The Best of Spider-Man Countdown #35-31

Posted by SMReviews Team 23 June 2012

We're continuing the countdown of the our fifty Spider-Man stories.

35. "Five Minutes" (from The Ultimate Spider-Man Anthology)

Creative Team: Peter David (writer)

What Happened: During his wedding anniversary, Peter overhears police sirens and prepares to leave when Mary Jane convinces him to stay with her for five more minutes.  By the time Peter finally arrives on the scene as Spider-Man, he learns that he was too late to stop a man from committing suicide.  Naturally, Peter blames MJ as much as himself for not getting there to save him in time, and after a heated argument, storms out of their apartment.  Fearing that his marriage is now on the rocks, Peter turns to Daily Bugle Editor and friend, Robbie Robertson, for advice.           

Why It's In The Top 50: Mike praises Peter David's work here.
While this is the only prose story on our list, Peter David's short story serves as one of the best examples of how much dramatic potential Peter and MJ's (now-retconned) marriage had.  Anyone who has ever had to sacrifice spending time with their loved ones for the sake of work can easily relate, as we get a heart-wrenching reminder of how even the most happy relationships can be sorely tested.  And the last scene alone is one of the most beautiful moments between Peter and MJ ever written.
What others say: Keith R.A. Decandido praised it as one of best pieces of Spider-Man prose ever written in a review of Peter David's Spider-Man/ Gen 13. In a review of The Ultimate Spider-Man anthology, Mister Mio of the Crawl Space refers to it as his second favorite story in the collection. Greg Hatcher praised the story in a piece about marriages in superhero comics.
Likewise, there have been many brilliant stories done with a married Spider-Man — even stories ABOUT the relationship — that ring true, that make sense, that are exciting and dramatically interesting and don’t hinge on the idea of tragedy or broken romance. They almost never happen in the comics, but there have been manyƂ in the ancillary licensed books. Peter David, Diane Duane, and Adam-Troy Castro all gave us a terrific take on the married Spidey in their prose books put out by Byron Preiss and iBooks. Peter David’s story “Five Minutes” in The Ultimate Spider-Man is practically a diagram of how that relationship should work. It ought to be required reading for everyone who works on Spider-Man. That’s how married people act.
Creative Team: Stan Lee (Writer), John Romita Sr (Artist), 

What Happened: When Mysterio's latest escapade contributes to Aunt May's latest breakdown, Spider-Man is upset, and chases down his old foe. But Mysterio has a new trap, seemingly shrinking Spidey down to the size of an action figure.

Why It's In The Top 50:  Combustible Pumpkins articulates why this story was one of John Romita Sr's strongest:
Although he's not the original Spider-Man artist, Romita Sr. draws the quinessential Spidey, and issues like these two from the late 60's pretty much showcases his talent.  Stan Lee was on a roll at this point as well with Spidey's classic supporting characters weaving their way significately throughout Spidey's life. An example of this would be Captain Stacy and Rob Robertson coming together to discuss Spidey, and how he seems familiar, or Norman Osborn's cameo as he's realizing he's the Green Goblin foreshadowing things to come.  But what I really like is how Mysterio is considered the greatest mystic genius of all time.  Mysterio supposedly shrinks spidey down to 6 inches, toys with his sanity as poisoned mirrors close in on Spidey, or throwing him into a house of horrors.  Stuff like that.  Mysterio's helmet is considered psychedelic too, and I like that.
What others say: Sam Ruby gave the first issue a 7/10 grade, and the second issue an 8/10. Mark Ginnochio praised the story in a piece about Mysterio.

Related Stories: Aunt May needed medical attention due to her response to events in Amazing Spider-Man #63-65.

33. Spider-Man: Blue

Creative Team: Jeph Loeb (Writer), Tim Sale (Artist)

What Happened: Every Valentines Day, Spider-Man makes a trip to visit Gwen at her grave. 

Peter recalls various events from the Lee/ Romita days, beginning what he hoped would be last battle against the Green Goblin, his decision to buy a motorcycle, studying for a test with Gwen, and the random introduction of Ms Mary Jane Watson into his life.

The whole series basically goes through Peter's thoughts and feelings towards both MJ and Gwen, the girls who would become most important to his life. Peter recalls his past and how he eventually finds out that Gwen would be the one for him, until fate decides otherwise. Peter realizes how his relationship with Gwen changed him, and continues to affect him even when she's gone.

