Welcome to the fifteenth installment in my series using only Spider-Man comics to explore the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life)! This time we’re looking at one of the most prominent themes around romantic love – how love heals, how the right person’s love can save us. When I began this series I made myself a promise. No alternate reality Peter Parkers. No movies. No TV shows. No other comic universes. I’d explore Peter Parker’s romantic exploits in Marvel’s main 616 universe and when I had exhausted those relationships, the series would end. Anna Maria Marconi will date Peter Parker in the 616 universe…but she dates “Peter” when he’s dead and his archenemy Otto Octavius/Dr. Octopus is controlling his body. So she dated Doc Ock even though she thought she was dating Peter. I’m including their relationship as a) it’s a significant one in the 616, b) the reader alone knows it isn’t Peter, and c) most important of all, their relationship illustrates something about love Peter Parker himself isn’t yet mature enough to find on his own. It’s a trope that can’t be ignored when writing about love so here we are. Otto’s time as the Superior Spider-Man is one of comics’ greatest redemption stories. Reflecting on the role romantic love plays in his salvation helps us consider the role such love plays in our own healing and growth, too.
Beginning in Amazing Spider-Man #600, Doctor Octopus’ body was failing from the cumulative effects of the injuries sustained over his many, many battles. In Amazing Spider-Man #700, his months (in comic time, three and a half years in real time) of scheming came to fruition as he successfully transferred Peter Parker’s mind into his frail, dying body. Otto’s own consciousness took control of Peter’s body, gained his spider-powers, and had access to Peter’s memories. Initially Otto gleefully reveled in the youth and strength now at his disposal. However, access to Peter’s memories brought an unexpected side effect. Otto now felt the crushing weight of the responsibility Peter carries.
As Peter dies in Otto’s body after the final battle between Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus (the crowd watching had no idea different consciousness resided in those bodies), Peter asks to be propped up to see his family. Weakly he says, “Promise me you’ll keep them safe.” Faltering, Otto replies, “I…promise.” With his final breath Peter says, “Hh. That’s all I…ever…” In that moment Otto vows, “Farewell Peter Parker. Know this. I will carry on in your name. You may be leaving this world, but you are not leaving it to a villain. I swear. I will be Spider-Man. Better yet, with my unparalleled genius – – and my boundless ambition – – I’ll be a better Spider-Man than you ever were. From this day forth, I swear I shall become…the Superior Spider-Man!”
Otto takes his vow seriously, though his arrogance remains. Having access to Peter’s memories affects his understanding of his life as Spider-Man – With great power there must also come great responsibility – but it doesn’t fundamentally change who he is. Yet his approach to being Spider-Man yields results. Instead of chasing after every siren and every scream he hears, crisscrossing the city at random, Otto repurposes his old Octobots into Spider-Bots. The Spider-Bots scour the city and provide Otto a livestreaming report of what’s happening. When necessary, he swings into action but he also alerts first responders – the police, the fire department, ambulances, etc. – to be dispatched when they can handle something on their own. Otto’s personality meshes more naturally with the cantankerous J. Jonah Jameson (now mayor of NYC!) than Peter ever could, which leads Spider-Man to liaise with the Mayor’s Office and the NYPD to create a fluid crime-fighting relationship.
The Superior Spider-Man is also a colder, more calculating hero. Afterall, Otto is in control instead of Peter. When Otto confronts the sociopathic terrorist Marcus Lyman/Massacre and ends his mass shooting spree in Grand Central Station, he is frustrated by his options. Does he honor Peter’s code of no killing? Or does he end the threat? Massacre has escaped before, killing again and again, all lives which would’ve been spared if Peter hadn’t spared his. After Massacre murdered Marla Jameson, it prompted Peter to make an impossible vow – when he’s around, no one dies. While the conflict is evident, Otto makes a different choice. With the crowd looking on, Spider-Man murders Massacre.
This critical evaluation-driven efficiency shapes his personal relationships, too. While Otto first lusts over Mary Jane, with Peter’s memories he soon realizes he also has Peter’s feelings for her. In an act of self-control, maturity, and responsibility, Otto accepts being with Mary Jane will only ever bring them both pain. So he definitively ends the will-they-won’t-they dance Peter and MJ have been doing since she returned to New York.
