Sporadic Sequential
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
It's Magic, So I Don't Have To Explain It

It's always mildly annoying when the latest superhero sales stunt hits the mainstream media because I know that, inevitably, someone's going to approach me and ask me to explain it to them. "Hey, you read comics, right? So what's the deal with Spider-Man and Mary Jane getting divorced?" (I find it ironic that most of the people who've approached me about the editorially demonically-annulled marriage still think that Spidey and MJ got a divorce, despite Marvel's desperate attempts to avoid tainting their flagship character with such an "unseemly" development. (And, geez, way to insult people who have gone through a divorce, Marvel. I agree with Erik Larsen on this: if Joe Quesada had to do away with the marriage, a well-written divorce could have been touching and memorable, without tarnishing either character, and it could have been in keeping with the mighty Marvel tradition of dealing with touchy real-world subjects like drug abuse and AIDS.))

After my first, painfully drawn-out attempt* to explain the dissolution of the Spider-marriage, I realized that Marvel's lazy, lame method of undoing the marriage could actually benefit me. Now whenever anyone asks me what happened, I'll simply answer, "Magic." It's also the perfect response for any follow-up!
"I don't understand: What does magic have to do with their marriage ending?"
"I don't know, either. But it's magic; you don't have to understand!"
"But I thought Spider-Man was supposed to fight purse-snatchers and everyday criminals like that. How does magic even enter into it?"
"What, did Harry Potter screw up a spell or something?"
".... Sure, that's just about as good of an explanation as Marvel was able to come up with. Why not? Harry Potter accidentally erased Spider-Man's marriage via magic!"
Magic! It's the catch-all get-out-of-jail-free card!! Hey, I think I'll use it for my own excuses from now on! Um, here goes: I was going to have my "Best of 2007" post done by now, honest, but, uh, the devil made it so that none of the books I read last year ever came out, so now I have to go back and rewrite the whole thing. Gosh darn MAGIC! (Hey, this is kind of fun!)

* My wife saw a headline online somewhere and later asked me why Spider-Man got divorced. Stupidly, I tried to explain the whole thing, which quickly spiraled ever deeper into a head-hurting pit of dumbness:
"I saw online that Spider-Man got divorced. Why did he decide to end his marriage?"
"He didn't get divorced; he made a deal with the devil to save his aunt's life, which resulted in his marriage never happening in the first place."
"What?? I don't think I understood one word of what you just said. First of all, why did he need to save his aunt?"
"She was shot because Spider-Man had revealed his secret identity, so the bad guys knew who his family was."
"Why did he do that? Didn't he realize that his enemies would go after his friends and relatives?"
"Iron Man convinced him to reveal his identity."
"Iron Man? Who's he?"
"He's that rich guy who wears a suit of armor. Robert Downey, Jr., is playing him in the upcoming movie."
"Why did Iron Man think that it would be a good idea for Spider-Man to reveal who he was?"
"Because Iron Man is a dick. And also a Skrull."
"A what?"
"Forget it -- it's too complicated to get into."
"OK, so how did making a deal with the devil to save his aunt's life end his marriage?"
"The devil took Spider-Man and Mary Jane's marriage in exchange for keeping Aunt May alive."
"Their marriage? What does the devil want with someone's marriage? I thought he collected souls."
"I know, it doesn't make any sense. Basically the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics always thought it was a bad idea for Spider-Man to be married, so he came up with this idea to make Spider-Man single again."
"How do you take away someone's marriage, anyway?"
"I don't know. Somehow the devil rewrote reality so the marriage never happened."
"Never happened? So did he go back in time and prevent them from getting married?"
"I don't know. According to the comic sites I read, somehow the devil stops them from ever getting married, which also ends up changing a bunch of other stuff."
"Like what?"
"Oh, god. It's too much to get into. For one thing, one of his friends that died a long time ago is now alive again."
"How would Spider-Man not getting married bring his friend back to life?"
"I don't know, and apparently the writers don't know either. They're just using the deal with the devil as a blank check to make whatever changes they want. It gives me a headache if I actually try to figure it out."
"So why not just have him get divorced?"
"Because Marvel thought it would somehow make Spider-Man look bad."
"But they don't think that Spider-Man making a deal with the devil looks bad?"
"I know. I'm waiting for outraged parents who complained that the Harry Potter books promoted Satanism to pick up on this story. 'Spider-Man, Devil-Worshipper!!' would be an interesting controversy**."
"And do they think that divorce always reflects badly on the people involved? Couldn't it have been an amicable, mutually agreed-upon divorce?"
"I guess they thought Spider-Man having an ex-wife would be too much grown-up baggage for younger readers to relate to."
"But with divorce rates what they are, wouldn't most young readers be exposed to divorce? Wouldn't that make Spider-Man more relatable?"
"Maybe they thought it would age the character too much."
"How old is Spider-Man anyway?"
"In the comics? I don't know -- late 20s or early 30s, maybe?"
"And young adults never get divorced? Look at entertainment 'news' -- it's almost all gossip about which celebrities are getting married and divorced. They should have gone in the other direction and made Spider-Man's divorce as trashy and tawdry as possible! Say that Spider-Man was caught sleeping with Wonder Woman! Have there be all kinds of rumors circulating about illegitimate Spider-Babies crawling around! Insinuate that Spider-Man is gay!! It could have made him even more interesting to kids who follow the lives of 'stars' like Britney and Jessica Simpson."
"Well, his wife is a supermodel, so I guess they could have played up that angle and tried to cash in on that whole aspect of popular culture."
"See? I'm a genius! I should be writing these comic books!"
"Well, it does sound like you'd be able to come up with controversial plotlines guaranteed to piss off the fanboys and boost sales, which is pretty much all that's needed to write for Marvel these days. The only problem is I think Mark Millar already did this story over in The Ultimates..."
As fun as it was to imagine Spider-Man's divorce ending up on sites like TMZ or The Superficial, I quickly realized that I could not have this conversation every time someone was curious about Spidey's martial status, mainly because trying to explain the inane plot contrivances of storylines such as Civil War (which, admittedly, I'd only picked up on secondhand) would drive me crazy. So thanks for coming up with the easy out, Marvel!

** I've already mentally written the opening for the mainstream media's take on this sensationalistic story: "First they killed Captain America, the flag-clad Sentinel of Liberty. Then they turned the Hulk into a Commie. And now, in their latest controversial makeover, Marvel Comics is revealing that their most popular character Spider-Man is in league with Satan. 'This is worse than when they made Batman a lesbian,' complained a random person whose limited knowledge of superhero comics comes from poorly-researched articles like this one, but whom we nonetheless picked to provide the opening quote for this hastily thrown-together piece."

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