The original title for this series of essays was “Spider-Man Forever.” That was before Marvel announced X-Men Forever, a series in which writer Chris Claremont wrote the franchise as if he had never left the book in the early 1990s. At CBR, I asked if this could be done with the Spider-Man comics, and there was a seemingly obvious divergence point: One More Day.
Projects that are out of continuity generally don’t sell well, especially monthlies. X-Men Forever had the most prominent X-Men writer ever, and it still got cancelled. Under most circumstances, there isn’t much of an indication that a similar Spider-Man title would be financially viable. Work that’s not set in the classic Marvel Universe or the Ultimate Universe comes with significant hurdles, as some readers just don’t think it matters. And there have been books before and after One More Day featuring a married Peter & MJ that didn’t include impressive sales.
Considering this, a Spider-Man Forever book would be unlikely to sell well enough to continue for a long time. And in the likely event that it gets cancelled, you’d have some angry and conspiratorial fans claiming Marvel didn’t support it enough, ignoring the fundamental flaws in the concept.
Ron Ferraro, a poster at CBR, former comic book retailer and vocal OMD critic, suggested a variation in which Marvel publishes a second ongoing series in which Peter had rejected Mephisto’s offer from One More Day. The difference is that Marvel wouldn’t establish which version is “real.” While Spider-Man could appear in other titles, his private life would remain ambiguous. So the title with a married Spider-Man would still matter, at least as much as the other book.
Spidey’s bachelor status has been referenced in other titles, such as his date with Ms. Marvel and conversation with Spider-Woman in New Avengers over whether he’s ever been married. If you suddenly announced a new title which went in a different direction with Peter telling Mephisto to go stuff himself in One More Day, it will seem a little bit less legitimate because it would be seen as existing outside the regular Marvel Universe, which has gone on since OMD. That could be avoided with the establishment of a new point of divergence. Loose ends from One More Day could be tied up in a new storyline, which then allows for two different tracks at the end, so both “new” series would start on equal footing.
The differences in the books will be more than just the marital status, as the characters will have adventures which can have an impact on the rest of the Marvel Universe. This applies even if it’s just a minor detail such as whether or not Spider-Man has met the newest members of Avengers Academy, which you would expect to be mentioned in a team-up in that title. If the Marriage Forever Spider-Man teams up with Wolverine’s X-Men in his title, and the Post-BND Spider-Man doesn’t, Jason Aaron will have to pull off one hell of a tightrope walk should Spidey appear in Wolverine and the X-Men. If Vulture’s killed off in one of the titles, he would be off-limits to the entire Marvel Universe. New villains can’t appear outside the Spider-Man books, until they’ve appeared in both titles, which would either require the writers telling redundant stories or requiring readers to be familiar with events in the other title.
Amazing Spider-Man also has two monthly spinoffs: Scarlet Spider and Venom, both of which will build off of storylines from ASM. The parallel titles scenario limits significantly the ability to do that, as you wouldn’t be able to reference events from either Spider-Man title (any reference elsewhere has to apply equally to both titles.) Under this approach, something like Spider Island and Superior Spider-Man would be borderline impossible.
Such a compromise gives the people who still hate the post-One More Day direction more hope that Marvel fails. And more reasons to be (sometimes irrationally) pissed off if this approach doesn’t yield the results they want. Sales discussions will be more chaotic than ever, and the OMD haters would second-guess every creative decision Marvel makes to come up with preemptive excuses if their title is less successful.
People would talk about it online, but it would give ammunition to the people with an agenda against the current status quo at Marvel. Detractors could demand that neither series be called Amazing Spider-Man. Otherwise, there would be a legitimate argument that Marvel’s giving Quesada/ Alonso’s preferred status quo the more prestigious book. If there’s no Amazing Spider-Man, this prevents Marvel from being able to take advantage of the boost the title gets relative to other Spider-Man books. I guess you could call the married Spider-Man title Amazing Fantasy, as that’s a title with some historic significance. Adjectiveless Spider-Man could also work, though it would be quite confusing for new readers.
In this fantasy scenario it doesn’t really seem fair for one of the books to be called just “Spider-Man”. To put them on equal footing, shouldn’t they both have qualifiers? One could be called, as Farmernudie suggested, Spider-Man BND. And the other could be called, Spider-Man WTF. (Short for Spider-Man Whatever That Farmernudie-guy wants.) And instead of a letter column, there’d be a sign-up sheet asking just ronnieramone and farmernudie what they specifically want in the next issue. And that’s what’d get done. Until they started disagreeing with each other. And then we could do 3 books.
I represent a secret legion of long-time Spider-Man fans who feel the grave mistake with the character first raised its head in the first panel of the first story where he is rudely awakened by an elderly man! This goes against everything that had been established in the book by that point (for one thing that was HARDLY an “Amazing” Fantasy!) There is NO WAY the Ben Parker I knew from the upper left portion of that panel would viciously tousle a young boy’s hair like that. To make matters worse, Peter than compares the elderly man to a CLOCK!! which is something he had never done up to that point (way to twist the character to fit you needs, writer!) And I don’t care if I have to post this declaration everyday…I WILL NOT STAND FOR IT! I will gather in the public square–just like the Romans!– until me and my 299, 935, 000 fellow Americans who aren’t reading the book have their calls heeded! Believe me, I have them in my corner, but they fear speaking publicly. If this change were finally dealt with instead of being rudely ignored and mocked, I can guarantee the sales on the would skyrocket to cover every man, woman and child and Marvel wouldn’t need variant covers (that clearly no one wants since I don’t) to make sales look good. Do it, Wacker, or should I say Wanker for that is what you am?
If Marvel thought there was a way to make money with this, they’d do it. There are significant knocks against the book, though.
Some thought that a “straight to TPB” approach would give the married Spider-Man title more credibility. However, there’s a reason you don’t see many straight to trade/ hardcover projects from Marvel and DC. Both companies really like all those readers who pay twice for the same material, in single issue form and in later collections.
In the case of Superman: Earth One, DC aimed for a consumer base outside of typical comic book fans, with a product that’s perfect for bookstores and for amazon.com. It went straight to trade, because that’s where the majority of the audience was anyway. The customer base of a Spider-Man Forever title would be mostly people who are already reading comic books or at least familiar with the process of buying comics: Spider-Man geeks who will buy almost any Spider-Man product (keep in mind how few Amazing Spider-Man readers picked up stuff like the Extras or the spinoff mini-series), fans of a married Spider-Man and perhaps connoisseurs who buy particular critically acclaimed titles, the guys who will gush over Thor the Mighty Avenger or the Loki-centric Journey Into Mystery.
You’d get some of the people who left the title after OMD (for argument’s sake, I’m looking at the crowd who was reading JMS’s Amazing Spider-Man prior to the “The Other” as that storyline marked the point when the title’s sales were artificially inflated with 21 consecutive EVENT issues), but not all of them. And if it’s straight to trade, you wouldn’t have anyone double-dipping.
The idea of having two parallel books set simultaneously within separate universes and the shared Marvel Universe just gets too complicated. But there are a few Marvel comics published outside the regular Marvel Universe. That raises the question of whether it’s even advantageous to have Spider-Man be married in the main title, when there are other places to read about a single Spidey.