Infinite Spider-Man 11.1: All This Content

Posted by Mister Mets 25 June 2012

The point of One More Day was to set the stage for a new era of Spider-Man comics. However, the most radically different thing about the books might have had nothing to do with the retcon. It was the schedule, as the satellite titles were cancelled in favor of increased production of Amazing Spider-Man. Before addressing the wisdom of that, it's worth considering an important question any Marvel editor will have to address: Is Spider-Man worth three books a month?

I think so. With the best character, supporting cast and rogues gallery in comics, there's certainly enough material, along with willing creative teams. It would be an unnecessarily difficult task for an editor to figure out what to cut, especially as the second and third Spider-Man book each month still generate revenue.

In terms of the material, it's worth comparing the title to TV shows like The Good Wife and Revenge, and even the dramas with thirteen episodes an year: Damages, Breaking Bad, Dexter and Doctor Who. These are all dramatic series with clear leads, with content in excess of 720 pages of a comic book.

If there was always going to be a high amount of content, it's up to the people at Marvel to figure out how to publish it. The traditional format was to publish Amazing Spider-Man along with a few spinoff books, but this approach had a few problems. One title will always be perceived as less significant, and it can often fracture aspects of Spider-Man's appeal across multiple titles.

The character works well in multiple settings. But a writer on a secondary Spider-Man title with a clear identity would have tremendous limitations on the subject matter of his stories. The writer of a quirkier Spider-Man title couldn't really do a brutal Carnage murder mystery arc. The writer of a a street-level book couldn't really do a humorous Spider-Man VS Avengers Academy storyline. If Joe Kelly were on Marvel Team Up, he couldn’t just do a straightforward Spider-Man VS Hobgoblin story. Writers on Amazing Spider-Man can tell whatever types of stories they want, as the series has a history of featuring every type of Spider-Man story imaginable.

The alternative to restrictive satellite titles is no difference at all between the various Spider-Man books. In that case, the reason for Marvel to publish Sensational Spider-Man is to provide material for readers who like Spider-Man and don't think one book a month is enough. The raison d'etre of the second satellite title is to attract readers who like Spider-Man and don't think two books are enough. 

Crossovers exacerbate that problem. Marvel got good sales with "The Other" but it meant that there was nothing to distinguish Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man aside from the creative team.

Due to the major events that happened in JMS's Amazing Spider-Man (Ezekiel's introduction, Peter Parker getting a new job as teacher Aunt May learning Spider-Man's identity, Peter & MJ getting back together, Spider-Man moving in with the New Avengers, Spider-Man becoming friends with Tony Stark, Spider-Man becoming a fugitive, Aunt May getting shot, etc) readers who didn't like the book still bought it to follow the key developments of their favorite character. The other Spider-Man titles did not have this advantage, as events in Amazing Spider-Man just seem more important than events in a "B"-title, which makes readers less willing to miss key issues than they are if they know that events don't really "count" (one reason it outsold the other titles by a significant margin).

Spider-Man's disadvantage in this regard is that there is no secondary title with the reputation of Amazing Spider-Man. In contrast, Batman has Detective Comics, and Superman has Action ComicsWhile well-informed and discriminating consumers would argue that a title’s name and the likelihood of major events occurring within its pages has no impact on whether they’ll buy the books, they do not represent the majority of comics buyers. A common complaint about Sacasa's Eddie Brock two-parter in Sensational Spider-Man was that there was less concern regarding Aunt May's welfare than if the story had occurred in Amazing Spider-Man.

Issue to issue continuity in the Brand New Day era with one Spider-Man title was imperfect. But it would have been more confusing trying to keep track of developments in multiple titles. Or some arcs and subplots would have taken much longer. For example, Aunt May was on her honeymoon in Amazing Spider-Man #601. She was married in #600. She was planning the wedding in #595-599. She got engaged in Amazing Spider-Man #592-594 (and Peter also met Jonah Sr.) She met Jonah Sr in ASM #591. Jonah Sr got her number in the one-shot speed dating issue. Each of those beats was essential to get Aunt May to where she was in ASM 601.

This stuff's harder to manage with three concurrent monthlies. If there was a five part storyline in FNSM from May to September dealing with events in a three-day period, and the July issue of Amazing Spider-Man features Aunt May's wedding, the editor and writer would have to figure out how to allude to May's marriage/ engagement in the FNSM story. They'd have to do similar things for every development. If J Jonah Jameson Sr is going to be killed off in a standalone story in one title December 2012, it'll be odd if he appears at the beginning of a story published from October to March, and it'll be a spoiler if his death is mentioned in an October issue.

If it were the case that the post-One More Day Spider-Man is just like Archie, multiple titles wouldn't be anything to worry about, because nothing would change from issue to issue. But that's not the case. Weddings and deaths are presumably rare, but Peter Parker often finds himself in a different place at the end of an issue than at the beginning. During the Brand New Day era, Peter Parker has lost several jobs, pissed off friends and changed roommates. With three concurrent monthlies, it would be problematic keeping track of the sequences.

The comparison was made between the Spider‑Man books and the Batman and Superman franchises, which have survived for more than half a century despite the title heroes starring in several titles. Because Batman premiered in Detective Comics and Superman premiered in Action Comics, and both titles have a rich history of significant events, neither title (assuming the creative teams are roughly equal) is seen as less significant than Batman or Superman. It is also worth noting that during the “One Year Later” overhaul, DC did not hesitate to cancel the other monthlies (The Adventures of Superman, Superman: The Man of Steel, The Legends of the Dark Knight, Gotham Knights) as those titles just weren’t as important. The newer titles that survived (Batman & Robin, Superman/ Batman) sold very well and had clear identities. As Detective Comics and Action Comics don't require Batman or Superman as leads, DC was also able to use those books to focus on other characters, with Greg Rucka and JH Williams's excellent Batwoman run, as well as Paul Cornell's Lex Luthor series, so the company has a bit more flexibility.

Satellite titles exist to make the companies more money. It's based on the premise that readers are more willing to buy a second monthly with Spider-Man or Wolverine than they are to buy the first monthly with Antman or War Machine. So even if Marvel gets rid of most of the satellite books, there will still be supplemental material in some form or another. It's not hypocritical to increase output of Amazing Spider-Man, while also publishing other material.

Marvel has had two different methods of publishing Amazing Spider-Man since One More Day. Let's look at the advantages of the Brand New Day method.

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