That's a lot of text. I read it all, but I'll just respond to a few points..
Big Al wrote:DeFalco and co.’s priorities at the time were not to prove a point. They had egg on their face and they had to wipe it off and basically pick up the pieces n the fallout from the Clone Saga. Thus they very wisely decided with the biggest Spider-Man title to go for stories which didn’t rock the boat too much in order to build some stability and confidence into the readership again. Meanwhile let the other titles be more adventurous. You can most acutely see this because ASM was the title which comparatively mentioned and referenced Ben Reilly and the Clone Saga the LEAST out of all the titles at the time. Sensational was frequently mentioning Ben. PPSM and Spec were referencing Norman much more AND dealing with Peter and MJ grieving thier miscarriage more as well. Those things were there in ASM but were downplayed.
And yet despite this I think your criticism is a double sided praise. DeFalco’s ASM managed to achieve many of the same goals as BND wanted to chase whilst not compromising the series. It gave us Peter Parker as Spider-Man as a more upbeat and lighthearted Spider-Man (which hadn’t been around for a long time). It put him in college again which was a genius move since the college status quo is a famous old status quo but as a grad student it also advanced Peter’s narrative. Old and new at the same time. Furthermore putting him in college gave him a superficial youth vibe which Marvel always wanted, and this was achieved WITH him married. It was a very clever move.
Gang wars also abounded, which is also traditional Spider-Man but we also had the fantastic origin of Electro plus a great fight between him and Spidey (and X-Man). it also fixed the problem of Doc Ock being dead whilst also tying up Stunner and Lady Ock from the clone saga, ostensibly permanently. As for the Electro stories not being awesome...dude...that was the best Electro fight outside of Marvel Knights and it grafted major development onto Electro by revealing his past. Positive character development=inherently awesome. Black Tarantula seems to be an acquired taste but I don’t see anything wrong with the character at all.
See, it’s not really fair to just pull out old stories and judge them by modern standards. All media and creative endeavours were created in a historical bubble and the context of the time, and really that’s the criteria you need to measure it by. Sure, if it’s still great today it gets BONUS points, but the fact remains its not really fair to take something like this out of context.
I think you can measure it against modern stories in this case, when the priority for Marvel, since the beginning of the 90’s Clone Saga—going on more than 20 years now—was to get Peter single and feeling young to read again.
As a run, DeFalco’s second ASM tenure may have been safe and what the franchise needed, but it retreaded a lot of old story beats: the mystery of the Rose (like Hobgoblin), Electro finds his nuts and becomes a threat (Return of the Sin Eater), Otto, another dead villain resurrected (which was bound to happen some way). The guest stars were annoying: X-Man, Elektra and Silver Surfer? It was decent but inconsequential, and it was no problem for Marvel to wipe it all away for yet another status quo reset come “The Final Chapter”.
I think it was really a lack of true vision in the writing at this time, which is something JMS brought to the table. Maybe JMS’ ideas would’ve flown right after the Clone Saga, maybe not.
Big Al wrote:Again, I think your neglecting the fact that they HAD to put Peter in a stable and safe status quo at this point in time and also the fact that, in other titles they were driving the narrative. Peter was going back to college, a longoverdue piece of character development. The Stacy family were back which, potentially, invited a lot of development. And there was Norman of course, need I say more. He was the lynchpin of what they were doing with Peter and they were building the narrative around their conflict. At the same time you had major development for Flash and (what was intended as major development) for Jonah too. SO I don’t really see how they didn’t know what they were doing. Sure they were picking up the pieces and soldiering onwards but it wasn’t as if nothing was happening and the whole thing lacked direction. And I feel for those reasosn comparing it to the modern era is a rather problematic nalogy. Modern Spider-Man is a supporting character in his own book and they jumped from a story where he wasn’t even the protagonist to a story where EVERY Spider-man ever showed up. this wasn’t the case back then as the stories were indeed about Peter for the most part, got into his head and had repercussions for him. Simply put that era and post Superior Spider-Man are incredibly different animals. Modern era Peter is driftwood amidst the narrative shifts, 1997-1998 Peter actually reacted to what was happening and took steps to deal with it. Look at Identity Crisis for instance. That’s very obviously Peter (with MJ) driving the narrative as those identities come from their response to what Norman has done. At the same time it is Peter and MJ who themselves decide to go back to college. Peter is the one actively avoiding the Stacys whilst forming a friendship with X-Man and it is his actions in beating Norman which set off the chain of events which colour much of this era.
