Renew Your Vows #6: Gerry Conway, Ryan Stegman give Marvel blueprint for success

The sluggish sales of Marvel comics as of late is no secret. The “House of Ideas” is on fire, and anyone who has paid attention to the industry for the last couple of years knows it. Luckily, there is a way to extinguish the flames, and the answer comes from the creative springs of writer Gerry Conway and artist Ryan Stegman.

If Marvel truly wants to fix what ails it, then it will look to Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #6.  Sound storytelling, strong art, respect for classic characters and an absence of weird political preaching is the key to motivating readers who are disgusted with the Marvel brand.

For more on this topic, check out my latest YouTube review and hit the “subscribe” button if that video format is up your alley.

As always, I invite you to leave your two cents (or more!) in the comments section below.

Amazing Spider-Man and the craft of writing: A YouTube hangout with Mike McNulty (Stillanerd)

It’s been years in the making, but the stars have finally aligned for your friendly neighborhood blogger and Mike McNulty (Stillanerd) to team up for a discussion on comic books.  If you’ve enjoyed Mike’s reviews over the years — both at Spider-Man Crawlspace and now with Whatever a Spider Can — then you’ll want to check out this YouTube chat. It’s one hour of the two of us talking about craft or writing, The Amazing Spider-Man, and a few other topics of interest to those who tuned in during the live stream.

Mike, as always, was the consummate professional. I hope to have him back again for another YouTube hangout sooner rather than later.

Renew Your Vows #3: Annie May Parker shines in spotlight

Gerry Conway and Ryan Stegman continue to roll with Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #3. If you’re looking for a Spider-Man book worth picking up, then this is the one. It’s not perfect, but the energy and enthusiasm the creative team brings to the book more than makes up for any editorial hiccups.

Check out my latest YouTube video below and let me know what you think of the issue, particularly my one minor gripe on the company’s continued habit of inserting political correctness across the line.

Renew Your Vows #1: Conway, Stegman give fans the Peter Parker they have deserved for years

It’s here — The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows. There is much to say on this issue (and I may do up a full re-write in the near future), but my latest YouTube review should suffice for now. Check it out and let me know what you think of Gerry Conway’s and Ryan Stegman’s work in the comments section below.

Finally — finally — the throngs of fans who hated One More Day get the Peter Parker they deserve. Huzzah!

Renew Your Vows 5: Dan Slott’s saccharin spider-family takes on bland Regent

Mary Jane Parker RYV Mom

The final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows has finally arrived, but borderline diabetics may need to withhold their cash. Dan Slott ends his defacto “What if … the Parker family lived in an Orwellian police state ruled by a super-powered despot?” with plenty of sugary sap — and cheese.

SpiderMan Parkers Renew Your Vows

Renew Your Vows continues a trend for Mr. Slott, which is that he has a tough time at the finish. If he were a baseball player for the New York Yankees, then he would not be a closing pitcher. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “Let’s wrap it up. Wrap it up. Wrap it up-up-up-up-up! Love and happiness, strength and family, yadda, yadda, yadda — those plot holes never happened.”

SpiderMan Regent RYV ASM

It was only one issue ago that Regent was using telekinesis to immobilize Peter Parker and Sandman with a thought, perhaps the mere seed of a thought. He was, for all intents and purposes, a god. And yet, because the script calls for a “love conquers all”-type ending, readers are supposed to cheer its slap-dash construction.

Perhaps one of the weirdest moments comes when MJ turns to Peter at the end of the tale and says, “I have to know…if our daughter was in real danger, would you have killed him?”

Mary Jane Parker Renew Your Vows

Regent took out all of the Avengers. He took out almost every superhero in existence. And yet, a small child who just randomly decided to rush into battle against him was apparently never in any “real” danger. That begs the question: Then why should readers have bothered to care?

Renew Your Vows had some fine moments. Dan Slott hit a “home run” with the second issue and performed adequately in the third and fourth installments. Regardless, the story ended up as little more than a sweet treat for fans who wanted to see a few flashes of “Parker power.”

Buy the issue if you’ve already followed it this far, but make sure to have an insulin injection nearby.

Dan Slott’s Renew Your Vows souffle falls flat; Regent, Sinister Stooges collapse tasty cake in 4th issue

Regent Renew Your Vows SpiderManA souffle that falls flat in the oven is usually going to keep its good taste, but on many levels it is still considered a disappointment. Dan Slott’s 4th issue of The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is just like a souffle that begins to collapse before the oven timer rings. The main reason for this is Regent, who continues to weigh down the story.

