Fanboy Rampage: John Byrne Vs. Dan Slott

So Dan Slott is relaunching Amazing Spider-Man in October with a Peter Parker solicited as an international tech-company whiz. And naturally everyone wanted to see what the John Byrne Forum had to say. Here are select examples from a longer conversation between Byrne, Slott and member of the form. We’ve used red marks to show quotation, for clarity.

John Byrne: Slott, of course, expresses the all too common fannish position the Change Is Good! And a quick review of the last forty years or so shows us how well that has worked out!

Dan Slott: To be fair, Mr. Byrne, didn’t a lot of your best runs of Marvel/DC Comics start with a premise of “Change is Good!”

The Hulk and Bruce Banner get separated.

Namor uses the wealths of the oceans to become a major mogul.

Superman’s origins from Krypton through Smallville through Metropolis get changed and over hauled.

She-Hulk becomes a break-the-fourth-wall style of comedy book.

And so on…

Reasonable comparisons, right?

John Byrne: 

•• Let’s take these one at a time, shall we?

The Hulk and Bruce Banner get separated.

•• And that was intended to be permanent? No.

Namor uses the wealths of the oceans to become a major mogul.

•• Which he’d done before, with Stan and Jack at the helm.

Superman’s origins from Krypton through Smallville through Metropolis get changed and over hauled.

•• Which had happened many times before and since, and didn’t change the character.

She-Hulk becomes a break-the-fourth-wall style of comedy book.

•• Which didn’t change the character.

And so on…

•• Such as?

Reasonable comparisons, right?

•• You seem to think so. There’s the problem in a nutshell.

Dan Slott: 

“The Hulk and Bruce Banner get separated.”

•• And that was intended to be permanent? No.

*** Technically, I could say the same thing about my last big run, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN with the Doc-Ock-mind-swap. And also at the start of any story that you’ve told where a major-status-quo-changing event happened. Imagine if we were having this conversation when your run of HULK was just starting and the premise had barely been released.

Some of the assumptions you’re levying against this new run are about a book where no one’s even read one page from the interiors yet. For the past two and a half years this has been the best selling title set in the Marvel U. I think the team on the book has earned enough good will for people to give the first issue a go.

“Namor uses the wealths of the oceans to become a major mogul.”

•• Which he’d done before, with Stan and Jack at the helm.

*** In all of one issue when he was a movie mogul. But you took that, extrapolated on it, and produced some great comics! In that same vein, we’re taking something Stan & Steve did– having Peter come up with amazing, ground breaking inventions (like Spidey’s web-fluid, or the anti-magnetic inverter he used on the Vulture) and are extrapolating that to tell a new chapter in Spidey’s life.

“Superman’s origins from Krypton through Smallville through Metropolis get changed and over hauled.”

•• Which had happened many times before and since, and didn’t change the character.

*** I’d disagree. You did some phenomenal changes in that run. Especially your take on Clark’s life in Smallville. Things you did in your run WERE changes– and have found their way into everything from LOIS AND CLARK to SUPERMAN ADVENTURES and in SMALLVILLE. In those cases, most people would agree with me that YOUR changes were changes for the good!

“She-Hulk becomes a break-the-fourth-wall style of comedy book.”

•• Which didn’t change the character.

*** Again, I’d disagree. The way you changed her character were profound. She became completely different then the way she was in David Anthony Kraft’s run of SAVAGE, Stern’s AVENGERS, and even your FF. In your run of SENSATIONAL you gave the character the license to be goofy, a little bit screwball, and more upbeat than anyone had portrayed her before. That BIG change to her character remains to this day because of the risks you were willing to take in that book.

John Byrne: Like I said, the problem is obvious. And it’s yours.

Jason Scott: I quite like the idea of Peter using his smarts to make some actual gains for once. I know there’s a tendency to always want to paint him as that eternal high school loser figure, but too much doom and gloom can get really wearying after a while. This sounds like a way to have some original adventures, and maybe even get some more humour from seeing Pete being outside of his usual comfort zone..

John Byrne: And you know what’s supposed to happen when it gets “wearying”? YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO MOVE ON. You are NOT supposed to selfishly demand that the comics and the characters change to fit YOUR needs. Nor are the writers, artists and editors supposed to pander to the ever diminishing pool of people who make such demands.

Dan Slott: I make this same argument a lot as well. Though I do believe there can be exceptions. Like any belief, if held too rigidly, it can stifle and suppress good ideas that could prove the exception.

