Spider-Man Writer Kurt Busiek Seems to Have Forgotten Mary Jane

Games Radar/Newsarama interviewed Kurt Busiek, who’s returning to mainstream after about a decade of being more on the sidelines, to script a story for Amazing Spider-Man #850 (number 49 until now, because of the horrible obsession with relaunches and renumbering that’s plagued the Big Two for over 20 years so far). And I’m wondering if the flashback tale he’s written up will actually be faithful to Stan Lee’s original continuity that Quesada and Alonso forcibly abandoned:


Themed as some sort of spiritual continuation of Busiek’s ’90s series Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man #49’s ‘All You Need is…?’ short takes Peter Parker back to junior college for some classic action – and even a classic villain, the Red Rajah.


But what about a classic lady co-star, that being Mary Jane Watson, who made her official debut in 1966, shortly after Peter began college? Why do I get the feeling MJ won’t be given prominence in Busiek’s vision? The site continues:


Newsarama: Kurt, you’ve been writing Spider-Man in one context or another since at least the early ’90s, including your title Untold Tales of Spider-Man. How has your perspective on Peter Parker evolved in that time?

Kurt Busiek: I don’t know that my perspective’s evolved all that much, really — the Peter of today is older than the guy I wrote in Untold Tales, but at heart, I think he’s the same guy. He does his best, makes mistakes, works to fix those mistakes, values the lives and well-being of others over his own… he’s in different situations today than he was in high school, but he’s still guided by that eternal credo: With great power there must also come great responsibility.

That’s one of the things I like about him so much. He may be a scientific genius, but he’s a very relatable guy. He’s not an expert in dealing with the world, in juggling his responsibilities, in managing the pressures of life — and that’s something we can all see ourselves in. When I first read Steve Ditko/Stan Lee run, long before I became a writer, that’s what I saw in Peter Parker, and I’m glad it’s still around, whatever circumstances he finds himself in.

Nrama: Amazing Spider-Man #850 marks a milestone issue with the return of the Green Goblin, and a brief return to classic numbering. What does your portion of the issue entail?

Busiek: My story’s an action-oriented piece about Spidey back in his college days, working for J. Jonah Jameson between classes and getting caught up in a battle with an old Defenders villain called the Red Rajah.

It also involves the Beatles, but I’ll let people read it to find out precisely how.

And man, there are strawberries! Dangerous strawberries!


Oh, big deal if there’s strawberries. What I’d like to know is if he has any issue with focusing upon Mary Jane Watson, who seems to be quite the scapegoat in the eyes of alleged Spider-fans like Busiek. Well, I looked around the article, and I couldn’t seem to find any mention of MJ in it at all. Though he does bring up at least 3 other past cast members:


Nrama: You wrote your take on the most fateful of Spider-Man/Green Goblin confrontations in Marvels, depicting the death of Gwen Stacy. What’s on your mind as you return to that classic rivalry?

Busiek: When it comes to the rivalry, I get to be a spectator this time, since it’s the main story that deals with all that. Mine’s a self-contained backup story. But I’ll be eager to see how it all plays out in the feature story since the Goblin is one of Spidey’s all-time best villains.

I mean, sometimes the Spider-books get criticized because it can seem like everyone Peter ever met is either a superhero, a super-villain, or related to a superhero or villain. But the reason Spidey creators kept returning to that well is because it works. It makes everything more immediate and personal, whether it’s Flash Thompson as Venom, Doc Ock all set to marry Aunt May, Liz Allan tormented because her half-brother is the Molten Man, or whatever. And that all started with the Goblin.

Umm, wasn’t it in more recent times like post-2000 or so, an era where much of Marvel collapsed, when Flash Thompson became Venom? Oh, never mind, what matters is that Busiek noticeably left out somebody who became closer to Peter after the Green Goblin murdered Gwen Stacy by knocking her off the George Washington Bridge in NYC: again, Mary Jane Watson, one person in Spidey’s world whom I don’t think had any supercrooks for relatives (so what’s Kurt’s point anyway?). Pretty fascinating he makes no mention of her, nor does he cite how well or not the succeeding tales building up Peter and MJ’s relationship post-Gwen Stacy turned out, both before and after their 1987 wedding.
Not even a minor mention of “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man”, a notable story from the late 80s. I get the weird feeling this is somebody who didn’t have what it took to judge successive runs after the mid-70s and decide how well the cast members featured were handled by writers as time went by, including Marv Wolfman, Tom deFalco, David Michelinie, and even Bill Mantlo. What, is the Black Cat not significant either? Busiek did write several Spidey stories in a number of series during the 90s like Web of/Spectacular Spider-Man. But apart from Untold Tales of Spider-Man, where he scripted at least 25 consecutive issues and 2-3 specials, most of the stories he wrote then set in more modern times weren’t written as a regularly assigned writer, but as a guest or fill-in writer. So is he really one of the most notable writers? It’s hard to say. Though after what a pretentious run J. Michael Straczynski had on ASM during 2001-07, I’d rather not call him one of the most famous, and certainly not one of the best.

