Spider-Man Part 7: Mary Changed

By Shamus Posted Thursday Feb 28, 2019

Filed under: Retrospectives 117 comments

The next chapter has Peter Parker stop by the F.E.A.S.T.Food, Emergency, Aid, Shelter and Training. homeless shelter. It’s owned by a guy named Martin Li. Mr. Li funds the place and helps run it, but the real management work is done by the eternally elderly and saintly Aunt May. Mister Li is throwing a party to thank Aunt May for her years of ongoing sainthood or whatever it is she does at the FEAST center when she’s not walking on water.

Aunt May

I think there's something wrong with my graphics settings, because Aunt May's halo doesn't seem to be rendering.
I think there's something wrong with my graphics settings, because Aunt May's halo doesn't seem to be rendering.

May is an interesting character because of how unapologetically one-dimensional she is. Usually fans dislike it if a character doesn’t have any flaws. Uncomplicated characters are seen as “boring”. As characters pass from one writer to the next, there’s always the temptation to “make them more interesting” by giving them flaws and secrets and stuffing their closets full of skeletons. But Aunt May never got that treatmentACTUALLY they tried to give her a backstory where she was a super-spy back in the 60s, but that idea seems to have been dropped. I think? I hope so. The whole point of Peter Parker is that he’s just a normal kid in extraordinary circumstances, and that falls apart if you retcon him to be a member of a family of badasses.. She’s been a nice old lady since the beginning. She’s always encouraging and supporting of Peter, and she’s always telling him to do the right thing. She doesn’t have any feuds, grudges, vices, or hangups.

Aunt May works as a character despite her lack of flaws. Then again, she’s usually not treated like a full-blown character. Her status quo doesn’t change very much, she doesn’t have any long-term aspirations, and she’s not involved in interpersonal conflicts the that way Mary Jane or Flash Thompson are. She’s almost an aspect of Peter’s character. She’s the flawless mother figure for him to disappoint, while also acting as his moral center.

Martin Li is Aunt May's boss at the homeless shelter.
Martin Li is Aunt May's boss at the homeless shelter.

She’s got red hair in this version. While that feels a little strange to me, I have to admit it makes some kind of sense. She’s also a little more spry and a little more headstrong than the version I’m used to. On one hand, sure, this is a modern take on the character and makes her look more like an aging baby boomer rather than a white-haired leftover of the Lost Generation that’s still inexplicably walking around in 2018. On the other hand, I’m a fussy and possessive fanboy and I don’t like it when things change.

In this version she’s working at a homeless shelter rather than being a retired homebody. Again, this makes sense. Septuagenarians tend to be more active than I remember them being in the 1970s. I don’t know if that trend is driven by economics, culture, improved quality of life as a result of technological advances in medicine, or the fact that our world has mostly kicked its cigarette habit. In any case this change gets her a little more involved with the story, which is always a good thing.

This Martin Li character seems like a nice fellow. I wonder what his deal is?

The Auction House

I'll talk about the stealth gameplay later in this series.
I'll talk about the stealth gameplay later in this series.

Spider-Man finds out there’s some sort of break-in happening at the auction house where Kingpin is keeping his prized art collection. As Spidey infiltrates the building he encounters a gang of dudes who are speaking Chinese and wearing masks that seem to be inspired by Chinese opera.

Well, I guess Martin Li is a supervillain then? It doesn’t take a lot of genre awareness to know that these Chinese bad guys are probably working for the Chinese guy we just metYou might also hedge your bets and assume there are twin brothers doing a yin / yang thing with Martin being the good one, but as it turns out Martin is both the yin and yang.. In the real world this would be racial profiling, but in the world of comic books where everyone knows each other we can tell this is just the result of the storyteller being economical with their characters.

At this point we get our stealth tutorial out of the way. I’m going to put off talking about stealth gameplay until later in the series, so let’s just knock these dudes out and move on.

Cutscene Ambush

Where did this guy come from? Why didn't he set off our hero's Spider-sense? Why doesn't he shoot Spider-Man when he has the chance? Why is he STILL not setting off his spider-sense? Why does Spider-Man surrender when gameplay has already established that he can dodge gunfire? I know this is a comic book story, but even the funnybooks have rules.
Where did this guy come from? Why didn't he set off our hero's Spider-sense? Why doesn't he shoot Spider-Man when he has the chance? Why is he STILL not setting off his spider-sense? Why does Spider-Man surrender when gameplay has already established that he can dodge gunfire? I know this is a comic book story, but even the funnybooks have rules.

Once the room is 100% clear and there aren’t any goons left, you find a camera sitting nearby. You examine it to start a cutscene where a mook appears behind Spider-Man in this previously-empty room and gets the drop on him without setting off his Spidey-sense. The bad guy then orders Spider-Man to freeze instead of shooting him. Then he’s knocked out by Mary Jane, who apparently just arrived from hammerspace.

I don’t know where this mook came from. Additionally, I don’t know where Mary Jane came from. And finally, why was MJ’s camera hanging here on a shelf and not on her person?

You can tell this was probably written by one of the comics veterans on the team. It shows a very comic-book way of viewing the world. In a comic book, the reader doesn’t have the freedom to explore a room and see that it’s completely empty. In a comic we wouldn’t show the entire room. The artist has control over what gets shown and what doesn’t. The inker might even dump black ink into all the shadows just to make sure the reader knows they’re not seeing the whole picture. Guys can appear from just off-panel and it’s no big deal because there’s always somewhere for foes to hide.

But here in the world of videogames there’s always enough light to see and the player is free to aim the camera wherever they like. They can see the room is definitively empty. Spider-Man even has magical Batman-style detective vision that allows him to see mooks through walls, and this surprise mook wasn’t anywhere near us before this cutscene.

Here's the camera you left laying around for no reason.
Here's the camera you left laying around for no reason.

This game suffers from this problem a lot. You can hear the clutch grind when we shift from “gameplay mode” to “cutscene that runs on comic book logic mode”. Spider-Man is always winning in gameplay and losing in cutscenes. I can’t point to any one scene in particular and say that the scene doesn’t work or is some horrible crime against reason, but the cumulative effect is that I started to resent the cutscenes. As soon as the fade-to-cutscene began I knew it was time for Spider-Man to engage in a little cutscene incompetence or for the writer to put on his wizard hat and cast “summon mook”.

Yes, I realize that stories require tension and you can’t have tension without adversity. I’m not suggesting that Spider-Man should never experience a setback or that his adversaries should never get the best of him. My point is that:

1) Having all the setbacks happen in cutscenes is bad because it makes shift between gameplay and story feel even more artificial.

2) Comic books and videogames have different rules and you need to take this into account when writing. In a comic it’s totally fair to have bad guys appear from the shadows, but in a videogame that’s harder because the player can always see into the shadows, as it were.

My suggestion here isn’t so much, “Never contrive setbacks in cutscenes”, but instead, “Whenever possible, do it in gameplay.” Again, this scene where MJ saves Spider-Man isn’t really a foul on its own, it’s just that over the course of the game this trick starts to get pretty old.

Play as MJ

Martin Li's handwriting evidently uses two different fonts. Also, it's a good thing he circled the name of his arch nemesis. Wouldn't want to forget that!
Martin Li's handwriting evidently uses two different fonts. Also, it's a good thing he circled the name of his arch nemesis. Wouldn't want to forget that!

Spidey and MJ talk and she explains what brought her to the auction house. It turns out this version of MJ is a reporter working for the Daily Bugle, and she was here trying to dig up dirt on Kingpin when the bad guys attacked. She found a top secret file for something called “Devil’s Breath”, but she hasn’t had time to figure out what it is or why they want it.

All of this is revealed in a playable flashback where we control MJ. Later in the series I’ll talk more about these sections of gameplay where you play as people who aren’t Spider-Man.

The dialog between Spidey and MJ reveals that they broke up some months ago and haven’t spoken since. MJ seems happy with how things are going while Spidey is evidently still a bit heartbroken. He’s all nervous stammers and she’s all business.

The Problem With Old Mary Jane Watson

I was too young to have much of an opinion on Mary Jane during this era of the character. I was just a kid and had no frame of reference for how romantic relationships were supposed to work. When she popped up I was mostly disappointed because I wanted to see more super-fights.
I was too young to have much of an opinion on Mary Jane during this era of the character. I was just a kid and had no frame of reference for how romantic relationships were supposed to work. When she popped up I was mostly disappointed because I wanted to see more super-fights.

So in this continuity Mary Jane Watson is a reporter instead of an actress. She works at the Daily Bugle and Peter works for the future Doctor Octopus.

I think this change to MJ’s character makes a lot of sense. I have to admit that as a teenager I was never really a huge fan of the original MJ. Sure, like a lot of the rest of the fanbase I thought she was really pretty. But I was never that interested in her storylines or the drama between her and Peter. She was a glamorous party girl and I never really got what she saw in Peter besides his position as the protagonist. She seemed less like a fleshed-out character and more like a wish fulfillment character.

I think original MJ made for a pretty good girlfriend. Maybe she was out of his league and maybe her circle of friends in the entertainment industry were a little too glamorous for him. Peter can go to their fancy parties and feel like he’s out of his depth. We can contrast the fun and fantasy of MJ’s life with the mundane frustrations and brutal struggles that Peter experiences in his double life. That’s a really good place to put Peter Parker in terms of drama.

