This week Kalie guest lectured for my MARVELous Justice course, my class which uses comic books and comic book movies to examine social justice issues and the Sisters of Mercy’s Critical Concerns in particular. Kalie is getting her PhD in literary criticism, with her focus on the mad monster. I’ve asked her to come in a few times to give my students an introduction to Monster Theory so they can add it to the avenues of analysis we use for the comics and films we explore. As part of her presentation, Kalie always asks my class what their favorite childhood monster was and why they liked it. The first time I heard her ask this question, I found myself lost in thought. What was my favorite monster as a kid? Did I even have one? I never liked being scared, that’s for sure. The answer hit in a bolt of clarity! What an easy question! It’s no contest! My favorite monster was Venom. As soon as Eddie Brock bonded with the symbiote, I was hooked. I love Venom! I adore Venom! Looking at my relationship with this monster as I followed along with Kalie’s lesson taught me a lot about myself, too.
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.
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.
Harry’s been a friend. You know he’s been a good friend of mine. But lately something’s changed, it’ ain’t hard to define. Harry’s got himself a girl and I wanna make her mine. It’s time for the latest installment in my series using only Spider-Man comics to examine the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life)! Here we see Peter in a good place. His best friend Harry Osborn is alive! Harry’s returned from an extended stay in Europe where he got sober. He’s in a new relationship with Lily Hollister, a girl he really likes. He’s starting his own business out from under the cruel shadow of his infamous father. He and Lily are trying to fix Peter up with her best friend, Carlie. There’s so much to celebrate!!! Oh, and Peter also kinda has a thing for Lily. He thinks she’s cute. In fact, he thinks she’s a “knockout.” In fact, he kinda struggles with not thinking about her. But it happens, right? While the significant other of a best friend should set our Bad Idea Sense tingling, sometimes we can’t help but be drawn to them anyway. Oh Peter, tread carefully here…
It’s like Marvel knows it’s my Birthday Week! On July 1st it was announced Dan Slott will be returning to write a new monthly Spider-Man book – the adjective-less Spider-Man, which first debuted in my youth as a vehicle for the artist/writer Todd McFarlane in August of 1990 – this October. Dan Slott was part of of the Webhead Braintrust of writers who launched Spider-Man’s “Brand New Day” Era in January 2008 alongside Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, and Zeb Wells and grew to include Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Fred Van Lente, Roger Stern, Brian Reed, and Tom Peyer before BND ended in November 2010. He then took over as solo writer for The Amazing Spider-Man which he wrote from that November’s #648 through June 2018’s #801. Dan Slott can be a bit of a divisive writer among Spider-fans so I wanted to take this chance to reflect a bit on his writing and why I’m pretty excited for the return of such an amazing (heh) Spider-Man writer. THWIP onward for Spider-Reflections!
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?
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 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.
It’s time once more for another 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)! The last piece in this series examined the high school crush, paying special attention to all those crushes we carry deep in our heart and never voice. This piece looks at unrequited love beyond high school pining. While it can be present in high school, particularly as we get older there can be a heavier side to the unrequited lover. Living with a love unvoiced wraps one of the most important parts of our being in a very lonely shell. Jean DeWolff, in addition to being part of one of the most famous stories in the first twenty-five years of Spider-Man’s comic history, illustrates this painful reality in a particularly poignant way.
Which comics go in my file/pull list is a decision I ponder regularly. What must be read monthly in single issues? Which stories/characters/creators can’t wait? I ask myself this whenever I consider juggling the comics in my file because, well, money’s a thing and I only have so much for comics before they turn off my electricity and water and I use those all the time. Despite Spider-Man being the fictional character I’ve had the longest running relationship with, The Amazing Spider-Man is rarely on my pull list simply because I favor newer characters (or characters new to me). Miles Morales/Spider-Man or Cindy Moon/Silk or America Chavez or Jane Foster/Valkyrie don’t yet have as bedrock a status quo to reset to so their characters feel more dynamic and thus, with more potential for lasting change, there’s a greater sense of urgency to read those stories each month instead of waiting for them to pop up on Marvel Unlimited or be collected in a trade paperback. However, last night I learned Ben Reilly was donning the webs once more so today I went to my local comic shop to add The Amazing Spider-Man to my file for the first time in years!