Monday, December 31, 2007

"One More Day" and Reboots Vs. Generational Succession

(Sigh). You know, I really see what Marvel was trying to do with "One More Day"...

"Sync" The Comics With The Movies

In the future, comics will become more in service to the other media. It's hard to have a streamlined continuity in the movie and a highly-complicated one in the comic. The non-comic reader loves Spider-Man The Movie and then goes to read the comic and is completely confused.

And so the goal would seem, to an extent, to sync up these different media versions. And so we have a Spider-Man in the comic who is single and youngish and has Harry back as his Larry from Three's Company. Because that dynamic was successful in the movies and the movies reached a mass group of people and the goal of the comics is to reach that same mass.

Reaching The Youth Market
There is the burning need to reach out to new readership. The connection is made between "new readership" and Youth Culture. The idea is that a book about a married man cannot capture the imagination of Youth Culture. The idea is that a 16-year-old can only identify with a teenager, not a thirtysomething.

The "Dependable" Fan Vs. The New Reader
But then what becomes of the thirty- and forty- and fifty-somethings who have been following Spider-Man all this time? The assumption is that despite their complaints, they always come back...because they always do seem to come back. Because they're Fans. Because as Fans, and not as members of the fickle non-fan population, they are on a level addicted to these serialized adventures -- at least, this is the assumption.

I'm not saying that these observations and assumptions are The Way Things Should Be. I'm just saying that, if I had to take a guess, these are some of the complicated, market-driven concerns that might have gone into the planning for "OMD."

"Eternal" Superheroes

The bigger issue is the need for corporations to take their biggest branded characters and keep them eternally young and pure -- as opposed to letting them grow old and change. In this view, the same way Mickey Mouse doesn't grown white fur or Shaggy settles down with a respectable job, Spider-Man doesn't get married. In this view, these characters are considered sacred and eternal.

"End-Points" For HeroesA contrasting view would be that in all great mythologies and stories about heroes, the heroes grow and have a natural endpoint. Take Hercules, for example. Or Robin Hood or Gilgamesh. They don't adventure forever. But if you have a serialized format like the comic book, how do you work with this? Do you have the hero live out his adventures, be popular, and then die? And then you cancel the book?

Some might say, "yes," these characters should grow old and die. That it's their limitations born of time, aging & mortality that add value to their lives and their exploits.

The Drawbacks Of History Without Aging
This goes back to my theory concerning reboots and generational succession. Right now comic books are at a crossroads. The natural "end-points" for Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, et al are long past due. What that leaves in their wake are deeply complicated storylines and continuities. Think about it -- if you lived for 50+ years and never grew old but had constant adventures, wouldn't your own history be quite the labyrinthine epic?

Reboot or Generational Succession?

The comic book publishers, I believe, are faced with two options: Reboot or Generational Succession.

Marvel chose Reboot for Spider-Man.

Marvel might be choosing Generational Succession for Captain America.

The question is, which solution is better?

Because there has to be a solution.

Because "eternal character" + "unbroken continuity" eventually falls apart.


  1. Someone. Anyone. Show me there's proof that there's a flood of 10-16 year olds jumping in the market and buying comics. Even if they're downloading them for free.

  2. Please do not be stupid.

    I stopped reading the post after you claimed Marvel is trying to "sync" the books with the movies. That's maybe what they were trying to do a few years back, but It's certainly not what "one more day" is about.

    Please note I am not defending "one more day" or saying it's a good idea. It's a terrible idea, and the story itself was wretched.

    However if they were trying to sync the movies with the books, please consider the following

    a) In the movies, harry osbourne died. In One More Day, he is now alive.

    b) At the end of the last movie, it was clear that Peter and Mary Jane were going to be married, and the entire point of the series was that they belong together. One More Day was about splitting them up and Pete finding other love interests.

    c) After "The Other" pete was given organic webshooters, just like in the movies. "One More Day" erases this, as evidenced by the web shooter you see on his wrist, as well as interviews with Joe Q

    d) Pete is living with Aunt May in "one more day", yet in the movies he had already moved out and lives in manhattan

    e) If Marvel wants the books to be like the movies, they're going in the wrong direction, quality-wise.

  3. You know, I don't mind a reboot, actually. I mean, if you give me the option of reboot over pointlessly MJ-less. I for one think the Crisis model is a good one, if never well realized.

    I've said for a while that comics should be organized into "epochs," sort of like the way MC2 is (theoretically) a new "epoch" for the MCU. I'd LIKE the three Spidey titles to be Young Spider-man (classic webslinger), Adult Spider-man (I'd make him the hyper-competant but still wise-cracking guy he's been in some of his comics, living happily with super-model MJ), & Older Spider-man (I personally would like to see this go in a more "Ezekialish" route, but that is just me). Same thing with everyone (though it doesn't have to be three ages).

    That is what I think.

    HO HO HO.

