Op/Ed: Super Serial - Monthly Storytelling Gets the Shaft
It was the kiss heard round the world.
And that, coupled with Superior Spider-Man #2's cover of the pair kissing again (or more accurately, Ock/Spidey stealing a kiss from the redhead), set off an internet firestorm, led by many respected commentators who one would assume know comics. People who have contributed to the industry through reports, criticism, and intelligent discussion started a fierce argument based, in the end, seemingly entirely on assumption and speculation.
MILD SPOILERS FOR SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #2 AHEAD
And now, with Superior Spider-Man #2 out and on the shelves, it all ends with Otto (again, somewhat gross and lasciviously) accessing Peter's memories about his time with MJ. With great memories come great feelings, and now legitimately caring for her, decides to break things off entirely. Aside from that first big kiss in ASM #700 that set off the internet, all Otto wound up getting was a few pecks on the cheek.Twitter when this first came up, "It's an important topic, but I think it's diminished by this kind of craziness." Indeed, the only problem with how people approached the issues raised by ASM #700 and the subsequent covers is that they went after writer Dan Slott and editor Stephen Wacker simply because of potential. It seems to imply an ignorance of the serial nature of comic book storytelling, or at least a refusal to acknowledge it.
In two days of Twitter conversation about the subject, Wacker consistently tried to roll with any questions, and merely argued that readers should continue reading. His only direct comments about the issue itself were that the scene in ASM did not depict sex (true), and that people needed to read the first few issues of Superior to know how the story would play out. In other words, he did his exact job as editor of a serialized story — he told people to read it serially, as it came out, and didn't spoil what his writer had, at that point, already written.
But covers have traditionally been misleading. Quick moments and cliffhangers and provocative covers — these are not only intended but necessary parts of a serial. Covers have nearly always had misleading elements, from announcing the death or retirement of a character to a misleading moment of passion between an unlikely pair. The whole point is to have a reader say "wait - what?" and have an intense desire to see what happens next. About a year and a half ago, another Marvel Comics cover showed a surprising kiss. Was Cyclops cheating on Emma Frost (who he had cheated with — mentally — on Jean Grey, of course)? Why would Storm be in his embrace and not with, you know, her husband at the time? Of course, it wound up being a misleading cover, showing an alternate reality. Indeed, scenes of romance and death are a traditional method of teasing readers to try to bring more eyes to the next issue. Again, it's merely the definition of serialization.
So what's the solution? Should solicitations not go out over the internet? That seems impossible at this stage, and fans have clear and easy access to the monthly Previews catalogue, anyway. Should creators and editors stay off of social networks and not interact with fans? Again, both impossible and frankly a bit silly. The positive examples of interaction are often overshadowed by the extreme fringe negatives with attacks and death threats, but the positeves tend to actually be more frequent and outweigh the negatives, with fans getting a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the media they so enjoy.
No, the only real solution is for fans themselves to take a step back into the days when serial adventures were taken one at a time. Just because there can be an instant reaction doesn't mean there has to be one.At the very least, the tone of the far-too frequent internet indignation machine should be measured against both what we know and what we just think we know.
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