Merrily, Merrily, Merrily....

The Reboot is but a Dream

...turned into a pathetic has-been by bad writing?

In 1999 and 2000, Spider-Man fans were sharing that horrible dream with Mary Jane. In late 1998, there were four monthly Spider-Man titles, Amazing, Spectacular, Sensational, and Peter Parker, and the character was still suffering from a post-Clone Saga hangover that he couldn’t shake. The stories had actually improved. Amazing was written by the dependable Tom DeFalco, Spectacular by JM DeMatteis, who as I've said elsewhere is a very good writer when he isn't getting too deep into psychology on us, and frankly, Howard Mackie was doing a good job on Peter Parker, but tainted his Spider-Man legacy post reboot. Sensational - meh. It was the 4th title. Still, sales continued to decline. There were several different forces at work, such as:

So, Marvel wisely decided to cancel two of the lower selling titles, but then came up with the lame idea of “rebooting” the surviving series Amazing and Peter Parker, beginning at No. 1 again (you know, so the covers could scream “First Issue! Collector’s Item!” trying to tempt back the same speculators that had helped send them to the abyss before). Marvel then assigned the writing chores of both surviving titles to Howard Mackie, who, as I stated earlier, had been a competent writer in the past. He was assisted by John Byrne, legendary artist and writer on the Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four, in years past, (and the man responsible for re-tooling Superman in the mid 1980’s), as a co-plotter. However, Mackie had actually confessed years earlier to being burned out on Spider-Man, but nonetheless was given the job anyway (in his defense - who could turn that down?), and Byrne...well he apparently was not the John Byrne of the past. The critical failure of Chapter One, his attempt to re-tool Spider-Man, was a harbinger of things to come. Coupled with the incredibly stupid edicts from then Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras (who eventually paid for moves like this with his job), which included killing off Mary Jane, the spider-titles entered one of the darkest periods in their history as they were at their lowest point in at least 20 years (if not the lowest point ever), and this dismay over the status of the titles were directly responsible for the births of both Spidey Kicks Butt in 1998 (although this was before the reboot – it was clear where things were heading) and a site called "Hero Realm" (which sadly, no longer exists except as a small message board community) in 2000. In the latter year, the Realm's pugnacious and fiesty co-founder, George Berryman (who created the site with Alex Hamby), after one of his written assaults on Marvel's handling of its no. 1 contribution to American popular culture, decided to lay down the gauntlet and issued the following challenge:

So I am taking this time to stop the fussing

and try to figure out a way to fix the fractured Spider-Man universe.

Let me know what YOU would do to save the books!


What resulted from that effort was a two-part article with the titles (1) Byrne is but a Dream and (2) The Road Ahead. In the first one, I proposed a solution to the problems of the Spider-titles, and in the second, assuming my "solution" was adopted - where did we go from there? As I began to revise my older articles, I just considered dumping this one altogether because it is clearly dated since the Marvel of this time period really no longer exists - it has been replaced by a stronger and wiser (but alas, far from perfect - but then - which of us isn't?) "Nu" Marvel. And the Spider-Man titles rose in quality, topping out at a very strong 2004, and while they have since fallen back (my Year in Review articles will give you all of the sordid details), with exceptions like "The Other," they are still much better than during the immediate post reboot period - regardless of some of the ranting and raving you see on the various message boards. At the time it was a fun exercise and reflected where I figured the Spidey titles should go. Now, as I look through it, I wince in pain at its hubris. I have never had any ambitions at all of being a comic book writer and still don't. This site was designed to educate people about Spider-Man and share the affection for his classic mythology in a time of darkness (1999 and 2000), not to promote myself. Without Hero Realm in the early part of this decade, I doubt that SKB would even be around today. But, this article is a product of its time and gives us a peek at just what the world of Spider-Man was like during those days. My current, updated thoughts are typically in italics, because I can't leave you thinking that it still reflects the current state of Spider-Man or even my own perspective any longer. So - just look at it as an act of self-indulgence as Sherm and Mr. Peabody turn the Wayback Machine to the year 2000...

For the sake of this column, let's just say that as a result of all of the bashing, Marvel has broken with tradition and instead of giving the writing chores to another good ole boy staffer (or, a talented big name writer with several credentials in various media. But prior to the Joe Quesada era - even though he has his own cronies and faves - the same names were being recycled from title to title. It is much different now, with a lot of fresh faces and new perspectives. Is it always successful (*cough* Ron Zimmerman *cough*)? No - but it's a lot better), it will give one fan the opportunity to put his money where his big, fat, blowhard mouth is. And so, they assign the writing chores on Spider-Man to....ME! (Hey - my article, my fantasy).

