SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
Len Wein always struck me as a soup an sandwich type of guy.But, as to what you were saying Dematteis, let me see if I have this correct...Your saying that that both the shift from Superman to Batman as DC's biggest hero in the 80s, and Spider-man to Iron Man as Marvel's every-man hero share similarities, and tell a possible story of society?I will grant that you are correct about both characters being obscenely wealthy and the characters they usurped the role from were from working class backgrounds, and the shifts happened in times not great for working class folks (80s and late 00s/early 2010s). BUT correlation is not causation.The other replacements you talk about... Superman's morality and faith in humanity vs. Batman's rule bending and cynicism, Spider-Man's learning from his mistakes and evolution to a character of altruism... his self-examination and doubt vs. Iron Man's arrogance, shirking responsibility to others, and self-involved nature.... that is really weird.I mean, your implication is so profoundly disturbing. If arts popularity is truly reflective the society that consumes its values, it would mean people believe only being born fortunate is a way to make some type of difference in the world, that their questionable moral stances and behavior should not be questioned.That only things done to you matter, not proper raising like Superman or growing moments like Spider-man. I self-centered form of altruism... or at least social interaction.That these negative ideas, which admittedly the characters have seen ramped up in the 21st century, are viewed as as the only way to accomplish. That goodness for its sake and hard work is a liability to success. That there would be real world equivalents waiting in the wings, working to exercise influence devoid of notable and lacking in doubt because of overriding ego... that will enter into a world full of people waiting to just let it happen.I guess as a credit to your point, the MCU Spider-man doesn't go to public school, seems to be beloved by people, and is beholden to a character who is somewhat contrary to the usual Spider-man mantra. Also, the MCU Dr Strange didn't seem to learn the same lesson about arrogance being bad that the comic version did.You may not want to try penciling those comics of yours Dematteis, because you draw a picture that is Bal-leak.That isn't even getting into the larger picture of Marvel moving away from the underdogs, outcasts, and weirdos (yes that includes Cap) that was part of their DNA.Stepping aside from your... really depressing theory... I have one of my own.I have always theorized Peter Parker subconsciously wants to be on the poorer side.Almost like a holy man's vow of poverty, to keep his mind more focused.Where as people in his life like May and MJ remind him why he fights, there is a fear that the finer things would distract him.Just look at his origin. Seeking personal wealth made him make the wrong choice. The loss of Uncle Ben, and thus the connection he had, helped him get his head straight.Jack
What I was saying? I wasn't saying anything!But, as always, Jack, fascinating thoughts and insights. Re: the MCU Spidey. The current movie incarnation of Peter Parker—however well done and entertaining (and it is both)—really doesn't align with the Peter Parker I've written. The Raimi version is much closer to the "everyman," working class hero I know and love. The MCU version feels more like Iron Man, Jr.This isn't a knock on the movies—they're terrific!—and folks are free to evolve and interpret these characters however they'd like. I'm sure there were fans of the classic Lee-Ditko-Romita Spidey who thought my interpretation strayed too far from the established template. It's the nature of the beast. We all have "our" versions of these characters and sometimes find it hard to adjust to new, different interpretations.
