'Kindred Saga' in Spider-Man comics cleans up some ugly stories

 

Amazing Spider-Man (fifth series) #75, shipping Oct. 6, starts a new era with writer Zeb Wells. The title will star new Spider-Man Ben Reilly, and will ship three times a month for six months. (Cover art by Patrick Gleason, copyright Marvel Comics)

 

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

Marvel has pulled another switcheroo on the identity of a Big Bad, like in WandaVision. Only this time instead of TV, it’s in the comics, and instead of Agatha, It Was The Devil All Along.

Amazing Spider-Man (fifth series) #74 arrived Sept. 29, ending writer Nick Spencer’s 74-issue run on the title. The last two storylines — “Sinister War” and the single, oversized last issue “What Cost Victory?” — wrapped up all of Spencer’s ongoing plot points, especially the final reveals about, and defeat of, the behind-the-scenes villain, Kindred. Who turned out to not be the ultimate Big Bad after all.

Spencer also did something unexpected and remarkable. He tried to fix the two most-loathed Spider-Man storylines of all time.

Yea, “loathed.” There will be unpopular stories in any long-running character’s history, but the more a character is loved, the more a bad story is hated. Especially if they are as loathsome as “Sins Past” and “One More Day.”

It’s quite possible younger Spider-fans have never heard of these stories, because we older Spider-fans don’t discuss them — we grow physically ill at the thought of them. And since misery loves company, let me describe them for you:

 

SINS PAST

In 2004, Spider-Man is attacked by two super-strong characters Named Sarah and Gabriel, with Sarah bearing an uncanny resemblance to Peter Parker’s dead girlfriend Gwen Stacy. As the story unfolds, it appears that Sarah and Gabriel are the children of Gwen … and Norman Osborn, a.k.a. the Green Goblin.

Yep, we are told that the formerly perfect and angelic Gwen did, in fact, do the dirty deed with the incredibly evil (and decades older) Osborn, got knocked up, and had twins while in France. (She did, in fact, go to Europe for a few months in the proper time frame.)

The twins suffered from Osborn’s Goblin Formula-infused blood, not only gaining his super-powers but aging at an accelerated rate. (Maybe Gwen’s pregnancy was accelerated too, given the short time she was in Europe.) Osborn then bumped off Gwen in the infamous “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” (1973), and raised the twins in secret, instructing them that Peter Parker was their real Dad, but had killed their Mom and abandoned them. Thus their hatred of him.

The Gwen-Norman affair, amazingly, is confirmed by Mary Jane, who knew all about it, but had never said a word to Peter, even after marrying him in 1987. Hearing the news, Parker has the normal human reaction: He digs up his dead girlfriend to test her DNA.

OK, raise your hand if you are nauseous at this point. Is that everybody? Good. That means you’re normal.

The twins’ hyper-accelerated aging was counter-acted in the story, but they were shuffled out of the title and into comic book limbo before you can say “Ick.” Because, ick.

The behind-the-scenes on this is that writer J. Michael Straczynski had intended for the twins to be the children of Peter and Gwen, but was blocked up upper management late into the story, who wanted Parker to remain a virgin. For some reason.

So the solution was to substitute Norman … who in addition to being a crazed, bloodthirsty monster, was also the father of Gwen’s college friend Harry. And, of course, destined to kill her in cold blood.

This was … not a good solution.

 

ONE MORE DAY

In 2007, Marvel’s editor-in-chief Joe Quesada was widely known for disliking Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane — a uinon that was, at that point, 20 years old. Quesada, echoing the belief of other senior managers, feared that a married Spider-Man would lose appeal to younger readers.

It was in 2007 that he found a way to get rid of it.

In the story “One More Day,” writer J. Michael Straczynski’s swan song on the character, gave Quesada the out he was looking for. Peter Parker’s identity had been revealed in Civil War (2006) and an assassin had shot Aunt May. Parker consulted with Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Dr. Strange and even Dr. Doom, but there was no earthly way to save her.

Until the devil whispered in his ear. One of them, anyway.

It should be noted that Marvel has a complicated afterlife, with lots of demons and devils in different dimensions who may or may not be the biblical Satan. Dormammu is one, Satannish another … and Mephisto is probably chief among them. And it was Mephisto who said he’d erase Aunt May’s injury, and erase the world’s knowledge of Spider-Man’s secret identity … if he was allowed to erase Peter Parker’s marriage.

And yes, Peter Parker, Mr. Power and Responsibility himself, agreed to it.