So, in order to prepare myself for this assignment, I read all of the stories for the last two years, going back to just before the reboot. Of course, I am immediately overwhelmed with just how bad they are. Having been a fan since Amazing Spider-Man #134, and collecting a lot of the old Marvel Tales to fill in some of the backstory (As well as getting all of the Essential Spider-Man volumes - truly the best bang for your buck out there in Spidey-land if black and white doesn't bother you), I can honestly say that even though Spidey has gone through some periods that simply reeked (the mercifully short-lived run of Denny O'Neill from Amazing #208-219 comes to mind, as well as the Clone Saga era), there has been nothing like the immediate post-reboot period where it isn't just that we disagree with the premises (such as the "death" of Mary Jane) - but the storytelling itself is just so damned abominable. As the new writer, I am faced with following an act that has provided two years of irresponsible storytelling, character sabotage, ludicrous concepts, countless loose ends in a fruitless search for resolution, and worst of all, wreckless disregard for the main character, the supporting cast, and the fans who love them.

What do I do, True Believers? What do I do?

There really is only one way to solve the dilemma, and that's by declaring the events of the last two years (then 1999 and 2000) to be a dream.

I'm not joking.

There is a precedent, perhaps not in comics, but in other entertainment media. I'm sure many of you remember that long-running night time soap opera called Dallas (At least I hope you do - the show lasted an unbelievable 14 years, but it has also been off the air for longer than that). After six or seven seasons on the show, Patrick Duffy, who played good brother Bobby (locked in a perpetual battle with bad brother J.R., played by Larry Hagman, for control of Ewing Oil, bequeathed to them by their late father), had tired of the series and the role and wanted out. So, he was unceremoniously killed off in the last episode of the season. However, as the new season unfolded, it became clear rather fast to fans, cast and crew alike that the show had seriously lost its way. Ratings fell and fan complaints multiplied as the show took off on several bizarre plots that weren't consistent with the original premise of the show (sound familiar, Spidey fans?). Hagman and Leonard Katzman, as the star and executive producer, respectively, agreed that there was only one solution to getting Dallas back on track - Patrick Duffy had to return. But how? He had died right there in prime time for all to see. This wasn't a sci-fi show (no clones or robots, nor a Genesis Device to regenerate his cells), and the series' backstory had become too well embellished after all of these years to bring in a heretofore unheard of twin brother, or a "cousin" who just happened to look like Patrick Duffy.

So, after exploring all of the options, and giving Duffy a big raise to come back, they settled on the entire season having been the dream of Bobby's wife, Pam (Victoria Principal). At the beginning of the following season, Pam woke up to find Bobby in the shower (actually, that was the last scene of the previous season and was a summer long cliffhanger) and confessed to him about the "wild dream she had" in which he died, she married someone else, etc. Bobby calmed her down and reassured her that everything was alright, and the show moved on as you would from a bad hangover that was now over.

And this is what the Spider-Man titles have to do.

You still don't think that this is the best option?

All right, just look at the sheer volume of junk, unresolved storylines that would have to be tied up by the next writer:

Do you know how long it would take to successfully resolve all of this crap? It would be almost a year before I got around to telling my own stories that weren't saddled with all the baggage that had gone before. And I would not dump all this in Norman Osborn's lap again. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. So, ask yourselves this question - would you really, really be sorry if any of these subplots just disappeared?

Didn't think so. (And you know what's ironic - except for revealing that Senator Ward was carrying around an alien pathogen - most of them did just that! They just quietly slipped away into the night.)

Still not convinced? Well, consider this - if the last two years were simply considered a dream - we would have been spared the following events and any of the subsequent repercussions:

Whew. I haven't convinced you yet?

Frankly, the Spider-titles had far more interesting subplots going on before the reboot – (and I still think that) but they were allowed to die in favor of the current dreck. These subplots were:

I think you can even point to events right after Part 1 of the Final Chapter to support the dream theory. First of all, at the end of Part 1, MJ has been told that her heretofore assumed dead baby is alive, and her husband goes chasing after the madman who may or may not have said baby. So, what does she do? In Part 2 and 3, she goes on a big fashion shoot, and then throws a party for a bunch of her fashion friends. And then when Peter sneaks in and tells her that the baby is not alive - but Aunt May is - MJ's reaction is "Oh." Then she says "Good. Then we can get on with our life and you can get out of the attic and join the party, right?" Is this in character for MJ? Is this even in character for a normal, feeling human being? No. And of course, it's easily explained if someone is having a dream. (But then again, look at how MJ reacts to Peter’s recent dilemma when the mutant Queen was turning him into a real spider. She was more concerned that he attend a wedding with her than the fact he had four eyes and was sprouting a lot of spider-hair. Sigh. And this from Paul Jenkins of all people, a writer who has done much, much better.)

But this time, the dream is Mary Jane's. Peter's mind has been messed with too many times recently (first the Jackal, then Osborn, then the Chameleon tries to get him to doubt his identity). In a way, it's only appropriate that since Mary Jane's status in the books has been a key controversy for the last few years, she should be the means of extricating ourselves from this nightmare.

O.K. So, when does our new continuity begin?

Right after this panel - the last one of Amazing #441 when MJ has just relayed to Peter that Alison Mongrain told her "May is alive." Peter, thinking that Norman Osborn has Baby May, runs off to confront Osborn, with Mary Jane desperately pleading for him to stay behind.

