Ever since Marvel Comics showed the teaser last October for Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows as part of their upcoming Secret Wars event this summer, it appears to have reopened old wounds from J. Michael Straczynski’s infamous and controversial “One More Day.” Optimistic fans who saw the image of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson together with a daughter believed this was an answer to their prayers: Marvel was finally undoing one of the worst Spider-Man stories EVER! Others hardened by years of being jerked around by Marvel’s constant teases that they might bring Peter and Mary Jane back together were more skeptical, their suspicions intensified the more they learned about Renew Your Vows from its author, Dan Slott, the most recent being his comments at the Magic City Comic Con that the “real” Mary Jane was “lost” once she and Peter married. Others having vowed never to read Spider-Man again just didn’t care. Besides, there were far more important things to worry about like studying for exams, filing tax returns and catching up on The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.
Then there were those who seemed to have developed a sudden case of gametophobia, or at least one limited towards Spider-Man’s marriage, in they wondered why after being told by Marvel over and over why Spider-Man should never have gotten married in the first place they were seemingly bringing it back, let alone saddling him with some snot-nosed brat. After all, wasn’t Spider-Man all about “youth” and marriage and having kids made him “too old?” Isn’t Spider-Man having “soap opera-style romances” as definitive to his character as Daredevil being blind? Wasn’t it a mistake for Peter Parker to get married in the first place, let alone to someone like Mary Jane? Just like everything else about the new Secret Wars, it didn’t make a damn bit of sense.
Yet before the marriage detractors could belt out the chorus of Remy Zero’s “Save Me,” a champion swung to their rescue–IGN comics reviewer Jesse Schedeen. In his latest “Between the Panels” column subtitled “Why Spider-Man Should Stay A Swinging Bachelor,” Schedeen attempted to make the case for why, in spite of what you may have felt about Peter and MJ exchanging their marriage to Mephisto for Aunt May’s life, Spider-Man comics are now better because of it. Needless to say, the article received thousands of responses, many of which were colorful variations of, “You have no idea what the **** you’re talking about.”
To his credit, Schedeen does consider “One More Day” to be “a black mark on Spidey’s career,” and in his original review for Amazing Spider-Man #545 (the issue where the deal with Marvel’s devil went down) he gave it an “Awful” rating of 3.5 out of 10. He also doesn’t agree with Marvel’s claim that writers cannot tell certain stories with a married Spider-Man, pointing out how such logic can as easily apply towards an unmarried Spider-Man. And he states Joe Quesada’s choosing to have Peter and MJ’s marriage end via a deal with the devil for fear of “tainting Spider-Man with the stigma of divorce” was “convoluted and asinine.” Yet Schedeen also cites the more common reasons for why “One More Day” was a necessary evil, chief among them being that since Spider-Man is the protagonist of a serialized work of fiction, he must also conform to “the illusion of change,” which is another way of saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” To quote from his article:
I can respect Marvel’s intentions with the One More Day storyline. The main argument being that Spider-Man is, at his core, an everyman hero. Readers need to be able to relate to him. He has to remain the perpetually unlucky loser who never quite finds professional success or lasting romance.
Sounds all well and good, but Marvel’s argument, and Schedeen’s reiteration of it, have two glaring flaws. First is it assumes part of Spider-Man’s success is dependent upon his marital status, as though young and single readers cannot relate to a character who isn’t as young and single as themselves, even though it’s taken for granted they’ll have no problem identifying with someone bitten by a radioactive spider, and who clings to walls and swings around buildings in full-body spandex. Second is it also equates being an “everyman” with being a “loser,” as though one is not an average ordinary person unless they’re also a constant failure. Moreover, Spider-Man from the beginning, was all about growing up. Over his fifty-three years of publication, Peter Parker has graduated both high school and college, moved out of his Aunt May’s house, changed jobs and careers, seen people die while meeting new friends, and yes, settle down and marry and almost have a child of his own. If the “illusion of change” for Spidey is he’s always just shy of becoming an adult, then he crossed that bridge a long time ago, aided by no less than Stan Lee himself, the very person who insisted for an “illusion of change” in the first place. By having Spider-Man be married, and perhaps having a family of his own, it’s an example of moving the character forward instead of keeping him forever stuck in place.
Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Haven’t we heard all these points before? What makes this Schedeen guy’s stance against Spider-Man being married any different from Marvel’s?” Well here’s where things get a little more “creative,” because Schedeen then argues that Peter Parker losing his marriage is moving Spider-Man forward:
Regardless, that story happened, and what’s done is done. One More Day was a bad method of achieving a good end. The resulting Brand New Day status quo reinvigorated Peter and his world. It offered a fresh start for readers. It brought new talent to the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. It resulted in all sorts of excellent stories like The Gauntlet, Spider-Island and Superior Spider-Man. ASM is in such a strong place right now that it routinely outsells the various X-Men and Avengers books and even Marvel’s most heavily hyped event comics.
Suddenly switching gears and reintroducing a married Peter Parker would be like trying to solve a problem that no longer exists. The marriage is gone, and Peter and MJ simply don’t have that connection or spark anymore. It would merely derail all the work [Dan] Slott and other writers have been doing for the past seven years.
