Spider-Man and Jessica Jones: Harkening Back to the High School Crush

For the TENTH entry (we’ve hit double digits! ahhhhhh!) in this 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) it’s time to go back to those awkward, social-anxiety-filled days of high school!  This celebratory tenth installment will examine one of the most universal romantic experiences which naturally leads to a wildly pervasive trope – the high school crush.  Aww, those were some good (and, you know, maybe a little scarring) times.  I’m sure many readers who are longtime Spider-fans would expect this post to be about Peter Parker and Liz Allen.  But I think Jessica Jones is a far better fit.  Trust me, read on and it’ll all make sense.  Let’s take a look at Jessica Jones and Peter Parker as we reminisce about all the thrills and gut-wrenching turmoil of our high school crushes!

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The Fantastic Four and the Science of Soul Mates

Perhaps the most oft repeated observation about the Fantastic Four is they are a family first, superheroes second.  This piece of their identity has been their cornerstone since Stan Lee ushered in the “Marvel Age of Comics” with their creation in 1961.  With the FF poised to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dan Slott was given the reins of  “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” in 2018.  Understanding the nature of the FF – a family of explorers and travelers who save the day when needed – he uses it to examine a captivating concept which seems uniquely suited to the Fantastic Four.  When their explorations take them to the planet Spyre, Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Sue Storm/the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm/the Human Torch, and Ben Grimm/the Thing meet the Overseer, the leader of the Spyricans, a people who have technology they claim will show you your Soul Mate with absolute certainty.  Families are born in the bonds of love and there’s no love like a Soul Mate…should such a thing exist.  What better place to drop explorers defined by their family than the questions raised at the intersection of loving communion and a technology that can predict the mystical movements of the heart?!!?

As readers we can’t help but take this journey with the Fantastic Four and wonder are Soul Mates real?  And if they are, would we want to know?

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Alias’ Jessica Jones is Marvel’s Most Authentically Human Character

Jessica Jones was one of the genre-redefining characters born during my hiatus from regular comic reading.  Created by Brian Michael Bendis (writer) and Michael Gaydos (artist), she first appeared in Alias #1, released in November 2001.  Coincidentally enough, I spent that fall falling for another Alias – J.J. Abrams’ cliffhanger and slow-mo running loving spy show starring Jennifer Garner.  At the time, I had no idea another Alias existed.  Once I saw (and enjoyed!) Jessica Jones on Netflix, I kept my eyes peeled for her comics.  Alias isn’t on Marvel Unlimited and I’d never seen the collected trades below $25.99 apiece (which I’ll spend but it’s a risky move without reading a single issue).  But then magic struck!  I found Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1, 3, and 4 (of four!!!) as I strolled Ollie’s Bargain Outlet last week!  I tracked down Vol. 2 as well, and then…well, you know how some books are overhyped?  It turns out, even after the endless praise I’ve heard about Jessica Jones as a character and Alias as a comic, it ended up being better than I imagined.

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Spider-Man and Mockingbird: The Allure of the Workplace Romance

Welcome to the ninth installment in this li’l series using Spider-Man comics to explore the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life)!  Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird is a scientific genius, Avenger, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and super spy whose relationship with Peter Parker would be a central part of Dan Slott’s final years writing The Amazing Spider-Man.  In Bobbi Morse, Peter found a witty, compassionate partner who could kick his ass and/or inspire him when he needed it.  Every bit as smart as Peter, she’d meet him in his brilliance and push him further.  As Mockingbird, she stood beside Spider-Man to face everything from Skrull invasions to Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign to the Zodiac terrorist attacks to Hydra takeovers.  Being a superhero herself, Bobbi could share Peter’s entire life.  Oh, and they worked together.  Which is good because, you know, nothing can ever go wrong when you date a coworker.

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Black Widow: A Comic Book Retrospective – ‘10 through ‘20

I DID IT.  I DID IT.  It took me three years but I read over 300 comics and have successfully walked through all fifty-seven years of Black Widow’s comic history!  Natasha Romanoff has gone from a character I was familiar with from Avengers comics and team-up stories to one of the comic characters I know best of all.  I AM SO HAPPY I DID THIS!  Now, with a month left until Black Widow finally hits theatres, I’m examining the stories marking Natasha’s journeys from 2010-2020.  As usual, kudos goes to Kiri (of Star Wars Anonymous) for casually asking if Black Widow was ever blonde in the comics (she was! see ’00-’10) waaay back when the Avengers: Infinity War trailer came out and kudos to my over-committing parts for deciding to read everything from Natasha’s first appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 (1964) up through Web of Black Widow (2019-20) instead of just googling it.

