Marvel’s Everybody Wins Strategy for Spider-Man

How does Marvel have its cake and eat it too when it comes to sticking to its guns about the new “Superior” status quo change while also pleasing hardcore Peter Parker fans who are desperate to see Petey back on the racks of their local comic book shop? The answer lies in Marvel’s solicitations for October and beyond.

It was announced last week that starting in October, a five issue mini-series will be launched starring (as Stephen Wacker would say) you mom and dad’s Peter Parker Marvel Knights: Spider-Man by Matt Kindt and Marco Rudy. In December, another mini-series will be released Peter Parker: Spider-Man by David Morrell, Klaus Janson and Joe Casey. Last month, Marvel announced an original graphic novel set before the status quo shift in Amazing Spider-Man #700, entitled “Spider-Man Family Business,” by Mark Waid and James Robinson, with art by Gabirelle Dell’Otto, would hit the shelves in May 2014. And as all of these announcements were happening, Peter was involved in a special three-issue arc of Savage Wolverine by Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira – a storyline that was originally created for Avenging Spider-Man last year.

So what does all this mean? Is Peter Parker coming back? Is Marvel admitting that putting one of Spidey’s mortal enemies, Doc Ock, in the blue and red costume was a colossal mistake? Actually, I think it’s just the opposite. I think what Marvel is doing is planting the seeds for how it’s going to produce Spider-Man comics going forward.

And that’s not to say I’m back-tracking from my claims in my Superior Spider-Man #13 review about how the farther Spider Ock seems to get from Peter’s core, the closer we are to having Peter reclaim his throne as the “Amazing” Spider-Man. But who’s to say when that eventual flip is going to happen? I’ve also been on record in multiple venues (including the Superior Spider-Talk podcast, which you should be listening to) that Superior scribe Dan Slott is going to move this story at the pace he sees fit. He first laid the groundwork for the Doc Ock/Peter mind-swap in ASM #600 and didn’t pull the trigger officially until 98 issues later. There are still a TON of stories to be told with Spider Ock in control and match-ups and pairings that are going to be very fresh because of this new status quo. We already know about future storylines involving Kingpin, Hobgoblin, Spider-Man 2099 and Black Cat. The identity of the new Green Goblin is still an unknown. Carlie Cooper is still trying to prove that Spider-Man isn’t who he says he is. We know that Mary Jane thinks something is off about “Peter.” When will Aunt May notice? What happens if the Fantastic Four or Doctor Strange catch wind of something being off? Aren’t we supposed to get something with Flash Thompson’s Venom in the future?

I just rattled off about 20 issues worth of material right there. The common theory since Superior #1 has been that the status quo will revert back to “normal” around the time the Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie comes out next summer. This will  happen because that’s exactly what happened after Steve Rogers was killed as Captain America in the comics before reviving in time for the Cap movie in 2011. But by issuing all these flashback and out-of-continuity stories over the next few months, Marvel is setting it up so they don’t HAVE to shoehorn Peter Parker back into the pages of the “main” Spider-Man title. If curious moviegoers want to read more about Andrew Garfield’s counterpart in a comic book, here’s an original graphic novel by one of the best writers in the business, and some mini-series by other highly respected creative teams where you can get your fix. The “Superior” Spider-Man is Doc Ock’s domain and there’s no real reason for that to change unless sales plummet between now and then and force Marvel’s hand. And let me be clear in saying I don’t think, nor do I hope that’s going to happen.

Ultimately, I think everyone wins from this set-up. If Marvel really follows through on this, we have FOUR different Spider-Man’s at comic book stores – Spider-Man all natural, Spider Ock, Scarlet Spidey and Miles/Ultimate (and I’d be willing to bet that based on the sales of the 2099 arc in Superior in September, Miguel O’Hara will be in his own series soon enough). It also quiets the critics who seem unable to move on from the idea that mean old Dan Slott killed Peter in ASM #700. You don’t want to read about Otto (even though I swear with every fiber of my being that Superior is a book about what it means to be Spider-Man, i.e., Peter’s Spider-Man), then go pick up one of these other titles/mini-series to get your Parker fix. If you ignore/don’t buy these comics out of spite, then the only message Marvel is going to hear is that Spider Ock is the one true Spider-man since that title consistently charts in the top 10 of sales every month.  If you think it’s unfair that you’re only getting “flashback” tales for Peter, just think of them from being new stories from a slightly different continuity. These are still going to be NEW stories, so what difference does it make if they don’t take place “now.” It’s not like the idea of “now” isn’t a totally fluid state of mind when it comes to comic books.

Marvel has played this whole thing pretty terrifically. They got the controversy they desired for the status quo switch in January, needled the fans who took to Twitter/comic book site message boards to act like irrational crybabies about it, and found a way to bring Peter Parker back in a way that doesn’t give an inch to said crybabies. I hope Marvel is enjoying that cake.

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