After that, in my new reality, MJ is incapacitated in some fashion. Either she falls asleep and has an extremely restless night (considering the emotional turmoil she was under, that wouldn't be too much of a stretch), or she is kidnapped by Norman, who has her heavily sedated, and this is the time that the dream occurs. This adds additional drama and conflict, and actually makes sense. Remember, Norman doesn't just hate Peter. He also hates Mary Jane for rejecting his son and taking up with his most hated enemy.

Norman revives Mary Jane and she realizes that she has been dreaming. So, when Spider-Man goes to the mansion to confront Osborn - the stakes are much higher, as he has to rescue both his wife and his infant daughter (who really is there, not Aunt May) from his greatest enemy. And this time - we actually see him and Norman go for broke - rather than it happen "off-panel" as it did between Parts 3 and 4 of "The Final Chapter."

Anyway, Spider-Man defeats the Green Goblin, but there is still Norman Osborn to be reckoned with. Jonah confronts Norman with all of the dirt he has dug up on him - and trades the information for Norman's share of the Daily Bugle and the end to Norman's threats against him and his family. This would be an excellent dramatic moment for Jonah, as he is able to turn the tables after Norman had so thoroughly humiliated him earlier. (Bleh. I’m no longer convinced this could happen. I no longer think that Jonah would cut a deal with Osborn to take care of himself and yet leave the rest of society at Osborn’s mercy. If he had the goods – he’d take Norman all the way down – which he apparently does in the recent Pulse storyline. Told you I'm not qualified to be a comics writer).

Norman then decides that his European operations need his personal attention. No cackling madness brought on by the GOF ceremony, no being rescued by the Scriers from the looney bin, just Norman realizing that he lost this round big time - and he needs to go lick his wounds for awhile. He would then stay out of the storyline for about 12-24 months before coming back as a major supporting character (I plan to discuss that as well).

Not only that - but the titles would resume with the numbering we left off at two years ago. In other words, we begin this new continuity with Amazing Spider-Man #442 and Peter Parker #99 (Spectacular and Sensational stayed deep-sixed. Overexposure was one of Spidey's biggest problems prior to the reboot.) Conveniently, this particular subplot can end in a double sized Peter Parker #100. But, more importantly, this would be Marvel saying to the fans "We admit it. We screwed up. And we want to make it right. So, we'll start where we left off - with no more gimmicky No. 1 issues, and we'll work our asses off to win you back." (As we all know, Amazing did finally return to its original numbering, and Peter Parker was cancelled to make room for a rebooted Spectacular. I can live with that. It was the numbering on Amazing that was the most important to preserve – and that’s been done.)

And so we start over again, with the past couple of years literally being a bad dream. It's not a perfect solution. After all, how do we explain the baby coming back? That's actually easy. People are told that Alison Mongrain was part of a ring snatching U.S. babies for sale overseas. Of course, Robbie and Jonah both know it's false - because they both know the truth about their photographer. Yes - that truth. (I’ve changed my mind on this as well, but I discuss it later.) What's not so easy is dealing with the crossover problems, like Spidey's appearance in Thor, or the Eighth Day storyline. And how did MJ know that Sandman was going to be a bad guy again? Did she also dream the Mysterio, Sandman, and Silver Sable backup stories that Peter was not involved in? But, Marvel has conveniently ignored such lapses before - such as several months passing for Spider-Man between the conclusion of "The Final Chapter" and the reboot - when the same amount of time did not pass for the rest of the Marvel Universe. This time, however, such tinkering would really be in Spidey's best interest.

And by the way, the dream thing did work for Dallas. Once the initial fan reaction died down and people got over the absurdity of the dream device, the show ran for more than five additional years.

Now that we've reversed the last two years out of the continuity and are back where we started - where do we go from here?

I digress a bit now - so please bear with me.

I recognize that it's easy for people like me, who have never written for comics, to criticize those who do. So, what I tried to do when I first started putting together this article was to try to imagine a cohesive two years or so worth of stories, with actual plots and resolutions.


I'll be the first to admit, folks, I can talk a better game than I can deliver. For one, I found myself setting up all of these rules that I was going to follow because I was going to do it "better" than the guys currently doing it, and then it wasn't 6 months before I starting breaking my own rules (for instance, one of my first dictates was that I wasn't going to kill anyone because we'd had enough of that - and then I wound up killing off three characters because I didn't have any other satisfactory resolution to their storyline(I’ve long forgotten who those were). You might even notice some of the inconsistencies in this article. I also found myself reusing certain characters and situations far too much because I liked them (Norman and the Goblins), avoiding writing for popular characters because I personally didn't like or understand them (Venom and Carnage), and also wanting to use the classic rogues gallery too much because I didn't want to try to come up with any new or gimmicky villains myself (look - how many new villains over the years have actually worked - and if the pros can't seem to make them stick, I'm not sure I could). I did go back and correct some of these initial problems - but it was a lesson learned.