Issue 4 of Renew Your Vows reveals that Mary Jane and Annie were shuttled away from danger by Mockingbird and The Prowler, who are working for S.H.I.E.L.D. Their escape was made possible by Jonathan Ohnn (aka: The Spot), who is also working for the organization.

Spider-Man, however, does not fare as well. He and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sandman are captured by Regent, who uses telekinesis to immobilize them.

“And no, little man. It’s not fair at all. It never is when you battle a god,” Regent replies to the accusation that he isn’t fighting fair. It is not long afterwards that the souffle begins to deflate.

“I am a good man, Peter. Before you die, I want you to know that,” Regent tells his captive. He then says that he needs Peter’s spider-sense to battle Doctor Doom, who has become a near-omnipotent god on Battleworld. Although Peter calls this “insane,” in all likelihood there isn’t going to be a plot twist to make Mr. Slott’s idea any better.

Perhaps the second most embarrassing thing about Renew Your Vows is the way the Sinister Six has, arguably, become the Sinister Stooges. Not only does angry-Pete dispose of them with ease, but now his daughter is able to literally take out Shocker, Kraven, and Boomerang with eye-pokes and crotch-shots. In the middle of a story about an Orwellian police state, readers abruptly get Slottian hi-jinks; Kraven says “Gnyah!” when he’s kicked in the testicles. Mr. Slott should have gone all the way and had Annie say “Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!”

Renew Your Vows 4 AnnieIn short, Renew Your Vows is still the best thing that Dan Slott has written in awhile. Fans have more-or-less gotten what they wanted out of the tale (e.g., strong MJ, Peter acting like a man instead of a man-boy), and Slott’s worst instincts have mostly been corralled. The Renew Your Vows souffle may not be the prettiest thing in the world, but it is still worth $4.00 if you’re a fan of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Side note: I would be remiss if I didn’t say kudos to Mr. Slott for his use of The Spot in this issue. I first came across the character as a kid while reading my brother’s collection of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man. Even though he wasn’t treated as a serious villain, his powers fascinated me. He always seemed like a character with untapped potential. It was nice to see Jonathan Ohnn appropriately used here.

The Spot Marvel

Renew Your Vows No. 3: Dan Slott’s tale of darker Spider-Man hamstrung by lame villain Regent

Doctor Octopus Renew Your VowsIssue No. 3 of The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is out, and fans get another dose of Peter Parker doing anything to protect his family. Writer Dan Slott’s “No one dies” philosophy for Mr. Parker has been replaced with “No one dies — unless you threaten my wife and kid,” which gives readers plenty to talk about. Just like issue number two, the writer does a decent job exploring the Parker family’s attempt to survive in an Orwellian nightmare. It’s a shame that its lame main villain, Regent, continues to drag down the quality of the tale.
SpiderMan Renew Your Vows Doc OckThere is something incredibly satisfying about seeing a part of the enforcement arm (no pun intended) of a totalitarian police state getting ripped to shreds by a true hero. Unfortunately, the reaction by characters like Doctor Octopus to Spider-Man’s no-joking demeanor — only moments after telling the hero that he and his family would die a gruesome death — comes across as too comical.

If a man’s stock-in-trade is to hunt down and murder entire families, then he can’t be surprised when the head of the household — yes, even Spider-Man — counters deadly force with commensurate power.

Renew Your Vows Doctor OctopusWould it be logical for Doctor Octopus to be taken aback by Spider-Man’s sudden willingness to use deadly force? In a world where state-run televisions turn off and on like something out of George Orwell’s “1984,” no. In a world where superheroes (and their children) are summarily hunted down and executed, no. In a world where Spider-Man lived after the entire Avengers team, Professor X, and The Hulk fell to Regent with seemingly little effort, no. Regardless, in this instance Dan Slott can be forgiven if his handling of Doc Ock’s response to “dark” Peter was a bit clumsy.

For those who didn’t get the message earlier in the book, Mr. Slott hammers it home in the final pages when Spider-Man webs an activated pumpkin bomb to Hobgoblin’s hand. “BWHOO” translated into writer-speak for this issue of Renew Your Vows is “If you mess with Peter Parker’s family, then there is a good chance that you will die.”

Hobgoblin Renew Your Vows 3It is unfortunate that Regent is such a generic villain. Readers are left in a weird state of cognitive dissonance because on one hand the character is tied to a story that shows Peter and MJ at their best, but on the other he is a creative millstone around the neck of writer Dan Slott.