On the surface level, I don't think Peter would ever seek out poverty. He has real material needs, not the least of which is providing for Aunt May. But I can totally buy into the possibility that on a subconscious level he's terrified of material success. That even though he'd never admit it to himself, he's grateful for all the occasions where being Spider-Man has been an obstacle to any kind of long term career path. Both as punishment for Uncle Ben's death and the fear that he's still not equipped to handle success.If you look at the Lee/Ditko era, for instance, Peter paradoxically sought out and rejected professional connections at the same time. I mean, Peter's a smart kid, he has to know on some level that picking a fight with your potential employer is not the best way to go about a job interview. Nor is burning that bridge when they tell you they aren't a for-profit organization. Over time, Peter matured and stopped deliberately antagonizing established heroes. But his distancing manifested in different ways; at heart, it became about him feeling he would never be worthy. There's a brilliant sequence in Roger Stern's story "The Daydreamers" where Peter achieves everything he's ever said he wanted. The public acknowledges him as a hero, including J Jonah Jameson. The Avengers and the FF fight over who gets to recruit him. But then Captain America catches a reflection of Spider-Man in his shield, and it's Peter Parker. And suddenly the dream fades to nightmare as all the heroes reject him, saying "he's just some skinny kid." (Never mind the fact that he'd been drawn as pretty muscular since the Romita era--that's how Peter still saw himself.) On another level, Pete just isn't an establishment type. He needs the kind of flexibility embodied by the freelance lifestyle and those awkward Ditko and McFarlane poses. He can work with others but he's just not the kind of guy who joins up. Realistically, if he joined the Avengers he'd get fired for letting his world-saving take a backseat to the friendly neighborhood. But I digress. Also, there are versions of Spidey other than yours? I just assumed some people were better at writing it than others! :)--David
I heard a rumor that there were a couple of other writers who worked on Spidey over the years, David. But that's just a rumor! :)
Wow, just glossed over the point I was making, huh.If it makes you feel any better, there is a reason the MCU Spider-man doesn't seem like the one you wrote... he wasn't.When they were putting the character together they wanted to separate him from the other two film versions. Because of this they drew largely from Miles Morales.He has Miles (from the comics, not as Much from Into the Spider-verse) personality, relationship with other heroes, school situation, and even some of his supporting characters.That is actually why Miles from into the Spider-verse is how he is, they had to differentiate him form the MCU Spider-man.It is also odd that you mentioned the Lee-Romita version being different that the Lee-Ditko, because... yeah, however Ditko by all accounts wanted to change SPidey.He wanted him to grow out of having problems, and making mistakes. A change that would have seen much more of a stray from the original than hanging out with friends.The odd thing to me is how they tried to legitimize Iron Man's role as the "every-man hero" by making Peter his sidekick.It is almost a less severe version of what happened over at DC with Superman when Bats became eh bigger name.How many times has Superman become a villain in alternate realities only to have Batman have to stop him. While I won't pretend some of those aren't great stories, it seems a little less likely the guy who becomes a hero because of a moral obligation goes evil than the guy in a cave with strike files on all his friends, built a genocide device for anyone with superpowers (both actual main DC Universe story lines), and dangles people off rooftops.Or in main continuity, how many times has Superman been brainwashed with Batman having to stop his friend?In both cases it is almost like what the Romans used to do, where after the conquered a people they had to humiliate them and crush their spirit. They can't just take the position and be happy, they have to constantly remind the heroes they replaced that they have lost their position.Which admittedly is more a Batman and Tony Stark thing than Clark and Peter.Which again brings back around to the question of just what these changes to characters who are less connected to basic humanity on an interpersonal level, and who have egos the size of all out doors... with a wallet to match... says about us as a society. Which, Dematteis, I believe was your original point.Jack
I knew absolutely nothing about Miles Morales before seeing INTO THE SPIDERVERSE (which I really enjoyed), so I never noticed similarities between the current MCU Peter Parker and Miles. Interesting point about Superman and some people's need to turn one of greatest, purist heroes into something dark.(Said the man who co-wrote the JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS mini-series.)
To be fair... wasn't that technically Zod's kid as Superman? I think that might be a bit different.Don't forget the replacement of the every-man hero.Disbelieving in goodness in a character like Superman is depressing, but his arch-villain basically lives by that credo. Where as Spider-man has character flaws he feels bad about, and at least wants to change, Stark doesn'tThat is actively having an issue and saying it is someone else's problem. Even the most cynical people view that as bad. It is a strange habit for a hero to have.There was a story in the 2000s where Stark became secretary of Defense, despite having no experience in combat, ego-politcs, or diplomacy. Can you imagine what would happen if a wealthy person bluffed themselves into a a political position, refused to acknowledge any flaws in themselves, shrugged off or attacked people who critiqued them, and always believed they were the smartest in the room on everything,, even if they weren't.How disturbing would it be if that mentality made it to the real world.Or if the people tasked with real world crime stopping had the modern Batman's arrogance, contempt for being questioned, and willingness to bend laws, and belief that those who dolt are weak or foolish.How would the populace ever TRULY feel safe.All we can do is hope those things never happened, and look into ourselves and society itself as to why wanting to be better has gone out of style, and embracing our worst elements and saying they are okay. I mean, Batman wasn't REALLY like that very often until the 21st century (though the 8i0s did start down that road)... what changed.I mean... Batman's favorite thing to do is dangle people off buildings until they give him the answer he wants. At best that is coercion.Tony Stark is an ass who is okay with being an ass.Why did these become not only acceptable, but considered the best? And why does it seem only if the person is a billionaire? What do any of those questions say about our society at large.Jack
"Can you imagine what would happen if a wealthy person bluffed themselves into a a political position, refused to acknowledge any flaws in themselves, shrugged off or attacked people who critiqued them, and always believed they were the smartest in the room on everything,, even if they weren't.How disturbing would it be if that mentality made it to the real world."Preposterous, Jack. Absolutely preposterous!The interesting thing about Batman is that he's a character who is open to so many interpretations. The version you describe is one, and I've written him that way; but I've also written him as a truly good and decent man, trying to emulate his father by being Gotham's "doctor," as a straight man (in on the joke) with the JLI, and as the innocent, slightly goofy 50s era Batman of BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD. And yet, somehow, they all remain Batman!A character like Iron Man doesn't have those kinds of broad interpretations.
