What I Miss Most

Editors Note: This rave first appeared on the Spider-man Message Board and is reprinted here with the authour's permission.

Sorry, I'm fed up and about to have a rant. A long one.

For me, the biggest element missing from the Spider-Man titles at the moment is the soap opera that writers such as Stan Lee and Gerry Conway knew made up 75% of the storylines of any good, ongoing title, and which made comics such a pleasure to read.

Conway is often savaged for having written the original clone adventure (which I happened to quite like), but people forget that he was a master at interweaving back-plots to keep you coming back for more. I remember loving his run on Spectacular with Sal Buscema in the late 80s where he would, with great simplicity, intersperse a regular 22-page tale with one- or two-page "Interludes" or "Meanwhiles" to whet the appetite for further tales. If one or two of these side-plots were duds it didn't matter because there were plenty more to run with.

These side-plots also always involved supporting characters, whom modern writers seem to ignore. I have loved Spider-Man for close to twenty-five years, but the structure of the character owes everything to Peter Parker, and Peter in turn is nothing without those familiar faces about him. If we can't have the likes of Flash, Joy Mercado or Glory Grant in the current titles, where at least are their modern day equivalents?

I include villains in the category of supporting character. The reason Batman and Spider-Man are the two most popular comics heroes ever is because of their Rogue's Galleries, with adversaries who have their own personalities and back-stories. Villain-of-the-Month tales are considered to be the bane of comics these days, it seems, but I far prefer the days of quick-fire storylines involving Morbius, Stegron, La Tarantula and the Lightmaster (well, maybe not the Lightmaster) to endless six-part battles with the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. And sales would suggest I'm not alone there.

I have enjoyed Straczynski's run on Amazing. He understands, at least, that good Spider-Man tales should concentrate mostly on Peter Parker and his personal life, but he still doesn't bother with sub-plots (or villains, which is a little incongruous). Jenkins tries to use bad guys in a sophisticated way but, unfortunately, fails miserably as he is just a poor man's DeMatteis.

He and Tangled Web often treat villains with a smug condescension that is prevalent throughout comics these days, suggesting that we should all be a little embarressed about reading picture-books unless we are concentrating on the ironic inner meaning of everything. At least Straczynski knows that good, entertaining writing doesn't have to be patronizing or facetious.

I'm not a Continuity freak. I accept that it can never be mentioned that Flash was in Vietnam, else he'd be fifty years old now, but does that mean the character has to be completely ignored? Whether it fits in with Continuity or not, I want to see the MJ/marriage storyline resolved; not just because she's a wonderful, integral part of the Spider-Man mythology but because then the characters - and possibly we, the readers - can finally move on from all the difficulties of the past ten years and start to enjoy the stories again.

Sorry, rant over. I just miss looking forward to Spider-Man without being wistful, that's all, and with every further year that passes I wonder if it will ever happen.

Belated Happy New Year, every one.