If Regent is another man’s creation that Mr. Slott has been forced to use, then I feel bad for him. If Regent is Dan Slott’s creation, then he shouldn’t complain when digital tomatoes are thrown his way for months to come.

SpiderMan Renew Your Vows Parker FamilyIn short, Renew Your Vows continues to be a story worth reading if you are a fan of Peter Parker. It has its flaws, but it’s better than 95 percent of what Dan Slott churned out for the entire relaunch of The Amazing Spider-Man in 2014.

Renew Your Vows #2: Dan Slott hits a rare home run, proves Tom Brevoort’s ‘medicine’ was poison

Renew Your Vows 2 SpiderManBaseball fans know just how fun it is to watch a pitcher hit a home run. Likewise, comic fans can stand up and cheer because Dan Slott, despite going 0-25 in his last 25 at bats, finally knocked one out of the park with issue #2 of Renew Your Vows. He bumped his batting average up to .038 with one home run. He also managed to expose once and for all how Tom Brevoort’s “medicine” (i.e., his comments on the decision to end Peter Parker’s marriage to MJ) was in fact poison.

Tom Brevoort Twitter OMDA lot of people joked about Annie’s name when it was first revealed, likening it to a cheap take on “Little Orphan Annie” because of her red hair, but after reading issue #2 of Renew Your Vows it is hard not think of her like a super-powered Anne Frank.

Just as the Frank family had to go into hiding during World War II, so too must the Parker family. An evil dictator with a penchant for genetic testing once controlled Germany and sought subjects on whom he could experiment; likewise, Regent hunts down a minority group — superheroes — and kills or experiments on them. If all of this was on accident, then Dan Slott stumbled onto a powerful accident. If the parallels were purposeful, then at least with this issue he did an stellar job.

On almost every level, the second issue of Renew Your Vows works.

  • Peter struggles with nightmares linked with having killed Eddie Brock (Venom), just as any cop or soldier might.
  • The dialogue between the entire family is touching and emotional.
  • Peter springs into action and acts like a true hero. He exudes grit and determination.
  • Mary Jane becomes the mother everyone knows she would have been — if it weren’t for Tom Brevoort’s “medicine.”
  • Annie is intriguing, and her reactions to Peter’s heroics touch anyone who once watched their own parents come through in a difficult situation.

All of this begs the question: Why has Marvel denied readers these kinds of stories — for years? Why has Marvel pretended like readers could not relate to a married Peter Parker when this issue proves them incredibly wrong?

Yes, it’s true: Dan Slott wrote an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man that is, for all intents and purposes, flawless.

It is inexplicable that fans have had to deal with man-child Peter Parker, the death of Peter Parker, and “Please-help-me-Silk-and-Anna-Maria” Peter Parker when Dan Slott could have been writing about Peter Parker the grown man, who is trying to raise his super-powered daughter with a strong woman by his side.

Come out for a curtain call and tip your hat, Dan Slott. You earned it. But as you return to the dugout, I highly suggest telling your team manager that he should stop administering his preferred “medicine.”

Dan Slott stalks online critics he blocks on Twitter — while telling fans that said critics are ‘crazy’

Marvel writer Dan Slott has a reputation for weird behavior online. There was the time he stalked The Main Event. There was the time he searched out a random woman to troll on Twitter and made jokes about the quality of her life. He has now taken it to the next level. Dan Slott is simultaneously stalking Twitter accounts he has blocked while telling his fans that the people he is stalking are “crazy.” The Amazing Spider-Man writer cannot get me out of his head, which is why this tweet went up yesterday after my review of Renew Your Vows was posted. Dan Slott RYV TweetHere is what Mr. Slott did: Even though he has blocked my account and the account of Twitter user “Doctor Bizarre,” he obviously found Bizarre’s link to my review and concluded that we are, in fact, the same person. The implication is that I am so “crazy” that I start dummy accounts for the sole purpose of “hating” Dan Slott — even though my ASM reviews stick almost exclusively to his fundamental misunderstanding of Peter Parker as a character.

Where are the Dan Slott fat jokes? Where are the Dan Slott Danny Devito jokes? That’s right — they don’t exist in my writing because I don’t “hate” anyone. And if I were inclined to create dummy accounts, then it would be because Twitter recently blocked me after I complained it did nothing (yes, nothing) to the Islamic radical apologist who threatened to kill me.

Sadly, Dan Slott can not separate in his mind the difference between criticizing a man’s creative work and criticism of the man.

