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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed Extra: Randy Schueller’s Brush With Comic History

In a recent Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, I discussed the fact that a fan had come up with the idea for Spider-Man’s black costume. The fan in question wrote in, and I thought it would be interesting to hear his story. Here, then, is Randy Schueller. – BC

There’s been some discussion in the fan press recently about the original idea for Spidey’s black costume coming from an anonymous fan. Well it’s true and I am that fan. Here’s my story…

Back in the early 80s, Marvel ran a competition for aspiring writers and artists. Being a life long Spidey fan with delusions of comic grandeur, I took a stab at a story idea.

I thought it would be cool if Spidey needed to upgrade his powers and his look, so I came up with this idea that Reed Richards had made a new costume for Spidey using the same unstable molecules that the FF costumes are made of. The unstable molecules would flow into Peter’s pores and allow him to cling to walls better. I think my original idea was to increase his sticking power by 25% or something like that.

For some lame reason, I had the Wasp involved since she was the resident fashion plate of the Marvel universe at the time. Remember when Jan would show up in every other issue of the Avengers sporting a cool new costume? I loved when they did that! So to me it made sense to have her design the new spider suit when she was over at the Baxter Building for cocktails or something. Anyway, I saw the new suit as a stealth version of the original costume – jet black so he could blend in with the shadows. At best, all you could see of him was the blood red spider emblem, emblazoned on his chest. (Yeah, in my design the spider was red, not white. I also gave him underarm webbing like in the original Ditko design.)

Oh yeah, and I stole an idea from Iron Man and made his web shooters work using the same cybernetic technology that Tony Stark used to control his armor. Peter just had to mentally imagine the kind of web line he wanted to shoot and the suit would do it for him. (Keep in mind, this was 25 years before Civil War and “Iron Spidey”!)

A few months after submitting the story I received a letter from Jim Shooter saying he liked the idea and wanted to buy it for $220. I was thrilled! But the best part – they offered me a chance to write the story. How cool is that?

Spidey_002.JPG

Click on the image to see a copy of the letter Randy received from Shooter almost 25 years ago, in August of 1982.

I ended up submitting a second version and even had a follow-up phone call or two with Tom DeFalco to discuss the script. Wow! Me on the phone with a real live Marvel editor. I still can’t believe this happened!

In the end, the whole scripting thing just didn’t work out for me – I don’t remember the exact reasons. I submitted another version of the story, they didn’t like it, I stopped sending in letters. The whole thing just kind of fell apart. Regardless, I had no regrets. As a true blue Spidey fan, this was a very cool moment in my life.

A year or so later, when Secret Wars came out and I saw my costume idea executed in a completely different way than I had envisioned it, I was simultaneously thrilled and saddened. And when the idea of the black costume caught on, I was even more thrilled. And then when VENOM was created I was…disturbed. I was never a fan of the costume-turned-villain idea. Give me the classic Ditko villains any day! Venom just never really seemed to work for me. But I digress…

Now, fast-forward to 2007. I see that the black costume (MY black costume, sort of) is making it’s way to Spider-Man 3. Wow! I couldn’t stand it anymore – I had to come out of the closet and tell my friends and coworkers about my contribution to this year’s BIGGEST blockbuster. And I had all the documents to prove it even if Marvel never mentioned my name.

Since Marvel paid me for the story, I have no real gripe, but I do feel bad that they didn’t give me any kind of acknowledgment in the comics. You know, something like, “costume concept by Randy Schueller” or “Thanks to Randy Schueller for inspiration,” or “Randy Schueller, you Spidey fan-boy stud, you rock!” But no, I got nothin’! That’s my one disappointment in this whole story.

I’ve written to Tom Defalco before, but I’ve gotten no response. Maybe Marvel is afraid I’ll sue them or something, but that’s not the case at all! I don’t want any money, I don’t want any legal rights to the Venom character. All I want is this: a mention in the letters column of Amazing Spider-Man recognizing me as the nameless fan who sparked the idea for the black suit which eventually led to the idea for Venom which eventually became the basis for this freakin’ monster movie we call Spider-Man 3. That’s all I want.

Thanks for letting me vent!
Randy Schueller

P.S. I thought the movie was great! (Except for the part about (spoiler alert!) the Sandman killing Uncle Ben. What was up with that???)

59 Comments

How awesome must it have been to receive that letter. I wonder if Marvel still uses that cool spidey letter paper?

I got one of those letters when I sent in an idea for a character. Only mine told me that they had too many ideas from their own writers and artists to use mine.

So if you see a hook-handed, skull-capped vigilante called Justice anytime soon, my 1983 won’t have been completely wasted.

