Marvel Comics announced recently that they will be canceling Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and Sensational Spider-Man, while upping Amazing Spider-Man from monthly to three times a month.
Editor Steve Wacker explained to WizardWorld, “It’s a chance to get more Amazing Spider-Man comics out there, quite honestly. It’s because we were already publishing three Spidey books, but what inevitably happens – and it’s happened for decades – is that the books that aren’t Amazing Spider-Man are the first ones that people drop when they need to re-adjust their lists. So the thought was combine what we’re already doing with three titles into one, make them each roll right into one another, almost like a weekly soap opera or television show, and so it’s one-stop shopping for your Spider-Man stuff. You know, historically, from Marvel Team-Up from Web of Spider-Man to Peter Parker to even the current books, no matter how good the stories were within there, they were rarely able to come to the same heights sales-wise as Amazing.”
Taking his lessons from running 52, the summer announcement over the creative team will likely involve key figures running the story and art with built in teams assisting both. Who they are and how they work will remain to be seen.
But, is the theory a correct one? Will Amazing, selling at over 100,000 copies a month work at that level? Or will the average monthly sale be closer to the 50-55,000 a month that the canceled titles were averaging? The Back in Black theme to the three titles these last few months should have bumped Sensation and Friendly closer to the flagship title, but the disparity remains sharp.
Odds are, once the dust settles, some four or five months after the changeover, the title will sell lower, possibly splitting the difference. If so, that puts it in the 70-75,000 range, which is exactly where Ultimate Spider-Man currently resides (down 50,000 copies or so from its first year numbers). The title has been pumping out 18 issues a year for a while now and the sales have been steady.
Much of that credits has to go to Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, who remarkably produced 110 consecutive issues with little fanfare. That level of stability hasn’t been seen in decades and I suspect it’s one reason why it has sold so steadily for so long. Bendis’s dialogue and handling of teen heroes has been strong and natural.
Can the same level of consistency be brought to Amazing? We’ll have to wait and see but as publishing experiments go, it’s fairly bold and daring (two adjectives yet to be used for Spider-titles).
And if successful, could I be translated to other multi-title franchises? Every so often management wakes up to the realization they have too many X-titles, most of which make no sense, scale back and once more multiply. It might make for more streamlined storytelling and if it works, may point to a new trend.