Here is the truth: Years ago I was struggling to make ends meet while trying to get my career started in Washington, D.C. I was contacted, in many ways out of the blue, by a man who runs a website called “Molotov Softball: Weird News for Weirder Times.” This man said he liked my work and offered to pay me just for allowing him to link to my blog. I jokingly asked him if he was Rumpelstiltskin or a guardian angel. (I never got a straight answer, so he may come knocking for a child one day.)

Long story short, this man eventually asked me if I had any creative friends who would be willing to write “weird” pieces under the pen name “Doctor Bizarre.” Those pieces would supplement another writer, whose pen name is Penny Franklin. Molotov Softball got a new contributor soon afterward.

Is Doctor Bizarre an old Army buddy or relative of mine? Am I Doctor Bizarre? Is he really my mysterious benefactor (who I still haven’t met in person and have no idea what he looks like — although his checks always clear)? I wish I could tell you, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter because Dan Slott is the one acting like a crazy person. Again: he blocks people on Twitter, stalks them, and then makes things up to his Twitter followers to gain praise and sympathy.

“Hate”? Where is the hate? Look through Doctor Bizarre’s Twitter feed or read his blog and find any posts that are personally directed at Dan Slott. You will not find them because they do not exist. The blog contains zero references to Dan Slott — again, zero — and the Twitter feed randomly shares links my work here — never personal opinions or “hate.” Dan Slott acts like a troubled man and makes up “hate” out of thin air to receive retweets and “favorites” on his Twitter account.

Molotov SoftballI have seen Dan Slott use the same tactic on different comic websites. If a user is banned and he suspects someone else of being that banned individual, he will relentlessly harp on the point. Why? Because all he has are personal attacks. He will call people like me “crazy” from afar so his minions lick his ego-wounds, but he won’t come here and actually debate my work on the merits. The few times he did engage me on different websites, he intellectually got his clock cleaned and had to beg the moderator to shut everything down. Ask him about the time he deleted an epic YouTube conversation because he looked like a raving lunatic.

Now, since I’m tired of Dan Slott acting like anyone who goes by a pseudonym online needs to be “exposed” by thin-skinned Marvel writers, I will explain why this is an utterly moronic move on his part. I will use my own life as an example. I encourage regular readers who go by an alias to add their two cents in the comments section.

I currently work for a newspaper.

Air Force national defense TWTMy writing is seen by many people. People associate me, for the most part, with work on national security matters. If there is a breaking story on the Islamic State group, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, or cool military technology, then there is a good chance that I am writing on it. Do I want to mix tweets on Dan Slott’s Renew Your Vows in with my work on Sunni radical terrorist groups? No. I do not. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that sometimes there needs to be a line of demarcation between an individual’s personal and professional life.

Since I’m assuming that makes sense to the vast majority of readers, I will now move on to exposing Dan Slott’s utter hypocrisy for all the world to see. Dan Slott Twitter BlockHow interesting is it that Dan Slott likens Twitter to “talking outside,” but yet he seeks to keep his own conversations private from anyone who is inclined to call him out on his “BS”? Again, I cannot stress this enough: Dan Slott blocks accounts and then weirdly reads the accounts that he has blocked. Dan Slott Twitter stalking excuseThis is the man who puts words in Peter Parker’s mouth. This is the man who actually holds creative clout at Marvel.

Congratulations, Marvel — you employ a man who blocks accounts, stalks said accounts, and then calls the owners of those accounts “crazy.”

If there is a colleague who cares about Dan Slott, then that person will pull him off to the side and tell him that his regular behavior, usually around 1:00 a.m., is not healthy. It is not productive. And it is certainly not professional.

Update: You can’t make this up. At 1:04 a.m., prime Dan Slott weird behavior time, he reads this blog post and then takes to Twitter to say that his previous stalking had nothing — nothing — to do with me, despite his long history of reading this very blog every time a review of his work goes up.

Best case scenario: “Hey guys, I wasn’t stalking Douglas Ernst yesterday — I was stalking another guy. But…reading Douglas Ernst’s blog  just now at 1:00 a.m. (i.e., the guy I blocked on Twitter) means nothing. It’s not stalking. Seriously. Trust me.”

Dan Slott needs Damage Control for his damage control.

