Robot 6

The Fifth Color | Another Day, Another Spider-Man

Amazing Spider-Man #657Last Saturday, I was nearly beside myself in grief as a long time fan and comics aficionado completely struck Amazing Spider-Man from his comics pull list at the comic shop where I work. This is someone who used to get two copies of every book, even when it came out three times a month. Someone I certainly respect, as we had whiled away moments at the store talking comics, character and storytelling. A fan who knows what he likes and is adamant about what he doesn’t.

Amazing Spider-Man had crossed a line that he would not follow. Holding up a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #657 (give the man a break, it had been awhile since he’d dropped by), he simply stated he was done. He declared that Stan and Jack would have said everything that needed to be said in three panels regarding Johnny Storm’s demise and that the issue had dragged it out too long. Keep in mind, he didn’t even read the Fantastic Four, so just 28 pages dedicated to a classic character’s death had taken it over the line. He thought the costume was stupid and that there had been too many changes to Spidey’s look.

But most importantly, the thing that got me thinking was his downcast declaration of “Spider-Man shouldn’t be on the Fantastic Four.” And you know? He was right. The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t help but agree. I fully admit I hadn’t always seen eye-to-eye with this particular Spider-Fan (sorry, but Brubaker’s Captain America was pretty brilliant), but he has just the right way of holding true to the tenants of comic book storytelling. And he was most certainly right.

Spider-Man should not nor ever be a member of the Fantastic Four. Should he even be a member of the FF?

Yeah, for all of you holding in that “Actually…” you can exhale it with pride as yes, I am fully aware that the Fantastic Four is no more and Spider-Man has signed up with the Future Foundation. I think my Spider-Fan, at heart, knows this, too, but his declaration still holds weight. You see, Spider-Man works best as a loner, Dottie. A rebel. One man against the world shouldering his own responsibility under his own power. He is our best point-of-view in the Marvel Universe because the Marvel Universe never successfully sweeps him away from us. Fighting Doctor Octopus in head-to-head action doesn’t seem as impressive if Spider-Man has a direct line to the Avengers and can get Iron Man to nuke his foe from orbit. One man against the Sinister Six is pretty impressive. Four heroes, including some of the smartest and the strongest, versus six guys isn’t as dramatic. Mr. Fantastic, for all his personal story and strengths of character, is recognized as part of a larger whole, his family and team. Spider-Man is essentially recognized as himself, and its hard to put him in groups without thinking of everyone else as “Amazing Friends.”

At the same time, the Fantastic Four doesn’t need Spider-Man. Though they have taken on replacement heroes to keep their numbers even, the Fantastic Four is a family unit. These replacement members just come and go because the family element of their story is key. It’s a guy, his wife, his brother-in-law and his best friend. Spider-Man at best fits in like a guest star and should take a backseat to the adventures of Marvel’s First Family. Their challenge of the unknown (see what I did there?) isn’t for everyone; the adventures the Fantastic Four flourish in are their own unique style of storytelling. It’s a combination of high science and interpersonal relationships and on one hand, the science adventure can just get too “out there” for the average hero, requiring people who take on the unknown every morning after breakfast. On the other hand, their family unit would benefit too much from an outside perspective, the same way that complaining about guilt trips from your mother to call her more often are simply solved by just calling your mom. When you’re involved and invested in relationships, answers don’t come as quickly, and having a wacky pal with none of that investment might disperse a lot of the dramatic tension.

Both Spidey and the Fantastic Four would lose a lot if you were to mush them together into one unit; they would lose a lot of essential traits that make them unique in the Marvel U. The good news is that Spider-Man didn’t join the Fantastic Four, he joined the FF. In fact, a lot of people joined the Future Foundation, so many that they had to have a huge chart in the back of the first issue to help you keep track. Despite being more of a “family” book than before, with the heavy involvement of Franklin and Valeria Richards, there’s a decided lack of warmth between the characters that hasn’t returned in Johnny Storm’s absence. This is an entirely new team of superheroes, and it’s going to have new standards.

Now, this isn’t the first time Spider-Man got a new costume or modus operandi. And this is certainly not the first time that the Fantastic Four was all-new and different. Remember this?

Fantastic Four #348

Yeah, some of you do. For those that don’t, there’s a blurb on Wikipedia and a home-grown explanation from the guys at CSBG for you.   From the Wikipedia article, please note the phrase “Members of this short-lived team.”   From the Comics You Should Own segment, please note “we recognize that Marvel is cashing in.”  Was it cool to have Spider-Man, the Hulk, Wolverine and Ghost Rider as part of a team? It was the early ’90s, of course it was awesome! Did it last? Good gracious, no!  Hey, remember when Black Panther and Storm were the New Fantastic Four? That lasted for longer that the ’90s funky bunch, but Marvel’s First Family will never be officially supplanted. I think the name change should have been our first clue that this wasn’t going to be the Fantastic Four, but I think it’s just an issue of familiarity for the reader. If you put Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast and Angel on a team and don’t affiliate it with an X, I think the comic readers brain will just tack one on there.