For example, when you told the story where Sue had her miscarriage– and by the end of the following arc, she declared that she was no longer the Invisible Girl, and that from now on she would be the Invisible Woman, that was powerful. That was the Marvel Universe progressing and moving forward. That was change. And it has stuck for decades because it was a good change.

In an age where every phone has a camera and where newspapers are dying, it doesn’t really make sense to have Peter Parker be a newspaper photographer anymore. It just feels wrong in the book.

When Ed Brubaker did his legendary run on CAPTAIN AMERICA, he reenvisioned how James Buchanan Barnes worked in WW2. Imagine a movie like CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER with a red domino masked Bucky. With today’s audience, that would seem silly, right? If Ed and his team hadn’t told the Winter Soldier stories, we all would have missed out on CA:TWS, which a LOT of people think of as one of the Top 10 super hero movies of all time. (SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE still easily holds the #1 spot, of course.) ;-)

As much as there are elements that (I feel) should always be there for each and every generation (for when THEY discover the characters), there are also elements that should have the freedom to change, so that Marvel Comics can stay relevant and reflect “The World Outside Your Window”… today!

And… sometimes… messing with the concepts that we feel SHOULD be immutable CAN shake things up and provide some really fun stories! Treading on forbidden ground is something that can really keep the reader on edge and interested. If comics ever feel the need to play it too safe, that is as sure of a death knell than anything.

How many people here have been liking Flash Thompson as Venom/Agent Venom? When we made that switch 5 years ago, Eddie Brock fans were furious. Cut to 5 years later… the character has had a great run by Rick Remender, been a character in the Secret Avengers, joined up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and is now getting a new solo book with further adventures in outer space! He’s been in cartoons, video games, and multiple action figures. I go to cons– and I see at least one Flash Thompson/Agent Venom cosplayer at each show! This has been a FUN change– and it was all borne out of the idea of Pete’s former bully, someone who always idolized Spider-Man getting a chance to BE a weird version of Spider-Man– a proud serviceman using those strange new abilities in a way to serve his country.  And it worked!

Long story short: There’s no hard and fast rule. There’s something to be said for holding the line– but there’s also something to be said for change.

Mike Benson: Drama comes from change. Can’t have the first without some of the second. The trick for comics, or any serial fiction, as Mr. Byrne has many times pointed out, is to create the illusion of change.

Mr. Slott, absolutely correct. Criticizing at the beginning of a storyline seems very unfair. If your goal truly is to tell great stories, honor the characters and their history and leave those toys just the way you found them, then kudos to you! I don’t know much about your work but you seem like a real class act.

But you’ll forgive me for not having the greatest confidence in anything that Marvel is doing. They’ve shit on characters I love so much at this point that they have no part of my interest left to pique.

Josh Goldberg: Respectfully, drama comes from conflict.

Dan Slott: If you want to be technical and go back to the ancient Greeks (who invented “Drama”), it come from “action.”

I like to think it comes from state change. A character begins a scene in one frame of mind– makes a change– and leaves in a new altered state, for good or ill. And this happens on a larger scale from scene-to-scene, from act-to-act, from story-to-story and so on.

And, like others have said here many times, one of the tricky things about writing for iconic characters is writing the “illusion of Change”, so that you can tell great, big, epic yarns– and yet still have the characters in their iconic rolls for the next generation.

Josh Goldberg: And, as touched upon elsewhere, I don’t see the point of turning Peter Parker into Tony Stark.  Marvel already has a Tony Stark.  Such a change leaves them with, essentially, two Tony Starks and zero Peter Parkers.

Dan Slott: Not so. If you check out your other Marvel solicits (like for Mark Waid’s AVENGERS), you’ll see that there might be some changes on that front. Also, w/ Miles Morales running around in high school, there’ll be someone having some very classic Peter Parker-style problems. This new status quo for Peter will put him in an interesting state change where he is the only one filling that kind of role. And how WILL a Peter Parker react/function IN that role will be something fun, unique, and new– and I guarantee that it will cause some… DRAMA! :-D

John Byrne:When Ed Brubaker did his legendary run on CAPTAIN AMERICA, he reenvisioned how James Buchanan Barnes worked in WW2. Imagine a movie like CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER with a red domino masked Bucky. With today’s audience, that would seem silly, right?••Always fills my heart with joy to find myself in a discussion with someone who has such a deep and rich understanding of the characters and their histories.

