So, Amazing Spider-Man #698 is here, and Dan Slott is about to go into hiding. Y’see, because it’s gonna be controversial. So make sure you buy it. Because it’s gonna be controversial. So you should buy it. Get the message?
Because I didn’t care enough about “being spoiled,” I read the reports about the “shocking” twist. Reading through the issue itself, I’ve been of two minds: “this is stupid,” and “hey, this was the same exact idea Kieron Gillen had for his final Journey Into Mystery issue.” Now, I’m not going to be so crass as to suggest Dan Slott is stealing from Kieron Gillen, apart from the preceding statement, but the similarity does stick out. It’s also a great opportunity to compare & contrast how to handle “shock” in comic books.
Which I’m not going to do.
Instead, I wanted to take this time to point out the weird, hypocritical way Marvel and Slott have treated controversy. Let’s assume for a second that the not-stealing-from-Gillen body swap in Day in the Life (unrelated to Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham’s wonderful A Day in the Life from Peter Parker: Spider-Man) is to represent the new status quo. That Peter Parker will die, and Dr. Octopus will have his body and his life. Of course, it’s not sustainable as a status quo for a multitude of reasons–even if the issue in question weren’t the same clinical, remaindered product an editor mercenary like Slott has put out for his entire tenure on the title–mainly because what works for Kid Loki doesn’t work for Spider-Man (amongst other things, Tom Ewing breaks this down in his brilliant analysis of JIM #645). But, I’m getting sidetracked. Assuming all of that plot is going to stick for any length beyond Amazing Spider-Man #700, and into The “Superior” Spider-Man (which Slott will also be writing), so what?
During the summer, for the painfully dumb Ends of the Earth arc (which also had Dr. Octopus), Marvel faced some controversy over Spider-Man (the one not body swapped) acid-boarding the Sandman. Of course, this wasn’t controversy Marvel courted, so Slott and editor Steve Wacker were quick to shoot down such criticism by accusing people of “overthink[ing] them to find enemies.” Now, of course, they’re trying, really hard, to get those same readers they dismissed to be frothing at the mouth mad (as with One More Day/Brand New Day) for their hype machine. The result would be laughable and pathetic if comic fans wouldn’t play into it.
At this point, I see no purpose in getting incensed at Marvel or their wishy-washy controversy-begging. Instead, I see their frequent drawing from this well (the aforementioned arcs, Sins Past, Clone Saga, American Son, and so on) as a direct result of their inability to get anyone interested in the comic starring their most popular character. Sure, it sells, but for all the sound and fury, nobody actually cares.