So, to my Spider-Fan and treasured customer, I will say this: this too shall pass. I’m sorry it’s not what you were looking for in a Spider-Man book and I understand why you had to drop the title. In some ways I agree wholeheartedly with your assessments, in other ways I know that this isn’t permanent. I would be surprised if this new position lasted through Spider Island, an insular Spider-Man event if I ever heard one. I’ll keep the title off your pull for now, but I may throw in a new story once the weather’s changed again. Hang in there, True Believer.

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19 Comments

I read Civil War #2 and came to the conclusion that they had just given up the character. Why did I feel that? Well, they had just done the one thing you are not supposed to do and they obviously had no intention of doing anything with it. How long did that whole thing with Jonah being made last.Not long. It was barely a mention. That was the story. Not Superheroes fighting each other. Not the New Avengers. But more to the point, they let a television writer do whatever he wanted (except for a couple things he complained about) every month of that year and it didn’t make any sense. Why was Spider-man dying? Some magic stuff I didn’t care about. It hadn’t worked for the five years they had been doing it. More stuff was offered every month. A new costume and new powers and a new job.

None of it was going to go anywhere becuase they didn’t care and wanted him to be single. Now he’s just a mindless character they stuff in every other comic. They change his costume everyother month. They have children’s cartoon art in a couple issues followed by Ramos or someother person. You don’t need children’s art in a superhero comic book.

Besides, they already offered readers the biggest story ever and had no intention of doing anything with it. It was a sham. It got press but couldn’t sell issues because no story was there. What is there to look forward to? Spider-island. I hear they might bring Ben Reilly back. But again, I think they miss the point. Reading the Ben Reilly issues where he’s written as the one true Spider-man it’s a great read. He’s not a moron who spouts stupid phrases. He’s a Spider-MAN. I think that’s what a few fans want. I can’t say this current Spider-man seems like Spider-man from 10 or 20 years ago. I would of bought the FF if Spider-man wasn’t in it. I was going to. What does that say?

I can see not liking Spidey on a team. I also think he works best as a loner but can also be good on a team though. It’s funny in a way to me that being a part of the new Future Foundation is ‘bad’ but being on two Avengers teams as being ‘ok’.

That gets me too, Matt. Spidey has much deeper ties and is more of a natural fit with the FF than any other Marvel team. This transition at least feels somewhat closer to natural.

I give Spider-Man’s membership in the Future Foundation about 9 more issues of FF. Instead of publishing FF #12, Marvel will go back to the Fantastic Four numbering for Fantastic Four #600. And I doubt they’d do a milestone issue without the real Fantastic Four.

Spider-Man fits perfectly with the FF. He is smart enough to be there, proven by the last issue. And in terms of replacing Johnny he is the one Marvel character funny enough and has ties to the family. Him being there is a way for everyone to grieve with a death. Eventually they will realize they need to move on and Spider-man will be gone.

This is called caring about things that don’t matter.

It matters to the guy who dropped the comic. If you care enough to register with a comics board, Steez, surely you can understand opinions?

I don’t mind Spider-Man being part of a team. It’s just that I can’t see why he would join the FF when he’s already in the Avengers. And isn’t this the guy who always complains that he never has time to do anything!? Looks like Spidey is the new Wolverine. -_-

“Spider-man works best as a loner . . “? Hmm, what was Marvel thinking when they published Marvel Team-up for all those years? (only 150 issues – I guess it’s more like a limited series.) I anticipate most Spidey stories involving the FF to be in the FF book and Amazing will get back to solo Spidey stories. If you stuck with Amazing through Brand New Day and Spidey on the New Avengers (Almost 7 years ago!), why drop it now?

Personally, I dropped Amazing from my pull list during “Sins Past” but i will always pick up issues with artists I like like Marcos Martin or Javier Pulido, or if a storyline sounds good I can get the trade. I encourage the fan in the article to at least take a look at stories when they’re collected.

They have children’s cartoon art in a couple issues followed by Ramos or someother person. You don’t need children’s art in a superhero comic book.

Couple of things:

(1) I wasn’t at your house or anything, but I have to imagine, given the solemnity of your post, that you actually typed the above with a straight face. I’m impressed.

(2) I’m going to assume “children’s cartoon art” refers to the work of Marcos Martin, since you say “followed by Ramos,” who currently rotates art chores with Martin. While I have nothing against “cartoon” art, certainly not in a superhero title, it’s obvious that you mean the phrase as a strike against Martin, who is one of the most talented artists to do regular work on Spider-Man in many, many years. It isn’t a matter of opinion either, or at least no more a matter of opinion than Michael Jordan’s skill at basketball or Dickens’ ability as a prose stylist.