Dan Slott:  I’ve been reading comics for over 40 years. I love ’em and respect ’em from every era.

I loved watching Superman lift jalopies over his head.
I loved watching you craft tales where he lifted space shuttles.

It’s okay to enjoy both the camp of Adam West/Burt Ward’s Batman & Robin…
…while at the same time enjoying the modern day take of Chris Evans/Sebastian Stan’s Cap & Bucky.

I don’t think of it as a wrong or mock-able opinion. Just one that I have, that I enjoy, and one that I’m entitled to have. :)

John Byrne: I like to think it comes from state change. A character begins a scene in one frame of mind– makes a change– and leaves in a new altered state, for good or ill. And this happens on a larger scale from scene-to-scene, from act-to-act, from story-to-story and so on.

••

That is not how serial fiction works.

Dan Slott: Respectfully, character state change and action could define everything from every issue of SAGA to LOVE & ROCKETS to every single comic made with sequential panels in ’em. :-)

It’s a wide open enough view to be applied to both any scene with conflict– and any scene with a character, alone in a room, making a personal choice.

If I’ve overstayed my welcome here and you’re just trying to shut me down, that’s okay. It’s your board. It’s your rules.

John Byrne: I’ve been reading comics for over 40 years. I love ’em and respect ’em from every era.

Fit that into your work some time. Might make for fun reading.

Dan Slott:  Have you read the SPIDER-MAN/HUMAN TORCH mini-series?
It’s actually very faithful to every era of Spidey and FF that came before it.

My SHE-HULK run was very reverent of yours and, over the course of 33 issues, touched on ALL Marvel history, from Timely to present day, through Stan, Starlin, Stern, and Straczynski (and that’s just people whose names start with “St”.) :-P

I know you’ve been down on Marvel (or M*****) for many years now and probably haven’t given my stuff a go… so that seems like a weird shot to fire across my bow. If it makes any difference a lot of your predecessors and contemporaries– from Gerry Conway, Len Wein, J.M. DeMatteis, and even your pal, Roger Stern, have given my Spidey run a shot– and have passed along that they’ve enjoyed it.

And I think you can tell from some of the comics that I’ve cited in this thread alone– that I can easily wave my credentials as one of your Faithful 50 from years gone back– and that the assignments I’ve pitched and accepted over the years (a Spidey Team-Up book, She-Hulk, Great Lakes Avengers, The Thing, The Mighty Avengers…) all come from a foundation built on longboxes filled with your works. I honestly think that if you did pick up some of my books, you’d see that they were fun reads (especially the current Silver Surfer book that’s on the stands.)

Anyhoo… I should probably hit the bricks.

Anyone on the thread who thinks this is an odd bounce for Peter Parker– going off of the promotional blurb and the one cover– I hope you give the work a chance and read what the team’s actually put there on all 20+ pages.

Later.

John Byrne: It’s actually very faithful to every era of Spidey and FF that came before it.

My SHE-HULK run was very reverent of yours and, over the course of 33 issues, touched on ALL Marvel history, from Timely to present day…

•••

I remember the effort you put into restoring the character to who she’d been before I changed her.

Oh, wait. You didn’t. Because I hadn’t.

Dan Slott: I am really not following this train-of-thought or argument you’re making here.

My She-Hulk run was very reverent of all the character’s history up to that point– from the Kraft/Vosburg run, to Stern’s use of her in Avengers, your use of her in both FF and Sensational, all the way up to the status quo changes Geoff Johns did with her in the Avengers issues preceding my run.

And do you honestly think you didn’t change the character? That the fun-loving, joking character you did in Sensational was the same as the melodramatic character in Savage? Or the tough, bickering-with-Hawkeye character in Stern’s Avengers? C’mon.

You made changes to She-Hulk. And they were for the better. They added more facets to who she was and what kinds of stories you could tell with her.

There was no part of my run where I tried to “restore” her to a previous setting. Juan and I tried to build on what came before and have fun taking the character and the book in new directions. I’m sorry if you felt otherwise.

John Byrne: Consider the whole history of comics, dating back to the Thirties, when new material was first being commissioned for publication in what had been, up until then, reprint books. After a brief “settling in” period, roughly 3 or four years — often considerably less — the characters were pretty much locked in, so that the Batman (for example) I “met” circa 1956 was virtually indistinguishable from the Batman of 1946, and would remain so until 1966 or so.

