Saturday, February 17, 2007

Something about me, and a comic.

I'm a sucker for good old fashioned love stories. I'm a hopeless romantic, and don't regret it at all. I'm the kind of guy who'll sit down, skim through movies on tv, and pass by action, horror, and sci-fi if I find out that they're showing one of the romantic comedies I enjoy.

"She's All That"

"When Harry Met Sally"

"10 Things I Hate About You"

"An Affair To Remember"

Sorry, guys, I just don't swing that way. Ladies, call me.

Now, while I still enjoy a good dash of testosterone in my film, there really is just something warm and comforting about a relationship that isn't so much 'sappy, mushy, over-the-top' as it is 'at no point do the characters look like they're about to say '....yeahhhh, so, I better's laaaate.'

Those of you who've seen incompatable couples in your friends (or have been in one yourself) know what I'm talking about. When two people sync, it shows, and you can't help feeling warmed by it. Whether it's an old couple holding hands, having been together for 50+ years, or simply the childhood sweethearts who've always known they were crazy about each other, it's heartwarming to witness two people bonding at a level that's deeper than physical or emotional.

Which brings me to one of my favorite comic book authors who's writing today. Tom Beland's comic 'True Story, Swear To God' chronicles his life starting from the point he met a woman named Lily on a bench at a bus stop in Disney World. A night seeing the sights together becomes one of the most heartwarming stories ever.

He lives in Napa Valley, she lives in Puerto Rico. He's an illustrator/comic writer. She's a radio host. And yet, once they see each other, their lives are permanently entwined together. Here's a strip from when his comic 'True Story, Swear To God' was more of a dream than a reality.

It's gone on to be a full comic book, now published by Image, and one of the books I anxiously wait for each month. Whether it's talking about adjusting to life in Puerto Rico (yes, he moved to be with her), or visiting his family after time apart, to supporting her decision to shave her head as part of her faith, each issue tugs on emotions you might forget you ever had.

But we're not here to discuss that. We're here to discuss one of his first big jobs for Marvel, as part of their 'I (heart) Marvel' series, titled "Web of Romance."

The story begins a week before Valentine's Day, with Peter having no luck finding a good gift for his wife, Mary Jane. He's getting desperate, as evidenced by the fact that he's asking for advice from super-villains he's just defeated. Yes, it must be desperation when you're asking for romance advice from someone named 'The Mandrill' (yes, he does have a colored butt) whose super-power is pheremone control.

Peter swings back to Avengers Tower and finds his wife chilling out with Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Luke Cage (that's Captain America, Iron Man, and, uh, Luke Cage to the rest of us). Cap's showing pictures of himself standing next to famous baseball players, while MJ tries to explain the rules of basketball to him.

I'll confess, for a long time I figured Spider-Man's love interests were like Betty and Veronica from Archie Comics. Same body, different head. The only difference was that Betty and Veronica had personalities that were much more different than Peter's girlfriends. It was how Peter behaved around them that intruiged me. For the most part, it was always the same.

Step 1: Peter sets up date awkwardly.
Step 2: Peter and date go out.
Step 3: Date starts to say she's having a great time.
Step 4: Peter's positive that it's his "gonna get lucky" sense that's tingling.
Step 5: Supervillain ruins everything.
Step 6: Peter dumps date somewhere, runs off, fights villain, takes multiple cold showers afterward.
Step 7: Repeat.

MJ, however, stuck in there. In one of the issues of Untold Tales of Spider-Man, you learn that Mary Jane Watson knew from Day One that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. She saw him leaving his home by the window the day his Uncle Ben was murdered. It's given her a unique perspective on who Peter Parker really is.

However, this book finally explained something to me, which I have to admit, made me realize just how perfect a woman Mary Jane is for Peter.

Here's a bit of introspection from Peter while he takes a shower, where he compares Mary Jane with the other classic 'forever on his mind' love of his life, Gwen Stacy.

Still don't get it? Okay, here it is spelled out for you:

At that moment, it clicked in my head. Peter loves MJ because she's what he always hoped to be, only while keeping his gender the same. MJ loves Peter because, well, he's Peter. He's kind, gentle, brave, willing to stand up for what he knows is right, and has that neat bedroom trick where he's on the ceiling and she's-

Oh, right. That'll be a tangent for another time.

Anyway, after a week of pondering gift ideas and getting advice from the other Avengers, Peter finally settles on what he thinks would be the perfect gift for the "Woman Who's Everything Spider-Man Hopes To Be".

Web-shooters. Is that not the most badass Valentine's Day gift? Don't you wish YOUR significant other gave YOU web-shooters? Admit it, chocolates, flowers, a singing picture frame, and edible clothing is all well and good.

But you KNOW you've found the right one when they give you your own web-shooters.

The story comes to a close with Peter and MJ recreating one of the best pranks Spidey ever pulled on the Human Torch (namely, making a giant bat out of webbing and dropping it on him). The two of them are then left alone, on a rooftop, with a full moon.

She completes him. Remember what I said before about it being more than just physical or emotional? That's it, right there. Tom Beland gets it. If he ever makes a romantic comedy movie, I'll be first in line.

From now on, you're all deputized. Anybody who says they wish MJ would die or Peter would've wound up with someone else, you have my permission to slap upside the head then direct them to this article.

Oh, and as for 'etc.'? Well...

"Face it, Tiger. You just hit the jackpot."


TomBelandTSSTG said...

I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for such a great review. I was extremely nervous when they gave me this assignment... and I'm glad so many people enjoyed it. There are some other projects I'm going to be working on for Marvel in 2007... I hope they're as well received.


Anonymous said...

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you know. The design and style look great though! Hope you
get the issue resolved soon. Cheers

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