Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Great Spoiler of '06

[Note: This post contains spoilers for Civil War #2.]

Perhaps it's the question we'll ask each other at some con 20 years down the road: "Where were you when Civil War #2 was spoiled for you?" I was in my Bloglines account, trying to avoid spoilers before I left for the shop. I knew that there had been a leak of some sort in the Retailer Preview Pack the week before, but had studiously avoided the news. This last check, though, I hit upon Comic Foundry and ... well ... I couldn't close the browser window quite fast enough.

The reaction has been pretty strong, especially on the messageboards.

I could only get invested in the debate, if I took it seriously. But I don't - and I'm not intending the standard WeboComicsBlogoNet anti-crossover snark, either. Perhaps there's something wrong with me, but I tend to read by Moore's Dictum: "This is an imaginary story... Aren't they all?"

Perhaps it's my acting background, but I see "character" as eminently mutable. Even defining traits can be interpreted in many different ways. Many see Peter's act as "out of character". For example, there's Tom The Dog:

If there's a plausible -- I said plausible -- reason in the story why Peter would go against 40 years of character development and suddenly both bend over for the government and jeopardize his family's safety, please let me know.

Or MillarWorld poster "Burno":

When would Peter Parker disregard what was his guiding motto in his whole life, responsibility and suddenly put a target on the head of everyone he ever met?

Of course, the other character choice here is that revealing his identity is the responsible thing to do. Responsibility means worrying about greater needs than your own, or even your family's. It's about doing what's right, regardless of personal cost. If Peter believes in the Superhero Registration Act, then this is the responsible action to take.

The other reaction I've seen in a few places is concisely voiced by Newsarama poster "seethruhero":

Bye Marvel. You just lost a long time Spider-man reader. This ruins years of stories.

Millarworld poster "SamMamudi" feels the same:

..the end of MCW#2 basically killed Spider-Man. Oh, sure, there's a guy called Peter Parker who has powers like Spidey did. But the Spider-Man that Lee and Ditko created, and who's been with us for 40 years is gone. I credit Marvel with more integrity than simply planning to retcon this in a year or so, so the unmasked Spidey is here to stay...which, I say again, utterly kills the concept.

I understand the gnashing of teeth here, because the concept of "secret identity" is integral to Spider-Man. It's what makes him tick, more than any other hero (except, perhaps, Superman). The balance of his "lives" is the dramatic tension that's kept the character alive and popular over the years, and without that dynamic the character would be altered past the point of recognition.

On the other hand: It's a storyline. Nothing more, nothing less.

To think this is a fundamental change that will stick with the character is completely contrary to Marvel's track record. Mike's right: this will be retconned quicker than you can say "No more mutants."

And - that's O.K. I'm also not simply dismissing it as a "stunt", because I don't expect it to last. It's a hell of a storytelling beat, should hopefully lead to some interesting situations, and by next summer's release of Spider-Man 3, all the toys will be back in the box. Changes don't need to last forever to be fun reading. Morrison's New X-Men is still a hell of a read, regardless of how quickly Marvel backed away once he left. Peter David's run on Hulk doesn't cease to exist merely because the Big Green One isn't intelligent anymore. And mutants regaining their power within weeks of the end of House of M doesn't mean it sucked.*

I'm enjoying Civil War, and finding myself drawn to the Marvel Universe in a way I haven't for a long time. Hopefully, we get some good stories springing off that last page of Civil War #2 ... that's about all I can ask for.

Because these stories? They're all imaginary.

*OK, it did suck. But it sucked before Bobby got frosty again..


Jason said...

I can’t believe I’m about to do this. Goddamn it.

I’ve actually been enjoying Civil War, I agree with you, I thought the ending for #2 was fantastic and intriguing and will get me to buy some Spider-Man books to see what the writers do with it BEFORE they find some way to change it back in time for Spider-Man 3 so people don’t get confused when they buy the trades in the bookstores.

And here’s where I go all fanboy. Or maybe just editor mode, I don’t know. I don’t feel as dirty if I call it editor mode. If the whole point of the Superhero Registration Act is to get superheroes to quietly register with the government, not to get them to expose their secret identities to the public, what does Spider-Man’s unmasking really do? Keep in mind I’m only reading Civil War so if this is explained elsewhere, I’m sorry. But seriously – I don’t care if it makes sense from a character standpoint. Right now, to me, it doesn’t make sense from a story standpoint.

But in the end, fun stories ahead. I hope. Ends justify the means. I hope.

Mark Fossen said...

If the whole point of the Superhero Registration Act is to get superheroes to quietly register with the government, not to get them to expose their secret identities to the public, what does Spider-Man’s unmasking really do?

