Marvel’s “Renew Your Vows” is just around the corner, which means Dan Slott has been making the rounds to preemptively defend the weird editorial mandates Marvel will soon shove down readers’ throats. Think of it like the “medicine” Tom Brevoort is fond of telling fans they need.
Flashback: “The medicine may not taste good, but if it makes you feel better, then you need to take it.”
In its lead-up to questions with The Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, here’s what Entertainment Weekly said March 16 about Marvel’s past attempts to administer fans their “medicine.”
While there isn’t much of a way to objectively measure these things, the dissolution of the Spider-marriage in 2007’s One More Day is easily one of the most widely disparaged story decisions for the character in recent memory. (The “death” of Peter Parker leading up to Superior Spider-Man may have come close, but a lot of people have come around on that front. Not nearly as many have said, “Hey, the Parkers selling their marriage to the devil to save Aunt May was actually great.”)
Entertainment Weekly writer Joshua Rivera (perhaps best known for not understanding why self-censorship is a bad thing for the industry), gently alluded to the possibility that Marvel would once again screw things up with “Renew Your Vows.” Dan Slott’s reaction: talk about Charles M. Schulz denying Charlie Brown the opportunity to kick the football out of Lucy’s hands.
Mr. Slott said:
“With any story where you give people what they want—there’s a difference, as a storyteller, between what your readers want and what your readers need. In a good Peanuts story, you want Charlie Brown to kick that football. But if Charlie Brown kicks the football, it’s over!” says Slott. “All the best stories in serialized fiction–it’s always about teasing the greatest wishes and wants, but monkey-pawing it. Always giving you what you want, but not the way you want it.”
The Marvel writer was so proud of his false analogy that he even started using it on Twitter:
How bizarre is it that Dan Slott willingly casts himself as the comic industry’s Lucy Van Pelt and then wonders why fans often want to verbally kick him around like a football? Regardless, like Mr. Brevoort’s “medicine” comment, the hubris of the modern comic book creator is on full display. Tom Brevoort knows what medicine you “need” to take. Dan Slott knows what you “need” — and it’s not what you want.
Dan Slott seems to really believe he is comparing apples to apples when he compares a static character who never ages with one who is much more dynamic. In one instance there is Charlie Brown — the sole property of Charles M. Schulz — who is inspired by the artist’s childhood. In the other instance there is Peter Parker, a character who was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, but in no way meant to be trapped in his own hell-ish editorial version of Groundhog Day.
Why is it “over” if Charlie Brown kicks the ball? It’s not. It’s only over if your point all along was to convey some strange message about how women are duplicitous jerks who send good men reeling when they are trusted.
Is Dan Slott saying that Peter Parker’s “Lucy and the football” situation is marriage to a strong woman like MJ? What does Dan Slott have against writing a married version of Peter Parker? Just as it’s totally legitimate to ask what the heck Charles M. Shulz was thinking by never allowing Charlie Brown to kick the football, it is also quite valid to wonder why so many writers and editors at Marvel are uncomfortable with a marriage between Peter and MJ.
If Dan Slott really believes that his job as a writer is to be the best “monkey-pawer” in the business — and I have no reason to doubt that he is sincere when he makes that case — then it should be abundantly clear why the relaunch of The Amazing Spider-Man has been an embarrassment in terms of Peter Parker’s characterization.
Dan Slott is great at telling naked Spider-Ham jokes and he is great at treating Peter Parker like Charlie Brown trying to kick at the old pigskin, but he is not great at characterization. If you plan on buying “Renew Your Vows,” then you should take the writer at his word when he says that his job is not to give the fans what they want.
Thank goodness for the intelligentsia, like Slott and Brevoort, who prescribe our “medicine,” and who give us what we “need” instead of what we want. We gun-clinging, religion-clinging bumpkins just don’t know what’s good for us.
A lot of us are so stupid and bigoted, we can’t even see Emperor Obama’s new clothes.
It is rather fascinating to consider Mr. Brevoort’s and Mr. Slott’s shared belief that not only do they know what the fans “need” (e.g., Peter Parker making deals with the devil), but that they must bear the burden of forcing “medicine” upon them. It’s telling how their politics bleed into their professional life.
Liberalism: ideas so good that they “need” to be mandated.
Tom Brevoort and Dan Slott need to take a long walk off a short bridge.
I’ve often felt like many comic book writers could just use a long walk, a moderate diet, and regular exercise… I think anyone who writes about superheroes should be able to bench press their own weight one time as a minimum. 😉
You read my mind. 🙂
Thing is, there was one Peanuts storyline where Charlie actually won a softball game…and did the sky fall then? No.
