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Serious Comic Books for Serious Men
A dormant disagreement flashed back into life recently, when Marvel comics did a number on its number-one hero, the (supposedly) Amazing Spider-Man.
Seems ol' Spidey got himself caught in a web, so to speak, that required some sort of magic to undo, but at a price: He and his beloved Mary Jane, to whom he has been wed several times longer than the national average for first marriages, would no longer be man and wife. In fact, Spider-Guy wouldn't even remember their time together, although Mary Jane would (I didn't say it was nice magic.)
Well, as soon as I read about this - and about the outraged reaction from Spider-Man fans, who came storming out of their parents' basements to protest - there was only one person I wanted to talk to: My brother P.D.
You see, P.D. was a Spider-Man fan when we were kids. I was not (hence the "supposedly" up there in the first paragraph). This was one of our longer-running arguments, right up there with the Great Basketball vs. Hockey Debate of 1967, the Mom Said You Had To Weed the Peas Fracas of 1969, and the Which Brother Broke the Garage Window Fight that persists to this day.
P.D. claimed that Spider-Man comics were "relevant." As if a guy with the powers of an overgrown arachnid, fighting a weirdo named Doctor Octopus, who ran around with long metal arms coming out of his back, related in any way to life on a farm in LaGrange County.
He came up to me one day, brandishing a copy of the book in which Peter Parker was anguished about something or another - a zit, as I recall. "There," he said triumphantly, thrusting the comic at me. "See, he has problems just like you do. Especially that one on your chin."
My argument was that if I wanted relevant, I'd read the newspaper. I already knew more than I wanted to know about zits. If anything, I wanted to get away from zits.
To me, comic books were about escape. I wanted intergalactic adventure and good guys with amazing powers and abilities and super heroines with flowing hair and bounteous proportions who fought crime in their bathing suits. None of which, I can assure you, were to be found in Greenfield Township. Trust me, I looked. Especially for that last one.
So I preferred DC comics, the province of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, while my brother liked Marvel, home of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man and the X-Men. He thought my comics and I were hopelessly staid. I thought he and his were hopelessly weird.
"They're great stories," he said. "They're people you can relate to."
"You do realize they're made up, don't you?" I countered.
And you know what? We never have come to an agreement about this. When DC "killed" Superman a few years ago, my brother scoffed at such an obvious gimmick. When Green Lantern turned bad, my brother said they were just trying to boost sales.
Now it was my turn to tease him. My turn to scoff at his comic book's obvious gimmick and attempt to boost sales. My turn, after all these years, to even things up in the great comic book debate.
Well, my turn if he'd answer the phone, that is. He knows why I want to talk to him, so he's not answering. He'll say it's his Spidey-Senses, but we DC fans know it's really Caller ID.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: He broke the window.
© 2008 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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