On a CBR thread, Xistel asked how we would improve the Spider-Man comics. My response was "If I was in charge, I might change the schedule of Amazing Spider-Man from twice a month to weekly (or weekly except for when there's an issue of Avenging Spider-Man on the stands) with occasional intermissions. But that's just because I think that schedule would be effective." To that, Stephen Wacker replied "Oh, how I hate you."

So now it's time to defend my proposed format. I admit that it's difficult to pull off, and editing will be a bitch. Although it's not quite as bad as it initially seems. With a weekly comic, there's no loss of momentum, or questions about when the next issue of ASM is coming out.

Even for a weekly title, there's no need to release 52 issues an year. Marvel could easily have choose to release anywhere from thirty to forty issues an year with an extended hiatus once or even twice an year. This encourages the writers to perfect the art of the cliffhanger, bringing the “season” approach of television storytelling to comic books, and producing one Omnibus collection’s worth of material an year. It also means that the inevitable omnibus could have a beginning, middle and end.

Once a year, you'll have a hiatus when fans discuss what's coming up next. The creative teams gets a few months to get a head start on the next "year" or so of stories. Plus, after a four month intermission (preferably with one hell of a cliffhanger to keep readers guessing) the return of Amazing Spider-Man will be somewhat of an event.

There's no need to have the intermissions be at the same time every year, so it gives more flexibility than a TV show, which usually has to have one season premiere and one season finale every year. This book could easily have 40 consecutive issues followed by a four month break, followed by 30 consecutive issues, followed by a three month break, followed by 50 consecutive issues.

The beginning of each "year" would be a big deal. Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly had an interesting take on DC's new 52 titles. He saw the initial increase in sales as the result of an entire month of highly promoted entry points, and considered if Marvel and DC should adopt a television season style approach. So something like that could be effective for Amazing Spider-Man. It would have the hype of a reboot without the complications for writers inherent in figuring out how a newly rebooted continuity works.

The upcoming "Marvel Now" approach will be a little bit different, with more spread-out entry level points. But this schedule could easily be adopted to something like that. It works regardless of when Marvel wants for the first issue of a new "season." It can fit a gradual roll-out just as well as a month of jump-on points. And it's something that can be renewed once a year.

Although all sorts of complications are possible, especially when it comes to coordinating tie-ins to monthly books. Because of the itinerary, a lot of the work on Amazing Spider-Man would have to be done far in advance, which isn't true of every Marvel title.

Rotating Show-Runners

Considering the amount of content this type of timtetable would require, the weekly Amazing Spider-Man would almost certainly require multiple writers. That strategy usually comes with some disadvantages, as there's the added problem of making sure that the people guiding the direction of the title are all on the same page, especially if all there isn't one writer in charge.

TV shows usually have multiple writers, but the show-runner is the guy in command. He often handles the most important episodes, and guides the direction of the series. It's an approach that's difficult to translate into comics where the customer pays for each installment. Readers could easily be trained to ignore the material that isn't by the main writer.

One exception would be when a writer who isn't the showrunner, becomes much more popular. In that case, fans might be inclined to pick up those stories, rather than the ones in the major arc, which would be a different kind of problem. It would be the comic book equivalent of Russell T Davies's Doctor Who, a period in which the best episodes were written by future show-runner Stephen Moffat, and Paul Cornell.

During the Brand New Day era, Dan Slott was arguably the most significant writer, with his work on the Free Comic Book Day prelude, first arc, first TPB-length story and the major anniversary issue. But the other writers had major storylines that were relevant to the overall narrative, so he was not as powerful as showrunner would be. Marc Guggenheim introduced Menace and Ana Kraven, crippled Flash Thompson, reintroduced Kaine, and tied up the various election day threads in Character Assassination. Mark Waid introduced J Jonah Jameson Sr and Michelle Gonzalez, had Peter Parker get blacklisted and wrote the final storyline of the Brand New Day era. Joe Kelly introduced Norah Winters, handled the American Son, Gauntlet: Rhino tragedy and Grim Hunt. Slott also disappeared for extended periods, with no Amazing Spider-Man work between Issues 600-618, or 620-646.

There may be one way to pull off the showrunner in a comic book series: make it a rotating position..That way the work by someone who isn't currently in charge would still be special, as it could be consequential later. And the work of the previous main writer would still be interesting, dealing with the fallout from earlier stories.

