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  1. #1
    Moderator Mister Mets's Avatar
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    Default Do recurring villains make Spider-Man comics inaccessible to new readers?

    There's a lot of talk about making superhero comic books accessible to new readers, and I'm wondering if one of the problems is the use of the rogues gallery. This isn't exclusive to the Spider-Man comics, but it does certainly apply to the franchise.

    Reviews have been good when writers have chosen not to use the traditional bad guys. Two of the most acclaimed writers explicitly went in a different direction. Roger Stern liked to pit Spidey against Marvel villains he hadn't fought before. JMS focused almost entirely on new villains. I remember a list of top ten comics circa 1998, which only included two stories in which Spider-Man had a rematch with someone from his rogues gallery.

    One problem with using existing bad guys is that it can be imposing to new readers as they have to make sense of decades of backstory. Casual readers might also be a bit confused, if the handful of comics they read gives them a different taken on the characters. Someone who read Erik Larsen's runs in the 1990s would be confused about why Sandman's a bad guy.

    I think there should always be stories with the old bad guys if someone has a Kraven's Last Hunt, or Unscheduled Stop. But currently most stories feature existing villains. Perhaps there should be a rule that a majority of stories feature new villains.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member oldschool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    There's a lot of talk about making superhero comic books accessible to new readers, and I'm wondering if one of the problems is the use of the rogues gallery. This isn't exclusive to the Spider-Man comics, but it does certainly apply to the franchise.

    Reviews have been good when writers have chosen not to use the traditional bad guys. Two of the most acclaimed writers explicitly went in a different direction. Roger Stern liked to pit Spidey against Marvel villains he hadn't fought before. JMS focused almost entirely on new villains. I remember a list of top ten comics circa 1998, which only included two stories in which Spider-Man had a rematch with someone from his rogues gallery.

    One problem with using existing bad guys is that it can be imposing to new readers as they have to make sense of decades of backstory. Casual readers might also be a bit confused, if the handful of comics they read gives them a different taken on the characters. Someone who read Erik Larsen's runs in the 1990s would be confused about why Sandman's a bad guy.

    I think there should always be stories with the old bad guys if someone has a Kraven's Last Hunt, or Unscheduled Stop. But currently most stories feature existing villains. Perhaps there should be a rule that a majority of stories feature new villains.
    I don't know. I mean, I feel what you are saying but consider that there are outstanding stories featuring both classic villains and new ones alike and the same for awful stories. I think they should be used judiciously and I get the sense that, post-ASM #700, a lot of Spidey's classics will be given a bit of a rest as they were used heavily between "The Gauntlet" and "EOTE". Just a hunch.

    What I greatly prefer, in contrast to what you cited, is a mix of new(er) and classic rogues which ASM does not have a good track record of delivering. It seems to be either all or nothing; JMS avoided the classics like the plague and I think it hurt his overall run while there are times, like right now, that I would welcome a newer foe like Fusion or Paper Doll making an appearance.

    But I suspect part of the problem is that new writers like to create their own baddies and, apart from Venom, Carnage and maybe Mr. Negative, not one has really become a true fan favorite in the last 25 years so everyone reverts back to the tried and true.
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  3. #3
    My Turn. Kevin Nichols's Avatar
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    I think the focus should be on telling good stories at all times. If a good story can be done with a new character, then great. If it can be done with a classic, then that's cool too. I think the argument of "accessibility to new readers" is nonsense. All of us were new readers at one point, and we made it. In fact, comics are MORE accessible than ever with resources like wikipedia, digital comics, CD-ROM collections of issues, 'Essentials' volumes, and message boards like this one where you can ask any question you want.

    I was nine or ten when I was a "new reader". I had heard of Spider-Man before and I knew a bit about him from cartoons and whatnot, but I had no clue who most of the characters were in this 'Secret Wars' thing that I was reading. I didn't know why Spidey had a black costume. I didn't know anything about the new Hobgoblin character or why he was such a big deal. I just knew that the books were fun, and that was enough to keep me going until I had all the details figured out. Have faith in the new reader. They aren't stupid. Reading is supposed to be a bit of a challenge. That's what makes it fun.
    "Women... they come and go, but the Jonah is eternal." - ViewtifulJC

  4. #4
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    Simple solution: every full moon: re-cap, summarize established villains' origin.

    Lizard, for instance, a few panels to a page, of Curtis Connors being an established scientist, pumping experimental reptile serum into stumped shoulder, mutation into Lizard

    Doctor Octopus, Otto Octavius, noted nuclear scientist, a few men snickering, calling him "Doctor Octopus" as he experiments with tentacles, nuclear blowup, Octavius wakes up in hospital insane.