As he is streamlining Spider-Man’s hero life and making healthier choices in Peter’s romantic life, Otto becomes frustrated by the lack of progress in Peter’s professional/academic life. Otto takes over Peter’s body during a time when he’s finally using his mind and working at Horizon Labs, as opposed to living paycheck to paycheck with a series of odd jobs. Yet Otto can’t believe nor abide the fact that Peter never finished grad school – always allowing his life as Spider-Man to interfere – so Peter never earned his PhD.
Unwilling to live as Mr. Parker when he can (and should!) be Dr. Parker, Otto returns to Empire State University to complete Peter’s PhD. His arrogance and condescension leads him into conflict with Dr. Donald Lamaze, his Physics professor (and a peer of Otto’s back when he got his PhD as Otto Octavius years ago), and Anna Maria Marconi comes into Otto’s life when she offers to tutor him in the class. His instinctive response, to be angry she’d ever presume he would need anyone’s help to understand the material, softens as he speaks with Anna Maria.
Feelings begin to grow following their instant connection and Otto takes Anna Maria up on her offer as tutor. At her apartment, it becomes clear she has feelings for Otto…Peter…PeOTTOr…“Peter”…
Otto’s Peter…hmmm. Writing about body-swapped characters is tricky. ANYWAY, it becomes clear Anna Maria has growing feelings for him, too.
One of the things I love so much about Anna Maria is her directness and confidence. While Otto (ok, look, this is confusing so for the sake of this piece I’ll always say “Otto” when I’m referring to Otto’s consciousness and “Peter” when I’m referring to Peter’s consciousness, regardless of whose body they’re in and who everyone else thinks they are) was at her apartment for dinner and tutoring, Anna Maria takes his hand in hers. She looks into his eyes and says, “I promised you dessert,” as she takes his face in her hands and kisses him! Go Anna Maria! So many of our romantic pursuits, especially in the early stages, are awkwardly nebulous as no one says what they feel and games are played to gauge the other’s interest, to hide our own interest, and to make them more interested. It sucks. But Anna Maria refuses to waste her time with unhealthy, frustrating games!
Honestly? Anna Maria Marconi is kind of my hero.
With Anna Maria, we see Otto begin to change. He flirts. He “lowers” himself to attend classes he doesn’t need so he can spend time with her. He even tempers his intensity and relentless efficiency as the Superior Spider-Man. He knows he could do so much more for the world if he were only the Spider yet he won’t step away from his life as a man because of Anna Maria. She, and the connection they share, makes holding onto the “regular” part of his life not only appealing but essential. Anna Maria brings a value to his life that Otto couldn’t find anyplace else, no matter how superior a Spider-Man he may become.
We see Anna Maria growing just as close to Otto, too. She talks of “our future” and knows when to help enforce the boundaries even Otto can’t set between his life as Peter and his life as Spider-Man. While Otto hasn’t told Anna Maria he’s Spider-Man, she, like everyone at Horizon Labs, knows Peter “designs tech for” Spider-Man so she makes sure he prioritizes Peter’s life when needed.
With Anna Maria, Otto begins to lower his walls. He drops his guard. He opens up. He softens. He won’t tell her he’s Spider-Man, like Peter he fears what that could do to his relationship, but he continues to let her become more deeply intwined in every other area of his life. He respects her opinion. He becomes anxious when he fears he’s misread a situation with her. He worries about her feelings. He wants her to be happy.
Otto Octavius. Dr. Octopus. The man who once designed technology which could end global warming and used it to hold the world hostage and threatened to fry the planet unless his demands were met, is becoming a gentler, calmer, more caring and compassionate man around Anna Maria Marconi. When he finally reaches the point where he’s on the verge of completing his PhD and ready to leave Horizon Labs behind, he invites her to join him at Parker Industries, the company he plans to launch.
In the mix of Peter’s memories and sense of responsibility, the gift of this second chance at life, and his relationship with Anna Maria, the arrogant and condescending megalomaniac who once founded the Sinister Six, is becoming a better person. Otto is learning to listen (at times). He can – and does – put others’ needs before his own. He wants to help the world as much as Spider-Man as with Parker Industries. The villain who first fought and defeated Spider-Man back in July 1963’s The Amazing Spider-Man #3 is becoming a hero and a good person in his own right.
Are you ready for the important part? Are you ready for what makes this such an amazing…wait, no that’s not on brand…are you ready for why this is such a superior love story to most pop culture presentations of love?
Anna Maria doesn’t “save” or “heal” Otto. Rather, Otto takes the steps to love and heal himself, drawing strength from and mirroring the love and healing he experiences in his healthy relationship with Anna Maria.