During this period — roughly a quarter century — altho comics experienced steadily diminishing sales, that decline had little or nothing to do with the characters. A series of bad business decisions had been made (among them, reducing the page count in order to keep the 10¢ cover price), and comics as a medium suffered for them. But the characters remained the same. The talent was largely anonymous — we recognized artists by their styles, not their names — and all focus was on the characters. Characters who were kept “on model,” so that the constantly changing audience would find the same product, “generation” to “generation”. The notion that these characters would (or should) “change and grow” was not even considered. Superman was always Superman. Batman was always Batman. Et cetera.

This was accomplished, to a large extent, by mostly ignoring the readers. Sure, they wrote in, and if their (heavily edited) letters had some comment that was of use to the editor, they would get printed. But there was no thought that these readers were participating.* Not until the Sixties when, after a long interregnum, new talent started to filter in — talent drawn mostly from the pool of fans that had been created by the quarter century and more comics had been in their present form.

At first, the influx of fans-turned-pro presented no real problems, since the Old Guard was still steering the ship, and the idea of artists and writers bringing their own “vision” to characters was largely unheard of. But it couldn’t last. The Old Guard were dwindling as the New Kids became more and more prominent. For a while, this had no major effect beyond everybody trying to draw like Neal Adams. These New Kids had been trained by the Old Guard, and they understood how it worked. They understood that those ideas that had been bouncing around fandom were very, very short-term thinking, and such fan-think should be checked at the door.

But steadily, more and more, the fan-think started to take over. By the time I joined the industry, circa 1975, there were writers, artists and editors who seemed to exist solely to “fix” things. Some who seemed unable to even start thinking about a story unless it was soaked in “continuity.”

The talent split into two uneven camps. There were those who thought “continuity” was the all-important driving force, and those who, as Paul Levitz expressed it, thought that “continuity” meant that Superman was from Krypton, and would always be from Krypton. Sixties Marvel leaned much in the direction of the former, more and more as the f-t-ps flowed in. Julie Schwartz, the longest survivor of the Old Guard, called these writers and artists “archeologists.” Eventually the balanced tipped, and they were pretty much all there was.

And, yes, it was great fun to play with the old toys. To dig down into a character’s “history” to find nuggets that had not previously been examined. Went there quite often myself. But after what seemed like not a very long time, this “archeology” began to make the books more and more impenetrable. The latest issue could not be read without having read ten or twelve issues before it. Things became dense and clubbish, and moves were made to clean house and get things on track.

Unfortunately, it was the people who’d created the problem who were largely put in charge of cleaning up — rather like Congress voting itself a pay raise. The “house cleanings” were done from the viewpoint of those who had been immersed in these characters and stories for decades, much longer than a typical fan/reader — altho increasingly, such longtime devotion was becoming common among the fans.

Now, again and again, we see the companies “rebooting,” but each time the “new” material is heavily dependent upon a deep knowledge of what went before. After all, there’s no big deal in Peter Parker becoming “Tony Stark” if the readers don’t know how things used to be.

_____________

* The exception was Mort Weisinger, who asked neighborhood kids what they would like to see Superman doing.

Dan Slott: “After all, there’s no big deal in Peter Parker becoming “Tony Stark” if the readers don’t know how things used to be.”

Readers know who Tony Stark is and is supposed to be.
Readers also know who Peter Parker is and is supposed to be.

In 2015 we live in a world where layman on the street and small children know that Clark Kent is Superman, Bruce Wayne is Batman, Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and Tony Stark is Iron Man.

It is a radically different world then it was before 2008 when the first IRON MAN movie was released and became a worldwide hit.

Tony Stark, Iron Man, and that status quo is a central part of three of the highest grossing movies of all time (IRON MAN 3, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, and AVENGERS).

Spider-Man has been a cultural touchstone that reaches beyond comic book audiences and into the public at large since the animated cartoon of the 60’s, let alone a Macy’s day balloon, and being the star of 5 major motion pictures and some of the most watched modern day cartoons around.

The idea of Spider-Man being suddenly thrust into the role of a Tony Stark– and “Oh No! What happens NEXT?” — is a clean and simple concept that anyone off the street can get.

The same held true with the Superior Spider-Man run. Spider-Man’s worst enemy is now mind-swapped into his body. People got it. The most watched sitcom on television even tipped its hat to the premise in one of their cold opens.