To which I say, “Bleah.”

In what world does Peter Parker make a deal with the devil? Yeah, yeah, the story had Mary Jane talking him into it. But in what world does Mary Jane make a deal with the devil?

 

THE KINDRED SAGA

Three years ago, Nick Spencer began his stewardship of “Amazing Spider-Man,” eventually revealing a character called Kindred as a behind-the-scenes bad guy causing all kinds of grief in Peter Parker’s life.

He was hinted to be Harry Osborn (who was brought back to life in “One More Day”). He was hinted to be Gwen Stacy (somehow revived from the dead). But in the end he turned out to be … Sarah and Gabriel Stacy, back from wherever the heck they’d been!

And, it turned out, they weren’t the children of Norman and Gwen. That was a lie. A lie from the prince of lies, the real power behind Kindred … Mephisto. (Yeah, him again!)

 

Writer Nick Spencer didn’t just wrap up his epic “Kindred Saga” in his last issue of Amazing Spider-Man on Sept. 29, but he also cleaned up a couple of really unpopular stories from the past. (Cover art by Patrick Gleason, copyright Marvel Comics)

Anyway, the story reveals that Mephisto has been up to all kinds of hi-jinks. He was the guy who brought Harry Osborn back to life in One More Day … only it wasn’t Harry at all, it was a clone. (The real Harry remains most sincerely dead.) And he was the guy who arranged for an artificial intelligence Harry to be created while the original was alive, and crazy as a bedbug. And he was the one who arranged for clones of Peter’s dead parents to show up and torment him (another hated Spider-story). And he was the one who convinced everyone — including Norman — that Sarah and Gabriel were Norman and Gwen’s offspring.

Which they weren’t. So adios, “Sins Past.”

Then Spencer took on “One More Day.” It turns out that making a deal with the devil has a consequence, in that Mephisto had part of Peter Parker’s soul — and all of Harry’s, because Norman (Yeah, him again!) had sold Harry’s soul to Mephisto for the wherewithal to become the Green Goblin originally (back in the 1960s).

Not exactly Father of the Year.

Dr. Strange got wind of this, and took on Mephisto in a “game” to save Harry and Peter. Throughout the background of the Kindred climax (where Sarah, Gabriel and clone Harry all died), Strange and Mephisto carried on their bizarre wager, with their dialogue serving as the exposition explaining and un-doing “Sins Past” and “One More Day.”

And then, while Spider-Man was defeating Kindred on the physical plane, Strange was beating Mephisto in … wherever hell they were in. Amending a whole lot of ugly Spider-stories along the way.

And why was Mephisto so interested in Peter Parker in “One More Day”? Spencer explained that as well. Mephisto told Strange that he knew his own destiny, and it was to conquer Earth, only to lose to Spider-Man. Strange knew that this was a lie, but doesn’t know the truth — and took the win he already had and left.

Readers saw the truth, though: Mephisto does see a destroyer in his future, but it isn’t Peter Parker. Her name is May “Mayday” Parker, the daughter of Peter and Mary Jane, whom we have seen before, mostly in the future-set Spider-Girl series of the late ‘aughts.  It’s Mayday who gives Mephisto the shivers, a future hero whose birth he has been raising heaven and hell (well, mostly hell) to prevent.

So let’s review:

  • Norman Osborn and Gwen Stacy never had an affair. (Whew!)
  • Mephisto no longer has a claim on Spider-Man’s soul. (Whew again!)
  • The original Harry Osborn died back in 1993, and has stayed dead.
  • The original Gwen Stacy died back in 1973, and has stayed dead.
  • Peter Parker’s parents died when he was very young, and have stayed dead.
  • The clones of Gwen Stacy (Sarah and Gabriel Stacy) and the clone of Harry Osborn all died as a consequence of the final battle with Kindred, and have stayed dead (so far).
  • Much of the fake Osborns, Stacys and Parkers over the years have secretly been created by Mephisto, who is trying to keep Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson apart, because their child is destined to frustrate his conquest of Earth.
  • Much of Harry Osborn’s misery (drug addiction, romantic failures, becoming a supervillain, going nutso) is due to his father having sold his soul to the devil.
  • Mephisto doesn’t want anyone to know his end game, because he is sneaky, and so all of his plans have been deliberately Byzantine.

