Annuals, Milestones, and Writing For the Trade

 

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There are a few other structural changes I would implement if given the keys to the Spider-Man books.

More Writing For the Trade

For all of the complaints against “Writing for the Trade” there’s no indication that fans dislike those types of stories. See “New Ways to Die” and the success of titles like Brubaker’s Captain America, Bendis’s Avengers, Snyder’s BatmanThe Ultimates, anything by Jeph Loeb and Green Lantern. As a result, I would encourage three or more 5-8 part stories an year, and I’d try to make sure that at least two of those stories have a commercial concept which can appeal to readers who don’t follow the title. “New Ways to Die,” “American Son,” “Ends of the Earth,” and “Spider Island” would all count.

These will likely be perennial sellers. A generation later, Marvel is making money from Return of the Sinister Six, Kraven’s Last Hunt and Torment, TPB-length stories with a clear beginning, middle and end.

Weekly Problems f

With more pages, you could have more significant developments with Peter Parker in the course of a single story, the difference between what can happen to a character in an episode of a TV show and what can happen in the course of a movie. With more developments, the stories will seem more substantial, which should discourage readers from dropping the book. It prevents a criticism that progress was too slow. It’s also a bit easier to coordinate with multiple writers, as it’s easier to have developments happen over the course of eight issues with one writer than eight issues with three different writers.

Lead time will be an issue on longer stories. The artist will need the first script months in advance, which also requires all the creative teams to know where the character is going to be in that first issue. But they should have been aware of that anyway, although that’s an easy thing for an armchair quarterback like me to say.

It was probably a mistake for Marvel to encourage the writers to emphasize 1-3 part stories as much, as there’s no indication fans prefer those. 

The main risk is that these tentpole stories may start to seem insignificant after a while. Or that they may make the rest of the issues seem unimportant. But it’s the responsibility of the writers and the editor to avoid that. You didn’t see enough of this in the Brand New Day era, which included one six-part story, three five-parters (I’m counting American Son with the Interlude) and three four-parters. On something so carefully structured, it’s difficult to find room on the schedule for a longer storyline. And it is harder to coordinate, with at least one guy working months in advance on a story that won’t be published for some time.

Annuals and Anniversary Issues

Amazing_Spider-Man_Annual_Vol_1_2000

The intermissions would be long, so the annual output of Amazing Spider-Man could be the same as it is in the Big Time or as it was in the Brand New Day era. There would still be an Annual published during those intermissions, to whet the appetite of all the Spider-Man junkies waiting for the next fix. While the schedule would make the annuals seem more special, I would also make each one about 100 pages, just like Amazing Spider-Man #600 was.

Despite a noble effort to make annuals more meaningful post-Brand New Day, the current annuals just aren’t impressive enough. It usually features a bit more content from the typical issue, and in recent years it isn’t even by the members of the regular creative team. As a result, the sales are much lower than the typical issue, even if it would sell better than a generic Spider-Man one-shot.

I like what Marvel did with Amazing Spider-Man #600, and the promotion of #700 also looks good. But I think the company made a mistake by completely ignoring #550 and #650. I would celebrate those milestones as well. Highly promoted anniversary specials sell more copies than the average issue, and therefore reach more readers. I’m glad that Marvel has realized how to make these jump-on points for new readers, using the event to feature either a self-contained story, or the first chapter of an epic storyline as opposed to the conclusion. I might encourage the former approach, as it gives the writers more pages to establish a storyline, with readers are more willing to have 40 pages of set-up in a single setting, than in two consecutive issues. And if there’s a good cliffhanger, they’re more likely to come back.

While I liked Amazing Spider-Man #600, an annual doesn’t have to be 104 pages of original content (72 pages is quite alright.) Giving writers 48-104 pages to tell a story in a single setting allows them to not worry about details like making it accessible for readers who pick it up in the middle, having a cliffhanger every 22 pages, or the possibility that developments in the final portions will be spoiled when plot information for the end of the story (IE- in the previews) is released before the first part ships. One minor concern is figuring out how to differentiate the annuals from the milestone issues every year and a half, but that shouldn’t be too difficult.

I don’t know how long the current schedule would last. It’s probably an advantage for the post One More Day book that they’re not tied down to any particular format, and can switch gears if needed.

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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