The problem is that the writers decided to get these characters married. That was a great move in terms of stunt events to generate buzz and temporary interest, but a horrible move in terms of long-form storytelling.

In 1987, the characters were still walking around with their 1960s clothing and haircuts. It wasn't until the 90s that the creators felt comfortable trying to modernize them.
In 1987, the characters were still walking around with their 1960s clothing and haircuts. It wasn't until the 90s that the creators felt comfortable trying to modernize them.

Getting married changes the whole dynamic of the relationship. If they’re dating then MJ can have conflict where she doesn’t know if she can handle having a boyfriend who is always getting into life-and-death battles. If they get married then she’s essentially made that decision and any further angst over it will make it seem like she’s a dimwit who didn’t think things through. Peter’s insecurities can run wild and he can be nervous that he’s not cool enough to hold onto someone as fabulous as MJ, but once they’re married any further angst just makes him look like an idiot.

If the writer has a great idea for a Black Cat storyline, then that’s easy to do with unmarried Peter. They can just have Peter and MJ break up or fight for a few issues. Then when Black Cat slinks into the picture we can have some proper romantic tension without turning our hero into a cad.

I’m not suggesting you can’t do interesting stories about a married couple where one of them is a superhero. I’m just saying it’s a little harder to write and a little harder for the young audience to relate to. The relationship was always the B story in terms of page space. You didn’t have a lot of room for really complex emotional stuff where the writer explores the give and take of a marriage. Their relationship wasn’t the focus of the comic and I don’t imagine the audience would have been into a drama-heavy exploration of the topic. The MJ stories needed to be simple and broad.

Sure, you can have MJ be disappointed in Peter or feel neglected because he’s always so busy. The thing is, we already have Aunt May to handle those kinds of story beats for us.

Mary Jane started out as a 30-something baby boomer, but as the years went by she matured into a 20-something millennial. Comic books are weird.
Mary Jane started out as a 30-something baby boomer, but as the years went by she matured into a 20-something millennial. Comic books are weird.

On top of this, once Mary Jane became a successful actress it gave the writers less freedom to burden Peter with money troubles. It’s easy to see why a freelance photographer might have trouble paying the bills in Manhattan, but once he’s married to a B-list celebrity it’s reasonable to assume that he shouldn’t have to worry about getting evicted.

Basically, the wedding issue gave them a nice temporary bump in sales while placing constraints of future writers that would make Peter Parker’s life too stable to be interesting. It’s not surprising that they pulled some shenanigans to un-marry them, although it is somewhat surprising that it took them twenty years.

The other problem with the original MJ is that being an actress doesn’t give her much of a connection to Peter’s superhero life. There’s a reason so many superhero supporting characters end up being things like secret agents, private investigators, scientists, computer hackers, or cops. Those people always have a ready excuse for how they could be connected to the latest adventure. But an actress? How is she involved with the maniac trying to poison the city water supply or mind-control everyone using bluetooth headsets? I’m sure you can come up with an occasional angle that will create an adventure where you need the help of someone who stars in Broadway productions, but it’s not a built-in part of the character like it is for Commissioner Gordon, Jimmy Olsen, George Stacy, Vicki Vale, April O’Neil, Sharon Carter, Iris West, Lois Lane, Oracle, or Microchip.

The New Mary Jane Watson

So MJ works at the Bugle and Peter doesn't? Does this mean Peter gets to be a movie star now?
So MJ works at the Bugle and Peter doesn't? Does this mean Peter gets to be a movie star now?

Maybe the idea of a news reporter as a supporting character is played out. Maybe it feels like a cheat to turn her into another Lois Lane. Maybe it makes her less unique as a character, but this is a good change in terms of storytelling. It drags her into the field to get involved rather than stranding her at home.

After the adventure at the auction house, Peter and MJ meet up at one of their old haunts to catch up. We also get our Stan Lee cameo out of the wayHe apparently runs the place.. The story hints that Peter and MJ had a nasty break-up, but doesn’t give us a reason for it just yet.

RIP, Stan.
RIP, Stan.

So now MJ has decided she wants to find out what this Devil’s Breath stuff is and why those armed gunmen were looking for it. At the same time, Spidey is worried about these new mask-wearing goons. Arresting Kingpin created a power vacuum and he’s assuming this is some new gang trying to fill the void.

Next week we’ll catch up with Spider-Man’s quilted nemesis, Shocker.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Food, Emergency, Aid, Shelter and Training.

[2] ACTUALLY they tried to give her a backstory where she was a super-spy back in the 60s, but that idea seems to have been dropped. I think? I hope so. The whole point of Peter Parker is that he’s just a normal kid in extraordinary circumstances, and that falls apart if you retcon him to be a member of a family of badasses.

[3] You might also hedge your bets and assume there are twin brothers doing a yin / yang thing with Martin being the good one, but as it turns out Martin is both the yin and yang.

[4] He apparently runs the place.



From The Archives:
 

117 thoughts on “Spider-Man Part 7: Mary Changed

  1. Mattias42 says:

    Forgot that cut again, friend-o. Whole article on the front-page.

  2. Cubic says:

    I don’t know where this mook came from. Additionally, I don’t know where Mary Jane came from. And finally, why was MJ’s camera hanging here on a shelf and not on her person?

    And why is there a pair of mook tighty-whiteys hanging next to that bra?

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Well played. I legitimately went back up to the pictures trying to find the clothing.

      1. Cubic says:

        Heh heh heh

  3. Philadelphus says:

    Do I actually get to be the one to point out that the entire post is on the front page this time? Huh.

    Edit: annnmnd, ninja’d in the thirty seconds it took me to type that.

  4. CrimsonCutz says:

    I am not a Spider-Man expert, but I feel like there may be some fans of the character who experience an instinctive rage whenever the notion that the marriage limits storytelling options is brought up, however harmlessly. Can’t imagine why though, but maybe someone will explain in the comments if I wait one more day

    1. Mattias42 says:

      I think a big part of it is that the authors keep flip-flopping, and making up silly see-through reasons to split the two up and bring them back again depending if the current author favors single-Spider-Man, or married-Spider-Man.

      One More Day being the most resent one I can actually remember (see what you did there, by the way) but it’s one of those points of the character that keeps getting ret-con after ret-con, and the long-time fans it’s been decades now of that particular band-aid being torn off and replied, again and again.

      So… yeah. Don’t care that much myself, but I can see where the strong feelings come from.

    2. boz says:

      “Marriage limits storytelling” was used to rationalise retconning their marriage via Peter “with great power comes great responsibility” Parker making a deal with the Marvel Universe depiction of the Devil to heal Aunt May (One More Day). Instead of you know getting a divorce. It didn’t help when the person who was responsible for that (Joe Quesada) pushed a brand new romantic interest(Carlie Cooper) for Peter Parker named after his own daughter.

      It was my “yeah I should stop reading this stuff now” moment.

    3. John says:

      If the character has been married for a long time, the idea that the marriage somehow limits story-telling is a little suspect. Sure, there are some stories that you can’t or maybe shouldn’t do with a married character, but it’s not like there are no stories. In fact, I think the evidence has shown that there are at least 20 years worth of stories.

      Also, comic fans hate it when you change the status quo. It doesn’t stop them from rushing out to buy the heavily-hyped limited series that changes the status quo, but the point remains. After 20 years, Spider-Man’s marriage was the status quo. For a considerable number of readers, Spider-Man had never not been married. Those people were inevitably going to be upset when Marvel “fixed” what they did not regard as broken.

    4. Nixorbo says:

      Sure, I’ll acknowledge, since everybody else seems to be answering seriously and I can’t upvote.

      Can’t imagine why though, but maybe someone will explain in the comments if I wait one more day

      ::Slow clap::

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Man, for a moment I thought no one else had noticed.

    5. Viktor says:

      There’s also the problem that you need a variety of characters of various archetypes when you’re dealing with something the size of the Marvel Universe so different audiences can pick up books uniquely suited to them. So you want some old grizzled heroes, some young inexperienced noobs, some rich guys, some with perpetual money trouble, some who are married, some who are single and bouncing between relationships, some who are in UST hell, etc. There aren’t a lot of heroes who are allowed to grow up, get married, and be comfortably domestic, for the reasons Shamus listed, so Peter being removed from that meant that there was now a hole in the “character in a happy stable long-term relationship” slot, with no one likely to fill it.

    6. tremor3258 says:

      Clever.

      On a marriage that had, perhaps, less devilishly stupid plotting; I don’t think marrying Clark and Lois limited Superman’s storytelling, it just changed the options.

  5. PhoenixUltima says:

    I always, always hate it when you clear out an area of enemies, and then a cutscene just magics up some more straight out of hammerspace. It feels like the developer is nullifying all my hard work. “You thought you got rid of all the enemies? Well you missed one, asshole. Where was it? Fuck you, that’s where.”

    It’s especially awful in games where the primary enemies are zombies/zombie analogues. At least when it’s a person you can just say “well they were just really good at hiding, and they had some special tech that evades your detect-o-vision.” Zombies are generally not known for being experts at staying hidden, making use of high tech gear, or even having any sort of intellect or cunning. So when you clear a room of zombies, and use your detect-o-vision to confirm there aren’t any hiding around, and then a cutscene makes a zombie suddenly pop up out of stage left, all I can really do is call shenanigans on the developer.