And, as weird as it sounds, when I go to shows and signings, I constantly meet people of all ages (even– gasp– children) who started reading super hero comics for the first time with SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN because they heard about the premise through the news, TV, or word of mouth– and decided to give it a try because they thought “it sounded weird.” Go figure. :)

Steven Legg: I can’t honestly say I’m at all interested in the all-new all-different Spiderman you’re doing Dan, but I do respect you coming here of all places to defend your work. You could be having a coffee somewhere listening to music or mowing the lawn or something rather than coming here. Not that it’s hostile here or anything, but the vast majority here agree with JB, Darwyn Cooke and others about how superhero comics should be.

John Byrne: It doesn’t take courage to express an opinion in this Forum. Only an absence of visible agendas.

Dan Slott: Thanks, Steven. I totally get if the teaser images, copy, or high concept hasn’t grabbed your interest. Honestly, I’m being patient till I see how people respond to what the book actually IS– and when they’ve gotten a chance to read it as a story.

I’ve been to this rodeo before with Superior Spider-Man. And for that, readers were far more volatile and incendiary over that premise– until they actually read the book when it was up and running. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to win over a lot of the people who are ready to doubt the book out of the gate.

“It doesn’t take courage to express an opinion in this Forum. Only an absence of visible agendas.”

I wouldn’t say it takes courage to express an opinion in this Forum. I think it takes an understanding of what the most likely outcome is going to be, and the willingness to accept that as an inevitability.

It’s not courage to speak out in a place where someone else controls both the vertical and the horizontal. You don’t fly into Cuba and say anything that might upset Castro. That wouldn’t be courage. That’d be madness, right?  ;-)

John Byrne:  Perpetuating the myth that opinions different from mine are not allowed in the JBF? Want to scurry down to your LCS with a tale of how you stood up to Big Bad Byrne?

yawn

Dan Slott: Sorry. It must suck to see/hear myths about who you are, what you do, people you collaborate with/for, or work you’ve produced perpetuated.

Josh Goldberg“Readers know who Tony Stark is and is supposed to be.
Readers also know who Peter Parker is and is supposed to be.”

****

So much for every issue is someone’s first issue.

Dan Slott: All right. Check out the first issue for yourself and see if that still holds true.I’ve got a pretty good rep/percentage for making issues good jumping on points for new readers.(With the exception of the middle chapters of Spider-Verse. Man, those were tough to jump into. I’ll concede to that every time.)

But I’ll stand by my 125+ run of Spidey, all of She-Hulk, Thing, and what-have-you. Even middle chapters of arcs are very accessible.
Heck, go to the stands and pick up ANY of the 12 issues of Surfer. I dare you to find one that is not accessible as a first issue to readers of ANY age.

And, c’mon, do you really think we’re going to launch an All-New AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 without making it a good first issue for all new readers? C’mon.

Trevor Thompson: Why does anyone have to be like Stark? I can only speak for myself, here, but I know who Peter Parker is and he isn’t Tony Stark, so I’d be more interested in a brand new character with a new identity, background, story, etc. I’d much rather follow her/his adventures than see Spider-Man change so much from the character he portrayed throughout the 60s, 70s & 80s.Someone mentioned earlier that it seems like there’s a lot of ‘What If’ stories being written at Marvel these days and I find it a bit strange.

Dan Slott: When questions start falling in this zone, you have to ask:
Why tell any story?
This is the story, as the writer, that I’m interested in telling. I know that sounds basic, but that’s at the heart of any story worth telling– that the author is spinning a yarn that they’re invested in. (You don’t want the opposite, right? You don’t want a writer telling a story they couldn’t care less about.)”I can only speak for myself, here, but I know who Peter Parker is and he isn’t Tony Stark…”Exactly. That’s the point. What you’re saying is, Peter shouldn’t be doing this. That he’d be in a world he’s not prepared for. That this seems really out of his wheelhouse.

Why that sounds like there’d be conflicts, complications, and strange outcomes! That Peter would be put in situations that are unfamiliar to him and that he’s never really experienced before… in 50+ years worth of Spider-Man comics…

Hey… That almost sounds like those things could lead to… all-new and all-different kinds of stories. :-D

Everyone from Pixar to Joss Whedon preaches the gospel of taking your characters and putting them out of their comfort zone. Putting them where they feel (or the audience feels) they shouldn’t be is one of the best ways to get to the core of who they really are.

Michael Penn: If telling Spider-Man stories is boring unless the character is radically changed, why not just go tell other stories about other characters?