Why It's In The Top 50: Bulletproofsponge explains his love of the story.
Working on major heroes such as Daredevil, Hulk, Superman, and Batman, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale have the outstanding ability to harness the nostalgia of a character's early days and craft a unique story around past events. Their most outstanding effort in this practice is Spider-Man: Blue; a retelling of Amazing Spider-Man #40, #43-48 and #63. 
Blue recounts the highlights of the relationship between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker with some beautifully romantic artwork by Sale and sentimental scripting by Loeb. The main story beat is actually a flashback bookended by a distraught Peter recording a love letter to a now-deceased Gwen into a tape recorder on Valentine's Day.

Blue is one of the most emotionally draining and heartbreaking superhero comics out there, but it's also exquisitely exciting and energetic. This isn’t about how many tons Spidey can lift over his head or how years of continuity fit together—it's a tragic romance.
There are a number of side stories in this series such as Spider-Man's battles with Rhino, Lizard and others. The main reason this issue is in the top 50 however, is solely because of Gwen Stacy. Gwen was the first girlfriend of a superhero to actually die and not come back to life. She made history in comics. Her death at the hands of the Green Goblin will forever be remembered. ( Unless it gets wiped out of Marvel history like some other things )
New and old readers love to read a story about Peter's first true love. It was also a popular book because it had been a while since Gwen had made a proper appearance in comics. This series goes through, step by step, the progression of his relationship with Gwen, making it a perfect catch up series for those new readers who didn't understand the weight their relationship carried. 
Finally, this series is a limited edition love story that honestly does not get published all that often, so what's there not to like?
What the pros say: In an interview, Tim Sale explained what the Spider-Man comics meant to him.
"Through Spider-man, Stan Lee rethought the super-hero as a put-upon adolescent, and that figure is the quintessential Marvel hero. Soap opera characters in costumes." 
Spider-man was the first comic I started reading, when we crossed the country when I was six. We went from Massachusetts to Seattle. My father used to buy me comic books to keep me amused in the back of the car. I learned how to read from comic books. The first word I could read was 'Boom!' 
"The early Romita run in Amazing Spider-Man was, and is, a touchstone in comics for me. I don't recall being aware of anything romantic or soapy before that, and was utterly sucked into it. The beauty in the way he draws, the elegance; his action sequences are very well done, but his real power is the romance. And I wanted to try that, so it was almost inevitable that it's what we would do in Spider-Man: Blue."
Editor Tom Brevoort suggested that Spider-Man: Blue was a model for Marvel's Season One line of Original Graphic Novels.
Probably the best example of the way these will work would be to point you at the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale “color” books: Daredevil Yellow Spider-Man Blue and Hulk Grey. As in those projects, the heroes may face a couple of different villains, but the central story will still be one with a beginning, middle and end.

What others say: It was #2 on IGN's list of the best Spider-Man stories. It was #7 on Complex's list of the top Spider-Man stories of all time. They rated it above Loeb and Sale's other collaborations.

Related Stories: Loeb and Sale worked together on several stories about the early days of prominent superheroes, with the Batman: Long Halloween saga (and its various tie-ins), Superman for All Seasons, Hulk: Grey and Daredevil: Yellow.

Creative Team: Peter David (Writer), Bob McLeod (Artist)

What Happened: Spidey is having another one of his "typical Parker luck" days.  He's still sore over his recent break-up with the Black Cat, has a cold coming on, and if that weren't enough, he gets outsmarted (twice) by a mere two-bit robber.  Fortunately, Spidey was able to plant a tracer on the thief before he escaped, and the following morning tracks him down to, of all places, the suburban community of Scarsdale.  As Spidey tells himself, it seems so "ridiculously simple."  That is until he soon finds out that there are no tall buildings from him to web-sling.  Or that he has no money to even pay for bus fare.  Not to mention he has to put up with the locals, including the neighborhood watch and his wife, a cabbie who only speaks Spanish, and worst of all, a nosy little kid on a big wheel!