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Thor the God of the Unworthy – Reframing the God of Thunder

Jason Aaron’s time writing Thor – from Thor: God of Thunder to Thor to The Mighty Thor to Thor (again) to War of the Realms to King Thor – produced the defining version of the character.  No one, at least in my humble opinion, has ever done more with Thor nor understood the character, their world, and its theological fertility more than Jason Aaron.  Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir to become Thor herself was the heart of Aaron’s run.  But for that to happen, Thor Odinson had to find himself unable to lift the hammer.  This idea – the idea of Thor being unworthy – ties together much of what Aaron did.  Its seeds were sown in his very first arc, as Thor faced the brutality of Gorr the God Butcher.  Its actualization would lead to Jane lifting Mjölnir and becoming the mightiest Thor and the greatest of all the gods.  Its effects would culminate in Thor Odinson’s climactic battle with Malekith the Accursed during the War of the Realms and it would shape the sort of king Thor would become.

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Spider-Man and Michele Gonzales: Hook-Ups, Hang Ups, and Bad Habits

I never would’ve guessed when I started this series it would hit an eighth installment.  What can I say?  Peter Parker’s dated a lot of women.  This series explores the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) using only Spider-Man comics.  Michele Gonzales is an interesting chapter in Peter’s romantic history, as his roommate-turned-drunken-hook-up.  Yet the one night stand isn’t what’s most unique about Michele in regard to Peter.  Of all the women in his life, Michele Gonzales absolutely refuses to ever take any of his shit.  Granted, plenty of women have called Peter out, held him accountable, and challenged his negligence.  But Michele does so from the beginning, never accepting a single one of Peter’s lame excuses.  She knows what she’s worth.  She knows what a healthy partner and/or good person should be.  She has no time for bullshit or games.  And I love her for it!!  Peter’s baggage and bad habits kept them from becoming a couple yet, in that, Michele and Peter’s flirtationship reminds us of what we may be missing out on when we fail to own and address our own issues.

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Captain America and the Redemption of the America Dream

Four years ago I wrote a piece titled, “Captain America and the Defense of the American Dream.”  I posted it on Inauguration Day and it considered how we, as a nation, should respond to Trump’s election, using Captain America as the frame for analysis.  It examined Captain America as a character, his history, and what lessons he could offer when the world we thought we knew was turned so completely upside down.  Now, four years later, Joe Biden is about to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States alongside Kamala Harris – the first woman, first Woman of Color, first Indian America, and the first Asian American to hold the office of Vice President.  I find myself looking to Captain America once again, to the brilliant narrative Ta-Nehisi Coates’ has been telling in Captain America since July 2018, as I try to process the last four years and consider my roll in the future.

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Spider-Man and Betty Brant: Complicated Affairs of the Heart

In the seventh installment of my li’l series exploring the variety of romantic archetypes found in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) using only Spider-Man comics, I’m examining Peter Parker’s relationship with Betty Brant.  This relationship represents a lot for Peter.  She was his first date.  She was his first girlfriend.  She was his first crush-he-saw-as-love.  But as they grew up their relationship became complicated.  We love to invoke that relationship descriptor – It’s complicated – and Peter and Betty perfectly embody it.  We’ve all been there ourselves though, in one way or another, so in their relationship we find something that resonates and – maybe! – something that makes us feel a little bit better about our own complicated loves, too.

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Spider-Man and Captain Marvel: The Super Friend Zone

In this series, exploring the variety of romantic archetypes found in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) using only Spider-Man comics, I’ve looked at some sweeping romantic experiences.  Your first love!  Your Soul Mate!  Your “What if…” person!  Love offers us great variety in experiences when we seek it.  But SOMETIMES romantic exploits carry a far more significant risk.  SOMETIMES we find ourselves looking at a friend – someone we’ve always clicked with, someone we enjoy being with, someone we fit with so naturally – and wondering if there could be something more to that relationship.  Then SOMETIMES we try to claim the Siege Perilous and make that friend a significant other.  This is not for the faint of heart.  However, Spider-Man and Captain Marvel are courageous individuals so, like so many of us before them and since, they braved this harrowing quest fraught with great risk to see if they could find that something more with each other….or if they’d end up falling right back into the Friend Zone.

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