Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Should Spider-Man be an Avenger? Depends...

Pt. 2 The Discussion (with Two-Time Emmy Winning Video Editor, Joseph Braband)

Back in the seventies and the eighties, I was a huge Avengers fan. I also liked Spider-Man, but to a lesser (but still significant) degree. The thing that I loved about the classic Spider-Man/Avengers dynamic was always the "will he" or "won't he" tease of becoming an Avenger over decades. As much as I may have wanted him to be included in the pre-Disassembled/Bendis era, I always felt that it was simply never meant to be, but it was an entertaining topic for fanboys such as myself to debate endlessly.

For the record, I never really wanted Spider-Man to be a member, but instead of basing my wants on personal preferences, I had my reasons based on the character itself. Whereas the Avengers mostly interacted with huge threats from New York to alien galaxies, Peter Parker was "your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man". He dealt with the "smaller, but very significant" threats so groups like the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Avengers could concentrate on larger issues. In the graphic novel "Attack of the Living Monolith", Spider-Man underscored this by expressing his preference to letting the Avengers take on the Living Monolith while dealing with the L.M.'s goons who were menacing NYC. Perfect take on the character.

Spider-Man shared a unique niche with the Thing as the superhero who teamed up with everyone in the Marvel Universe. Between his own main titles, guest-starring in other titles and sharing the spotlight in Marvel Team-Up (great comic), it would be hard to point to a hero who hasn't had a chance encounter with Spider-Man in some title. Simply said, Spidey's inclusion as an Avenger was, in my opinion, unnecessary because he was everywhere. Spider-Man had to juggle his Peter Parker persona and his superhero identity. He struggled to keep his identity a secret. The attempt at realism was a core appeal of the character, spawning innumerable iconic storylines and kept him fresh and relatable to the reader.
The writers back then were keenly aware of this appeal and wisely maintained that status quo for decades, even as they changed the cast of people surrounding Peter Parker over and over again to keep the ongoing drama interesting. This "every-man" aspect of the superhero experience was never a main focus of the Avengers title(s) and membership would (and did) change everything for Peter Parker/Spider-Man so much that he had to make a bargain with Mephisto to retcon the ill-conceived idea.

Then there is the matter of approach to super-heroing. The Avengers would passively sit back and wait for threats to rear their ugly heads and then fly off in a quinjet to deal with it, Spider-Man actively patrolled locally for danger (or simply stumbled upon it) - two very different approaches - one passive and the other active. Of course, it is something conveniently ignored, but I could imagine that it would be a source of frustration for someone so used to actively looking for a way to make himself useful to the world around him.

Then there was the continuity issues... back when Marvel (and apparently its readers) actually cared about such things. Moving on... Unfortunately, the inevitable happened under Bendis - Spider-Man became a member of the Avengers with a cast of characters that were blatantly designed to sell books (*cough cough* Wolverine *cough*). Continuity and logic took a back seat to keeping Marvel afloat after some disastrous years of poor decision-making by the company. I gave it a shot with an open mind, but I did not really dig what Bendis did with the Avengers or the new changes brought about by Spider-Man's decision to join the Avengers.

I have recently found my way back to semi-regular reading and Spider-Man is still a member of an Avengers team. The dynamic has changed significantly in my absence and, unfortunately, I still am unconvinced that he is a good fit despite his unwavering popularity. As an old-fogey, I just think Marvel has forgotten what makes the character unique and awesome. Just an opinion - Joe B
I was waiting to work out my opinion during a conversation via podcast, but since it’s been a busy time, let me reflect upon my friend Emmy Award-winning video editor Joseph Braband’s commentary included below.