I believe it's primarily P.R.

It's a big, bold public statement (engineered by Stark) to gain the public's trust. Stark himself unmasked in Civil War: Front Line.

It's crass and sensationalistic. You are free to determine whether it's Marvel being crass and sensationalistic, or Tony.

I mean ... no one in the federal government would grandstand at a press conference, right? Or do some huge action just to curry points in a Gallup Poll?


You're right - I think that "beat" could have been made clearer.

Martin said...

Where was I when it was spoiled? I was reading the newspaper on the train. The Metro, the British Commuters' Free Paper, had a big article on it on page 5 of Thursday's edition, saying it was in a comic that went on sale the day before.
Regardless of the fact that it went on sale that afternoon in Britain, and thus I didn't know the story.
I'd be fine with it if The Metro hadn't reported on comics a sum total of three times in the past few years, namely to spoil the start and end of Identity Crisis, and to blow Civil War #2's ending. I honestly have no idea why they do it.

John said...

Where was I when it was spoiled?
I was reading last month's issue of Amazing Spider-Man. it ended with Spidey at the podium saying he had an announcement. The reader was left with: will he or won't he? I kinda figured he would.

And I thought that issue did a very good job of explaining why Peter went against his promise at age 16. Those he had sworn to protect both told him to.

Mark Fossen said...

I honestly have no idea why they do it.
Seems obvious - they do it just to screw with you.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Having now read Civil War #2 and Thunderbolts #103, I think it's official: Fabian Nicieza is a far better writer than Millar and Bendis.

Two issues in and Civil War has only hit the high points while leaving the heavy lifting to the tie-ins and spin-offs, which is pretty weak, IMO. It's like Millar came up with a handful of cliffhangers and then tried to build a story around it. Bleh.

Mark Fossen said...

Wow, Guy. Thunderbolts left me utterly dazed and confused. I haven't been reading the title, and though you'd think a big crossiver tie-in should be a good "Welcome, New Readers!" point ... I was utterly lost.

I think that Millar is intentionally hitting the high points - it plays to his strengths, and leaves meat for the tie-ins to chew on. Aren't most crossovers these days like that? Millar's tasked with delivering a big Bruckheimer summer blockbuster ... and I think he's delivering.

Chris said...

Couldn't agree with you more on the Spider-Man thing. It's by far the most interesting thing they've done with the character in a long time, if nothing else.

Mark Fossen said...

Exactly, Chris. It's interesting.

I'm not worried about the character being ruined by it, because I don't think you can ruin Spidey. He's been through a lot since Stan introduced him, and he's held up through it all. He's an amazingly resilient character, and it will take more than Quesada and Millar could possibly muster to ruin him.

Maybe we get some cool stories not about Spider-Gods and eating people's heads.

Seriously - Spidey ate someone's head. And people are worried a press conference will ruin him?

Evan Waters said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Evan Waters said...

I'm in agreement. This is a plot development, and not a bad one so far. It'll go away when they stop getting stories out of it or when sales dip too low.

I think Spider-fandom may be a bit more conservative than some others, if only because of the Clone Saga. Which, really, you can't blame 'em.

tomthedog said...

Good defense, but I still don't buy it. I guess I have to believe you if you say it somehow makes sense within this story, because I've only read a few pages of it, but I just don't believe it makes sense with the long-established history and personality of the character. It reads more as: Millar and/or Marvel editorial first determined to make mainstream news with a "Death of Superman" size gimmick accompanied by a press release, THEN they shoehorned in some plot contrivance to get Peter to arrive at that point. I mean, just that Peter believes in the Registration Act to begin with doesn't jibe.

I'm not a slave to the old. I loved it, for example, when Aunt May discovered Peter's superhero secret. I thought that was a long time coming, and I thought it flowed naturally. This, I think, is an awkwardly fitting sales gimmick, and just doesn't work.

Mark Fossen said...

I mean, just that Peter believes in the Registration Act to begin with doesn't jibe.

There, you may have a point. It does seem like Peter's devotion to Tony and his ideas seems hamfisted, at best. That may be the weak link in the whole chain. I just think that if Peter's devotion is as strong as it's been written, I don't have a problem with him choosing the greater good.

duncan said...

Yeah, I read it in a paper in Rhodes on holiday, where I'd been otherwise, aside from the Moore/CP Smith Wolverine I'd found in a 'supermarket' otherwise utterly unbound from comics. But you can get British papers, and the Record (or whatever garbage it was) somehow managed to reach it's spoiling tendrils out that far.


Anonymous said...

Hey, seethruhero here. Crazy that you qouted me.

I'd state my comment, but hey, you already know my feelings. :)