Marvel has published stories about Spider-Man for over fifty years. There have been thousands of adventures highlighting the exploits of the friendly neighborhood superhero, especially with two to five titles centered around him being published monthly. Yet, Peter Parker has only aged somewhere around ten to fifteen years. This is serialization at its finest, and most popular comic book heroes have lengthy and complicated backstories due to the multitude of stories centered around them.
Writers have dissimilar approaches to spinning new adventures for intensely serialized characters, and this difference in opinion is highlighted in a feud between John Byrne, Marvel’s ace writer/artist in the 80s, and Dan Slott, the recently-departed writer of Amazing Spider-Man. Their discussion took place on John Byrne’s forum (on byrnerobotics.com) shortly before Slott’s launch of the ASM (Vol. 4). The dialogue between Slott and Byrne is thought-provoking (although Byrne does come off as a jerk in a few comments and readers can assume he hasn’t read most of Slott’s work). Nevertheless, you have to give Slott props for going on Bryne’s message boards to respectfully defend himself.
Regarding serialization and Spider-Man, Slott is an advocate for taking risks and changing circumstances with serialized characters (which is obvious with his Superior Spider-Man). In the discussion, he states, “Messing with the concepts that we feel SHOULD be immutable CAN shake things up and provide some really fun stories!” Slott’s views are widely held by the majority of writers and artists at Marvel, as they generally share a liberal view on depicting characters and changing up the status quo (at least temporarily).
Byrne, on the other hand, prefers that characters stay more or less the same as they were depicted at their inception. Writers should put the toys back where they were found them after every story, avoiding long-term shake-ups. He explains, “And you know what’s supposed to happen when it [the status quo] gets ‘wearying’? YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO MOVE ON. You are NOT supposed to selfishly demand that the comics and the characters change to fit YOUR needs.” Unsurprisingly, Byrne is not on the same page as Marvel’s current management, and he hasn’t worked for the company in years.
Considering Byrne’s extremely conservative approach to comic writing, the uninformed fan might wonder exactly how his approach to writing Spider-Man would look. Too bad he’s never had the opportunity, right? Unfortunately, he actually has been involved with two Spider-Man runs. There is a reason why these runs are not widely discussed today, and Dan Slott was merciful for not bringing them up during their debate.
Byrne’s main run was on the Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 2) relaunch of the late-90s to early-2000s. He collaborated on ASM (Vol. 2) #1 to ASM (Vol. 2) #18 with Howard Mackie, and Mackie finished the run independently up to ASM (Vol. 2) #29. At the same time, Mackie wrote the B-title, Peter Parker Spider-Man (Vol. 2), from PPSM (Vol. 2) #1 to PPSM (Vol. 2) #19. Since Byrne and Mackie cowrote the main title, I will discuss independent work from both of them to gauge their distinct styles and figure out who is to blame for the treachery of their collaboration run.
My upcoming run review differs from those I've written in the past in that I will split it into five parts. This is partially to make this lengthy review easily digestible but also because I have different opinions on each distinct section. Nevertheless, the focus on serialization will unite these segments into what will hopefully be a cohesive whole.