Dan Slott: Oy. :-D I’m not saying it’s boring, I’m saying that this is something I’m interested in and I believe it will lead to exciting Spider-Man stories.
If we were in bizarro world and this conversation were flipped, I could easily put the same kind of negative spin onto your side of it and ask, ‘Why are you so interested in Spider-Man stories that play it safe?’

“Can’t you take characters out of their comfort zone WITHOUT changing who they are fundamentally?

Peter Parker will BE Peter Parker. That’s the point. His character will remain his character. But you’re not asking about his character, you’re asking about his occupation and his status quo. You’re asking why can’t we just-please-stay-inside-the-preestablished-lines? And in the long run, that’s a sure fire path towards predictability.

Again, a lot of your concerns are about a book that has only been teased and hasn’t been released yet. There’s still a first issue to read through (or hear about from others who’ve read it) before any real conclusions can be fairly reached, right?

Michael Penn: But Mr. Slott, when you ask “why tell any story,” that begs instead of answers the question why tell a Spider-Man story that radically changes the character’s essentials because those essentials are uninteresting to you personally instead of just going off and telling stories about other characters whose essentials do interest you. Comicbook characters have gone on for decades without radical changes featuring in new types of tales, unfamiliar situations, showcasing all-new, all-different experiences. That Spider-Man has half a century of history doesn’t mean that the character as Lee-Ditko devised in him in his essence is played out! If someone today can’t figure out what to do with that character, then move on, all for the better. In great part this also has again to do with the loss of an all-new, all-different kid audience every few years. To a new reader of 8-10 years of age, he doesn’t nor should he care a whit about the fifty years of previous Spider-Man stories: nothing about the essentials of who Spider-Man is, as Lee-Ditko created him, could possibly be uninteresting to him!

Dan Slott: Couldn’t be farther from the truth. I love telling Spider-Man stories. I love playing around with his supporting cast, his villains, and all the wonderful trappings of his world.

But if you clamp a wall down around that– if you ONLY stay within THOSE bounds– you are NOT doing your job in keeping the character fresh and entertaining. You’re not inviting readers in to a world where ANYTHING could happen at any moment– where EVERYTHING is at stake.

The points you’re making now are pretty much in lock step with similar complaints fans were making BEFORE Superior Spider-Man started. “Why are you doing this?! This isn’t Spider-Man?! Think of the children!”
And (sorry if you weren’t a fan or didn’t enjoy Superior but…) it worked!
Fans were invested! New readers jumped on board! People “hadn’t-seen-this-before-in-a-Spider-Man-comic” and they desperately wanted to know (twice a month)… “What’s going to happen next?!”

That is the most fun pool to be swimming around in! That’s the danger and the electricity– on a storyteller level– of being Scheherazade! Hell, Stan Lee’s people gave me a call one day, because STAN wanted to know what was going to happen next! Through out that run we GAINED readership– we powered through the year as Marvel’s best selling ongoing– and we KEPT those readers when Peter Parker returned. (So for everyone here wringing their hands over “why aren’t more people reading comics– oh no, comics are dying”– here’s a case where we did something that got readership to drastically rise!)

And in the scenario you’ve brought up, about the new reader of 8-10? We brought those into the fold as well with Superior! And we did NOT see that one coming. Even though you think that reader “doesn’t care a whit about fifty years of previous Spider-Man stories”– those kids KNOW Spider-Man. They’ve seen the Raimi movies on Netflix, they’ve seen the Webb movies in the theaters, and they’ve DVR’ed the hell out of the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon on Disney XD. They KNOW what Spider-Man is supposed to be. And they’re excited when you change that up!

John Byrne: I am WEARY of writers who hide behind “story.”

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko — just three folk who were able to turn their characters upside-down and inside-out EVERY MONTH, and yet somehow reset everything to where it had been before when the next arc began. Everything doesn’t have to be the aftermath of the death of Phoenix, where nobody could see even something as commonplace as a stoplight without being reminded of Jean.

Antonio Diniz: Are Spider-Man’s adventures meant to be endlessly gloomy?

John Byrne: The Peter Parker parts are “gloomy.” That’s why he escapes into being Spider-Man. Simple, yet beyond the grasp of so many, it seems.

Dan Slott:  I think there are excellent stories that go that tested and true route.

And along with those are so many more hues to that dichotomy, things that Stan, Steve, John Sr., and all the greats added and enhanced to that core dynamic.