People have written essays about what Martin does in his artwork, how he conveys tone and movement in ways that all the cross hatching and “realism” in the world could never hope to achieve. Read his art with an eye for these things: do you think any artist from the Ben Reilly era could have pulled off what Martin did in ASM #656, either the gravitas of the silent funeral scene or the surreal layouts and Escher-esque drawings of the dream sequence? When was the last time Mark Bagley or Todd Nauck or even John Romita Jr, who I love, drew something like this:

http://i419.photobucket.com/albums/pp275/lazybastid/detail.jpg

If something about Martin’s line work rubs you wrong, fine. If you want to say you don’t like it, also fine. But don’t make it out to be inferior, “children”s work, just because you disagree with the highly intuitive choice to use a spare, “cartoony” style when drawing people who dress up in colorful costumes and go on adventures. If you can’t abide that, the fault is not Martin’s.

Let me preface my contribution to this interesting discussion by stating that generally I’ve liked a lot of the post-Brand New Day stories. Some of the villain revamps and supporting cast additions were hokey and superfluous (JJJ’s dad is still alive…*really*?) , but a slew of great writers and artists stepped up and delivered an outstanding run of near-classic Spidey tales. Having Marcos Martin and Javier Pulido, the two best Spidey artists in a long, long time on board didn’t (and doesn’t) hurt either. Now that Dan Slott is running the show solo, however…

I think that Spider-Man joining a team like the Avengers or the Fantastic Four (or even the Outlaws!), getting a new costume, power or girlfriend, working at a bleeding edge super-science lab as Peter Parker and so on are all potentially interesting story ideas that have been used to great (and sometimes lasting) effect in the past. Doing them all at once on the other hand just smacks of creators blindly flailing about, overkill. When Spider-Man is on not one, but two Avengers’ teams, AND the FF, AND working at Horizon Labs AND sporting three different costumes on top of his regular one AND without his Spider-Sense AND keeping this massive juggling act from Carlie Cooper, it strains credulity way beyond the breaking point. Moreover, by changing everything at once, the individual impact of each deviation from the status quo gets lost in the shuffle. Rather than tell a series of good stories that really focus on what it must be like for Spidey to lose something he relies on so thoroughly as his Spider-Sense, or what it would mean for his crimefighting activities while leading a double life in a real relationship, or have commitments to a superteam on top of his solo endeavours, it all blends together into a jittery rush of disjointed adventures that never seem to link together into something resembling a continuing character arc. Taking all that into account, I can imagine someone who just wants a monthly issue of straight-up Spider-Man or two getting frustrated enough with the book to say ‘adios’.

I’m with everyone who finds it strange that this particular event was the breaking point for this particular Spider-Man fan. I mean, with all the terrible things Marvel has done to Spidey (Clone Saga, Sins Past, revealing his secret identity to the world, One More Day) this guy draws the line at him joining the FF?

I’m a long-time Fantastic Four fan, so this has actually gotten me somewhat interested in Spider-Man again and I’ve bought the last few Amazing Spider-Man issues as a result (having Marcos Martin and Javier Pulido on art was also a draw). And as others have said, the FF is a natural fit for Spidey, much more so than his Avengers membership (which still doesn’t sit right with me, but maybe that’s ’cause I’m not a Bendis fan).

I am sick and tired of hearing people claim that Marvel “doesn’t care” about any of their characters. Thats a crock of bull$%^&. Marvel only cares about their characters. They have lost money so many times in the past because they care so much about their characters! And who is their flagship character? Spider-Man. Marvel cares about Spider-Man so much that they decided it was time for radical changes (Unmasking and OMD). Marvel knew not everyone would like these changes, but they did it anyways because they would rather alienate some fans than see their flagship character and Stan and Steve’s prize creation fall to the bottom of the sales rung.

I would also like to add that I would probably never stop reading Amazing Spider-Man. Historically, the only time the title gets so bad that its almost not worth reading is probably the Howard Mackie era. From issues 419-470 it gets pretty bad. But even then, you had some great art by Romita Jr and short-lived guys like Steve Skroce. There’s good stuff in that era like Revenge of the Green Goblin. That Norman/Peter elevator issue was phenomenal. That might’ve been Peter Parker: Spider-Man though. So its never that bad, even when its bad.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Spider-Man should not nor ever be a member of the Fantastic Four. Should he even be a member of the FF?

He should be if it’s as well written as it has been in ASM by Dan Slott since he joined.
The past two issues have been… well…. fantastic!

Conversations like this are the reason why comics in general are low on my Top Ten things I like in General. Because at #1 is one you all are free to debate with me over, so I am just going to say this:

NOTHING. STOPS. GODZILLA. EVER.

Fanboys hate change. It’s ridiculous. Especially since they know all of those changes will be undone within a year or so.

Cape books are tired. They’re narrowly focused on pleasing that group of forty something babymen by recycling the same stories they have been for half a century. The status quo needs to be shaken up from time to time because THAT’S when new or lapsed fans come on.

Keeping them is something they fail at doing. (See sentence #2)

I agree. It isn’t a matter of phasing them out (and that would be a stupid thing to do); it’s a matter of actually increasing the number of newer readers, especially the younger ones. Maybe it’s time comics, for the first time in three decades or so, get back to the regular newstand or supermarket.

Yeah I’m no fan of Spidey these days (have zero interest since OMD) It’s just not for me. But why now? Why weren’t the two Avengers teams before a breaking point?

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