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Everything New Is Old Again.

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It was a juggernaut of editorial mandate. It could not be stopped by fan outrage or creator concern. One man, Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada, thought he knew exactly what the Spider-Man franchise needed and he resolutely, or, some might say, stubbornly, resolved to make it happen.

Quesada believed that Peter Parker worked better young and single. So one deal with the devil later, he was younger and unmarried. And he also got his secret identity, his formerly deceased best friend Harry Osborn, and his reliance on mechanical web-shooters back as part of the deal.

As is the case with any continuity reboots, this caused a great deal of outrage and complaining from the fan base. From the fan press to the blogs to the message boards, reader upon reader did not hesitate to criticize this new direction, the changes that resulted from it and the way it came about.

Continuity as it appears in comics is one of the things that makes the medium special, but also is an albatross that hangs around the neck of creators. The fans expect writers to be slavishly devoted to what has come before, and any variations from it to be fully explained and completely logical.

Marvel only has itself to blame for this. Back in the sixties, the tightly intermingled Marvel Universe is what set it apart from its main competitor, DC. If Daredevil was suffering from a cold in his own book and the same month was guest starring in Fantastic Four, he’d be sniffling there.

This type of continuity wasn’t hard to keep track of when Marvel was only a couple of years old and was only publishing 8 books a month. However, as the years grew and the number of titles published increased, continuity became more and more unwieldy.

But today’s comic readers, for the most part, are older and have been reading comics for a long time. They have been following these characters for decades. It is not unheard of that there are fans that have seen Peter Parker grow from an awkward teenager in high school to a married adult teaching at a high school.

The long-time fans have a certain sense of entitlement in regards to continuity. Wanting a payoff for their investment of time, they require the proper respect given to the character’s history that they grew up reading. If creators write something that varies from continuity in the smallest of ways, fans will become upset. Larger changes, such as what happened here, would only be accepted if they made sense and were believable.

Peter and Mary Jane have been married for 20 years in the comics. The fans have become accustomed to it. Joe Quesada’s argument is that there are more avenues of storytelling that you can do with a single Peter than with a married one. But, there is a single Peter Parker featured each month in Ultimate Spider-Man and Marvel Adventures Spider-Man. Sure, they are younger than the Peter featured in Amazing, but they act as a forum for the avenues Quesada speaks of. His arrogant sounding reply to people complaining about the newly single Peter in his interview with Comic Book Resources that if they wanted a married Peter they should start buying Amazing Spider-Girl was a bit ironic. Could this have all been avoided if someone told Joe to start buying Ultimate Spider-Man if he wanted a single Peter Parker?

Fans also complain about the other retcons that were tacked on at the end of One More Day. Quesada said this in response to how those retcons will be explained in continuity:“Everything that happened in “Civil War” happened, the unmasking happened, people just don’t remember whose face was under the mask. Tony Stark also did something like this when he brainwashed the world to forget he was Iron Man. They remember the event, but they can no longer recall who the guy under the mask was. This again was the reason why we went with this Faustian pack story as opposed to shifting way too many continuity blocks. It doesn’t cause all of those past Spider-man stories to be discounted. Almost all of that stuff that happened, happened, except Peter and MJ weren’t married.”

Only problem is, Harry Osborn was married with a kid when he died in Spectacular Spider-Man #200. He is back; presumably single with a never-before-seen girlfriend in tow in Brand New Day. Long-time fans want an explanation as to how Harry came back to life and what happened to his wife Liz and son Normie. And they want a better explanation than “It's magic, we don't have to explain it.” But it doesn’t appear that they’ll be getting it any time soon, if at all.

Hardcore fans often are mocked to their fanatical devotion to continuity. But, for going on 50 years, Marvel has been perpetuating that continuity and making money from it. In this case, it seems like Joe Quesada utterly disrespected what came before just so that his will would be done. This is an insult to the fans and cast a pall over what otherwise might have been a positive Brand New Day.

Also out this week:

The Hulk #1:

Speaking of the topic at hand, Jeph Loeb has always been a writer who believes that continuity is a loose guideline rather than something that should be followed and respected. The solicitation states Loeb and artist Ed McGunness love Hulk as much as the fans do. Let’s see if that helps them if they take too many liberties with the Hulk mythos.