And post-Kindred? Well, new writer Zeb Wells takes over with Amazing Spider-Man #75, along with a new Spider-Man. In events yet to be explained, Peter Parker will take a break, and his own clone Ben Reilly (introduced back in 1975) will take over the webs for a while. And the book will go thrice-monthly for six months — which should establish the new status quo pretty fast.

So the good news is I can now think about “Sins Past” and “One More Day” without nausea. But is it too little, too late? Speaking as one of the many Spider-readers appalled by those two stories, I’m not sure my enthusiasm for the Wall-Crawler will ever recover.

But at least Gwen Stacy never hopped in the sack with a super-villain old enough to be her father. It has never made sense, and now it doesn’t have to.

Find Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Andrew Alan Smith) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics). 

Views: 182

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

So, is Peter and MJ's kid still theoretically part of future continuity?

Beats me. Best I can figure is she's still a possible part of future continuity. If not, then Mephisto wouldn't still be working to stop her from coming into existence.

But that may be overthinking it.

It's been 14 years IRL since "One More Day." But in comics time, it's been what? A couple of years? A couple of months? A couple of weeks?

Peter Parker hasn't visibly aged since the '70s. Neither has Mary Jane. Nor any of their friends, enemies or peers.

So, why wouldn't the Parkers still be on track to create Mayday? It's not like they've gotten too old to have kids. It's not like we know when the Parkers of the Spider-Girl continuity got married.

And since nothing has changed since the MC2 came and went, it's entirely possible it's still the future of the current Marvel Universe.

In the meantime, you and I have reached the door to middle age and kicked it in. That part concerns me more, to tell you the truth.

"Adulthood is a condition, that once reached, you never recover from." -- Jughead Jones

I'm pretty sure that the door I see up ahead says "Old" and not "Middle", but with my eyes....

Captain Comics said:

In the meantime, you and I have reached the door to middle age and kicked it in. That part concerns me more, to tell you the truth.

Let me know when they bring back Baby May. In his book All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told, Douglas Wolk goes a long way toward making sense of Spider-Man as a single narrative from the beginning, but especially (for me) for the last 15 years or so. I started buying Spider-Man again, tentatively, with #74. It's supposed to be weekly now, but it just occurs to me I didn't buy one this week. Either one didn't ship or I didn't notice it. The latter is typical of how I drop titles these days: I simply forget to buy them. 

Hearing the news, Parker has the normal human reaction: He digs up his dead girlfriend to test her DNA.

I guess I blocked that out!

The behind-the-scenes on this is that writer J. Michael Straczynski had intended for the twins to be the children of Peter and Gwen, but was blocked up upper management late into the story, who wanted Parker to remain a virgin. For some reason.

If they thought Peter having had sex would be a scandal and make parents stop their kids from buying his books, wouldn’t the events of "Sins Past" have had the same effect, if not worse?

At the end of ASM #122, "The Goblin’s Last Stand" (ha!), a distraught Peter lambastes Mary Jane as (he thinks) an unfeeling party girl. MJ, tears streaming down her face, shuts the apartment door from the inside. In my version, she comforted him with more than just a hug.

In 2007, Marvel’s editor-in-chief Joe Quesada was widely known for disliking Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane — a uinon that was, at that point, 20 years old. Quesada, echoing the belief of other senior managers, feared that a married Spider-Man would lose appeal to younger readers.

Were sales declining? It couldn’t be the quality of the stories, I must be because Peter is married! I was a younger reader once. I can’t prove it, because all the heroes were single, but I can’t imagine this would have affected my interest.

In the story "One More Day," writer J. Michael Straczynski’s swan song on the character, gave Quesada the out he was looking for. Peter Parker’s identity had been revealed in Civil War (2006) and an assassin had shot Aunt May.

Did Nick Spencer have Mephisto encourage Peter to reveal his identity? It’s the only way it makes sense after all the years of guarding his identity for the safety of him and his loved ones. As many times as Aunt May was at death’s door, was there an attached guarantee that she wouldn’t have died a natural or accidental death a week later, followed by a distraught Peter looking to fix it?

There's a question - is Peter's ID public these days?

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Let me know when they bring back Baby May.

Just before these two hated stories were published, Gayle and I attended a panel at the San Diego Con, sitting towards the back of the room. J. Michael Straczynski was taking questions. I was going to ask about Baby May, but a guy in the front asked him first.. Much later, our own Captain Comics revealed that he was that guy. Straczynski was surprised by the question and didn't seem to have any knowledge of her. It seems odd that he wouldn't have picked up or been shown any then-recent copies of the book he was taking over.