Yes, you read that correctly. According to Mr. Schedeen, Peter and Mary Jane can never marry again because in addition to no longer having a “connection or spark” (despite it being all-too obvious that they still do, even in Dan Slott’s own stories), remarrying them would “derail” seven years worth of “progress,” which was only brought about by Marvel derailing twenty years worth of progress. In other words, two wrongs don’t make a right if a “right” was made by two “wrongs.”
But if you believe Schedeen couldn’t dig himself further into Orwellian doublethink (or least deserves some points for originality), he really gets going once he starts explaining how Spidey having multiple on-again, off-again romances is preferable to matrimony:
There’s a lot to be said for an unmarried Peter Parker. He’s not like Superman, where there’s clearly only one woman he’s destined to wind up with. Peter has had several great loves, and seeing him try to maintain these various relationships while being compelled to suit up and put his life on the line every day is part of his everyman appeal. Inevitably his relationships falter, whether because he can’t commit to an ordinary life or because his girlfriends get tossed off bridges by insane billionaires.
Because nothing screams “everyman” like having a virtual harem of beautiful yet disposable women in spite of being a “perpetually unlucky loser,” am I right guys?
Also, if Schedeen is suggesting Peter dating a continuous variety of women allows for the possibility of more great loves, the comics themselves have shown otherwise. Fans still remember the likes of Gwen Stacy, the Black Cat and especially Mary Jane Watson because Spider-Man’s writers treated them as characters first instead of the next notch on his bed post. Adopting the notion there is no one woman for Peter doesn’t guarantee a better variety of love interests but creates even more all-but forgettable and derivative flings like Cissy Ironwood, Debra Whitman, Sarah Stacy, Michelle Gonzales, Carlie Cooper and Silk.
Yet don’t worry if Spider-Man never being able settle down into a steady, long-term commitment with one person means he can never mature as a person. Because as Schedeen explains, “One More Day” made Peter even more of a mature adult than ever before:
The trick is ensuring that Peter doesn’t remain so fixed in his role as the bumbling everyman hero that he never grows or evolves….Perhaps marriage isn’t the answer, but Peter does have to act his age. That’s something the post-One More Day comics have been very good about…
…The point is to always move forward rather than keep looking back. What I resent most about the Spider-Man franchise over the past couple decades isn’t the bad stories like the Clone Saga or One More Day, it’s the potential that was wasted and the good storylines that were abandoned…Bringing back the marriage would be no better. It would force writers to abandon the character’s current momentum in favor of restoring an arbitrary status quo.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Spider-Man must stay a “swinging bachelor” because marriage is too much of a step forward, and he must also remain a swinging bachelor because marriage is too much of a step backwards. Spider-Man must grow and not grow to grow; he must evolve and not evolve to evolve; and above all else, he must be an “everyman” and not be an “everyman” to become an “everyman.” I can only wonder if after submitting this piece for IGN and rereading his own words if Mr. Schedeen then realized he’d driven himself around in more circles than Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold did in National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
And pardon me as I attempt to peel the palms of my hands from my face that, having read such “Brand New Day” gems such as Peter having a drunken one-night stand with his ever-complaining roommate, or breaking into hotel rooms to have kinky mask-only sex with costumed femme fatale, anyone can say with a straight face that the loss of his marriage has made Spider-Man “act his age.”
As a fellow Spider-Man fan, I do sympathize with the idea that much of his uniqueness as a superhero comes from him having money and girl problems. I also consider Spider-Man to be a continuous coming-of-age story, which is admittedly more effective if Peter Parker is still an adolescent, or least still in college. But as I said, Peter has already come of age, and Marvel never seemed to worry about this until Stan Lee decided that Peter and MJ should get married. Because the assumption was that if Spider-Man was married, then it also meant he was no longer a “loveable loser,” and being a “lovable loser” is what they claimed made him appealing to so many people for so many decades.
Except critics like Schedeen and those at Marvel are mistaken: readers don’t empathize with Spider-Man because he constantly fails at life and love again and again. They empathize with Spider-Man and see him as an “everyman hero” because, in spite of being a genius with super-powers, he has the same day-to-day struggles just like we do. He has to earn a living, pay his bills, be on time for work, keep appointments and dates, stay healthy and fit, and keep up his friendships and relationships—all of which are that much harder because he chooses a life of heroism. And just like the rest of us, Peter doesn’t always get what he wants, there’s always the hope his life can turn out better. Including the hope that he’ll one day find that special someone, the person who he will want nothing more than to spend the rest of his life with, to perhaps start a family of their own, and, while there will be tough times ahead, they’ll be able to get through them together. And reason why so many continue to despise “One More Day” is because Peter Parker already found that person in one Mary Jane Watson.
I will agree with Schedeen on this one point that, while he does say it’s not a good idea to bring back Spidey’s marriage, “that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy this glimpse of a different Peter Parker for a few months.” For no matter happens with Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, one does have to give Dan Slott and Marvel credit for showing readers how Peter and MJ used to be and what might have been. And who knows? Maybe those marriage detractors might find themselves preferring a married Spider-Man with a kid over the supposed “perpetual unlucky loser” they have now? If not, they can always catch up on The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones like the rest of us.