When it comes down to it, no matter what various Marvel personalities say in their interviews about taking Spidey down a new or "radical" path, they really don't want to try something different. They want to write within the same two notes dramatically. They want Peter to have girl troubles, money troubles, and job troubles, they want Aunt May to be a sick, frail, senile old broad for whom Spidey has to defeat the villain in time to be there for her umpteenth operation, they want Jonah to be a loud-mouth psycho with no depth, etc. And don't let them fool you when they talk about the fans not being able to handle something "radical" like the results from the Clone Saga. That whole storyline was simply a thinly veiled effort to get back to those "good old days" of bachelor Spidey. So, what am I saying? They don't really want to write their own stories, they simply want to re-write Stan Lee's and Steve Ditko’s old stories with a couple of added whistles and bells. Well, I would not only think that the "core" readers don't want that, but I can't imagine the "target" group of readers (all younger, of course) want to read re-hashed storylines from the 1960's.

Anyway...let's go back to the original purpose of this article.

Two very different books
First of all, I would stay with the two monthly titles concept, with the occasional limited series to tell other types of tales, or if say, someone like Stephen King wanted to write a Spider-Man story. Overexposure was one of Spidey's problems prior to the re-boot - plus it simply would be a sheer logistical nightmare to coordinate three or four titles into a coherent continuity. Really, it's amazing that it worked as well as it did. We've been back to three titles for awhile, and Spidey still appears in the occassional miniseries. So far - the average quality has been pretty good, Reggie Hudlin's stint on Marvel Knights Spider-Man notwithstanding - and Dan Slott wrote one of the best Spidey minis EVER with Spider-Man/Human Torch in 2005.

One of the magazines would focus more on the colorful supervillains and outrageous plots, whereas the other title would use more of the Daily Bugle staff and be a grittier, more noir type of storytelling. This really is nothing new, and has been done before. Frankly, I always thought it worked - I don't know why it was abandoned.

For the first year and a half, fairly short stories would be presented, with none of these rambling, endless arcs that never seem to come to a conclusion. And the titles would seldom, if ever, crossover. (Unfortunately, JMS chose to begin his tenure on Amazing Spider-Man with just one of those kinds of arcs – and then there was "The Other" crossover among all Spidey titles that was a big dud.)

The First Story
My "New Beginning" starts with Amazing Spider-Man #442. Peter goes into a world where Aunt May has been dead since Amazing #400 and Mary Jane and Baby May are very much alive. Now that he has a typical, nuclear family to take care of, he realizes that his life has just become more complicated. Can he be Spider-Man and a parent? Should he be both? Marrying MJ, who was a grown adult who knew what she was getting into, was one thing. Possibly exposing an innocent baby to his lifestyle is another. The last storyline of the Clone Saga before Peter left the comics for a while was called "The Greatest Responsibility" and took the approach that Peter had to quit being Spider-Man in order to raise a child and care for his family. This time, however, instead of concocting another one of those phony costume burning rituals, Peter finally realizes that he has to be Spider-Man in the same sort of way that some people have to be firemen, policemen, soldiers, undercover agents, or any of the other high mortality rate professions that serve an important public purpose. He has the power, and now he has to continue to assume the responsibility of making the world a safer place for his daughter. He finally tells himself, and Mary Jane, that he is not going to give up being Spider-Man. After some tense moments, MJ decides to accept it - not like it - but accept it. Remember, this is one of the reasons that MJ loves Peter - because he is rock solid responsible where many of the other people in her life have not been. It's time for her to recognize that and realize that being Spider-Man is something that only Peter can do. And after this, we are done with the "giving up being Spider-Man" plots.

The Spider Family
I have always been a big supporter of Peter and Mary Jane having a baby. Not only is it a natural progression for the character -but it would also be another one of those factors that humanizes Spider-Man. And frankly, I can't believe how Marvel is pissing away what could be a fabulous cross-sell promotion with the Spider-Girl title. After all, Peter can't be 16 again - but May is. Why not heavily promote and use Spider-Girl to try to reach that young "target audience" and cross-sell the Spider-Man titles as "where it all began"? (Spider-Girl has had a bizarre, yet modestly successful life. Cancelled at least three times and brought back from the brink by its incredibly devoted fan base - she might have found a certain amount of permanence due to her success in the digest market. Marvel was reluctant to promote the title in its earlier years, but that finally changed when it rebooted the title as Amazing Spider-Girl. If Spider-Girl does not succeed now - it's not Marvel's fault.)

Maybe it's just me, but I seen humor opportunities aplenty with a baby. I can see the indignity of Spidey swinging through the city with a big load of Huggies diapers under the arm - or having to fight a villain just after the kid has zooked all over his costume and he doesn't have a clean spare. Plus, can you imagine the razzing Spidey would get from the Torch if "ole Hothead" ever caught him packing diapers or baby formula? For some reason the writers think the only way that Peter can come across as a normal schmoe is if he's miserable and unhappy. Hey, he can still be a put down upon schmoe and not lose his sense of humor about things.

