SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
I have to disagree with you Dematteis, Spider-Man is not just an evolution, but likely an out right (and likely unconscious) push-back against not only the concept of the superhero, but the era they were conceived. Specifically the criminal justice system.This is all specifically contradictory to the Batman. Superman of the Golden Age always seemed to break away and craved a better way, but Batman reveled in it.I won't bore you with an in depth look at the nature of pre-war policing, but it is worth looking into, but I will give you a short overview.Cops before WWII were often... not always, but often... a but nuts. They kicked the living hell out of protestors, hassled people or beat them on suspicion, and roughed up the poor for vagrancy. Not all cops, but a notable amount. All throughout the 20s and 30s.This actually continued, with the police actually a being a bit behind the public will. Not unlike Civil Rights, the experiences of the greatest generation had a great deal sympathetic and wanting to change thingsThis is why I say unconscious instead of accidental... given Lee's age (Still can't believe he is gone).SO let us explore the two worlds...Batman is a billionaire who goes into poor neighborhoods and wails on poor petty criminals (poor meaning financially here)."Doesn't Spider-Man do the same thing?" No.Spider-man can't punch petty crooks. He would likely kill them. He uses his webbing. They are STOPPED with the minimal amount harm. Kind of like we usually say we want police to do. OF course that doesn't happen without kinks in the system to this day, but that deeper desire became the norm and I think talk about Police procedure in the modern world cpuld go down some volatile corners.The point is the attitude of the populace.Now, before you think I am picking on Bruce, he does admittedly not have the advantage of webbing... just billions of dollars to create something. Also, I know that is a poorly constructed sentence, but I am on a roll so I don't care.But goes beyond that to their villains.Bats should seemingly be the more human, since so many are viewed as the mentally ill... but that isn't the case. They should be viewed as tragic figures, but they are evil. Admittedly, comic books have rarely been good place to have any reference to mental illness. Even more common forms like Depression and bipolar disorder.Still, there is a difference between trying to explain away Hank Pym's spousal abuse as bipolar disorder, and accidentally conflating mental illness with evil.Spider-Man's rogues gallery are all given relish motivations. Mysterio was not given enough credit for his skills. That is a bad reason to do harm, but he is shown as someone who could have been great if not for his narcissismDoc Ock truly cared for Aunt May. Norman Osborn truly for Harry. The vulture and Scorpion kind of screwed over by society. None of these are excuses for actions, or even truly redeeming factors. They are however a sign that they are people who made mistakes, bad choices. They could have been, or could still be better people if they wanted.Defalco actually showed it very well, by having the Sandman slowly become a villain over the course of a few years. He showed him having a human side, a rough road, and choosing to turn his life around.This was later undone, stupidly in my opinion, but Sandman was still shown very sympathetic from that moment on.It goes back to their origins, and what they learned. Batman had a bit of survivors guilt, and a need for vengeance.He is also a binary character. If he is so good, his villains must be so evil. A very old view of the world.Spider-man is the story of a mistake at its heart. Stan being Stan, of course wanted that reflection of heroes and villains. "There but for the grace of God." He used it ALL the time.However, what motivates Peter? Many people would say guilt. Those people are wrong. continued...
Amazing Fantasy #15 told us, he LEARNED that with Great power there must then come great responsibility. But what does that mean?IN ASM #50, Stan Lee writes Peter saying that he has atoned for Ben's death over and over, but he has become the guy who can't turn away from someone in trouble.Stan says the same thing in the newspaper strip over a decade later.Peter is not acting out of guilt, when he realized what happened to Ben, and that it was his fault.... that even he could do wrong... that looking out for number one is a problem... he learned empathy.Spider-Man is the story of a guy who learns deep empathy in a very tough way.He learned people doing bad things are not always bad.,, or at least may have more complex natures.Batman learned all these great martial arts moves, but opts to punch not dodge. Even when fighting supervillains Peter opts to hit as little as possible.There is even an interesting little bit of symbolism.Batman hides in the shadows, and many don't believe he exists (despite all the photos with the JLA), not unlike people don't want to admit that hard-line of justice still exists in our systemSpider-Man is hated while all he wants to do is the right thing. Not unlike how some people view more measured forms of justice as a form of weakness.Batman's stoic 30s justice, born largely out of most major cities dealing with organized crime, and was a very real way police acted at times while unchecked in the era, is directly directly opposed and argued against by Spider-Man's nature and world view. I should especially point out that The Punisher, the ultimate in that fine of criminal justice thinking is a villain (NOT an anti-hero)created to fight Spidey.JackP.S. I saw in your twitter feed next to this part of your website that you were on a panel with Starlin. I assume you told him that there was a guy in your website also from Detroit who has changed your life in amazing ways.
That's a fascinating dissertation, Jack. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You really should write a book! Or at least, as I've often said, start your own blog. I'd read it!As for Starlin: The truth is the entire panel was about you. Once I brought the subject up, everyone started talking about and all the questions related directly to you. It was amazing! : )But, seriously, it was a great panel—talking writing with two such gifted storytellers.
Agreed that Spider-Man's powerset is geared toward de-escalation. His Spider-sense allows him to repeatedly dodge blows, tiring villains out and drawing their focus away from civilians. Webbing restrains attackers and protects others from falling debris. And Peter generally applies creative, science-based solutions to disarming supervillains as opposed to punching his way out. Funny aside. Spider-Man never threw a punch during the entirety of the 90s animated series, and I didn't even realize this until it was specifically pointed out to me a few years ago, in spite of being a huge fan. That's either a testament to the overall lack of importance of punching to the Spidey mythos, or my keen powers of observation...--David
Well THAT'S fascinating!
The important thing Dematteis, is that I changed your mind on the subject.As for Starlin, if it makes you feel any better, Starlin grew up in the suburb of Berkley Michigan (where there is a comic shop on main street with a blown up cover of his first Captain Marvel issue).Right next or Berkley, on t he East, is Royal Oak, where SPider-Man and Evil Dead director Sam Raimi was born... though he grew up further north in independence.To the west is Huntington Woods, which shares a school district with Berkley. It is also the hometown of Al Milgrom and Kristen Bell aka Veronica Mars.Net to that is Southfield, where Hellboy actress Selma Blair was born, and she went to Jewish day school next to that in Farmington Hills.Farmington Hills is the hometown of Al Jean, the longest running writer on the Simpsons. Starting his work on the show all the way back with episode #1 and continuing to this day.Aad no, Farmington Hills is not very similar to Springfield. It actually has a large number of residents as competent doctors, lawyers and engineers. Everyone is not rich, but it is a highly educated area.south of that is Livonia where Judy Greer of Arrested Development (TV show) and Archer fame is from.Livonia is also where Geoff Johns would go to buy comics, and included in his Green Lantern run, as where the hope entity hung out. Mentioning local hotspot Bates hamburgers.So, if you were playing Michigan Nerd bingo, hopefully you won.If you are wondering why Geoff Johns' hometown isn't mentioned it is because he grew up in Clarkson. It is connected to none of these places, and I love Geoff Johns, but being from CLarkston is enough.Jack
Thanks for the geographical comics lesson. : )
Remember when Spider-Man stopped the menace of... Morgan Freeman?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uss_QTqWNAQJack
Those were the days!