So here's how it could work out. Let's assume that this schedule is implemented in January 2013, right after Amazing Spider-Man #700 schedule, with the writing team of Dan Slott, Gail Simone and Joe Kelly. Dan Slott could be the architect from Amazing Spider-Man #701-719. During this time, he'll write a high amount of material (for example- AMZ #701-703, 714, 717-719) and guide the general direction of the characters.

Gail Simone could be the architect from Amazing Spider-Man #720-732, with a six issue arc from AMZ 720-725 and a three issue arc from AMZ 730-732. She might follow up on threads established in a two part story she wrote while Dan Slott was the architect. During Simone's tenure, Dan Slott might also write two issues to follow-up on an arc from his "run," and/ or to set up his next run as architect.)

Meanwhile, Joe Kelly might have a seven issue arc (Amazing Spider-Man #733-739), during which he'll set up threads for his run as architect in the first half of 2014, or provide the payoff for stories he  seeded while Simone and Slott were the showrunners.

No More Evergreen

Sometimes there are holes in the schedule that have to be filled. This problem is exacerbated with higher output. In his 2006 Spider-Man Manifesto, Senior Editor Tom Brevoort offered a suggestion: Evergreen material.

As a safeguard, we would also commission three to four evergreen-style stories, which could be folded into the run at whatever point the schedule started to slip.
This may be one of the reasons why during the Brand New Day era, it often didn't seem that events of the previous story affected the Spider-Man characters at all. The writers and editors just didn't know how the story would fit together. The problem continues in the Big Time era, during which there have been a few fill-in stories, including a guest appearance with Avengers Academy, and a Daredevil crossover.

Dan Slott explained the inherent flaw with inventory stories on twitlonger.

Whenever you're REALLY stuck, go back to CHARACTER. The character drives the story. And from scene to scene the character MUST go through some kind of "state change." Where they are at the end of the scene/story needs to be a different place from where they started. Or we (the audience) just don't care. 
(THAT is one of the reasons inventory stories usually suck. Because-- more often than not-- they have to leave the character RIGHT back where they started. And that is BO-RING.)
Ever get stuck, a good question to ask yourself is "What is my character's state change at the end of this scene/story?" Where's the NEW place (emotionally) that they've landed/brought themselves/been tricked to/crashed?
With 30-40 issues of Amazing Spider-Man per year, instead of commissioning evergreen material, I would intentionally leave a few holes in the schedule. That allows for occasional one-off stories (as those can be done in a short amount of time) so the writers have some flexibility to respond to stuff quickly. This can also help them to quickly deal with events in other Marvel titles, or contemporary issues.

It's hell on the editor, but having a few holes in the schedule also allows Marvel to deal with contemporary events, and do more "ripped from the headlines" stories, which often get significant media attention. For example, the Telegraph article "50 Facts You Might Not Know about Barack Obama" included the reference to his liking Spider-Man, and was published in November 11 2008. Quesada appeared on the Colbert report to provide comic nerd bait in November 14 2008, so Marvel was aware of the publicity the Obama/ Spider-Man connection was getting shortly after the election. In theory, instead of their five page back-up story, Marvel could have had a 22 page issue of Amazing Spider-Man with Spider-Man at Barack Obama's inauguration in comic stores by January 21 2009 (if not January 14.) It would have been an achievement similar to getting Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 #36 in stores on November 14 2001.

Unfortunately, this would be more work for all involved. It avoids the ease of having a few evergreen stories to move around whenever a hole in the schedule develops, though those inventory stories will be out of date by their very nature, which may contribute to the problem of developments not being incorporated. Marvel also wouldn't be able to use their slower artists for these stories, as time would be of the essence, which reduces the opportunities these guys (many of whom are quite talented) have to work on the title. I will note that I can respect artists such as Marcos Martin, Adam Hughes and Lee Weeks who are aware of their limitations, and generally won't sign up for work that they'd be unable to finish in time. A need for fast comics places a premium on something that isn't quite related to talent or the ability to impress readers.

I do think leaving four or so open slots an year for issues that can go two months from conception to finished project (less time if it's two twelve-page stories) would somewhat alleviate the problem, giving writers the chance to respond to feedback in a quicker fashion. Though it would probably be hell on Wacker & company, it does allow Marvel to respond to fan commentary quickly. For example, Norah Winters was apparently a hit with the readers, but she didn't appear between Amazing Spider-Man #577 and 590, largely because work was done on most of the stories in between before her appearance hit the stores, and the schedule leading to Issue 600 was already filled. So she could have attended Obama's inauguration with Peter in a rush-job 22 page story in which Spider-Man meets the new President. This approach would also allow Marvel to deal with events that affect Spider-Man in other titles, reconciling his Amazing Spider-Man adventures with the events in New Avengers and The Future Foundation.