Jon Arbuckle even hooked up with Garfield’s vet a decade or so ago. Did the sky fall then? NO (I don’t know if they’re still together or not though)
Peter and MJ have been happily married under Stan’s watchful eye for twenty-eight years, and have been the most positive and on-point portrayals of the character in the medium for almost a full decade now (or at least the most consistent, given the breaks Spider-Girl and Ultimate Peter have taken over the years)
All three examples are from the funny pages, newspaper comics, and in just three short panels and occasionally six on a sunday, they have sent the positive message that not all of the established hard-luck heroes in fiction can have those days forever.
I’m glad you remember the baseball game win. 🙂 I was telling my wife about that last night. And you’re right — the world of the Peanuts gang didn’t implode. In fact, it went on just fine. That’s because an arbitrary rule like “Charlie Brown can never win a baseball game” would have been ridiculous. It reminds me of the “Superman never kills” rule that people wanted to impose when the last movie came out. Well, no. Superman doesn’t want to kill and will go to great lengths to prevent killing…but that doesn’t mean he should never have to make such a difficult choice in battle.
zariusii and Douglas Ernst: Heck, Slott’s comparison is even more asinine when you really look at ASM #2. Now there are plenty of occasions I could point to in Lee and Ditko’s run to suggest that Peter was merely meant to have a share of bad luck without being a complete loser, but lets go back to the first three magazines.
Amazing Fantasy #15: Suggests that Peter’s an outclass with his classmates, plus the story ends with a sad realization that you can’t turn the other cheek and assume that you’ll be just fine.
Yikes pretty dark.
The Amazing Spider-Man #1: Peter finds that May is having to pawn off her jewels to get by on bill payment and has to resume his showbiz career. Even has a moment where he has to blow off his classmates invitation to watch the show with them since he has to act in it. Next he’s only able to get a check which he can’t cash cause of the secret id thing, Jameson’s slander prevents him from further jobs as Spider-Man and when he save John Jameson, his father accuses him of sabotaging the flight so that he could take credit for saving the day.
The next story in the issue has him trying to join the Fantastic Four to make some money which doesn’t work as they are a non-profit organization. Plus after the whole Chameleon encounter, he contemplates having to maybe turn to crime himself to get by, plus we see the F4 fearing the possibility as well.
Damn these early stories are serious stuff. Looks like he’s shaping up to be the Charlie Brown of the superhero set. Lets look at issue two.
The Amazing Spider-Man #2: Ok, this issue is shaping up to be crap. The first two books are pretty heavy stuff about how even a hero can get screwed over and be hated by the public. But the first story here has him actually finding a way to solve his money problem to the point that he’s able to pay the bills and even lets Aunt May have some to spend for the fun of it. Plus this and the second story don’t even have Peter angsting about how his life sucks or wishing that he wasn’t Spider-Man, It’s a really optimistic issue as a whole. Who are the hacks who took over writing/drawing the issue?
Oh that’s right, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were still handling the title. So basically this issue as a whole even the next one to a degree ends on a happier note. Almost like they didn’t mind letting Spider-Brown kick the football.
Almost like the comparison stems from a glass half empty mindset.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Antiyonder. I really appreciate it. I always like to see thoughtful replies like yours.
I’ll try and start blogging again on a regular basis. I’m on YouTube for the most part these days, but I do miss the regular interactions I had on this blog. 🙂
In other words, “we can’t allow any real character development so we repeat the same thing over and over…while comparing one of the most iconic and influential characters in the history of literature to a running gag from a newspaper comic strip.”
Dan Slott knows that people have criticized the characterization of Peter Parker while he’s been on board, and yet he still didn’t pause before saying that Peter Parker should be written like Charles M. Schulz wrote Charlie Brown — a young boy trapped inside a never ending carousel of “Lucy pulls the football away” jokes. Classic!
Slott thinks he is so clever with the Charlie Brown analogy.
I still can’t believe writers like Brevoort and Slott are saying they are giving readers what they “need.” That is so incredibly arrogant. No other business would even dream of telling their customers that (albeit, maybe as a sales pitch, but not likes this).
It’s incredibly condescending. All they do is talk down to the fans, and the second you give them a taste of their own medicine they’re running to Tumblr to play the tiniest violin for how badly they’re treated. I may have to do a post on the monstrous hypocrisy of Joe Quesada and his buddies. Their online record of mean Tweets, smarmy Tumblr posts and Facebook rants is well documented.
Thanks for the linkage, Doug!
It defies description, the narcissism these pampered snowflakes possess. It is surpassed only by our commander-in-chief, I suppose.
I can’t believe Slott had the nerve to do the monkey’s paw analogy. Didn’t he ever read that story? The Monkey’s Paw was a Bad Thing, spelled with a capital “E” “V” “I” “L”!
The best wish made with it, tragic as it turned out, was necessary because of the heartache of the first two wishes… none of which would ever have happened had the couple not touched it to begin with. Is he trying to say that readers would be smarter to just quit reading Spider-Man?