No one, no matter how deeply we love or connect with them, can save or heal us. That’s not the way it works. To expect that is to place an impossible burden on another. For salvation and healing, for real change and growth, we must turn inward. We and we alone can do what is necessary to make ourselves healthier.
Now, this doesn’t mean we must do the work alone. Far from it! In healthy relationships with those who love us (and a good therapist by our side, if we’re lucky!), we can find strength and support, if we will receive it, and someone to hold us and help us as we embark on our journeys of self-growth, healing, and transformation. This makes exploring our wounds safer and easier. But we must want to do it. We must choose to do it. We must realize the love we need to heal is within ourselves.
To live is to be hurt, to carry wounding, to experience trauma. These wounds affect our lives in ways seen and unseen until they are met, understood, and healed. Love heals all wounds, yes. But we can’t expect the love of another alone to do that for us. We often want or hope or even demand another do this work for us. We are looking for our “other half,” the one who “makes us whole.” We are looking for a love that defines our life and fixes what hurts inside. Given the way our pop culture narratives work (often before we even experience any sort of romantic love ourselves), we learn this should be a part of romantic love and it absolutely is a part of finding the one.
To underscore this point, let’s look at just a few iconic lines from classic movies, shall we? I chose these quotes by googling “most romantic movie lines” and then picking from some of the most popular:
“You complete me.” – Jerry Maguire
“I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.” – Dirty Dancing
“People do fall in love. People do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance that anyone’s got for true happiness.” – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
“You’re my air.” – Brown Sugar
“Love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without.” – Meet Joe Black
“Being with you is the only way I could have a full and happy life.” – 50 First Dates
“You’re not perfect, sport. And let me save you the suspense. This girl you’ve met, she isn’t perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other.” – Good Will Hunting
“I love you. You’re my only reason to stay alive…if that’s what I am.” – The Twilight Saga: New Moon
“Look, I guarantee there’ll be tough times. I guarantee that at some time, one or both of us is gonna want to get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don’t ask you to be mine, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you’re the only one for me.” – Runaway Bride
“Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime. Lead me, save me from my solitude. Say you want me with you, here beside you. Anywhere you go, let me go, too. Love me, that’s all I ask of you.” – The Phantom of the Opera
All these lines speak to finding someone in whom we find the meaning of life, our complete self, true happiness, our perfect partner, our reason to live, and our salvation. And without this perfect person we can never experience the fullness of meaning, happiness, salvation, life, or our self.
That is a lot to put on any partner and/or any relationship. It’s not just unrealistic but it’s unhealthy, too. Even if Soul Mates are real, we – all of us – can find happiness with many partners, as long as we are willing to do the necessary work (within ourselves and within the relationship) and our partner is willing to do the same. What we should be looking for is a partner who will fully see, hear, and accept us, just as we are, and love us, support us, validate us, and hold us as we heal and grow…just as we should be willing to do for them. There is no magic cure for what ails us, no one person who will fill the holes and heal the wounds we have inside ourselves nor should we strive to be the savior who completes another. As Alanis Morissette so rightly observes on “Not the Doctor” (from her iconic 1995 album Jagged Little Pill), “I don’t want to be your other half / I believe that one and one make two.”
Amidst the already complex, compelling, and emotionally nuanced story that was The Superior Spider-Man, Dan Slott gives us just such a relationship in Otto and Anna Maria.
When Dr. Lamaze accuses “Peter Parker” of plagiarizing the work of Dr. Otto Octavius in his thesis defense, Anna Maria helps talk Otto down and then she talks to Dr. Lamaze on his behalf. Otto chooses to let his anger cool and not intimidate, threaten, or hurt Dr. Lamaze or replace him with a L.M.D. (Life Model Decoy). Anna Maria is beside him, offering her love, support, and calming presence but it’s his choice to receive that support, listen to her, and let her help him. Otto sees and appreciates Anna Maria’ going to Dr. Lamaze’s actions on his behalf. He can acknowledge Anna Maria understands him and cares for him like no one else ever has. Anna Maria is offering all this to him, of course, but it’s Otto who’s doing the necessary work inside himself to be able to receive it.
As Parker Industries begins to expand, Otto continues to open himself to Anna Maria. Understanding how precious life is he asks Anna Maria if she’d like to meet his parents, as it were, Aunt May and her husband Jay Jameson. Otto makes it clear he doesn’t want to waste a moment of their lives, a sentiment Anna Maria shares. Following this intimate conversation, she invites Otto to have sex with her for the first time in their lab at Parker Industries.
