It's true. I've stopped buying Spider-Man. Not just Amazing Spider-Man, but all Spider-titles. For the first time in more than 40 years. For the first time in my life. And I am an OLD dude, dude.

I have a long, long history with Amazing Spider-Man. But what's more important than the history, is what it represents. Which I'm not sure about. So let's talk about the history, where I'm on surer footing. We'll get to "importance" later, and maybe you folks can lend a hand.

THE HISTORY

I started buying Amazing Spider-Man with #56 in 1968. More on that later.

I started reading Amazing Spider-Man in 1963, or thereabouts. Sometime before I went to first grade -- in 1964 -- I found my older brother's stash of comics. Like everything else my older brother owned, he was furious if I tampered with them. So I had to look at them on the sly. When he was at school, or Little League, or Cub Scouts, or whatever, I would sneak into his closet and look at his funnybooks.

Now, there were a lot of things my brother had that I wasn't supposed to touch. Baseball cards, sports equipment, his side of the room ... everything, in fact. So it wasn't the forbidden nature of the comics that made them attractive. They were ... just ... so ... cool.

I was initially attracted to Fantastic Four. I don't know why. Maybe the colors. Maybe the Kirby art. Maybe the tons of word balloons I couldn't read made me curious. I think it was the apparent speed of the story moving forward. Whatever the reason, I was attracted, and I was dying to know what the Fire Guy and the Rock Guy were shouting. (I knew they were shouting, because the word balloons were BIG and JAGGED. And sometimes they were in COLOR!)

So I was determined to find out what they were saying. I quizzed my parents and older siblings on minor things that would give me clues. (I couldn't ask them directly, because I had to mislead them. Because if they found out what I was up to, they would STOP me. Parents and older siblings were EVIL!) I gleaned enough information from my sneaky approach (which I'm sure wasn't sneaky at all to older people) to figure out the concept of reading and some of the letters in "Flame On!" and "It's Clobbering Time!"

From there I figured out most of the other letters. In effect, I learned to read. And I read Fantastic Four until I went to school. My teachers were astonished at my facility (and boredom) with "Reading Circle" and See Johnny Run. They would be amazed at my ability to read through the entire book in a minute or so, and appalled that eventually I'd say "See Johnny FLAME ON! See Jane say IT'S CLOBBERING TIME!"

They weren't crazy about that part. I went to the principal's office a lot.

At any rate, I was reading at a fourth- or fifth-grade level before I went to first grade, and it only got better from there. Thank you, Stan Lee, for all of those "99 percentile" scores, and for all the teachers who didn't like me having to give me all those spelling bee awards with their teeth gritted.

Eat it, Mrs. Dunavant, wherever you are!

But once I began to read with comprehension, I gravitated away from Fantastic Four. I didn't want to be Johnny, because he was an idiot. I didn't want to be Ben, because he was a brawler, and I couldn't punch a clock. I didn't want to be Sue, because she was a girl, and girls had cooties. I DID want to be Reed ... but, man, it would be a few years before I understood quantum physics. Since they hadn't been invented yet.

Instead, I discovered Amazing Spider-Man. More to the point, I discovered Peter Parker. You know the guy: Stan Lee wrote him, and Steve Ditko drew him. Bespectacled, thin, small, bookish, smart as a whip, picked on by bigger boys. A kid who never met a gym teacher who didn't bully the hell out of him. Remember him?

Well. You know where this is going. That was me. I latched onto Peter Parker like a life preserver.

Because he made it. He WON. And, sure, the Spider-powers helped. But mainly, they just gave him confidence. He couldn't hit Flash Thompson, just like I couldn't hit Lee Trezevant. Peter couldn't do it, because he'd kill Flash. I couldn't do it, because Trezevant would kill me. But Parker could talk back to Flash, embarrass him, chase him away from the fight. He could do it in a way that Flash couldn't take a swing at him.

Well, heck that's what I needed to learn! I couldn't get in a fistfight either, because I'd get creamed! I had to EMBARRASS bigger guys from getting into a fight with me! And Peter Parker taught me. And it WORKED!

Thank you again, Stan Lee.

Then, Peter grew up. And so did I. And, literally, we grew up together. When I was in junior high, he was in high school. When I was in high school, he was in college. When I was in college, he was in grad school.

Peter Parker was three years ahead of me, and grew up with me for 10 years. Let me repeat that: Peter Parker was three years ahead of me, and grew up with me for 10 years.

Unless you're older than 48, you can't say anything remotely like that. Because in the '70s, the aging of Marvel characters froze. And all of the new writers simply played with Stan's toys over and over, without changing them. Maybe that was good, maybe that was bad, I don't know. But I do know that Peter Parker stopped aging, and I didn't.