As far as Mary Jane is concerned, now that she's a mother - what do we do with her? First of all, we ditch the entire "super-model" gig. Here's another thing that puzzles me about Marvel. I've heard more than once that the "target audience" can't relate to Peter because he's married to a fabulous super-model. So - ditch the "super" in the super-model. Make her moderately successful model at best or better yet, just chuck the modeling thing altogether. When the spider-writers (primarily David Michelinie, I believe) were faced with the problem of MJ being too successful, they invented the Jonathan Caeser subplot where he became obsessed with MJ and ruined her career. Until just before the reboot, jobs were few and far between for her - then the writers decided to make her successful again - and then told us because she's so successful, people can't relate anymore. Are you confused? I am.

I had toyed with the idea of making MJ a full time stay at home mom because of some other dramatic possibilities inherent in that - but the more I think about it - considering both MJ's personality and the high cost of living in New York, I just don't see her staying at home. However, I do see her wanting a full-time job with a steady, if unspectacular income. Therefore, I probably would bring back Anna Watson to help them care for the baby so they wouldn't be scrambling for a baby sitter all of the time. It would also be consistent with Anna's character - she would want to help with the baby - particularly since it is the namesake of her dear departed best friend. However, I would keep the subterfuge of Peter trying to keep his secret i.d. from Anna to a minimum, since we've already gone down that route. (It seems like it has taken forever, but finally, we seem to be moving away from the “Mary Jane as a model” subplot. Frankly, I’m not sure Mary Jane the Broadway actress is much better – but it’s something. I personally would have had her complete her criminal psychology degree she was working on prior to the reboot and do something with it that would help support the stories.)

Peter finally gets a full-time job and quits school for good
Now that Peter is married with children, he has to seriously consider a steady source of income with health and life insurance benefits for the baby. You wonder if Peter himself has noticed, that except for one very brief stretch with the New York Globe (that actually had some promise under Marv Wolfman, but was shit-canned by Denny O'Neill soon after Amazing #200), he's been free-lancing with the Daily Bugle for 15 years (Marvel time). Doesn't he get tired of this uncertainty?

So now it ends - but not at Tri-Corp or any place like that. Peter has to realize that he can't be Spider-Man and hold down a 9 to 5 job - period. He also has to realize that he can make more of an impact in the world by being Spider-Man than by playing Reed Richards. After all, there already is a Reed Richards, but there isn't another Spider-Man. He has often referred to it as being Uncle Ben and Aunt May's dream that he become a scientist. I'll bet, though, that more important to Ben and May would be that Peter use his talents and abilities, super-powered or not - to make a difference in the world, and to help people who are unable to help themselves. And he can do that better as Spidey. After all, now that Amazing #400 has been reinforced in my new continuity, May more or less gave Peter her blessing to continue being Spider-Man. I think that's all he needs to help make up his mind.

And he doesn't have to continue working for the Daily Bugle per se. I would think that a man as crafty and gutsy as J. Jonah Jameson has more than just the newspaper. He would be well-diversified and a real media mogul. Think Ted Turner - Jonah would not only own the Bugle, but would also own interests in television stations, cable networks, magazines, and other media outlets, including even internet publishing. After all, most newspapers in non major metropolitan areas have on-line versions of their paper - and surely the Daily Bugle would as well. Peter could work for any number of Jonah's other outlets. Not only would this allow us to keep seeing old friends, but would also be the chance to introduce new characters in a familiar setting without having them rammed down our throat ala Tri-Corp. Some of these characters can even be young like Marvel wants. After all, youth does dominate the computer and internet industry. As long as we don't go down the trail of "Cyber Spidey" like the Ben Reilly version seemed to be at times.

I would put a stop to Peter stop selling photos of Spider-Man to the Bugle. I mean, really, talk about jeopardizing the whole secret identity bit. How does Peter Parker get all those great photos of Spidey? How does he always happen to be right where Spider-Man is? Duh. Sure, it was a great con that Spider-Man was selling photos of himself to the man who hated him the most - but that joke's been told - over and over again. (Funny – in a way, all of this has happened. Peter no longer sells photos in the regular core titles, but works as a teacher at Midtown High and the Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man does not take photos, but works on the Bugle’s web site.)

And frankly I'm sick of ESU because when Peter is there he is directionless. What is he studying? What is he working toward? How much longer does he have to go? Does he want a real job, or does he like being a professional student? I've been a faithful reader for a long time, and I can honestly tell I really don't know what Peter's goals were in college. The only reason he continued to stay there was so the writers could reinforce the idea that he's - young!

Robbie and Jonah know Peter's identity
I'm tired of the tease, for one. The recent storyline in Marvel Knights Spider-Man is the 4th time that I can remember they've done "does Jonah know"? Plus, the question as to whether or not Robbie knows has been going on since Stan's days. So let's cut the crap - they both know. That's why in my storyline they tell the world through the Bugle that Baby May was kidnapped by a child-stealing ring in order to keep the heat off Peter - otherwise it would be hard to explain why a super-villain like the Green Goblin would kidnap the child of a free-lance photographer.