With his permission, Author Matt Sunrich added:

I have enjoyed Spidey's team-ups with the Avengers (Avengers #s 236-237 in particular) over the years, but I agree that he should not join the team. I think something would be lost if he did. He is a loner character, which is a poignant reflection of Parker's life before he was bitten by the radioactive spider. He isn't averse to working with others, but as an only child (and an orphan) he is most comfortable operating on his own. He has only had two motivations for joining a team in the past: money and acceptance. It is, of course, primarily JJJ's fault that he is frequently mistrusted by the public, whereas many other heroes are lauded. He knows that he is helping people and hates being viewed as a criminal.

(Look for Matt's Red Sonja book, which does for the She-Devil With A Sword what I'm doing with the Bronze Age of Marvel...and more!)

http://www.hassleinbooks.com/pages/book_drawnSwords.php"

My opinion? The movies are rare enough to make a Spider-Man Avengers appearance pretty cool. I am stoked he’s going to the stars in Infinity Wars! His appearance in Captain America: Civil War totally worked for me, too. He’s one of the ultimate team-up characters. I love how his friendly neighborhood perspective plays alongside the heavy-hitters.

But to get that friendly neighborhood point of view, he has to deal with down-to-earth problems like his secret I.D., supporting cast-related issues of friendships (and occasionally enemies), juggling his school life or job. You lose all that when he’s wrapped up in being a more typical superhero alongside the Avengers each month. He’s like any other guy with no secret identity. It’s a way you can go, to be different, but classic Spider-Man worked really well with the problems arising from him essentially being on his own. I like his occasional allies, but if he ran with all his Spider-counterparts often, it’d be too crowded to be fun! My friend makes the point that Spider-Man teamed up already to such a degree of exposure as to remove a need to make him a permanent team member. If you’re putting out monthly Spider-Man adventures, I’d rather he didn’t appear in two monthly books and two mini-series AND run with a team.
What Joe had to say about their different approaches, active versus passive, could be dealt with- there have been active teams like Force Works, but wow does that ever come across differently than Spider-Man on patrol! It’s because of the nature of wrong-doing a team faces versus Spider-Man taking out a robber, a mugger, etc. Granted, there’s not nearly the street crime epidemic in New York City as in the infamous 1970s, though there’s still organized crime-to which you can also attach colorful criminals. But when you get down to the issue of Bendis scripting every Avenger with the same comedic voice- plotting aside, if the lines alone wouldn’t clue you in as to whom is speaking of them, If Wolverine sounds like Spider-Man sounds like Luke Cage sounds like Spider-Woman...hoo boy. Where Bendis didn’t do this, great. Where he did, ugh.

How it affects the plot, though: I think Spider-Man’s residence among the Avengers came about in to set off a different set of stories than what went before. Commercial considerations of putting out monthly comics for five decades force these sorts of things to happen. I took a nice healthy break from keeping up every month for a long time and developed other interests. For me then, I didn’t personally need anymore Spider-Man comics to live; I’d always have my love for the character and times I read him alone and with my best friends. Practical needs naturally force interpretations not as liked by someone which are someone else’s favorites. Comics Spider-Man doesn’t need to be a full-time Avenger. At one point, he’d have been a great Justice Leaguer! J.M. DeMatteis himself agreed with me in our interview. Spidey, Beetle and Booster...madcap!

1 comment:

  1. Editor:
    Author Matt Sunrich says:

    I have enjoyed Spidey's team-ups with the Avengers (Avengers #s 236-237 in particular) over the years, but I agree that he should not join the team. I think something would be lost if he did. He is a loner character, which is a poignant reflection of Parker's life before he was bitten by the radioactive spider. He isn't averse to working with others, but as an only child (and an orphan) he is most comfortable operating on his own. He has only had two motivations for joining a team in the past: money and acceptance. It is, of course, primarily JJJ's fault that he is frequently mistrusted by the public, whereas many other heroes are lauded. He knows that he is helping people and hates being viewed as a criminal.

    (Look for Matt's Red Sonja book, which does for the She-Devil With A Sword what I'm doing with the Bronze Age of Marvel...and more!)

    http://www.hassleinbooks.com/pages/book_drawnSwords.php

    ReplyDelete