Salvatore Pane

Tag: Lauren Becker

Here’s a Comic Book I Read in 1996: Spectacular Spider-Man #241 In Which Spider-Man Grieves His Daughter’s Death

At AWP, I somehow ended up explaining Mary Jane’s (of Spider-Man fame) miscarriage to Amber Sparks, her husband and Lauren Becker. I don’t know why this one particular issue has stayed with me so much over the years (especially considering that I’ve probably read hundreds, or more likely, thousands of other issues) in the interim. But I thought I might talk about it, and that maybe this could be a regular thing. That maybe occasionally I’ll dig through the tupperware container under my bed that has all my comics from the ’90s and reread one, then post some thoughts. Because, for the most part, the ’90s was pretty fucking awful.

The Spectacular Spider-Man #241 written by J.M. DeMatteis with art from Luke Ross.


The first thing that surprised me while rereading is that DeMatteis and Ross are names I’m familiar with now. Luke Ross is a phenomenal penciler and I loved his work on Captain America with Ed Brubaker. And DeMatteis is a classic scribe who recently completed a run on Booster Gold, one of my favorite DC characters.  I’m always surprised to go back to my ’90s comics and realize I was reading stuff by legends like Mark Waid or John Romita Jr., because at the time, I literally thought Stan Lee wrote all the comics and even wrote him a letter asking why the Clone Saga was so tough on old Spidey.

Ok. Some background on the issue. #241 takes place immediately after a multi-year storyline in which Peter Parker was replaced with a clone that culminated with said clone’s death and the miscarriage of Pete and MJ’s baby. There is a ton of good info on this whole debacle on the web, so I won’t go into detail, but if you’re interested, check this out.

#241 opens an undetermined amount of time after the miscarriage. At that time, editorial wanted to move as far away from the moroseness of the clone saga and the miscarriage as humanly possible, so DeMatteis had essentially one issue to sum up Pete and MJ’s feelings on a trauma far more terrifying than any of the over-the-top villains that shuffle in and out of the book on a monthly basis. So what we get here are three stories. The most typical is the Chameleon storyline. Superhero comics are eternally stuck in Act II and must always be paving the way for future stories. So a third of the page count is dedicated to setting up the return of the Chameleon which will pay off in future storylines.

But it’s the other two that are really noteworthy. This isn’t a nuanced look at loss, but it is pretty complex for a comic that at the time was aimed at 12-year-olds. I even remember my comic shop guy, at the wonderful Comics on the Green in Scranton, suggesting I buy something a little more fun. DeMatteis chooses to give us Spider-Man and Mary Jane’s separate reactions to the miscarriage before bringing them together. Spidey reacts in a way you might expect. He swings around the city trying to knock the cobwebs loose. At the time, he had only just returned from retirement in Portland where he expected to become a family man, leaving the web slinging to his now dead clone. But what’s really impressive are the Mary Jane scenes. Tucked between the Chameleon lamenting his obsession with Kraven the Hunter and bizarre Crash Bandicoot ads is a really quiet scene between MJ and her Aunt Anna. Mary Jane has just emptied her daughter’s room and delivers a kind of monologue which is pretty heartfelt and just shockingly mature.

The story weaves in and out of the Spider-Man/Chameleon scenes, but culminates with something much more emotional and earnest. Peter and MJ discuss moving away to be free of their memories before going to bed. But Pete can’t sleep, and in the middle of the night, puts his Spidey gear on and decides to swing around the city a bit to tire him out. But before he leaves, MJ wakes up and asks to go with him, a callback to simpler days in their courtship when Spider-Man would rescue MJ from more colorful foes like the Hobgoblin or Hammerhead or whoever. What follows is a really nicely rendered two-page, silent spread of the married couple swinging through Manhattan, at the end of which they embrace beneath a sunrise.

Look, I realize that the way Spectacular Spider-Man deals with a child’s death is reductive and on many levels, absolutely ludicrous. And I realize that this portion of Spider-Man lore is particularly maligned (for good reason), and that the daughter is never, ever mentioned in contemporary stories. But I have to give credit for DeMatteis and Ross for even attempting to tackle this subject in a serious manner. For starters, they were written into this hole and had to find a way to dig the character out. And so many times, comics deal with stuff like this by using clones or magic or alternate realities. But here’s a somber, serious take, or at least one as somber as you can get in a 1990’s superhero comic book. I guess I’m not saying you should track down this issue or these older storylines, but you should know they existed, that superhero comics and comics in general have the capacity of dealing with issues more important than which spandex-wearing dude can win in a fight.

Yeah, this ad makes total sense conceptually for this issue.

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AWP 2011 Aftermath: Woah Now Hey Mr. Rager Mr. Rager Tell Me Where You’re Going Tell Us Where You’re Headed I’m Off On An Adventure Mr. Rager Tell Me Some Of Your Stories Tell Us Of Your Travels

AWP 2011 is over. Highlights, in no particular order, below.

1. Dancing in a group including xTx, Roxane Gay, my roommates Adam Reger and Robert Yune to the song “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love Tonight” by the Outfield at HTMLGiant’s Literature party amid a crowd of hip motherfuckers.