So things changed. But I had those 10 or so years, didn't I? Something that people after me didn't experience, and don't understand. I enjoyed something, lived something, that is more or less unique in comic books. In pop culture. In America. A fictional character was my perfect older brother for a decade. He taught he how to handle high school, and then college, and then post-college. (Actually, I was better at that than he was. But I digress.) I learned that girls didn't have cooties, and were actually cool in their own way.

And that being a nerd wasn't a bad thing, but that I could be cool in my own way. And that being a hero meant helping others, and not always thinking of yourself. And that sometimes it was better to look foolish than to hurt someone. And that maybe being a hero wasn't flashy, but was about being the guy others could rely on. That being a superhero wasn't being Spider-Man ... it was being Peter Parker.

So I learned a lot from Peter Parker. (And what I didn't learn from him, I learned from Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan. But that's a different post.) And wait; I'm getting ahead of my story. Let's go back to me reading my brother's comic books.

After a while, he gave up beating the hell out of me when he caught me reading his books. Eventually he made jokes about it. And that was cool.

But he also stopped buying comics. He'd hit adolescence -- he's six years older than me -- and he quit cold turkey around 1965 or so. I was seven or eight years old -- what the hell could *I* do? My grandmother, bless her heart, would buy me one comic book a month, and wondered why that depressed me. Yes, Nana, I love this issue of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, but do you know HOW MUCH I'M MISSING?

Fortunately, my brother turned out to be less of a troll than older brothers usually are. Well, to tell you the truth, he just grew up. And one year, his birthday present to me was mail subscriptions to Green Lantern and Amazing Spider-Man.

Huzzah! I enjoyed a full year of my two favorite comics!

Until ... the subscriptions ran out.

My birthday came and went, and Big Bro didn't buy me squat. Asking for some other adult to buy comics for me was out of the question. There was no money for that sort of nonsense.

So now I had to figure what to do. Go to work, so I could buy Amazing Spider-Man, or ...

Well, there was no "or." Of course I went to work. Mowing lawns, washing cars, cleaning out garages. I got a quarter here, 50 cents there. (Laugh it up, children -- before 1968, you could buy Marvel's entire monthly output for 96 cents, plus tax.) Until I hit 16, when state laws allowed me part-time work at a real company, I did whatever I could for a few quarters here and there.

So ... I began collecting comics. Amazing Spider-Man and Green Lantern at first, but then gradually I started buying everything, plus all back issues going back to the collection I bought from my brother. And I have purchased almost everything since.

Now, there have been some hard times. Occasionally I dropped Mighty Crusaders or New Warriors or Dr. Solar Man of the Atom or something. I'm not complete in all areas. When the income got tight over the last 40 years, some comics would go. Sometimes life says, "Stop buying the damn funnybooks." Sometimes you have to cut back.

But I never dropped Amazing Spider-Man. Are you kidding? That's the heart and soul of me as a reader, a collector, a writer, a reviewer, a human freaking being. There's no reason to buy comics at all, if I"m not buying Amazing Spider-Man.

But now I'm not.

THE IMPORTANCE


I'm just not sure what to make of this.

I'm cutting back severely on comics, because my industry is cutting back severely. I work in newspapers, and my job could be gone tomorrow. And if it's not, it will surely be gone before I retire. I have to think practically. I'm working on a second career, and trying to keep my house, as my first career is looking for a legal way to eliminate my whole department.

So I'm cutting back on comics. Not the first time, as I've intimated above. The most severe time, to be sure. I'm cutting back to the bare bones.

Which would normally meant that my "keep" list starts with Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four ... but, in fact, those were the first two books I dropped. The first two books I started buying 40-ump years ago are the first two books I'm dropping now.

Why? Because they're not very good.

Fantastic Four has been boring for years. And yet, there's so much potential still there. Yet the best FF stories I've read in the last few years have been in "Secret Invasion" and "Civil War" and now "Dark Reign." Fantastic Four, Marvel's first book, its tentpole book, now provides the best supporting characters in comics.

And Amazing Spider-Man?

Look, I tried to get over "Brand New Day." I did. I respect Tom Brevoort as an editor, and I think Dan Slott is one of most entertaining writers I've seen in comics. I saw all the changes coming for Spider-Man, I saw them as necessary, and I agreed with them.

And I've suffered through worse. A LOT worse. Remember them killing Aunt May -- three times? Yeah, suspension of disbelief explodes at some point. How about the 1970s? You remember: Big Wheel, Rocket Racer, Spider-Mobile. All of it made worse by plastic printing plates that made thin lines blurry.

