I've done well. . .)
posted by flotson at 7:07 PM on January 4, 2008

Joakim Ziegler: Oh, and lets not get into crap like Hellblazer: Son of Man which was all about who had the bigger dick, what John Constantine did with his dick, the neighbor's dick, lesbians who can't resist dick, and fear of the big black dick. That was when I had to give up on following what I consider to have been one of the best developed characters in comics.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:17 PM on January 4, 2008

So, important question: which Marvel books are the best?

Current? I have no idea. I really liked The Last Iron Fist Story. I only buy stuff in trade format. Runaways is also really good.

But then again, I'm the sort of guy who liked Earth X. Older Marvel that you may have missed: Alias and Marvels.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:20 PM on January 4, 2008

flotson: The BKV run of Runaways and X-Factor are my favorite reads right now. But Runaways is in the Joss Whedon schedule hell, and X-Factor is in the middle of a crossover event in which the main cast is upstaged by Scott Summers and Forge.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:21 PM on January 4, 2008

KirkJobSluder: Oh man, I'm happy I didn't get that far in Hellblazer (I read the first 180 issues or something once, and the stuff in the middle is the best, around the time Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman were both briefly involved). The early stuff is good too, but it all seems a bit naive and earnestly leftist when I read it now.

But what you describe sounds basically like Ennis, yeah. If there was gratuitous use of sexual perversion and homosexuality as a shorthand for "evil and deserving violent, painful death" too, that's a perfect fit for him.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:25 PM on January 4, 2008

Runaways is good entertainment, and kind of original and inventive, but my favourite Marvel stuff lately has definitely been Warren Ellis' retake of Newuniversal. It's not that original, but it's Warren Ellis applying some of his better ideas about superheroes, like he did in Stormwatch/The Authority, mixed with some new ideas, and all through a weird X-Files like lens, with worldchanging events and weird hidden history stuff. I really like it, although I'm annoyed it was placed on hold after four issues. Apparently, more issues are coming very soon, though.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:29 PM on January 4, 2008

flotson - you have. Don't expect Astonishing to ever show up on time, though.

I like when they get a little Tom Clancyish stirred into my superheroes, so that's gonna affect my recommendations, but here goes. At Marvel, I'm really enjoying Iron Man and Captain America's solo books. In both cases, it's superheroics + high level government intrigue = love. At least for me.

Granted, Steve Rogers isn't actually in Captain America right now. Bucky's inheriting the role starting next issue. It's an idea I'm okay with, cuz I've always thought that was the natural role of sidekicks -- keeping the legacy alive. Like Wally West stepping up after Barry Allen's death, for example. Ed Brubaker's a really good writer, and if you like what he's up to on Daredevil right now, then you might dig Cap as well.

Recent developments with Iron Man are pretty controversial, but I find him fascinating at the moment. After Civil War, he's sitting with the keys to the kingdom and is under enormous pressure. His new Extremis-driven powers are genuinely scary and again, there's all kinds of cloak-and-dagger politics going on around him.

Also, Mark Millar and Brian Hitch are about to take over Fantastic Four. That's another one you should never expect on time, but if you liked the last two series of the Ultimates, or caught any of their run on The Authority, then this might be a good one, too.

Oh! And the new Immortal Iron Fist series. Fucking badass kung-foolery -- and happily, the events are pretty far removed from the day-to-day Marvel universe developments, if you're not into keep close track of the main mythos all the time.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:36 PM on January 4, 2008

Doctor Who would be a disaster by now if they'd have worried too much about continuity.

Well not exactly. Doctor Who's brilliance is in its almost defiant ability to retcon itself in almost every new episode. For Christ's sakes, they invented a way to have ten different people play the same character. The point of Doctor Who is that it's ridiculous. There is literally nothing the writers can do that wouldn't be acceptable... it's like a thirty-year long "a wizard did it." You may as well bitch to a Bishop that the Book of Genesis "really doesn't seem that plausible."

But in a way, Doctor Who thrives because it makes continuity out of... no continuity. There are no in-story physics to conform to, so there are no boundaries to the story. DC and Marvel and mainstream comics fail because they have eternal characters stuck in a world that suggests limitations that the real world's timeline cannot sustain.

