Infinite Spider-Man 10.12: Writers hated the marriage

Posted by Mister Mets 23 June 2012

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.


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