Saturday, January 12, 2008

Missing: 30 years continuity

If found return to Spider-Man c/o Peter Parker.

Marvel made it official (see the picture below), everything that happened in Spider-Man in the last 30 years is gone. Gwen is still dead as is Norman Osborn. No one knows Spidey's identity - period. Not even people who knew it since the 1980s.

Peter was never married to MJ. MJ is a Hollywood actress who comes to NYC sometimes.

Peter may have lived in an apartment once but he moved back in with Aunt May for financial reasons.

No word on Peter's college status but I'll bet that he is either a drop-out or an undergrad.

It's an ignominious change to a character who first introduced continuity and realism to comic books.

Continuity was easy at first. There was only the one comic and every issue was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Stories took a full issue and Marvel couldn't afford inventory stories so everything was printed in the order it was created. That made it easy to refer to the previous issue as "last month". Continuity showed up in little ways. Peter started dating Betty Brant. If they argued in one issue they might refer to it in the next. It showed up in big ways, also. Villains didn't just return. They were granted parole or revieled how they escaped from a previous certain death.

Spider-Man broke several rules. He graduated from high school and went to college. He broke up with a girl friend (Betty) and got a new one (MJ) then got serious with a third (Gwen Stacy).

By the mid-1970s Stan and Steve had moved on. Gerry Conway took over as writer and the strip got in a rut punctuated by some silly stuff (Doc Ock marrying Aunt May in order to inherit her nuclear reactor). In a decision that would be repeated in numerous strips, the solution was a new girl friend. Gwen was killed and Peter started dating MJ again.

Marv Wolfman got the strip going again in the late 1970s. In the 1980s it started breaking all sorts of rules. Peter started dating the Black Cat, a thrill-seeking villain. He even revealed his identity. After they broke up he got back together with MJ and eventually married her.

In the 1990s things went wrong. Arguably the worst plotline from the 1970s involved Peter's biology professor becoming a super villain and cloning Peter and Gwen. This was revived and stretched on for a few years. After that Norman Osborn was brought back from the dead.

New management felt that the marriage was a mistake so MJ left town and was assumed dead.

Just a couple of years ago the strip seemed have gotten back on even footing. MJ was back and reconciled with Peter. Aunt May finally found out that Peter was Spider-Man, a revelation that was decades overdue. Peter started teaching. The excesses of the 1990s could be easily ignored.

Then they started changing things again, piling them on too deep. Peter died and came back with new powers. He got a new costume. He revealed his identity to the world.

After letting things go to pot, Marvel decided that the easiest thing was to make it all away - everything that they considered a mistake. Essentially the strip was rolled back to its stagnant period in the 1970s. The main difference is that Peter doesn't even have his own apartment.

I can see rolling back the last couple of years. They went overboard with changes and the staff who came up with this junk is still around to take the heat for it. I have real problems with undoing 2/3s of the strip's run. Some of the best runs of the comic have been swept away and I don't think that the current management is as talented as the people whose efforts they invalidated.

I have only been reading Spider-Man sporadically since the 1990s. I see no reason to read it again.

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