Why It's In The Top 50: Mike suggests that this is one of the best Spider-Man storylines to give to people who don't usually read comics.
If someone were to ask you 'Why does Spider-Man have to live in New York City?' just refer them to this hilarious 'fish out of water' tale.  Sure, Peter has wound up in embarrassing situations before, but it's pretty hard to top the humiliation of being forced to travel on foot while still in full costume.  Or getting his tights caught in a tree branch. Or having to hitch a ride on a garbage truck.  Adding to the humor is the fact that the crook himself is so refreshingly ordinary (a fact driven home in an excellent series of juxtaposed panels showing how both he and Peter spend their evenings at home) that he can't even fathom why a superhero like Spidey is even trying to catch someone like him.
Spiderfan001 explains why this is one of his favourite done-in-one's:
The great thing about doing lists like this is that you discover some great Spider-Man stories that would have otherwise passed you by. For me, this story was one of them. It's hilarious, and can only work with a character like Spider-Man, showcasing his humanity in a very entertaining fashion. If you're a Spider-Man fan and haven't read this hidden gem yet, you owe it to yourself to do so!
What others say: It was #20 on Complex's list of the top Spider-Man stories. And it was #13 on IGN's Top 25 list. And #36 on CBR's list.

31. Venom (Amazing Spider-Man #300)

Creative Team: David Michelinie (Writer), Todd McFarlane (Artist)

What Happened:  A new Spider-Man villain is introduced. He has all of Spider-Man's abilities, except he's bigger and stronger. And he knows who Spider-Man is. And has no problems attacking Mary Jane. It's such a shame that this obscure figure never appeared again in the Spider-Man comics.

Why It's In The Top 50: Jesse explains why he found Eddie Brock to be such an effective villain.
The story marks the debut of a villain that would become a cult phenomenon, and for over a decade be considered Spidey's polar opposite. Venom would go on to become 1 of Spider-Man's greatest rivals , but also one of his best allies. Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie really establish their tone for the 90s early on in this story, with darker themes. The man behind the Venom suit would also serve as a fan favorite and reappear countless times, even after his seperation from the symbiote. Eddie Brock was a bold, daring and highly capable man with all the motivation to bring Peter down. In this story Spidey is very much out matched, and the threat of this man with a vengeance against him and knowledge of his secret identity really increases the drama. I think it says a lot that Venom frightens MJ so bad, that she never wants to see Peter wearing the black suit again, and the symbolism when they toss his black costume in the fire represents Peter's new lease on life, and a metaphorical cleansing of the spirit to me.

What the pros say: Writer David Michelinie discusses what appeals to him about Venom in Comic Creators on Spider-Man:
Venom became very popular. He appealed to me particularly because he was created for only one purpose: to kill Spider-Man. At the time there weren't any other villains who actually wanted to kill Spidey. Most of Spider-Man's rogues' gallery just wanted to avoid him. I liked the purity of Venom's motivation.
Artist Todd McFarlane discusses Venom's popularity in the same book:
A lot of things I did were mostly just to entertain myself. I learned early on that I'm very average in my tastes and most of the product is bought by similarly average people. They seem to like the things I like, and so it wasn't a stretch to think they'd really like the idea of a big creepy monster trying to kick the shit out of scrawny little Spider-Man. Venom was a worthy adversary, a real challenge for the character.
What others say: Back in 1997, Andrew Kardon of Wizard rated this as the 6th best Spider-Man story of all time. The early Venom appearances made Topnetz's list of the greatest Spider-Man stories. Madgoblin explained that he was never a big Venom fan. Mark Ginnochoi wrote several pieces about it praising the "Stand Up and Cheer" moment at the end, as well as Venom's brutality.

Related Stories: Peter and MJ were evicted from the Bedford Towers in ASM #314. The Venom and Spider-Man rivalry would seemingly reach its conclusion in Amazing Spider-Man # 375. Afterwards Spidey would team up with Venom most notably in their battles against Carnage. Spidey temporarily went back to wearing the synthetic black costume in the 2007 "Back in Black" saga, significantly at the same time as the Spider-Man 3 movie featuring the origin of Venom. The Alien Costume was introduced in the Secret Wars mini-series, and worn by Spidey in Amazing Spider-Man #252-259, before returning for a battle in Web of Spider-Man #1. Eddie Brock was upset at Peter Parker due to something that happened in the Sin-Eater saga. A costume from Spider-Man VS Wolverine is referenced in this issue.