Is it really a surprise what the two longest-running programs on television today are? The Simpsons, which has almost no long-term continuity at all- I used to be younger than Bart Simpson- and Law and Order, which tells self-contained stories using a frequently-updating cast.

I used to read Batman and I just gave up a few years back... I think I went the whole way from "Year One" through "Hush" and everything inbetween, and I realized this never ends. There will never be a conclusion, there will never be finality. I don't need to see the hero die or whatever but I don't even get the implication that he'll stop one day. I am going to die before Bruce Wayne does. What, as the audience, does that do to appeal to me?

I learned to love series like Preacher and Transmetropolitan and even mangas and animes like Fullmetal Alchemist and Cowboy BeBop because, even with different lengths, there's going to be an ending. I'm going to get something out of all of this. The DC and Marvel universes won't do that for me. And the refusal to do that just makes the whole process not worth it.

It's goddamn insane. The best comics Marvel put out in the last few years were the Ultimate lines, Nextwave, and Marvel Zombies. The first was a complete, non-retconned but totally new, fresh-from-day-one series. The latter two were about how fucking stupid Marvel comics are.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:10 PM on January 4, 2008 [5 favorites]

I just spent the last four hours lost in exploring/remembering the "Marvel Universe" through Wikipedia links.

I hate/love you, robocop is bleeding.
posted by Falling_Saint at 8:23 PM on January 4, 2008

Never mind this revoltin' development- who is psyched for the return of the Invaders?
posted by vrakatar at 8:41 PM on January 4, 2008

Actually, Doctor Who IS A disaster.

It's fine during the regular season, but by season's end they fall into the trap of pulling the 'ol "cliffhanger-resolved-by-act-of-increduloucity-so-outrageously-stupifying-as-to-induce-vomitting" - thing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:08 PM on January 4, 2008

Y'know what's really sad to see? A bunch of concrete foundation near a freeway that looks like at one time someone was gonna build something there maybe an apartment complex or maybe a strip mall or maybe a hotel or a hospital or something anything but a few years go by and it's still just a foundation with maybe some electrical gut work poking out of the ground or maybe an abandoned trailer or a portapotty that was left in neglect. The grass grows tall around it and the weeds take over. Darn shame, that is. Someone had an idea and for one of thousands of possible reasons, it just didn't get to be whatever it was gonna be.

DC and Marvel both build great foundations for stories, but then they seem afraid to build anything permanent on them, for fear they wouldn't be able to rebuild later. That they'd be stuck if they chiseled anything in stone.

I'm personally kinda hoping that the impending "Final Crisis" storyline which DC has been publicizing would be a complete reboot of their entire mainstream line-up. They're boasting that Final Crisis will be the "Lord of the Rings" of their publishing house. I'd like to see it end with this:

There's a multiverse. Always was. The events of the late 20th century were the equivalent of a few strands in a mane of hair getting a little tangled, but was easily combed out. Now there's this seemingly infinite number of possible alternate realities, each either slightly different than another, or dramatically different. There's so many, that numbering them is pointless.

Now whenever a writer is hired to tell a superhero's story, he's given a VerseLine. There would be some things he'd be asked to keep the same, but beyond that he could do whatever he wanted. If his VerseLine didn't match up with another writer's VerseLine, tough. If a writer wanted Superman and Batman to fight, the fact that they're buddies in another title wouldn't matter, cuz they're on different VerseLines.

DC could then churn out a couple dozen or so different VerseLines. Each completely separate from the rest. One would show a world in which Captain Marvel's family are the primary superheroes and if other heroes appear in those books, they're always supporting characters to the Marvels. If a Superman appears in a Shazam book, it's the Superman in that VerseLine, and any similarity to the other book that focused on Superman's VerseLine would be entirely coincidental. They should of course stay as close as possible for those who want THE Superman to meet THE Captain Marvel, but it would only be a minor embarrassment if nitpickers found an inconsistency. There'd be a built-in explanation for it.

When a team of talented people leaves a title, they'd be given a chance to bring their VerseLine to an end, and when another writer or editor takes over, they start fresh.

I thought this was where DC was going with their "Fifty-Two" storyline, but about halfway thru that it was apparent they didn't really know or care WHERE they were going, so long as it ended with Booster Gold and Mister Mind in the last issue. All the rest of it seemed to be the writers jacking off filling up space to appease the publishers.

