OK, so I acknowledge that I’m coming at this issue a few years late. But I left comics fandom in 2007 when Joe Quesada promulgated the “One More Day” Spider-Man storyline. Certain persons at Marvel had, for decades, attempted to undermine the Peter/Mary Jane marriage (you may recall, this was the underlying impetus for the horrid Clone Saga).
I’m a child of the 70s. When I got to the Spider-Man books, Gwen had already been dead for some time; I grew up with Peter and Mary Jane. And it was a major milestone when they got married. But this isn’t just about what I like. It’s about comics’ and comic-related materials’ impact on the views and values of the population reading and consuming it—largely, young men who have difficulty with women.
Put simply, Peter was a role model for geeks. Not just as a superhero, but as a man. And I’m writing this now, having taken a quick look a few days ago at the Spider-Man entry in Wikipedia and seeing Quesada’s rationale for why he wanted to do what he wanted to do. He insists that “Peter being single is an intrinsic part of the very foundation of the world of Spider-Man.”
Well, no, for me, it wasn’t. I grew up with a Peter Parker in a long-term relationship, and, after that, married (thank you, Danny Fingeroth!). For me, the relationship with Mary Jane is the intrinsic part of the very foundation of the world of Spider-Man. But this isn’t just about me, or about what I would prefer. Because a character with this kind of reach, into this kind of population, has great power. And with great power—well, you know the rest. Or at least, Quesada should.
And this power is the power to influence behavior by presentation of role models. Peter is and has been a role model—about how to deal with being a science/photography geek in a jock world. About how you grow up. In this function, Peter stands within the literary tradition—think of fellow nerdy New Yorker Bernard in Death of a Salesman. Geeky, tormented by the jocky Biff and Happy Loman brothers, growing up to argue before SCOTUS.
And I am interested here in Peter’s role-model function in relationships. The relationship with Mary Jane proves to smart, young boys that, yes, you can (eventually—although it might not be until after graduate school) get the talented and pretty girl. And the arc of that relationship shows how to be faithful, and how to be married. And that marriage—the sustained part of a romance—is the best part.
As opposed to the ongoing fashion in Hollywood; that the first meeting—the “love at first sight” is the best part. And when that’s over? When things get “boring”? You bolt. (Just like actors seem to do in real life, FWIW.)
Peter Parker had stood against that. At least, until 2007. Maybe Quesada picked up too much Hollywood influence? Doesn’t matter, though. Because, with great power—well, you know.
And about that power. We still have a geek culture that has trouble with women (RL example—the Felicia Day episode; fictional example: pre-Bernadette Howard Wallowitz and Raj Koothrapali), when we have positive role models for how men should behave toward women, the last thing we need to have is one of the most popular examples of a successful (fictional) marriage torn down.
And. So. No, I have not read comic books* since 2007.
*Except for the JJ Abrams Star Trek prequel. But don’t get me started on “Red Matter” or how it is that all electricity can fail—except, conveniently, our electrically-based nervous systems.