Editorial: Digesting the San Diego Spidey News

“… The Good, the Bad and the WTF?”

Well the Spider-Panel’s over at San Diego’s Comic Con.  The news is out but the dust hasn’t settled yet.  So let’s break down what the new details mean.

Potential & speculative spoilers ahead so if that kind of thing chaps you then don’t read on.

The great ‘Brand New Day’ experiment ends in October.  Which comes as a shocker to some who kept arguing that ‘Brand New Day’ ended when they took the ‘Brand New Day’ banner off the covers.  Others, however, have rightly maintained that while the ‘One More Day/Brand New Day’ continuity is still in place the book will continue to be ‘the Brandnewverse’ for all intents and purposes.

So why the need to ‘end’ the ‘Brand New Day’ if ‘Brand New Day’ was so successful?  Clearly because ‘Brand New Day’ wasn’t successful.  In fact anyone who has followed the direct market estimates knows the book has been hemorrhaging readers since BND #1 (ASM #546) back in 2008.  But here’s the catch: so long as Peter and Mary Jane remain unmarried the Brandnewverse is still very much alive and in place.  Telling people it’s “ending” is just a marketing gimmick.

“You know that thing you hated?  It’s going away.  Cause we’re renaming it.  A lot of the stuff you didn’t like will still be there, but it’ll be okay.  You know, cause we renamed it.  So buy it now.”

The ‘Brain Trust’ format of having several writers trying to coherently write one ongoing character in one title failed.  The end result was a confusing mishmash of characters behaving differently from writer to writer and character identity & voice (which as essential in good writing) were lost in the Spider-Man version of musical chairs.  So the news that ASM is moving to just one writer is actually a good thing.  But will Dan Slott be dyanmic enough of a name to bring readers back?  It seems like they probably should’ve gone outside the ‘Brain Trust’ for this.  Someone without any invested ties to the failed Brandnewverse stories and someone with a fresh approach or ideas.

Can Slott stop fighting potential Marvel customers & Spider-Man readers on the Internet long enough to get a book out twice a month?  We’ll see!

From the live panel updates I couldn’t tell if ‘Big Time’ was the name of the first solo Slott arc or the name of the ‘new direction.’  Here’s my free advice to Marvel: stop naming ASM’s new directions.  It backfires on you.  If you really want people to grasp that they aren’t reading an alternate reality universe anymore than stop giving the new status quos names.  (EDIT: Bertone has updated this.  “Big Time” is the name of the first storyline, but Slott wanted to drive the point home that it won’t be the banner or era.”)

Unfortunately the inconsistency in the art will remain as the penciling chores will now be broken up amongst three different artists.   One of those artists is someone whose work I enjoy a great deal and that’s Humberto Ramos.  I absolutely love his style and could look at it all day.  That being said – his style’s probably going to be out of place here and Marvel’s risking an angry mob a la Eric Canete in ASM #611.

Hobgoblin’s back?  Honestly, if the ‘Brain Trust’ had actually been brainy they’d have had Hobgoblin in two years ago instead of the lame and uninteresting Menace.  Unfortunately I can’t get excited about Hobby (won’t say Roddy at this point since we know so little) being back since… well since nothing gets me excited about the Brandnewverse at all.  However judging by the preview art… wow, this is a wreck waiting to happen.  They’re making the same mistake they made with the Gauntlet in that they’re trying to bring in classic villains… but different.  Fans want the classic villains.  In ASM’s first year it was a major grip from fans, even the ones who were solidly in the Brandnewverse’s corner.  But that’s not what they got.  They got Doctor Octopus as some emaciated, diseased skeletal thing, Electro with a starfish tattooed on his face, a different Rhino, a dreadlocked Lizard, and so on and so on.

In the discussion thread on our forums for this panel CrazyChris, a contributor to the site and one of our former ASM reviewers, said this about the Hobgoblin’s new ‘fire sword’: “I was so distracted by the ugly face and the Springfield Nuclear Plant Spidey costume that I didn’t even notice Hobgoblin’s +1 Flaming Bastard Sword until now.  Did he lose his saving throw against fail, or something?”