  4. Donnie: to you I say: DIGESTS. All I can really vouch for is my store, but the 10-16 year olds love their Runaways & Spider-man Loves Mary Jane & anything else that is a 8 dollar digest.

  5. Although Quesada claims he did this to make Spider-Man more "accessible" to young readers (and what is more accessible to youngsters than making a deal with the/a devil?), I'm not buying it. It is clearly rooted in Quesada's private vendetta against the Spider-marriage which he publicly blames for all of Spider-Man's problems (and global warming). Apparently he believes that there is nothing that will bring in new readers than comics that are very much like the ones he enjoyed back when he was a kid. (That may also explain the proliferation of other 1970s nostalgia in Marvel's output of the past years).

    Also, I am not sure if the new format (ASM appearing three times a month, rotating creators) will really draw in young readers - after all, to follow a story arc, one will have to spend nine bucks in one month.

    John: Thanks for listing the differences where the Brand New Day reality moves away from the movie version.

  6. Wasn't the Ultimate line supposed to be Marvel U rebooted?

  7. I have to agree that the syncing it up with the mvoies thing is not a valid argument at all seeing as how everything John said is true. No, I really think this is an editorially driven and mandated decision because Joe Quesada and a few others really disliked the marriage all of these years.

    But see, the issue that Quesada has with married Peter and MJ was dealt with when the Ultimate line was created. There is a marriage free Peter Parker Spider-Man being published on a momnthly basis. And unless I am wrong, it sells really well.

  8. First, since Marvel will make more money from exploiting their properties in other media, there is less of a need to 'sync' up the different versions of the properties. That strategy made the most sense when Marvel was primarily a comics publisher, which it no longer is.

    Even if they did want to sync the characters up, the Ultimates line, or Mary Jane loves Spiderman, etc. are specifically designed for a new reader unfamiliar with Spider man.

    "There is the burning need to reach out to new readership. The connection is made between "new readership" and Youth Culture. The idea is that a book about a married man cannot capture the imagination of Youth Culture. The idea is that a 16-year-old can only identify with a teenager, not a thirtysomething."

    I know these are supposed to be the 'complicated, market-based concerns', but I'd love to see whether there is any empirical evidence for that assertion. Sixteen year olds (who want to be viewed by the outside world as mature) have consumed entertainment that does not feature people in their age group for decades. It's a ridiculous and unproven argument rooted in the 1940's (when it was used to justify sidekicks), and needs to be put to rest. Unless there's some kind of study that has been conducted that confirms the theory.

    I like that you tackled the issue, but I think you should challenge industry assumptions a little bit more than this.

  9. Oh, also: john! Please do not be a douche bag. I stopped reading your comic after your condescending, dickish opener.

  10. Wasn't aware I had a comic. Look before you leap.

    It isn't being a douchebag to point out when something is stupid. The OP was stupid. Of course I went on to explain why it was stupid, but you "stopped reading" my "comic" which I "suppose" makes you "retarded."

  11. Suppose all you want. You were being a douchebag.

  12. John, you were rude, plain and simple. The original post was written in speculative fashion and invited debate and discussion, but you started out with a personal insult and wrote the rest of your post in a somewhat condescending fashion. If you can't you even discuss something like comics politely, then that's pitiful.

  13. If saying something is stupid when it is makes me a douchebag then I'm happy to be one.

  14. You weren't saying something was stupid -- you were calling Val stupid. There's a difference.

    Your argument was fine, and you made some good points. You, however, are still a douchebag.

    See the difference?

  15. I'm not sure I see what your issue is. You're like "it was an insult"

    Yes, it was an insult. It's also true. Nothing you say changes that.

  16. Well, since you've already conceded the douchebag point, I guess there's nothing more to discuss. Unless you need tips on how to change your blogger handle to "John the Douchebag" or "Douchebag John", whichever you feel is more appropriate.

  17. You're about as witty as a boulder.

  18. John, telling someone not to be stupid and calling someone else retarded when they question the logic of such a comment is plain rude as far as I'm concerned.

    By the way, here're my thoughts on "One More Day", as told by a Stick Man:

    Have a good day.

  19. Yes, it was an insult. It's also true. Nothing you say changes that.

    It's not "true;" it's an opinion. A valid opinion, but stated obnoxiously.

  20. I agree with many of the things said so far in the comments, though not always with the way they've been said. A couple of things I would add are:

    A. Isn't having Spider-Man live with his geriatric aunt far more of a turn-off for younger readers than having him married to a former model? I mean, which of those two situations do you think the 16-year old boy Marvel is supposedly aiming at would prefer?

    B. My 5-year old, who I am doing my best to groom as a future comics reader, is most familiar with Spider-Man from the movies. When playing with his Spider-Man toys, of which he has tons (thanks legitimate reason for me to buy action figures!), he plays Spidey rescuing MJ from the bad guys, because that's what happens in the movies. New readers might not be coming to comics with the expectation that Pete and MJ are married (though, if they begin with the strip that runs in the newspaper they are) but they definitely are coming to comics with the idea that Pete and MJ are a couple.

