Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Web-Slinger’s Dilemma: Mary Jane Watson vs. Gwen Stacy

Today marks the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, your friendly neighborhood web-slinger’s Secret Wars solo title. Previews of the Dan Slott/Adam Kubert book show Peter Parker happily married to Mary Jane Watson, arguing over whose turn it is to change the diaper of their daughter, Annie.

Flashback to 2007. The Internet is ablaze with the wailing and teeth-gnashing of 1,000 nerds infuriated by a J. Michael Straczynski/Joe Quesada story called “One More Day,” in which, to save the life of Aunt May, Peter and MJ agree to let Mephisto erase the memory of their marriage and the public’s knowledge that Peter is Spider-Man.

“One More Day” served as Straczynski’s exit from the Spider-titles and ushered in the era of Dan Slott, who has since then steered the character through a series of bold stories, such as Dr. Octopus spending a year and a half in Peter’s body or Spider-Men and –Women from across the multiverse teaming up to defeat a cross-dimensional brood of vampire types. One thing he hasn’t done these past eight years: Reunite the Parkers.

From the legendary time travel Deadpool (Vol.1) #11

Until now. Funny thing is, eight years is a long time to keep a major plot element out of play, and while I’m sure there are some people who heard about Renew Your Vows and said “Thank God, finally!” it feels like many Spider-fans have largely forgotten about her.

But who could do a better job of making people forget about MJ than the forces of Straczynski, Quesada and Mephisto combined?

Oh, hey Gwen!

If you’ve been to a con this year, you’ve probably seen at least one Spider-Gwen cosplayer in the sea of Harley Quinns and Deadpools and anime characters with whom you’re unfamiliar. This alternate-reality version of Gwen Stacy – from a world in which she got bit by the spider and Peter Parker became the Lizard and died – has sparked interest in Peter Parker’s other famous girlfriend like no other, to the point where Marvel spun her straight out of Spider-Verse and into her own series by Jason Latour and Robbie Rodriguez.

Quite simply, people haven’t been talking about Gwen this much since the Green Goblin threw her over the George Washington Bridge in 1973.

Which isn’t to say no one’s tried to keep Gwen in the public consciousness in the intervening 40 years. Emma Stone played Gwen in the two Amazing Spider-Man movies, and Bryce Dallas Howard played her in the third Sam Raimi film. Marvel has included Gwen in trading-card sets over the years. She was a playable character in Lego Marvel Super Heroes. She was included in the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon series.

But the grave hasn’t always been kind to Gwen. Another Straczynski story that didn’t go over well is “Sins Past,” in which it is revealed that prior to her death, Norman Osborn had raped and impregnated her. Gwen’s children, Gabriel and Sarah, grew up to be evil, which is its own hornet’s nest of commentary on rape and the fridging of women in comics.

Before “Spider-Verse,” the last time I remember Gwen Stacy being used in a way that felt powerful was House of M, the 2005 alternate-reality story by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel in which Magneto had created a global utopia for mutants. Issue 2 opens with Peter waking up in bed next to Gwen, who in this reality is his wife and the mother of his child. When reality is restored, Peter retains his memories of the House of M world and freaks out on Dr. Strange when the Sorcerer Supreme won’t mind-wipe him, so he forgets how happy he was there. And this was a man who, at the time, was still happily married to MJ.

So where do you stand, dear reader? Did Tiger really hit the jackpot with Anna Watson’s model/actress niece, or do you believe in a world – that may have been destroyed in a pre-Secret Wars incursion – where Peter ends up with Capt. Stacy’s daughter? Was Gwen’s death so powerful a moment in comics history that she should have stayed in the grave, or are you rockin’ the white-and-magenta Spider-Gwen hoodie to cons? Are you happy to see a world in which “One More Day” never happened, or did you stop caring about the dissolution of the Parker marriage a long time ago?

Or, more simply: MJ or Gwen? Tweet #TeamMJ or #TeamGwen to @danielpgrote, and explain your choice.

Dan Grote’s new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He has been writing for The Matt Signal since 2014. He and Matt have been friends since the days when making it to issue 25 guaranteed you a foil cover.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gwen was only made interesting after her death. Before, she was the boring nice girl who liked Peter but hated Spiderman. Mainstream Gwen is best kept dead. It is just too integral to Peter's character now.

MJ was always the party girl. She was also as much an action girl as she was a damsel in distress. For every time Spiderman would save her, she would aid Petey with some well timed assistance. She also loved him knowing he was Spiderman. The relationship was rocky at times, with the two always under pressure because of Spiderman, but that's what made it worth telling. She may not have been his wife for years now but she was his wife for twenty years and she still is his wife in the newspaper strips. "One Moment in Time" was the worst comic of all time for a reason.