Infinite Spider-Man 11.5: Other Formats

Posted by Mister Mets 02 July 2012

It's impressive that Marvel has successfully changed a formula that worked well enough for decades. Since the Mid-1970s, the traditional format was that there were three Spider-Man monthlies, an approach that came with some disadvantages. Brand New Day showed that an entirely different schedule and creative team system could still be successful. And The Big Time is a different format from that, a compromise between the two, with increased production of Amazing along with various satellite titles. Marvel has several alternatives to these options.

The Massive Monthly

Amazing Spider-Man could be a monthly, but there's no reason that it has to be limited to 22 pages of content per month. If Marvel increased the page count to 80 or so pages an issue, they could charge ten bucks a pop. I would imagine that this system would be similar to how the book was during Brand New Day, just in terms of how the creative teams work with one another to produce a high amount of content.

One advantage is that there would be a likely decline in per-page printing costs, so it might be cheaper than getting the same material spread out through several issues. But there's less of a premium on advertising, when there are more pages available for advertisers per issue. Bags and boards are designed with 32 page stories in mind, so storage could become a problem for customers. And each issue would be more expensive, which would make it more daunting for new customers.

This would also require the writers to learn how to work with an entirely new structure than the one they've used for years. It could be liberating not having to worry about a cliffhanger on the 22nd (or now the 20th) page, and this does allow greater opportunity to set-up a longer story with confidence that the reader will stick around for the entirety of the much longer issue whereas they might not be so inclined to buy several issues. But publishing shorter stories gets complicated. The inconsistency in the format can get jarring if a two part story is followed by a collection of shorter pieces which is followed by a single-issue storyline.

It seems that this format would almost mandate "writing for the trade." It encourages writers to go with longer and bigger storylines, which means there aren't as many opportunities to explore Spidey's downtime. That has contributed to great stories in the past. Writers are also less able to use one of the best tools at their disposal in serial drama: the cliffhanger. It's something most comic book writers have had years, if not decades, of practice on. Though it may be more satisfying for newer readers when the chances are greater that the new issue of Amazing Spider-Man has a complete story.

There would also be pressure to include some material by cheaper talent to fill out the pages. If the draw is a fifty page story by Ed Brubaker and Humberto Ramos, the rest of the issue could be material for people you've never heard of. In some cases, this would be a cost-saving measure that gives new talent a chance to shine and reach a greater audience. But some writers and artists are unknown for a reason; they're just not ready for something like Amazing Spider-Man.

Graphic Novels Only

Some readers have advocated a switch to an OGN only format, although this comes with a few disadvantages. 
The buy-in cost is highest, and Marvel can no longer earn revenue from the many fans who double dip. This also requires the greatest amount of material before it's time to publish, so the talent has to wait longer to get paid, or Marvel has to wait longer to get back the money that went into the salaries. In addition, there's no revenue from advertising.

Structurally, you'll have many of the same problems you have with the massive monthly, just on a larger scale. There may be incentives to keep stories shorter, as fans won't be particularly interested in paying twenty bucks for Part 1 of 2. At that price, they'll want a complete story, even if they're willing to pay four bucks each for a ten issue storyline.

But each new Spider-Man adventure would be a big deal, with the wait between volumes. There are some interesting possibilities there. It could be the equivalent of several Spider-Man films an year. In that case, the bigger stories would no longer be as special, and there would no longer be as many opportunities to tell the smaller stories.

Digital Only

It's possible for Marvel to switch to a digital only format at some point in the near future, although this approach would also come with some problems of its own. It requires a consumer to have some sort of screen and an internet connection, although that's increasingly becoming less or a hurdle.

It could seem like a distinction without a meaning, as a digital only format is still going to require a schedule and cost structure. There isn't much of a difference between a 22 page weekly floppy and a 22 page weekly digital comic from a plotting perspective, although the writer could be reassured that a reader would have an easier time picking up related storylines.

But digital would allow for a few other possibilities. The chapters could be shorter, although I'm not sure anyone wants that considering how decompressed the typical comic book is nowadays. It's reasonable to demand, as Dan Slott did, that the first issue of a longer comic book story should be satisfying as a work of art.
Dear comic book reviewer, PLEASE stop lowering the bar for "set-up" issues and 4 minute reads. Far too often I'll see a review that starts "Well, this is just a set-up issue, so..." NO, damn it! Demand MORE from your comics! No more grading on a curve! 
Most of these things cost $4. SOMETHING should ACTUALLY happen in those 20 or so pages! You should be getting a FULL unit of entertainment! Can it be a chapter of of larger/greater story? Sure. But it should still be a full "meal" in and of itself-- not a partial serving or an appetizer of something to come.