On another thread, Jeff, you mentioned that you have never watched any Babylon 5. Don't hold his Spider-Man work against him. If you give it a chance, you'll be amazed at what Straczynski can do with his own characters.

I hung in there with Spider-Man after "One More Day," even past the spectacle of Peter deep-kissing some chick we had never seen before (on the splash page). I dropped the title just before "Spider Island."

I really enjoyed the Spider-Girl stories. Bought them all, and am now buying the Spider-Girl Complete Collection. IIRC, May "Mayday" Parker is Baby May all grown up.

Maybe when Peter returns to take over his book again it will be with a pregnant Mary Jane.

Captain Comics said:

Anyway, the story reveals that Mephisto has been up to all kinds of hi-jinks. He was the guy who brought Harry Osborn back to life in One More Day … only it wasn’t Harry at all, it was a clone. (The real Harry remains most sincerely dead.) And he was the guy who arranged for an artificial intelligence Harry to be created while the original was alive, and crazy as a bedbug. And he was the one who arranged for clones of Peter’s dead parents to show up and torment him (another hated Spider-story). And he was the one who convinced everyone — including Norman — that Sarah and Gabriel were Norman and Gwen’s offspring.
Which they weren’t. So adios, “Sins Past.”

My head hurts. 

Captain Comics said:

Then Spencer took on “One More Day.” It turns out that making a deal with the devil has a consequence, in that Mephisto had part of Peter Parker’s soul — and all of Harry’s, because Norman (Yeah, him again!) had sold Harry’s soul to Mephisto for the wherewithal to become the Green Goblin originally (back in the 1960s). Not exactly Father of the Year. Dr. Strange got wind of this, and took on Mephisto in a “game” to save Harry and Peter. Throughout the background of the Kindred climax (where Sarah, Gabriel and clone Harry all died), Strange and Mephisto carried on their bizarre wager, with their dialogue serving as the exposition explaining and un-doing “Sins Past” and “One More Day.” And then, while Spider-Man was defeating Kindred on the physical plane, Strange was beating Mephisto in … wherever hell they were in. Amending a whole lot of ugly Spider-stories along the way. And why was Mephisto so interested in Peter Parker in “One More Day”? Spencer explained that as well. Mephisto told Strange that he knew his own destiny, and it was to conquer Earth, only to lose to Spider-Man. Strange knew that this was a lie, but doesn’t know the truth — and took the win he already had and left.

My head hurts worse.



Richard Willis said:

Just before these two hated stories were published, Gayle and I attended a panel at the San Diego Con, sitting towards the back of the room. J. Michael Straczynski was taking questions. I was going to ask about Baby May, but a guy in the front asked him first.. Much later, our own Captain Comics revealed that he was that guy.

It still amazes me that this, indeed, did happen. I remember being in the audience, listening to a bunch of drivel that was ignoring the Big Reveal at the end of the "The Five," which was that Norman Osborn had stolen Peter and MJ's baby and convinced them it was dead.

This seemed like a big deal to me, and here are these two big-shot glad-handers up there on the stage going nowhere near this existential question as they mapped out a boring and pedestrian future. I'm not normally one to do so, but I got in line for the mic.

From that point on, Richard describes it well.They acted like I was speaking German, for all intents and purposes.

It probably helped to douse whatever Spidey-enthusiasm I still had sputtering.

But what I really wish was I had some sort of Spidey sense so I could turn around and shake Richard's hand. What are the odds we're ever going to be in the same room again?

"On another thread, Jeff, you mentioned that you have never watched any Babylon 5."

A former member (Alan M., I think it was) once offered to give me his entire series of Babylon 5 on VHS when he replaced it on DVD, but I declined when I found out it was dubbed off TV (having recently replaced my dubbed ST: TNG VHSs with DVDs myself). 

"IIRC, May "Mayday" Parker is Baby May all grown up."

For a while I held out hope that the original Baby May storyline would eventually be resolved. Even with Marvel's sliding timescale, I think that ship has sailed (especially given that characters tend to age much more rapidly off-panel than on). 

Captain Comics said:

But what I really wish was I had some sort of Spidey sense so I could turn around and shake Richard's hand. What are the odds we're ever going to be in the same room again?

Your Spidey sense would have told you to swing on your web to the back of the opposite side of the room.

I'm older than you but am not going anywhere. I hope that one of these days I'll be able to shake the hands of several of you.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2021   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service