Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why "Brand New Day" Was Great, Part Two: Things Were Great For A Few Years...

Check out Part One HERE.

H'okay. So I really was planning on writing a very long follow-up article here. I'd already broken down why I felt that Spider-Man had been completely whizzed as a character and was in major need of the full reboot he received. I'd established exactly where Spidey and I had been standing, and it was NOT the solid ground he and I had enjoyed for most of my life. I'd even made a header image for this that I thought looked pretty cool. And then... I got distracted. Marvel Comics launched its Marvel NOW! initiative and suddenly I had a ton of things I wanted to read, a ton of things to catch up on, and... Spider-Man wasn't on that list, because REASONS. Which I'll get to in a bit.

So anyway, the story of Spider-Man: One More Day, in brief: Aunt May is dying, and Spider-Man wants to stop it. He goes to everyone he knows for help - from the superscience of Reed Richards and Iron Man to the supersorcery of Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom. Everyone basically tells him to go fuck himself. So finally he runs into Mephisto (Marvel's sort-of Satan. The actual Satan shows up in some comics nowadays too, which makes the whole thing a bit more confusing.). Mephisto is all like "Yeah, bro, I can heal a gunshot wound. This is COMICS, my man!" But deals with devils have their price, and Mephisto demands that Peter give up his marriage. Then there's a lot of talking because J. Michael Straczynski is kind of a boring writer, and Peter & MJ decide that Aunt May's important enough for them to make the sacrifice.

Now, I'm not going to front like this was a good comic. I can't stand the shit JMS writes, and Joe Quesada's art is like getting smacked in the forehead with the entire concept of the 1990s. But the key objection a lot of critics had to this whole thing seemed to be that they should have handled divorce in a mature fashion... and this shit was never about divorce. This was about magically making Spider-Man act like Spider-Man again. So Mephisto lays down his demonic whammy and hey presto, we're on to Spider-Man: Brand New Day.

Here's where I need to get really real for a second: I am SO SICK of fighting about this comic with people who are totally misinformed about this comic. I wrote this in my last article...

This argument, and literally dozens of previous arguments, was with somebody who claimed to have stopped reading Marvel Comics altogether because of the release of Spider-Man: Brand New Day in 2008, despite never having actually READ Spider-Man: Brand New Day and having many of the details wrong; whether that's by ignorance, misinformation, or stubbornness is hard to say.
 ...and it remains totally true. This is based on purely anecdotal evidence; but from where I'm standing there are literally thousands of comic fans who have spent the last five years incessantly hating on Marvel Comics for reasons that aren't even accurate. They think Spider-Man got de-aged, or that Mephisto owns his soul now, or that MJ got killed off, or all sorts of other weird things.

So here's the extent of Mephisto's meddling in the life of Peter Parker, in order of importance:
  1. Spider-Man's powers are back to normal. Does whatever a spider can... Is he strong? Listen bub, he's got radioactive blood! Et cetera. He's also back on his wrist-mounted web-shooters instead of just excreting goo on folks.
  2. Peter Parker's secret identity is secret again. There's some fiddly magic stuff in that deal, but to the general populace, Peter Parker is just a regular dude.
  3. Aunt May's fine (as well she should be; that was the whole thing after all). She's actually a bit more active than in the past, as she's volunteering at a local homeless shelter instead of just sitting around in her little house in Queens cooking dinners that nobody eats.
  4. Peter and Mary Jane dated seriously for years and lived together for a while, but ended up splitting. The comics weren't totally clear on the when or the why, but it seemed recent enough to still hurt.
  5. Harry Osborn is alive again; he'd just been in Europe for a while going to rehab.
That's it. That's all. The only other key difference is that the story starts with Peter jobless, but considering that he'd been a fugitive for like a year, that wasn't really a change to the status quo. Pete quickly is able to get his job back at The Daily Bugle, and restores his supporting cast. And that leads into a major pet peeve of mine:

I've had multiple people say to me that it is a step backward for the character to return to the Daily Bugle. That as a highschool teacher he had achieved a Real Job™ and it was indicative of some kind of character growth. Now, as I said in Part One of this thing, I didn't think it was any sort of character growth: The teacher thing was just an excuse for one of the heavy-handed school shooting stories that were popular in all forms of media at the time. But I've legit heard people claim that being a freelance photographer for a major New York City newspaper is a "kid job"... and I fucking call bullshit. That is some seriously difficult, grown-up business. If anything, it was unrealistic to have him doing that for work when he was still a teenager.