Whether or not audiences are pleased seems to be a little less important somehow.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:00 PM on January 4, 2008

OK, I think I've got this now... Quesada has done with the devil to destroy Marvel?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:09 AM on January 5, 2008

For those with any interest in it, The Amazing Spider-Mooch has arrived. Spider-Man does not have his eye eaten out of its socket by a vampiric goth guy, so it's already way ahead of what Marvel's been doing with the character for years, in my opinion. Looks kind of light and breezy and Spider-Man circa the early '80s to me. Good or bad?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:34 AM on January 5, 2008

The crummy thing is that it's always been like this. The talent and fans have kept comics alive in spite of the industry. (I'm drawing from Frank Miller here) but when the senate went after comics in the 50s as a cause of juvenile delinquency they vindicated the comics industry.

So the comics code, and all that was (for the most part) to shut down William Gaines because he was out selling everyone.

They've always championed mediocrity. Whatever good that does happen in comics is because of the people who love the stories and such.
But the baseline of the industry has always been to sabotage that in favor of screwing the people who actually create anything out of money.
That's changed quite a bit but those changes have been in places in the industry other than, f'rinstance, Marvel.

I mean, what form of entertainment encourages its base to deride themselves?
We're geeks because we read comics? Yeah, enjoying hand drawn artwork and storytelling makes you an idiot. That's the same juvenile mindset that people employ when they call people who take school seriously 'nerds.' And 10 years after high school when Joe Rahrah is sitting in some bar, Joe Nerd is in silicon valley doing something more worthwhile with his life than reminiscing about how great things were in high school.

Seriously - people are geeks for participating in a certain form of literacy? Or is it because it's fantasy? Well wtf is 1/2 of Shakespeare's work then?
They want you to have that self-contempt. They want to focus on Spider Man without ever thinking that someone is creating him. Constantly creating and re-creating him with each story.
That's what makes it so appealing. But of course, to them the appeal is the character can't walk out the door and work somewhere else that he's respected.

Now if there was some way to write Spidey getting divorced, getting web shooters back, all these changes happening in a coherent manner, that'd be great. But there wasn't (at least without lengthy writing elsewhere) and the writer doing the work said so, so they chucked his work and said "Ta -Da! Magic!"

Because you are a f'ing geek there fanboy. They screw their writers on a regular basis, why should you be any different?

And don't give me this "it's a business" crap. Business isn't depriving someone of what they created with their mind and hands. That's thievery. And that kind of behavior isn't just part of the 'real world,' it's insinuated by the people who wish to do the exploiting and sucker people who love the work into signing away their ability. And when that guy gets tired of being used and treated like dirt, they find a new, young artist to replace him and the cycle goes on.
And of course, the result is this kind of crappy work.

But yeah, great things are happening in comics, but again, typically that's in spite of the industry. Really, it makes me respect the writers and artists all the more. And makes me all the more impressed that actual good stories come out.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:48 AM on January 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

XQUZYPHYR - I agree with everything you said. Sounds like you'd agree with what Alan Moore (possibly) wrote for the reasons behind his idea for Twilight of the Superheroes, "(...) One of the things that prevents superhero stories from ever attaining the status of true modern myths or legends is that they are open ended. An essential quality of a legend is that the events in it are clearly defined in time (...) (examples: Robin Hood, King Arthur, Davy Crockett or Sherlock Holmes). You cannot apply it to most comic book characters because, in order to meet the commercial demands of a continuing series, they can never have a resolution. Indeed, they find it difficult to embrace any of the changes in life that the passage of time brings about for these very same reasons, making them finally less than fully human as well as falling far short of true myth." (Full text is the 4th paragraph under "The Storyline Itself" heading.) Posted previously.