So when did they find out? I think Robbie has known for quite some time. Remember when he and the late George Stacy were having conferences and sharing information about Spider-Man back in Amazing Spider-Man #76? Anyway, somewhere between that issue and #90, when Stacy called Spider-Man by his name, the old man had figured it out (in one of those "untold stories" in Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1996 - we were shown the actual story in which Stacy deduced Peter's identity). I'll bet Robbie deduced it about this time also. If he had any doubts, Peter bringing back photos of Spider-Man in London, right after Robbie had sent Peter Parker to the same city in Amazing #95 & 96, should have ended them (by the way, #95 was when we first saw Arthur Stacy).

And how about Jonah? I have a harder time pinpointing that one - except to say that Jonah is too sharp of an old reporter not to have at least suspected. In fact, in one back up story (where it was escapes me now), Jonah is narrating a story on Spider-Man's beginnings, and he notes how the murder of Ben Parker seemed to change him from an entertainer to a crime fighter. I would say that the final straw is knowing that Norman Osborn, being the Green Goblin, kidnapped Peter's daughter, and also murdered Gwen Stacy several years earlier. It doesn't take much of a stretch to extrapolate from there what's up.

But this doesn't mean that Peter and Jonah can bury their respective hatchets, or that Jonah would give up his loathing for Spider-Man. I really see a lot of good drama coming out of this particular plot point. I would establish in the initial stories that Jonah is not really willing to talk to Peter about "it." In fact, for awhile he really doesn't even want to talk to Peter at all. I would suggest that Jonah feels betrayed by Peter, who more or less has been lying to his face all of these years, and even playing Jonah for a sucker by selling photos of Spider-Man. Sure, Jonah had it coming by the way he treated both Peter and Spidey, but that wouldn't make it any easier for him to accept. It would also be an interesting dilemma for Jonah when he has to come to grips with the fact that his old friend Norman Osborn, a man of wealth and privilege and country club membership like himself, is a vicious killer, while Peter Parker, the lower class schlup who Jonah used to think was lazy, is a selfless hero. That also gets back to the core of why Jonah has always had a problem with Spider-Man, because he knows the man under the mask is always going to be more selfless and heroic than he could be. That creates the conflict of a true character, not a cartoon. And Jonah could naturally have legitimate concerns about what a person with Spider-Man's power, but with the ordinary frailties of a human being, might do if he loses control, which Peter has come close to doing more than once. Jonah could still care about Peter (which he obviously does) and still very much loathe his alter ego.

In fact, a real good story in the future could be the time in which, when all the chips are down, Jonah actually has to come to Peter to ask for help from you-know-who.

I would also bring a halt to all of the Spider-slayers, Scorpions, Flys, and other villains funded by Jameson. I always saw Jonah as basically a law-abiding citizen, and find it incredible that he would be worried so much about Spidey's flouting of the law, but have no compunctions about doing it himself.

And while Robbie would know that Peter is Spidey, that doesn't mean they would be best buds and talk about it over coffee. First of all, both Peter and Robbie would probably be a little goosey about the fact that they were both deceiving each other. Second, Robbie has to realize that with Spider-Man in his midst, the lives of he and his family are probably just a little less safe. After all, he knows that Norman Osborn knows, which is the reason that he and several other Bugle staff members and friends of Peter Parker were targeted for murder by Osborn at the very end of "Revelations."

(Of course - a lot of this was rendered irrelevant by the unmasking in Civil War - but looking back - this was the dumbest of all the ideas I had. The idea of Jonah and Robbie, both essentially honest hardworking newspaper men, concocting a fake story to cover for Peter was ludicrous. I've deleted most of what I had originally written here. Bleh. Again, more support for the fact I'll never be a comics writer.)

Who says you can't be happily married and still have romantic tension?
First of all, I wouldn't have to invent any new female characters. I already have the Black Cat and Betty Brant, both of whom were intimate with Mr. Parker, and who have distinct personalities of their own. Why would I need to invent someone else?

If Mary Jane is normal, the wear and tear of motherhood, career and other responsibilities (such as her dysfunctional family) would take its toll on her physically and on her self-esteem. She won't always feel like making herself up to the max, and she won't feel as glamorous as she was when she was younger. But she wouldn't have to be an irritating whiny nag - just a wife who wants some reassurance that her husband will still love her even when those good looks start to fade. She already has some deep-seated fears of abandonment as a result of her father walking out on her, her mother, and sister, and she will need reassurance that Peter won't do the same. And frankly, we all know how empty-headed and obtuse Peter Parker can get, particularly when he's pre-occupied, so more than likely he will not always remember than he needs to provide her with that occasional reassurance.

It is entirely logical for Mary Jane to feel threatened by someone like Felicia Hardy, who hasn't had a kid, likes to dress in slinky clothes, and more importantly, really digs her husband's alter-ego. And what about Spidey's occasional job with Silver Sable? Believe me, and I speak from experience, MJ wouldn't be the first woman to loathe the idea of her husband hanging out with other women, no matter how innocently. Remember when she caught Spider-Man flirting with Wonder Woman in one of those DC-Marvel crossovers (and in typical Spidey luck, WW wasn't impressed, referring to him as a "strange little man.")?