    1. Shenanigans says:

      You called?

      1. Crimson Dragoon says:

        r/beetlejuicing

        Wait, this isn’t reddit. Damn!

    2. Jabberwok says:

      I get annoyed at any game that takes away gameplay accomplishments through cutscenes, or does anything for story purposes that obviously couldn’t happen if I had control of my character. That just makes me want to stop playing.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Ah, yes. Let’s list the variations:

        1) Congratulations, you beat that really hard boss! Your reward: a cutscene of the boss lazily declaring that they weren’t really trying, incapacitating you with a single attack, and then escaping. Good work, player!

        2) It’s time for a high pressure situation. That mean’s we’re going to take control of your character, make them do something stupid like walk into an obvious trap, then hand back control once all the guards rush in (or similar).
        AKA the ‘Here, fix this situation I messed up for you’.

        3) Oh, you think you killed that character earlier? Big boss fight and everything? Well they’re just back! How? Why? Because Fuck You, that’s how & why!

        …I’m sure I’ve missed some. Summaries on a postcard!

        1. Nelly says:

          4) Kai “cutscene incompetence” Leng turns up. The cock.

        2. Gibberibberish says:

          2) pretty much describes every second cutscene in Dues Ex: HR

        3. baud says:

          4) When the death of the boss happens in a cool cutscene instead of gameplay.

    3. beleester says:

      The proper way to do it is to have the mook ambush you as you *enter* an area instead of after you clear it. For instance, that moment in Arkham City where you grapple on to a ledge, start to climb up, and suddenly get kicked back down by the giant hammer bro for a boss fight. The camera is focused on Batman hanging from the ledge and Hammer Dude is on the other side of a doorway, so there’s no way to see his hiding place in advance. And since you’re just moving from room to room you probably won’t be in Detective Mode.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        Yeah, I thought about that scene too.

        Arkham City is actually so good, it manages to pull the same trick twice with the Abramovici brothers: first when you’re grappling up to Joker’s room, second when you’re blowing up a wall while trying to free Mr Freeze.

        Arkham Origin pulls a similar trick when introducing the Joker (spoilers, I guess). You just cleared a room full of mooks, and now the writer needs you to get stuck in a room with mooks holding you at gunpoint, without forcing you to break stealth in a cutscene or making the mooks appear out of nowhere (which is pretty obvious thanks to detective vision).

        So instead, they have enter the room from above, by blowing up the ceiling. Blowing up a weakened ceiling/wall is an established way of taking down enemies in Arkham game. The HUD tells you that doing so will take out two enemies, which is indeed what happens in the cutscene.

        The games have basically taught you that blowing up that ceiling in a no-brainer, even though in the cutscene it ends up with the Joker’s mooks holding you at gunpoint, allowing the writer to introduce the Joker, and have him immediately run away (after shooting Batman a few times to establish he’s a threat).

  6. JDMM says:

    But Aunt May never got that treatment. She’s been a nice old lady since the beginning. She’s always encouraging and supporting of Peter, and she’s always telling him to do the right thing. She doesn’t have any feuds, grudges, vices, or hangups.

    There has been some of that, generally she’ll start of believing in the Daily Bugle libel of Spiderman and she generally gives people the benefit of the doubt so Doc Ock was able to enter into a relationship with her in early issues

    Anyway on Mary Jane there’s probably something to be said for how her more down to earth relationship has to do with Gwen Stacy but Gwen was far before my time so oh well

  7. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I’m surprised that of all people you Shamus are on the “Peter should have stayed the same forever” wagon. What’s the point of getting invested in his money/relationships problems if he can never get out of them? I’m among the people who want to see comic books character evolve. I believe you can have problems while being married. I can’t imagine that balancing family life and super heroic is that much easier than with an on and off photojournalism career.
    IIRC they made a comic with Peter as a husband and dad, and it was very well received.
    And you can always do else world stories that go back to when he was a teenager once in a while.

    1. Shamus says:

      Keep in mind that I’m half-joking when I make overblown complaints about how the character shouldn’t change.

      In regards to the relationship stuff: It’s not that you CAN’T tell stories about a married superhero, it’s that doing so is off-brand for Spider-Man. Peter Parker is the Charlie Brown of the superhero world. Always struggling, down on his luck, in a bad place, and disrespected by others.

      “I believe you can have problems while being married. I can’t imagine that balancing family life and super heroic is that much easier than with an on and off photojournalism career.”

      If you have him get married to a gorgeous successful famous supportive woman, then it’s REALLY hard to nail that Charlie Brown vibe. Having wealth, unconditional love, and a stable home life really does make it harder to tell stories about someone with lots of personal problems.

      You can argue that after all these decades, Peter needs a new gimmick. That’s fine. But these two ideas:

      1) Peter is married to a gorgeous wealthy woman who supports him.
      2) Peter is a sad mope and everything always goes wrong for him.

      …are fundamentally incompatible over the long term.

      I think making MJ a blue-collar worker would REALLY help. If she has to work at a crappy un-glamorous job, then the Parkers can be a bit like the Parrs from the Incredibles. If he NEEDS to keep doing side-jobs to pay the bills and make sure Pete Jr. has enough money for his trumpet lessons, then you’ve got something to work with, story-wise.

      1. John says:

        I dunno Shamus. I mean, I take your point. But saying that being married is “off-brand for Spider-Man” when Spider-Man has been married for decades just sounds weird. How long does the marriage have to last for it to become part of the brand? 30 years? 40?

        1. Thomas says:

          I’ve heard theres a big rift in the fanbase between people who loved Peter Parker during the marriage years and see him as someone who grew into an adult, and the people who see him as the young Peter Parker most of us are introduced to.

        2. Shamus says:

          I’m arguing that having stable financials and a stable love love and an accepting wife is off-brand. For evidence, I’d offer examples of how the writers kept trying to ignore this. In Maximum Carnage, they turned this wise and fun-loving woman into a cruel harpy, and that didn’t work. They’ve also continued with money troubles, despite the fact that this makes no sense.

          Now, if you want to say that “he’s married, therefore being married is his thing now” then I’m not going to argue with you. My point is that being married to this woman in these circumstances is incompatible with the original Charlie Brown feel of the character. Yes, he’s been married for decades, and during those decades the writers have clearly struggled to reconcile the original character concept with the new status quo.

          1. John says:

            I don’t actually have strong feelings about Spider-Man and am bound to lose any debate that requires me to cite examples from canon. I’m less a Spider-Fan and more a Casual-Spider-Appreciator. My understanding of Peter Parker has always been “spider powers but faces serious but relatable struggles in civilian life”. I guess it doesn’t bother me if his life civilian life goes spectacularly right in one or two ways as long as he’s still struggling in others. It doesn’t seem necessary that he struggle with everything civilian all of the time. As you suggested in an earlier comment, it sounds like the real problem is that his wife is wealthy and not that he’s married.

            1. Guest says:

              That’s the thing though, it is necessary that he struggles. The core Spiderman theme is that it’s worth it to struggle, even if it costs you. That he has an obligation to do these things, because he’s been gifted the ability to help people.

              The struggles tie into that. Peter always has to choose between his personal life and regular real world problems, and being Spiderman. And that contributes to his personal problems, because Spiderman comes first, meaning he’s perenially late, dishevelled, unprepared, and at times, behind on bills, rent etc. It means the people he’s close to always suffer for his heroics. It’s how they get away with having a character who’s a genius, in peak physical fitness, who’s still relatable, and whose personal life creates interesting drama, because being a superhero costs him.

              Part of what makes those great Spiderman moments, when he’s buried under rubble and fighting to lift it, or when he’s sacrificing himself for others, is that he doesn’t have to be there. He’s just some kid, who got it into his head that this is the right thing to do, and everyone he doesn’t save weighs on him. Everything is a mess for him, and he’s got every reason to be trying to sort that stuff out, and instead, he goes out and gets beaten to a pulp on the regular. Makes it a lot less relatable if, like Batman, he’s independently wealthy and doesn’t have to worry about work or anything because his wife has the income to provide while he spends his time Spidermaning, and that wife is also a bit of a socialite and makes his life more glamourous.

          2. Michael says:

            “They’ve also continued with money troubles, despite the fact that this makes no sense [when Peter is married to a successful actress].”

            I don’t see the problem there. People spend more money than they actually have at all levels. Plenty of the richest of the rich have run themselves into the poorhouse. And a party-hardy actress seems like a pretty normal candidate for that kind of behavior.

        3. krellen says:

          Being married isn’t off-brand. Being married to a supportive, successful woman is.

          If Peter Parker is to continue being the average schlub of comics, then his marriage needs to also be an average marriage. Marriage to superstar actress Mary Jane Watson is not an average marriage. Marriage to struggling-actress-but-mostly-just-a-waitress-at-the-local-cafe Mary Jane Watson is the average marriage Peter Parker should have.

          It’s kind of like how Hollywood typecasts people. Remember how Robin Williams tried to break away from his funny-man brand near the end, playing villains and performing in all sorts of dark themed films? Sure, he was brilliant in them, because he was brilliant, but it was extremely off-brand for him and ticket sales showed it. No one wanted to see a Robin Williams who wasn’t the funny-man (which might have contributed to his depression, but that’s not what we’re talking about,) because his brand was being the funny-man.