I was always pretty ok with the minor dickery that the writers got up to in comics what with minor reinventions and revisions of history or characters as it related to the universe. Storylines had to progress and look to a long future, and errors had to be corrected. Then people started coming back from the dead for no reason (hello Jean Grey). The Beyonder, undefeatable as there is nothing any or all beings in the Marvel Universe can do to stop him, and he's got the power to do anything that he wants. A bad, vile idea. Makes for poor writing and a pathetic ending, as if nothing can defeat him, then the only way for it to be defeated is via a real let-down in the writing department, similar to Stephen King's The Stand,

where everyone is going to die and there's nothing that can stop it and the nuclear bombs are going off. 900+ pages in and Mr King's written himself into a corner, so the literal Hand of God has to come in and save everyone. "Deus ex machina," indeed. If I wanted the Greeks, I'd read the Greeks.

Sure, I love comics, but all the tension started to leak out of them when I realised that no matter what was written, a group of someones could come along and re-write the whole thing so that it didn't happen. Was this really neat story going to still exist/be relevant in three years? If not, why am I bothering? The beautiful fabric of the comic had been walked on so many times that the backing's showing and there are unfixable holes in it. No one thought to hang the fabric on a wall where it couldn't be walked upon and would remain bright and whole forever.
All of the above's not said in a "You stupid bastards!!" sort of way, more like a "*sigh* ...oh, you stupid..." lament. I know getting that sort of change out of the major publishers is like talking to an echo, but sometimes the soapbox looks real inviting...
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:45 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

subbes: "Back when Deadpool was worth caring about (i.e. before he got saddled with Cable), there was another ONCE IN A LIFETIME CROSSOVER EVENT summer special where Deadpool and Daredevil went off to fight crime of some sort for pay while Weasel and Foggy went out chasing chicks and getting drunk. It was just as bad as you can imagine, unless you particularly like Weas' and Foggy (which I don't)."

Like many storylines in comics that sounds a lot funnier than I'm sure it was. Yet I'm still tempted to track it down. Well, maybe not that tempted. Poor Foggy. No one wants to see you score.
posted by Hugonaut at 1:16 PM on January 5, 2008

I had not read this Twilight ramble by Alan Moore before, and I'm only part of the way down, but so far it's starting to read eerily like the whole "countdown to Final Crisis" thing, with the revist of multiple parallel worlds and a female Flash and the idea of turning meandering narratives into concise mythologies. Is it possible that the impending Final Crisis is a bastardized variant on Alan Moore's proposal?

Should we be blaming Quesada for Marvel's woes and Didio for DC's, or are Quesada & Didio looking at the words and works of people like Frank Miller and Alan Moore and going, "hey! We can do better than those guys," but being completely wrong in that assumption?
posted by ZachsMind at 9:00 AM on January 6, 2008

...the more I read this Alan Moore thing the creepier it gets. Does anyone know the story behind this? How involved is Moore in The Final Crisis? He's talking about members from the Legion and Rip Hunter being prominent players in his Twilight story. Rip was prominent in Fifty-Two and is showing up in Crises, as is Karate Kid and some other Legionaires.

I guess I'm wondering if Moore's getting paid for this, or if Didio blatantly stole it, or if this is just alleged coincidence? Moore has Hunter solicit the help of John Constantine. In 52 they used Buster Gold, but essentially what I'm seeing here is the same plotline. Also, awhile back the Teen Titans dealt with their future selves and got a glimpse of a future where things went from bad to worse. Again is this just kismet or is Moore the guy that's really pulling the strings on DC, and is Marvel's writing reactive to the goings on at DC? Are they trying to outdo each other?

Why am I always the last one to know about these things?
posted by ZachsMind at 9:16 AM on January 6, 2008

I alaways thought Kingdom Come was the bastard variant of Twilight.

I'm kind of hoping that Final Crisis means an end to the rolling crisis bullshit that has been happening at DC since the utterly vile Identity Crisis, which has kept me thoroughly uninterested in the mainstream DC Universe for several years now. Morrisons good at huge events too - DC One Million remains one of the only recent big crossover events that's actually good, and Seven Soldiers was awesome (even though it pretty much kept itself to itself). On the minus side 52 was dull as ditchwater to me, presumably becuase you had to have been following Infinite Rape Crisis, and Final Crisis looks tobe a continuation of that.
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on January 6, 2008

Oh, and you might want to track down Whatever Happened To the Man of Tommorow, Alan Moores take on a "Final" Superman story.
posted by Artw at 9:39 AM on January 6, 2008

Actually I rather liked Identity Crisis. For once DC opted to shake up things between the big guns. Rather than them just being all buddy buddy, the truth is these characters are so diverse they'd never trust each other. Although I gotta say making Atom's wife crazy and a murderer was kinda cringeworthy.

