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.
The Ol’ Parker Luck – OR – Why It’s Good to Have a Friend Like Spider-Man
With Fall 2022 having officially arrived just days ago, I find myself a little over a month into the new school year, my twelfth year teaching. Over the last decade I’ve gathered a few traditions to accompany the start of each new year. One of my favorites (and most helpful!) is a Spider-Man binge-reading session. Each year I pick a particular author and era (or two (or three or four)) and dive into the world of The Amazing Spider-Man. Teaching can be stressful and exhausting so, as summer falls away and work resumes, I find comfort in the familiar. I’ve had a longer relationship with Spider-Man than any other fictional character, getting my first Spidey comic when I was three-years-old and still loving him now. Plus, it’s nice to spend my night laughing when my days get harder and few characters have a better q.p.a average (quips-per-adventure, obvs.) than Peter Parker/Spider-Man. But I’ve realized there’s more to it than that. One of the most important reasons I turn to Spidey when school resumes is because of the ol’ Parker Luck.
Spider-Man and Danielle: Wait…Is This A Date?
The time has come for 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) to hit LUCKY NUMBER THIRTEEN!!! What lays ahead to consider in ol’ Peter Parker’s romantic misadventures? Only one of the most vexing (and potentially awkward) of all romantic quandaries – how do you know if you’re actually on a date with someone or not? Warning: Reading this piece may yield spontaneous full-body shame cringes which involuntarily rise when we remember awkward memories so proceed with caution. If there’s one thing looking at all Peter Parker’s romantic exploits teaches us, it’s we’re never alone when it comes to awkwardly pursuing love. When the web-head meets Danielle, the woman working at a jewelry store he returns stolen diamonds to in the all love stories-oriented Amazing Spider-Man #605, sparks fly. Emotions run high. She actually talks to him. It’s a tractor beam – vzzzzzzzt – and it sucks Peter right in. But, regardless of sparks and emotions we feel when we meet someone new, how do you know when your hanging out has become a real date?
Spider-Man and Debra Whitman: Substitute People and Surrogate Relationships
It’s time once more to talk about relationships and who doesn’t love that? Clearly I do as this is the twelfth 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 have in life. While I knew nothing of Debra Whitman as a character before I began researching this piece, I found great affection for her by the end. In the relationship she shares with Peter Parker we find an openness and vulnerability which, if received and reciprocated, would prove a beautiful foundation for a relationship. Instead, Debra’s time with Peter becomes a cautionary tale about the importance of setting, articulating, and maintaining our boundaries and having our needs met within a relationship.
My Brand New Perspective on Spider-Man’s Brand New Day
My first Spider-Man comic was Web of Spider-Man #12. It came out in March of 1986 when I was just three-years-old. I got it from the spinny rack at the grocery store and I read it so many times the pages eventually ripped away from its tattered cover. Always one to encourage reading, Mom regularly let me get comic books when we were at the grocery store, drug store, or gas station. When I was seven-years-old, my parents got me a membership to our local comic shop (perks included a 20% discount off the cover price and a pull list). Weekly trips to Books Galore were a part of my life until I turned sixteen. All of a sudden things like gas money and the outings driving fostered began to make demands of my budget so, with conflicting emotions, I decided to stop collecting comics. My last was Peter Parker: Spider-Man #98. Released in November of 1998, it was the “end” of Peter and Mary Jane’s story (until the next month’s reboot) so it felt like a fitting end.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spider-Man and Silk: You Gotta Love a Physical Attraction
It’s time for the fifth installment in my li’l series using only Spider-Man comics and characters to examine the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life). Cindy Moon attended the same scientific demonstration Peter Parker did when he was bitten by the radioactive spider that gave him his powers. Before it died, the spider would bite Cindy, too. She gained the same basic powers as Peter – albeit with a more attuned spider-sense, faster speed, and the ability to spin organic webbing from her fingertips – and would eventually take on the name “Silk” and become a superhero in her own right. She and Peter also have an overwhelming physical/sexual attraction to each other. Their relationship, such as it was, represents those “purely physical” attractions we have in our lives. It’s fun and it’s so hot but it was never really going to last nor was there any way they could’ve ever been “the one” as it was only ever just a physical thing. Continue reading