Around the time I concluded that undoing the marriage would be a major and positive change to the Spider-Man franchise, I started considering how Marvel could take advantage of that. As JMS was leaving Amazing Spider-Man, and Peter David and Sacosa weren’t exactly breaking sales records on their series, I determined that it would probably be best for Marvel to celebrate the new status quo with new writers (and probably new artists) on all the Spider-Man books. Quesada & pals thus had the choice of producing significantly more than 22 pages of Amazing Spider-Man a month (which they eventually chose to do) or developing new monthly titles with their own identities to go along with the flagship.
If Marvel was going to keep doing Spider-Man monthlies, it also made sense to cancel and replace Sensational Spider-Man and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man with new titles. The simple reason for this was that Spectacular Spider-Man Volume 2 #1, and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 were both the second highest ordered books the month they shipped, so two new #1 issues would bring attention to the franchise, and signify the complete creative overhaul. In addition, the low sales on the last issues of FNSM and Sensational indicated that fans weren’t as interested in those books continuing or the elements which had made those titles unique.
There was never any question about whether there should be an Amazing Spider-Man title, considering that book’s combination of high sales, clear identity and history of great stories. But I thought that this too should relaunch with a new #1, as this change to the status quo and creators would have been more significant than the changes which justified the 1998 relaunch. Since Marvel never decided to make Amazing Spider-Man a full weekly, there is the possibility that one (or more) of the side titles will be made anyway.
As for the titles, and ideal creative teams I imagined Marvel could do…..
Writer‑ Mark Millar
Artist‑ Mark Bagley
Amazing Spider‑Man would be the flagship title, which establishes the status quo for the other books. If Peter Parker gets a new girlfriend, breaks up with his current one, gets fired or gets a new job, it would usually (but not always) happen here. I doubt either Mark would want to stay on the book for longer than an year (although they would be welcome to do so), but they would provide for an excellent high profile relaunch, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified to set the direction of the books for years to come.
When Mark Millar finishes his run on the title, Ed Brubaker would be a suitable replacement, given that he is one of Marvel’s best writers and considers Spider-Man to be one of his favorite characters, so I’m really looking forward to his inevitable run on the series. Considering how well Iron Fist has worked out, and how good “To Have and to Hold” turned out to be, I’d have no problem whatsoever with Matt Fraction as Brubaker’s co-writer on this title too.
The Brand New Day era proved that there’s almost no shortage of great artists willing to work on the title. In addition to the guys who already worked on the title since Brand New Day, Frank Cho, Terry Dodson and Chriscross would all have been qualified. The editor and writer would work together to make sure that the series is accessible to those who don’t buy any of the other Spider-Man titles, and enjoyable to those who buy all four. To that end, it will reference (and sometimes follow up on) plot threads from other titles, but not in a convoluted manner.
Writer‑ Dan Slott
Artist‑ John Romita Jr
Every issue of this book would be self‑contained with a complete beginning, middle and end, though there would be subplots and other threads that cross issues. A model for this would be Fell and Paul Dini’s early work inD etective Comics. This is the book that would deal with the ramifications of events in other books (IE‑ crossovers) something Slott did often in She‑Hulk and later in Mighty Avengers. Some issues will be funny, some will be tragic and some will just have lots of action. Some will feature new villains, while others will feature classic villains, or rarely used B‑level villains, or villains from other franchises. It’s meant to compliment the shortages of the other Spider‑Man books, but should still be accessible to those cheapskates who want the best deal in comics and aren’t interested in the other titles. This should also give John Romita Jr an opportunity to do the best work of his career, given the variety of things he could draw over a one-year period.
Because of the “done in one” aspects of this title, fill‑in work may be common, but it should always be good, and by respected creators (IE‑ Paul Jenkins, Tom Beland, Sean McKeever, Roger Stern, Ed Brubaker, Lee Weeks, Paolo Rivera, Kaare Andrews.) I would be strict on the single issue rule, as it would be an important part of maintaining this book’s identity. If Dan Slott wanted to write a longer story, he’d have to do it as a separate mini series, or take over Amazing Spider‑Man for a few months. The writer would work closely with the writers on the other Spider-Man books, given how well this series could be used to set up events in the other books.
The Inferno crossover in the late 1980s might be an example of how the coordination could work. Amazing Spider-Man #312 was an accessible standalone story with a fantastic hook: the Harry Osborn Green Goblin VS the New Hobgoblin as depicted by Todd Mcfarlane. But there was more to the story, and for that you could read Spectacular Spider-Man and Web of Spider-Man.
Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four
Writer- Peter David
Artist- Alan Davis
This struck me as the most logical Superman/ Batman type book you could do in the Marvel Universe, given the ties between Spider-Man and Marvel’s first family, the way it’s difficult to come up with a title for a second Fantastic Four book (this was before Hickman solved that problem with The Future Foundation) and the variety of stories available. In addition to team-ups between Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, you could do extended team-ups between Spider-Man and any of the individual members (or any combination of the individual members) of the team, in addition to storylines with their supporting characters, as both franchises have a lot of spin-offs and potential spin-offs. There has recently been a trend of Spider-Man writers getting jobs on Fantastic Four books, and vice versa (JMS, Waid, Millar, Sacosa, Slott) so there’s more than enough writers available to do justice to both franchises in one monthly.
The ideal writer would be able to mix the cosmic with the human, and the action with humor and no one qualifies better than Peter David. His Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man artist Mike Wieringo would have been a no-brainer on the art even before his excellent work on the four issue mini series, but that’s sadly no longer possible. Alan Davis would be an appropriate substitute, given his incredible work on various Fantastic Four projects and how he handled Spider-Man characters in the comics adaptation of the first movie. If he were interested in writing a series like this himself, Marvel should try to make that possible.
Although the series would allow for a lot of fill-ins, it would probably be better to avoid those and give it a bimonthly or twice-quarterly schedule to accommodate Davis, as it’s more important to keep this series successful than it is to just make it a new monthly. A slower schedule allows the creative team to clearly establish the book’s identity, and create a series that can survive their eventual departure. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel ever announces this title, regardless of what happens to Amazing Spider-Man‘s schedule.
Writer‑ Jeph Loeb
Artist‑ J Scott Campbell
The basic idea would be a high profile accessible Spider‑Man book, which hits the Top 5 every time it comes out, with creators on par with Whedon/Cassady, Miller/Lee, and Morrison/Quitely. My thoughts circa 2006 were to use this book to establish an Astonishing franchise, on par with DC’s All‑Star franchise, getting A‑list creators doing what they want on an accessible book, free from the continuity of the other books.
This would be the book for writers and artists who shouldn’t be put on books that impact the schedules of other books. As Loeb/ Campbell have been working on their story for years, it would make sense to have that be the one that launches the title. Say what you will about their talents as storytellers, their project is going to sell very well and is likely to introduce elements that future writers will incorporate into their own work.
When Loeb/ Campbell are done, appropriate writers for the series would include Roger Stern (considered second only to Lee), Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Michael Chabon (wrote for the second Spider-Man movie), Brian Michael Bendis (this would demonstrate the differences between the regular Spider-Man and the ultimate one), Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison. I’d want Marvel to also aim high with the artists, going after guys like Bryan Hitch, Jae Lee, Tim Sale, The Kubert brothers, JH Williams, George Perez or Neal Adams. If Todd Mcfarlane or Steve Ditko were to ever return to the Spider-Man books, this is probably the one they would go to.
With Amazing Spider‑Man’s increased schedule, Marvel has more of a use than ever for an accessible entry‑level Marvel Universe book, so an Astonishing Spider-Man (almost) monthly is more useful than ever. While Marvel would have a difficult time providing artists who are more impressive than the ones who worked on the post-BND Amazing Spider-Man (Romita Jr, Jiminez, Bachalo, McNiven, Martin, etc) this could become a showcase book for extended runs by less reliable artists (and writers), who shouldn’t be trusted on a book that can’t be late as is the current case with ASM. There might be a little confusion as it shares the title of a British reprint series, but there are too many benefits for Marvel in setting up an “Astonishing” brand, in terms of being able to promote two of the best-selling books (and therefore the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises) at a time, for them to consider a different title.
The idea is a little bit less effective, as Marvel did try to create an Astonishing brand, and many of the stories sold rather poorly. Although the gay marriage issue of Astonishing X-Men did get a lot of attention quite recently.
Other Satellite Books
Marvel has published other Spider-Man satellite titles in the past, many with a compelling enough concept. Marvel Team-Up has had a long and storied history. Ultimate Marvel Team-Up had an interesting hook, with a new artist for every storyline. Avenging Spider-Man has a slightly more commercial title for a book with the same theme.
Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man was initially supposed to be the book which featured the big developments in Peter Parker’s private life. It was the title in which the major moments happened in his relationship with the Black Cat.
When David Michelinie was writer of Web of Spider-Man, the point of that book was to take Peter Parker out of New York City. Todd Mcfarlane’s Spider-Man reimagined Spider-Man’s enemies as the type of figures you would usually see in horror movies. Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr’s Peter Parker Spider-Man was a street-level crime comic. Tangled Web was an anthology focusing on independent talent, looking mainly at people affected by Spider-Man.
There is one problem with having these books as the Spider-Man monthlies. It makes crossovers absolutely impossible, as that would contradict with the identity of the other series. If something like that was determined to be absolutely necessary, Amazing Spider-Man would have to ship a few issues a month for a brief period of time. I do think that these books would avoided the problems that have plagued the spinoff Spider-Man titles (a lack of a unique identity and a sense of insignificance), although there are many advantages to keeping Amazing Spider-Man‘s increased schedule. But my approach to that would be slightly different than what Marvel has done.