So I've stuck with Spidey through some terrible stories. Is "Brand New Day" worse?

In some ways, arguably, yes. The Peter Parker who cut a deal with Mephisto is not the one I grew up with. I mean, I wouldn't do that, and Peter Parker's my role model, and I would do it before he would do it, because I'm weaker than him. But I wouldn't do it. So he wouldn't do it.

But he did.

But, you know, I get it. Story requirements and all. The Powers That Be wanted to reboot the franchise for a new generation. I surely get that; I've been through a jillion reboots in the last four or five decades. Not Spider-Man, usually, but yeah -- characters get rebooted. I can stand it.

No, really. I can stand it.

But at some level I DO believe the character has been damaged. At some level I know that THIS Peter Parker isn't the one I used to know, and I can no longer pretend it is. I could pretend with the Conway model, I could pretend with the Wolfman model ... but this one, Marvel itself is telling me it's a "brand new day" where everything I've bought and read since Peter and Mary Jane got married 23 years ago doesn't count.

Twenty-three years ago. My supervisor at work is only five years older than that.

Look I don't hate the "new" Spider-Man ... I just don't care about him. He's not my Spider-Man any more. So it's easy to drop his book, instead of, say, Guardians of the Galaxy ... because I'm more interested in Rocket Raccoon than Peter Parker.

Think about that. A 45-year Marvel reader is more interested in Rocket Raccoon, an extended Beatles joke, than Peter Parker, the company's flagship character.

Is it my fault? Is it theirs?

I don't know. But I know what I'm buying next month. And it ain't Amazing Spider-Man. And that makes me amazingly sad.

Views: 196

Comment by Doc Beechler (mod-MD) on February 2, 2010 at 4:43pm
Sure they do...they listen to the sales figures. And this may not be super-popular, but I think when a creative person begins to listen and adjust his or her work due to the whims of the fans, they should hang it up. If it's bad work, it won't sell. If it's selling great, no matter what you or I think of it, the work is speaking to someone. All stories, even those with characters we may enjoy, don't have to be for us. It may be personally sad when it happens, but it's not sad in the grand scheme of things. It may just be time to move on...
Comment by Chris Fluit on February 2, 2010 at 6:34pm
I'm very sorry for you, Cap.
Comment by Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man on February 2, 2010 at 8:20pm
Different strokes and all that. I've never loved Amazing Spider-Man like I do right now. To me, this book is a wonderful treat.
Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on February 2, 2010 at 8:40pm
The funny thing is, I just read a bunch of recent Amazings and enjoyed every one of them. My LCS had a back issue sale and I bought a bunch of comics that I wouldn't normally buy because they were 50c each. That included about a dozen Amazings from 599 up to last month. I think it helps that I did take a big break and skipped "Brand New Day" completely. It still bugs me--a lot--but I didn't go through it myself so it doesn't hurt as much now. Am I going to subscribe to Amazing now? Heck, no. I'm not canceling several other books a month to add a title that I'm still (fairly or unfairly) a bit upset with.

Still and all, I completely understand where you're coming from, Cap.
Comment by Don Collett on February 3, 2010 at 12:21am
Cap, I have to say I'm conflicted. The Peter Parker I grew up with would never, ever have made a deal with Marvel's stand-in for the Prince Of Darkness. Yet...a lot of those stories since have been good ones. But I dropped X-Men over 20 years ago for the same reasons you're dropping Amazing. They weren't the same group I related to back in the Byrne/Claremont/etc. era. They certainly aren't now (the Cyclops I knew would never sanction a group of assassins, regardless of what has happened since House of M).

As Doc said below, maybe it's just time to move on. People change, comics change. The ray of hope I have is that there are good titles still out there. It's sad that they don't involve some of my long-time favorite characters, but the directions their publishers take them is, ultimately, out of my hands. Life is too short (and money to tight) to follow books you don't like anymore. Find some that you do enjoy, and just remember our old friend Pete the way he was.
Comment by Martin Gray on February 9, 2010 at 8:18am
But Peter didn't cut a deal with Mephisto - MJ did, while he was asleep, out of love for Peter and May; OK, I'm not happy with that, but poor Peter's always getting the blame. I don't believe he'd have done it.

And the Peter who emerged is the Parker I liked when I was growing up - heroic, responsible, funny and brighter than Silver Surfer's button. And with one or two exceptions (.cough, Deadpool) the stories have been excellent. It'a amazing to me that you sticked with Spidey through the likes of the Clone Saga and have only packed in now.

