Monday, January 21, 2008

Devil Annuls Parker’s Marriage

Precautionary note for you Gentle Reader: if you do not know who Peter Parker is and that he is married to Mary Jane Watson-Parker just skip this particular blog entry; although, if the truth were told, this is more about cohesive writing than comic book characters – so I guess I’ll leave it up to you…

Many moons ago I read a lot of comic books. I had subscriptions pulled for me and I’d faithfully march to the shop every other week or so to keep up with the chosen titles that I read. There were the Batman books, the Superman books and the Spiderman books; all wonderful escapist reading. I came to comic books seriously in college. I didn’t have time to read the headier stuff; I was working full time, going to school full time and just married – you could say I was a busy guy and comics filled a niche. I could read them and still manage to do all the crazy things that my schedule dictated that I needed to do. I got my dose of heroic fiction – which, by the way, has been the bread and butter of storytellers for the last several millennia or so. Simple three act structure – a beginning, a middle and an end. A protagonist faces a challenge, does something (or nothing) and ends up living (or dying) with the consequences.

There – that’s it; deceptively simple really.

“Where are you going Evil Chicken?” Please forgive my ramblings, Gentle Reader, it’s important to understand that stories have structure. Exhibit A: the cave wall. The story – the tribe was hungry so we took some pointy sticks, killed a mighty beast, have feasted on its flesh and now we telling the story, bathed in light from the fire on the wall of our cave. Simple. The tribe had a problem, they did something about it and they had a resolution. Now wouldn’t it be cheesy if instead of hunting a beast Og woke up and realized it was all just a dream and the tribe had plenty of food after all? Or suppose Og is visited by some magical fairy that waves its wand and POOF; there’s food for the tribe.

That’s weak. That’s a writer’s convenience. I am not currently a professional writer and I have been turned down by some pretty good literary magazines in my time. I freely admit that I’m a hack but even a hack can see that is sloppy writing. It cheats the reader, viewer and/or listener. The Greeks called this device deus ex machina. When there was a problem that needed solving in some Greek Tragedy a god would be lowered on a crane to make everything better. Well, the same thing is going on – right now, mind you, in the pages of Spiderman. You see the devil (Mephisto in the Marvel Universe) pops up and makes an offer for Peter to save his dear Aunt May from death – all he has to do is forfeit all memory and knowledge of his wife and the years that they have been together. The trick, since Mephisto savors torturing souls is that Mary Jane retains all of her memories.

Now let me say in all reality it’s not fair for me to say this since I haven’t read Spiderman in years BUT this sort of smacks of deus ex machina – no? It’s an easy fix. Chances are marrying off superheroes isn’t the best of all possible worlds. Spiderman has a certain range and while there’s a lot going on in the life of Peter Parker the simple fact is that your friendly neighborhood Spiderman has been for the last 20 years or so, your friendly neighborhood married guy; probably not what Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had in mind when a gangly teenager was bitten by a radioactive spider back in the sixties. Erik Larson, comic writer and artist made some pretty good points on the issue here:

Still this may be entirely too early to call since, much like our world, in the comic book world anything can happen and usually will. I’m still pulling for Marvel to do right by the character and the fans – they both deserve a little more respect than that.

I’ve got to get back to a comic shop.


mommanator said...

Peter Parker married! Spidy is married! when did that happen? where o where have I been? Say it isn't so, sorta ruins my imagery

Evil Chicken said...

Since 1987.

: )