Blah Blah Blog – It’s All Cyclic

A post from my long-ago Marvel blog concerning how certain patterns often recur in the manner in which the audience reacts to change.

It’s All Cyclic

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

Here’s one of the things I’ve realized about this business: it’s all cyclic. The same patterns repeat themselves again and again, from generation to generation–not the specific instances, but the overall shape of people’ reactions.

I’m still reacting in part to some of the people I spoke to at the New York Comic Convention, as well as the e-mails that we’ve been getting. But it’s really driven home this idea of cycling.

For example: it’s not great secret that there are still people upset about the changes to Spider-Man. Fair enough, But in the space of a day or two, I got five-or-so comments lamenting the elimination of Spidey’s organic webbing, and the fact that there’s been no mention of the additional powers he gained during “The Other.”

Which comes as a bit of a shock, frankly, because the overwhelming majority of the reactions we saw at the time those two stories came out were decidedly negative! Nobody seemed to like the organic webbing, and people wrote long treatises about how Peter creating mechanical web-shooters was better, because this showcased his science skills. But just a couple short years later, we go back to the mechanical web-shooters, and it’s like we fire-bombed something.

Believe it or not, this is really one of the great things about the Marvel characters, one of the elements that allows them to survive and thrive over time. It’s just a guess, but one based in part on the internal evidence of those bits of correspondence, but it seems like the people who really dug the organic webbing were largely newer fans, people who’d maybe come into Spidey’s world through the portal of the movie. (Though one or two of them seemed more from the “more-power-for-my-favorite-character-is-better” school of thought–these tended to be the same people who lamented the loss of the “Other-powers” as well.) And if, in two years’ time, we go back to the organics, we’ll get a whole new outcry from readers about that.

Each generation adopts Spider-Man as their own, and that version is “their” Spider-Man. But Spidey himself is eternal (well, at least so far), which means that each successive generation accepts him in whatever state they find him. Right now there are likely a new crop of potential web-heads being generated by the cool new Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon.

And once you’ve formed that deep personal connection, I totally understand how a change of direction can befoul you. From personal experience, I can remember how I felt when it was first announced that Spidey was getting a new costume coming out of Secret Wars. It was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard! Spidey’s costume is a classic, the new, black design wasn’t in keeping with the character, and it was an alien super-costume to boot! I wasn’t reading Spidey at the time (having stopped just a few months prior to that), but I was nonetheless outraged–how dare Marvel ruin this classic character that I loved?

Of course now, that outfit itself is a classic, and is effortlessly accepted as part of the overall tapestry of Spidey’s life. A reader who began following Spidey even as much as twenty years ago never even knew a Spidey who didn’t have one. And that string of stories by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz look pretty good in hindsight as well.

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2 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – It’s All Cyclic

  1. There’s also only a limited # of stories allowed to be told by the mainstream publishers. As Steven Grant (& maybe others) said: “A million stories in the naked city, but only 8 plots”. I remember reading in ’85 or ’86, when Doug Moench had Ra’s Al Ghul release all the Bat-foes from Arkham Asylum at once, it was a 400th or 500th anniversary issue. But then 10 years later, The Bat-editorial team did it again, and I think Moench was writing one of the books again. Maybe that time, they threw in the cons from Black Gate Prison (Black Gate didn’t get its name until after ’86, whenever Chuck Dixon & Alan Grant joined up, ’89?, ’90?).

    Then there was the “Secret Wars” (no, not “Secret War” in ’84 or ’85, and not the Bendis espionage limited series in the 2000’s), the series in the 20-teens, which eventually eliminated all the alternate MU’s. And when did they do this? Around the 30th anniversary when DC did it in “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. New costumes, headquarters (Avengers Mansion, Island, Tower, Mountain), deaths. Hey, it’s a job. You need those sales bumps.

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  2. There is something comforting about the cyclical 🔁 nature of comics, it does give every generation a chance to have stories speak to themes that older stories that they weren’t there for at the time. Especially since the ubiquitous nature of previous stories wasn’t an option.
    As for the ‘my’ version of the character I have been as guilty of this as anyone, but I try not to dump on other versions since they are ‘my’ version for some one else.
    I really enjoyed this post as I have seen many cycles of Spider-Man 🕸 and there are only one or two that I couldn’t find something good about
    Thanks for reminding me of that

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