Sometimes it’s fun to see a happy Peter Parker, that guy who gives a wink to Betty Brant as they’re hiding under the desk. Or a Pete who’s beaming because he pulled a trick on Flash Thompson– or finally scored a point on Jonah. And sometimes being Spider-Man is a grim responsibility that he MUST stick to– the thing that is NOT an escape, but an intrusion into his small patch of happiness.

It doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be a wide canvas with lots of different variations.

But yeah, sometimes real life is getting him down, and throwing on that costume and swinging through the sky is the best thing ever!

Brandon Pennison: When I first heard about the Superior Spider-man story and what it was about I shuddered.  I thought that a series about Doc Ock as Spider-man would be horrible.  Having actually read the entire story that you produced, I have to say it was one of the most entertaining stories about Spider-man done in a long long time.  Honestly, your run has been really entertaining, Dan.
If people would maintain an open mind and actually read what you write, they may see things differently.

John Byrne: That door swings both ways.

Dan Slott: Agreed. I’ve read a great deal of your vast library of work, have thoroughly enjoyed it, value it, praised it (a lot in this past day or so, in fact), and am endlessly inspired by it.

Andy Mokler: My hope, as a fan and as someone who runs a comic shop, was that Secret Wars was actually going to reset all of the garbage that’s been piled onto all of these characters.

Instead, Marvel is embracing change for change’s sake.

Using the Miles Morales/Peter Parker examples being used in this thread, why is it Peter Parker that had to be so altered as to be almost unrecognizable?  It makes a lot more sense to me that the big cosmic shaking “event”(yawn) that somehow brings Morales out of the Ultimate world to the Marvel world would change him.

I mean, why not change Morales into a new Tony Stark and revert Parker to high school age and reset things back to “normal”?

But, I think it’s very difficult to defend what the big two are doing.  I’m regularly trying to help parents find comics that are acceptable to them for their kids to read.  I shouldn’t have to ferret out something like that on the new comics rack.  I should be able to just pick any Marvel or DC book and they’ll be fine, but I can’t.

I really appreciate Dan Slott’s input but it all just sounds like tap-dancing and towing the company line.  Today’s mainstream comics certainly have some fans but they’re definitely not appropriate for all audiences and that is a PROBLEM.

What all of the current fanboys in charge of things have really accomplished is to alienate most of their fanbase and prevent younger fans from participating.  Sure, the few that are a part of “the club” are happy but today’s books are failing on many levels.

So, thanks again Dan but I think you’ve only reinforced my perception that those at Marvel just don’t get it.

Dan Slott: “I mean, why not change Morales into a new Tony Stark and revert Parker to high school age and reset things back to “normal”?”

One, you want creators who want to tell stories they’re invested in.
Brian wants to tell these kinds of stories with Miles.
I want to tell these upcoming stories with Peter.
(Would you rather have creators strapped down to chairs and force them to type out stories they aren’t invested in?)

On top of that, the Secret Wars event was never intended to be a hard reboot. There was no version of the Post Secret Wars landscape where any character was going to be magically de-aged. Characters coming over from another universe? Sure. That makes sense due to the nature of the Secret Wars storyline. Magically zapped into something else? Nope.
“But, I think it’s very difficult to defend what the big two are doing.  I’m regularly trying to help parents find comics that are acceptable to them for their kids to read.  I shouldn’t have to ferret out something like that on the new comics rack.  I should be able to just pick any Marvel or DC book and they’ll be fine, but I can’t.”

Then here are some suggestions:
The MS. MARVEL title is very much in the vein of classic Spidey stories. It is suitable for boys and girls of all ages. It gets rave reviews. Sells through like nobody’s business. And is one hell of a good book!UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL is a riot! It’s written by a writer from the wildly popular Adventure Time characters. Every issue is a great jumping on point and it is a FANTASTIC book for parents and kids to read together.

THE SILVER SURFER (shameless plug) is a book that Mike Allred and I take great pleasure in– and have been getting great feedback from fans of all ages! And there’s nothing in this book that is even remotely objectionable for kids.

I challenge you to try all three of these titles for yourself and give me a good reason why you can’t recommend them to the younger customers in your store.

“I really appreciate Dan Slott’s input but it all just sounds like tap-dancing and towing the company line.”

