Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's all been said... (OMD Stuff)

Sigh. So the third part of the OMD-Quesada interview is up at CBR, and he spends the entire time essentially sticking his fingers in his ears and screaming "fans want this! Nyah-Nyah!" while simultaneously flipping the bird at anyone who disagrees with him. The whole time I'm reading his bullshit, I'm thinking, "Oh, I have to write about this. I'm going to show him why all his arguments are wrong! Just you wait, Quesada..." And I get done, and I head over to the ever-awesome (although currently very cranky) SMB...

And everything I'd say has been said. Everything I'd argue has been argued. And there are people arguing against it (people like ElCoyote, people who are spouting the same tripe Quesada is). And... I just don't care. So I'm not going to post over there about this because I'd just be a raindrop adding to the flood.

That said, let's get some things straight:

A) Continuity matters. John Seavey very eloquently explained in a post that Marvel/Quesada contradicts itself when it says that continuity doesn't matter. A poor paraphrase: "Events" like Civil War only "matter" because they will have results in subsequent stories. Therefore, Marvel sells copies of Civil War based on an implied (by Marvel) promise and and understood (by readers) value of "continuity." To then chuck the continuity (as OMD unquestionably does, despite Quesada's insistence to the contrary) is to break that promise. Sorry, you can't do that, Joe.

B) The marriage does not hamper good storytelling. Quesada's supposedly foolproof argument is below:

Here is the question that I have posed over and over again and no one has given me a logical answer to: outside of having kids (which I never would have done with Peter and MJ in the first place) or divorce/annulment (which is another thing I never would have done) is there a story that I can tell with a married Peter and MJ that I can’t tell with a Peter Parker who is just dating and deeply in love with MJ? There isn’t a single one. Every story you can tell works just as well if they’re married of just dating and in love.

Now, let me ask the reverse: Are there any stories that I can tell with a single Peter Parker that I can’t tell with a married one? You betcha! And therein lies the problem and the irrefutable logic. While the marriage is absolutely the logical progression for a character like Peter Parker, so is having kids, having grandkids, growing old and dying.

Quesada reveals his prejudices and his own limitations as a storyteller here, and it is here that the root illogic of "One More Day" is born. He eliminates personal growth as a story option for Spider-Man. He doesn't just shy away from it (as virtually all Spider-Man teams have done over the years--even the great Stan Lee had to give Peter six arms to postpone his engagement to Gwen, and Gerry Conway and John Romita had to kill her!)--he outlaws it. He prohibits it. Well, Joe, as soon as you eliminate the logical progression of a character's growth, then the rest of your argument just kind of falls into place.

What Quesada doesn't seem to understand is that the "soap opera" aspect of Spider-Man is not tied to dating. When Peter was dating, certainly much of it revolved around dating--I don't know about the rest of you, but when I was single, girls were all I thought about. In fact, when I got married, I had to train myself to NOT think about them. Here are some stories that one could tell with a married Spidey that Marvel has somehow managed to not do:

  1. Really hire Peter on at the Bugle. Give him a job, hours, responsibilities. Right away, office politics become the new focal point for the soap opera. Make him some kind of photo guru--he'd suck at it. He'd be promoted to the limits of his incompetence and then struggle with it. Newspaper work has been a good story generator for Spidey for years--use it.
  2. Get MJ hired as an anchorwoman on a news show. Think Deborah Norville and Inside Edition. Or have JJJ start a new news show. Peter's the cameraman. MJ's unqualified (soap), the show gives story possibilities, etc.
  3. Put Peter back in grad school. For real, heading for his Ph.D. Instant supporting cast. Give MJ a steady job doing something pretty to explain money. This is a boring retread, granted, but at least it doesn't take a crap on the last 20 years.
  4. Sign Peter up with a new Damage Control. He's the scientific/tech guy for their insurance arm, making sure that people's claims are on the level. It's a made-up, non-"grind"-y job that uses the science skills and provides a supporting cast.
  5. Sign Spider-Man up with Heroes For Hire. Or Silver Sable. Or a new security company run by Felicia Hardy. This is my least favorite because it doesn't rely on Peter Parker as a character, which minimizes the soap opera.

Ultimately, if Marvel did anything like that (and that's me, a non-pro, brainstorming for ten minutes) and combined it with a child--especially an already-toddling Baby May, who IS out there somewhere--it could be a new and exciting direction for the character.

There are not "more" or "fewer" stories that can be told with married/single Spidey. There are DIFFERENT stories, and there are good ones and bad ones on both sides. The issue isn't what stories will be told, Quesada; the issue is how good the stories are.

C) Fans are not being unreasonable when they complain that Marvel is treating them like crap. Anyone who believes that there isn't a relationship between a writer/company/producer and its fans is a moron. When we're treated badly, we'll complain, and we're right to do so.

D) No kids are going to start reading comics because of a story decision. You know what's gotten people into comics in the last fifteen years? Three things: NOT-SPANDEX, TRADES, and MANGA. In other words, massively different stories and formats. Rearranging the story elements in Spider-Man to what they were twenty-five years ago will not bring today's kids in off the street, and one can't change the actual story engine/genre of Spider-Man without making him not-Spidey. So the only thing that one could even conceivably change with Spidey is the format... and that's a post for another day. A Brand New Day.

E) This change is NOT permanent, no matter what Smithville Thunderbolt over at the SMB insists (and other than that, BTW, ST is a great guy). How do I know this? Because this decision really is THAT BAD and people really are going to REJECT it. Therefore, it will be changed. The story has so many "reset buttons" built into it that it's not even funny. As John Byrne and Peter David once noted about Betty Banner, the marriage could be brought back in one panel.

Think of the marriage like a comic character: There's no corpse, therefore it's not really dead.

I think it will be sooner, but it might be later. Or the book/universe/etc. could get cancelled and completely rebooted. Who knows? But this too shall pass.

What does BND mean for Spider-Man: For Better or For Worse? Nothing, really. I'm going to keep plugging away at the old issues and dealing with them as I find them. I hope you'll keep reading and commenting. I may add some other stuff to the blog over time, but I still intend to reread all the Spider-Man stuff. Considering that I now buy almost NOTHING from the Big Two, I'll have a lot of time in which to reread it.

Eric

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