This is a classic comics blog, but modern goings-on will often find their way into the discussion here—or more accurately, I will drag them into the discussion, wisely or unwisely. I was just finalizing my next “When Spidey Jumped the Shark” post last week (scheduled for publication on June 13) when fan rumblings regarding the latest Pete-Mary Jane drama in Amazing Spider-Man started getting loud again. As mentioned at least once before here, the big storyline in ASM these days involves the mystery of what drove Pete and MJ apart, how she ended up with this guy Paul, where did their kids come from, and how did Pete/Spidey manage to alienate all his friends? Well, much (if not everything) has since been revealed.
The bare basics (revealed in the twenty-fifth issue of the most recent series) are this: Mary Jane got sucked up into another dimension and cut off from Pete. Desperate to free her, Pete/Spidey abuses all his friends and allies as he tries to put together what he needs to rescue her. Time passes differently in this other dimension, so by the time Pete busts her out, years have passed for her. During this time, MJ got together with this Paul guy and made a family with him. (It’s still not clear to me if the kids are biologically his, theirs, or otherwise.) For more details, click here.
The only reason I know all this is because related articles and stories keep popping up in my news feed suggestions and I can’t resist peeking. I swear I don’t go looking for this stuff. It has also popped up often on my YouTube feed, with comic fans putting out videos detailing how much they hate this story line and how stupid they think it is. Most often the talk boils down to something along the lines of “they ruined Spider-Man.”
This talk then almost always leads to “actually, they ruined Spider-Man with ‘One More Day’ back in ’07.” Or in other words, Spidey jumped the shark in 2007. The shark-jumping conversation (even if no one else is phrasing it this way) is what I thought it made it relevant fodder for the blog at this particular time.
It’s all about perspective. If you’re thirty-something years old, your fandom likely began with Pete and MJ already well established as being married. Things only went sour for you when “One More Day” broke them up. From my point of view, the idea that things only went bad fifteen years ago is ludicrous; they went bad much farther back than this. But hey, again, all about perspective, right?
For Baby Boomers, Spidey jumped the shark with Gwen’s death. For Xers, it was probably the utterly awful clone saga of the 1990s. Now for Millennials it’s “One More Day.” And then it will be something else for whatever label they slap on the next generation. Personally, I’m an Xer who supports Gwen’s death as the shark jumper because I went back and read all the old stories and developed great love and respect for Stan Lee’s Spidey as the best version of the character; I’m likely an outlier for my generation. That 90s clone stuff did drive me to quit buying new Spider-Man comics at the time, however.
Another thing that’s got people’s stomachs in knots is the anticipation that Mary Jane will die by the end of this story line. This is also timely and blog-connected because I’ve just been talking about how they remade Mary Jane into Gwen after the latter’s death in ASM #121. Now they just might make the transformation complete if they wind up killing off MJ as a sales stunt.
Let me take the opportunity to give Marvel some free advice here (not that they’ll ever take it or even read or hear about it): killing off the love of Spider-Man’s life is not a healthy creative strategy. It’s not even a healthy business strategy, at least not long term. It would be better for everyone concerned if you just got away from doing this kinda stuff.
I’m imagining a world where we get fun, entertaining Spidey comics without any sales stunts or gimmicks. A world where comics bring us joy, and maybe every now and then, say something a bit deeper; offer us something with some artistic aspirations. For quite a while now, it seems like fans get their entertainment from debating and discussing how bad the comics are.
Just look at those YouTube videos, Marvel. Yes, if fans are hate-buying and hate-reading they’re still buying, you’re still getting their money, so what do you care? But is there really much of a future in this? Wouldn’t you rather have your readers buzzing over how good the stories are? Now that would be a creative strategy with a future. Or so I would think.
SAME DAY UPDATE/EDIT: I scheduled this post for publication yesterday afternoon, and then news broke last night. Entertainment Weekly spoiled Amazing Spider-Man #26, revealing that Kamala Khan would be the character dying. No one expects this to stick, since the character plays a big role in the upcoming Marvels film, as well as seeming likely to return for a second season of her Disney Plus show. This death façade is likely a pretext for changing the comic-book version of the character to better match the MCU version. That’s modern comics for you people—now you know why I prefer the old stuff.