Four Color Coupling

This wasn’t what I was originally going to post about, but then again when is it ever? I’d mention what those things ‘were’ going to be, since they’re still coming down the pipe, but if we’re being honest it is unlikely that I will get to them in a timely or orderly manner until I have someone dangling deadlines and money in front of me. It’s my hobby and I’ll cry if I want to!

I’m bringing things back around to comics briefly for a bit. Specifically comic-book romantic relationships. Even more specifically the very narrow range of them that seem to exist by editorial decree. Why is it that the default state for most principle super-heroic characters is that of the hapless bachelor? Even more than that, the hapless and often irresponsible bachelor? Just try and make a diagram of super-powered romantic entanglements. Take your pick of Marvel or DC. I’ll wait…

Has it driven you mad yet? Good, it probably should. Say what you will about it, but it’s not exactly healthy. Certainly, there is a degree to which once can attribute this to the highly stressful and often transient nature of the superhero lifetstyle, if such a thing can be said to exist. Whether we’re talking about the parade of brief interludes between heroes or the threadbare tropes 0f maintaining a civilian romance though, it can’t be denied that all of the shenanigans about the “danger” still serve an agenda of commitment-phobia. Its all just another way to keep the main characters from being “tied down,” because that is the mindset that so much of this fiction still operates from; that somehow the world ends once a woman destroys virility with “feelings.” Even this wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that any characternot in the default bachelor state finds their relationship under constant editorial assault.

Joe Quesada’s long running, underhanded, mean spirited war on Mary Jane Watson is well documented and frankly old news. One More Day has long since become the next day, and the day after. Nevertheless, the man’s monomaniacal obsession with destroying Spiderman’s marriage and writing out one of the longest running female characters in the comics medium can’t help but seem a little bit… low. His reasoning for the whole debacle has consistently been that readers just won’t identify with Peter Parker as a married man. This is insulting on a number of levels. It is insulting not just to the decades of writers who collaborated to give these characters’ relationship and marriage life, but also to the readers he claims to be championing. It makes the galling presumption that we can only view Spiderman as an adolescent wish-fulfillment expy, a view that is incompatible with his having an old lady (in this case “old lady” being slang for wife, and not a literal old lady as in Spiderman’s Aunt May whom Quesada seems all too keen to keep around). Moreover, this is insulting to the characters themselves. Sure, they’re fictional and they can’t care. Goddamnit though, I have a blog! That means I’m entitled to care for them! You know, because. Anyway, Quesada’s presumption reduces Peter Parker to swinging man-child; the kind of character that he assumes we all want to grow up to be. Perhaps even more insultingly though, it reduces Mary Jane Watson to a mere love interest. It takes whatever characterization she has received over decades of storytelling and puts her back in her place as a character defined by her relationship to another. She is the ole’ ball and chain. Now, it is perfectly possible that Joe Quesada can only relate to Spiderman as a bachelor, just as it is perfectly possible that Joe Quesada has the emotional maturity of a spermatozoa. I just wish he’d stop trying to get his ick on the rest of us.

This isn’t just a Marvel thing though. Dan Didio, Quesada’s mercurial goatee’d nemesis at DC, pulled a similar stunt in the last year. I refer in this case to the nullification-by-fiat of Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane as part of the “New 52” not-really-reboot. This received significantly less in-character fanfare. It was and then it wasn’t. Fan reaction, though angry, was less sustained than the revolt against the Mary Jane annulment, as this controversy was fairly quickly eclipsed by others with more cultural immediacy (Starfire, Catwoman, I’m looking at you). Once again though, the reasoning was the same. Superman needed to be more “hip.” Their solution? Make him a “free man.” Never mind the fact that this relationship had momentum behind it older than our last three presidents and most of our parents, kids just won’t “get” Superman with Lois in the picture. The insults levied by this presumption, ironically by a man who generally prides himself on being as little like Joe Quesada as humanly possible, are the same as in my previous paragraph. As such, just swap the names out and I’ll save some wear on my keyboard.