          It’s extremely hard to change your brand.

          1. Shamus says:

            “Marriage to struggling-actress-but-mostly-just-a-waitress-at-the-local-cafe Mary Jane Watson is the average marriage Peter Parker should have.”

            Oh man. That looks like a bunch of awesome stories waiting to happen. She can be forever on the verge of her Big Break, but then some superhero drama or some family problems interfere. Pete would feel pressured to make more money, since that would enable MJ to quit her job and focus on acting full time.

            Pete Jr. needs picked up from school. Peter offers to pick the kid up so MJ can go to her audition. Along the way he runs into Rhino and the kid winds up stranded at school. Someone calls MJ, who has to bail on the audition just as her turn comes up.

            1. Kylroy says:

              Bingo. Having characters change can open up new story angles and new insights – but it has to be thematically consistent with what came before. I would argue Peter being married to a *supportive* woman would still be on-brand, but not a financially successful one.

            2. armagrodden says:

              Was MJ ever really THAT successful an actress? I remember her as being more of an “off-Broadway plays, modeling gigs, and the occasional Sci-Fi original movie” sort of actress. She was acting more or less full time, but I never got the impression that she was making a lot of money off it. Of course, I also wasn’t a huge reader of Spider-Man comics, so my memory is probably flawed.

            3. Steve C says:

              The stress over Spiderman that MJ hides with a smile has just caused a miscarriage. Which cuts short the whole “omg mutant-spider-baby” arc that worried the hell out of them and put them at odds with their X-Men buddies.
              Kick that football Charlie Spiderman.

              In the real comics did Peter at least have issues with in-laws? Or MJ not being able to live up to Angel May?

              I hope in the game where MJ is a reporter also had her worried about her print media job vanishing at any moment.

            4. Leviathan902 says:

              This. 100% this. Krellen really nailed it. There’s a lot of interesting drama to be mined from marriage, anyone who’s been married long knows this (as I’m sure you do Shamus).

              I think you could even still have a moderately successful Mary Jane actress and still have plenty of interpersonal issues that can create drama. Hell my wife and I have plenty of money, and we still have personal struggles. That being said, I do think the Scenario outlined above is more interesting.

              This is one of the reasons I was so pissed off about the Batman-Catwoman wedding this past summer. There was a LOT of interesting drama to be mined from a no-compromises superhero being married to a on-again-off-again supervillain AND a son who was a former villain now acting as Robin and what kind of struggles they might have. It was a scenario loaded with potential drama and Tom King blew it up so we can get more “Batman is Sad”. Ugh.

          2. John says:

            Is “average schlub” really the right way to describe Peter Parker? He invented web fluid and and web shooters while he was still in high school. He’s clearly some kind of genius. I think Peter was intended to be relatable rather than average, but I’ll allow that, yes, being married to aspiring actress Mary Jane is more relatable than being married to celebrity Mary Jane.

            Speaking of Mary Jane, was she always a celebrity? Rather, was she a celebrity when they got married or did that happen later?

            1. Shamus says:

              Peter has problems that make him relatable. He has to do laundry, pay his electricity bill, balance his relationships, and placate his jerk boss. That’s an angle you don’t see with a lot of superheroes, who mostly seem to exist in a state where they don’t need to worry about time, money, or dealing with mundane non-super family problems.

              1. Daimbert says:

                Admittedly, though, Marvel always leaned more that way than most others. Captain America, for example, had a day job (he was an illustrator). For most of the others, it’s not the good things that let them out, but more that if they tried to fit into real life things would go … badly for them. There are only a few who could live normal lives but don’t have to (Stark, Strange, and so on).

        4. Guest says:

          You’re kind of ignoring what he said (Like a lot of people bringing up this complaint),

          Marriage would be fine, but if Spiderman is the everyman hero, “With Great Power”, then why give him a marriage which doesn’t fit that archetype. It’d be easy to write a loving relationship where Peter and MJ scrape by and don’t have a lot, and it ties back into the self-sacrificing, stepped-on-by-the-universe, Spiderman.

          Marrying him to a wish fulfilment character which looks like the writers getting through some things (That sick-bed panel…. yikes), who removes income issues from the character, and also makes him a lot less relatable, when relatability is his selling point? Not so good. It’s actually a reason I like this version of MJ more. You get little moments of domesticity like the cooking scene, that look like two young people getting by. It’s a lot easier to justify that when she’s not a successful actress.

      2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I don’t exactly disagree, but I still offer the following refutation:

        Wurthering Heights exists, and people still have sympathy for Heathcliff.

        Now, I wouldn’t want to read Peter Parker as Heathcliff. I’d barely want to read Peter Parker as Rochester (different Bronte sister, I know). But it could be done, and apparently quite successfully.

      3. Daimbert says:

        “What The?!?” explicitly made a joke about this with “Doc Simpson” (essentially, Doc Sampson the therapist transposed with Homer Simpson) talking to Peter about his problems and being mildly sympathetic until Peter shows the pictures of his wife at which point Doc Simpson goes off on him about claiming to have problems when he has a wife like that.

        That being said, I like Mary Jane as originally written because it’s a REPRIEVE from the general crappiness of his life. No matter how much everything ELSE goes wrong he has a gorgeous, supportive wife who knows he’s Spider-Man and thus has a stable relationship out of it. It can stop him from being too emo and allow the works to focus on his overwhelming sense of guilt and responsibility but knowing that he has support to bring him out of it.

        I also think a lot of other people liked it because it let them break out of the “Charlie Brown” bit somewhat, or at least let him grow up into other jobs, like teaching. He can’t really stay a teen forever.

        1. Kylroy says:

          I think having her be a supportive, loving wife is important – in part because it maintains Peter having a loving home life, which he had with Aunt May. But having her be so fabulously successful that they never need to worry about making rent again changes the character pretty substantially.

          1. Daimbert says:

            Yeah, making her internationally famous, as some things tended to do, was a bit overboard. But a lot of the works make her simply mildly successful, which is reasonable enough. Her having a job good enough that they were comfortable and so generally didn’t have to worry about making the rent allows them to drop that aspect of it to focus on others.

            1. tremor3258 says:

              One of the Diane Duane novels had their cell numbers having been spoofed, and even though MJ has a soap opera bit part at the moment, assuming they can get the charges contested, etc., and untangled it’s still going to be a very, very bad month for them financially.

              I’m slightly oversummarizing but despite some pretty good photo sales last novel it put MJ and Peter back temporarily in the screwed column.

              1. Daimbert says:

                That’s the same trilogy as I mentioned elsewhere, I think. She was supposed to do a hand commercial but got a cut on her hand, which led to a voice acting role.

                Yeah, all you need to do is tone down her success a bit and tone up their bad luck and things work. And, really, them being totally screwed does get old after a while, and gets in the way of other storylines that they might want to focus on.

      4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        Strongly agree on the fact that they need to done down the wish fulfillment aspect of Mary Jane, and make her more down to earth. A newlywed couple in a dingy apartment with a kid is a pretty relatable and conflict rich environment. I don’t even mean necessarily relationship conflicts, I wouldn’t want MJ and Peter to bicker constantly, but just keeping food on the table and later on the kid happy and clothed.
        About MJ’s role as an emotional and moral support being redundant with Aunt May… We’ll I’d have Aunt May die of old age honestly. That’s also part of life.
        I disagree that Peter is a “sad mope”, he’s a guy who constantly has a ton of crap to deal with but he keeps soldiering on and try to keep it light. Allowing him to not be stuck in place forever is what makes his misfortune engaging instead of just depressing.

      5. Supah Ewok says:

        I mostly know Spider-Man through related media rather than comic books, but I thought MJ was a Broadway actress? There’s a big difference in money and fame between a movie star and someone who’s gotten a couple of hit supporting roles on Broadway.

        1. Daimbert says:

          It varies. Sometimes she’s a model, sometimes she’s a TV or movie actress, the Raimi movie had her doing Broadway …

          One of the best hooks I saw for her was in one of the novels, where she was having a hard time getting roles and ended up auditioning for voice acting. That sort of thing is enough to require talent and pays reasonably well, but isn’t “We’re rich!”.

        2. Shamus says:

          The last time I heard, comic MJ was an actress on “Secret Hospital”, a daytime soap opera.

          That’s not “Hollywood superstardom” or anything, but it should be enough that they’re not getting evicted from a crappy apartment.

        3. krellen says:

          The newspaper strip I used to read growing up described her as his “super-model wife”. While maybe the phrase has faded in time, at the time “super-model” only applied to models who were fabulously successful.

  8. BlueHorus says:

    I don’t know where this mook came from. Additionally, I don’t know where Mary Jane came from.

    They were hiding in the Dramatic Entrance Dimension, naturally. It teleports in people as required.
    Fun Fact: You can also tell how important a side character is by counting the number of ordinary mooks they knock unconscious/kill in their introductory cutscene.

    In 1987, the characters were still walking around with their 1960s clothing and haircuts. It wasn’t until the 90s that the creators felt comfortable trying to modernize them.

    Please don’t remind me…

    1. Modran says:

      They were hiding in the Dramatic Entrance Dimension, naturally. It teleports in people as required.

