Why I won’t
be looking forward to J. Michael Stracynzki on the Fantastic
February 12, 2005
By Avi Green
It was announced in December 2004
that Mark Waid would be leaving the Fantastic Four, which he’d been writing since
2002, after just 3 years of writing adventures for Marvel’s First
Family. Some time later, it was announced that his replacement would
be none other than J. Michael Straczynski, who’s been writing Amazing Spider-Man since 2001.
Alas, I could only say “eh” to the news of that. And certainly can’t
feel enthused by it.
Given how underwhelming JMS’ run on Spidey’s series has been since
then, showing sporadic potent but in the end, not living up to it,
and the fiasco of the “Sins Past” storyline in late 2004, let’s just
say that that’s but one reason why this Fantastic Fanatic simply
isn’t looking forward to the arrival of this hack from Hollywood,
who worked on Babylon 5 in the mid-90’s. A Star Trek rip that was,
the irony is that he showed much more devotion to developing the
characters there than he ever has when writing comic books.
Will he try to screw with the Foursome in any ways if he ends up
writing the FF’s book? Maybe yes, maybe no. But either way, simply
put, I’m not interested.
There’s a most interesting reason why. It’s probably miles worse
than his messing with the minds of Spider-Fans when it comes to Gwen
Stacy. It’s what he said in defense of his actions on UseNet, during
J. Michael Straczynski:
One doesn't prove the other. As I've always said...whether
someone likes or doesn't like my work, that's as it should be. I
don't argue the validity of opinions. Matters of fact, sure, but
not taste. Some people like white chocolate. Some people, like
me, know it's an offense in the eyes of god.
There are some who don't like the
Gwen aspect of this story, and some who think it's deepened the
character in a positive way. Why would I want to weigh in on
that? Arguing is good. For the first time in a very long time,
people are getting passionate enough about the title to have
arguments on this scale, and that's good.
If I stay out of the way, it's to
allow the dialogue to continue unimpeded, whether the book is
being praised or raked over the coals. As a long time fan, I
remember almost the identical reactions when it was decided to
kill Gwen off, so I knew I'd be walking into a firestorm here.
To write is to take chances.
Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don't, because the measure
of success is in the eyes of the reader. And a subjective
opinion is always right for that reader, always true for that
So yeah, I've kept low to watch
the arguing and see where the bodies land.
The only thing I will mention,
the only thing that did surprise me, was the degree to which
some folks have turned on *Gwen*. I've heard of the
madonna/whore dynamic, but I've never actually seen it played
out this strenously.
I can't even begin to count the
number of posts I've seen from folks who are calling Gwen a
slut, a whore, and a tramp...that this destroys her as a
person...that it would be better if she had been raped than
having had consensual sex.
Better to be *raped*? Having sex
with someone makes that person a *whore*?
I'll admit it, *that* flummoxed
me. Because I've known plenty of women who, young and naive and
foolish, found themselves caught up with an older guy, even if
only for a moment, because they are drawn in by
them...especially if that someone is as powerful and
manipulative an older figure as Norman Osborn.
Maybe because I've known so many
of them, all of whom are fine people, I've never once thought of
them in those admittedly ugly terms. We all make mistakes in our
lives. You who are without sin, throw the first stone, right?
Gwen made a mistake. But she took
responsibility for it, had the kids when there were other
options (I don't want this to turn into a debate on those
options, I'm just saying), and was prepared to go toe-to-toe
with Norman, who on some level she had to be afraid of, and to
raise those children, even if it meant screwing up her career,
and marrying Peter.
Now, to *me*, that is a person of
immense personal strength and integrity. It gives her a spine
and a conscience and a will that we really haven't seen in her
To me, Gwen is a person...and
like all people, she has good and bad, makes mistakes and
adjusts for them. Always tries to do the right thing. And when
cornered, she'll fight, not just for herself, but for other
To other people, this seems to
make her a slut.
This aspect of it isn't a writing
thing, isn't a storytelling thing, it's a matter of how one
views people who have sex in this world.
And you'll note that at no time
does Peter ever say or think these things about her. Because
Peter understands. Peter loves her even though she made a
Given the ferocity with which
some have turned on a dime and attacked Gwen -- calling someone
they say they respected a whore and turning their backs on her
character, damning her as a slut and a tramp -- it seems that I
may write the comics, but a few other people have the issues....