Maybe, but whatever happened to the Peter in college story thread? Did he finish? What became of the Stacy clan? I know Arthur played a big part in the Senator Ward stuff that came later, but what did they really add?
I will agree though that Peter is completely secondary to the modern narrative. It damn near could all happen without him now and that’s a problem.
Big Al wrote:Yeah? What’s wrong with that? Spider-Man HAS a certain soap opera element to him anyway. And it wasn’t as if that was something new. Back in the day there was a Helluva lot of soap opera surrounding Norman’s character and he was a regular of the supporting cast. This built upon that but took it into a different direction. Rather than a time bomb, he was this untouchable villain hiding in plain sight. It was very soap operish, but critiqueing Spider-Man for that is a bit like criticising water for being wet. Dude...that’s why you drink it. As for him not being a good villain out of costume...was he villainous? Did he screw with Spider-Man? Did he hurt him? Did he do so as, if not MORE effectively than the stuff he achieved IN costume? Yes to all? Well then how can he NOT be as good of a villain out of costume. Dude, he meets the literal definition of what we’re talking about.
I don’t know that he hurt Peter more out of costume. He killed Gwen after all. You could argue that abducting / killing Baby May and masterminding the Clone Saga and killing Ben all happened when he was still suiting up. So no, I think he did more damage as a costumed villain. The best and most recent Norman stories for me are still the ones he suits up in, from Revenge of the Green Goblin, to MK: SM to Thunderbolts.
I don’t think that’s a very good barometer for criticism, again because of the extreme circumstances of the time. The priroties from the mid 90s were to make him young hip and single. But they weren’t enacting that all the time. They weren’t trying to make him young hip and single after the clone saga or during JMS’ run. They’d tried and it’d failed and they’d retreated to come up with a new battle plan. Whilst they did that on the back burner their priorities as far as the month to month Spider-Man titles went were vastly different. After the Clone Saga and after the Mackie run they needed people reading the book again. Their approach in the 90s was to distance themselves from the Clone Saga and play it safe as far as ASM went. As far as the post-Mackei run was concerned they’re idea was to hand it over to a very talented big name writer and, as agreed with him, let him do almost anything he wanted, hoping that an increase in raw quality would solve the problem. In fairness it did.
Furthermore we do also have t bear in mind that, yeah maybe that was Marvel’s priority and their aim, but that unto itself didn’t make it a good thing. Were we to say marvel’s aim was to make Spider-Man single and appealing to young readers (and we of course accepted the idea that he NEEDS to be single to do that) and adopt that as our benchmark for good or bad Spider-Man stories, then the majority of the JMS era (including the satellites, not just his ASM issues) was bad since he wasn’t single and the stories were aimed at an older and more mature audience (though I’m sure younger readers in reality were reading it).
Thus you can take say 1997-1998 Spider-Man and BND Spider-Man and compare them using that criteria and maybe technically BND would win out, but that’s accepting that the criteria of “single and appealing to younger readers” is in and of itself a valid priority for Marvel to have. In Brand New Day, they’re priorties also seemed to be outright pissing fans off at certain turns or upping the amount of sex in the book. Regardless of whether the latter is or isn’t appealing to younger readers, the fact is those are not valid priroties for Marvel to have either.
In contrast post Clone Saga marvel had certain priorities for Spider-Man. ASM ostensibly met them adequately enough. But in addition to that those priorities were both understandable and frankly necessary. OF COURSE you’d put out stories which didn’t rock the boat too much and didn’t blow anyone’s mind. To say the series had been turbulent beforehand is an understatement. I mean mere months before they’d killed off Spider-Man’s baby, killed off this character people had actually liked, undone one of he most famous deaths in ALL comics, killed off another major villain, killed Aunt May, revealed the guy you’d been following for the past 20 years was a fake and a load of other stuff too. And even before that Harry had died, Peter’s parents had come back, Peter had literally had a mental breakdown. Creativly speaking it was a wholly logical and acdeptable thing to just put out some comprativly safe and familiar Spider-Man tales in the title everyone read.