      Oh, so they were DED on arrival, then.

      I’ll see myself out.

  9. Joshua says:

    “One on hand” should be “On one hand”.

  10. Redrock says:

    Mary Jane in this game annoys me for the same reason Lois Lane does – I very much dislike the depiction of journalists in comic books and comic book adaptations. This whole idea of a reporter being basically a detective with infinite sources and the ability to sneak and spy and then still use the footage for actual journalism is bad enough, but writers also tend to create those characters with huge chips on their shoulders and the result is just aggravating on every level. I get the desire to make MJ actually useful and competent, I really do, and I think the game handles this task better than the comics which just settled for making her Pepper Potts-lite. But still, it’s such a tired and annoying cliche. Also, since this is a different timeline and all, why not just go with Gwen Stacy?

    1. Viktor says:

      The fact that all anyone remembers of Gwen Stacy is her death is one of the worst things for the Spider-Man mythos. She was an established, deep* character with a lot of fan investment, which is why her death was such a big deal. Now, any time she’s introduced in an AU or movie, there might as well be a timer floating over her head counting down until she gets thrown off of something.

      Which is to say, Gwen will never get used for anything that they could use MJ for unless they plan to kill the character off.

      *for the medium and the time period

  11. decius says:

    When the story demands a setback, neither the option of doing it outside of gameplay nor the option of enforcing it within gameplay is a good solution.

    The problems of doing it in a cutscene are well-explained enough not to rehash them. But forcing a defeat within the gameplay is even more problematic- One option is to make the challenge infinitely difficult, like “defeat an infinite number of waves of enemies or be defeated to trigger the next scene”. That’s unsatisfying to people who are skilled enough to defeat a very large number of waves of enemies. Another option is to make the challenge impossible, like “This enemy will always damage you no matter how good your gameplay.” That is ‘shift-ctrl-esc alt-e enter’-inducing to players who are skilled enough at the game that they were playing until it broke the rules.

    A third option is to not have perfect play be a thing- present an encounter that, according to the established rules, always results in setback. But that, in the name of giving players agency to play through their setback, removes from them the tool ‘avoid the setback with sufficient skill’.

    None of those are better than having a bunch of enemies, one unblockable unevadable unhittable enemy, or an undefeatable enemy attack you in a cutscene. All of them involve harming the gameplay.

    One solution I see is to have the mandatory setbacks occur where the player agency is not. Instead of a mook appearing behind you and performing an unbeatable (either because it’s a cutscene or because the rules are different in the scene or because the lower limit of the resources lost to win the fight is greater than the upper limit of resources available) attack, Spider-Man finds an envelope containing a picture of Aunt May tied to a chair, along with instructions about how to surrender. Mary Jane can still appear and save the day.

    1. beleester says:

      There are a few other options. One way is, if the player has somehow survived the “unwinnable” fight for too long, to jump into a cutscene now that they’ve gotten a feel for how impossible the battle is. If you’ve defeated 100 enemies and they still keep coming, it no longer feels like a cheat to jump into a cutscene where the player character gives out from exhaustion.

      Tales of Symphonia does this with Yggdrasil – if by some miracle you’re still standing after a few minutes of fighting him, he’ll jump into a cutscene and finish the job. (Which is actually a good thing, as otherwise you might burn all your single-use healing items trying to survive the fight.)

      I think unbeatable enemies are fine so long as you’re not betraying the player’s trust in the *mechanics.* You want the gameplay to signal “You’re losing because this guy is simply out of your league”, which is a story concern, rather than “You could have won this fight if you did enough level grinding” or “You’re losing because this guy arbitrarily ignores the block mechanic,” which are gameplay concerns.

      Metal Gear Rising does this twice, first with the fight Jetstream Sam fight and then with Senator Armstrong. You deal a hilariously low amount of damage to them, while they can stagger you in a few hits. And they move and animate in very non-boss-like ways that make it clear they’re not taking it seriously. But they don’t arbitrarily *break* rules – you can still parry or dodge them, you can still land hits, it just won’t do you any good.

      And the rematch, by contrast, makes it clear that they’re real bosses – the fight is presented with more drama, their attack patterns change to more conventional boss-like actions, and the damage dealt becomes much more reasonable on both sides.

      1. Syal says:

        If you’ve defeated 100 enemies and they still keep coming, it no longer feels like a cheat to jump into a cutscene where the player character gives out from exhaustion.

        Yes it does. It’s bad form for unwinnable fights and it’s bad form for my characters to express difficulty in post-victory cutscenes. I know how hard the fight was, the game should never try to tell me otherwise.

        Otherwise I agree. Unwinnable fights are fine if telegraphed; just make the player do 0 damage, or have the boss dodge everything, or give the bad guy a ridiculous health bar with the fight ending at 9/10 health, then transition to cutscene with some kind of escalation on their end.

        1. Shamus says:

          I’d also add:

          The player is more likely to accept defeat to a foe with proper narrative weight. If the story has sold me on the idea that Dr. Destructo is TOO POWERFUL and I can NEVER BEAT HIM, and if he seems like a cool villain, then the cutscene loss isn’t too bad.

          If you have me lose in a cutscene to a single mook when I just wiped the floor with a dozen identical guys? Not so much.

        2. John says:

          I don’t mind clearly telegraphed unwinnable fights. I do mind clearly telegraphed unwinnable fights that nevertheless go on forever. One of the many ways Disgaea 2 annoyed the heck out of me was by pitting me against a clearly unbeatable boss in a fight that somehow lasted over five minutes, despite the fact that I was trying to lose and get it over with as quickly as possible.

          For the record, I also mind clearly telegraphed unloseable fights that nevertheless go on forever. Disgaea 2 compounded its unbeatable boss fight by following it with a temporary power-up for one of my characters and an un-not-beatable boss fight that, again, lasted over five minutes even though the outcome was a foregone conclusion from the start.

          1. Daerian says:

            Disgaea 2 “unbeatable” boss is fully beatable, this is how you get one of secret endings this series is known for.

      2. decius says:

        And what does MGR do if you win those fights despite the difficulty? If you can parry and dodge and do small amounts of damage…

        You get the ‘I won the very hard fight and then lost it in a cutscene’ result.

        I will point out the one example that did it right: Super Metroid. The first time, vs. Ridley in the prologue, a TAS can win. If you do, Ceres Labs’ self-destruct activates. Later on, Ridley’s room is empty. The other time, vs Mother Brain, Mother Brain breaks the convention of ‘attacks can, at least in principle, be avoided’ to transition between the combat section and the cutscene section. The result is ‘The boss was holding back until you threatened to win, and then pulled out all of the stops’. The equivalent would be a boss starting to take you seriously and suddenly making unblockable undodgable attacks to set you up for the cutscene.

        The problem with doing that to set Mary Jane up to rescue Spiderman is that it requires that some enemy be powerful enough that Spider-Man has no chance to avoid defeat but Mary Jane can plausibly defeat. A glorified mook with cutscene powers can plausibly be defeated by a surprise attack, but not one who is immune to Spider-Man’s attacks and who can penetrate all of Spider-Man’s defenses.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I can’t speak to the initial Sam fight (I was so bad at the parry system at that point that I failed on every attempt), but Senator Armstrong’s fight is multi-staged and on a timer, so it may be impossible to accrue enough damage before the next phase of his and Raiden’s Internet argument commences.

          On the other hand, the battle before that ends with you chopping up an enormous spider-mech with one of its own limbs, so the Armstrong fight may be considered an anticlimax no matter what.

        2. beleester says:

          I’m pretty sure it would take a literal hour of perfect parrying to kill those bosses with that low damage, so I don’t think I’d worry about a human ever experiencing that result in practice. But I looked it up and it turns out the game will eventually go to the next cutscene if you survive for too long, so it’s a moot point. The game “fails safe,” so to speak.

          As for Super Metroid, if it requires a TAS to win, that doesn’t mean anything in terms of player experience. The only thing a human player will ever experience is shooting uselessly at Ridley for a while, followed by him cutscening out of there once your health gets too low. It’s almost exactly the same as the MGR experience, just with an angry space dragon instead of a handsome cyborg.

      3. Pax says:

        Of course, one problem with these solutions is that you can’t have Mary Jane dramatically appear to save Peter when it’s unlimited mooks or a not-beatable-until-later badass. I think the better solution in this case might be to throw Spider-Man off so he’s not ready to be ambushed. Have Spider-Man find a trail of blood that concerns him, which ultimately leads him to a camera that he specific recognizes as belonging to MJ. Maybe intercut it with glimpses of the last mook who went out to pee while the fight happened stumbling back in, seeing his downed buddies, and then following the carnage to a distracted Spider-Man. That’s a lot more complicated though. Maybe just have the cutscene start at the door so that the player doesn’t get to see what or who is in it first.

    2. Syal says:

      In this case, it doesn’t look like the story even demands a setback. You can have Spider-man sense the guy, turn around, explain to him that he can dodge bullets, he just beat up a roomful of dudes and this guy’s got no chance, and then Mary Jane clocks the mook on the head.

      1. Dan Efran says:

        That seems much more in character.

        1. Thomas says:

          I think they wanted to start the scene with MJ having saved Peter, and Peter greatful and off balance.

