Spider-Man and the Avengers

Avenging Carol Danvers Captain Marvel

It’s possible that the most signfiicant change to the Spider-Man comics while Joe Quesada wasn’t One More Day, but something else that happened under his watch: Spider-Man joining the Avengers.

One More Day muddying the waters about whether Peter Parker will end up with anyone else isn’t likely to affect the films. But the recent Sony and Disney/ Marvel deal means that Spider-Man’s likely to pop up as an Avenger. We also got a monthly title that lasted for more than an year out of Spider-Man joining the Avengers.

So let’s look at events in the Spider-Man comics between Spider-Man joining the New Avengers and One More Day…

The New Avengers

Many comic book fans expect changes to the status quo to last forever, or until the books end, which they seem to want to happen at the time their interest in the title starts waning. I saw a lot of polls asking how long Spider‑Man and Wolverine will remain on the Avengers, often with the implication that once they leave, Bendis’s decision to introduce them to the series (and his entire run on the title) will be a failure. Reading the first Essential Avengers volume is a reminder that the only constant for the Avengers is change. The Avengers team at the end of the first issue couldn’t even last until the end of the second. All of the founding Avengers left in the sixteenth issue, replaced by three B‑grade (and that’s being charitable) former villains. And it was great.

I always thought it was obvious that Spider‑Man and Wolverine would eventually leave the Avengers. It was never meant to be a permanent development, as there never has been a permanent member of the Avengers. The reason Bendis’s New Avengers is so influential—and will remain that way after the departures of Spider-Man and Wolverine—was because of the way it sets the precedent for later writers to put anyone they want onto the Avengers, restoring the series to what it was meant to be: a team book with a diverse array of Marvel heroes.

At the same time, Spider‑Man developed new connections with his fellow Avengers. He has an easygoing camaraderie with Luke Cage, which allows for fun team‑ups. Putting him on the same team as Wolverine strengthens the relationship between Marvel’s two most popular characters. The protege and mentor bond with Tony provided a unique connection between two of the most popular Marvel heroes. While it ended badly (which meant that it made things more difficult for Peter), it was never boring. Thanks to Civil War, while Spider‑Man’s familiarity with some heroes has increased (which leads to less tense encounters with his fellow New Avengers) he has a more adversarial relationship with others—to say nothing of darker vigilantes and younger heroes—who may never have trusted him to begin with.

Life was briefly easier for Peter, when Spider‑Man was on the New Avengers, while his family lived in the Avengers Mansion. Marvel featured stories that wouldn’t otherwise be available, along with unique complications (Wolverine hitting on Mary Jane, a scuzzy tabloid reporting that Mary Jane was cheating on Peter with Tony, etc.) Because things briefly turned out so well, it became all the more dramatic when it ended badly. It’s now going to take a long time before May and Mary Jane can comfortably interact with the Avengers. That brief period of joy ain’t coming back any time soon.

At this point, it seems likely that the sixth appearance of Spider-Man in movies will be in Captain America: Civil War, and that this will be followed by appearances in the Avengers: Infinity War two-parter. And that’s pretty cool. It is worth of noting that the Avengers of the films are basically people who get together for extreme emergencies every few years, which differs from the comics. But the main reason Spider-Man wasn’t closely associated with the Avengers was that Jack Kirby didn’t want to draw a Steve Ditko character in the first few issues, and the Avengers became its own franchise, rather than the lynchpin of the Marvel Universe it has been under Bendis and Hickman.

For many readers, part of Spider-Man’s appeal was that he was a hero who acted alone. Some older comics pros have suggested that launching Marvel Team-Up back in 1972 was a bad idea, because it forced Spider-Man to interact with other Marvel superheroes and become familiar with those guys. So those readers believe that a big mistake occurred under Quesada’s tenure, when Spider-Man joined the Avengers. If there’s a constant in the Avengers membership, it’s change. Spider-Man won’t always be an Avenger, and while he may be more familiar with his former teammates, any writer who wants to tell a story about Spider-Man teaming up with an unfriendly superhero can do so, with one of the many Marvel characters who hasn’t been on the Avengers or the Future Foundation with Spider-Man.

When the Mask Came Off

There was another major development in the later hald of Quesada’s run. The unmasking allowed for an year of new stories which could otherwise not be done, although it did coincide with declining sales for both Friendly Neighborhood Spider‑Man and Sensational Spider‑Man. The only reason “Spider‑Man Unmasked” happened was that the people at Marvel were planning a giant retcon anyway and understood that this provided an opportunity to see what type of material they could do if the world knew that Peter was Spider‑Man. Some of it was really good, especially Peter David’s Vulture storyline and Matt Fraction’s Sensational Spider‑Man Annual.

There was some objection to ending the “Unmasked” status quo while there were stories left to tell, though it’s preferable to end it too early than to end it too late, especially given the declines in sales, and the way it was obvious the unmasking wasn’t going to last forever, which may be the reason readers left the satellite books.

Organic Webbing

One fairly controversial change under Quesada involved giving the comic book Spider‑Man organic webbing, like his movie counterpart—at least in the Raimi films. With this, there weren’t many arguments that good writers could make it work. It doesn’t really allow for many new stories, and actually just makes things a bit easier for Spider‑Man.

Good drama is about making things as difficult as possible for the protagonist, and organic webbing denies that, by removing a source of conflict and pressure. The only story the comic books haven’t really told that requires organic webbing would be Spider‑Man’s reaction if his webbing starts malfunctioning (although that was pretty much covered in the first two movies.) Well, you could also do a story where Electro zaps Spider‑Man’s webbing, and he’s internally barbecued. But that’s pretty much it.

While the Brand New Day guys went a bit overboard with webbing problems in the first few months, it was preferable to the alternative. Wags noted that Bendis never gave Ultimate Peter Parker malfunctioning webshooters, this shouldn’t be used as a reason to limit Dan Slott.

The flipside of the duplicity question is whether Quesada and Marvel have been hypocritical in their reasoning behind One More Day to allow post-Brand New Day developments in Amazing Spider-Man.

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


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. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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