Did You Know? David Michelinie originally intended for Venom to be a woman, as he explained in Comics Creators on Spider-Man:
I originally wanted the character to be a woman. She was pregnant and about to give birth. Her husband is rushing to get her to a hospital. He runs into the road to flag down a cab, but the cabbie is looking up at Spider-Man fighting someone - I think it might have been the Living Monolith from my graphic novel. The cabbie doesn't see the husband and accidentally hits and kills the guy. The woman sees her husband splattered in front of her and goes into labour. She loses the child and her mind at the same time, and is institutionalised. Though she eventually gets her mind back, she blames Spider-Man for the death of her husband and child. The alien costume, which has also been hurt by Peter Parker, is drawn to the woman because of her intense hatred of Spider-Man. The costume then bonds with her to try to kill Peter. When I was switched to Amazing, Jim Salicrup told me that he wanted to do something special in issue #300, and he suggested I introduce a new character. I hit him with my idea of using the alien costume. Though he liked it, he wasn't sure the readers would see a woman as a physical threat to Spider-Man, even a woman enhanced by the alien costume. At that point I came up with the Eddie Brock angle and tied it in with the Peter David Sin-Eater/'Death of Jean DeWolff' story that had appeared in Spectacular Spider-Man #107-110.

The Best of Spider-Man Countdown #40-36

Posted by SMReviews Team

We're continuing the countdown of the top fifty Spider-Man stories.

40. "Face to Face... With the Lizard" (Amazing Spider-Man #6)

Creative Team: Stan Lee (Writer), Steve Ditko (Artist)

What Happened: Peter Parker convinces J Jonah Jameson to send him to Florida, to get pictures of a half-man, half-reptile monster. While there, Spider-Man decides to seek the advice of Doctor Curt Connors, a local expert on all things reptilian.

Why It's In The Top 50: Combustible Pumpkins explains why he chose this story:
There's nothing more visceral than a human being turning into a man-size lizard and wanting to rule the world through monster-mutating snakes and alligators.  Not only is this The Lizard's first appearance, but it also shows the relevance of this big bad, and what happens when science goes horribly wrong.  I personally would of loved to see Dr. Connors more in modern comics, perhaps even gaining control (most of the time) of his Lizard persona and fighting along side Spidey.  With both characters knowing each other's secret identity, it would make for great plots of tension, science, and redemption for Dr. Connors, but alas, the way The Lizard is being written these days, it doesn't look too good.
What the pros say: In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rhys Ifans, who plays the Lizard in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man movie, explains his take on the character:
Curt Connors is by no stretch an evil villain. He’s not like the Batman villains, like the Joker, who are the embodiment of evil. Curtis Connors is a great man who makes a bad decision. That’s the whole magic of the Spider-Man idea. These people are the embodiment of our flaws and our desires that lead to tragedy.
What others say: Al Sjoerdsma of spiderfan gave this issue a score of 4/5.  Sam Ruby gave the issue a perfect score of 10/10.

Related Stories: Doctor Connors returns to Spidey's in life just in time to help him save Aunt May in Amazing Spider-Man #32.  The Lizard, along with the rest of the Connors family, returns in Amazing Spider-Man #44.  Curt's wife, Martha Connors, dies of cancer in the Spider-Man: Quality of Life miniseries.  The Lizard devours his own son in the "Shed" storyline, which ran in Amazing Spider-Man #630-633.  The Lizard is set to return to plague Spidey this summer in a story entitled "No Turning Back" which will run in Amazing Spider-Man #688-691.  Oh, and apparently he'll also be appearing in some movie called The Amazing Spider-Man.

 Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #418, Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #75

Creative Team: Ralph Macchio (Editor) Tom Defalco, Todd Dezago, Howard Mackie (Writers), Luke Ross, Mike Wieringo, Steve Skroce, John Romita, Jr (Artists), Scott Hanna (Inker)

What Happened: The mastermind behind the Clone Saga reveals himself and his motives, and Ben Reilly's life comes to a shocking end in one dramatic showdown, that puts a lid on the lengthy Clone Saga.

Why It's In The Top 50:  Jesse explains why this story is siginificant:
Significantly, this story restores Peter Parker as the original and one true Spider-Man (after years of debate and confusion), as well as reignites the epic feud between Spider-Man and the notorious Green Goblin. Many mysteries are explained and if that weren't enough,fate plays a hand in the birth of MJ and Peter's child.
Spiderfan001 explains why he likes this story:
The showdown between Peter Parker and Norman Osborn in this story is insanely epic, due in no small part to John Romita Jr.'s breath taking visuals.  Ben Reilly's sacrifice at the end of the story ensured that the character went out on a high note.
What others say: Undoubtedly the story marked the end of an era and even ushered in a new status quo. Unfortunately the results of this infamous story line did some irreversible damage. However the memory of it's casualties still inspire fans and writers to wonder, what if ?  The Team over at gave the last issue of this storyline a 4/5.

