Sunday, June 03, 2007

Comic Review: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane

While I normally don't care for anonymous comments, one of the best ones I received this year was the one that said the blog occasionally resembled the ramblings of a 14 year old girl. I think s/he is a touch off base, but hell, I do ramble on about personal things a bit too much from time to time.

Yet, the comic I'm reviewing and recommending this week is one, well, aimed at young teenage girls. So maybe s/he is on to something.

There's been an ongoing debate in certain comic book blogs about whether or not super hero comics are really even meant for women or girls. And really, when so much of the art is created in a way that makes women look like little more than sex dolls, and only a handful of writers or artists in the super hero field are women, it's easy to understand where that perception might come from.

And yet Marvel Comics choose to launch Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. It's unique in that, despite the title, the focus of the series is on Mary Jane Watson and her somewhat confusing high school life. Peter Parker is just a geeky guy who is friends with a guy she may or may not like.

Oh, and she has a crush on Spider-Man. But that's a bit like having a crush on a rock star. Fine and all, but what are the odds of anything happening? Unless, of course, he happens to save her life one day.

So it's different in many ways. The focus is on Mary Jane, a supporting character in the main Spider-Man books. It's written in a way that you can pick it up and immediately start reading without having to worry about 40 years of convoluted back history. And it's written in a way that is clearly aimed at attracting younger readers. Specifically, younger female readers.

As a man in his mid-30s, clearly I'm not the target audience. But writer Sean McKeever is widely respected and I've heard good things about the series. So I picked it up on a lark

And it was a good lark. This is nice, clean and most importantly, smart writing. Yeah, I found the early issues a touch to "girlie" and liked the later issues where we see a bit more of Mary Jane and Peter Parker interacting. But McKeever never talks down to his audience. He's got a good feel for the characters. And despite some slow going in the early issues (Homecoming is just going to be one of those big American teen events that I'm never going to get), it really picks up steam towards the end.

Also helping McKeever is solid art by Takeshi Miyazawa. The art above is from the cover of the hard cover, but it's a pretty good representation of what you'll find inside the covers. A touch Manga-esque, but clean, easy to follow and appealing. He's also got a good grasp of the way teenagers are supposed to look. Comic books can be just as guilty as television in trying to pass of characters who are supposed to be in their teens looking like they're in their 20s.

As I said, it's not for everybody. The die hard Spider-Man and super hero fans probably won't care for it much. But if you like well written, nicely drawn comics, then this is a good one to have. And it's also the rare one you can buy for a girl in their early teens or slightly younger without having to worry about excessive violence or bizarre body types. It even has the all important messages about doing the right thing and standing by friends without hitting you in the face with a sledgehammer.

The hard cover of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane can be bought at Chapters. However, you can also buy it in a series of smaller, cheaper digests under the titles Mary Jane, Mary Jane: Homecoming and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. They retail for about $9 Can each.


Ed Hollett said...

People have probably said you hit like a girl, but rant like one?

Wow, man, that is really hitting low, especially since I can't think of how a 14 year old would rant.

At least least you don't write gushy editorials for some guy who you would die for but who wouldn't give you the time of day.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, the anonymous comment said...

"Craig, after reading your blog for a long time (some nice posts, btw), I've come to the conclusion that you (like most bloggers) have the mentality of an utterly self-absorbed 14 year old girl."

So even that commenter won't go so far as to say TB rants like a girl. How wise.

Gah. I had to go through a lot of your archives to find that.

regards, cat`

Sheena said...

First of all, I'd like to know what the hell this anonymous commenter's problem with 14 year-old girls is? That remark is both ageist and misogynistic.

As for comic books being written and drawn exclusively for men's eyes, well those are just the incredibly uncreative ones. It's like watching a 50 Cent video and drawing the conclusion that music is mostly meant for men.

Some of the strongest fictional female characters I've come accross have been in comic books. See Joss Whedon's Fray as an example. Or the mostly female cast from Brian K. Vaughan's Runaways.

And when badass heroines are drawn from a total TA perspective (like many issues of Wonder Woman or Sheena Queen of the Jungle), the artist is doing the series an incredible injustice. The book becomes so terribly ordinary - something you read once and forget immediately.

The key is to let the heroine be sexy, but not to exploit them.

towniebastard said...

Sheena, are comic books just for men? No, of course not. I've long recommended comics for female friends, many of who have later cursed me for addicting them to the expensive habit.

But are super hero comics just for men? An argument can certainly be made that there are very few super hero comics that feature strong women and are women friendly. Runaways, which you cite, is one of the very few. She-Hulk has its moments. And I think you would enjoy Manhunter by DC Comics as well.

But for every one of those, there are a heck of a lot more with covers like this:

I still think Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is an unfortunate rarity. A comic designed for younger readers and very female friendly. I wish there was more.

Oh, and I'd love to know who the anon person was. But alas, that will likely never happen.

Anonymous said...

Blogs are the internet's version of diaries, which is why that obnoxious person said they all seem like 14 yr old girls. It reminds me of (wish I could remember the name) a globe columnist's lament about the death of the diary. It was before blogs, but after talk shows. Much of his lament was about the lack of secrecy in people's lives; a diary is kept to one's self and is literate - which is much more than can be said about the folks on Jerry Springer.