I make a nice living doing comics. But end of the day, I could be making a lot more in advertising. And I could be making a lot more in COMICS by jumping ship for creator owned work. I do it because I genuinely love writing Spider-Man and Silver Surfer. Spider-Man’s my favorite character of all time– and Silver Surfer is the first Marvel U. character I ever read about. It’s a job, but it’s also a calling that I care a great deal about. I don’t “tap dance”, I strut. :)“Today’s mainstream comics certainly have some fans but they’re definitely not appropriate for all audiences and that is a PROBLEM.”

Well, give MS. MARVEL, SQUIRREL GIRL, and SILVER SURFER a go, and I think you’ll find your problem’s solved. :-D

Andy Mokler: There’s no reason Parker can’t forever be a high school aged kid.  Comic book characters don’t have to age.  It is the creator’s responsibility to come up with interesting stories about that character.  There’s a big difference between contemporize and fundamental change.

John Byrne: Reportedly, Ditko was against having Parker leave high school. There is a specific age frame in which a guy can be the kind of goof-up Peter often was. Take him out of that age frame and, yes, he becomes a “loser.”

But aging fans become aging pros, and they want to see and produce stories that appeal more directly to their immediate needs. Who needs Parker struggling to summon up the courage to ask out the prettiest girl in his class! Let’s see him struggling to pay his mortgage!

Dan Slott: Andy, that barn door’s already open. Genie’s out of that bottle. Whoosh.

You own a comic shop. Reality time: How many Marvelites would spontaneously combust if Marvel did a hard reboot and 616 Peter were back in high school? Eagerly awaiting an honest answer. ;-)

“It is the creator’s responsibility to come up with interesting stories about that character.”

I feel confident that when people actually read the book we’re putting out– instead of the one that’s theoretically in some of their heads right now– they’ll see that’s exactly what we’re doing. The All-New AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run will be interesting stories about Peter Parker/Spider-Man.

Andy Mokler: Not exactly.  I want creators who are invested in telling stories about the characters.  I don’t want the creator’s interest to be put ahead of the character.  If the writer doesn’t have any interest in Peter Parker without fundamentally changing him, then he shouldn’t be writing Peter Parker.

Dan Slott: If you believe that Brian Michael Bendis and I are not deeply invested in Peter Parker’s character, you’re 100% wrong.

It sounds like what you want is creators who will commit to writing a Peter Parker that fits into a set of boundaries that you– and the circle of friends you talk with on & offline– are invested in. That’s different.

Again, I’d say give the first issue of the all-new AMAZING SPIDER-MAN a fair read and see it for what it actually is before you label it “fundamentally changed”. Peter Parker’s character will be shining in full force on this book.

Andy Mokler: Boundaries?  No, I say values.  Yes, I want Peter Parker to remain timeless.  The Simpsons continues to be a good example.  Bart’s still 10 and fundamentally what he’s always been.
Why can’t that be done with Peter Parker(or Steve Rogers or Bruce Wayne, etc.)?

Dan Slott: And the general consensus on The Simpsons is that it went down hill somewhere between season 8-12.

Thanks to everyone from Stan on through John Byrne through Frank Miller through Fabian Nicieza through Brian Michael Bendis and beyond Marvel has stayed a powerful force in the world of comics BY maintaining status quos AND changing. 75+ years aint a bad record.

David Allen Perrin: No, I haven’t read your Spider-Man.

But I do know that Thor is now Jane Foster.  And Captain America is now Sam Wilson.  And Batman is now Jim Gordon in a Manga armor suit…..

These are stories I don’t have to pick up to learn if I’d like them because the very notion of the character as presented is now totally unappealing to me.

And that’s the problem.

Just like the upcoming Fantastic Four movie might very well be a good movie….but it can’t be a good FF movie.  Its just too far off the mark of what the FF are.

Dan Slott: Not really. It’s that Jane Foster is now Thor. Thor Odinson is still running around in the book. And while you might not find that premise appealing, a growing number of readers DO. Readership on the book has gone up and up to where it is out-performing the previous THOR comic. There is an energy to the book driven by fantastic storytelling and gorgeous art.

Most readers who actually crack open an issue and read it for themselves get hooked!

John Byrne: Potato/potato.

And on that epithet, we leave them… even though there are still pages left. Take it away John Bird and John Fortune…

Fanboy Rampage was a blog by Graeme McMillan dedicated to the funniest, most ludicrous and most inappropriate comic book back-and-forths online. McMillan has moved on now, becoming a proper journalist for the likes of The Hollywood Reporter and Wired but he gave permission to Bleeding Cool to revive his great creation. Feel free to suggest your own observed spots of online excess.

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