I don't care if it's the best damn prepared appetizer in the world. For 4 God forsaken dollars it should entertain me for more than 4 freaking minutes! 
And if it doesn't? HELL, YEAH you should deduct points for that! No more 5 star appetizers! I'd rather have a 4 star MAIN COURSE! No more sizzle-- bring on the STEAK!
*soapbox disengaging*
*returning to your regularly scheduled broadcast*
That gets much more difficult when the entries are shorter. There has to be some form of payoff to the set-up in each installment, and when there's less space to tell the story, writers lose one more tool: that of elaborate set-up, which can sometimes be a beautiful thing. An example was Amazing Spider-Man #238, in which a routine fight with some thugs results in the creation of a new supervillain. Individual chapters are no longer as special when it's only 7-8 pages per installment, possibly several times a week. You would also go several installments without seeing Spider-Man in action, or Peter Parker dealing with his private life.

After pondering Marvel's alternatives, it's worth considering what they could have done circa 2007 if they had decided that completely changing Spider-Man's schedule would have been too radical a development, and that their best course of action was to overhaul but keep the monthly titles.


The schedule for Amazing Spider-Man during the current Big Time era is a bit different from what we've had before. Production for this title is down to two books a month, with one writer (for the most part) working with a rotating team of artists. But there are also more spin-offs, one starring Peter Parker, in addition to three for characters who had prominent appearances in recent Spider-Man comics.

There was always the possibility that at one point Marvel would give the book to an individual writer for a prolonged period of time with an increased production schedule. A few years ago, Marvel was willing to put Mark Millar on all three X‑Men books, a plan they later scrapped because Millar decided to do Fantastic Four and creator owned work. Rumors are abound that they're going to announce a similar schedule with Brian Michael Bendis and the X-Men. This move was an even easier with the post-OMD Amazing Spider‑Man schedule, as the change to the publication was less significant than moving from a monthly title to twice a month. Instead, Marvel went from one unconventional formatt to another.

There are some clear advantages. Issue to issue continuity is much better, as you do get a sense that the writer is aware of events that had happened a few issues earlier. Dan Slott is able to "seed" future storylines, such as when he gave Silver Sable a prominent role in a time travel two-parter to set up her arc in Ends of the Earth. That's harder to pull off with rotating writers, as there are more restrictions on the schedule.

Things are still slightly imperfect with some of the comics written by guest writers. For example, Mark Waid's characterization of Peter Parker after his break-up with Carlie Cooper seemed to contradict the end of the previous storyline in which the former couple was on much better terms. One reason there's been a need for guest writers is that the increased production on Amazing Spider-Man is a great strain on its sole writer.

It is problematic for Spider‑Man fans who dislike Dan Slott, and fans of the writer who'd like to see more diversity from his work than two Spider‑Man books a month. The storytelling variety you get with one writer doing multiple series, and several different writers working on the stories of one character is diminished. Though as I like Dan Slott on Spider-Man and am happier getting 24 issues (give or take) an year than twelve issues an year. This could be more of a problem with a less versatile writer, though.

It’s unlikely that Marvel would ever put a single artist on the book, as I’m currently aware of only two comic artists who can handle two issues a month for a prolonged period of time: John Byrne and Chuck Austen. So, as long as they're producing 24 issues of Amazing Spider-Man an year, they're going to need several artists. That can bother readers hoping for a more consistent art style. Though it's worth noting that few monthlies have one artist doing all the content any more.

For a little while, Amazing Spider-Man's page count went up to thirty pages of content per issue. That justified an increase in the price of the comic. So instead of paying the cover price of nine dollars a month for 66 pages, readers paid eight dollars a month for 44 pages. Sometimes the supplemental material set up later storylines, although it was often filler or an attempt to promote an upcoming Marvel title. Eventually, the extra feature was cancelled, except the comic remained a dollar more expensive per issue than during the BND era. With the reduction in content, Marvel introduced a new satellite title for Spider-Man.

