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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 75 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: [WGP] [non-rpg] Spider-Man and other Marvel Comics as a Story  (Read 10044 times)
Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 389


« on: September 06, 2007, 12:21:23 PM »

Hi!

I am taking advantage of a seldom-used rule that allow the posting of non-rpg related super-hero discussions in this forum:
Unlike elsewhere on the Forge, a few non-RPG topics are allowed in this forum. As With Great Power...<Marshal Law is a superhero story, but Watchmen isn't, please do so.

In this post Ron Edwards said:
Well, it's the truth of the ambiguity that matters most, don't you think? In other words, to establish the self-doubt is one thing, but to punch through into the conflict and resolve it without an easy, coincidence-driven "have it both ways" ending ... that's the key. The best Marvel stories and characters actually resolved. Not to geek out too, too hard, but I submit that Lee's tenure on Spider-Man can be read as a complete novel, with an ending.

Like Ron, I did read a lot of marvel comics at the time, and I am a big fan of the old Spider-Man stories (even if I prefere the Ditko period to the later ones, and I can't stand most of what was published in the serie after Stan Lee left), but I never noticed this ending. And I still don't.  (I am not even sure about the issue Ron consider Stan Lee's last: his uninterrupted run ended with #100 - the one where Peter grows four extra arms -, returned with #105, left again with #110 - the debut of the Gibbon - and then #116-118 feature a retelling of his old story from Spectaculr Spider-Man #1, re-written by Conway. I think Ron meant #110, where Peter's behavior with Gibbon shows some parallelism with the one he had in his origin story before the death of Ben Parker)

I was about to ask him for some more exlanation in that tread, but I didn't want to derail it, and using another thread we can talk about other "stories" in old marvel comics (pre-1972), too

This thread is:
1) a space for Ron to explain in more words what he meant, if he want to.
2) a discussion about how these old comics had some sort of "true endings" at some points at that time, even if the serie continued. (it's necessary in my opinion to limit the topic to the very old marvel comics because in the following decades the number of superhero comics with endings increased so much to become a common feature. So, sorry, but Simon Garth would be off-topic, even if I liked it very much...)
3) (and here we return to rpgs), what is that WGP offer in this aspect that other super-hero rpg don't (I don't have even a single super-hero rpg, I never get the urge to play a super-hero. But that actual play linked above interested me enough to think about getting WGP. I would like to know how much it help in creating that kind of narration in paragon to others seper-hero rpg)

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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2007, 06:48:00 PM »

My knowledge of Amazing Spider-Man is pretty much confined to #1-40 (which I've read in reprints), and then maybe the 260's through maybe the 310's (which I read at the time) - so most of Stan Lee's later work on the series is unknown to me. 

If you look at what Lee was doing with his titles, it was like he'd take an existing genre, and slap super-powers onto it.  So: Fantastic Four = Gernsback gadget-fiction + supers.  Mighty Thor = Norse myth (eventually) + supers.  Captain America = WWII + espionage + supers. 

Amazing Spider-Man, at least way, way back in the early issues, is pretty much your late 1950's teen angst + supers.  A lot of the self-doubt, self-pity, moaning & groaning that Peter Parker does, reminds me very much of Rebel Without a Cause, except instead of hanging out with juvenile delinquents Peter fights supervillains. 

It's also worth noting that Spider-Man, as a character back then, is defined almost totally by negative relationships with male authority figures.  Father?  Dead or left town.  Foster father?  Dead, due to Peter's irresponsibility.  Employer?  Authoritarian laughingstock.  (Notably, his relationship is also strained with the two classically masculine supporting characters: Flash and the Human Torch.)  But most fundamentally: Spider-Man is a teenage superhero, at a time when all other teenage supers were sidekicks/teammates: he doesn't have a metaphorical father on the superhero side of things.  He has to invent his own moral code over & over again in those early issues.  (Personal favorite: the ending to #4, especially the photographs.)  In other words: The Amazing Spider-Man is all about adolescence. 

So, anyway -- for me, ASM "ends" around issue 33.  Parker's graduated from high school and just started college--a classic rite of passage.  The high school romances with Betty and Liz are pretty much dead.  But also, at the end of that arc, he's taken full responsibility for caring for his dying aunt.  (Also, I think Ditko's work begins to deteriorate after this issue, so it's a natural stopping point.)

God, that's way too much information.  But I'm curious to hear Ron's comment about the next 70 or so issues, if he feels like it.

=======
As to With Great Power... I only played it once.  We set out to play an early 80's Marvel annual, and damn if it didn't create an early 80's Marvel annual.  (Personally I wish we had aimed a little higher, but it was a fine game.)

WGP of course does the whole prioritizing thing.  One of the details that I really like about the game is that, through your choices as a player, you can end up having the game re-write your character: "Oh, I guess I don't really care about Aunt May that much.  My guy now has the aspect: Horrible, Horrible Bastard."  (Or, you manage to save her, and thus validate the character concept.)

When you first sit down to play the game, you come up with a pretty simple character concept, defined by 3 to 6 "aspects".  I could certainly see if, over the course of several games, you've had a chance to validate or transform all of those aspects, maybe your character's story comes to a natural end? 

