Friday, 27 July 2012

Looking to the future...

Having now looked at all the Essential Spider-Man volumes that have been released so far, and all the guest appearances that have also been reprinted in the Essentials, it’s naturally time for a pause in this blog. But I promise this is only a pause and that when further volumes are released I’ll post my thoughts on them and on anything they miss out. And yes, that includes filling in gaps in the existing guest appearance posts. (I’ll both edit the original post to add my thoughts but also generate a new post so that long-time readers of this blog can see the additions.) I can’t say how long that will take although I’m not expecting a sudden rapid surge of Essential Sub-Mariner volumes that will take the series up to Spidey’s appearance in issue #69 anytime soon.

However it’s more reasonable to expect there will be future Essential volumes from the main Spider-Man series rather sooner. After all we’ve had them in most years since the Essential series began back in 1996, although checking the dates I was surprised to see there were none in 2008 or 2010, both years that saw lots of Essentials released, and rather less surprised to see none in 1999, 2001 or 2003, back in the earlier, leaner years. With no less than twenty-one volumes from four series (not counting the Spider-Woman or Punisher volumes reviewed here), there’s been on average more than one volume a year, a very healthy sign.

That said it would be helpful if the next few years could help bring the different titles to more or less the same point. As I noted in my review of Essential Web volume 2, it can be very confusing to be reading issues dealing with the aftermath of developments in other series that haven’t been reached yet, particularly when two entire issues of Web were devoted to wrapping up the loose ends from a major storyline that mainly ran in Amazing, whilst another major storyline is in part a sequel to an unreprinted issue of Marvel Team-Up. And it’s also a real shock that Essential Marvel Team-Up has only had three volumes so far, especially as the Thing’s equivalent title Marvel Two-in-One has been Essentialised in its entirety, and we’ve also had two volumes from Team-Up’s replacement title, Web.

Were I in charge of deciding which volumes to release next… the line would probably rapidly end in bankruptcy due to my decisions being heavily biased towards my personal preferences. (Away from Spider-Man there’d be quite a bit more Daredevil, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer released but not too many X-everything books.) But I would certainly try to level the Spider-Man volumes so they wouldn’t be years apart. That would probably mean three more volumes of Team-Up, two of Amazing and one of Spectacular before I would release Essential Web 3, although I might be prepared to be a little flexible so that crossovers like “Inferno” and “Acts of Vengeance” don’t all appear in the same volumes in the same year (which might be the long term reason for the staggered releases). But certainly I’d want to get Team-Up completed as soon as possible, although there’s the other problem that a few individual issues may have to be omitted due to the rights on the guest stars. The most obvious ones are Red Sonja in #79 and King Kull in #112, both characters ultimately coming from the works of Robert E. Howard. #84 & #85 guest star Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu, and are possibly also a mess as although Shang-Chi himself is Marvel property, large elements of his backstory and supporting cast are drawn from the Fu Manchu novels by Sax Rohmer though I’m not sure if any of Rohmer’s creations are used in those issues and Marvel has Essentialised other appearances of Shang-Chi in the likes of Giant-Size Spider-Man and Marvel Two-in-One).

Looking beyond the imbalance amongst the current titles, there’s other material to collect in future volumes. In 1990 Spider-Man gained a fourth title, imaginatively entitled Spider-Man, and then in 1993 there was a fifth, Spider-Man Unlimited. As the 1990s went one there were ever more one shots and limited series, and also two interesting ongoing “past tales” series – Untold Tales of Spider-Man and Web-Spinners: Tales of Spider-Man which told stories from earlier periods of the webslinger’s history. It would be a pity to miss any of these out, though whether to include them with the best relevant ongoing series or to do some special grab bag collections is a decision to be taken later. I’ve already looked at the looming problems from the deluge of crossovers in a previous post so won’t repeat my thoughts here.

But as well as the continuing present day adventures of Spider-Man there are a few other series to consider. What If... is a concept of alternative history that Marvel has devoted several series to, with many issues focusing on alternative twists in Spider-Man’s life (and he’s also appeared in many other stories as well). It would be nice to see some Essential What If... volumes at some point. And then there are two reasonably well-known alternative futures. The 2099 line of comics is one of the best known and Spider-Man 2099 lasted forty-six issues, the longest of any of the books. There was even a one-shot in which Spider-Man met his present day counterpart. Later on the MC2 uiverse was spun out of a later issue of What If.... Set about a generation into the future of the current Marvel Universe, it featured the offspring of many of the heroes, including Spider-Girl, the daughter of the true Spider-Man. However as that series only began in 1998 it may be too recent to consider for the Essentials for a good while. The same applies to the present day alternate reality Ultimate Spider-Man from 2001.

I doubt that even in fifteen years time everything I’ve listed above will have been collected – that is if there are still trade paperbacks around then (I’ve long given up on believing any predictions about what will and won’t vanish with a particular technology emerging). But in the near future we should see some more volumes.

One of my favourite periods on Spider-Man is the Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz run on Amazing from #251 until #283 when an awful lot happened in rapid succession. It will be a joy to see this Essentialised and it’s due very soon. Further down the line there are other runs that are amongst the best, particularly those by creators like J.M. DeMatteis and Sal Buscema. And as astonishing as it seems, Essential Web is not that far off the period when it finally had a regular creative team. So there’s plenty to look forward to.

I’ll be aiming to keep up with the volumes as they come and share my thoughts here. I’ll also make some other posts on related points of interest. And in the meantime I’ll be posting my opinions on some related series. So one way or another this blog won’t be going away.

See you in due course!

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