Monday, June 18, 2007

The One and Only Spider-Man?

Interesting. Basically, beyond a host of non-mainline stuff like the Ultimate book and the excellent Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, there've been three Spider-Man books. Amazing, which is the mothership and far and away the most important, with Spectacular which kinda, sort of focuses on the supporting cast, and Friendly Neighborhood, which is written by Peter David (Back in the day you had Web of and Ajectiveless and Unlimited among others, too.). Together they sell over 200k copies a month but the vast majority of that comes from Amazing. Now the plan is to fold Spectacular and Friendly while putting Amazing on a three-a-month schedule. By rotating creative teams in order to have enough material to pump out that many books in a month. So, essentially, they're collapsing the two lower selling titles into the main one.

Which is something I've always wondered why comic book publishers don't do more often. Because creative teams can only work so quickly and because the demand for certain characters is for more than a single book in a month they have multiple titles for characters like Batman and Superman and Spider-Man, even Wolverine and Punisher among others. In theory, you can highlight various facets of the character by focusing on a different style or area of the design space. That way you gets, say, Morrison on New X-Men while tossing the Claremont fans a bone with, sigh, X-Treme and the line isn't weakened, it's strengthened by the diversity. And while that makes a certain amount of sense if you're aiming each of those books at a particular niche of the buying public, for the most part they try and weave the same story through every title.

Which is a problem because you're dealing with different writers and artists and not everyone's always on the same page. Events that happen in one book should, presumably, affect those in others. But, for the most part, they don't much more than a passing mention or half-hearted attempt to shoehorn them into the ongoing plot. You're really reading two or more different books that are only tangentially related.

Worse is when the books are so tightly controlled that the story really does flow through different title like a permanent, never-ending crossover. In that case you're reading one book but just sold under multiple titles.

And then you have things like delayed schedules. Astonishing X-Men, for example, is supposed to be really good (I don't get it myself. But, then, I really liked the Morrison run.). Theoretically, it should be the flagship title of the sprawling X-line. But because it so rarely comes out the other authors or other books avoid any of its developments. Won't touch them with a ten foot pole. It's even going to miss out on the Endangered Species cross-over because it's still stuck resolving a story it started years but only a handful of issues ago. Problems like that make it impossible to be consistent through multiple titles with a character.

On the other hand, putting it all under one roof, so to speak, makes a lot of sense. It might suck if you've only been buying Amazing because it's the only spider book that matters. Now, instead of one issue a month they've presumably got three issues to buy, not all of which might be the story they actual want to follow. It'll probably be a nightmare to try and follow the solicitations and order for. But for the fans who've been collecting all the titles, it's going to be a lot simpler and a lot more consistent. The story, take as a whole, should be better off. Should be interesting for the industry if this model proves anything like successful.

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