The moment when Superman's looking at the noose, and Green Arrow says he loves the man and hates him in the same breath - that alone was worth the price of admission.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:43 AM on January 6, 2008

Alan Moores take on a "Final" Superman story.

Oh, and "This is an Imaginary Story... Aren't they all?".
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on January 6, 2008

How involved is Moore in The Final Crisis?

Not at all.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:51 AM on January 6, 2008

I stand corrected, Artw. The bulk of Moore's musings does look more like Kingdom Come, particularly regarding the House of Steel versus the House of Thunder.

However, the bit at the beginning about Rip Hunter and John Constantine reminds me thick of Rip and Booster in Fifty-Two. Perhaps Final Crisis is an attempt by Didio to explain how the present might still become Kingdom Come if something isn't done. There was an episode of JSA I saw where they came across an aging Superman from an alternate timeline who looked similar to the Kingdom Come Superman.

I dunno. Scorecard Hell. I didn't mind that back in Crisis On Infinite Earths (1985), but for me that was essentially the end of the DC I knew. All the rest of this feels like walking the halls of one's high school ten years after having graduated. The chairs are too small and the halls too narrow, and you never wanna go through that again.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:02 AM on January 6, 2008

Ha! God, I'm a sucker for Watchmen humor.
posted by cortex at 3:21 PM on January 7, 2008

HA! I'd never seen that. Thanks, Artw.

ZachsMind - Nicely put ("feels like walking the halls of one's high school..."). 'Crisis', thinking back to what I'd read, just turned out to be a minor reinvention of most of the characters, and a chance for spin-offs (it's been literal decades, and I no longer remember the details). What with all the shouting and histrionics, all I can remember it being is some huge Mongolian clusterfuck after which I left it... pretty much unsatisfied. At least with Moore's idea there is a payoff at the end, and different characters have their (possible) future storylines filled out, instead of a pedestrian/tourist view of "wow, wasn't that fun. Ok, let's get back to business at hand - same old storylines and hyperbole."

I suppose I really like Alan Moore for the way he delves into possibilities of the characters: their flaws and strengths and emotions. Examples: Billy Batson in his "Twilight" idea. Mxyzptlk and his line "Did you honestly believe that a 5th Dimensional sorcerer would resemble a funny little man in a derby hat?" and Superman giving way to such a base emotion of rage at the death of Lana Lang. For me, it comes down to his mention that if the characters are not going to be rotated into a status befitting a (capital 'L') Legend (as per his notes in "Twilight"), then what are they really like, as super/non-human entities? I'm a sucker for that line of tangential thinking, which is why I like Moore so much.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:13 PM on January 8, 2008

What I wanna see, what will never happen, is that they allow a one world continuity in which Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and all the golden comic heroes existed just before World War Two. They had their heyday during and after World War Two. Most of these golden age heroes aged normally, some less gracefully than others, and some of them had descendants of one form or another who carried on the namesakes. You'd have to be a little creative here and there, and many of the stories of the silver age would no longer be in continuity, but that way you get to perpetually retell old stories in new ways. Just keep them in their respective time periods instead of constantly trying to tell everything in the here and now.

The problem is that by doing this, they fear their cash cows would stop being viable, and so they'd be saying goodbye to current profits. They keep their big names alive by resetting their origins so that they perpetually happened "just a few years ago" or maybe "right now." This means they can forever retell the same stories with more modern twists. However, there's only so many times they can reboot "Bizarro Superman" before the world gets a clue.

Superman's an alien. He just doesn't age. However, all his human friends would. This would lead him to stage Clark Kent's death somewhere in the sixties, and Superman would fly off into space for a decade, occasionally returning to Earth for brief spans here and there. By the 21st century he'd return to Earth and go into 'semi-retirement.'

