Like many, I had feelings when I read Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr.’s Amazing Spider-Man #26 Wednesday evening. The feelings were such that they generated a piece just a few days after the comic came out. However, I don’t think they were the feelings the creative team intended (though I have no way of knowing for sure). So I figured a li’l piece to unpack those feelings and explore what happened in this issue was in order. Billed as a “monumental story” which would be “the most shocking issue of Amazing Spider-Man in fifty years,” the death of someone close to Peter Parker/Spider-Man was teased. Fifty years after the death of Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121, it appeared another tragedy was on the horizon. This all came to a head as Spidey, Ms. Marvel, the Gold Goblin, and the Fantastic Four battled to protect Mary Jane, her partner Paul, and their two children, Owen and Stephanie, from Rabin, the mathematician-cum-zealot-cum-would-be vessel of the demonic deity Wayep.
As one would expect, SPOILERS for Amazing Spider-Man #26 follow.
Though this story has been widely reported already so maybe they aren’t SPOILERS? Still, you’ve been warned.
Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr. kicked off their Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Vol. 6) in April of 2022 with a six month time jump in the narrative. Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker, reunited as a couple in Nick Spencer’s run on Amazing Spider-Man (starting in July 2018), had broken up. Peter was despondent and angry. Everyone was angry with Peter, too – Aunt May, Randy Robertson, even the Fantastic Four and Captain America. MJ wasn’t taking his calls. Creditors were hounding him. He was working for Norman Osborn! Most shocking of all, Mary Jane was living with her new partner, Paul…and their two kids. It was certainly a jaw-dropping reveal at the end of Wells and Romita’s first issue. Now, a year later, the gaps are being filled in with Amazing Spider-Man #21-25. Why did Peter and Mary Jane break-up? Who is Paul? Why is everyone angry with Peter? What happened in those six months? Will Mary Jane and Peter get back together?? For me, a bigger question has been on my mind since I first saw Stephanie and Owen run into her arms at the end of that issue: Should Mary Jane even be with Peter in the first place?
Note, this piece contains plot spoilers for Amazing Spider-Man #21-25.
Here we are folks, the sixteenth installment in this series using only Spider-Man comics to talk about the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (mirroring the variety of romantic experiences we have in life). Who would’ve thought I’d be able to milk sixteen different articles out of this?? The series is old enough to drive now! (I mean, if each individual piece represented a year (but I do more than one a year (but I did start this back in 2017 so it’s been going for over five years (which is still pretty impressive!))).) Here we’re going to examine the intersection of some SERIOUS forces in the world of comic books. Spider-Man – Marvel’s most iconic character! Chris Claremont – one of the most iconic comic writers of all time! Cissy Ironwood – a love interest Chris Claremont created specifically for Peter Parker when he was writing Marvel Team-Up in 1979 which…uh, went nowhere. And that’s why I love Cissy and Peter as a couple! In our romantic exploits we all have those relationships which seemed to have so much potential but just never went anywhere. They inexplicably disappear and become someone friends may ask about, years later, wondering, “Hey, whatever happened to…”
We have an interesting relationship with the fictional characters we love, don’t we? I can divide my life into eras with them. He-Man and She-Ra. The Ghostbusters. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer. Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus. The Gilmore girls. Sydney Bristow and all her aliases. The Doctor. Fleabag. The list goes on but they are the most important :). Loving comic books since I was three-years-old, there are obviously many superheroes who land on that list. Recently, my mind wandered to the superheroes most important to me. Three came clearly and quickly to mind and, as I thought about each, deep feelings of love and gratitude for all they’ve given me began to fill my heart. So with those feelings still moving within me, I figured it would be fun to examine why those characters are so important to me.
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?