Monday, February 1, 2010

How I would save Spider-Girl

A while back I wrote an article about how I really want to like Spider-Girl, but just couldn't connect to it. Well, after months of consideration, I came up with an idea to reinvigorate the series, something that I'm sure all the true fans will absolutely hate.

Let's get started from the bottom up, shall we?

The Creative Team

For a book that's trying to rope in that mythical young girl demographic, it does nothing to really appeal to those younger sensibilities. Right now Spider-Girl is the best example of an old school, done-in-one Marvel comic which is what the diehards like about it, unfortunately it mainly only appeals to those older fans.

What the book needs is a creative team that respects the Silver Age trappings of the book, but that can do so with more modern sensibilities. A Sean Mckeever, Phil Tobin, Dan Slott, Jeff Parker, or even a Kathryn Immonen (a woman on a female lead book, go figure) would have a blast on a book like this without violating the tone of it.

For the record, it's not that Tom Defalco's a terrible writer, it's just time for him to let the book go. It's amazing that he was able to create a character and shepard her adventures for 15 years, but eventually you just need an influx of new ideas lest the book become stagnant and unappealing to new readers.

On the art side, frankly, Sal Buscema needs to go. His rigid inking style pulls the wrong aspects out of Frenz's pencils, making the characters look much older then they're supposed to, making the book less appealing. Youth is all about smooth lines and fluid movement, something that Frenz can do fine, but needs a different inker to really accentuate it (See Spider-Girl 52).

The Status Quo

For the duration of it's run, Spider-Girl has been doing it's best impression of Spider-Man circa 1964 and it's time for a change. I understand the mentality of keeping May in high school in that on paper it seems like it's the way to appeal to kids, but it's never rung true for me. I feel like kids want to look up to someone and don't necessarily care if they're fictional heroes are the same age or not. In fact, I would argue that Spider-Man was the coolest, and really took off in popularity once he went to college. Think about it, the majority of his defining storylines happen when he's in college (The machinery lifting in ASM 42, Spider-Man No More ASM 50, The Death of Gwen Stacey ASM 121, etc.) But I digress, here are my three steps to save Spider-Girl.

Step one: Get her out of High School.
May Parker doesn't act, talk, or look like a high schooler so why pretend anymore? In a perfect world, not only would I have her graduate, I would flash forward a few years and pick up the story while she's mid-way through her college education, studying to be a social worker.

Tom Defalco once said the difference between Peter and May is that Peter acts because when he doesn't people die, while May acts because when she does, people live. It's a slight difference on the same theme, but reveals how deep May's sense of responsibility is.

Social work, in that the idea of helping people get through the rough times and supplying them with the resources that they need, seems like the perfect profession for May. It accentuates her penchant for giving super villains second chances (See Normie, Raptor, Electra, etc.) and her sense of responsibility.

Step two: Tragedy.
This is a tricky step, but probably the most necessary, as all great Marvel characters have a bit of tragedy in their back story.

It would be really easy to slaughter someone from the supporting cast and give May some grit and determination to be a hero, but it wouldn't be right for the character. Going back to the "her actions means people live" thing, she would need to experience someone dying in a way that she couldn't control, like from a disease. More specifically that person should be one of her parents.

Now I'm on the fence as to which, because both have merits. On the one hand, having Peter pass would give her the motivation to continue the legacy and help her get out from the shadow of her father. On the other, Mary Jane passing could force Peter to really grow up, and stop taking stupid risks by coming out of superhero retirement. Either way, it would make May do what she does to honor that passed parent, and add a depth to her sense of responsibility.

Step Three: A New Rogues Gallery.
I mentioned this too in my previous article, but seriously she needs to stop going up against cheap knockoffs of Spider-Man's villains and it needs to stop.

When you think of any classic superhero's rogue's gallery, you'll see a collection of mirror images of that hero. Batman's the best example, where each one of his villains are some distorted vision of the virtues that he holds dear. Spider-Man's the same way, his big lasting villains are people corrupted by science. Now look at Spider-Girl's rogues and what do you see? They're all her enemies because they were her father's enemies (for example, currently her book is filled with villains from the mid-80s Silvermane, Man Mountain Marko, Black Tarantula, etc.).

If Spider-Girl is ever going to become her own hero she needs to start developing some true rogues that reflect who she is as a person, not who her father was. How about a girl who didn't grow up with supportive parents and became a supervillain? what about a villain of pure id, that doesn't feel responsible for their own actions? Feminist upset at the name Spider-Girl? Something. Anything would be better than the rehashes that May currently suffers through.

The Final Word

If it sounds like I'm being overly harsh, it's only because I care. As a character, Spider-Girl has so much promise that I just feel isn't being reached and it hurts. The last thing I would want to see is after Defalco closes the book on May that it'd be the last time we'd see her.

If you really want to save Spider-Girl, it's going to take more than just letter-writing campaigns; the save the book, it needs change.

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