I was in a Borders bookstore the other day and, as I have a tendency to do, I browsed through the graphic novel section. Eventually, I came across the Spider-Man trades by J. Michael Stryzanski and it occurred to me. Has anyone looked at the numbering on the sides of these particular trades? I’m sure you have. So you’ve probably noticed that, after the “Coming Home” trade, every volume after that is numbered from volume 2 onward, as though “Coming Home” contained the very first issues of Amazing Spider-Man. But of course, everyone knows that since Spider-Man has been around for 45 years or so, this is impossible. In one of those moments where one slaps their forehead and says “Of course,” I realized that JMS had utilized Grant Morrison’s strategy for his New X-Men series: treat everything that has ever happened to the character as though it was the backstory and continue on from there. This became all the more apparent when you consider where Spider-Man as character was when JMS started his run and the changes that have occurred since then: *Spider-Man started off with his powers being based solely on pseudo-science, whereas today they have a mystical/magical link to shamanism/totemism. *Peter was accidentally bitten by an ordinary spider that was irradiated, but now it may have been a magical creature and that Peter was fated to have spider-powers. *Peter solely worked for the Daily Bugle, now he has a job as a high-school science teacher. *Aunt May never knew her nephew was Spider-Man but today she does. *Most of Spider-Man’s rogues were usually rooted in pseudo science like himself, now he has fought and encountered more magical beings in keeping with his new totemistic origins. *Peter was technically single, seeing how he and Mary Jane were legally separated, but today are married once again. *Spider-Man had mechanical web-shooters, but now his web-shooters are organic. *Gwen Stacy was Peter’s one time faithful and devoted girlfriend who killed by the Green Goblin as revenge against Spider-Man, where it’s now revealed that she once had an affair with Norman Osborn, bore his children, and was killed by him because she wouldn’t let him near her kids. *Peter used to live with his Aunt May in a house on Forest Hills, now the house has been burned down and the Parkers live in Stark Tower rent free. *Spider-Man operated as a loner when it came to being a superhero, but today he is an official member of the Avengers. *Likewise, Peter Parker’s supporting cast consisted mostly of ordinary people, but today they mostly consist of other superheroes. *Spider-Man’s powers consisted of Enhanced Strength and agility, wall-crawling, and spider-sense; now he not only still has these but also has night vision, vibrational sensitivity, and retractable stingers as some of his new powers (or rather "rediscovered" powers). *Spider-Man’s costume was a simple fabric one with a red and blue color scheme that he made himself; now it’s a high-tech, red and gold one designed by Iron Man and equipped with all sorts of high-tech features including bulletproof and appearance altering nanofiber, glider underarm webbing, mechanical spider-legs, etc. *Uncle Ben was dead, but now it appears as though he may somehow still be alive. *Spider-Man’s identity was secret, but now there are hints that his identity may become public as a result of the Civil War crossover (note this last is still speculation). In short, Spider-Man started off in JMS’ run as what he was normally viewed as: a young, single, ordinary man who was given superpowers by a radioactive spider and who tries to live up to his late uncle’s maxim of “with great power comes great responsibility” while trying to make ends meat. Now, it appears that nearly everything that made Spider-Man as a character has been stripped away. Yet, what has been the mantra the current Spider-Man writers, and likewise Marvel, have been saying about Spider-Man and all the changes that have occurred to him? It’s usually been along the lines of “We haven’t really changed anything. He’s still the same character. He’s still the ordinary guy who is trying to balance a normal life with that of a superhero. He’s still is affected by Uncle Ben’s death and learned that “With Great Power comes Great Responsibility.” So what Marvel is doing to Spider-Man is clear: treat him as though he was a new character, strip away all the traditional elements that are associated with the character but retain his core personality, then start restoring those traditional elements when the only thing that remains is "Peter Parker is Spider-Man." And yes, despite all the claims from Marvel about making “permanent changes” and “changing the status quo,” sooner or later, Spider-Man will go back to his traditional template (Marvel has said as much with regards to the “Iron Spidey” costume). After all, Spider-Man 3 is coming soon, a movie which is still is based on a “traditional” interpretation of Spider-Man. And since the idea is that those who watch the movies will then flock to the books, then Spider-Man will have to be somewhat “back to normal” so as to not make the ever-valued “new readers” confused. I’m sure Joe Q doesn’t want what happened to his predecessor Bob Harras happening to him. So it’s not a question of will Spider-Man get back to “normal,” but HOW he will get back to “normal.” It’s the same dilemma Marvel had back in the early 90s. At that time, they also felt Spider-Man had strayed too far from his roots and so they wanted to get to a “back-to-basics” approach. They came up with the Clone Saga, which ended up creating more problems that it actually solved, which also had to be fixed. You would think that Marvel would’ve learned that if you are going to make changes to a character, make sure you have a back-up plan in place just in case those changes don’t work out. Since it’s been said that Marvel has mapped out a “year’s worth of stories” for Spider-Man, perhaps they have such a strategy. Then again, considering how they say that despite all the changes to Spider-Man that he really hasn’t changed, one has to wonder.