Thursday, January 6, 2011

UPDATE: We Hear From Gerry Conway!

Yup!  Gerry Conway, scribe of the awesome Silver-Age Spider-Man was nice enough to read my theory and respond with his own take:

Thanks, Adam -- a no-prize for you. I'm of the opinion that some fans (like those who believed this was a plot hole) try too hard to apply real-world logic and assumptions to fantasy-world situations. But to respond in kind, my attitude toward this would have been, Peter's spider-sense isn't a fine-tuned, mechanical sonar/radar piece of technology: it's an organic, instinctive response to perceived threat -- real or imagined. Like our own fight-or-flight response, it can be activated by perfectly innocent stimuli, because it's an instinct, not a calibrated, 100% accurate-all-the-time weapons system. (As if weapons systems were 100% accurate all the time.) The fact is, someone was in Peter's apartment when he didn't expect anyone to be there -- that would be enough to get *my* spider-sense tingling. It's called being surprised. That's about all the logic and rationalization it needs. (But I do like your rationalization too.)

Of course, my own rationalization was that Pete's secret ID was in danger of being discovered by a Mary Jane snooping around uninvited in his apartment, which ties into Gerry's take.

Isn't it awesome that some comic writers are willing to share their thoughts with us?  I am truly not worthy!

Thanks so much, Gerry!  It was a real treat to hear from you!


MarvelX42 said...


Kandou Erik said...

I recall Peter David complaining once how Spider-Man's spider-sense was never clearly defined - especially as it's been used as an almost super-natural power, with less explanation beyond putting the word "Spider" in front of sense. (This was when that JMS mysticism tangent came along, and PAD had spears coming out of Peter's arms in response, I think, to magical threats.)

My thought about it was that it was a biological thing - and easy enough to explain as a heightened sense of perception. I also thought, given whatever inconstancies ever pop up - there's always different levels to his Spider-Sense. He can be insanely perceptive, for example, during a fight when his life is at risk, and he follows his Spider-sense to avoid most attacks. There are also times he can be very pre-occupied - despite his Spider-Sense, villains have gotten the drop on him on occasion.

I've also thought there could also be a more subconscious reaction to Spider-Sense. Whenever he changes cloths on a roof, or swings out of his apartment room window - all of those things could easily be seen by any number of people in the city, let alone cameras that might incidentally catch Peter by accident. (Though camera where less of an issue in the 60s)

In that sense, I've always figured his Spider-Sense also functions on much lower (but very perceptive) brain functions, telling him when it's safe or not.

That was essentially my reaction (explanation) to, in an issue of Wizard, they talked about how the Punisher would kill different characters. They just said a sniper rifle across buildings would be enough. But his Spider-Sense never really turns off - something like a bullet moving through the air to his direction would immediately be sensed, and he'd react to dodge the bullet.

I've always liked the Marvel No-Prize, as it encourages reader's imaginations instead of immediately jumping to "the writer screwed up". Being a collaborative and mosaic piece of art across many different hands - comics rely on that sense of acceptance or explanation when a mistake is made. And sometimes, on good days, a mistake is even seized as an opportunity (like there being no explanation for the Hulk going from Grey to Green) - which became a corner-stone of Peter David's Hulk run. PAD's like a master in that respect, filling in any number of Marvel U plot-holes, like the different Absorbing Man during Bruce Jones Hulk run - which lead to an incredibly fun issue where Captain Marvel meet three different versions of himself (it was explained the same thing happened with the Absorbing Man, explaining away the wild inconsistencies to a change in character that proved horrible on reception.

Still, too many fans don't take the No-Prize concept to heart - immediately moaning and complaining about perceived inaccuracies. Sometimes fans just need to loosen up; and sometimes it can also be fun to make it all fit logically in you're own head.

Adam Barnett said...

Good thoughts, Kandu! I prefer to think of it as a biological intuitiveness as well.

Grey Hulk.... my favorite flavor of Hulk. I like my Hulk with a little smarts and personality to him.

MarvelX42 said...

I was kinda diggin the 90's intelligent 'Professor' Hulk version.

Kandou Erik said...

On Hulk's intelligence, he actually has a decent head on his shoulders right now. It wanes back and forth, of course - but Bruce has probably never been more in synch with his inner monster than he is these days.

For those who detest not having a classic stupid Hulk, though - you might want to remember what he was originally like. I recall an Avengers Origin Retelling where they pined the perfect description of Hulk's personality at the time; he was a thug. An angry brute. Not too smart, but also not too dumb either.

As always, Hulk's differing personalities is a continual No-Prize game in comics. Considering the fractured psyche we know is underneath Bruce's mind - it's not surprising he can go into different moods as the Hulk. And usually you can pin-point a causing factor. For example Hulk was pretty dumb again when Jeph Loeb started writing after World War Hulk, even though through Planet Hulk and WWH, he showed a more commanding intelligence, using strategy and tactics to win battles along with his might. Not surprisingly, before going dumb again - Hulk was hit with a variety of psyche straining events; his wife dying, and then finding out his new best friend Meik was the one who killed her. Along with that and being very, VERY wrong about attacking New York (though the Illuminati had it coming) - it made perfect sense for the Hulk to retreat to a more simpler intelligence. Then, of course, his newfound son Skaar came into the picture; BOOM! Intelligence and cunning is back. It's a balance of what's needed and what Bruce's mind can muster at a given time.

Duy Tano said...

Actually, Adam, this is pretty consistent with the depiction of the Spider-sense throughout the years. I remember at one point, MJ tried hitting Peter with a pillow, and his Spider-sense just blared.

J. L. Bell said...

My main recollection of the Spider-sense (and it’s been decades since I read any non-newspaper Spider-Man regularly) is that it appeared in the stories as Just Another Bother for Peter.

It didn’t seem to be consistent enough for him to get a handle on it. So it came across like that “Check Engine” Light on the car dashboard. “Oh, jeez! What now? What’s the actual problem? You’re not telling me, are you? As if I don’t have enough to worry about. Yes, yes, I see you blinking—I know there’s a problem, but I can’t do anything—OOOF!”