The Three Spiders

Steve Wacker, head editor of the Spider-Man franchise for Marvel, has spent the past few years trying to build up a series of books to stand alongside the main Amazing Spider-Man title. Ever since Brand New Day narrowed down Spider-Man’s titles to a single ongoing series, there have been a few attempts to create a family line of titles. First came the end of storyline ‘The Gauntlet’, out of which launched a Spider-Girl series by Paul Tobin which lasted just under a year, and gave us a great new Spider-Girl character. Since then though, there’s been a bit of a struggle – the two Carnage stories by Zeb Wells have done rather well, but it’s been rather quiet aside from that.

But now we have three Spider-Man titles running simultaneously, with Venom and Scarlet Spider launching out of the main title and managing to hit what appears to be a successful stride. Scarlet Spider is only onto issue #3, but the first issue sold out repeatedly and sales don’t seem to be dropping as fast as they normally do after the first issue. Meanwhile Rick Remender’s Venom series has been rather successful, pushing the character over into a role on Secret Avengers and leading into a mini-event co-starring Ghost Rider, X-23 and Red Hulk. And let’s not forget Dan Slott’s tenure on Amazing Spider-Man, which is critically acclaimed, a strong seller for Marvel, and quickly dropping any bad memories from the Brand New Day storyline which so many readers hated. What changed?

Quality has to play a role in it. All three titles are strong, with solid creative teams and three perfectly-suited writers for each main character. Remender is becoming known for writing black-ops teams and soldiers like Flash Thompson (the current Venom), while Chris Yost’s dark streak makes him perfect for writing a flashy, conflicted hero like Kaine (the current Scarlet Spider). Dan Slott has spent years working his way up to Spider-Man, making it clear all the while that this is his dream job. His sense of humour and light-hearted approach to storytelling made it inevitable that he’d eventually take over the book, and he’s proving every bit the perfect fit everybody thought he’d become.

The marketing is also important. Venom is being pushed by Marvel at the moment, as Remender’s introduced him into the cast of Secret Avengers and made him the focus of the storyline. He also had the benefit of a Spider-Island tie-in, as well as the fact that, y’know, he’s a well-established fan-favourite character anyway. Scarlet Spider also launched out of Spider-Island, which happened to be a very well received event indeed. While Fear Itself crashed and burned, and Flashpoint was largely hated; Spider Island established itself as the best Spider-Man story of the past few years (which is a tough accolade to win: there have been some EXCELLENT stories recently). Both Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos have been praised for an interesting, fun event which didn’t have to rely on seriousness or shock value to keep the reader’s attention. The Kaine subplot organically pushed the character into his own title, while the Venom tie-in focused on character building above everything else.

Basically, all three books marketed themselves strongly but also then provided readers with different reading experiences which all suit themselves to the characters. Kaine is a little undefined still, but aside from that all three titles have managed to separate themselves whilst staying within reach of one another. Also – and let’s not forget how important this is – none of the characters happen to be a Hispanic female. Spider-Girl’s series was a DELIGHT, but crashed very quickly. With the success of Scarlet Spider, Venom and Amazing Spider-Man (which will be heading into a second event this month, ‘To The Ends of the Earth’), perhaps now might be a good time to try again with the character? With three successful titles under his belt, and the success of Daredevil/Punisher at the same time, it seems like this year could be a great chance for Wacker to try experimenting further with the cast he’s got.

First though, we’ll have to work out what this whole ‘Spider-Men’ thingy is about that Marvel have been teasing. What’s going on with Miles Morales? It’d be great to see him enter the 616 Universe – and with Bendis leaving Avengers soon… maybe?


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