DC Comics carpet-bombed the media Wednesday, with the Before Watchmen announcement capturing headlines in outlets from The New York Times to The Wausau Daily Herald.
Yet while DC competed with Paula Abdul's exit from The X Factor for the biggest entertainment news of the day, Marvel got a good deal of attention of their own Wednesday with two words: "Spider-Men."
Releasing a teaser image featuring two adjoined Spidey emblems — the general consensus is that it's the "old" Ultimate Spider-Man logo combined with the new one — pegged to a project due June 2012, speculation quickly ran rampant on an already busy day for the hearts and minds of comic book fans.
So in the spirit of speculation, we're examining the different possible meanings behind "Spider-Men," and seeing if we might be able to crack this code based on the admittedly small amount of information currently out there. (And yes, it does seem a little premature to be writing about a single image containing only four words and promoting something that won't happen for four months, but Marvel wouldn't release teasers if they didn't want people talking about them, right?)
Ultimate Peter Parker back from the dead, teaming up with Miles Morales: Given the nature of the image — the right half is definitely the emblem worn currently by Miles Morales, and the left half sure looks identical to the Spidey symbol on the cover of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160, the death of Peter Parker issue — this is the early front-runner for most likely scenario, and definitely the most controversial.
After all, the Ultimate version of Peter Parker just died last year, right? And back in August in an interview with Newsarama, Bendis said this about the possibility of Peter Parker coming back in time for the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, debuting on April 1: "I notice that some people feel that Peter will be back in the comic book by the time the cartoon comes out. That is not the case. I have already written up to the issues of when the cartoon comes out. That's not happening. This is a long-term goal. This is it."
So that right there would cast doubt that a "return" of Ultimate Peter Parker is in the works, though it doesn't necessarily rule out something like time travel or any other mechanism that could make a Peter/Miles team-up possible. But even if it is happening: Should fans really be upset? If Bendis, who has written every issue of every incarnation of Ultimate Spider-Man, has devised a story bringing Ultimate Peter Parker back to life that he likes (and we have absolutely no evidence that this is indeed the case), shouldn't that be enough for readers to keep an open mind at this point? Killing off Peter Parker and replacing him with a new character looked like a crazy idea at first, and has worked out pretty well.
Bendis himself addressed the teaser on Twitter, noticing readers "flipping out" on him while pointing out that he "might not even be the person to flip on." Still, it's pretty clear that the return of Ultimate Peter Parker is the No. 1 thing Marvel wants readers to suspect from the image, which could either be solid evidence, complete misdirection, or some tangy mélange of the two.
"Classic" Spider-Man meeting Ultimate Spider-Man: For years, Marvel has denied any possibility of the traditional — 616, if you prefer — Marvel Universe interacting with the Ultimate Universe. Current Marvel chief creative officer and former editor-in-chief Joe Quesada has been quoted as saying that it would constitute the publisher as being "out of ideas." They teased it during the "Crossover" story arc in Ultimate Fantastic Four back in 2005, which actually turned out to be the debut of the Marvel Zombies universe.
But the comic book industry as of late has shown that what we thought would never happen can take place in a big way — ahem, Watchmen prequels — so maybe the embargo between Ultimate and 616 connectivity is the next to go. There was definitely logic to it back when the Ultimate Universe was young and needed to establish itself, but now that the post-Ultimatum UU has its own, distinct identity, tone and history from the MU, there's some interesting territory to explore there.
With Miles Morales as the Spider-Man of the Ultimate Universe, there is definite appeal in seeing him interact with the adult version of his inspiration that in his reality never got to grow up. Also appealing: The prospect of a Dan Slott/Brian Michael Bendis collaboration. All in all, doesn't sound like a bad way to celebrate Spider-Man's 50th anniversary.
Some type of team-up between Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider and other spider-y characters: Even with "Spider-Island" in the rearview mirror, there are a lot of "Spider-Men" running around the Marvel Universe right now. There's Peter Parker, his clone Kaine (the current Scarlet Spider), and the current Venom, Flash Thompson; all with their own ongoing series. Given the attention Spider-Man will be getting this summer with the release of the new Amazing Spider-Man film, gathering Marvel's burgeoning Spidey line for a story arc could prove to be great fun.
Yet, given that all of those characters were just involved in "Spider-Island" (and could very well play some type of role in "Ends of the Earth," the next big Amazing Spider-Man arc), at face, it doesn't seem quite unique enough to merit this type of teaser campaign four months out. Plus, it's just hard to accept that whatever project the image is teasing doesn't involve Ultimate Spider-Man in some regard — Bendis has been pushing the "Spider-Men" teaser so hard on social media, that he's a good bet to be involved in some capacity (or else Marvel is really organized when it comes to throwing out red herrings).
Something else entirely: Probably the most likely outcome. Marvel has shown continuously that their teasers shouldn't necessarily be taken literally, and the "Spider-Men" image is so vague that to try and interpret any sort of definite meaning at this point would be fairly ridiculous. But luckily (since that's exactly what we've been doing), it's also pretty fun.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!