The perception of marriage has gone from being a “sacred institution” to a life sentence. As college students, marriage should be the last thing on our minds. (We have our whole lives ahead of us, after all) But in the world of fiction, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Generally, in fiction, marriage is portrayed as a happy thing. Even Spider-Man took the plunge in 1987 when he wed longtime girlfriend Mary Jane. Well, it looks like real-world perceptions have caught up with the pretend, for this week in Amazing Spider-Man 545, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson have gotten, to put it simply, “divorced.”
In a move to make Spider-Man more accessible to new readers Marvel Comics, editor-in-chief Joe Quesada decided it was time for Peter Parker to return to his bachelor ways and go back to living on his Aunt May’s couch and constantly being dumped. While one would think that in the world comics, the reason for MJ leaving Peter would be that she could no longer handle the constant threats to her life; But in the Marvel Universe, things can never be that simple. In the just published storyline, “One More Day” a sniper has shot Aunt May and no medical science can save her life. But someone can save her life: Mephisto, Marvel’s equivalent of the devil. He offers to save Aunt May’s life in exchange for the marriage of Peter and Mary Jane. Needless to say, Peter and Mary Jane take the deal Mephisto saves Aunt May’s life and makes it so that their marriage “never happened.”
Quesada says, “It’s very easy to un-marry a character…you just do a huge universal retcon, and say a few events in history didn’t happen. But that’s really not the way we do it here at Marvel.” But isn’t that exactly what Marvel’s doing? As a college student, if you picked up a Spider-Man comic book at any time since 1987, or read the newspaper strip, you saw a married Spider-Man. Was the marriage that much of a detriment to the character that you have to compromise his integrity by making him take the easy way out through a deal with the devil? As I recall, one of the things that made a hero a hero is that they don’t take the easy way out! But, I guess that rule no longer applies in this comic world.
The story is so controversial that the writer J. Michael Straczynski (creator of Babylon 5 and writer of childhood favorites He-Man and The Real Ghostbusters) wanted his name taken off the issue but eventually rescinded so as not to damage Marvel. Consider that a stunt like this didn’t work for Dallas, who’s to say it will work for Spider-Man?
Now, many of you are wondering why a fictional character’s marriage is so important that there has to be a whole article about it? Once again, South Park said it best in the episode Imagination Land, when Kyle tells the Pentagon that imaginary characters are just as real as the rest of us because of their impact on the world. If someone took a survey, there’s a good possibility that more people look up to Spider-Man than the President. If Spider-Man loses hope, what hope is there for the rest of us?
However, if there’s one thing the world of fiction can give us, it’s the possibility that Spider-Man and Mary Jane will be reunited and gains redemption. After all, this is the world of super-heroes and if Superman can return from the dead so can Spider-Man’s marriage.