Related Stories: The Green Goblin and Spider-Man would continue to wage war against each other, reaching a climax in the "Final Chapter" story line, in which Peter was led to believe his child was alive. Many stories about Ben Reilly have come and gone in alternate universes including Tom Defalco's MC2 universe, and the Spider-Man: The Real Clone Saga miniseries, both of which contain alternate versions of the Clone Saga. 

Creative Team: Greg Weisman (Writer), Mike Goguen (Director)

What Happened: On the evening of Midtown High's production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Spidey, under the request of Captain Stacy, has volunteered to test the effectiveness of the Vault's new security systems provided by Oscorp.  Unfortunately, the Green Goblin hacks into the system and not only traps everyone inside, but also lets loose all the inmates, all of whom have an axe against the wall-crawler.  At the same time, the Black Cat shows up to help break her father out of prison--someone who has a connection with Spidey that neither he or the Black Cat even realize.  Meanwhile at Midtown High, not only is Peter's girlfriend, Liz Allen, wondering what's keeping her boyfriend, but the cast is wondering where Harry Osborn, the person who is supposed to play the part of Puck, could have gone to. 

Why It's In The Top 50: Mike talks about why this was a highlight of the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series.
Spectacular Spider-Man was one of the best animated adaptations ever made of a comic book superhero that was, unfortunately, cancelled all too soon.  This second-to-last episode is an example why it was such a great series, as it not only brings together several plot threads that had been running throughout the course of the series, but also has surprising revelations that, had the series continued, would have made for compelling future episodes--particularly the identity of Black Cat's father which adds a whole new dynamic to her and Spidey's relationship, and makes you wonder why no one writing for the comics ever thought about doing something like this with them before.  Not to mention it has cleverly interweaves lines from Shakespeare, along with terrific and hilarious dialogue, particularly from the Green Goblin, and the return of Mysterio (or is it?) and his constantly chatty robot gargoyles.
What others say: "Arsenal" of Marvel Animation Age gave this episode a positive review.

Related Stories: Spider-Man would face the Green Goblin again in the next episode, which sadly proved to be the series' last, appropriately titled "Final Curtain."  But really, if you haven't checked out the entire run of The Spectacular Spider-Man, you're missing out on one of the best superhero cartoons ever made.

Creative Team: Stan Lee (Writer), John Romita Sr. (Artist), Jim Mooney (Inker)

What Happened: Norman Osborn's memory of being the Green Goblin returns, along with his knowledge of Spider-Man's secret identity.  Using this knowledge, the Goblin embarks on a plan to destroy Spider-Man once and for all.

Why It's In The Top 50:  Combustible Pumpkins explains why he chose this story:

Key issue in which Norman Osborn remembers not only is he the Green Goblin, but Spidey's secret identity too.  It was a big deal at that time since no one else in the Marvel Universe knew who Spidey was.  Pete was a loner back then, too paranoid to let any other hero know his secret alias. 
Although GG makes another appearance, this issue could be considered part two of a trilogy between when Goblin first learns Pete is Spidey (ASM # 39) and when he kills Gwen Stacy (ASM # 121).  Spectacular Spidey Magazine 2 is intense, from Norman's mental breakdown, to remembering he's GG, to taunting Peter in front of Pete's loved ones, to the epic splash-page battles which also involved a psychedelic pumpkin.  It's fun and will hold your attention throughout the 40-page story.
What others saySam Ruby gave this story a perfect score of 10/10.

Related Stories: The scene where Norman Osborn taunts Peter during dinner was later adapted in the Spider-Man: The Animated Series episode "Turning Point." Elements of it were used in the first Spider-Man movie.

36. The End of Spider-Man!  (Amazing Spider-Man #18)

Creative Team: Stan Lee (Writer), Steve Ditko (Artist), Sam Rosen (Letterer)

What Happened: With the world thinking he's a coward, his social life in shambles, his Aunt May falling ill, and unable to cash in on his alter ego, Peter Parker decides to quit being Spider-Man.