Otto Octavius – the man who literally killed Peter Parker so he could live on in his body – grows to the point where he can acknowledge that what he wants, more than anything in life, is to make Anna Maria Marconi happy.
It’s such a beautiful evolution! The growth which happens with Otto’s character through The Superior Spider-Man is one of the most dynamic evolutions I’ve ever seen with any character in any comic. Through it all, Anna Maria is never a background character either. She is as brilliant as Otto. She helps him run his company. She wants to make a good impression with May and Jay. She knows who she is, what she wants, what she’s worth, and she makes sure their relationship is an equal one. And Otto Octavius meets her in all this! Otto freakin’ Octavius. As U2 ask in “Window in the Skies,” “Oh can’t you see what love has done?” Like I said, it’s a thing of beauty.
Otto Octavius – the man who once left the Black Cat all but dead to win a gang war with the Owl – has become a hero in his own right, earned his PhD (again), started a company, and is part of a mutually loving, caring, supportive relationship with one of the best characters in Spider-Man’s 60+ year history. Sincerely, Anna Maria is one of the best people to every cross Peter Parker’s path. In every way, Anna Maria is a good person. She is intelligent, kind, gracious, as beautiful inside as out, and she knows how to set healthy boundaries in her life. She is the sort of person I aspire to be! So reading The Superior Spider-Man is always a bittersweet experience because I know there will be an end. I know Peter Parker will return and, when that happens, Anna Maria and Otto (or her “Peter”) will lose each other. And that hurts my heart a little every time I read this story :/.
While Otto was protecting New York City with his particular brand of heroism, Norman Osborn/the Green Goblin had secretly returned. From the shadows, his Goblin Underground would strike until the time came when his Goblin Army laid siege to New York and brought the city to its knees. Osborn emerged from hiding, proclaiming himself the Goblin King and declaring the Goblin Nation born from New York City’s ashes.
Everything Otto had worked to establish during his time as Spider-Man – from his base to his army of soldiers who helped him fight crime to his relationship with the mayor’s office and the NYPD – burned with the city as the Goblin King came to power. As his forces took the city, Osborn sends Lily Hollister/Menace, his right-hand Goblin, to kidnap Anna Maria under the guise of being sent by Mary Jane to get her out of the city. Osborn knows how much she means to Spider-Man…and he knows Otto Octavius has managed to take control of Spider-Man’s body.
Both the Goblin King and Menace taunt Otto. They threaten him as they fly circles around him while he scours the city trying to find Anna Maria and figure out a way to topple this new Goblin Nation.
Ultimately Otto realizes he can’t stop Osborn. He can’t defeat the Goblin Nation. He can’t save New York City or the woman he loves. With certainty and clarity he unburies Peter Parker’s consciousness within his mind. As he swings through New York doing what he can to protect the people from the Goblin Army, he tells Peter, “I didn’t really comprehend what I was in for. I was arrogant…no. It’s more than that. We’ve both been in each other’s heads. We know the truth. I’m arrogant, yes, but it’s because I know…underneath it…that I’m not the best. I’m flawed. So I overcompensate. But you…you’re guilt-ridden because, deep down, you know you are smarter than others. Better. But it came at a painful price, so you sabotage yourself. That won’t happen today. You said it yourself. When lives are at stake, you don’t hesitate. Today, you will own up to it. Today you must accept that you…are superior. The superior hero. That is what we all need. That, and nothing less.”
With grace and humility, Otto is completely at peace when he returns Peter’s control of his body. With no contingency plan in place, Otto’s consciousness fades from existence as Peter takes control. Otto dies willingly so Peter can live. He shows Peter his memories, shows him the love he has for Anna Maria. Otto tells Peter he is giving up his life – including the love and life he shares with Anna Maria – so Peter can save her. As Spider-Man comics go, this is one of the most beautiful and moving scenes I’ve ever read.
Peter honors Otto’s sacrifice. He dons his classic Spider-Man costume, free of the extra tech Otto employed as the Superior Spider-Man, and he makes his way to the top of the skyscraper where Osborn has Anna Maria tied up and surrounded by pumpkin bombs. While the Goblin King cackles and gloats about his victory over Otto’s Spider-Man, he is stunned when he realizes it isn’t Otto who came to save Anna Maria. Spider-Man – the real Spider-Man – has returned.