If they were going to bring the Hobgoblin back then he needed to, you know, look like the Hobgoblin.  Instead he’s been Gauntletized.  The same will most likely be the case (just going on Marvel’s recent history) with the Sinister Six, who were also mentioned.  It will be them… but… you know.  Not really them. The same is happening with Mac Gargan, who will apparently be the Scorpion again. That’s good but yeah they’re messing it up trying too hard to Gauntletize the character. And look – he has claws now!  *groan*

I’m guessing Carnage (who is coming back) will get the lightest “re-imaging” treatment.

But even more ridiculous on that same piece of art is, as Chris mentioned, Spider-Man’s new costume.  Forum member BerserkFury819 quipped: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…SPIDER-LANTERN!” And he’s right.  The new Spider-Man costume in that preview art looks like it’s trying to ride the coattails of the current Green Lantern popularity train.

Which brings me to another point.  During one of the Spider-Man live panel feeds (I think it was the one on Marvel.com) it was revealed ASM will soon see “a lot of Avengers stuff.”  And that tells us that ASM is at such a low level (both in sales and originality) that Marvel feels Spider-Man just isn’t a big draw in his own book anymore.  So to boost sales?  Bring in Avengers.  And, apparently, Fantastic Four stuff as well.  Gadzooks, ASM is running the risk of smelling like Smallville when they brought in Green Lantern to overshadow Clark at practically every level.

Kraven will apparently be getting an expanded role, not just with Spider-Man stories but we’re told “in the Marvel Universe.”  I’m of the school that still thinks Kraven should be rotting in the ground.

The panel also revealed that Mary Jane would be getting more time in the book and that makes me nervous.  They’re hinting that she’ll have a big role after Quesada’s latest train wreck, OMIT, and that it’ll be an important one.  My guess is that they’ll create a Peter-Mary Jane-Carlie Sue love triangle, where fan favorite couple Peter and Mary Jane struggle with Peter’s conflicting feelings for the redhead who’s stuck by him and been his greatest confidant and the new girl named after Quesada’s daughter who’s just so gosh-darn perfect for Peter because everyone is always saying so.

Bottom line on Mary Jane?  Quesada and the ‘Brain Trust’ have learned that Mary Jane’s important to the book.  They may hate it; Quesada can continue to try to villify her and Marvel can continue to try to make fans like her less, but it will fail.  Because it always fails.  It failed when Bob Harras tried to kill her off and it’s now failed with Quesada’s Brandnewverse moving her off to the sidelines.  And it will continue to fail while Marvel throws everything but the kitchen sink except for the marriage at ASM as they try to bring readers back.

Peter’s going back to work!  Well steady work, apparently – we’re told it’s a “career” and a “dream job.”  This seems antithetical to the ‘Brain Trust’ stance (and the Brevoort Manifesto) that Peter should be a loser struggling with bills all the time.  Maybe Marvel’s learned that Spider-Man’s fanbase doesn’t need for the character to be a loser the way the writers & editors need him to be?  Hmm.  Too early too tell.  I doubt it though.  Slott’s one of the ‘Brain Trust’ that’s always locked on the worn out ‘Parker Luck’ gag.

Other ASM related bits?  The book’s officially got a $3.99 price tag on it now – but hey, we all saw that coming.  The new twice-per-month format (which Rich Johnston reported awhile back) will at least give those who stuck around and still buy ASM a wee break from their wallets being milked.

Will all of this turn sales around?  While Marvel will flat-out tell us that sales were fine (cause that’s what they do!) all of this San Diego news points to quite the opposite being true.  But that’s something we’ve known for a good long while now.

Finally?  We already knew the real Spider-Girl was going away to make way for Araña and the panel talked about the Araña flavor of Spider-Girl.  I’ve always thought the character was redundant and that hasn’t changed now.  I’ll pass.  Make mine Mayday.  All others pale & fail in comparison.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I expect other Crawl Space contributors might have more later!

–George Berryman

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