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Heroes Never Rust #16 by Sean Ironman

A Different Side of Superhero Comics

While most of what I read tends to be dark and filled with violence and sex, I also like to read lighter stories. I’ve never understood people who read the same type of stories, whether in comics or prose, over and over again. That’s boring. I don’t want to just read superheroes. I don’t want to just read mysteries. I want to read everything. When I walk into a comic shop, I usually check out the X-Men and some of the more mainstream superhero titles, but many times I also search for something a little different. What I’m looking for isn’t necessarily an indie comic—it’s just a comic that’s different from what I’ve been reading. I think it’s important to have diversity in most aspects of life—in food, in books, in movies, in everything.

I can’t explain it, but I also like teenage dramas. (Although for whatever reason, I don’t like YA books, even when I was young.) I like Dawson’s Creek. I like Everwood. I like Gilmore Girls. I like the first couple of seasons of Smallville. I think they’re fun and sometimes I just want fun. Also, I get tired of life and death conflicts and everything always the biggest it could be (especially in film). A story with interesting characters and fun interactions can be just as good or better than a story about the world ending. Sometimes I just want a story about who’s going to prom with whom. Or someone gets grounded when they have a big date. I love stories when one person has a crush on somebody and can’t tell him or her for whatever reason.  I think it’s because now I see how silly it is and I find it funny.

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Six years ago, I walked into a comic shop at the age of twenty-three and bought the volume one hardcover of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, with the sky blue cover with pink text. It collects both Mary Jane miniseries (Mary Jane and Mary Jane: Homecoming) along with the first five issues of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. The comic was written by Sean McKeever (Sentinel, The Waiting Place) and drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa (Runaways, Robotech: Invasion). McKeever impressed me with Sentinel and I spent some time tracking down his other work. The Waiting Place is wonderful as well, although I think Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is his best work. He tends to write young characters very well. The art is done in a manga-style, which usually I hate. I think I like it here because the women aren’t drawn like twelve-year-olds and as sex objects. The lines are clear, and the coloring is done really well, making the pages seem natural.

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The comic takes place outside of regular continuity and puts the characters in high school. The main character is Mary Jane, not Spider-Man or Peter Parker. Spider-Man shows up, of course, in the first issue and saves Mary Jane, who then wants to go to Homecoming with him. That makes me smile. Peter Parker likes Mary Jane. Mary Jane likes Spider-man. Mary Jane gets a part-time job to pay for a Homecoming dress, and she deals with her friends Liz and Flash Thompson who are dating. It’s a teen soap opera, and I love it.

Every so often Spider-man shows up to fight some villain, but Mary Jane is rarely in trouble. It’s her story and she doesn’t play damsel in distress. It’s also great to know the characters’ futures and to see another side of these characters who have been around for a few decades. At the end of volume one, Mary Jane finally realizes she likes Peter Parker and goes to meet him the next day at school and finds him with the new girl, Gwen Stacy. Knowing the futures for these characters, that Peter and Gwen date, gives that scene greater impact.

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The comic doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is. I think that is what saves it. It’s not overwrought. It doesn’t think it’s smarter than it is. It’s not pushing the boundaries of comics or storytelling. Whatever happened to just telling a story? It’s a nice, simple story that makes me feel good. I want Mary Jane and Peter Parker to get together. When things get in the way, I get upset and say, “Why can’t it all just work out?” And I know it all works out. But I still get worried and I feel bad for Mary Jane. The comic is so simple and straightforward. I find it impossible not to like. How could someone not love it when Mary and Peter are doing homework alone and she tell him Spider-man turned her down and he says, “Well. Who needs him, right?” and then she smiles?

This comic makes me so happy.

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Sean Ironman

Sean Ironman is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.

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