Marvel Comics may be faring better than their “distinguished competition” in terms of monthly comic book sales as well as dollar and unit share of direct market, but things aren’t as perfect as they seem. The company has had to relaunch more of their titles with increasing frequency, and the sales spikes with such tactics rarely last long. To this end, yesterday (January 26) via a press release reported on by Comic Book Resources, Marvel Comics offered a teaser which seemed to vow to resurrect a deceased character from their “Amazing Spider-Man” comic book series.
Initially releasing their “Dead No More” teaser image with a black background, the company subsequently reissued it with Spider-Man related colors and webs. Despite a lot of editorial focus on other franchises (such as the Avengers and the Inhumans) and the controversial “One More Day” story from 2007 still being a thorn in the sides of many fans, “Amazing Spider-Man” has remained one of Marvel’s most consistent top sellers on a monthly basis. Even without the constant assistance of crossovers or a fresh debut issue, the series typically outsells almost everything else the company publishes which isn’t either another “#1” issue of something or related to “Star Wars”. Even during the “Brand New Day” era from 2008-2010, sales of particular issues could easily spike up 10-30% or more based on little more than basic promotion of a particular story (a feat which isn’t nearly as consistent with other Marvel comics over the past eight years).
Naturally, this image provokes a guessing game among fans and journalism websites as to who may be resurrected from Spider-Man’s graveyard this time. The easy two options are either his uncle Ben Parker or his murdered college sweetheart, Gwen Stacy. The dilemma with each is that to varying degrees both have returned from the dead for brief periods more than once, and even recently. Last year’s “Spider-Verse” crossover involved an parallel universe’s version of Ben Parker as a key participant, as well as similar alternate version of Gwen Stacy who currently has her own series as “Spider-Gwen”. The Jackal cloned Gwen Stacy several times, especially during the 70’s and the 90’s during both “Clone Saga” stories, and even Peter David’s “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” run from 2005-2007 included an parallel world version of Ben Parker. In other words, digging up one or the other would be well worn ground for Spider-Man, especially since neither would be expected to last long. Even Joe Quesada, when given the chance to permanently resurrect Gwen Stacy “for real” as editor in chief during “One More Day”, declined to do so. Harry Osborn was resurrected instead.
Under the tenure of writer Dan Slott, quite a few characters have died for the sake of many of his stories. These include Marla Jameson (J. Jonah Jameson’s wife), Dr. Ashley Kafka (killed so newer villain Massacre will become more memorable) and Silver Sable (who sacrificed herself against the Rhino during the “Ends of the Earth” story arc). Peter Parker’s birth parents Richard and Mary Parker have been long dead, but they were seemingly resurrected during the early 90’s – and turned out to be attack robots commissioned via a complicated plot by the Chameleon and (the then dead) Harry Osborn. Doctor Octopus has seemingly been dead since the end of the “Superior Spider-Man” run last year, and hints in later issues of “Amazing Spider-Man” tease of the robotic Living Brain being a key to his return. Marvel Comics have teased the resurrection of Ben Reilly, the original Scarlet Spider and the best known clone of Spider-Man many times – and much like Gwen Stacy and Ben Parker, a parallel universe version was seen recently. The fact that running down a list of potential characters suitable for resurrection in Spider-Man’s library tends to run over so many repeated story lines is perhaps the best sign that a lack of imagination has been a problem within the franchise a lot longer than in recent years, when Peter’s wife Mary Jane was the scapegoat for editorial underachievement.