          Realistically, in the comical and films and cartoons whenever they wanted Peter to lose or even momentarily feel vulnerable and not invincible they’d just throw in something like this and have Peter not be able to handle it all of a sudden. Sometimes in a story the bad guy needs to land a punch.

          In a game it feels much more jarring, because you have to transition to a cut scene to do it. (Unless you’re Naughty Dog)

          1. Kylroy says:

            Honestly, I like the image of Peter transitioning straight from coolly confronting a man with a gun trained on him to stammering in front of MJ.

            1. Shamus says:

              That’s a really good point. That moment is a perfect encapsulation of the Peter / Spider-Man divide.

            2. Olivier FAURE says:

              That is a funny idea.

      2. Blake says:

        Or if they really want MJ saving him to show how good and useful she is, have Pete walk into a room and OH NO IT’S A TRAP, he’s surrounded by electricity with a mook on the conveniently placed power switch.
        He goes to shoot at Spidey when MJ bops the baddie with her camera, says something witty, then deactivates the trap after rubbing it in Petey’s face for a moment.

        1. Syal says:

          The thing about that is, “ordinary person saves superhero” requires either a whole lot of setup, or a lot of suspension of disbelief, and… what do you get for it? If we want to set up MJ as a badass, what’s the follow-through? Is she going to keep saving Spider-Man, or are we eventually going to transition back to her being an ordinary person?

          The only reason to have an ordinary person save a superhero is to show that the hero was underestimating the villain. If we’re mainly trying to make MJ look good, just make her proactive and confident.

      3. CrimsonCutz says:

        Am I the only one who didn’t get the sense that scene was supposed to seem like any sort of setback? Spider-Man didn’t notice the guy right away, then when he did he turned around and started joking like usual. There’s a cutscene later that shows he really doesn’t take a gun pointed at him very seriously because he expects he can just web it out of the persons hand before they can react (which ends up backfiring on him in that case, because comic book stories love forgetting that their heroes are superhuman…but I digress). It struck me as more just another irrelevant mook showing up that Spidey felt like chatting with briefly, then MJ got involved. Her help seemed appreciated but hardly necessary.

  12. Liessa says:

    The problem I had with Li’s goons was not them being Chinese, but the sheer number of them. Where on earth is Li / Mr. Negative finding this endless supply of psychotic, murderously aggressive Chinese guys in an otherwise ordinary New York? And the masks, where did he get all those? I know it’s revealed later that he can mind-control people (or something like that, gave up watching around that point), but it’s still even less believable then the hordes of mobsters willing to fight to the death for Wilson Fisk.

    1. guy says:

      He’s smuggling them in from China via one of the Demon warehouses in shipping containers.

      1. Liessa says:

        I assume you mean the masks, rather than the people. So these things are mass-produced? I thought they were ancient artifacts or something? (Admittedly I could be wrong about that, I don’t remember the story all that well.)

        1. guy says:

          Both, actually. He couldn’t get visas for his army of minions so he had them hide in shipping containers and get delivered to a warehouse. As for the masks, I’m not sure if it’s specified but I think the vast majority of them are modern creations infused with Li’s power.

          1. Shamus says:

            Correct. When Peter asks him about the mask later, Li says it’s a replica.

          2. Liessa says:

            That… raises a whole lot of other questions… but OK, whatever. Comic Book game. *sigh*

  13. Biggus Rickus says:

    I’m not sure ensuring failures in gameplay is a better option to doing it in cutscenes. I agree that it’s frustrating when the cutscene doesn’t match your experience in game, but it’s no less frustrating to encounter a situation you can’t win no matter how good at the game you are just because the designers need you to fail this particular mission. Ideally, the adversity experienced by the player would be tied to the gameplay itself (see: Dark Souls). With a Spider-Man game – where people expect story via cutscenes – that’s not a solution, and I’m not sure how you could fix this problem. The only imperfect solution I can come up with off the top of my head is to take care that all of the failures in cutscenes make sense. It will still conflict with the gameplay, but at least a mook wouldn’t get the drop on Spider-Man.

    1. Matthew Downie says:

      Some forced defeats are better than others.

      Defeat the boss; it is revealed that there was a secret trap in the room that puts a barrier between the two of you. He staggers away, threatening vengeance.

      Defeat the boss again and hand him over to a policemen, who later turn out to be corrupt and working for him.

      These are less annoying than, “Hero suddenly becomes incompetent and makes bad decisions.”

      1. Biggus Rickus says:

        That’s kind of what I was getting at with “all of the failures…make sense.”

  14. Asdasd says:

    You could have called this update, ‘Jesus and Mary Changed’. I mean, it would’ve been a bad idea, but you know, you could’ve.

    1. Chuk says:

      That would be psycho.

  15. Geebs says:

    2) Comic books and videogames have different rules and you need to take this into account when writing. In a comic it’s totally fair to have bad guys appear from the shadows, but in a videogame that’s harder because the player can always see into the shadows, as it were.

    Unless that videogame is Doom 3, of course.

  16. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I get why comic books are always status quo -though I don’t like it. I think part of why I don’t like comic books is because I realized at a certain point that Peter Parker was never going to get Mary Jane. Which meant that the story I wanted to see was the football, and I was Charlie Brown. (By the time I was reading, they had been married, but then Marvel had undone it -so even when I got to kick the ball, they still pulled it away.)

    Many shows have been killed by this. Moonlighting, Scarecrow and Mrs. King. I don’t get why. Yes, married couples have different problems, but they still have problems! If you want to tell new stories, this ought to be a great way to do it. Have Black Cat show up during a time when MJ is off touring, and Peter has to keep his marriage vows while Black Cat’s probability distortion field keeps dropping him in her lap. Something like that. Yes, different drama, but still doable.

    This is why I think there should be periodic reboots -or we should just go to straight mythology for comic books. Don’t try to establish a history, don’t try to sort out a family tree (Lord knows trying to do that for Greek mythology is nearly impossible, as every city has its own version of the Heracles story, and of the Trojan War, and which god banged which mortal…) just tell stories, and then end the run and say “next time, a new author will tell a different spin on the characters.”

    1. Gautsu says:

      This is why I stopped liking Spiderman, when for lack of a better expression, I “grew up”. Logan has been allowed to grow. Steve Rogers has been allowed to grow. Tony Stark has been allowed to grow. Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Clark Kent, Diana Prince, Barry Allen, Hal Jordan have all been allowed to grow (shit even Guy Gardener has). For a great comparison to Peter Parker/Spiderman, look at Richard Rider/Nova’s arc from his beginnings through the Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning cosmic stuff. He turned from another teenager from New York granted superpowers, to being a shellshocked, universal war commander who rips Annhilus’s spine out through his mouth. His problems as Nova Prime we’re different than when he was Kid Nova, but no less compelling for finally graduating from the teen and relationship angst. But every time Peter reaches adulthood or some kind of marker, Marvel reset’s him. I know Jim Butcher is not everyone’s favorite author like he is mine, but I find it very telling that his Spiderman novel is based on the time where Peter and MJ are married and happy, and not the young struggling Peter everyone seems to want.

  17. Thomas says:

    I was expecting a huge outcry over the change to MJ. The fact there wasn’t is a testament to the skill of the writers, that they could remix Spiderman lore in a way that was very different but still felt right.

  18. Agammamon says:

    What I want to know is, based on that last screenshot, how these guys managed to do a good copy of Stan Lee but the people making Rogue One couldn’t do it with Leia or Tarkin.

  19. Original-flavor MJ wasn’t just an actress, she was a Broadway theater actress, an incredibly stationary and time-consuming profession. They could have modernized her and made her popping up constantly a lot more plausible by keeping the actress part, only she’s a YouTube “reality” star trying to break into the big leagues. This would give her just about any conceivable excuse for doing weird stunts at strange hours in strange places. And it wouldn’t turn her into a cheap Lois Lane knockoff.

    Also “married people are boring” is a baseless canard. If MJ is an actress she probably keeps all kinds of crazy hours. If anyone would be complaining, it’d be Peter. He could stop working his crap jobs (and would probably have to), and web-slinging was only ever a part time thing for him anyway. Instead, he’d be fighting to get time with MJ without her publicist, dresser, makeup consultant, stylist, agent, security guards, paparazzi, etc. etc. etc. constantly being in the way. His love life would be in TMZ. Crime-fighting would probably start to seem like a relief.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Late to the party but I wanted to say that I love the YouTuber idea, it brings so many possibilities to the table. I mean woulnd’t MJ be tempted to use her access to Spider-Man to boost her popularity? Would it cause tension with Peter? Would she go behind his back taking advantage of her knowledge (admittedly Lois Lane did that already)? What if Spidey swings in through an open window when she’s on webcam? What if we’re having one of those arcs when the public turns against Spider-Man and she feels she needs to use her “(minor) internet celebrity” status to defend him and faces backlash?

      Not to mention all the things that could just stem from her being an internet celebrity, admittedly there was at least one case of a stalker arc that I remember already but still, if we want to be current and topical than stuff like cyberbullying or stalking on the internet, or being perceived as earning her popularity through her pretty face are possible topics.

      1. It’d also potentially be an opportunity to set MJ up with a rival who is more popular than she is, but also obnoxious and cruel, and who is always trying to one-up her, and who starts a rumor that she’s only faking her interactions with Spider-man.