I'm with Don, it's the likes of Cyke I can't abide these days.And like Doc, I've intermittently packed in following characters if the run isn't chiming with me. This past year I dropped the GL titles after about 30 years, but that's OK, they'll be more to my liking again someday. It's nice to see DC have hits. Sometimes a comic isn't for us - be happy at the decades of joy you had; Marvel expected you to bugger off after five years!
Comment by Captain Comics on February 12, 2010 at 12:33pm
Thanks for the responses everybody!

I'm especially gratified that most people got my point, which is not that I expect Spider-Man to change with me, or that I'm criticizing current creators, or that I'm blasting the book. It's that -- for the first time in 40 years -- I simply do not relate to Peter Parker enough to follow him monthly, and that's both a shock and a tough thing to swallow. It's a very personal reaction, but I wanted to comment on it because A) I was purging, and B) it probably parallels the experiences others have had, and that should make for good conversation.

Which you folks talked about, and that illuminates our little hobby. Which is what this little forum is all about.

As to specific comments:

* Mark Sullivan hit the nail on the head, saying this is a void that I will find hard to fill. Exactly so; it's like I've lost a friend.

* Cavalier suggested I send this to Marvel. I didn't, but I did the next best thing: I flagged Tom Brevoort and Dan Slott on Twitter, as I mentioned them both in a positive way. They were NOT amused, and they let me know it. Evidently I have burned some bridges there. Apparently I exercised bad judgment, and will be more careful in future.

* Mark Ogilvie discussed the feeling of being out of touch with other readers. I don't feel that so much as I have remarkably common tastes. (I've got a blog post in me that will come out someday, elaborating on how often over the last four decades I have lost interest in a title and dropped it about 3-6 months before it's canceled anyway.) And I don't begrudge those who are enjoying Amazing Spider-Man; more power to 'em! And I'm a bit jealous!

But one of the reasons I wrote the post was that it was triggered by comments from my LCS owner. I've known, and bought comics from, Ronnie Crum of Comics & Collectibles for about a quarter of a century. And when I said I was dropping Spider-Man, I expected his jaw to hit the floor. Instead, when I said in casual conversation "I'm dropping Amazing Spider-Man," he finished the sentence by saying "... because it sucks." He went on to say that his sales on the title have dropped by three-quarters since "Brand New Day," with older readers especially losing interest. He said he was not surprised to see me drop it, as I was one of the last hold-outs among older readers. With the three-times-a-month shipping, he hasn't taken a very big hit -- but the number of individual Memphis readers who still buy Spider-Man has dropped to about mid-range DC.

But I do occasionally feel out of step with other readers, Mark, so I do know how it feels. And I appreciate you hanging in there when you feel that way.
Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on February 12, 2010 at 9:47pm
It never occurred to me that there would be professional ramifications of what you wrote, Cap, because I was just thinking of you as, well, one of us. A fan. Frankly, Brevoort & Slott shouldn't be amused because the subject is not amusing. It's darn serious when a lifelong fan turns away from Amazing Spider-Man. That's more then burning a bridge; it's blowing a 45 year old bridge sky high using high explosives. (Cue whistling for The Bridge Over the River Kwai.)

I am surprised by how much sales of the title have dropped at your LCS. It leads me to wonder how sales are for the title across the country. If sales are that bad--mid-range DCs--then I wonder how long Marvel editorial will keep insisting that Brand New Day was a good idea before undoing it.

Can it be undone, though? Yeah, Marvel could bring back everybody's memories and, presto, Peter & M.J. are in love and married again but that wouldn't erase the in-story reason that led to Brand New Day.
Comment by Alan M. on February 12, 2010 at 10:59pm
It leads me to wonder how sales are for the title across the country.

Taking a quick look at the past year or so on ICv2, all three Amazing Spider-Man issues in any given month have consistently placed in the top 20 selling titles. And that's not counting the trade collections, which place in the top 50 for graphic novels. So I think we can safely say that Amazing Spider-Man is a solid seller for Marvel.
Comment by Kent Allard on February 25, 2010 at 6:09pm
Cap, your blog post makes me sad, especially since it was a question on Spider-Man history that brought me (via Google) to the old, old Cap'n Comics Board, and got me back into comics. My time with Peter Parker was the reverse (I was an adolecent when he was in college), but I identified with him most strongly too (even if I would have preferred to identify with, at various points, Conan, Moon Knight and/or early 80s Wolverine).

Plus Robert Parker is dead - even if the last 10 Spenser books were like cliff's notes shadows of the old days, I regret not having another one to look forward to each year.

Luckly, Steve Carella and the gang will always be there... dang

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