Like - Spider-Man would have: Spider-Powers, Great Responsibility, Aunt May.  In the early days, we see him lose his powers (Annual #1), shirk his responsibilities (#17-19), and move heaven & earth to save Aunt May (#31-33).  So, for me, that's the end of the show.
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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2007, 07:12:11 PM »

Oh, shoot - yeah, issues 39-40 are vital because Spider-Man finally confronts his arch-enemy and discovers that what's really going on there is a screwed-up-father situation.*  Then Spidey rehabilitates the Green Goblin as a father by hitting him in the face a couple times.  So Spidey goes from being hurt by father/son issues, to moving beyond them, to helping other people resolve them.  I think the "Master Planner" arc in #31-33 is probably a very logical place to end, but 39-40 is quite good as well.

* I heard the rumor that Steve Ditko had wanted the Green Goblin to just be some random guy in a weird costume, and that when Lee wanted to make him the father of one of Peter's classmates, Ditko walked--and in a lot of ways, his career never recovered.
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 389


« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2007, 07:23:35 PM »

Hi James!

I think that the disagreement between Lee and Ditko about the Goblin identity was only one of many that led to Ditko leaving Marvel. Another was the fact that Ditko's contributions to the plot were not recognized.

About the "end" of Spider-man...  It's difficult to pinpoint a issue or a period where spider-man can stop. There isn't a precise point where he "jump the shark". I would LOVE to call the Ditko issues "the only true spider-man" but I can't see how I could.  The last Ditko issues are half-hearted at best, and there is not real closure.  The ending you propose, the Master Planner story arc, is a great story (with the most cited Ditko sequence of all, the rising of Spider-man from under the rubble...) but after that there is one of the last "growing up" moment in Spider-man history: the College, with Harry, Gwen, Mary Jane, etc.

The first issues drawn by Romita are some of the best of the serie, but after a while, the serie begin to stagnate. Gwen "disappear" as an interesting character and is substituded by the stock "hero girlfriend" who can only cry and pine, Peter's misfortune begin to be repetitive... but it's a gradual process, for over forty issues, and I can't point to a specific issue number.
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2007, 02:10:03 PM »

Minor Spider-Man trivia from the early days, with some relevance to WGP: a bunch of Marvel characters from the early days have serious problems with clothes.

* Doctor Octopus: cannot unlace his metal girdle
* Scorpion: can't reach zipper in back of his costume
* Rhino: no friends to get him out of stupid Rhino costume
* Mysterio: likes to be "hero" transvestite dressing up in Spidey's costume
* Chameleon: dresses up in lots of different clothes
* Molten Man: too slippery to wear clothes

And this also applies to a couple "heroic" characters--
* Thing: only gets to change back to Ben Grimm to show what sadists Lee and Kirby were
* Hulk: cannot reliably control when he will be stuck in monster form

So what's interesting is that if you look at most of Lee's work as a WGP game, the Struggle would be "The Man vs. The Mask," and on the one hand you've got a character like the Thing, who wants to be a good guy but is really conflicted about his horrific, mutated appearance.  And on the other side, you've got villains who decide: "I cannot take off this monster-mask, so I must act the part"--for the villains, the costume ends up eating their brains.

(The Spider-Man comics renew this theme in the late 1980's with the symbiote storyline, though I confess I never liked Venom enough to follow later developments: maybe they're still symbolic & stuff, but I kind of doubt it.)
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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2007, 05:35:20 AM »

Jon Hastings has this theory that the old Avengers comics are about Hawkeye going from a minor supervillain to being a leader of the world's most trusted super-team.  The first phase of this, involving Marvel's staunchest Goody-Two-Shoes geezer supervising three ambitious, young supervillains hoping to reform, gets going in Avengers #16, but I was never enough of an Avengers fan to know when this sequence ended.

I keep wanting to think that there's an overarching story underneath the Fantastic Four, going from Reed & Sue's courtship to Franklin's birth, or Ben gradually learning to accept his condition, but I'm not sure: a lot of the big events in that series - the feud with Doom, the discovery of the Inhumans, the arrival of Galactus - don't seem thematically connected to the character-drama stuff.




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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2007, 07:54:37 AM »

Hiya,

Sorry guys. I really don't think I'm going to be able to make my points on the internet. The discussion's pretty far off from anywhere to do with my point. It's not a dumb or bad discussion, and I'm just as enthusiastic about participating in it (but can't for time/life reasons) as everyone here, but I'm not seeing any way at all to develop the comments I made in Actual Play. I wish I hadn't included them.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2007, 07:06:42 AM »

To be clear, I don't want to shut down the current discussion, and I'll be following it as a spectator. I have to be careful with my time, though, because I can't afford the hour or so it takes to compose replies.

Best, Ron
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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2007, 07:38:04 AM »

Hey, no problem.  You're right, I probably veered this away from the original thesis, which was (quoting from up-thread):

Quote
it's the truth of the ambiguity that matters most, don't you think? In other words, to establish the self-doubt is one thing, but to punch through into the conflict and resolve it without an easy, coincidence-driven "have it both ways" ending ... that's the key. The best Marvel stories and characters actually resolved. Not to geek out too, too hard, but I submit that Lee's tenure on Spider-Man can be read as a complete novel, with an ending.

I'm not entirely sure I buy into the premise that many Marvel characters have a "Gaahhh, I'm torn between Value #1 and Value #2!  While reconciling these values is part of the human condition, in my case it is super-dramatic!  Must!  Choose!  Between Them!" type of conflict. 

Certainly Spider-Man is all about this, or was.  (By the time I started reading comics in the mid-80's he really wasn't the super-hero with the shitty life anymore.)  And the X-Men often used that kind of thematic crisis, though by the time the series became really popular, the underlying racial allegory had lost most of its urgency.  But I'd be hard pressed to identify Narrativist-style Premise in Marvel's second-string titles, even back in the 60's.
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