Saturday, November 1, 2008

Spider Girl: The End

By Chris Buchner

The little comic that could just ran out of steam.

Former Marvel Editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco had the idea of what it would be like if Spider-Man had a daughter that grew up to be a hero like him. The answer came in the pages of What If…?, Marvel’s look into alternate versions of its universe and characters. 1998’s issue #105 of the second volume brought us the tale of May “Mayday” Parker, aka Spider-Girl.

The premise carried on from the controversial Spider-Man Clone Saga that had just concluded two years prior. During this time, Peter Parker was dealing with an elaborate plot against him set in motion by Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin. Out of that plot came Ben Reilly, Peter’s perfect double who was in self-imposed exile for 5 years before returning to the city and temporarily taking over the webs. Also at this time, Peter and his wife, Mary Jane, were expecting their first child. However, the Marvel brass felt a kid would age Spidey too much, so they had Osborn had plot to force Mary Jane into an early labor, and the child was pronounced dead. In later issues it was hinted that the baby was, in fact, alive and in the possession of the cult of Scriers. Peter’s first, and deformed clone, Kaine rescued a baby-sized item from the Scriers in Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #435 and the plot line was dropped from that point forward.

In the universe presented, the story takes place in the current day, but all the comics that came before took place 15 years or more in the past. Kaine had rescued baby May from the Scriers and returned her to the Parkers, where she grew up and developed spider powers by the time she was 15. At the same time, Normie Osborn, the grandson of Norman, sought to restore the family’s honor by eliminating the Parkers as the latest Green Goblin. May found Ben Reilly’s old spider gear in the attic of her house, donned them, and became Spider-Girl. From that point on, she took up crime fighting at first hindered, and then aided, by her concerned parents who wanted to spare her the spider lifestyle.

Following positive reviews of the issue, Tom DeFalco moved forth on his idea of a possible future universe in order to produce comics that were more accessible to a wider audience and without the hindrance of decades of continuity. The result was the Marvel imprint, MC2, or Marvel Comics 2. The original idea was to present 3 twelve-issue maxi-series, followed by three more the following year (it should be noted Spider-Girl actually received a 13th issue: a reprint of her first appearance under Spider-Girl #0). The first three were A-Next, featuring the next generation of Avengers, J2, the son of Juggernaut who was a hero, and Spider-Girl. Although both A-Next and J2 ended as scheduled, Spider-Girl proved popular enough to carry on.

The next books to come out of the line were Fantastic Five, the continuing adventures of Marvel’s first family, and Wild Thing, the daughter of Wolverine and Elektra. However, due to the collapse of a deal to sell all three books through Target and K-Mart as well as low sales, the other titles were cancelled after only 5 issues. Two mini-series spun out of Spider-Girl starring supporting allies, DarkDdevil and The Buzz, but Spider-Girl was essentially the only MC2 title left in publication.

Since her debut, readers have been treated to old-school storytelling courtesy of DeFalco and artists Ron Frenz and Pat Oliffe, with inks by another Spider-Man legend Sal Buscema. May has gained a massive and strong supporting cast during her run, as well as villains both modeled after ones her father faced and completely new. Much like comics used to be, each issue told a standalone tale, but also included a subplot that would build up along successive issues. This formula has allowed Spider-Girl to become the longest running title starring a female character in Marvel history, reaching 127 issues as of this article. She has also had alternate versions of her appear in comics and novels, her own action figures, and even became an alternate costume in the mutli-platform video game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.

However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Despite initial interest, sales steadily dropped and the book was placed on the chopping block for cancellation twice. Because of a very vocal and loyal fan base that the character has amassed, the book was saved through many promotional initiatives by both the fans and DeFalco. The book was reprinted in Marvel’s then-new digest format initiative, earning respectable sales. So much so, that associate editor Nick Lowe announced that the book was safe from cancellation for the first time in November of 2005.

But, cancellation was exactly what came, in a sense. Spider-Girl was officially cancelled with the landmark 100th issue, but Marvel had decided to re-launch the title in the hopes of drawing in a new audience with a brand new #1 issue. The following month, Amazing Spider-Girl began with a new #0 done in the style of Marvel’s recent Saga books, which recapped everything that has happened to that point through prose with sparse images. May was also given a slight makeover, with a few details changed on her costume and her web-shooters made longer and slimmer. Unfortunately, the series continued to perform below Marvel’s satisfaction. On October 11th, 2008, they announced the cancellation of the series with #30, giving her a grand total of 134 issues between two volumes and an annual.

But, Mayday’s adventures may not be over yet. Marvel has claimed a love for the character, and has alluded to her becoming a 16-page back-up feature by DeFalco and company within the pages of Amazing Spider-Man Family, the third volume of the Spider-Man anthology that features original stories from various eras of his career and reprints of classic comics. This decision, though, has raised questions among fans over the fate of DeFalco’s series currently running in the book: Mr. & Mrs. Spider-Man, a prequel to Spider-Girl and MC2 in the days when May was just a toddler.

Spider-Girl had survived cancellation three times thanks to the efforts of fans and her creators, but has she met her final fate? Or will another Save Spider-Girl campaign keep her book going for just a while longer?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice article! My only comment is a small one, but one I feel needs to be pointed out- this title has faced cancellation more than 3 times. If you include the current one, then I count SEVEN times. See:
The reason I think this needs to be pointed out is because it demonstrates that there isn't a reason to feel like the situation is hopeless- if the fans REALLY want to save this book, it's been done six times already! A couple of letters to Marvel and a little enthusiasm to friends can go a long way!