        You could get into some quite complex territory where Peter has concerns about MJ inadvertently busting up his secret identity, but he’s also trying to help her establish that she’s the Official Channel for Spider-man news. Could be a fun plot.

  20. Boobah says:

    ACTUALLY they tried to give her a backstory where she was a super-spy back in the 60s, but that idea seems to have been dropped. I think? I hope so. The whole point of Peter Parker is that he’s just a normal kid in extraordinary circumstances, and that falls apart if you retcon him to be a member of a family of badasses.

    Thanks, Shamus. I’d almost managed to forget about Mar-Ville. *shudder*

    No. If you don’t know, don’t ask.

  21. trevalyan says:

    I’m not sure it’s possible to discuss the meta of Spider-Man without talking about “Into the Spider-Verse” anymore. The movie is a masterpiece of integrating the major parts of the Spider-Man legend, and one of the big ones is the Parker marriage.

    As Peter ages, he can’t have the same struggles he did as a teenager. He either needs new struggles, which are easy enough to make, or needs soft reboots every so often. I personally have lived through two Spider Man Origin movies in two decades, which is taking the piss! The last one I watched was the third in two decades. But it was worth watching, for demolishing the idea that Peter Parker needs to be a stagnant figure.

  22. Christopher says:

    I found Mary Jane pretty frustrating. On one hand, she’s a fun character with a lot of good banter and some cool chemistry with Pete. On the other hand she basically isn’t the same character anymore at all except for the name and some reddish hair(ginger this time out, not comic booky red). It really is just Lois Lane with a different skin. We’ll be getting to it eventually I bet, but the core of this game is Spidey learning to rely on his friends and not try to do everything on his own. To this effect, they needed MJ and the other characters to be pretty active. May has a job. Watanabe is now his first oracle, with others eventually chiming in.

    But it just adds up to, in practice, some really shallow forced stealth sections with regular humans and a rotating cast of Oracles in your ear. In a game where you just wanna be Spider-Man, I don’t think this direction really does much for the gameplay. And while I like this MJ, I think she’s pretty like, dumb, compared to the old one. There’s this whole story arc about co-operation and being out in the field with Spidey, but it’s like a fireman’s girlfriend coming with him to put out fires in burning buildings. Like what are you doing? I appreciate that this shows how Pete grows and learns to trust in others and stuff, but you used to have your own job. Stop trying to hog mine.

    I don’t think you really need to have the supporting cast involved in all the crimes going on, either as victims or as crimefighters. They’re there as part of Peter’s life, you know. Not as part of Spider-Man’s. He can have drama and stand them up and try to help them out without the Shocker harassing one of them.

    But if you were gonna go for this angle, then an already active crimefighter like Black Cat or Carlie Cooper makes much more sense than shoehorning Pete’s old job onto MJ. It’s like they just wanted the MJ handle for name recognition without looking for who fit the story they wanted to tell.

    None of this was a dealbreaker for me, but this is definitely a part of their game where I just don’t agree that this is the best idea for either the gameplay or the characters.

  23. MaxieJZeus says:

    Cut scenes and failures: Is the problem one of inserting failure into the cut scene, or is it with the way that the failure has been inserted into the story?

    Okay, everything that follows is hypothesis. I legit want to know if people think it’s reasonable.

    There are a number of places in “Batman: Arkham Asylum” where the player is handed a defeat in a cut scene after having cleaned up in game play. Do these frustrate the same way that “magically appearing mook” frustrates?

    1. Batman tries to catch up to the Joker right after his escape. He catches up in gameplay, but loses him in a cut scene.

    2. Batman tries to catch up to Frank Bowles. He succeeds in gameplay, but Frank is revealed to be dead in a cut scene.

    3. Batman tries to find the Titan formula before the Joker can. He succeeds in gameplay, but in the cut scene Batman learns that the Joker is torturing the creator to get it out of her.

    4. Batman tries to use Dr. Young to find the Joker’s lab. He rescues her in gameplay, but she dies in a cut scene.

    5. Batman tries to catch the Joker in the lab. He succeeds in gameplay, but the Joker escapes in a cut scene.

    Maybe you’ll say, “But those are different, because they’re not failures that reverse the previous success.” To which I’ll say, “Exactly. They are different because of the role the failures play in the story.

    In a well-constructed story it is typical for scenes and sequences to be organized around a goal, and for scenes to end when the protagonist fails to achieve that goal. So, the scene starts with “Guy wants X,” proceeds with guy trying to get X, and ends when guy fails so badly at getting X that he has to figure out a new thing to get. Once he figures out a new X to get, a new scene begins.

    There are a number of ways for guy to fail. One of the most common is the “futile victory” type. Basically, guy gets X, but discovers either that it won’t get him any closer to his ultimate goal, or his victory hands him a new and bigger problem to solve.

    Two examples from “Star Wars” (1977): Luke and Obi-Wan want to get to Alderaan. They succeed, but find it’s been blown up, so they’re no closer to their ultimate goal of delivering the Death Star plans to the Rebels. Later, Luke and Han try to rescue Leia from her holding cell. They succeed in getting her out, but in rescuing her they provoke a fire fight.

    These failures don’t frustrate because they develop the story by spinning it in a new direction.

    It seems to me that “Arkham Asylum” (mostly!) plays according to these rules by using the failures to develop the story. (In fact, that’s the whole point of inserting failure at these points; if the failure doesn’t shift the motivational focus and thus the plot focus, the failure is gratuitous.) The player achieves Batman’s goal in gameplay, but the cut scene complicates that victory by recasting that victory as the start of a new problem. This happens even in those cases where Batman achieves a straight-out victory, as when his rescue of Gordon unleashes Bane. In this way we get two kinds of satisfaction: the satisfaction of a victory, and the satisfaction of seeing the challenge upped as a direct result of our victory.

    It sounds to me like the scene with the magically appearing mook doesn’t do anything like this. It sounds like the mook simply reverses and nullifies the previous victory. This renders the previous gameplay pointless and sets up a new challenges without the player making a meaningful contribution.

    So the problem isn’t that a cut scene has been used to deliver failure. The problem is that the failure has been baked into the story structure in a way that renders the hero’s actions (and hence the player’s actions) irrelevant to the story development.

    Not the question to ask when writing/developing a game: “Can we get away with taking the victory away in a cut scene or do we need to figure out some way of forcing the player to lose in game play?” The question to ask: “Here’s where the player wins. What subsequent plot twist will complicate this victory and shift the player/protagonist’s goals?” Anytime you find yourself asking the first sort of question, it’s a sign that your story is screwed up and needs a rethink.

    But this is all just a hypothesis. Does it seem reasonable?

    1. Droid says:

      Very much. I’d probably have agreed with your points anyway, but those examples make the argument well-founded.

    2. Syal says:

      True enough, but some moods are harder to achieve than others. One thing to note is all of those examples are Batman chasing after someone, and are more partial victories than defeats; while he fails to achieve his goal, it doesn’t make him feel personally vulnerable. If you want to make your villain be a Darth Vader type, someone who can win a straight fight against the hero*, can you do it without the hero being defeated, either in gameplay or a cutscene?

      *Of course the follow-up is “should you even try to make a villain feel stronger than the player character, in a videogame where the hero wins in the end?”

  24. Christopher Wolf says:

    I would note, that Mary Jane has continued to evolve in the comics. She has been a business owner (clubs and fashiony stuff) and a top executive for Stark, and Peter was a top level CEO for a time. That does not mean they don’t get knocked down from their dizzying heights, but there are ways of branching out and trying new things, while being true to the core of the characters. I do like the alt universe version of Spidey where they have a kid who has Spider-powers and are married. Suck it, Mesphisto!

    I do regret not giving Quesada grief for One More Day when I met him at Comic Con, but I will never regret meeting Stan Lee there as well.

    1. Daerian says:

      There are two series like that – one is about Spider-Man and Mary Jane daughter that died in canon continuity (Spider-Girl) – but now she is teenager trying to take on family mantle, while Peter is no longer active.
      Second one is one that is being published now.

      Both are among best Spider-family comics I have read.

  25. Skyler Evans says:

    I know I’ve dragged up Ultimate Spider-Man in these posts a few times, but the game has taken a number of aspects from it that I’ve been really happy to see, especially in regards to these two characters. “Mary Jane as a reporter” was introduced in that series, and became a throughline of her character’s arc. She was a fairly active character in the series, which was refreshing. Aunt May was also quite a bit younger in Ultimate(though not Marissa Tomei-young), and her character got really fleshed out. Since Peter was in high school throughout, May was always present, and she got a number of really powerful scenes about dealing with Ben’s death, never trusting Peter, and figuring out how to be a single parent to her adopted nephew. I’m glad that some of the more interesting aspects of characters from that universe have bled out into the collective fiction.

    1. Viktor says:

      Marissa Tomei was 50 in Homecoming. That’s roughly the appropriate age for Aunt May*, if a bit old. The fact that she’s attractive and sexually active is what bugs people, because we’re not used to women in movies that still have sex lives when they’re older than 30.

      *She’s Peter’s dad’s sister. Peter is 14-16, assume his dad was 20-30 when he was born, assume May is the older sibling by 2-5 years. That puts her at 36-51 years old, depending on the exact spot in the range. If May was the younger sibling, she could be barely past 30 at the extreme end.