But... Doesn't Batman being such a malleable character make it even more... notable ...that for the past 20 years he has been in this curve towards this form, sacrificing the Man for the Bat, decreasing the respect for human rights, increasing the paranoia and authoritarianism?If he can be anything... why do people seem to want him to be that.Even in the days after Crisis, when they were really playing up the dark-brooding bat, Starlin, Moench, Grant, and company still kept it in check. Moench even once commented on the direction the character had taken since he left, believing it had changed from the way he and his compatriots of the time wrote him. And they were no stranger to dark and intense stories.Why make an icon into this? It isn't just a few folk, or a moment. It is two decades, countless comics, and critically acclaimed films.Jack
I can only think that Batman has become a repository for writers' reactions to changes in the world around us.Another reason why I was so happy to write for BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. That Batman was actually fun!I'm not overly familiar with (relatively) recent interpretations of the character, but didn't Grant Morrison do a big, fun spin on Batman in at least one of his runs?
That isn't really how I remember Morrison's run. I remember him bringing back the the "club of heroes," but he made the Swedish one so petty and the Italian one such a fat wash-up that they sold them out to a murder.I believe Bat-mite returned as part of a psychotic Break, he created Professor Pyg... whose whole thing was mutilating people. Also, Bats sent a guy into space who shouldn't die to live completely isolated for all eternity.Let's not forget, the creation of Damian Wayne, the first psychopath Robin. Who tried to kill the previous Robin... a lot, and and perpetually told him adoption doesn't count.So... kind of Dart. Also,who was stabbed in the heart as a child. But I have to disagree about "writers' reactions to changes in the world around us."I mean, writers write a lot of stuff, but it doesn't imprint itself on an icon for two decades. The people have to accept it... want it. WHY?Crime started to drop dramatically in the 21st century, the same time this happened. It couldn't be a desire for revenge on crime.Denny O'Neil wrote the character in the crime-ridden 70s and bought him back to glory be specifically highlighting his humanity and caring.There is something in society clamoring for the character of Batman to rise to prominence above all others, and do it by being arrogant, aggressive, and violent. Hell, one of the biggest complaints long time Bat-fans have is that he doesn't even do detective work anymore, just hit people.Perhaps most... interesting... as he took on these more extreme tendencies he became strangely uneatable, shrugging off an army of 100 highly trained assassins, an actual story from mainstream Batman within the past five years.For some reason people want this angry, criminal hating to the point of paranoid behavior to be so smart and skilled he can't be stopped. IN something like comics the creators are only one piece of success, it is also a willingness to accept it. How many great runs don't sell well because they come out at the wrong time, with a talented creative team?Maybe that is why Spidey had to become a sidekick, more beholden to another. A character born out of learning from a mistake that cost someone there life, accepting humility and responsibility, and based around the idea of being fallible doesn't work.Or maybe...Jack
I haven't read the Morrison run—just a story here or there—but I thought he sent Bats on some goofy (in the best sense of the word) time travel adventure, with a Cave Man Batman, etc. But I may be mistaken!"Or maybe..." what?
With comics, there's always the danger of imagery escaping its original context. There's also certain themes that naturally repeat themselves in serial storytelling, to the extent that they can eventually be mistaken for character traits as opposed to temporary crises.Since Jason Todd's death, there have been multiple long-form arcs that explore Batman descending further into his crimefighting persona, alienating his allies, and eventually coming out on the other side of the crisis a better man. But generally the next creative team picks up and puts him through something similar again. And after a while it's easy to lose sight that, taken individually, each of these stories intend to show Batman's brutality and thoughtless behavior as being outside the norm. A temporary lapse. That's my two cents, anyway! --David
That was at least 25 cents, David! : )Thanks!