During the Brand New Day era, because Marvel filled their quotas so quickly and didn't have any more "room" in Amazing Spider-Man , some fairly commercial stuff was released in the Amazing Spider-Man Extra issues, which contain the same creative teams as the regular title, but get significantly less sales. In the event that there's no "ripped from the headlines" story to do, or no need for a spotlight on a new fan-favorite character, Marvel could still have the material for those types of stories. The epilogue to Character Assassination was probably the strongest chapter of the book, but it had less exposure as it wasn't in the main title.

More Writing For the Trade

For all of the complaints against "Writing for the Trade" there's no indication that fans dislike those types of stories. See "New Ways to Die" and the success of titles like Brubaker's Captain America, Bendis's Avengers, Snyder's Batman, The Ultimates, anything by Jeph Loeb and Green Lantern. As a result, I would encourage three or more 5-8 part stories an year, and I'd try to make sure that at least two of those stories have a commercial concept which can appeal to readers who don't follow the title. "New Ways to Die," "American Son," "Ends of the Earth," and "Spider Island" would all count. 

These will likely be perennial sellers. A generation later, Marvel is making money from Return of the Sinister Six, Kraven's Last Hunt and Torment, self-contained TPB-length stories with a complete beginning, middle and end. 

With more pages, you could have more significant developments with Peter Parker in the course of a single story, the difference between what can happen to a character in an episode of a TV show and what can happen in the course of a movie. With more developments, the stories will seem more substantial, which should discourage readers from dropping the book. It prevents a criticism that "progress" was too slow. It's also a bit easier to coordinate with multiple writers, as it's easier to have developments happen over the course of eight issues with one writer than eight issues with three different writers.

Lead time will be an issue on longer stories. The artist will need the first script months in advance, which also requires all the creative teams to know where the character is going to be in that first issue. But they should have been aware of that anyway, although that's an easy thing for an armchair quarterback like me to say.

The main risk is that these tentpole stories may start to seem insignificant after a while. Or that they may make the rest of the issues seem unimportant. But it's the responsibility of the writers and the editor to avoid that. It's a cheap answer, but one way to avoid that is to make sure that the quality is good. Twenty years later, no one cares that Torment and Return of the Sinister Six came out at the same time.

Annuals and Anniversary Issues

The intermissions would be long, so the annual output of Amazing Spider-Man could be the same as it is in the Big Time or as it was in the Brand New Day era. There would still be an Annual published during those intermissions, to whet the appetite of all the Spider-Man junkies waiting for the next fix. While the schedule would make the annuals seem more special, I would also make each one about 100 pages, just like Amazing Spider-Man #600 was.

Despite a noble effort to make annuals more meaningful post-Brand New Day, the current annuals just aren't impressive enough. It usually features a bit more content from the typical issue, and in recent years it isn't even by members of the creative team. As a result, the sales are much lower than the typical issue, even if it would sell better than a generic Spider-Man one-shot.

I like what Marvel did with Amazing Spider-Man #600, and the promotion of #700 also looks good. But I think the company made a mistake by completely ignoring #550 and #650. I would celebrate those milestones as well. Highly promoted anniversary specials sell more copies than the average issue, and therefore reach more readers. I'm glad that Marvel has realized how to make these jump-on points for new readers, using the event to feature either a self-contained story, or the first chapter of an epic storyline as opposed to the conclusion. I might encourage the former approach, as it gives the writers more pages to establish a storyline, with readers are more willing to have 40 pages of set-up in a single setting, than in two consecutive issues. And if there's a good cliffhanger, they're more likely to come back.

While I liked Amazing Spider-Man #600, an annual doesn't have to be 104 pages of original content (72 pages is quite alright.) Giving writers 48-104 pages to tell a story in a single setting allows them to not worry about details like making it accessible for readers who pick it up in the middle, having a cliffhanger every 22 pages, or the possibility that developments in the final portions will be spoiled when plot information for the end of the story (IE- in the previews) is released before the first part ships. One minor concern is figuring out how to differentiate the annuals from the milestone issues every year and a half, but that shouldn't be too difficult.

If I was in charge of Amazing Spider-Man, this is probably the schedule I would implement. I don't know how long it would last. It's probably an advantage for the post One More Day book that they're not tied down to any particular format.


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features as many updates on the latest developments in Spider-Man comics as we can, along with reviews, commentary, news and discussion. Occasionally we try to throw in some game reviews as well.

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