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January 15, 2008

Spider-Man's Marriage Annulled... By The Devil

There's so much backstory to this I don't know if I want to get into it. But they've finally done the dirty deed they've been trying to do for at least a decade:

Spider-Man fans are outraged that Marvel Comics has turned back the clock and dissolved the marriage of its wall-clinging superhero. While followers of the movie version know the character is single with a sweetheart, as far as comic book fans are concerned Spider-Man has been married to Mary Jane Watson for the past 21 years.

Now, in a plot twist by the publishers Marvel, Spider-Man, known otherwise as Peter Parker, and Mary Jane, make a deal with the devil-like villain Mephisto. The story, in Spider-Man comic number 545, sees the couple's marriage annulled in return for the life of Peter's Aunt May, of late stuck in a deep coma.

Suddenly, Peter is once again a 20-something bachelor, nerdy, living with his elderly aunt - and single. His marriage has been, in fact, erased from everyone's memory.

Mephisto says that he is offering the deal, in which Spider-Man's identity is also made secret again, because Parker's relationship with Mary Jane "is the rarest love of all", a bond that is "pure, unconditional and made holy in the eyes of He who I hate most".

Mephisto says: "A love like yours comes about but once in millennia and to take that away from Him ... is a victory like none other imaginable."

Marvel claims that a married Spider-Man made life difficult for its writers and had been a source of regret ever since the couple's big day in 1987.

Obviously all of these big life-changing events -- deaths, marriages -- are stunts designed to sell a few extra issues for a while. But then comic book writers are saddled with the fact they've changed their character. So they almost always start looking for a back door to undo the changes.

Anyone dead will be resurrected within a few months.

Marriage is tricker. You'd think it would be easier to ditch a marriage than to resurrect a dead character, but not so. Marvel debated for years over Peter Parker's marriage problem. They wanted the character to appear as he had since the beginning -- young, callow, dating -- and felt marriage made him seem too old to attract his traditional audience. And of course marriage often interferes with one's dating schedule.

They debated a divorce -- but felt that making Parker a divorcee made him seem even older. They debated killing Mary Jane off -- but felt that making him a widower of all things really aged him.

So some idiots thought they had a good solution to the problem-- they would reveal that for years and years the character called "Peter Parker" in the comics was in fact a clone of Peter Parker, and that the real Peter Parker had been a drifter all this time going under the name "Ben Richards" (the name of Uncle Ben, I think). At the climax of this story arc, Ben Richards would be revealed as the real, conveniently unmarried Peter Parker, and would take his rightful role as the real Peter Parker, and Spider-Man. The clone, fake Peter Parker the audience had known for years would abandon the Spider-Man mantle, and the Peter Parker name, and retire into obscurity with his wife, taking the name of Ben Richards.

The "Spider Clone Saga" sold a lot of books, so they kept this absurd storyline going on for years. Ultimately, it seems, Stan Lee decided this was all -- what's the word?, ah yes fucking stupid -- and so they reversed themselves at the last minute and killed off the "real Peter Parker" and kept the old "clone Peter Parker" and also reversed themselves by now saying the real Peter Parker was actually the clone and the clone Peter Parker -- the one you knew all along-- was actually the real one.

If you're confused, so were a lot of readers, and the entire stunt was regarded as a major disaster that would hurt Spider-Man books for years and years to come. I still don't think they've regained all the fans they lost with this particular stunt-reversal of a previously ill-conceived marriage stunt.

And so it goes, on and on, with a new stunt (Peter Parker reveals his secret ID as Spider-Man to the world, at a broadcast news conference!), also needing undoing.

I guess they figured they'd just bite the bullet and resort to the cheapest retcon device of all: It was all a dream. Thanks to a wish granted by the Devil.

Eh. This is why I gave up on this crap. That and, I guess, the sheer embarrassment of being able to legally purchase alcohol but hanging around in a comic book store checking to see if Witchblade's finally going to show full-on nipple.



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posted by Ace at 08:32 PM

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