Problems with a weekly Amazing Spider-Man Part 1

weekly b

While the Brand New Day schedule was bold and had its benefits, it also had numerous disadvantages over the traditional format of two to four monthly Spider‑Man titles. These problems will persist should that format ever return in the future.

The Lead Time Issue

It requires more lead time for creators (at least at first), since Marvel couldn’t begin publishing an arc until they had every issue finished without the increasing potential for embarrassing delays, as those issues will ideally be released in quick succession. There would be an initial loss of a few months of productivity and there was be a longer wait between arcs by your favorite creators. For example, Dan Slott didn’t write any issues of Amazing Spider-Man between #600 and #618. This complicated their longer arcs and subplots, while putting the stories by the other creative teams on the back‑burner during anyone else’s arc.

Thanks to solicitations, readers have lead time as well. So they’re going to be aware of things ten issues down the line. That makes it much more difficult to set up certain storylines, as readers will have some major clues regarding the consequences. Many will also be impatient to get to a particular story. Someone waiting for Dan Slott and Marcos Martin’s Mysterio arc  might not have given Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta’s Electro three-parter a fair shot.

Multiple Creative Teams Working Simultaneously

Working in advance complicated matters for the writers, especially as the first scripts for a longer arc will have to be finished and given to the artist half an year or more before the issue sees publication. This differed from the monthly books, where most artists will get less lead time, as there’s more time between published issues. Each creative team worked on their stories at the same time the other teams work on earlier or later tales, and they needed constant communication with one another in order to factor in the developments of others. It could be seen as the equivalent of the writer for Amazing Spider-Man 2 finishing work on that screenplay at the same time some other guy is working on Amazing Spider-Man 3, a third guy starts writing Amazing Spider-Man 4, and a fourth writer starts plotting Amazing Spider‑Man 5 (though it is also the way most television writers work.) In the comics, this means that if Amazing Spider‑Man #712 ends with Aunt May being upset at Peter, it would be better if the guys doing Amazing Spider‑Man #713 acknowledge this, especially if Aunt May’s still upset in Amazing Spider‑Man #720, even though the script for #713 may need be written before the script for #712, to accommodate the artist’s schedule.

Weekly Problems c

Delays

Delays became more of a problem than ever before, with the Brand New Day era minimum of four different creative teams working on a book. The order in which the issues came out mattered, given the way one creative team’s storyline can lead directly into another in order to create the sense of a single coherent series. As the stories will be so interconnected, none of the writers or artists can afford to be late, as that will also delay the projects of others. Look at how much Joe Quesada’s delays on One More Delay held up all of the Brand New Day creative teams, since Marvel has good reasons not to publish those stories until readers saw the developments which led to the new status quo.

Delays can mess up this type of precision. If the creative team for Amazing Spider‑Man #612‑614 were late, that was going to delay Amazing Spider‑Man #615‑616 or result in that story (dealing with the ramifications of 612‑614) being released prematurely. As a creative team can not guarantee that they’ll be finished with a six issue arc on time, even if given enough lead time, that means that the only way for Marvel to guarantee that there will be no delays is to not solicit a story until every page is finished. This would add a few more months to the production time, which is one reason it didn’t happen. What Marvel chose to do whenever there was a schedule problem was to have several artists working on a single story, and in some cases, a single issue. The result was that the book was finished on-time, but the finished product was often less satisfying.

The need to work so far in advance made it difficult for future issues of Amazing Spider‑Man to reference contemporary events in the Marvel Universe and could lead to strange contradictions. For example, an Amazing Spider‑Man story written in May 2014 and published in December 2014 might feature Spider‑Man visiting the X‑mansion, while an X‑Men comic written in August 2014 and published in October 2014, might feature the X‑Mansion getting obliterated in a terrorist attack.

Potential Causes for Delays

Even if everyone on the Spider‑Man book finishes their work on time, there can still be complications, given how interconnected the Marvel Universe is. A late artist on another Marvel title could seriously delay an Amazing Spider‑Man issue that pays off of developments from that issue, especially if Marvel plans to have Spider‑Man interact with the Marvel Universe and take part in crossover “events” a move which led to renewed interest, great sales and some critical acclaim during Civil War. That would probably lead to every later issue of Amazing Spider‑Man getting stalled, unless Marvel decides to be in the awkward position of releasing the Amazing Spider‑Man issues on time, and spoiling major developments (perhaps even revealing cliffhangers). Likewise, delays in Amazing Spider‑Man might wreck havoc on other Marvel titles.

The writers will also have to be exact in their plotting. If a three issue storyline becomes a four issue storyline, that may end up taking a month or more of the artist’s time, which would become a problem if the artist assumed that he’d have to be finished with only two and a half issues worth of material before the first one’s in production. A few years ago, when Steve McNiven’s Sentry arc on New Avengers went from three issues to four, that led to months‑long interruption on his Ultimate Secret mini‑series, as his best‑selling New Avengers got top priority and the inkers and colorists went on to other projects. Eventually a less prominent artist (Tom Raney) finished Ultimate Secret. It didn’t help the Ultimate brand when a less popular artist finished a much delayed mini series.

These problems would be more extreme on this title, given how catastrophic delays would be. The only thing McNiven’s lateness on Ultimate Secret hurt were later issues of that mini‑series and its followup. And the delays don’t have to be due to the writer or artist, as inkers, colorists and letterers still need time to finish their part of the production process (and switching them in the middle of a story can result in the overall art being inconsistent). This could lead to Amazing Spider‑Man getting preferential treatment in any such circumstances, which sucks for the fans of the other more self‑contained books.

While Marvel could avoid any potential delays by announcing a temporary monthly or biweekly schedule when it becomes probable that the book can’t maintain its thrice‑monthly schedule (and later announce a weekly schedule to publish the comics by the creative teams that finished their work on time), any such move would lead to negative buzz and publicity, as many internet prophets would start claiming that it is proof that the new schedule (and probably the new status quo) are undeniable failures. With “American Son” Wacker & company realized that artist Phil Jiminez was unable to handle five issues in time, and the end result was that a big tentpole arc came with three artists, two of whom lacked name recognition.

The Infinite Spider-Man is a series of mini-essays regarding Marvel’s options for the future of the best character in comics.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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