    Electro, lineman Maxwell Dillion, struck by lighting, notices he can shoot electricity, puts on costume of Electro

    And so on, so on...

  5. #5
    Moderator Mister Mets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldschool View Post
    I don't know. I mean, I feel what you are saying but consider that there are outstanding stories featuring both classic villains and new ones alike and the same for awful stories. I think they should be used judiciously and I get the sense that, post-ASM #700, a lot of Spidey's classics will be given a bit of a rest as they were used heavily between "The Gauntlet" and "EOTE". Just a hunch.

    What I greatly prefer, in contrast to what you cited, is a mix of new(er) and classic rogues which ASM does not have a good track record of delivering. It seems to be either all or nothing; JMS avoided the classics like the plague and I think it hurt his overall run while there are times, like right now, that I would welcome a newer foe like Fusion or Paper Doll making an appearance.

    But I suspect part of the problem is that new writers like to create their own baddies and, apart from Venom, Carnage and maybe Mr. Negative, not one has really become a true fan favorite in the last 25 years so everyone reverts back to the tried and true.
    If the rule was that a majority of the issues couldn't feature existing villains, then the stories with classic villains would be more special. Though under that scenario, writers would be even less prone to use newer existing villains like Fusion or Paper Doll.

    One possible model would be Doctor Who. The usual seasons feature the Daleks and other recurring villains, but a slight majority of the episodes feature new one-off villains. And I think that has contributed to the series's accessibility.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Nichols View Post
    I think the focus should be on telling good stories at all times. If a good story can be done with a new character, then great. If it can be done with a classic, then that's cool too. I think the argument of "accessibility to new readers" is nonsense. All of us were new readers at one point, and we made it. In fact, comics are MORE accessible than ever with resources like wikipedia, digital comics, CD-ROM collections of issues, 'Essentials' volumes, and message boards like this one where you can ask any question you want.

    I was nine or ten when I was a "new reader". I had heard of Spider-Man before and I knew a bit about him from cartoons and whatnot, but I had no clue who most of the characters were in this 'Secret Wars' thing that I was reading. I didn't know why Spidey had a black costume. I didn't know anything about the new Hobgoblin character or why he was such a big deal. I just knew that the books were fun, and that was enough to keep me going until I had all the details figured out. Have faith in the new reader. They aren't stupid. Reading is supposed to be a bit of a challenge. That's what makes it fun.
    Looking at it from the point of view of current readers doesn't take into account the experiences of anyone who dropped the title, or their reasons for doing so. I don't know if the majority of the readers have the patience to figure out all the details.

    Continuity has also gotten more complicated since you and I started reading the books, due to all the additions to the back-stories of the characters.

    Quote Originally Posted by ngroove View Post
    Simple solution: every full moon: re-cap, summarize established villains' origin.

    Lizard, for instance, a few panels to a page, of Curtis Connors being an established scientist, pumping experimental reptile serum into stumped shoulder, mutation into Lizard

    Doctor Octopus, Otto Octavius, noted nuclear scientist, a few men snickering, calling him "Doctor Octopus" as he experiments with tentacles, nuclear blowup, Octavius wakes up in hospital insane.

    Electro, lineman Maxwell Dillion, struck by lighting, notices he can shoot electricity, puts on costume of Electro

    And so on, so on...
    The villain's origin isn't all that important, though. There are other elements of the backstory which inform how the reader responds to the story.

    The fact that Norman Osborn killed Gwen Stacy is usually much more relevant than the accident that gave him his powers.
    Sincerely,
    Thomas Mets

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  6. #6
    Junior Member mlazic's Avatar
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    I don't think this is an issue as long as the stories are good. I've recently started Geoff Johns Green Lantern run and despite knowing little about the characters featured the stories are so good I not only enjoy them (with the occasional wiki-assist) but it's got me tracking down other DC stories about characters I know little about to learn more.

    Who knows maybe using established villains with interesting back stories is actually a good thing for new readers, makes them hungry hunt down the info.

  7. #7

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    I'm going to be honest, I got into comic because of Morbius. If there's a comic with Morbius, I will buy it. That being said, I think hashing out new and new characters all the time isn't the answer. Just give a little recap before the issue starts. They do it in manga all the time and it saves a lot of time.

  8. #8
    @ALLENRICKETTS Codah's Avatar
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    If you can't get into Slott's baby's first comic treatment of Spider-Man, I think you should stick to movies.
    Comics are more better.

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