(Mark Millar actually introduced this little subplot in the pages of Marvel Knights Spider-Man #5. After Peter has been beaten up pretty good by the Vulture and Electro and rescued by the Cat, who then helps nurse him back to health - we see MJ with a sad look of worrying whether or not her husband would prefer the more exciting and dangerous Felicia.)

Can the superhero team-ups and big crossover events for awhile - with two exceptions
In my opinion, there really aren't that many superhero crossovers that work, because storytelling isn't the primary consideration in these team-ups. They're gimmicks - gimmicks to introduce the public to a character they would either have never heard of or never considered reading about unless their favorite hero was around (the "hottest new X-Man" Marrow is an example). Or, it's used to boost a sagging character, or any of several other creatively bankrupt reasons. There are really only two characters that I think work well with Spider-Man, and that is the Fantastic Four (primarily the Human Torch) and Daredevil.

The FF and Spidey work because a bond does exist between them since they were the first heroes to patrol New York, even before the Avengers showed up. I always like the idea that to the FF, Spidey is the neighborhood kid who would alternate between coming over to "play" with the Torch, and then getting in a fight with him in which the other "family members" would have to step in and halt. In fact, several years ago, the Thing, feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the super-types in New York, silently longed for the days when "it was just the FF and Spidey." Nothing sparks between Spidey and Thor or Spidey and Marrow, or even Spidey and the Avengers or X-Men. ).

Daredevil and Spidey have the bond in that they know each other's secret identities (another outdated observation), have worked well together in the past, and share a common foe in the Kingpin. They also tend to do a lot of battle with street level thugs whereas other heroes have a more cosmic focus.

Of course, there’s the little matter of frequent team-ups with Wolverine – and Marvel apparently once considered a permanent team-up book ala Batman and Superman. While Wolverine may very likely be Marvel’s most popular character after Spider-Man – something is lacking in their relationship that isn’t, for example, lacking in Batman and Superman’s, which is a deep respect and affection for each other that happens to be complicated by disparate approaches to fighting crime. Wolvie and Spidey just don’t click in that fashion – but perhaps it’s something that hasn’t been tackled by the correct writer.

But simply, we buy Spidey because we want to see Spidey - not someone else. Duh. That's what their magazines are for.

Norman Osborn becomes a supporting character
Now, I do NOT mean that Norman is in every issue or always behind every plot - but what I want to avoid is getting treated to a big showdown with the Green Goblin once every two or three years, then Norman loses his memory or disappears, etc. Stan wore that out during his own run, which is probably one reason Gerry Conway decided to kill the character off back in the classic Amazing #122 since it was apparent that they really didn't know what else to do with him. But that was 30 years ago - and there's a lot more mischeviousness that Norman can get into now. In fact, just knowing that Norman is out there is enough to give Peter and ourselves goosebumps. Not only that, but in my re-launch Norman goes back to being the only villain who knows Spidey's secret identity. The Chameleon forgets either because he splattered his brains falling off that bridge in Webspinners, it was an illusion that he was there at all, or his mind is so fried that he forgets - whatever. I think it's a good idea that Venom has forgotten, and I hope he never does remember. Knowing about Peter's dual life is what made Norman so dangerous to Peter.

I would probably also have Norman try to segueway into legitimate political power, kind of a nod to the Earth X storyline where Norman is the President of the United States.

Ideally, I would like to have kept him out of the titles for at least two years - but I like the character so much and can think of so much to do with him that I probably wouldn't be able to restrain myself from using him. Also, he is key to wrapping up some long unresolved storylines.

Clearly, this doesn’t work anymore as a result of storylines in The Pulse and Marvel Knights Spider-Man, where Norman has been exposed as the Green Goblin. And I ditched some of my other agonizing prose.

Is it time for Spidey to have a woman writer?
Now, I will confess to being as good a neanderthal as any other red-blooded male, but considering the importance of the women in the Spider-titles, we need to take a chance on someone who might bring a new and interesting perspective. Peter and MJ might have real conversations. The Black Cat could be something else besides the slut in spandex next door. That doesn't mean that men can't write good women characters, but I would be very interested in the perspective a talented female writer could bring to the titles. (Still would be, but I’d be hard-pressed to select one since there are still so few out there and I’m not familiar with the work of many of them. Fiona Avery, JMS’ protégé, has scribed a few issues of Amazing Spider-Man, but it’s hard to know how much is Fiona and how much is JMS, and I’ve yet to read any of the new Amazing Fantasy series that she writes. The Samm Barnes story in Spectacular, the Stacy-Osborn kids in Paris, was awful.)