Why It's In The Top 50: Spiderfan001 explains why this is his favourite "Spider-Man quits" story:
One has to appreciate how bizarre this issue must have been to the average superhero comic reader back in 1964.  There's no epic confrontation with a supervillain, no grand triumph for the hero, and nothing gets resolved at the end. All Stan Lee and Steve Ditko do is drag Spider-Man through the mud.  His girlfriend Betty Brant leaves him for the more stable Ned Leeds, he can't afford his aunt's medicine, and his fear of leaving his aunt alone causes him to stop taking risks as Spider-Man, allowing J. Jonah Jameson to convince the public that he's a coward.  Spidey's money troubles lead him into a series of humiliating encounters as he first tries to sell his image to a trading card company (he gets smoke blown in his face) and then by trying to sell his web fluid formula (the scientists brush him off when they learn that it disolves after an hour).  The anxiety, heart ache and humiliations Peter goes through this issue are the ones that we all experience at some point in our lives, and by the end Peter has one of those moments where he's ready to call it quits. 
This issue is also expands on Aunt May's character, containing one of the first instances that hints that the character possess an inner strength that would only be expanded upon by future creative teams.  And finally, Jameson is hilarious in this issue, thanks to a perfect combination of Lee's dialogue and the grotesque way Ditko draws him when he's happy.        
What others say: Al Sjoerdsma of spiderfan gave this issue a perfect score.  Sam Ruby gave this issue an 8/10. It was #48 on CBR's list of the Top 50 Spider-Man stories. Mark Ginnochio praised Amazing Spider-Man #18 as the moment became a character instead of a story device.

Related Stories: Peter quits being Spider-Man once again in the iconic Amazing Spider-Man #50 and about a million times after that.

Did you know?  This issue marks the first appearance of supporting cast member Ned Leeds.  Anna Watson is erroneously referred to as Mrs. Watkins.


An important problem with the spider-marriage was that it prevented the writers from doing what they want to do. If it wasn't for the marriage, writers would have had a much easier time changing the romantic status of their lead. But the only way to get the lead to stay with the romantic interest forever is to put a mechanism in place that makes changing the status quo very difficult. And I don't think that's a good idea.

I'm not trying to appeal to authority here. While the collective insights of many individuals who have worked in the field for decades should be respected, it doesn't mean they're automatically right. However, that possibility should be taken into account.

All of Spider-Man's relationships came to an end at some point. Peter & Betty were together for nearly 30 issues. They broke up. When Peter & Gwen got too serious, Gwen was killed off. Peter & MJ broke up after dating for nearly 60 issues. Black Cat was Peter's main romantic interest for several years. That ended badly.

So if it wasn't for the spider-marriage, Peter and Mary Jane probably would have broken up much sooner. That assumes that they would have even gotten together in the first place, considering where they were when Peter proposed to her in Amazing Spider-Man #292.

And the first post-marriage attempt to have a bachelor as the lead came within seven years, with the reintroduction of the clone, an unmarried duplicate. Considering how quickly Peter & MJ got married after their reconciliation, it seems likely that the couple would have been broken up before they got married, if they went with a slower approach during and prior to the engagement.

The most likely reason the couple was together for twenty years was that a break-up more was much more difficult for the writers than it should have been. Although it's also possible that the problems were with what it meant for Spider-Man to be married rather than Peter and MJ's interactions. In that case, the difficulty in figuring out how to break up the couple distracted the writers from figuring out that this relationship was an improvement.

The removal of the marriage doesn't mean that future relationships are doomed to failure post-OMD. Writers can keep an unmarried couple together indefinitely. Although they probably won't want to, and it probably won't last that long, it's still a possibility. But there haven't been any arguments about the advantages of making a fictional break-up ridiculously difficult for the writers.

Kurt Buisek argued in CBR why he preferred stories in which Peter Parker met the wrong girl.
I have to admit, my interest isn't in Peter finding the right girl, but in being entertaining. If being miserable makes him entertaining, then maybe he should meet the wrong girls.