Once the Goblin King is defeated, Peter begins the mind-bending process of reacclimating to his life. One of the things he needs to sort is Otto’s relationship with Anna Maria. They’ve been dating for months – with all the emotional, spiritual, physical, and sexual intimacy that brings. She met Aunt May and Jay. Otto asked Anna Maria to move in with him. An offer she accepted! Otto was even ready to ask her to marry him. In his first outing as Spider-Man (after the Goblin Nation business of course), Peter gets all his clothes dissolved from the mask down and ends up naked on TV until he spins himself some webbed underwear. Anna Maria sees this and, recognizing the three distinct freckles Peter has under his belly button, figures out her boyfriend is secretly Spider-Man.
When she confronts him, Peter doesn’t just have to own his secret identity with Anna Maria, he needs to try and explain the man she met, the man she’s known as “Peter Parker,” the man she fell in love with and moved in with, was always Otto Octavius/Dr. Octopus.
Yes, of course Peter Parker was always going to return. And Otto did murder him and steal his life in the first place. So this is the way things should be. But what about Anna Maria?! What about her heart?! As she must begin to process something all but impossible to process, my heart breaks alongside hers.
The ending is so bittersweet. Otto did become a better man and Anna Maria was an essential piece of that transformation. As with all villains, Otto Octavius wasn’t born evil. Otto grew up with a father who verbally and physical abused him. His mother’s love only enraged his father more. Given his weight, his classmates’ mocking and bullying were relentless. From what we see in the comics, save when he was on death’s door and in Peter’s body, Otto has always been fat. Being fat in our culture which ferociously dehumanizes, damns, and dismisses people for their weight is far from easy. As Dr. Jamie Long, an eating disorder therapist, explains, “Weightism may be the last socially acceptable prejudice in our culture – occurring more frequently than gender, sexuality, age or religious discrimination.” This is an example of prejudice, just as fat shaming is an example of bigotry, and it’s a mindset anchored in fallacy stacked upon fallacy. As Dr. Long explains, “Weight is not a behavior and obesity in and of itself isn’t a disease. Despite the AMA’s decision to classify obesity as a disease, there are numerous individuals who are obese with a perfect bill of physical health. In fact, research shows that individuals 75 pounds overweight hold a longer lifespan than individuals 5 pounds underweight. Scare tactics, shaming or discrimination aren’t acceptable. Period.” Yet our culture does it anyway and many take a sick, twisted pleasure in it. In discussing his journey from active addiction to recovery and sobriety (a time when he gained seventy pounds), C.C. Deville, the guitarist for the ‘80s hair metal band Poison, observed, “[In this country i]t’s more acceptable to be a junkie than to be fat.” All this is to say, is it any wonder Otto sought control over others from behind a shield of arrogance and cold calculation once he found a source of real power in his mechanical arms?
Despite these wounds, Otto finds the strength and courage to begin a journey of self-love which brings true healing and growth. This allows him to move beyond his more “villainous” behaviors born of his trauma. Anna Maria Marconi was an essential piece of this puzzle. Otto found healing in the love he shared with Anna Maria. Their healthy relationship helped him turn inward to do the work necessary to love and heal himself. With his growth, he was also able to love Anna Maria in a healthy, mutually symbiotic way, something – if reading hundreds of Spider-Man comics to research fifteen posts about his love life over the last five years has taught me anything – Peter Parker is yet incapable of doing.
Anna Maria didn’t heal or save Otto. In the love they shared, he found a model to begin the difficult process of healing within his system. He also found courage and strength in a partner who was there to support him in his journey. His relationship with Anna Maria was validating. It was comforting. Otto felt seen. He felt heard. He felt accepted. There was a bit of magic in their relationship and a whole lot of beauty. For maybe the first time in his life, Otto’s heart was full in being so seen and so validated by Anna Maria. This gift helped him find the courage to offer the love he uncovered in his heart, the love he was sharing with Anna Maria, to those parts of himself which bore such great wounds. In the love he offered himself, he found healing. Love saved Otto Octavius but he wasn’t saved because Anna Maria loved him. Rather, held in Anna Maria’s love, he found a path to the love he needed to offer himself to bring true healing. In this healing he was transformed. Otto Octavius became a hero in his own right and was able to love Anna Maria Marconi in a healthier, stronger, more mutually supportive relationship than Peter Parker has yet been able to share with any of his multitudinous partners.