And I’m sorry but it’s a little bit hard to be sage and famlilar and NOT retread old story beats. I mean the mystery of the Rose thing again was entirely defencable when you consider it was DeFalco trying to do what he never got to do in the 80s. Plus the sad truth is character mysteries are in and of themselves safe storytelling devices that you can string along so having one or two was again acceptable. And it’s not like this was the Green Goblin mystery. This was the third time we’d had a mystery over the Rose. Generally you’re allowed three goes at a story idea before you start pushing your luck. At the same time, frankly the Rose’s identity was never made a big deal over. It was more the fact he was just this powerful yet lower tier crime lord who was operating things. Given how Kingpin, Silvermane and Hammerhead were old hat but the Rose’s biggest outings as a crime lord really were only in the 80s he was comparatively fresh as a crime lord figure (of which Spider-Man is allowed to have plenty) whilst again, also being familiar.
I don’t think it’s fair to compare the Rose mystery in the 90s to the Hobgoblin. If you begin to say that villain identity mysteries are bad because they’ve been done before then I’m sorry the Hobgoblin himself was old hat. Being very generous, that was like the fifth or sixth villain identity mystery in the franchise at the time and we’d had a shitton in between him and the 90s Rose. And we’ve had a shitton since him too. And that’s just in Spider-Man, it’s not counting all the other superhero comics ever made. Hell Ronin is a character literally created JUST to play that type of story ad infinitum. It’s one thing to criticise them using the same villain identity over and over (like the Goblins), but if we begin to give people a hard time for simply doing villain identity mysteries, we might as well begin criticising them for having superheroes and super villains punch each other. It’s part of the bread and butter of the genre.
Electro didn’t find his nuts. He got a powerup the likes of which he’d never had before and curbstomped Spider-Man worse than ever before and this time Spider-Man wasn’t off his game due to self-doubt. And again, certain story beats can be repeated once or twice if done differently enough. By the time you get to BND it had been done too often. But with this Electro story the scale of it was immense. Peter’s loss became a bit of a compulsion, Electro was driven by his origin we never knew about (which also made him comparable to Peter in some ways) and their fight was a massive citywide aerial brawling affair. Again, different enough to be more than acceptable, especially considering Electro was the focus of that story moreson than in return of sin eater where he was sharing time with Stan Carter. Return of Sin Eater was a story which wasn’t about Spider-Man and Electro quite as much as it was about Spider-Man, Stan Carter, the fall out from the Sin Eater arc and Electro was kinda part of it. This was more a case of “IN THIS CORNER WE HAVE THE WEB WIELDING AVENGER AND IN THIS CORNER WE HAVE THE EXCRUCIATING ELECTRO. LETS GET READYT TO RUUUUUUUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!”. It was more about Electro himself as well as his rivalry with Spider-Man. At the same time, powering up Electro is part of his wheelhouse. He’s mostly a gimmick villain and those guys inevitably have the same sort of concepts repeated. This was the third time (not counting the silver age where he just got his powers back not increased) so it just about got in without pushing its luck.
Again with Otto...no...just...Look, unless it was unnecessary...it’s really kind of redundant to criticsm resurrections in comics. No one staying dead is a widespread problem but if a character being brought back is really better than them being dead then of course you can do it. I mean you need good characters so why would you ever criticse the resurrection of them if the narrative is richer for them being there than them being dead. Plus again, c’mon...super villain resurrections are part of super hero comics DNA. It’s been happening since time immemorial. I mean would you rather Doc Ock have remained dead so the story wouldn’t be a retread of something else? Because I wouldn’t. I’d want a brilliant bad guy back in action, especially since he should never have died in the first place and it was just to make Kaine look cool. That’s an idiotc reason to kill off such a big character so rather than criticism, frankly DeFalco should be praised for fixing that mistake. Literally anyone who loved Superior (which I didn’t btw) owes DeFalco for that.
Why was X-Man or Elektra annoying? Silver Surfer I maybe get, but I like Elektra and X-Man both. Spidey and X-man’s bromance was nice bonding of the two characters and Elektra was actually funny int he confusing of her with Electro + her council helped Spider-Man calm down, wich is a nice change from her being just a consummate bad ass. Like...why is the mere fact they were they inherently annoying unless you just don’t like those specific characters in which case...that’s a preference thing, not really a proper criticsm. I don’t like Aunt May, but it doesn’t mean I think her simply being there amounts to something to knock points off an issue for.