I'm one of the Vicious Cabal that thinks the marriage should never have happened. I thought Gwen was kind of a drip -- very sweet and lovable and passive, when she wasn't irrationally jealous or angry about something. She'd probably have made Peter an excellent wife, but the result wouldn't have been exciting, which is why John Romita thought it would be a good idea to kill her off -- she makes a much better "ideal girl lost forever" than she does an active player in an ensemble cast. I liked MJ when she was an overcaffeinated hipster, and lost a lot of interest in her when she turned out to be a product of a broken, abusive home, and under the "laughing on the outside" exterior was a sad, wounded moper like so much of the rest of the cast -- Peter, MJ, Flash, Betty, Liz, Harry...sometimes it seems like everyone in the cast is from a damaged background. Still, she had more drive to do her own thing than Gwen did, and that made for better drama.

But I don't think Spider-Man needs a Lois Lane -- there are enough comics characters with one great love already. I'd be fascinated if he had several major romantic foils, the way Milt Caniff did wit Pat Ryan in the old TERRY AND THE PIRATE comic strip. Pat pined after Normandie Drake, lusted after Burma and was intellectually challenged by the Dragon Lady, striking dramatic and romantic sparks with each of them that illuminated his character in different ways, with others that cropped up when they were offstage. Readers argued over which of the three would be the best for Pat to end up with, and there were good cases to be made all around.

I like Peter's life hectic, where he has to juggle lots of responsibilities, so I'm for there being multiple characters who he strikes sparks with, and different reasons each of them might be a good idea. For instance, I don't think in a million years he should "end up" with Felicia Hardy, but I think things are often more fun when she's around.

So I say mix it up, pull him in different directions, but do it with characters with vivid, compelling personalities who each have their own strengths and weaknesses to offer.
As a result of Amazing Spider-Man Annual 21, writers weren't able to tell these stories.

When the Marriage Is Written Well

One could suggest that it was preferable to prevent bad writers from being able to break up Peter and Mary Jane. That way, the couple is intact when a good writer takes over. Although it hasn't been clear that this makes things better for good writers, either.

Every now and then there was a really well written story about the married Peter Parker, which gets justly praised on the internet. That was followed by the inevitable argument that this single great Mary Jane and Peter Parker tale justified keeping the marriage. Unfortunately, there are not hundreds of stories like "To Have and to Hold" left to tell, and that's what is necessary for the marriage to continue. Meanwhile, the strength of Peter's marriage, demonstrated in these types of stories also lessens the tension, because readers can infer that Peter and Mary Jane will be able to withstand future challenges.

Very few of those stories even required Peter and Mary Jane to be married to one another, although the fact that the couple had been together so long, did sometimes make certain scenes more powerful.

However, many classic Spider Man stories wouldn’t have worked as well with a married Peter Parker. “The Final Chapter” is arguably the definitive Spider Man story, but Peter's inability to explain to his girlfriend where his bruises came from doesn’t work as well with Mary Jane in the current books. Spider Man’s sudden marriage removed that type of drama, and made Peter’s life easier, which isn’t good for a drama that relies on the protagonist’s life being complicated. There’s the famous (because it’s true) note that any good story is about things getting worse. This is especially applicable to a series that's exciting.

Readers won’t care about the characters in a story that can be summarized as “Things are good. Then they get better. Then, when it seems like things are their best, the world becomes perfect for the protagonist.” The things that are great in real life (success in business, a happy marriage, etc) don’t work well in serial dramas. And writers are aware of that.


At this point, I've spent a lot of time discussing Spider-Man's relationship with Mary Jane, so it's fair to consider once again whether this is even an significant part of an action/adventure series. In a response to an earlier entry, bulletproofsponge suggested love wasn't very important in the Spider-Man comics.

Most of these stories mentioned all have to do with love. Technically Spider-Man is more about action and adventure, to most kids at least. These love stories of a single Spider-Man will probably not matter to a young boy ( or teen ) and will most likely not influence his buying decision. 
When I was teenager, I remember seeing the issue in which Ultimate Spider-Man gets hooked with Kitty Pryde. At that point I lost interest in USM as I preferred to read about Peter's relationship with his wife MJ, as opposed to complicated love stories in USM. Food for thought
I would disagree here. I think love is astoundingly important in fiction. It's important to us as individuals, and it's important to fictional characters. To use the Vice-President's vocabulary, in fiction, as in life, romance is a big fucking deal.