2. The Gary Shtenygart/Amy Hempel reading/convo. Shtenygart is so fucking funny in person. I want him to be my older brother.

3. During my Future of the Book Review panel with Emily Testa, Irina Reyn and Paul Morris, some dude totally called shit on us while walking up the aisle of the ballroom and sporting sunglasses.

4. I love Emma Straub. I met her. We talked a few times. She signed my copy of her book Other People We Married. Then one night I was returning to the hotel drunk and saw her chatting with some reasonable humans and I shouted, “Emma Straub knows!” She nodded. She knew.

5. At Recessions, I met Amber Sparks and while drinking a 20 ounce Bud Light explained Spider-Man’s wife’s miscarriage from the mid-nineties and the complexities of Pokemon cards.

6. One night later I had a similar conversation with Amber’s husband in the bathroom of Ireland’s Four Provinces.

7. Aubrey Hirsch and I repeatedly asking people if they were the html giant.

8. Seeing Steve Almond, Michael Czyzniejewski, Nicolle Elizabeth and all the Smokelong/Corium/Spindle readers read at the Black Squirrel which has all these 80’s Marvel comics on the walls.

9. Jennifer Sky arm wrestling Tao Lin.

10. I finally met Brian Oliu! We walked through the hotel and parted ways outside, and only later did I realize not once did we bring up Nintendo games as expected.

11. Watching Joel Coggins puke in an Arlington trash can.

12. Getting a Write Like a Motherfucker mug from Isaac Fitzgerald and the awesome Rumpus folks.

13. Chandler Chugg-a-lugg

14. The Annalemma/Pank/MLP reading. One of the funnest readings ever.

15. The Myth of Relevance Panel.

16. This e-mail from Lauren Becker received at 3:28 am:

Subject: pegleg?

Body: argh, matey! 🙂

17. Consuming a mass amount of beer every night for four straight days.

18. Proposing to a woman named Polaroid on the Literature Party dance floor after she literally told me she would be “the Alice Munro to your Charles Baxter.”

19. Convincing a woman at Literature Party, albeit briefly, that I was Sugar from the Rumpus. Called her sweetpea and everything.

20. Cathy Day mocking Steve Gillies for being 20 years older than me.

Corium Magazine Showcase!!!!!

It’s official. A few days ago, Corium Magazine Editor-in-Chief/doomsday prophet Lauren Becker invited me to join her staff as Short Fiction Editor. This is especially exciting for me as Corium was one of the first journals to publish my work, and it’s actually a position I inquired about many, many months ago.  People who knew me in the long, long ago of my MFA days know that I was once Fiction Editor of Hot Metal Bridge and then later Editor-in-Chief. Even in college I took nonfiction editorial positions for a few of Susquehanna’s journals. I’ve loved literary journals ever since that day Tom Bailey took our intro to fiction class to the library and passed around dozens of the little magazines. And it’s always been a goal of mine to be part of that vibrant community.

But what does this shocking development mean for you? It means that if you’re reading this, you should probably submit. Length’s 1000-4000 words. But wait, you ask, what type of work does Corium publish? Below you’ll find a list of some really notable Corium stories. That isn’t to say that they’re not all notable (which they are), but linking to every piece Corium has ever published seems a tad counter-productive. So here are the ones I love the most. Keep in mind, I’m not a big poetry dude. So this is pretty heavy toward the fiction side.

“Sisters” – Amelia Gray and Lindsay Hunter

“All the Imaginary People are Better at Life” – Amber Sparks

“Retention” – Ravi Mangla

“One More Beneath the Exit Sign” – Stephen Elliott

“Mirrorball” – Carrie Murphy

“Girl, Luminous” – Donna Vitucci

“Eating Heart” – Cami Park

“Bonnie Parker Visits Her Final Getaway” – Sean Lovelace

“Given the Chance” – Alec Niedenthal

“Choo and Rumble” – Kim Chinquee

“Demoiselle” – Uche Ogbuji

“Des Moines Gymnopédie” – Scott Garson

“Shiny” – Andrea Kneeland

“Still They Hear What They Want To Hear” – Kathy Fish

“Inner Geographies” – Roxane Gay

“The Gone Children They Said Tell Us a Story” – J.A. Tyler

“All Our Canoes Are Safely Ashore” – B.J. Hollars

“An Intervention” – Matthew Salesses

“Two Earthquakes” – Nicolle Elizabeth

“Something More Interesting” – Tara Laskowski

“Drive” – Curtis Smith

“Regional Keystone” – Erin Fitzgerald

“Hands to Work” – Steve Himmer

Holy fucking shit, you say. That’s a lot of badass work by so many badass writers. I sure wish I could experience the unadulterated awesomeness of Corium in person! Well guess motherfucking what! You will have the chance in little under a month at AWP 2011!

Come party with me, Lauren, our wonderful poetry editor Heather Fowler, and of course, the good folks from Prick of the Spindle and SmokeLong Quarterly (edited by fellow Susquehanna alum Tara Laskowski). And look at those readers! Steve Almond! Michael Czyzniejewski! It’s going to be better than 10 Super Bowls.