Doom and Gloom: Back in Black

In case you haven’t picked up a single Marvel comic book in recent weeks (to see the omnipresent ads stuck on covers), I’ll let you in on a little secret: Spider-Man is going to be donning the black costume post Civil War. “The black costume?” you say, gasping loudly. “The costume that came to symbolize two of Spider-Man’s most feared enemies and nearly ruined his life?” Yep, that one. What could bring such a change? Well, the rumor is that MJ or Aunt May is going to bite an assassin’s bullet. Could Joe Q be so stupid? Of course. But, let’s forget the whys and hows of Peter P. “donning one of the most controversial costumes ever as he goes back to his black duds, to fight back to reclaim what is left of his shattered life.” (Thanks Marvel PR!)

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIf you’re so entrenched in a cave that you missed out on the “Back in Black” ads popping up everywhere, then you might have also managed to miss out on all the hubbub about the upcoming third Spider-Man film. And you might not know that this film features the first celluloid appearance of the — gasp! — black costume. Not only that, but the villain is Sandman. And while he’s a steady figure from Spidey’s stable of foes, it’s pretty self apparent that Sandman is showing up in Spider-Man books for the same reason that Spider-Man is returning to the black costume — a shameless bit of cross promotion.

This process has been going on for years, of course. Why do you think we’ve seen the sudden release of the last Ghost Rider issue after a decade? Oh, yeah, a film is coming out. Every time a comic movie comes out, the comic book version of it is also released — from Superman Returns to X-Men. But that isn’t so much what bothers me. These comic adaptions have no relation to the ongoing series, just as the films have no relation to the ongoing series. What really pisses me off is when in-continuity editorial decisions are made for the express purpose of cross promotion. And that’s what we’re seeing with Spider-Man.

As a sort of parallel to Jim Doom’s call for more reverence of in-continuity stories, I want to present this point to the powers that be: Don’t needlessly %@$!& with our ongoing series because someone in marketing sends you an email reading, “Hey, we’ll probably sell more books and better promote our movie if we find a reason to stick Spidey in the black uniform.”

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI’m a huge Spider-Man fan. The movies are some of my favorites. Growing up, Spidey was always one of my top favorite heroes. But over the past three or four years, I’ve come to the point that I don’t read a single Spider-Man book. Not one. And, by my count, there are about 73 to choose from. (This does make comic shopping easy as I’m able to skip a whole section of the shop.) I fell off the wagon for one reason: the complete lack of any continuity or editorial guidance in where Peter Parker and pals were headed in the long term, and zero respect for where he’s been. These are beloved characters, and in a string we saw the Gwen Stacy children fiasco, The Other fiasco and the Civil War fiasco (i.e. the public outing). This is like three Clone Sagas back-to-back-to-back.

Yeah, it’s hard to find new ground with a character some times, and changes aren’t a bad thing. But, as a conservative friend recently put it, sometimes the status quo isn’t so bad. Especially when the alternative is a Spider-Man who is publicly outed, possibly widowed, villified, spiteful mess. And now, the apparent big effort to draw readers back over to Spider-Man is to stick him Back in Black, to serve as little more than a poster for a movie (I’ll watch the movie, but I’m not buying advertisements).

What do I want to see? Planning, for starters. There do not need to be 73 Spider-Man books (there’s actually about a dozen). Four or five would do, really. Then it would be nice to see some consistency with plot lines, a general direction that all of the great books (like Detective Comics and Daredevil, to name two) have. Once that happens, I’ll but a Spider-Man book. Till then, I’ll stick with Sam Raimi and pals.