On the subject of renumberings, which, as per the interviewer, is pretty much bound to be the case yet again somewhere down the road even for Spidey after this landmark issue goes to press, Busiek did address it as follows:


Nrama: On the note of legacy numbering, what do you see as the upsides and downsides of the way some titles acknowledge that large issue count in the midst of new, relaunched volumes?

Busiek: I think it’s worth celebrating when you’ve got something to celebrate.

I’m an old-fashioned guy in a lot of ways, and I started out back when books didn’t get renumbered and relaunched all that often. It still happened, though, and the numbers didn’t always relate to what was being celebrated — Captain America #200 was the 200th issue of a series that started out life being called Tales of Suspense, years before it ever featured Cap, but hey, it’s the 200th issue of something, so let’s have a party!

On the flip side, though, even though the Hulk started out in a short-lived solo series, then got revived in Tales to Astonish, which then became another solo Hulk book, and that series has been relaunched and renumbered multiple times, if you were to hit the 1000th solo Hulk story, whatever the issue number, that’s worth celebrating too, right?

So on the one hand, I might wish things were more orderly, even as I kinda shrug and figure that Marvel’s going to do what’s best for selling comics and reaching readers, but on the other, hey, if this is the 850th issue of Amazing Spider-Man, across multiple relaunches, then that’s cool, that’s a landmark achievement. Let’s have fun with it!

Well I’m sorry to say, but under C.B. Cebulski, little has changed from the time when Axel Alonso was EIC, partly because Sana Amanat’s part of the problem too. Why, now that I think of it, Cebulski hasn’t been talking much to the press in the past year or so, suggesting his political correctness sank in to the point where he figured it best to refrain from talking much about what Marvel has planned for storytelling, right down to the superfluous crossovers, something which should’ve been abandoned long ago. Point: if the stories aren’t connecting with readers, then it makes little difference whether you’ve relaunched the books at a new Number One Premiere Issue, or restored a legacy numbering later on, it won’t change the fact that the stories aren’t catching on (so what’s there to celebrate?), due to the aforementioned political correctness. Something Busiek’s regrettably subscribing to for goodness knows how long now, particularly in the past decade. Maybe that’s why his following statements on responsibility ring hollow:

Nrama: The core moral of Spider-Man’s story has always been “With great power must also come great responsibility.” What has Spider-Man instilled in you, both as a reader and as a creator?

Busiek: I think the key takeaway isn’t even about super-powers. After all, way back in Amazing Fantasy #15, even without powers, Spider-Man could have tripped the burglar, and everything would have worked out better. Leaving aside, of course, that if he didn’t have powers he wouldn’t have been there at that moment, but never mind.

The key is that we all have power — great power, small power, whatever, each of us make choices about what to do in our lives, and those choices affect other people. So we need to use the power we have responsibly.

So why didn’t Busiek when he made some of his most politically charged statements in past years, taking up positions that aren’t demonstrating responsibility, and could affect other people very negatively? That’s why, while he may have once been a good choice for many Marvel books, he sadly may no longer be.
It’s really too bad if Busiek still retains the same biases he’s had for some time, something which sadly may have led him to disown his past works as he became more of a social justice advocate. And for now, it’s very sad he had to support a bias against Mary Jane, stemming from a notion Spidey can’t have his own variation on Lois Lane. In the past, it seemed like the writers and editors who didn’t want her as a cast member took this position out of a laughable notion that they didn’t know what to do with her, as though she somehow has to be a major part of the action in almost every instance, which is silly.
Or, they don’t know what kind of career to put her in, and worst, believe her marriage to Peter entirely contradicts the civilian role he takes, which in their irritating POV sounds like they think he can only be a pauper. Yet the PC advocates made no complaints when Dan Slott put Peter in charge of a corporation, while keeping MJ out of the main proceedings. It’s clear whoever the SJWs were whom Marvel caved to years before, they weren’t real Spider-fans, and definitely not Marvel fans. Otherwise, they would’ve been proud of Stan Lee for what he worked hard to create. Instead, they took it all apart.
On which note, if Busiek’s story isn’t faithful to the continuity as originally envisioned by Lee, one which respects Mary Jane’s creation and subsequent marriage to Peter, then what good is it to write up a short story set in the late 60s-early 70s period? That One More Day’s undoing of the Spider-marriage is, so far as I know, still in place, taints practically everything they’re doing now, and only if they’re willing to jettison the shambles that replaced a cohesive continuity will it ever be possible to offer a plausible storyline again. So far, that’s not the case, and if not, then a landmark numbering alone won’t provide anything to celebrate. It’s a terrible shame Spidey became one of the earliest victims of the political correctness now dominating Marvel, as far back as 1999 when the flagship series was first relaunched and renumbered, and now, all we have left are limp shadows of Lee’s original creation.
Originally published here.
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Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1