They might already be in trouble. The book starts off with the murder of one of the Hulk’s oldest cast members, an event that is always good for stirring up internet chatter. And the hardcore Hulkamaniacs might find issue with the lead character being red, a break from the grey and green the Hulk has always been. The series might have two strikes against it before it ever hits the stands.

Jeph Loeb (W), Ed McGuinness (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99.   Ongoing Series.

Teen Titans: The Lost Annual:

This issue has had a long and strange history. Originally, it was supposed to come out in 2003 as Teen Titans Swingin' Elseworlds Special, a tribute to writer and Teen Titans co-creator Bob Haney’s unique writing style. The book was completely written by Haney, drawn by Jay Stephens and Mike Allred, and even had a cover created by legendary Teen Titans’ artist Nick Cardy before it was unexpectedly cancelled without explanation.

Now, just under five years later, it finally sees the light of day. It serves as Haney’s last Titans story, and one of his last works period (Haney died in 2004 at age 78 from complication from a stroke). It features a story cut from the trippy Haney style as the Titans must travel into space to rescue President John F. Kennedy.

Bob Haney (W), Jay Stephens and Mike Allred (A), DC Comics, $4.99. One-Shot.

Youngblood #1:

Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood was the very first comic the upstart Image published way back in 1992. Since that time, Liefeld has become an outspoken and controversial name in comics, and his public and acrimonious split from Image in 1996 was the stuff of legend. Many thought that his name would never appear under the company’s imprint ever again.

But in comics, you can never say “never”. Youngblood is back. But a lot has changed. Liefeld hasn’t returned as a partner. He has the same publishing deal that any other creator working for Image has. And he has handed the reins of his creation to the team of Joe Casey and Derec Donovan. But other than that, it’s like it is 1992 all over again.

Joe Casey (W), Derec Donovan (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Evil Dead #1:

Kudos to Sam Raimi! His Evil Dead franchise has grown to such a status that it takes two different comic book companies to do it justice. While Dynamite Entertainment continues to publish series’ that take place after Army of Darkness, Dark Horse throws its hat into the ring with the “expansion” of the original film that got the phenomenon rolling.

And Dark Horse is putting it in excellent creative hands. Comics veteran Mark Verheiden is on writing duties and industry legend John Bolton provides beautiful painted artwork for the series. This fully authorized celebration of Ash’s first visit to the cabin in the woods is a must for any Evil Dead fan.

Mark Verheiden (W), John Bolton (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

JLA Classified #50:

When it comes to legendary teams in comics, who come to mind? Lee and Kirby? Wolfman and Perez? Bendis and Bagley? Claremont and Byrne? Stern and Byrne?

Only a select few might include that last pair on your lists. But those few are the ones who remember Roger Stern and John Byrne’s short but legendary run on Captain America. They were only on the title for 9 issues between 1980 and 1981 but during that short time they were responsible for some of the most memorable storylines in the history of Cap—including Cap’s flirtation with running for president and his legendary battle with Baron Blood.

Well, the team is back again and JLA Classified has got them. They tell the tale of a villain who has a grudge against the JLA. Only problem is, the JLA have no idea who he is!

Roger Stern (W), John Byrne (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

The Twelve #1:

Twelve of the greatest heroes of the World War II era find themselves transported decades into the future to our time. In their minds, it’s the 1940’s, but, in reality, it’s the 21st Century. The future shock each of them feels would be hard to adjust to in and of itself. But they also have to deal with a mysterious killer who is picking them off one by one.

From the obscure reaches of Marvel’s Golden Age comes a murder mystery that only J. Michael Straczynski can bring you. Consider it a history lesson of sorts. Only don’t get too attached to any one character, for they might not survive to the end of the series. Or worse, they may be the killer!

J. Michael Straczynski (W), Chris Weston (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Twelve-Issue Miniseries.

The Goon #20:

The Goon is back! Again! For real this time!

Yes, back in July, The Goon was supposed to make a triumphant return to comic stores on a bi-monthly basis. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts and the epic scope of the Chinatown graphic novel caused Eric Powell to deliver only one issue on this promise.

Well, The Goon is back this week, better than ever. How much better? Try monthly instead of bimonthly! Yes, twice as much Goon than as before. How can you beat that!

I am a huge fan of The Goon and welcome his return to comic book shelves. If you like macabre humor and gritty noir-like horror, then do yourself a favor, pick up this series.

Eric Powell (W/A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

 

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