Now, all that said, I will live. The world keeps spinning, and while I’ll rant about it (obviously) I’m not going to engage in any of the impotent raging that inevitable seems to accompany these exercises. However, there exist two marriages in comic books, one in Marvel and one in DC, that are as far as I’m concerned, and I want to hammer this point home, untouchable. If anybody gets it into their head to fuck with either of these completely fictional couples, I swear to Tyche, Megaera, and Nemesis that I will get straight-up fan-boy axe-crazy in this bitch. I might start using even more hyphens. These two power-pairs are Rick Tyler and Jesse Chambers at DC along with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones at Marvel.

Unfortunately, it is super-late. So you will have to find out exactly why these couples are so near and dear to me, tomorrow…



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4 responses to “Four Color Coupling

  1. Lunar8889

    Mostly to play Devil’s Advocate, but also because I can see where the writers are coming from: I sort of agree with them. Sure, readers like you and I who have followed these characters and actually grown with the characters can think of them as hip, mature, bad ass, crime stopping superheros even while (maybe even especially while) they are married to/romantically involved with someone who has their own characterization and don’t exist solely as a love interest of the main character.
    That said, how many 6 and 7 year old boys (and girls…if they were anything like me) want to read about married life? Even in the midst of badassery? I don’t think the younger readers could identify, and they would quickly lose interest.
    My solution? Hell, these people have created so many alternate realities already, why not blantantly use them to market to different age groups? Romance Universe (with a much more macho name to appeal to all of the Y chromosomes out there) is for adults. Where as Man-Child Universe (with name that has fewer negative connations) is for the younger, unmarried generation.

    Now that I’ve spread my lies and slander everywhere: *tips hat* Have a nice day!

    • I won’t tell you that you’re wrong, but I feel it has less to do with whether young readers can “identify” with the characters in question than it does with the authors and editors wanting to ignore everything that happened to the character after they as readers turned 16.
      Its what I call the Generation Gap in comic books. The disconnect between what the writers’ view as a character’s essential canon, based on their memories of him or her during their formative fan years, versus the canon of their contemporary readers who don’t have the same revisionist attitude. This isn’t the first time they’ve tried this with Spiderman (Cloooooooone Sagaaaaa), and while I’m less familiar with Superman’s post-Crisis stories I wouldn’t doubt that they’ve tried this thing with him before as well.
      As a young kid who didn’t start reading either character until after they were married, it seemed absolutely natural to me. There was a sense of history there, and it made both characters seem more fleshed out in my mind. But, the personalities involved at each company don’t want to come out and say that these decisions are just because they want to cheat at collaborative storytelling, so they play the hackneyed “relevance” card. Its essentially a twist on the same argument they used in the nineties to make everyone really angry and wear lots of belts. They might as well let Rob Liefeld out of his imprisonment in Tartarus if they’re going to trot that old pony out… Unless they already did that…

  2. Lunar8889

    I sort of picture myself flashing a comic in your face, and then you stamping your foot, throwing your hands over your ears, and shouting: “NO! NO! I can’t hear you! Lalalalalala!!”

    I can see that, sure. My thing, I suppose, is that I just get tired of all of the: “Wait! He was in the negative zone the whole time!!! IT NEVER REALLY HAPPENED!” On principle. I mean: all of the story. Not just the romantic aspects, its become trendy almost to write an issue and then rewrite the same issue, adding a big ol’ fat J/K to the title.

    I think comic books in general are losing some of there swag. It makes me sad.

  3. Its funny you should use that analogy, because that is exactly what I picture the strongly revisionist writers doing with the continuity they don’t fancy (I say “strongly” because I’ll readily concede that every new writer on a property engages in a degree of revisionism, its inevitable).

    See though, it seems like we’re on the same page. We both want change. My problem is that they are removing all of the change that has occured since nineteen-sixty-what-have-you and effectively returning the character to baseline. I want their personalities and situations to develop, I want their relationships to develop and grow, I want them to stay dead when they croak, even the ones that I don’t want to die (though death in comic books is an entirely seperate discussion).

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