The Spider-Man that we’ve all asked for is returning this June! Right? We all asked for this, right? If you believe everything you read online, and if the recent Batgirl controversy is any indication, then you’ve got to believe that everyone wants Peter Parker to be married with children.
One of the most recent Secret Wars mini-series announced was The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows. Written by Super Spider-Scribe Dan Slott and with art by Adam Kubert, the series teases the return of a married Peter Parker with child that I think everyone will believe is Mayday Parker (AKA Spider-Girl), the retconned baby from back in the Clone Saga of the 1990s.
Ever since the dreaded One More Day storyline that cracked the internet in half (we had the internet back then right? I’m getting so old I forget) Peter Parker has been a swinging single (get it?). No longer tied down by a nagging wife or a crying kid, Peter’s life has been free and clear of any problems!
For those of you not in the know, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson got married in 1987 (our time, not wonky Marvel-time). They were blissfully married until the One More Day storyline in 2007. In the story, Peter and MJ made a deal with the devil, Mephisto to be specific, and in order to save Aunt May’s life Mephisto takes their marriage. He basically erased the marriage from existence. Peter and MJ were still together — all the stories that happened in that time, happened. They were just never married. As a bonus retcon, Mephisto also erased the memories of the entire world so that no one remembered who Spider-Man was from when he outed himself in 2007s Civil War.
The general fan reception of the annulment was quite negative. I was definitely included in that camp. I recalled to a friend that it felt like Joe Quesada (Editor-in-Chief of Marvel at the time) pissed on my entire Spider-Man collection. Not only was I mad at the fact that all my urine-soaked Spidey stories didn’t matter anymore, I was more angry at the lack of creativity of how they executed the story. I mean, really? With just a wave of his hand, all of reality changed? Why would Mephisto even want the marriage? None of the other cosmic, celestial or magical characters in the Marvel Universe saw this happen?
There were several problems with the One More Day storyline that I’ll go into a little detail here. A quick Google search will also reveal plenty of internet rage on the subject. As a long-time Spider-Man fan, there are still a lot of unanswered questions and I will admit that the story still left a scar on me. It was an incredibly poorly executed story that reeked of a forceful editorial mandate.
If the main goal was to return Peter Parker to his single roots then there were several better ways of doing it rather than a deal with the devil and a magical, world-wide mind wipe. An obvious answer would be to have Peter and MJ divorce but Joe Quesada was quite publicly adamant against that. In an interview in 2008, Quesada stated that it would be as if “they gave up on their love; that their life in love together was so awful, so stressful, so unfulfilling that they had to raise a red flag and walk away from it. They quit on their marriage and even more tragic, (they) quit on each other. Instead, we had them make a deal with the devil, ’cause that isn’t as bad.” Quesada went on to say, “Peter and MJ didn’t quit on their love, they sacrificed it to save a life. That to me is a pretty heroic story.”
With all due respect to Quesada, I think a lot of us would disagree with that statement even today, 7 years later. I don’t view getting a divorce as “giving up” or “quitting on each other”. Firstly, that is kind of a slap in the face to over 50% of the married population who end up getting a divorce. I’m not saying that divorces are great, but living in an environment poisoned with resentment and other stresses aren’t all that good either. I don’t think it would be a stretch or even a character flaw if MJ decided that she had enough of the anxiety of a Super-Hero life and felt that they would both be better off if she left. Make her the bad guy if you need to retain the heroic nature of Peter Parker. If anything, it would add more guilt to Peter which is already at the core of the character. Worst case scenario, you could kill off MJ. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before, and it’s a common story trope with Spider-man anyway.
The final point I’ll make in this rant is that I still think a married Peter Parker works. There is no greater responsibility than being married with children. Is there a better hero to juggle family life with Super-Hero life? I still think it does ring true to the hero; rather than swinging through the city to get medicine for Aunt May he could be doing it for his sick baby or wife. How many different stories could be told with the challenges of trying to keep a family together while still working his “job”?
There is no denying that we have an aging readership. Most comic readers are at the age that Peter is currently. Peter used to be relatable when he was teenager being read by teenagers. Now he could be the patriarch of a young family just like most of his readers. If anything, it makes him MORE relatable to an aging readership.
In the long run, I totally understand why editorial decided on the change. Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man was originally a meek teenager. He had teenage problems: trying to get girls to notice him, finding ways to make money, fears of rejection and the solid morality to constantly take care of his elderly Aunt. Over the years, Peter started to age. He went to college, graduated, got a couple of different jobs, met a girl and got married. Unfortunately, this timeline logically concludes having kids, retiring and then dying. Not the best timeline to be on for a serialized character.
I also can’t complain about the stories that have resulted from the change back to a single Peter Parker. Dan Slott’s run on the character has been one of the finest. Still, though, I’m pretty sure the majority of those stories could have still been told using a married Peter Parker.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows series will spin out of Marvel’s massive Secret Wars event in June. This series really makes me wonder…is this REALLY what we want? Now that we have had over 7 successful years of a single Spidey, will the married Spidey no longer resonate with the audience? Maybe that’s part of Marvel’s plan – they’ll show us that a married Spidey really can’t work. On the other hand, maybe it’ll show that it works really well and then where will they be? The success of Spider-Gwen has shown that an alternate reality Spider-Man/Woman can work in today’s market so who knows? Either way, I’m looking forward to the series. If it’s piqued your interest as well, make sure you reserve your copy at your friendly neighbourhood Big B Comics!