Monday, February 2, 2009

Not Written By Santayana, But It Might As Well Have Been

I'm not that much of a Spider-Man fan by any means, and yet (assuming you haven't already) The Life of Reilly is required reading. Not just for being an incisive, blow-by-blow account of the Clone Saga, that high-water mark for comics than destroyed the credibility of the character all the way to 2001 (maybe) but for being a warning about trying to force regressive change on a character that has progressed past the point of being able to be rolled back to an earlier point without screwing up a lot of stuff.

Thrill as a well-intentioned Age of Apocalypse style self-contained event that would have pivoted the Spider-books in a new and interesting direction for a bit, then returned to normal (Despite what most writers in comics would have you beleive, as Stan Lee once said superhero comics don't peddle actual change so much as the illusion of it. As this is not strictly true, he will probably be sued for this) was perverted by pressure from the marketing department to milk the momentum the book had to death and pressure from various creative teams to go this way and that and you end up something that lasted far past its moment, full of so many changes in plans and direction that the end result near the end was a confusing mess.

But the main lesson to be gleaned is perhaps this--the plan with the Ben Reilly stuff was to create a status quo for Spider-Man in a way that he could be comfortably returned to a younger, unmarried status quo and therefore "be more identifiable to younger readers" (or, if you're a cynic, "Stay locked in the same status quo from 30 years ago that the people writing it remember and are therefore comfortable with.") and look at the goddamn mess.

Boy, I sure am glad Marvel learned its lesson about undoing the marriage and the accumulated continuity associated with it and never again tried to roll back Spider-Man's continuity with some ridiculous plot justification that totally screwed everything up and made enjoying the potential "good stories" resulting from it because the road getting there was soobnoxiously ill-conceived.

Yeah, they'd never do that again, bad as the Clone Saga went down.

On a random personal note, the Ben Reilly suit (not the Scarlet Spider) one was actually some pretty sharp design work, I thought (at least compared to Quesada's Iron Spider suit)

That has nothing to do with anything--I just thought I'd mention it.


Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Maintaining the non-sequitur, I actually liked the more urban torn-jogging-sweater look of the Scarlet Spider; much more practical and real-looking than tights.

Kazekage said...

I can't say it was a favourite look of mine (but it is for someone at Marvel, it made it into the Ultimate Alliance game) but it worked really well as an alternative to the basic Spider-Man look.

Nothing, in terms of crisp, clean design, beats the black suit, tho. The only redesign that's come close was the Batman Beyond suit.