FYI- This may turn into a rant. Somebody wanted me to talk about this and I said I would.
In 1987, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson got married. Spider-Man was no longer a bachelor and a new type of story appeared. He had to fight crime and put his life on the line while somebody waited for him at home. MJ had to be strong and help her husband when she could, which even included standing up to the occasional villain. I grew up with the married Spidey and thought it was awesome that his wife had no powers, but they made it work.
Then came ‘Brand New Day’ and I refuse to go back. Basically, Spider-Man’s Aunt May was shot and dying. A deal was made with Mephisto (Marvel’s Satan) to save her and all it cost was Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage. It was erased from history and all the stories I grew up with no longer felt valid. See how this rant is going? Anyway, there were plenty of reasons given for why this unpopular decision was made, but this one stuck with me:
Kids couldn’t relate to a married Spider-Man.
Keep in mind that he’s becoming Tony Stark lite in the new comics, but that’s beside the point and I only wanted to see if I could anger people. Honestly, you can look up YouTube videos and articles on ‘One More Day’ and ‘Brand New Day’ to get an idea of how angry this made people. Maybe even the comments if I convince a friend of mine to pay the blog a visit. Where was I?
The idea of a kid not being able to related to a married superhero is . . . well, fucking stupid and missing a point. We’re always going on about kids needing role models in fiction and this was one of mine. You had a spouse with no powers and the hero. He/she could die on any day and they made things work. There was turmoil and they found a way to see it through to a brighter tomorrow. Peter and Mary Jane were a couple in the face of incredible challenges. Then again, who in the real world would be able to relate to a situation where one, or even both, parents have dangerous jobs?
Anybody grow up in a military, police, firefighter, or other life-risking career household? We have real ‘Peter Parkers’ in this world that have a ‘Mary Jane’ at home. Marvel could have added a kid to the mix, but that was part of another rough story arc. The thing here is that there are those out there who can relate to this type of character. Kids don’t automatically hate a hero because they’re married. Most times it doesn’t even factor into things, so that reasoning really angered me.
Leaving Spider-man alone for the rest, I think having a reader follow a character through familiar stages of life is a great way to create a long-term audience. New readers will come in at a different stage, but still feel like they’re still along for the ride. It shows that a hero is human and more than the mask. Maybe the unending nature of comics makes this a nigh impossible task since new writers want to make their mark and might not like the marriage part. That still isn’t a good reason to undo stages of a character’s life and say that nobody liked it. Then again, that might just be me.
What do you think about married characters in fiction? Are children or even single adults unable to relate?