Dan Slott Twitter BacktrackUpdate II: In the comments section below, I spoke with Carl about why Dan Slott would continue to read my work even after blocking my Twitter feed. The short answer can be found by tapping into my WordPress stats, which show me where people are coming from. Today, for instance, I had people coming over from Tumblr — “Walloping Web Snappers!” was one such account. Dan Slott knows that this happens often. That is why he will continue to read my reviews as long as he is on ASM. MJ Watson Tumblr

Renew Your Vows: Dan Slott opts to divorce Peter Parker fans with tale of ‘stupid red and blue suit’

Dan Slott Renew Your VowsDan Slott was given a golden opportunity to use The Amazing Spider-Man #1: Renew Your Vows to build bridges with Peter Parker fans. Instead, he opted for divorce. Fans who have waited years to see Peter and MJ back together finally got their wish, but unfortunately it was granted by the same guy who saw nothing wrong with turning the character into an afterthought in his own book.

Imagine you’re a fan of Peter Parker. You’ve patiently piled up a mountain of lackluster stories while waiting for another glimpse into the married life he once had. Finally, when Renew Your Vows hits, you open it up and the first thing you get is MJ nagging Peter not to fix his web shooters at the table. You turn to the second page to see a sullen Peter complain about changing diapers. Pensive and sad faces abound on the third page. The reader is told that Peter has “wedded bliss,” even though the evidence doesn’t back that up. Dan Slott then takes the action out of the apartment, and the next time MJ is seen she’s being held hostage by venom. No build up — he just escaped from Ryker’s Island penitentiary.

Renew Your Vows SpiderManQuestion: Why should anyone care about an alternate universe MJ that they’ve “known” for all of three pages when those three pages have done nothing to show younger readers why the couple is so good together?

Answer: They shouldn’t.

A few pages are then allotted to MJ attempting to keep her daughter safe — as any sane mother would do in the same situation —and alternate universe Peter Parker ultimately ends up killing venom. “I did what I had to do,” is all he says before MJ can finish asking if Eddie Brock is dead.

Renew Your Vows ASMFans of Peter Parker are apparently supposed to have their minds blown that their hero — even an alternate universe version of the original — would ever be placed in a situation where he might have to kill a man. Correction: A psychopathic madman whose body has fused with an alien symbiote.

The only people this may be shocking to is Dan Slott of the infamous “No one dies” mantra, and those who think a man can be a hero and never — never, never, never — have to make such a difficult choice.

Newsflash: Cops are heroes and sometimes they have to kill. Soldiers are heroes and sometimes they have to kill. Spider-Man is a heroic character, and it makes sense that on a long enough timeline he may — despite his best efforts to avoid it — have to take a (likely super-powered) life to save others.

Only in the mind of Dan Slott would having to do what real heroes do every single day constitute the “death” of Spider-Man.

“That was the day The Avengers died. That every last hero died. Even Spider-Man. It just looked like him standing there. But that was just me. Peter Parker. A dad in a stupid red and blue suit,” the hero thinks while reflecting on his actions and The Avengers’ battle with Regent (aka: lame villain introduced for Secret Wars).

One word: Pathetic.

Renew Your Vows1On the last page it gets worse. Peter says “It’s not a perfect world. But, I look after me and mine. And that’s good enough.”

Imagine a world where cops, firemen, soldiers, doctors and many other kind souls all had the “I look after me and mine” mentality of a married Peter Parker (written by Dan Slott). What would that world look like? It would look like a pretty scary place, which is why no one who fundamentally understands Peter Parker would put those words in his mouth.

If you own The Amazing Spider-Man #1: Renew Your Vows, then I suggest looking through the issue for all the times Peter really looks happy. Try and find a wide smile on his face. You’ll see four — all from pictures hanging on his apartment wall — and he’s not even smiling in his wedding picture. He has a look on his face that says, “Here. I’m married. You got the shot you wanted. Can we move on?” It’s a small detail, but one worth noticing.

Marvel gave fans what they were thirsting for, but its creative team made sure to spike the product with something bitter. Although it should come as no surprise at this point, it really is quite stunning how Marvel uses every opportunity to mend fences with Peter Parker fans to spit in their faces instead.

Exit question: Why does Mr. Slott have a sick fetish with killing Peter Parker, whether it’s outright killing the 616 version, killing off 616’s ghost/memory fragment/soul/whatever he was, killing off countless other versions in Spider-Verse, and now doing so symbolically in Renew Your Vows?

Exit question II: Why is Mr. Slott asking if Renew Your Vows brought back readers? For years Marvel has told us that the number of fans who stayed away from the book post OMD was marginal at best. When guys like me talked about a significant number of fans who were sitting on the sidelines, we were scoffed at. Yet now, suddenly, those numbers are enough to warrant a sales pitch to catch up on “Big Time” and “SSM”? Interesting.

Dan Slott Renew Your Vows tweet