The Avenging Spider-Man

An obvious question is how long Avenging Spider-Man was going to last. Spider-Man satellite books haven't had a long shelf life in recent years. Web of Spider-Man lasted twelve issues. FNSM lasted 24 issues. Marvel Knights Spider-Man lasted for 22 issues, before it became Sensational Spider-Man, which lasted for 19 issues. Spectacular Spider-Man had the most impressive record of the last few years at 27 issues.

But Avenging Spider-Man does have a few things going for it.  The team-up novelty has worked in the past, and the new title is effective way of marketing branding, even if it seems a little weird whenever Spider-Man doesn't team-up with someone on the Avengers. It comes at a convenient time, as the Avengers overtook The Dark Knight as the top-grossing superhero film in the domestic box office.

It's a satellite title that sells more than most satellite titles. And readers won't expect changes to Peter Parker's life in this title.  Focusing on superhero team-ups also gives Dan Slott, or any future Amazing Spider-Man writer, greater flexibility, as they doesn't have to worry about coordinating complex storylines with a satellite book.

Writer Zeb Wells left after five issues, and Chris Yost will be taking over with Issue 12. The book currently consists of standalone projects, including part of a crossover with Daredevil and Punisher co-written by the guys in charge of those books. The concept is strong enough that the book can survive all these changes, though it can be problematic for the book's image if the majority of the material is essentially filler. Still there's a history of satellite titles surviving early creative team departures, especially if the concept is strong enough to allow someone else to take over.

Other Titles

Since the Brand New Day era ended, Spider-Man has had a more active role in the outside Marvel Universe, joining the Future Foundation and headlining two events (Spider Island and Ends of the Earth) which guest starred various heroes. With one writer guiding the character on Amazing Spider-Man, the editorial work has to be a lot easier, now that there's less concern about making sure that a team of writers are all on the same page. It's easier to coordinate with the writers and editors of other titles without having to worry about whether something contradicts the work of one of the five writers on Amazing.

The Big Time era has also seen a few spinoff titles for Spider-Man related characters, whose new solo directions were seeded in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. Paul Tobin's Spider-Girl was cancelled, although with the Spider Island mini series and giant sized special, there was a little over 14 issues worth of content, which is respectable as far as flops go. Venom and Scarlet Spider have been more successful, providing Marvel with two new heroes capable of supporting a solo title, something that is always a valuable commodity. With one guy writing Amazing Spider-Man, there's more room to manage other closely related monthlies.

We'll see how long the new schedule lasts, and what replaces it. The current structure is very much a departure from the norm, and it's entirely possible that they'll go with something different the next time around.


Spider-Men # 2

Posted by bulletproofsponge

The first thing I have to say is that my prediction on Mysterio was totally off in my last review. I do suppose I forgot that Ultimate Mysterio's head is always on fire sort of.

The Story

So we start with Mysterio on the floor, right where our Spider-Man left him before being transported into the Ultimate Universe. Mysterio gets up and boot starts his Avatar - the Ultimate Mysterio with the flaming head and sends him into the Ultimate Universe after Spidey.

Back at the Ultimate Universe, the two Spider-Man have some conversation + semi fighting with each Spider-Man wanting to know the identity of the other.

Miles manages to test out his Spider-sting and invisibility tricks on Peter. Half way through, Miles gets a gut feeling that it's actually Peter behind the mask, while Peter actually unmasks Miles, though it doesn't help him figure anything out. He was pretty relieved that it wasn't another version of himself behind the ask though.

Anyway, after the fight, Peter gets knocked out and wakes up at the SHIELD HQ, being interrogated by Nick Fury. After a detailed explanation to Nick Fury, Peter is freed. He is then formally introduced to Miles, who is then given the task of updating Peter of the Peter Parker situation.

The two Spider-Men get on a helicopter. Unfortunately, the copter gets blown to bits before Peter gets any of the answers he was looking for. Outside, we see Ultimate Mysterio with a Bazooka, ready to play with some 'fireworks.'

This was a pretty good issue/ follow up to the first issue. Personally, I don't follow Ultimate comics, so Miles Morales is a first for me. I like the kid's character so far, pretty whackey, yet different from Peter.

Nick Fury sort of believed Peter's story a little too fast, but it was necessary to get on with the story. Either way, I can see that these two Spider-Men are gonna have a pretty good time working together.


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