Infinite Spider-Man 13.8: Risks and Brand New Day

Posted by Mister Mets 05 November 2012

One argument against One More Day was that it demonstrated Marvel's refusal to be bold, but that seems to contradict the facts. The entire project was a massive gamble. And there were certain decisions which Marvel made which only made it trickier.

The thrice-monthly format wasn't the safest choice available for Marvel. Fans used to the monthly schedule were more likely to drop Amazing Spider Man if they were unhappy with events in "One More Day" given the significant drain on their bank accounts. Encouraging readers to buy so many Spider Man books every month was hell on the wallet. It also discouraged readers from picking up arcs by creators they would ordinarily follow if they had no interest in the work of the other creators. At the same time, readers who disliked one creative team were likely find themselves compelled to buy every issue by the team because of the way those issues would impact the work by the three writers they liked. This sucked for the reader, but didn't represent a problem for Marvel. Unless it made the reader's decision to drop the book easier.

Given how risky the venture was, the potential that readers would already be put off by the developments of “One More Day” and the much higher monthly cost of the series (as sales figures indicated that not everyone who buys Amazing Spider Man bought the side titles) Marvel could have chosen more commercial writers and initial storylines. No one would argue against artists like Steve McNiven and John Romita Jr. being qualified, but if your top “name” writer was Dan Slott, you were not playing it safe. Bob Gale’s comics credits were minimal and fairly unexceptional. Marc Guggenheim had a critically acclaimed flop with Blade. Zeb Wells had written plenty of solid Spider Man stories, but it was entirely fill-in work or tertiary projects (mini series, Marvel Adventures, etc). 

Replacing one of the writers with an A-lister or a fan favorite Spider Man writer would have helped alleviate concerns. Did Ellis, Brubaker, Loeb, Bendis, Millar, Stern and Dematteis ALL say no to working on the book? I can appreciate why they didn't go with that route. It would have made the issues by everyone else seem less impressive and relevant.

The storytelling approach of introducing new villains for the next six months wasn’t as safe as pitting Spider Man against his best known enemies. Steve McNiven drawing Spider Man VS Venom is an easier sell than Steve McNiven draws Spider Man VS some guy you’ve never seen before. I understand why they did it. It was part of the process of slowly rebuilding the rogues gallery, who had lost their grandeur when a battle with Doctor Octopus became a visual shorthand for Spider-Man having a completely ordinary day. But it was not a safe approach at such a precarious time.
Given the many risks Marvel took, had One More Day failed, it would have been difficult to to determine what was responsible. Was it due to more readers waiting for the trade? Was it forcing fans to pay nine bucks a month to follow what was under JMS an accessible title? Was it because of the lack of an A list writer? Was it the decision to feature only new villains rather than stories with proven successes from the best rogues gallery in comics? Was it the decision to use a retcon to undo the marriage? Fans of the marriage would have claimed that any potential failure was proof that all attempts to undo the marriage were destined to fail. They would have cited Brand New Day, alone with the Clone Saga, and Mary Jane’s “death” as reasons to just leave the marriage alone.

However, it worked. As I described in the months after One More Day...
At the moment, I am optimistic about the success of the experiment. Many of the problems I cited would still exist with the traditional format, especially given how interconnected the Marvel universe has become. Artistic consistency is more of an illusion, and now you’ll usually have one creative team on every Spider Man issue for a month, so the readers who picked up every Spider Man issue on the stands would have a better time and there wouldn’t be the confusion you get trying to follow the same character in three different monthlies with their own situations and longer storylines. Delays and clashes between creators are always possible, as long as more than one guy’s working on the Spider Man books. 
Given all the disadvantages, if this project is a success, I would argue that it is an entirely unambiguous one and proof that the customers are happy with the new developments. It would be good in the long term, produce new villains to trouble Spider Man and other Marvel heroes for years to come and cement at least a few of the writers (if not all of them) as A listers, which will help their next projects. On the other hand, opponents of a newly single Spider Man (or whatever status quo occurs in "Brand New Day”) would attribute the success to the outstanding artists and Marvel’s cruel decision to “force” readers to buy three books a month, so the truth wouldn’t be universally acknowledged.
The other developments showed that One More Day wasn't just about the most publicized change. Slott and company made a good faith effort to fix other problems with the series. They introduced new villains to the series (we won't know whether the villains will stick around until Slott lets someone else write the book) and introduced a publishing schedule, which solved the problems inherent in balancing the continuity of a flagship title with ancillary books. Peter's love life was on the back burner for an year and a half, until it became an entertaining mess. Spider-Man's identity was more of a secret once again, as not even Norman Osborn and Venom knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. Which makes what's going to happen in "Dying Wish" a bit more special.

The Brand New Day era ended about three years later, and it was remarkable how successful the long term planning had been. The rogues gallery was rebuilt, especially with the Gauntlet mega-arc, which had a significant impact on Kraven the Hunter, the Lizard and the Rhino. The final Origin of the Species storyline was a battle royale with new villains and old. Peter had a consistent supporting cast, and the status quo was always in flux. He got into arguments with relatives. He got fired. He made his peace with his ex-girlfriend.

It wasn't perfect. I'm not surprised that they quickly replaced the thrice-monthly schedule with rotating writers to a twice-monthly format with one writer. There were a few periods in which issue to issue continuity didn't matter. And in retrospect, while they were setting up the Brand New Day era, they should have played around a bit more with Back in Black.

But this was a new take on Spider-Man. It was the best character in comics. It seemed to me that many earlier comics had just been about a generic superhero. This guy was different.

And the consistent quality of the book spoiled me for other titles, as they were paving the way for the Big Time era. And the Superior Spider-Man era. And whatever comes next.


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