Alternate Cover: Thrice weekly Spider-Man – success or failure?

Has Amazing Spider-Man succeeded in its three-weekly format? James delivers his verdict...

Amazing Spider-man

Amazing Spider-Man has been on a thrice-monthly shipping schedule for over a year now. In that time, it’s seen a succession of big ‘event’ stories and plenty of smaller ones. It’s seen big writers tackle Spider-Man for the first time ever. It’s seen artists go from obscure to critically-lauded virtually overnight. And, most importantly, it hasn’t been late yet.

The question, then, is has it been a success? And ultimately, that’s tough to say.

Financially, the book’s doing fine. It wasn’t that long ago that the editorial team stated that it could keep the book profitable purely on subscription sales, and in that sense it appears to be doing better than most. A recent issue featuring Barack Obama topped the charts in two consecutive months, sold roughly 10 times better than the usual issues and was priced a dollar above the standard price, so there’s little doubt that the character’s balance sheet is looking favourable right now.

In terms of sales figures, Marvel are shifting marginally fewer copies of Spider-Man comics a month than when they were putting out three different Spider-Man series a month, but the difference in real terms is hard to gauge – Amazing Spider-Man spent at least a couple of years moving from event-to-event, so ‘normal’ sales figures are hard to judge. A further complication is that the thrice-monthly schedule was supposed to make newsstand sales better. If that is indeed the case, then the figures aren’t included in the sales data either.

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One place it can be resolutely judged a success or failure, though, is on critical merit. And in that regard, I’ve personally been enjoying the series more than ever. The current approach – weaving sub-plots in and out, shifting from single issues to multi-part arcs however best services the story – that’s how I like my superhero comics to be. The thrice-monthly schedule has allowed the series some proper pacing, and after years of decompressed 6-part mini-epics, it’s nice to see a comic that actually puts the “ongoing” in ongoing series.

Of course, just because I like it, it doesn’t mean everyone will. The events of One More Day (covered at length here on DoG in the past) have stuck in many a comic-fan’s mind, whether they read Spider-Man or not. I may have, with some slight bravado, described Quesada’s “no Spider-Marriage” editorial edict as a “make or break” moment for his career, and in the mind of readers, the performance of the series is playing out the consequences right now.

It’s difficult, of course, to say whether any poor performance (perceived or real) is because of the production changes or the continuity alterations. Ultimately, people will blame whichever aspect they’re least comfortable with and for better or worse, the person who has to decide what, if anything, was at fault may well be Quesada’s eventual successor.

So, has the revamped Spidey book been a success? The only answer that’s true is ‘it depends who you ask’. So, with that in mind, let me say: What do you think?

James writes Alternate Cover every Monday at Den Of Geek. His previous column can be found here.