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Continuity Used to Matter at Marvel

by  in Comic News Comment
Continuity Used to Matter at Marvel

Make no mistake about it. For a long time, continuity was a really big deal at Marvel. They would use continuity as a major selling point. “You have to buy this comic book – because it COUNTS!” That was a major factor in how their books worked. Heck, it was practically the whole point of inter-title crossovers, wasn’t it? You might not care at all about Power Pack, but if Wolverine is guest-starring, and it COUNTS, then you best buy the issue of Power Pack featuring Wolverine!!

Continuity is the exact reason why Spider-Man has stayed married up until now. Take into consideration that, from a creative standpoint, practically no one wanted him married. We know from Joe Quesada’s interviews at CBR that basically none of Marvel’s current writers and editors like the idea of Spider-Man being married. Michael Eury’s great Back Issue magazine did a round table of PAST Spider-Man writers and editors about the marriage, and most of them (Jim Shooter, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman and John Romita, at least) did not like the idea of Spider-Man being married, either. And Shooter was one of the driving forces behind the marriage in the FIRST place! Yet today, he agrees that it was not a good idea.

Editors for years have been trying to get rid of the marriage, but they were all too worried about continuity to actually DO it. Marvel has stressed continuity for years, so how can they ignore it now? Even now, Quesada tries to argue that continuity HASN’T been changed with the erasure of the Spider-Man marriage.

He’s wrong – continuity has been changed. One of the hallmarks of Marvel Comics has been changed – the reliance on continuity has been, if not shattered, at least severely crippled.

And it’s not even for financial reasons, really.

Paul O’Brien mentioned in the comments to a recent blog entry, and I totally agree with him, that Brand New Day most likely will NOT see much of a positive change in Spider-Man sales. The move to 3 Amazing Spider-Mans a month likely WILL see an increase in overall sales, but that’s not because of the change in Spider-Man’s marriage status. The fans never seemed to care much about Spider-Man being married. The sales WILL go up, though, most likely, but just because it is three Amazings a month rather than one Amazing and two lesser books. Odds are, Amazing’s sales go down to about 75,000-80,000 a month (down from about 90,000-95,000), but the increase over the sales of Sensational and Friendly Neighborhood (about 50,000 and 45,000, respectively) will make the change a profitable one. But that’s not the main reason why the marriage has changed (although I suppose Quesada HOPES that these phantom “new readers who want to read a single Peter Parker” will show up, and hey, maybe he’s right – I just doubt it highly).

No, it’s mostly just a creative change. The fans don’t really care all that much, but creators have long disliked the marriage. They wanted a single Spider-Man. But continuity wouldn’t allow it. And since Marvel has always followed continuity, they couldn’t do it.

Now, continuity has been broken, so it is all fair game.

And while it is unfortunate that it had to be done via a ridiculously lame story like One More Day, I am glad.

The idea that we have gotten crappy stories for YEARS in the Spider-Man titles due to editors trying to “fix” the marriage while still following continuity irks me. The idea that a succession of writers for years (going all the way back to the very first writer on Amazing Spider-Man post-marriage, David Michelinie) were forced to write stories they don’t want to write just because of a story from twenty years ago that most regard as a MISTAKE irks me.

Yes, make no mistake about it – Marvel has used continuity to their financial advantage in the past, and now they want to ignore it to write the stories they want. Heck, as recently as Civil War, they used continuity to sell Spider-Man comics. “Look! His secret identity is revealed! This is very important because THIS STORY COUNTS!” I can see how this might be angering to some people (although I don’t buy the whole “Quesada lied to us!” Come on, gimme a break, what was he supposed to say? “Don’t worry, the unmasking will last only about a year, because we have a major reboot coming up…oops, spoiled that twist!” Of course he is going to say the unmasking was going to stick around longterm), but if anything, shouldn’t you just be happy that we are finally done with the whole “you have to buy it – it COUNTS” sales pitch?

The old comics, who tried to convince you that you HAD to read Web of Spider-Man, because “it counted,” were full of crap. Heck, besides, say, JMS referring to his own work, how many of the comics that were “erased” because of One More Day were even referred to anymore BEFORE One More Day? A LOT of comics from BEFORE the marriage get referenced a lot in the comics (Uncle Ben’s death, Gwen’s death, some other stuff), but I’m really not seeing the big footnotes

“As seen in Sensational Spider-Man #10”

or

“As seen in the classic ‘Planet of the Symbiotes’ storyline.”

or

“Last seen during Lifetheft”…man, remember how lame Lifetheft was?

So even if the marriage stuck around, your complete run of mid-90s Spider-Man crossovers did not really seem to “count” for modern Spider-Man stories ANYhow. Heck, “The Other” was barely referenced to a month after it ended! But anyhow, even if they WERE referenced, it is ridiculous to try to sell you on a whole bunch of spin-offs just on the notion that you can’t possibly turn down Spider-Man stories that “count.” So you should be happy that Marvel is finally not doing that anymore.

Now, sure, I am sure someone at Marvel is going to make the argument that Brand New Day still “counts,” as well. Marvel certainly is not averse to hypocritically denouncing continuity and then trying to cash in on adherents to it (just see Quesada’s consistent mentions of how One More Day didn’t ACTUALLY change continuity), but you now know better – Marvel continuity has been broken, so you no longer have to worry about whether a story “counts” or not – you can just read the stories that are good (which may or may not include Brand New Day) and skip the stories that are not.

So you should be glad that continuity does not matter that much at Marvel anymore – it is freeing.

And if your decision is to just stop reading Spider-Man comics, period, then that’s fair enough.

But the current situation is basically how Mark Waid and Grant Morrison viewed Hypertime. If the options are to write stories they don’t want to write (or worse, come up with absurd “in continuity” fixes) or ignore continuity?

The former should not be given too much of a consideration. And for that, I say good for Marvel.

If only One More Day wasn’t so bad, then I’d really be pulling for them.

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