Love heals. It’s a beautiful thing. We should all strive to follow Otto’s example and love ourselves in such salvific ways just as we should be thankful for the people we find in our lives whose love helps and holds us on that journey.
Want more of my li’l series exploring romantic archetypes using Spider-Man comics? Well you’re in luck! Check out:
Spider-Man and the Black Cat: Flirting with Perfection to see how the Black Cat represents those people we know may be wrong for us and/or we know it won’t work out with in the long run…but we’re drawn to them all the same and we seemingly can’t stop flirting with or the pursuing them no matter how hard we try :).
Spider-Man and Mary Jane: Soul Mates? (Y/N/Maybe) for an examination of Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship, with a focus on the question of Soul Mates as well as the classic romantic tropes of the will-they-won’t-they and best-friends-first relationships.
Spider-Man and the Spider Family: A Look At What Might Have Been… to contemplate the “What if…?” people we think of when we consider our romantic “what might have been”s care of the alternate reality series The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.
Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy: All the Beautiful Angst of First Love to consider how Gwen Stacy has far more significance than just “the girl who died” and how her relationship with Peter perfectly presents all the awkward, cringy, and still oh-so-magical moments of the first time we fall in love.
Spider-Man and Silk: You Gotta Love A Physical Attraction to look at Peter and Cindy Moon’s relationship as an example of those people who inexplicably turn us on. The attraction, the draw to these people, is like a force of nature, completely beyond our control. It’s fun buuuut complicated without romantic feelings, too.
Spider-Man and Captain Marvel: The Super Friend Zone which uses the one date Peter and Carol Danvers went on as the frame to examine the friends we’re attracted to, the nature of “the Friend Zone,” and what we do when we start to feel a li’l romantic and/or sexual chemistry percolating in a platonic pairing.
Spider-Man and Betty Brant: Complicated Affairs of the Heart uses one of the oldest characters in Spider-Man’s character history to explore everything from first crushes and first dates to the confusing pull of falling in love with someone who’s married.
Spider-Man and Michele Gonzales: Hook-Ups, Hang Ups, and Bad Habits and explore how all the personal problems and issues and baggage we have that we refuse to acknowledge/own/see can hurt our ability to make it work with a really fantastic partner, as well as what happens when we meet someone who calls us on all our shit.
Spider-Man and Mockingbird: The Allure of the Workplace Romance looks at Peter’s relationship with Bobbi Morse during his time as CEO of Parker Industries to consider why we are so drawn to the workplace romance…and what awkwardness may be waiting for us if it doesn’t work out.
Spider-Man and Jessica Jones: The High School Crush opens the door to reminisce about allllllllllll those awkward, anxiety-filled high school crushes we had and could never find the courage to act on while also inviting us to think about the influence we may have on all the people we hardly know who come in and out of our lives.
Spider-Man and Jean DeWolff: The Lonely Echo of Unrequited Love is a sort of mirror to the cute-anxious experience of the crushes we don’t voice in high school, as it examines the very real pain we can carry in our hearts when we love someone who has no idea how we feel nor loves us back in the way we love them.
Spider-Man and Debra Whitman: Substitute People and Surrogate Relationships explores the toxic relationships we find ourselves in when we don’t articulate our boundaries and advocate for our own needs within our relationships, why we may struggle to do so, and briefly considers the nature of abusive relationships as well.
Spider-Man and Danielle: Wait…Is This A Date? dives into those oh-so-awkward questions that haunt the beginning of any would be romantic relationship were you try to figure out if you’re on a date with someone or just hanging out and all the discomfort and relief trying to figure that out can bring.
Spider-Man and Lily Hollister: She’s My Best Friend’s Girl dives right into the uncomfortably taboo waters we find ourselves in when that inexplicably magnetic attraction ignites within us and we realize we are freely flirting and passionately infatuated with our best friend’s significant other.
Spider-Man and Cissy Ironwood: The “Hey, Whatever Happened To…?” Relationship uses the relationship created for Peter by legendary comic scribe Chris Claremont to consider those people we click with, go out with a few times, and then…they inexplicably disappear from our lives. There’s no fight. No break-up. They’re just there…and then they’re gone.
 Jamie Long, “What is Fat Shaming? Are You a Shamer?,” DrJamieLong.com, 2016. https://drjamielong.com/what-is-fat-shaming/
 Behind the Music, “Poison,” VH1, July 11, 1999, written by Gay Rosenthal.