Peter's bad luck with the girls was mentioned in the second page of Amazing Fantasy #15. In Supergods, Grant Morrison argued that Peter's problems with girls were one of the aspects which distinguished him from the other Silver-Age superheroes. Two of the contenders for best Spider-Man story ever included the ends of his romantic relationships: Betty Brant in Amazing Spider-Man #31 and Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #122. The first Spider-Man movie broke box office records by turning the series into a romance in which the guy didn't get the girl.
The continuation of the current continuity into the next generation and beyond depends on many factors, some of which are tied into whether or not Peter Parker being married to Mary Jane is the appropriate situation for “Brand New Day”. Which status quo will keep future readers hooked? Which status quo allows for the most great stories? Are the writers mindful of the probability that the story will continue for at least another decade, and should be as interesting and accessible then as it has been at any other point?

Because Joe Quesada said that Spider-Man works best as a soap opera, some have seized on the phrasing to suggest that he wants to cheapen the franchise by emulating perhaps the least respected form of low culture. However, in this context “soap opera” refers to something which is found most forms of fiction: the private lives of the characters. The guy trying to get the girl, and encountering tremendous obstacles, is at the heart of many of the most acclaimed stories of all time in novels, film and theater.

Most films are composed of at least two often intertwined story arcs: one in the public sphere and another in the private sphere. The public plot is about how the protagonist affects the world. The private plot is about his/ her social life. This includes mediocre films and great films too, and everything in between. In Casablanca, viewers want to know if Rick will aid the resistance (the public plot) and if he can win back Isla (the private plot.) In Avatar, the suspense comes from whether Jake can save the Na'vi and find happiness with Neytiri. It’s not unusual that the focus on Peter's private life has been a major part of Spider-Man’s appeal.

There could still be conflicts in Peter's private sphere if he were married, and there are notable works in which there really aren't romantic subplots. But it's still a tremendous source of storytelling potential, and the alternatives just aren't as compelling.

An argument is that while many finite works do have romances, the illusion of change doesn't allow the story to come to a satisfying conclusion. A legitimate question if where the story can go if the main character can never get married and have children. He could date the Black Cat. When that doesn't work out, he might begin a relationship with Marvel Girl. When that doesn't work out, there may be a period when he doesn't see any women. Aunt May sets him up on a blind date that's a failure on every level, the opposite of Amazing Spider Man #42. After six or so months of that, he may get back together with Mary Jane. During this period you could do pretty much any story that you could do with a married Peter & MJ, with the exception of pregnancy scares and anything about the legality of marriage.

Eventually they may break up. He may fall for a girl, who chooses someone else. He may then fall for a girl, who breaks off the relationship upon learning his secret identity, because she doesn't want to take the risk that Venom will endanger her nephews to get to Spidey. Pondering whether it's immoral for him to have an ordinary social life, Spider Man might start dating Sabra, the Israeli superhero injured during the "Ends of the Earrg" saga. Word of their relationship gets out and Spider Man finds himself the focus of a new type of media attention. Meanwhile, Middle Eastern supervillains (Sabra's rogues gallery) target Spider Man to send a message to her. I think that'll cover about five years worth of conflicts (180 issues plus five annuals) in this aspect of Peter Parker's life.

The Illusion of Change applies to fiction, but not to the real world. So current debates may be settled by changes in social norms. I'm not sure Spider-Man's love life will be one of those. Many of the reasons against the marriage will still be applicable, as will reasons for the marriage, regardless of what happens in the real world.

For example, unless open marriages become a lot more socially acceptable, many stories involving other romantic interests for Peter and MJ will be closed for the writers if they're married to one another. Likewise, if Mary Jane is Peter's wife, this cements her as Spider-Man's primary romantic interest, establishing her as a major character within the Marvel Universe. Amongst other things, it would allow writers of other titles to reference the character and expect most readers to know who she is and what her relationship to Spider-Man is, which sometimes has storytelling benefits. This reason in favor of the marriage would remain applicable twenty years from now. 

Most of the current objections will remain twenty years from now, although there might be a few new ones. Most of the reasons to restore the marriage will remain twenty years from now, although there may be a few new ones.

It's quite different to any developments in other aspects of Peter Parker's private life, such as his educational progress. For dramatic purposes, high school is roughly equivalent to college, which is roughly equivalent to grad school. His relationship status is more consequential, considering the myriad possibilities. So, it's problematic to have a development which cements a major part of the private life. That may be why the writers were so eager to overturn it.



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