Friday, October 29, 2004

Spider-Man glut: Well, it's no great loss to the comics world, I guess, but Spectacular Spider-Man has been cancelled -- again. This poor title has been the "second banana" of Spider-Man titles for a while, after the flagship "Amazing Spider-Man" and upstart "Ultimate Spider-Man." Under one title or another, "Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man" has been cancelled and restarted at least three times in the past few years. This new run barely made it 25 issues. The last made it 60 or so.

It originally began back in the late '70s as "Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man" and for a while there in the early '80s, the stories by Roger Stern and Bill Mantlo were as good as any Spidey stories ever were, gritty and realistic without being grim. The title always traditionally focused more on Peter Parker's life, hence the name, and started to lose its way when it became just another Spider-Man action comic. It was cancelled, for the first time, around issue 260. The more recent stories, written by Paul Jenkins, were really great for a while there (the story of a young African American inner city kid who idolizes Spider-Man to escape his miserable home life, a story that didn't even feature Spider-Man at all, is one of the best superhero tales of recent years). But for the past year or two, the book has been on a downhill slide, with mediocre stories I only bought about 25% of the time and utterly miscast, spastic art by Humberto Ramos.

The novelty of a second monthly Spider-Man title faded long ago. Take a look at the January 2005 Marvel solicitations -- there are 12 Spider-Man books out there, including his appearance in "New Avengers" #3. Of those I'll buy probably three. Flooding the market isn't unique to Spider-Man. There are a staggering 21 "X-Men" or "X-Men" related title up in January 2005. And there's a dozen or so "Batman" family books coming. Who can -- or wants -- to buy all this stuff?

I have nothing against Spider-Man or X-Men comics. I love them, when they're good. But the failure of "Spectacular Spider-Man," again, shows that there's a need for quality control. A good, solid monthly secondary "Spider-Man" title could still work, in theory, but with the clutter from endless miniseries and the very good "Ultimate Spider-Man" line competition, it doesn't seem necessary at all anymore. Maybe "Spectacular Spider-Man" should just be allowed to die for a while.

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