PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Missed Directions: Brand New Day

What the American public doesn't know is what makes them the American public.

The worst part about “Brand New Day", Marvel’s quasi-reboot of the on-going adventures of the amazing Spider-Man a couple years ago, was how they made his identity secret again. Never mind that at least two decades of continuity were rendered irrelevant with the flick of a switch. Never mind that the editorial interference of Joe Quesada nearly pushed writer J. Michael Straczynski to remove his name from the finished product. The biggest Missed Direction as regards Peter Parker and the world at large knowing that he is Spider-Man is that Marvel already knew how to recover from this sort of dramatic change for a character, yet they still took the easy out.

In the early part of this century, Matt Murdock was publicly outed as being Daredevil. Though officially Murdock denied any such claims, he made it very well know to his enemies who he truly was, unmasking himself in Josie’s Bar after handing the Kingpin a savage beating. Murdock did this knowing full well there would be consequences for his friends and loved ones. And there indeed have been, the most devastating of which concerned his beloved wife Milla being committed to a mental health facility due to the machinations of DD’s long-time foe Mister Fear. But despite even this horrible blow to his personal life, Murdock (and more importantly, the writers of his adventures) never backed down from his decision to unmask.

In the Marvel Universe, truly anything is possible. If one wants to, say, sell one’s soul to the devil in order to save a dying mother-figure, like Peter and Mary-Jane Parker did, one is afforded the opportunity to do so. But if a writer is smart enough, if a publisher has enough patience, this universe’s fantasticalness can be utilized against itself to much the same end, while simultaneously creating a much more engaging story.

In Daredevil (volume 2) #25, written by Bob Gale, we find Matt Murdock on trial, accused of property damage while disguised as Daredevil. Murdock pleads not guilty, which was a shock to many, but an even bigger shock came as Murdock defended himself from the witness stand, when none other than Daredevil himself bounded in the courtroom window. The reader is privy to the knowledge that this is actually Peter Parker(!) in a Daredevil costume. But the seeds of doubt have been planted. As Murdock argues, “Obviously, anyone can put on a Daredevil costume and pretend to be Daredevil. But the question we must all address is... how can we be sure that he's the real Daredevil?”

And for a while there, it seemed this same strategy would be applied to Spider-Man’s similar problem with a now-public identity. By the time Avengers: The Initiative #7, written by Dan Slott, was published, the Civil War was over, and Parker now had to operate incognito. However, even while disguised like a celebrity avoiding the papparazzi, he still assists the Scarlet Spiders in defeating the Vulturions. In a show of solidarity, the Scarlet Spiders all use their own personal image-disrupters to take on the guise of Peter Parker. Now there are four identical guys with spider-powers all claiming in front of dozens of eye-witnesses and live TV newsfeeds to be none other than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

The seeds of doubt were thus planted, but sadly their fruits were never sown. Rather than nurture and grow this potentially medium-changing story-line, Marvel settled on the same boring old “classic” Spider-Man set-up. A Missed Direction, true believers, if ever there was one.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.