So okay, everything got all fixed up for Spidey. A team of writers set about crafting new stories for him, introducing new supporting cast, new villains, and new situations. The writing was light and fun, the art was colorful, and there was a pervasive sense of experimentation throughout BND. After the initial push, the writing staff was whittled down to just Dan Slott, and he continued apace, writing years worth of really fun Spidey comics. They were nostalgic yet original, palatable to kids and adults, brought back old characters in new interesting ways, and they were able to be funny without becoming a joke. They slowly brought MJ back due to fan demand, but in an organic way, over time. Years of really fun stories, folks. Spider Island? Everyone in Manhattan getting superpowers because of genetically-engineered bedbugs? That shit is fucking golden, and if you don't think so you are both wrong and an idiot.

However, I'm actually having a hard time singing all these praises now that Dan Slott has fallen off the truck. In the past few months, Peter Parker died, Doctor Octopus transferred his mind into Spider-Man's body, and is currently trying his damnedest to fuck Mary Jane in the pages of his new book, The Superior Spider-Man.

I don't really care that they killed Peter Parker's brain off. That's comic-book shit, and Slott's already dropping hints that OMG PETER'S STILL IN THERE FIGHTING! And I don't give a shit that they're changing the status quo, because that's the sort of thing that sells comics. I am fine with almost everything about the comic.

But turning Doctor Octopus into a rapist is Not Okay.

I hate the trend of the last decade to have supervillains committing rape (and I am repulsed when the creators and fans come out with all the fucking "No, see, it wasn't RAPE-rape!" bullshit, too). I am a dude who happens to like supervillains, and I really don't like seeing them taken to that level.

Because you know what? Not every criminal is willing to commit rape. You know what else? Plenty of "good" people TOTALLY ARE willing to commit rape.

It just sucks all the fun out of what could be a potentially entertaining story. The idea of Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man's body is great. Seeing him square off against a new Sinister Six and getting to be the hero for once could be a really fun angle for me... but it's colored by the fact that every five pages or so there's a shot of Peter/Ock staring down Mary Jane's shirt, or referring to her as one of the "perks" of his "new life", or just straight-up trying to force himself on her.

I doubt Dan Slott will ever read this, but because he's a writer I have/had a lot of respect for, I'm going to address this directly to him anyway: Homie, I don't want to have to throw down a Trigger Warning on my blog before I talk about Spider-Man comics.


So now I guess I'll just have to get by on Stan Lee's newspaper Spider-Man comics... And Newspaper Spider-Man is the absolute worst superhero of all time.


  1. Doctor Octopus has NOT been turned into a rapist. Please read issue #2 first before making a false conclusion.
    Thank you.

    1. This could be a very effective troll, or a surprising bit of internet serendipity, but either way I'll take your advice. I'd rather not run my mouth without having all the facts straight.

    2. If my mind gets changed, I'll be sure to make a post about it. I am, and have for quite a while been, a big fan of your (or the real Mr. Slott's, if this is a troll) work, and would LOVE to see the extremely iffy consent issues get worked out so I can fully enjoy this comic.

  2. Actually the key difference between pre-OMD Spider-Man and post OMD Spider-Man is in the character of Peter Parker.

    Before Peter was a competent, capable, lovable heroic underdog, after he was a complete and utter worthless loser. Not a likable thing about him, the guy was turned into a stupid incompetent irresponsible asshole. That's why I stopped buying the title. And every time I did try to see if they finally fixed that, it turns out that they were still writing him as a total loser. I've been reading Spider-Man for over 20 years, he was never a loser, and never should be. And I don't buy comics about the Spider-loser. The Superior Spider-Man crap is just more along the lines of Slott totally not getting what Spider-Man should be about.

    1. I would actually argue that Spider-Man's ENTIRE POINT is that he's a loser. It's his defining character-trait. He's brave, loyal, and good-natured; but he also fucks up a lot, loses his friends by being too aloof about his secret identity and/or accidentally turning them into supervillains, has a hard time with relationships, and - every once in awhile - he gets somebody killed.

      Peter Parker's not supposed to be a dude that you want to BE. He's supposed to be a dude who reflects who you already ARE.

      And - to me - that's what makes Spidey likeable. He's our neurotic friend who fights crime. I think Slott and all of the other writers of BND did an incredible job of recapturing everything that made Parker likeable. And, to engage in a slight bit of creator-bashing, I think that was largely because of a the long stretch by J. Michael Straczynski, who tends to write every superhero as wandering around pontificating aloud about the sorry state of the world.

    2. Basically what I'm saying here is you're wrong.