Batman's history would be pretty much what it was in the golden and silver ages, but at some point around the fifties or sixties as he was between middle age and twilight time, he and Ra's Al Ghul have this big blowout of a fight, culminating in the death of Ra's Al Ghul, and a near-dead Batman falling into one of Ghul's rejuvenating pits. This resets his age back to mid-twenties. Batman then starts using the pits periodically, and uses his resources to figure out how to dial down the side-effects and use the pits rejuvenating properties to help people. The 'modern day' storyline could involve Wayne Industries' successes and failures at trying to bottle the fountain of youth. This can also be how one explains why some other golden age characters survive for a century or more: Bruce invited people like Oliver, Dinah, Hal, Ray, and others to take a dip in the pool back in the 1970s.

Wonder Woman's not only a princess of a mythical land, but she hangs out with greek gods and other magical beings. It'd be even easier to explain away her longevity. You can also throw her in one of the Ra's Al Ghul pits a few times just for grins.

However, the stories of today would be about their descendants, and although the legendary heroes would still have their own tales to tell, the real stories would be about new heroes and their challenges. In fact, maybe some of the heroes of the past would turn out to be villains of the future, as dated ideals and approaches to crime fighting would be tested in light of today's cultural view.

I wanna see a comic book company accept as much of their publishing past as possible as a given, and build on their past as the history for their future. Rather than dismiss it all, they should embrace the spirit of it all.

Marvel tries to do that, but the devil's in the details. They always have to revert back to the tried and true formula, because they're afraid to wean the baby.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:35 AM on January 13, 2008

In that case, ZachsMind, what you want is DC: The New Frontier. :)

About the "punch per issue", since I'm writing a comment anyway - yeah, but ... this whole story arc is all about him being put in a situation where he is utterly powerless. Making he and MJ divorce against their wills is a lot worse than a mere beating. I think it would make the point better to have him spend the issue weak, depersonalized, beaten, wringing his hands.

OTOH a stronger divorce story would be a divorce for good reasons. Have MJ meet a man who's everything Peter is, without the super-powers, under circumstances such that the new guy shows courage despite the risk (him defending someone from mugging is a classic, and MJ can easily dispatch a mugger with pepper spray). MJ's worried about the guy, visits him in hospital with Peter. He's unconscious. Peter goes out to deal with a crime, MJ sticks around for a bit.

Later, MJ hears a noise, wakes in the night, sees Peter in costume out in the alley, jumping around, Spider-Manning up vs three thugs. It is absolutely no contest. "As I watched my husband taunt those men and throw them around, I realised something; that was no fight. They were bad men, and they deserved a beating, for sure, but Peter was at no risk from them at all. None. He didn't even have to let them see him, if he hadn't wanted to. When he'd had enough he leapt away and came back in through the opposite window. I heard sirens outside, he must have called the police. He got back into bed and snuggled up to me, and I don't know if the chill I felt was from his skin, or from the doubt in my heart."

Of course Peter does risk his life, and does so a lot. One mistake against Electro or Dr Octopus and he is Spider-Pudding.

MJ visits the guy again. She asks Peter if he wants to come, he demurrs, he has things to do. The guy wakes up, reaches for her (gloved) hand. His head's wrapped, he can't see. He asks who she is. She tells him she found him getting beaten in the alley, he asks what happened to the other girl. What other girl? The thugs were roughing up some girl, the guy--Freddie--intervened, they turned on him, she must have run away. Probably would have killed him if MJ hadn't come along. "You must be pretty buff." Feels her arm, smiles, "Nice triceps." MJ says: "Yeah, my h ... I have a gym at home."

Now MJ's all conflicted, goes home, wants to talk to Peter but he's out. Watches TV - Peter's out as Spider-Man, fighting Rhino. Reporter: "And that blow would have killed a normal man, but not Spider-Man." Over the next week, Peter's out a fair bit. Dinner with MJ at home, she says "Freddie woke up, I saw him a couple days ago." "How is he?" "Seems banged up, he fought a couple of thugs in an alley, trying to save some girl." Peter says something ... thoughtless. Or that could be interpreted as thoughtless. Cocky, even.

MJ decides to check on Freddie, he's about to be discharged. Bandages are off, he's left with a scar, but still a good-looking man. Asks her if she wants to go get some non-hospital food. At dinner she takes her gloves off, he sees her wedding ring, doesn't seem fazed, asks her "what does your husband do?" Conversation, and the topic of thugs in the alley comes up, and she says something like "He would, but it's not the same, I don't think he'd have gotten hurt." "You might be surprised, I'm a second-dan black belt. Fighting's a lot more dangerous than most people think. I trained for ten years to get to the point where two guys could beat me up in an alley. Dodged the wrong way." He shows his stitched stomach.