The Next Stories
After we establish the new foundation of Spider-Man with family, new job, etc. we then would move to cleaning up some of the loose ends from the pre-relaunch. The first one I would tackle is the secret of Mad Jack. Now that Jonah has taken back control of the paper from Norman and permanently forced Osborn out of his personal life, it's time to settle some scores with Jack, since Jonah knows who he really is. We find out what the connection is between the two men, and also why he was lurking around the Parker house. This would be my chance to show off my less psycho, but no less gruff and stubborn Jonah, and set up some of the initial conflicts that would exist between Peter and Jameson. Naturally, once Peter gets wind of what is going on, he will want to step in - and Jonah will in no uncertain terms tell him to keep his wall crawling alter-ego out of this - that it's a personal matter. Of course, Peter won't, which will only serve to further frost his relationship with Jonah.

I would probably reveal Jack to be an old colleague of Jameson's who for one reason or another, feels that Jonah screwed him out of something. I would also have him be an old flame of Anna Watson's, and that he was circling the Parker house to get another look at her - but I would de-emphasize that part of the plot. So much attention was paid to Anna's past lovers in one conversation with Peter that I have to believe the writers wanted to come back and revisit that some more. If Jacob Conover had not been revealed to be the Rose, I probably would have made him Mad Jack rather than try to create yet another character, loathe as I would be to have another Daily Bugle staffer turn out to be a masked villain.

After dealing with Jack, I would have probably several, short self-contained story arcs, about half of which would deal with the classic rogues gallery, and the other half which would deal with other, less popular villains. In a burst of unoriginality, I would probably literally just go back through the old issues of Spider-Man and see who hadn't shown up in a while, and use them. Any villain I thought was mangled in the re-launch (such as Electro and Doc Ock) I would probably use if only to show the fans that everything was back to normal - old costumes, old attitudes, as if neither the re-launch or Chapter One happened.

Around the 18th issue after my new continuity (Amazing Spider-Man #459 I think), I would begin a big storyline that would put an end to the Stacys, everything to do with the Clone Saga, including the Jackal, and bring back Norman.

Arthur Stacy is now back on track with his original gameplan when he came back to the U.S., to discover Spider-Man's connections to his family. Gwen's clone would come back to New York, drawn by an "irresistable calling" (guess who) and run into her father's family, which of course would cause all hell to break loose. Then, surprise surprise, Miles Warren would show up again to do two things (1) claim Gwen back once and for all and (2) settle his score with Norman Osborn - who he now knows was using him the whole time - and thwarted his plans to ruin Peter Parker's life. Warren will no longer be that garish creature he was during the Clone Saga, but will be his human self, having transferred his conscienceness into another cloned body. Although the body is a clone, the mind is the original Warren's (in the one-shot Dead Man's Hand Warren had taken over the body of a scientist infected with the Carrion virus - so this isn't that much of a stretch). He would probably be conducting all sorts of terrorist acts against Osborn Industries - leaving a calling card that only Norman would recognize.

Just when Peter thinks things can't get worse, Green Goblin V makes an appearance to foreshadow Norman's return. Osborn returns to take on Warren, and sics Green Goblin V on him, and we finally learn who this Goblin is and why Norman is using him. While I personally liked the original idea of Glenn Greenberg and Roger Stern that the Goblin was Phil Urich, and that Norman's using him to be his stand-in Goblin was his cruel revenge for Phil assuming the Goblin identity as a superhero - it would serve my purpose better if the fifth Green Goblin were revealed to be - Paul Stacy.

However, Warren is able to wrest control of Paul Stacy's Green Goblin from Osborn, and Peter and Norman find themselves in the very intolerable predicament of having to work together to defeat the Jackal and Goblin V. Meanwhile, Arthur Stacy has finally figured out the connection between Peter Parker and Spider-Man, which frankly, he'd be a dunce not to have.

Needless to say, after numerous complications, what happens is that Gwen sacrifices herself to take down Warren once and for all. After the final battle, Peter and Norman square off looking like they could just beat the crap out of each other, because this whole episode has reopened a ton of old wounds for both of them - but after glaring at one another, they each turn their backs and walk away, without exchanging a word.

Paul Stacy loses his mind completely and has to go to a whacko ward, and Arthur and Jill decide to go back to England, taking Paul with them. Arthur makes peace with Peter Parker and Spider-Man. And as far as I'm concerned, the whole Stacy storyline and the whole Clone Saga storyline is put to rest once and for all (So, I guess I wouldn't have come up with the idea of Norman and Gwen sleeping together and having two children, eh?) And Warren does not come back. I felt that he was a one-shot villain anyway when he first appeared more than 20 years ago.

And then I'd turn the titles over to someone who had talent.

Me writing the Spider-titles. Naaah. I don't, nor ever did, have what it takes. But, like I said earlier, it was a fun article to write.

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Copyright © 1998-2008 by J.R. Fettinger. All rights reserved. All original content is the exclusive property of J.R. Fettinger. Spider-Man, the Green Goblin, and everyone else who appears in the Spider-Man comics is the property of Marvel Entertainment, and are used in these articles for the purpose of analysis and commentary.