    C. Part of me still thinks this is just the start of a year-long storyline (which with the new shipping format, could actually run 36 issues - hell, even a six-month storyline would run 18 issues) that ultimately ends with Pete and MJ reunited, the marriage restored, and Joey Q saying "Got ya!" After all, the way out they left in the story (MJ whispering to Mephisto, the whole "you'll remember but not really" bit, etc.) has to be there for a reason, even if it's just as a way to backtrack in the event that it becomes a sales disaster.

  21. @dweeze:

    You raise a point in my mind that I don't think anybody else has brought up. How would something like this effect...oh say, every other book marvel publishes? For example, how does this affect Norman Osbourne, and therefore the Thunderbolts? (I don't really care, I don't read it, but the point is, the brand new day scenario is unrealistic)

    Of course it's temporary, the whole thing is patterned after "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" and we all saw how that ended.

    Unless MJ's comment about "we will always find each other bla bla soulmates bla bla" was the biggest red herring ever, of course they'll get back together.

  22. I don't think a continuous history with the same character automatically results in disaster. I think it's this simple; just because all those stories happened doesn't mean all of them have to be referenced. Focus on the interesting, compelling aspects of a character's history, ignore the rest, and your stories will never get too tangled or burdensome.

  23. George Morrow: Another thing about ASM #545 - accidentally or on purpose it was timed to come out on Stan Lee's birthday (Dec. 28). Stan of course is the co-creator of Spider-Man, Mary Jane, Aunt May, the Kingpin (who hired the killer that shot Aunt May) and Marvel's Mephisto. And only this summer, in BACK ISSUE #23, Stan said that he wanted the marriage to continue and Peter and Mary Jane to have childre. Guess this is Joe Quesada's way of saying "HAW HAW! Screw you, old fool! All your characters are belong to me!"

    John -
    you really need to work on your people skills. As in get some.

  24. To address your topic of Reboots vs. Generational Succession, I'm sorry that more comics don't try the latter. I've enjoyed the forays that DC has made into it. It's been very successful for me to say, "Okay, Jay Garrick was The Flash, now it's Barry Allen." and then "Barry Allen was The Flash and now it's Wally West." There's a grandness to the mantle being passed down that can help make the hero personna larger than the individual character. Plus, it's fiction, you know; you can always do the occasional nostalgic mini - "Untold stories of Jay Garrick" "A Barry Allen Adventure".

    To touch on another point you make, one of the most important lessons I learned from reading mythologies and folk tales is that the hero's journey has to end. From Arthur (We know his promise of future return will remain unfilled.) to Robin Hood to Kirk, even, the hero's demise often saddens us but only serves to concretize the character in the long run.

    Look at Marvel's Captain Marvel. He was a great character, yeah, but was he ever so grand as he was after Shooter (working off his own father's death, I believe) killed him and killed him off well?

    Not having the hero die or retire is akin to constantly having people come back from the dead. It's fun to have a Jean Grey back, but her preceding sacrifice means considerably less now. And with character after character returning, I, as a reader, am less inclined to emotionally connect to a character's death, which is problematic on many levels.

    So you want a Spider-Man that appeals to a youth market ... why not bring Spider-Girl into continuity? Bam! Young Spider hero again. Also, with Generational Succession, you set yourself up for a stronger movie properties. How many times are you going to keep retelling Clark Kent becoming Superman? Bruce Wayne becoming Batman? Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man? Etc.

    I think Generational Succession is the way to go. It's harder in the short-run, but a much better way to manage your property.

  25. "The non-comic reader loves Spider-Man The Movie and then goes to read the comic and is completely confused."

    The guys at Funnybook Babylon said it best when they called such readers "mythical unicorns." There are no non-comic readers going into comic shops looking to start reading comics. If new readers exist at all, they're going into Barnes & Noble and picking up collections of stories from the past few years.

    I know Spidey & MJ will reunite eventually, because mainstream comics are cyclical and the status quo always comes back. That being said, I don't care if it was a huge "gotcha!" from Joe Q or not, Spidey making a literal deal with the devil is a stupid idea that makes me want to stop reading the few mainstream superhero comics I was reading. Seriously, I'm down to simply books written by Gage, Brubaker, and/or Fraction for my mainstream comics.

  26. Count me among the "Fans" who aren't coming back. I went away for a good while after the Clone fiasco, and came back for Michael S. (being a big Babylon 5 fan), but now I'm gone again.

    Oh well.

  27. I think BND represents a muddled goal really.

    The surface is an attempt to appeal to younger audiences. A noble goal, probably better served by exactly mimicking the movies and packaging it like manga. As has been noted a few places Ultimate Spidey comes close to this already.

    The actual direction is Joe Q and a number of 30-40 something writers trying to appeal to what they liked about the character as kids. Thats going to get a very strong showing from a certain nostalgia crowd - it wont get kids.