Sometimes, it appears as though that’s what he’s doing subconsciously. Haha. 🙂
Or the medicine analogy: I need the medicine he’s offering because it’s “good for me”? How does he know what’s good for me? How does he know what will make me feel better?
To take the analogy literally, I took an antibiotic my doctor prescribed a few weeks back for a sinus infection… only to have to go to the ER the very next day because it turned out I was allergic to the stuff. According to the ER doctor, the best way to treat the infection was to just LEAVE IT ALONE.
So why should Slott assume that leaving Spidey and MJ alone and letting them keep their marriage isn’t “good for me” too?
Thanks for the comment, SQP. I appreciate it. I’m not sure if you read my piece on Tom Brevoort”s “medicine” comment, but I made an analogy you might find quite appropriate:
“Years ago doctors gave women Thalidomide to alleviate nausea during their first trimester. Their babies were then born with arms and legs that were too short and incredibly deformed. If Tom Brevoort were a doctor, he probably would have been the guy who gave out large doses of Thalidomide to pregnant women. Luckily he decided to work at Marvel, where his “medicine” only damages fictional characters and his employer’s reputation.”
I probably haven’t read it yet–I’ve only found your blog a day or two ago via a “related article” that WordPress suggested for one of my own posts.
Hmmm. Interesting. I’m glad WordPress was able to put us in touch!
That Charlie Brown football analogy is wrong for two reasons IMO.
Firstly kicking the football is not the end, it’s the beginning. A good writer would know where to take the story next after kicking the football. Does Charlie Brown go on to play an actual football match? Is Snoopy quarterback? A bad writer wouldn’t know where to take the story next and instead tries to relive past glories (e.g. rebooting the story so Charlie can re-kick the football again and again and again…).
Secondly at some point in time, the story had to move forward, which means the story progressing in a logical order. In the case of the Charlie Brown football analogy, logically Charlie Brown would eventually kick the football and go on to do something else. In the case of writers like Dan Slott, they don’t want the story to progress in a logical order, instead they want to keep on surprising the reader with how clever their plot twists are (e.g. Charlie Brown goes to kick the football only to find it replaced with a watermelon). The difference between the two perspectives is the first actually involves following the rules of narrative whereas the second involves a total breakdown in structure.
It seems to me that the reason why Dan Slott is a “monkey pawer” is that he probably can’t figure out “what do next” when it comes to stories like Peter/MJ (i.e. Charlie Brown kicking the football). This is probably why he is so focused on distracting the audience with plot twists, events and retellings of earlier story lines. When you remove the shine, there’s no substance.
Riablo, that was a thing of beauty my friend.
Don’t bring that kind of intellectual uppercut to Comic Book Resources. “Mr. Mets” will ban you. 😉
“Always giving you what you want, but not the way you want it.”
I always want good stories, but Slott can never seem to find a way to do that.
As for the Charlie Brown analogy, it’s flawed for two reasons IMO. One, one of the specials (“It’s Magic, Charlie Brown”, I believe) actually saw Charlie Brown kick the football. And he didn’t care that no one else would believe it, either. He was completely happy in the end. That special aired in 1981 and the world somehow continued to exist. How shocking.
Some of the posters hit on how this attitude is used to keep Spidey jogging in place instead of moving forward. I agree with that 100%, but I’d also like to chip in something else. To me, Slott’s comments sum up the mentality of most Marvel employees for the last, oh, 20 years or so. Marvel has seemed really hellbent on making Spider-Man fail and suffer, as if that will somehow create nuance and pathos. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a hero failing and suffering. Marvel heroes aren’t supposed to be perfect; they go through rough times like anyone else, Spidey especially. I think today’s Marvel employees try to ape what their predecessors did in an attempt to tell dramatic and meaningful stories, but they fail to grasp why those earlier stories actually worked.
Spidey gets broken all the time, but good writers let him pull himself back together and rise above it instead of leaving him to wallow in misery. They also had a point to the suffering in the first place. Lee and Ditko didn’t have Uncle Ben die to be some cruel cosmic joke at Peter’s expense; it was like a morality play and supplied his core motivation. Being constantly teased at school never stopped being frustrating, but you can see growth if you read those old issues. Peter went from a wallflower who takes a lot of abuse to someone with the confidence to mouth off to his tormentors. Gwen’s death was suitably traumatic, but Peter always had his friends and family to rely on. Writer Gerry Conway even used the experience to look at the depths of Flash and especially Mary Jane. Marv Wolfman did a story where Peter re-encounters the man who killed his uncle and experiences a lot of heavy emotions. Thing is, as Spidey, he gets to settle the score while staying true to his principles, re-dedicates himself to his mission, and even manages to prove to May that he’s not the monster she always thought he was.