But something doesn’t have to be of consequence to be good. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, the Kid Who Collected Spider-Man, arguably even Doc Ock’s origin as well as the Back in Black fight with Kingpin were all either inconsequential at the time or became so later on. Doesn’t mean they suck. I mean Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut did literally jack shit to advance Spider-Man’s narrative. You could more or less skip it if you just wanted to stick to stories which matter to the ongoing narrative. But it’s one of the greatest Spider-Man stories of all time and rightly so. Hell most of Paul Jenkins early run was inconsequential to the narrative but at the time he was telling very necessary stories. Something doesn’t need to be of consequence or be influential for it to be good. It helps. But it isn’t necessary for it to be good.
I mean do JMS’ filler stories like the one about the guy who ran the clothes shop suck now? Do the stories he told about the marriage now suck because the marriage is no long consequential tot he narrative and has been wiped away? No.
It is a very...problematic thing to base something’s value as quality upon how consequential it is to the wider narrative or indeed howeasily it could be or has been wiped away. After all there have been many BAD stories of immense consequence too. You cannot for instance tell the history of Spider-Man without Spectacular Spider-Man #226 when Peter was revealed as a clone and he smacked his pregnant wife across the room. That was a terrible issue (also written reluctantly by DeFalco) but it’s still a consequential story. And yet THAT’s been wiped away by OMD too since it relied upon the pregnancy status quo. I say it’s been wiped away, it’s more like Marvel treats it as wiped away but in reality their modern continuity is built on an illogical bed of sand due to it’s absence.
Point is, consequntialness/importance doesn’t = good or bad. It just means it’s important. One More Day and Joe Quesada are immeasurably important to Spider-Man’s narrative and wider mythology...don’t mean they’re any good though.
Again though that’s assuming you need this big vision for Spider-Man. You don’t. DeFalco’s vision was a simple old school Spider-Man. Good. We hadn’t had that. reading that stuff now after we’ve been bereft of it for 7-8 years makes me appreciate that (and Michelinie’s run) all the more.
I don’t think JMS’ run would’ve worked at all after the Clone Saga. People are still complaining about the mystical angle and were complaining of event fatigue in his very first arc. They really wanted just some normal spider-man and didn’t immediately get that. JMS’ work fixed the franchsie because it stripped away the detritus of the Reboot and took a look at Peter Parker as a person internally. DeFalco’s run didn’t do that as ambitiously but then again JMD’s Spec run WAS doing that, and it made sense for each of the FOUR titles to be distinct to one another. JMD was the emotional core most of the time. Dezago on Sen was the fun wacky very child friendly book. Mackie was a grittier horror/noir book. DeFalco’s ASM was old school superheroiocs with the criminal underworld thrown in for good measure. This was a different set up to the JMS era where JMS got to dictate whatever happened and the satellites tried to bend the knee but JMS set the book up ostensibly so you ONLY needed to read ASM. There were exceptions (Marvel Knights) but mostly yeah satellite stuff usually never mattered during the JMS era. Even when they were telling better stories sometimes.
The Peter in college story thread was dropped against the will of DeFalco because Mackie/Byrne/Macchio created the idea for the reboot. Shittons of interesting plot threads got destroyed by that thing through no fault of the other creators who were putting effort into them. Peter needed to be out of college because having him live a life of luxury (which was too far removed from what people were familiar with) was integral to selling people on the idea that MJ was ‘bad’ and that they needed to make him a LOSER by having him literally lose everything and be put out on the streets.
