Friday, March 28, 2008

After the love has gone (3)

Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day

It's not true that I haven't been reading any comics. I read DC's 52 all the way up to the top. Then the numbers started going down again - I haven't figured out why yet. I read Gerber's last comics. I'm up-to-date on, if uninspired by, the X-Men.

And then there's Spider-Man. His was the first comic I bought, and doubtless it'll be the last.

Brand New Day, Brand New Day. Where do you start with that one?

Well, first I'd like to thank the Mary Jane Lobby for their forebearance and understanding in these difficult times. It must be tough, knowing they have to go through life without receiving regular publications portraying the non-existent marriage of a non-existent man and a non-existent woman. I can see how your life must feel devoid of meaning and character now. Well done, Mary Jane Lobby! You've done yourselves proud. Thank goodness you haven't done anything undignified like, say, whining like a fucking jet engine.

Spider-Man is nothing if not a Moebius strip, and we've been here before. The Byrne-Mackie relaunch. Dispose of the marriage, push MJ from a DC-10, give Peter a new job, make things bright and fun, just like in Stan's time. It fell apart within ten issues. The MJL screamed and screamed. Everyone got horribly upset, and it all went back to status quo - Peter Parker, the Friendly-Neighbourhood thirtysomething science teacher. JMS was workaday and competent, if nothing else, but his series was as broken as it had ever been.

Now Joe Quesada's the one to flick the switch on MJ in an eyebrow-raising deal with Mephisto. Of course it was ridiculous, but marriage is like virginity. Once you do it, you don't get to go back to before. Get out of a marriage and you're either divorced or widowed, and neither label looks good for Spider-Man's market positioning. One More Day was preposterous, sure, but what else can an Editor-in-Chief do? This bed was made long ago.

The problem with Spider-Man is this: the character's been allowed to age too much; a majority of readers like it that way; young readers are turned off by it all. Bob Harras or John Byrne or Joe Quesada looks at his aging readers and thinks, Christ, we're doomed. They're not looking at their current customers, they're worrying about who's going to replace them when the reaper comes wagging his bony finger. They do what's necessary, and the rebellion kicks off again.

The only way this situation gets resolved is if the writing is so good on the relaunch that the protests die down. If sales don't slump they'll be able to build. A big if.

A few years ago, Rupert Murdoch wanted to take over English Rugby League. A complete revamp to fit Sky's schedules: a new league, Sunday games, played in the summer. And he wanted mergers: new clubs with silly names. Naturally, there were protests. 'Fev is Fev, Cas is Cas, stick your merger up your ass.' After a suitable period, he relented. No mergers. Everything else stuck. The game's played in summer now. But he never gave a stuff whether Featherstone Rovers merged with Castleford. Increased revenue for the big clubs will dispose of the little ones anyway. The mergers were a straw man. He got every single thing he wanted.

In Spider-Man, I think, I hope, the straw man is Peter's relationship with MJ. Once the MJL has squealed for a few months, Peter and MJ will go on a date. The MJL will be mollified, probably. Quesada wanted the marriage gone. It was nothing personal against MJ. If MJ gets cloying, a future writer can split them up. That's the fall-back position. At least, that should be the fall-back position.

And is Brand New Day any good? For me, no. It has a forced jollity, like being made to wear a stupid crepe hat at the Office Christmas Dinner. The tone is Stan Lee, hesitatingly updated for a new generation. It doesn't do anything for me, but you know what? My time is up. I've read all this a million times.

But if I was twelve and picking up a comic for the first time, I'd be impressed that Spider-Man's web shooters can run dry, and he can be falling out of a blue sky to his doom and get rescued by a beautiful woman.

It's time to move on.



Blogger WES said...

I don't agree. I don't think Joe Q's bed is made, and that he's been forced into re-establishing the Spider-Man status quo. And, honestly, this is one of my biggest beefs with comics: the forced consistency. Characters get resurrected every month, time gets screwed with, retcons occur left and right. All in the name of going back to "the good old days."

But that's not an option in real life. When someone you love dies, you never get them back. And it hurts, but it makes us stronger. And very few comic book writers have the courage to make permanent changes, for fear of controversy, despite the fact that it makes for stronger characters.

Spider-Man got married. It happened, in continuity. They can always write a divorce, or have MJ die, and that would enrich Peter as a character. Heck, they can always just launch a new title, with different continuity. Instead, the solution was to cling to past so tightly that it broke the present. For me, and many others, it cheapened Spider-Man greatly. "Brand New Day" Spider-Man isn't the Peter we've read the last 20 years, he's defined by different events and life decisions.

And, really, that's just too bad.

6:21 am  
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8:44 am  
Blogger #6 said...

I'm with WES.

Forced jollity aside, it's just bordering on not right in the head to do the retcon reboot screwover the way it was done. Just sloppy stuff.

Can this really be the same industry that's given us a Gerber or a Lee?

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