No More Evergreen

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Sometimes there are holes in the schedule that have to be filled. This problem is exacerbated with higher output. In his 2006 Spider-Man Manifesto, Senior Editor Tom Brevoort offered a suggestion: Evergreen material.

As a safeguard, we would also commission three to four evergreen-style stories, which could be folded into the run at whatever point the schedule started to slip.

This may be one of the reasons why during the Brand New Day era, it often didn’t seem that events of the previous story affected the Spider-Man characters at all. The writers and editors just didn’t know how the story would fit together. The problem continues in the Big Time era, during which there have been a few fill-in stories, including a guest appearance with Avengers Academy, and a Daredevil crossover.

Dan Slott explained the inherent flaw with inventory stories on twitlonger.

Whenever you’re REALLY stuck, go back to CHARACTER. The character drives the story. And from scene to scene the character MUST go through some kind of “state change.” Where they are at the end of the scene/story needs to be a different place from where they started. Or we (the audience) just don’t care.

(THAT is one of the reasons inventory stories usually suck. Because– more often than not– they have to leave the character RIGHT back where they started. And that is BO-RING.)

Ever get stuck, a good question to ask yourself is “What is my character’s state change at the end of this scene/story?” Where’s the NEW place (emotionally) that they’ve landed/brought themselves/been tricked to/crashed?

With 30-40 issues of Amazing Spider-Man per year, instead of commissioning evergreen material, I would intentionally leave a few holes in the schedule. That allows for occasional one-off stories (as those can be done in a short amount of time) so the writers have some flexibility to respond to stuff quickly. This can also help them to quickly deal with events in other Marvel titles, or contemporary issues.

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It’s hell on the editor, but having a few holes in the schedule also allows Marvel to deal with contemporary events, and do more “ripped from the headlines” stories, which often get significant media attention. Comics can be published quickly. The Telegraph article “50 Facts You Might Not Know about Barack Obama” included the reference to his liking Spider-Man, and was published in November 11 2008. Quesada appeared on the Colbert report to provide comic nerd bait in November 14 2008, so Marvel was aware of the publicity the Obama/ Spider-Man connection was getting shortly after the election. In theory, instead of their five page back-up story, Marvel could have had a 22 page issue of Amazing Spider-Man with Spider-Man at Barack Obama’s inauguration in comic stores by January 21 2009 (if not January 14.) It would have been an achievement similar to getting Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 #36 in stores on November 14 2001.

Unfortunately, this would be more work for all involved. It avoids the ease of having a few evergreen stories to move around whenever a hole in the schedule develops, though those inventory stories will be out of date by their very nature, which may contribute to the problem of developments not being incorporated. Marvel also wouldn’t be able to use their slower artists for these stories, as time would be of the essence, which reduces the opportunities these guys (many of whom are quite talented) have to work on the title. I will note that I can respect artists such as Marcos Martin, Adam Hughes and Lee Weeks who are aware of their limitations, and generally won’t sign up for work that they’d be unable to finish in time. A need for fast comics places a premium on something that isn’t related to quality or the ability to impress readers, but it can be worth it to get a comic that speaks to a time-sensitive contemporary issue.

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I do think leaving four or so open slots an year for issues that can go two months from conception to finished project (less time if it’s two twelve-page stories) would somewhat alleviate the problem, giving writers the chance to respond to feedback in a quicker fashion. Though it would probably be hell on Wacker & company, it does allow Marvel to respond to fan commentary quickly. For example, Norah Winters was a hit with the readers, but she didn’t appear between Amazing Spider-Man #577 and 590, largely because work was done on most of the stories in between before her appearance hit the stores, and the schedule leading to Issue 600 was already filled. So she could have attended Obama’s inauguration with Peter in a rush-job 22 page story in which Spider-Man meets the new President. This approach would also allow Marvel to deal with events that affect Spider-Man in other titlesreconciling his Amazing Spider-Man adventures with the events in New Avengers and Future Foundation.

During the Brand New Day era, because Marvel filled their quotas so quickly and didn’t have any more “room” in Amazing Spider-Man , some fairly commercial stuff was released in the Amazing Spider-Man Extra issues, which contain the same creative teams as the regular title, but get significantly less sales. In the event that there’s no “ripped from the headlines” story to do, or no need for a spotlight on a new fan-favorite character, Marvel could still have the material for those types of stories. The epilogue to Character Assassination with Peter Parker learning about Flash Thompson’s war injuries was probably Guggenheim’s best work on Spider-Man, but it had the least exposure, as it wasn’t in the main title.

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

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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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