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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At CBR, some of the most passionate discussions have been on the topic of the behavior of fans and professionals in their interactions with one another, as seen here and here. There were a lot of complaints about perceived slights, either in interviews or with interactions with professionals involved with One More Day or subsequent comics, at message boards, and other places online.

Regarding the relationship between fans and professionals, it seems that people fall into several groups, two of whom view professionals and fans quite differently. Ignoring partisans (whose stated views on whether another acts morally are determined by whether they agree with the individual on other issues), purists (who apply the same standards to everyone) and entertainers (who don't really care about the issue either way, but just want to say something witty) there seems to be one central division in outlook whenever conflicts arise regarding the relationship between the man in the arena and the detractor.


The man in the arena is just a term for the individual involved in a public undertaking, such as a sports figure, politician, or comic book writer or editor, in this case. The detractor is the guy criticizing the man in the arena. He can vary from an anonymous Monday morning quarterback to someone who can be considered a Man in the Arena himself, when his stature and reach is such that he is discussed in a way the anonymous masses of critics are not. See Paul Krugman or Roger Ebert.

The division, although it could also be seen as more of a spectrum than anything binary, is whether you'll side with the man in the arena or the detractor, when disputes arise over whether the former acted civilly.

You could argue that the man in the arena has chosen a high-profile position, be it Governor, Baseball Coach, Hollywood Director or whatever, where he is to be held to a higher standard. His words carry more weight, so he must be careful and sensitive lest anything be construed as an insult. Patience and understanding is an absolute requirement, even when dealing with the worst fans, critics and detractors. The extreme of this is to suggest that the fans can be thin-skinned jerks, while the professionals must walk on eggshells in any interactions.

Or you could argue that the man in the arena (who can also be a woman but it's easier to use male pronouns) has done a lot of work to get to where he is. Analysis of what he does for a living is fine, but it must be civil. And the complainer has to be correct, when it comes to objective details. It is not the responsibility of the man in the arena to waste his time when the backseat driver is careless with facts. There's nothing wrong with patience, but there's also nothing wrong with humiliating a particularly stupid heckler.

I don't care for the partisans; the ones who will criticize the creators they don't like (and often don't follow) for things that are also done by their favorite writers and artists, often to a greater degree.

And I dislike the hecklers. It's subjective, but I think a true heckler has to be obnoxious. And a stupid heckler has to be wrong about the facts, as well. I have no problem with a professional dismantling either a partisan or a heckler.

What you think of this letter and the response probably reveals what you think of the topic.



The worst fans generally top the worst professionals, but what professionals say is more memorable. And a few readers will claim that a particular response to them is an affront to all fans, a sign of disrespect to the customers.

A few readers have insisted that Marvel should make sure that the professionals act appropriately. I don't agree here. It is my opinion that, aside from the most extreme cases, all that should matter is the quality of the work. Punishing a writer because he was rude online demonstrates that quality is not the priority, an attitude that I believe is especially harmful to this particular industry. Rewarding a writer because of his civility is also harmful, as it demonstrates a concern for something other than what matters: the quality of the work. And there is no way for a company to mandate a particular form of behavior without a willingness to take work away from professionals who fail to meet this standard, even if it has nothing to do with the finished material.

I don't think buying a comic book gives anyone the right to be obnoxious and/or wrong without being called on it. Such an expectation sets a bad precedent. That said, I've rarely seen anyone eviscerated simply for giving their opinion about a comic they've purchased. Any reprisals usually come when the critic A) is mistaken regarding the facts, or B) makes a personal attack against an artist (I use artist to describe anyone involved in the creation of the work of art.)


In defense of readers who have had their feelings hurt, I remember an interesting comment about one of the most acclaimed books of the last few years: Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Unfortunately, I can't find the exact link. One problem the reader had was a difficulty looking at the book without thinking of the author, a man who some would say has significant flaws. It became difficult to read the book, without thinking that this represented how Jonathan Franzen, a flawed man, saw the world.

This could be applicable to Spider-Man comics. If I ever write the Spdier-Man comics, and you have a problem with me as an individual, it would be difficult to divorce your objection to the writer from my take on Spider-Man. The character's no longer the character; the character is Thomas Mets's version of the character, and your take on it is informed by an awareness of my faults.

This could be as a problem when a particular fan is offended by a writer, regardless of who was right. Whereas someone like me would gleefully state that with very rare exceptions, the only thing that should matter to anyone else is the quality of the work, it would become difficult for a reader to assess the quality of the work if he's thinking about how this version of Spider-Man is being written by a guy who did something he finds offensive.

And there is behavior that is truly outrageous. The founder of heavyink.com, an online comics retail service, got a lot of well-deserved flack for suggesting that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords deserved to get shot, and for suggesting that her outreach director deserved to die. This is outrageous behavior by a professional in the comics industry, and I have no objection whatsoever to customers deciding that he does not merit their patronage. Anything said by Wacker or Slott doesn't compare.

Sometimes a reader misinterprets what was said, and a significant nuance is lost in the paraphrasing. Some of the complaints just aren't particularly valid. Sometimes there are people with chips on their shoulders trying to stir up problems for the pros. Technically, someone opposed to the direction of the book has incentives to get anyone involved with the book entangled in time-consuming arguments, which doesn't encourage good-faith discussions. So they might push forward arguments they know to be outrageous, in the hopes of upsetting a fan.

In other cases, readers may not take a scene at face value, and assume there's a new meaning behind it. A few were upset at Mary Jane's reappearance in Amazing Spider-Man #560 as a new character's mystery girlfriend. because it included a reference to Faust, and because he used the "You just hit the Jackpot" line with someone else. There was a similar reaction to the first Big Time issue in which Peter and Mary Jane laughed off the thought that they could live together. It seemed entirely appropriate for the character, two exes who had just started to be on good terms with one another. But it was interpreted in another way.

When a scene isn't taken at face value, it makes communication much more difficult. So it's better not to assume ulterior motives from the other guy.


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