But that's just my opinion.
Frankly, I don’t have any idea
what Mr. Straczynski is talking about, in regards to people who
supposedly condemned Gwen as a “slut/whore”, as he claims.
I actually had the non-pleasure of once speaking to JMS when he once
registered for the forum of a site I became disillusioned with, that
being Hero Realm. He did it in order to argue in defense of what he
was doing on the title then. Not surprisingly, he also stuck to his
guns in defending his actions regarding Mary Jane Watson’s forced
estrangement with her loving husband, Peter Parker, alias our
friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, responding to me by saying that
he’d gotten “numerous e-mails” from female readers praising his
actions and lauding him for making it plausible, and something they
could identify with. This part of course, was what he said when
responding to me.
The part where he argues that, "For the first time in a very long time,
people are getting passionate enough about the title to have
arguments on this scale, and that's good." is also
insulting, due to the fact that it's very similar to what Rags
Morales told the
Associated Press about DC’s overrated travesty, Identity
nobody really cared, that’s an insult to us,” said “Identity
Crisis” artist Rags Morales. “If they hate it, that’s great. If
they love it, that’s great. But if they’re like ‘Ehhh...So what?
No big deal.’ Those are the ones that would bother us.” In
other words, it's a wonderful thing if they're upset, or it must be
very good if it upset them, is that it? It's a very poor defense,
and just goes to show how comic creators today are really flying off
the handle, abandoning their audiences for the sake of sales and
publicity stunts, not to mention sales through controversy. (For
more on the subject, including a bit more on Sins Past, I recommend
these articles from IGN's Peter Sanderson: Column
#58, and Column
Getting back to the part regarding Mary Jane: Frankly, given MJ’s
past experiences with Peter, any perceptions of “reality,” quite
honestly, don’t gel. In fact, maybe this is just me, but, to make
her act more concerned about their being together, than to have any
concern for the safety of the world’s innocents would be, quite
simply, reducing her to a self-concerned jerk. And by now, I must
say, the whole would-be demand for realism is in all due
honesty…starting to get tired.
As for the part about the e-mails: Now of course I could be
mistaken, and maybe JMS did have some correspondence that lauded him
for his writing there, but either way, his defense, if anything,
could not overcome the cynicism and contempt that permeated his
Acting disrespectful of the audience is a most disturbing trend that
seems to have littered the comics industry as of late, and it’s a
very ill-advised step for any comics creator too, just one reason
why sales are flagging in this day and age. Who really wants to read
the works of someone who doesn’t have any genuine respect for the
audience? This is something that, as mentioned above, even Rags
Morales did when he spoke to the AP about IC, and it was not
pleasing at all. In fact, it was downright insulting. John Byrne too has gone overboard when
running discussions on his ultra-biased message board, at the same
time he’s writing a pseudo-take on Doom Patrol. In Hollywood, you
don’t usually see that kind of talk, so why is it that comicdom by
contrast allows it? Do they really think they’re going to get
anywhere that way?
Straczynski’s tone, to say the least, is quite foul, and does not
make me feel like warming up to his writing on the long term. And if
I do read any of his comics, it certainly won’t be for him as the
writer. Rather, it’ll be for the characters, assuming he hasn’t done
them more wrong than need be. In all due fairness, why can’t he get
himself a publicity agent who can teach him a thing or two about
So to put it this way: when he gets on board the Fantastic Four this
year, I simply won’t be there. I have no interest in what he’s got
to offer, and lost interest in his Spider-Man stories long ago too.
I simply cannot and will not support someone who speaks with the
disrespect that he does towards the audience, and in fact, by now,
it’s apparent that any popularity of his has waned.
As much as I hate to have to skip my favorite comic book series, I
can’t let my fandom get in the way of my moral and common sense, and
realize that, if I don’t send a message that I cannot approve of
what actions Straczynski takes, then I just won’t buy his stuff, or
anything else from Marvel that suffers the same fate.
And sadly, while there are still some gems just now at Marvel, there
are still quite a few series that are taking some very bad damage.