Again, your going for consequence as a bench mark of quality when it’s not. The Stacy clan offered many storytelling chances only some of which were tapped. Jill offered Mary jane a friend she could hang out with FINALLY. Paul provided a tension by being a thorn in Peter’s side. Arthur recalled George Stacy slightly and became a quasi comissionor Gordon figure for Spider-Man and his ally. And the whole clan made Gwen’s memory relevant and even indirectly fleshed her out. There genuinely were people out there who mourned her and were affected by her death and who uncomfortably reminded Peter of that. Unless this is something like Civil War where the ending wholly renders everything before meaningless, the fact that these characters later on went off the rails is not really a fair way to grade down their inclusion beforehand. With Gwen, she spent so LITTLE time being a good character and never showed much raw potential as a character in the first place, so that’s one thing. Her wider family though weren’t like that. Paul and Arthur eventually disappeared but even they weren’t offencively bad characters which had a lot of promise at the time and were used modestly yet effectively here and there. It’s a bit like saying Jessica Carradine was a bad character just because she lasted for such a short time and ultimately didn’t add much to the wider narrative of Spider-Man. Except she wasn’t a bad character and that stuff doesn’t automatically render her one. It’s one thing if a characters presence is detracting from the narrative, or if they’re COMPLETELY superfluous but given panel time. When they’re there and they do some stuff but they could be doing more but they’re not doing any real harm, there isn’t a reason to criticise it.
Er...not...not really. He masterminded the Clone Saga during his five years in Europe. Literally outside of fighting Doc Ock in Superior Team up and visiting his grandson in a flashback in PPSM Volume 2 #25 Norman never wore the Goblin costume at all until Halloween night in PPSM #75. By that point the only worse thing he’d left to do IN the costume was murder Ben.
But out of costume he temporarily destroyed Peter’s sanity, made him think his daughter was dead, framed him, made everyone gun for him to the point where he couldn’t even BE Spider-Man, beat up his friend Jonah, drove Robbie from the Bugle, crippled Flash, turned Peter into the Goblin and had him attack his own friends, then tortured him for 2 weeks in his mansion. And, if you want to count it he knocked up gwen and had her children try to kill him, thus poisoning all that remained of Gwen on this Earth. He was also responsible for the original 1970s Clone Saga (albeit indirectly) which also caused Peter a lot of emotional pain. He also faked Aunt May’s death TWICE, tricked Peter into breaking him out of prison and his legacy and the upbringing he gave to his son ultimately destroyed him as well.
But honestly, just killing his baby by itself is autowin for hurting ANYONE worse than anything else. Killing a baby>killing someone’s girlfriend.
In costume he killed Gwen and discovered Peter’s identity. Bad ass and major judos for villain points. But he very obviously did worse when he was out of costume, though really it doesn’t matter.
The cool thing about Norman is he’s evil and a bad guy regardless, just as Peter is the same guy in or out of the costume. It’s just that neither one let the world see what they’re really like. That’s why their conflict is so compelling. He isn’t just Doc Ock punching Spider-Man. or Venom stalking his loved ones. He has all these resources at his disposal and while the world thinks he’s a decent guy most of the time, he has to force Spider-Man to swallow shit since they hold one another in checkmate. Him being able to be bad OUT of costume enables him to infect Peter’s life and be an intricate part of it like no other villain. Peter for instance hasn’t been half as defined by his conflicts with Otto or Venom or Electro as he has with Norman. And that’s because Norman exists in both sides of Peter’s life because Norman himself has a double life, which Peter is a mutual part of. He has these personal connections to Mary jane and Jonah and other characters we care about because they have a connection to Peter as well. They’re conflict involves all of the supporting cast virtually and thus all of the book itself. It’s not just Peter and Spider-Man’s life partitioned with some things from one affecting the other here and there. The lines become blurred and the battle goes into both sides of their lives.
Again though...in Revenge of the Green Goblin he WASN’T suited up or even interacting with Peter most of the time. He brainwashed Peter from afar. Yeah, he was doing that whilst WEARING the costume but I’m not gonna count that, he could’ve been wearing a bathrobe and it would’ve been the same thing. He only suited up literally in the last half of the fifth and final part of that story when he offered Peter the goblin formula. Up until then he’d been torturing him mainly out of costume. Peter rejected him, they had a fight, Norman taunted him that for a moment he almost turned to the darkside of the force and that was it. Norman being OUT of costume is how he got to peter and when he inflicted the most emotional pain, getting Peter to the point of temptation in the first place.
And in Marvel Knights he suits up to bookend those stories. The abduction of May, the blackmailing of Peter and so on happened when Norman was not in his costume and using things he’d set up whilst he was also out of costume. Being out of costume allowes Norman a freedom other people like Doc Ock don’t have and thus allowes them to get things done they cannot.