      1. Shamus says:

        “The fact that she’s attractive and sexually active is what bugs people, because we’re not used to women in movies that still have sex lives when they’re older than 30.”

        I really hate when people do this kind of thing. “People only object to this because X”. And then you project a an incredibly specific worldview onto them. I can do the same to the opposite opinion:

        “People only like the new Aunt May because they can’t stand watching movies if they don’t get to see some tits.”

        Obviously that’s totally unfair and unsubstantiated. There’s an interesting discussion to be had about adapting comic books to movies and why various casting decisions were made, but we can’t have those discussions if you lead off with, “Anyone who disagrees with this is a bad / dumb / backward person.”

        Personally I found it weird because she was originally a white-haired old woman pushing 70, and comic fans can get a little touchy when things are changed.

        1. Viktor says:

          The actress is the right age for the character, and she looks and dresses like the age she is. And yet, people constantly say she’s too young. These complaints started with CA:Civil War, when basically all we knew about the character was that her name was May and she flirted with Tony Stark. Either most of the people complaining can’t do the basic math I did above, or their complaints are cover for something else. And there wasn’t much there for the complaints to be about other than her sex life.

          Plus, it’s America, people getting weird over sex is always the simplest answer.

          1. Shamus says:

            You literally ignored every single thing I wrote and simply re-stated your original point.

            You like starting fights, you have obvious contempt for people who disagree with you, and you have no respect for me or my site.

            Why the fuck do you still come here?

          2. Skyler Evans says:

            My comment about MCU Aunt May has nothing to do with her sex life or how active it may be. I literally said nothing about this, only that she seemed younger in the movies than in either “Classic Comics” or Ultimate Universe takes on Aunt May. I didn’t complain AT ALL, and I think you spoon-feeding me math based off no factual information form the movies is rude.

            Peter’s dad in MCU is a COMPLETE unknown. He could’ve been thirty or even 40 when Peter was born. May’s place in the sibling chain isn’t a factor, because she’s NOT Peter’s aunt by blood in any universe that I know of. She’s Ben’s wife, and Ben Parker is Peter’s blood relative. Your numbers are theoretically reasonable, but also don’t mean anything because you’re pulling them from thin air. May could just as easily be 30 or 65, and all we have to go off of is the information given in the MCU movies, which isn’t much. She’s woefully underdeveloped as a character, aside from characters remaking that “Peter’s aunt sure is hot!”.

            She strikes me as younger than most takes on the character. Marissa Tomei may actually be 50, and that’s fine, but her character seemed younger. Many people seem younger in movies. It’s why we still have 20-30ish actors play high schoolers sometimes. I apologize if my lack of knowledge of Marissa Tomei’s actual age offended you, but the numbers and assumptions you’re pulling out to belittle me are nonsense. Don’t just settle for “the simplest answer”.

  26. Chiller says:

    Actually, I kinda like the part when Spidey is jumped by the Chinese cutscene mook.
    I thought the way Peter was acting during the encounter was a bit weird but then I realized: since his danger sense never went off, he knew all the time he wasn’t going to be shot. I thought that was cool.

  27. Leviathan902 says:

    Failure in a cutscene is 100% why I stopped playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2

    Every fight against some villain, he would gloat, I would resoundingly kicked his ass in gameplay taking little to no damage, cutscene would trigger, my squad is panting, sweating, holding limbs like they’re at their breaking point and the villain gloats some more looking fresh a spring daisy before taking off.

    EVERY. SINGLE. FIGHT. After like the 12th time asking why I’m even bothering to play the game, I got so pissed off I stopped playing and haven’t looked back.

    1. Syal says:

      Anime games are really bad about it. I’m okay with one unwinnable fight to introduce a new threat (so pretty much one per faction); but anime games like to treat every named henchman like a new threat, when they’re just part of the old one. If I have to fight unwinnable fights against every henchman, I’d better get a power-up sequence followed by a winnable fight against all of them at once*.

      *I’ve yet to see a game that lets you defeat all of the previously unbeatable opponents at once**.
      **Maybe original Tactics Ogre, if we want to be really, really generous.

  28. GoStu says:

    I’d always kind of assumed that “Aunt” May was actually Peter’s great-aunt or something just because the age gap usually appears to be about two generations. I never really questioned why this teenager’s aunt was a white-haired old lady; it didn’t seem weird until you brought it up, and that in turn led me into a Wikipedia rabbit hole of character canon.

    So apparently Peter’s parents are Richard Parker and Mary Parker (nee Fitzpatrick). Richard Parker had an older brother, Ben Parker, who in turn married May Reilly – who you know as Aunt May today. Unless Ben is much older than his brother and/or married a substantially older woman and/or had Peter when he was getting a bit old to be a dad, the grandmotherly vision of May Parker doesn’t really make a lot of sense for an upper-teens Peter.

    The younger version of May seems appropriate and more engaging. I like this change. She might seem to be a flawless saint, but there really are some people like that out there, and it’s fine for one to be Peter’s inner conscience. Looking at her she looks like she’s somewhere in her fifties instead of her seventies.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this any more. I guess the new take on the characters is good?

    1. MaxieJZeus says:

      It was not unusual for families in the early 20th century to have ten children or more, particularly if they were rural families, and it wasn’t unusual for the oldest child in such families to be fifteen or even twenty years older than the youngest. (This was the case with all four of my grandparents’ families.) In the early ‘sixties, when Spider-Man started, there would have been plenty of middle-aged to early elderly people from such families around, so no one would have thought it implausible that an uncle was forty to fifty years older than his nephew.

      If the Parkers were such a family, and Ben was the oldest and Richard the youngest with a twenty-year gap between them; and if Richard was thirty-five when Peter was born (meaning Ben was fifty-five), then Ben and May could be in their early seventies when Peter was seventeen.

      Is it unusual today? I suppose so, which might be one reason to make “Aunt” May younger.

  29. Lun says:

    I’m a bit late to the comment section, but I have to say this: I hate Mary Jane. They tried to make her from generic bimbo to “action grrl”, but she’s a travesty. She comes off as even more annoying and incompetent than if she stood there and looked pretty instead of being an action reporter. Oh she pisses me off so much. I even got to like Black Cat much more than her, and I normally don’t like Black Cat because she feels like a bad Catwoman ripoff.

    The only Mary Jane I could accept was the one from the first Sam Raimi film. A high school girl who isn’t very smart and is a, well, a bit of a slut in the making….. but she’s not annoying, she’s just what she is. And I can only accept her as “the girl teenage Peter Parker has a crush on because she’s pretty and confident and every guy thinks she’s hot”. I really can’t accept her as Peter’s actual girlfriend, they’d make a terrible couple. As this game shows all too well…..

  30. Dreadjaws says:

    The problem is that the writers decided to get these characters married. That was a great move in terms of stunt events to generate buzz and temporary interest, but a horrible move in terms of long-form storytelling.

    Man, Joe Quesada must love this post.

    I can’t agree with it, though. Whether you think the old Mary Jane worked as a character or not, having them undo their marriage is not a solution, it’s dodging the problem. Just make her lose or change her career for one reason or another. There are other ways to generate tension. And come on, Shamus. You’re an adult. You know very well that she marrying him wouldn’t necessarily means she’s accepted the terms of his lifestyle. If that were the case, marriages would never have problems.

    If the writer has a great idea for a Black Cat storyline, then that’s easy to do with unmarried Peter. They can just have Peter and MJ break up or fight for a few issues. Then when Black Cat slinks into the picture we can have some proper romantic tension without turning our hero into a cad.

    There are many ways to solve this with a married Peter too. Have Black Cat be there but the story not be a romantic triangle, for instance. Romantic tension is not the only way to spice up a story. In fact, I’d argue is the one thing readers are the most tired of, and since it’s pretty much the only reason for why being single could be considered superior I doubt they’d miss it. Ultimately, if he can’t come up with a way to make the story work with a married Peter, then he should drop it, leave it for another character, write it for an out-of-continuity one-off or wait for a reboot. There are many, many ways to tackle this particular issue that don’t involve picking literally the laziest way.

    I’m not suggesting you can’t do interesting stories about a married couple where one of them is a superhero. I’m just saying it’s a little harder to write and a little harder for the young audience to relate to.

    But literally, just a little. A writer who can’t come up with a story tailored to anything more than what he’s comfortable with is not going to do much for sales (well, at least outside videogames and blockbusters). Plus, those young audiences grow up. Particularly for comics books, very few readers are new. Most of them are grown-ups who absolutely won’t be relating to the young Peter Parker as much as the adult one, with a whole new set of problems and responsibilities.

    At the end of the day, what this comes down to is character stagnation. No matter how much they loved it at some point, if you keep a character in the same place for long at some point people are going to get bored. I know you don’t like the insane amounts of change comic book characters go through, but that doesn’t mean you have to deny them the most basic ones. And clearly even major changes can result in popular releases. Look at Homecoming, for instance. The character of Peter Parker is almost unrecognizable: most people are friendly towards him, there’s no tension with his aunt, he doesn’t work as a photographer, his suit gives him an insane amount of abilities he’s never had, his secret identity is loved by the public and frankly he’s kind of a dunce. I didn’t care much for the movie (precisely for this reason), but it’s clearly popular and resonates with a lot of people.

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