Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Does the Post-Clone Era Even Have a Name?

I’m not quite sure what Marvel expected to happen when Peter Parker returned to the Spider-Man books in the fall of 1996.  Yes, it’s easy to make the case that the majority of fans wanted the Clone Saga over and Peter reinstated as Spider-Man (even though Ben Reilly turned out to have a more dedicated fanbase than anyone could’ve predicted), but Marvel’s approach to the return seemed strangely low-key.  There wasn’t a new title with a fresh #1 issue.  No multi-title crossover to herald his first month back.  No cover gimmicks.  No variant covers that I’m aware of.  Heck, the creative teams even stayed basically the same.  The only new addition was J. M. DeMatteis on Spectacular Spider-Man, and by “new” I mean “back after a year away.”  Marvel’s assumption seemed to be that by simply giving the fans what they claimed to want, all eyes would return to Spider-Man and things would work out okay.  

Looking back, I wonder now if Marvel was reluctant to give the Spider-Man titles a large marketing push so soon after the launch of the “Heroes Reborn” books.   Perhaps someone thought that pushing a new Spidey #1 just a month or so after Avengers, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Captain America received new #1s would’ve been too much for the market to bear.  That doesn’t really sound like Marvel, though, does it?  Also, “Heroes Reborn” was famously hated within the halls of Marvel’s offices (due to the titles being farmed out to Image creators), so it’s hard to imagine Marvel making a conscious effort to downplay one of their brightest properties in order to appease creators that were still viewed as the competition.  Honestly, I think it’s entirely possible that Marvel believed that a quick sweep under the rug of any clone silliness was all the books really need at the time.

So, by late 1996, the Spider-Man line consisted of Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Peter Parker: Spider-Man, Sensational Spider-Man, Spider-Man Unlimited, Spider-Man Team-Up, and one title set in the past, Untold Tales of Spider-Man.  In addition to this rather lengthy list, Marvel also published a monthly series of Venom miniseries, and numerous one-shots featuring Spider-Man.  The only real marketing push I can remember for the post-clone titles were a few blurbs in the Bullpen Bulletins, boasting that the titles would have more of a “classic” feel, with Peter and MJ returning to college and new supporting cast members like the Stacy family possibly creating some fresh conflicts.

Did it work?  I’ll continue the retrospective in my next post, concluding my Spider-Man review series (which stretches all the way back to, geez, 1985!)


Matt said...

I look forward to this recap. I've said several times before that I have a soft spot for this era, but based on your reviews, it was apparently much more of a mess than I noticed at the time. Much as I would like to revisit it someday, I'm probably better off consigning it to nothing more than a pleasant memory.

(That said, I do still intend to re-read the full Clone Saga someday...)

Incidentally, speaking of this --

"(even though Ben Reilly turned out to have a more dedicated fanbase than anyone could’ve predicted)"

A few years ago on John Byrne's message board, Howard Mackie was waxing about Ben and I believe he said that the writers all made it their goal, obviously, to make Ben likeable. And when word came down, shortly after Ben took over as Spidey, that they would be killing him off and bringing back Peter, they doubled down on that philosophy, working as hard as they could to make readers really care about Ben so that when he did die, it would really mean something. I think they succeeded.

j said...

The Howard Mackie Era

Scott Church said...

I call this the era of no one caring. I mean seriously, from the time Clone Saga ending until the 9/11 Issue, I never heard a thing about Spider-Man, then the Qwen twins. I think I have most of these issues but have never read them and will probably list them on eBay soon as I'd rather have the space/money at this point.

I stopped reading Spider-Man with the clone saga. Spectacular Spider-Man and the rest of the issues were so dark and unenjoyable. Seeing Peter hit MJ, completely hard to see dark art in Spectacular and Amazing being terrible, I stopped caring completely.

I started reading Spider-Man in the mid 340's and Eric Larsen kept the issues fun and upbeat, Bagley continued that until the parent's return crap.

They basically took something I enjoyed and made it terrible. I started picking it up from Civil War until around a year into the 3 times a month when I realized my reading stack was 50% Spider-Man and I didn't want to read 3 Amazing Books a month when I used to be happy with just 1 a month.

Marvel has ruined this character for me, I'll continue to go back and read the mid 200's through #380 or so but no clone saga for me, ruined the character in every way.

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