Most writers for the last couple decades, though, just keep trying to be cruel for the sake of being cruel (often making Spidey look like an idiot in the process). Take your pick of an example:
“My parents are alive! Yay! Oh wait, they’re robotic fakes as part of some convoluted revenge scheme by someone who’s now dead. Argh.”
“I am the spider! I am deep and dark like those anti-hero guys! Argh!”
“I’m a clone? I’m so angsty and deep, I’m gonna backhand my pregnant wife, feel sorry for myself, and even team-up with the Jackal for a little while. ARGH!”
“Oh no, my wife died in an airplane explosion. At least I have my friends, job, and apartment. Oh wait, my friends have turned their backs on me, I got fired, and I’m homeless. AARGH!”
“My aunt got shot because of my nonsense during Civil War. I’m so mad, I’m gonna blame everyone but myself, shaft my wife, and shake hands with the guy who’s always trying to steal the Silver Surfer’s soul. YAARGH!”
And then there’s all the post-“One More Day” nonsense. Yeesh, I’d rather watch those Marc Webb movies.
Boom. There’s a lot to unpack with that one, although I think you did a good job getting to the heart of the matter.
I totally agree. In some weird way, you can see by the creators’ online behavior that they’re basically thin-skinned angry people, and it bleeds into their work. The problem is more noticeable when you have someone like Dan Slott behind the wheel. By his own admission he doesn’t know what the heck to do: he thinks Peter should be stuck in a Peanuts gang merry-go-round nightmare.
I suppose another way to look at it is that Dan Slott wants to give Peter Parker the “Han Solo frozen in carbonite” treatment. He has this vision of what Peter should be, and he wants to just keep him locked in that state for all eternity. Long-time fans can see all the cool possibilities for Peter if he was allowed to properly age. Sadly, Marvel keeps trying to resist doing the right thing. Comic book time is much slower than reality anyway, so I’m not sure why it’s a big deal. They can write Peter for another 30 years before they’d have to send him out to pasture or do some sort of reboot.
Given the dialog that Slott’s writing on Spider-Man, it does seem that he’s tired of writing the character as his real motivation was bringing is idea of Dr. Ock as Spider-Man a reality. I personally feel that he’s burned out with ASM and wants to focus his time with Silver Suffer. I can not imagine Slott resigning for another 5 years on ASM as he has spent about 8 years on the book so far. And throughout that time, he’s created a lot of new characters as potential love interest for Peter rather than to use other existing characters like Jennifer Walters, for example. If he had used Jennifer Walters and Betty Brant in favor of Mary Jane and Felicia Hardy, that would have been a fun dynamic. Not to mention having the Black Widow and Jessica Drew as frequent guests in ASM, that would have been and interesting story potential. But I do not think that Slott wanted to go there as it’s clear that he doesn’t like Peter Parker in a relationship with a super heroine and would rather put him into forgettable relationships.
I do feel that 2016 might just as well be the last year for Slott’s run one ASM because we can clearly see that his heart isn’t in the character anymore. His interest peeked with Superior Spider-Man, which I feel is really his last Spider-Man story.
If you analyze Slott’s ASM(vol 3) issues #1 to now, you will find that if you put Otto in place of Peter, you might see that the whole story is REALLY a continuation of Superior Spider-Man whereby Otto’s disguising his personality. The result is just plain dumb. Recall in ASM #3 when he encountered the Evil Black Cat, he admitted that he’s Otto Octavius. One could say that everything about Slott’s Spider-Man is really Spock and not Peter, per se.
I see Anna Maria as just a plot device for the return of Dr. Ock and I see the Black Cat’s current status as a crime boss as a set up for the return of the Kingpin…
Thanks for the comment, Dan. You make some astute observations.
I honestly don’t care that much if Otto comes back in some way as “Superior Spider-Man,” provided the real Peter Parker is around. What bothered me the most at the start of that story was that Peter went out like a punk (twice), when it didn’t need to be that way. SSM could have been created in a way that didn’t annoy Peter Parker fans, yet still accomplished the goal of having a spider-powered Ock.
Reading Spider-Verse was painful for a number of reasons, but I guess what may have got me the most is how obvious it is that Dan Slott enjoys writing Otto more than Peter. Again, I’d be fine with that — if he wasn’t writing The Amazing Spider-Man. He needs to be off the book and writing his own separate SSM while a writer who can truly do justice to Peter’s character handles ASM.
The funny thing is, Slott actually stole that condescending line from fellow SJW Joss Whedon, who said the exact same thing regarding the Buffy-Angel relationship on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Fans wanted them to get together, but he refused to do so.
At least they didn’t have their relationship erased by the devil, though; Angel just left town in the third season finale and came back intermittently over the next few years since he had his own spinoff. It’s still pretty stupid that writers think that marriage “ages” the characters. To me, it opens up all sorts of exciting storytelling opportunities.