Other conversations occur--Freddie needs to move apartments, MJ and Peter help him move furniture (Peter is surprisingly good at this)--and basically every wedging button there is to push - "My first girlfriend left me, said she didn't want to take the chance of her psycho cop father beating the crap out of me. Took me years to get over that. My feeling is, if you love someone, you stay with them, you don't push them away under the guise of protection." - "Iron Man ought to put his name to what he does. He does good work. Whoever he is. There's no call for him to hide behind that mask. Look at the Fantastic Four." - "If I ever invented something, for sure, I'd patent it, so it could be licensed and used for other things. That shrinking ray thing of Ant-Man's would be great for medical evacuations." Somehow, with every conversation, and never apparently meaning to (because he couldn't possibly know), he makes Peter look like a dick.

Peter forbids MJ from spending time with Freddie. She tries to explain that Freddie is leaving town for a new job and this is a farewell dinner. Peter says he doesn't care and refuses to go. He really doesn't like that guy, reminds him of Flash Thompson. MJ complies but is bitter about it. Calls Freddie, says "Good luck, nice meeting you." "Thanks MJ, you too. Say goodbye to Peter too, he's a lucky guy. He ever screws up, you give me a call."

More thugs in the alley outside the Parkers' apartment at night. Peter roughs them up while MJ watches, again. In bed he complains to her about the rudeness of it. "I'm sure they didn't realize they were outside Spider-Man's house." "Go to sleep, honey." "Don't you tell me what to do!"

And so on. Freddie is of course Mephisto in disguise, and Mephisto has been making Peter short-tempered, more brutal. MJ is a calming influence on him, and Mephisto wants an angry, violent Spider-Man, for a reason. At that point, after MJ moves out apparently of her own accord, Mephisto offers MJ the cure for Aunt May in exchange for divorcing Peter. She takes it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:33 PM on January 13, 2008

I looked at New Frontier. It was cringeworthy. Wondy & Supes together? Ew.

AesChenKarnos your storyline would be more dramatic, but the One More Day storyline wasn't intended as a gradual thing. It was obviously a bandaid. Similar to the "No More Mutants" plot development. The editors were responding to pressures to have the storylines in their publications go a certain way. Where these pressures come from is anyone's guess. The moneybags? Sales? Public opinion? Personal editorial discretions? Combo? Other? Who knows.

The bottomline is there are certain baselines that these characters must not stray far from for long in order to continue being month to month what audiences expect. Notice that while they opt to put Peter Parker in the black costume now and then, it's never a permanent thing. That's because the public knows Spidey more readily in the red and blue.

Same holds true for Superman. They sometimes make temporary changes to the classic Superman look for storytelling purposes but eventually he always reverts to the publically accepted standard, which has changed very little over the past three quarters of a century.

Peter Parker and MJ had been married since 1987. The writers had taken the marriage as far as they could go without repeating themselves. Actually they'd already repeated themselves a few times. Happily Ever After only works at the end of a story, and Marvel can't afford to let Parker's story end.

Face it, Tiger. MJ is no jackpot.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:10 AM on January 14, 2008

...coulda been worse come to think of it. They coulda just killed MJ outright. Instead of having Aunt May hit with the bullet, it coulda been MJ. However, they already did the dead girlfriend thing with Gwen. That woulda been repeating themselves. This way they got rid of an ex by way of magic, instead of just death.

Frankly I won't be surprised if this leads to an eventual confrontation between Scarlet Witch and Mephisto. Meph is kinda trodding on Wanda's turf. If you'll recall, Wanda's reality meddling affected Peter's life. It's not far-fetched to assume that Meph's meddling will turn crazy Wanda's head.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:28 AM on January 14, 2008

I looked at New Frontier. It was cringeworthy. Wondy & Supes together? Ew.

Are you sure you aren't thinking of Kingdom Come?
posted by Gary at 10:58 AM on January 14, 2008

oh right Gary. You're right. I was looking at Kingdom Come. Ain't seen New Frontier yet.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:32 AM on January 16, 2008

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