I’m not surprised that Marvel didn’t/doesn’t acknowledge this. If for no other reason than they probably wish to discourage endless numbers of fans writing in to suggeest storylines, which would lead to all sorts of legal headaches, I imagine. I imagine that, given the corporate culture of today, they’d never pick up a fan idea and run with it like this.

You know… somebody should update Wikipedia’s Spider-Man Powers and Equipment entry, as well as the Venom, Spidey 3 and Secret Wars entries to give credit where credit is due. (They could then link to this page for “proof” or reference.)

Not saying the guy is lying but the letter doesn’t reference what Marvel was buying.

I wonder if anyone who is at Marvel today even remembered this until it came up on this site? They probably didn’t give any thanks because no one still with the company knew there were thanks to give.

Godd idea with the wiki thing. I went ahead and did it.

“I wonder if anyone who is at Marvel today even remembered this until it came up on this site? They probably didn’t give any thanks because no one still with the company knew there were thanks to give.”

Yeah, I don’t think anyone still there was working there then. Except Peter David, and he’s a freelancer, and back then he was in sales, not editorial, so I doubt he’d know one way or another.

It would be nice if someone there could dig into the history a bit and settle it. If it was me, I’d be fine giving him a bit of acknowledgement (although ASM hasn’t had a lettercol in years).

In the Comic Book Urban Legends piece Tom De Falco confirms Randy’s story.

“I’m not surprised that Marvel didn’t/doesn’t acknowledge this. If for no other reason than they probably wish to discourage endless numbers of fans writing in to suggeest storylines, which would lead to all sorts of legal headaches, I imagine. I imagine that, given the corporate culture of today, they’d never pick up a fan idea and run with it like this.”

Though I can’t really see there’d be a problem here as it was Marvel themselves requesting people send in their stuff in the first place.

I watched one of those “Making of Spider-Man 3″ mini-documentaries on cable On Demand a few weeks back. This particular one was about the origin of the black costume/Venom and they DID mention that the original idea was sent in by a fan. They also said that originally, the spider logo on the costume was supposed to be red… it was changed due to coloring issues… the red would’ve been visible where it overlaid the black ink… remember, back in the day, comics were cheaply printed on pulp paper. One of the guys they interviewed WAS Tom DeFalco, but I don’t remember if he was the one who related these facts. They also didn’t mention the name of “the fan.” Nice to see the guy at least get a little credit after so many years. And, I have to say I like his idea of Reed Richards and the Wasp helping Pete design and manufacture his new duds alot more than I ever liked the whole deus ex machina, alien-symbiote thing.

this is a good follow up. Thanks to Randy for telling his side of the experience.

Great follow up! This is why I read CSBG every day even if I don’t read many comics.

I wish my job had Spider-Man stationary.

The story seems plausible. I’d like to see exactly what was submitted. I don’t think Marvel has done anything wrong, judging solely from this account. Their use of the black costume is pretty different. But it does sound possible that Randy put the bug (no pun intended) in Shooter’s ear about a black, poured-on costume that changes his powers a bit. Pretty cool!

Also pretty cool that Shooter not only bought the idea, but was willing to let this untested writer take a shot at writing the story. I guess he doesn’t always get painted in the best light, but from what I’ve heard he had some great instincts about what made Marvel appealing to the fans.

Flush it all away

May 16, 2007 at 4:45 pm

The only solution is for Mr. Schueller to legally change his name to “a fan.” Thus, he would’ve been recognized every time the story has been told.

I wholeheartedly agree with a couple of the other comments:
1. Indeed, things like this are why I read CSBG every day.
2. I also wish my work used Spidey letterhead. :(

I had no idea my story would spark so much commentary. It warms the cockles of my little Spidey-fan heart.

Just to clarify: I’m certainly not saying Marvel did anything wrong. I was just looking for a little acknowledgment (that you CBR has given me in spades!)

Secondly, regarding the comment that the copy of Marvel’s letter didn’t state which story they bought from me – that’s true. But I do have a copy of what I sent them back in ’82. So trust me, this is legit.

Thanks to everyone for all the comments!

I’d like to see the original design. Randy, can you post your original drawing online?

Neat story. My only question is how this jibes up with John Byrne’s version. I’m positive that Byrne claims that he “invented” Venom because he came up with the idea of a self-healing costume when he was writing Iron Fist.

I tend to believe the version published here.

I would also like to know more about “the fan” scriptment vs the Marvel edit etc. Randy, you’re already speaking in public — so please share some details. ‘Nuff has not yet been said!

Another clarification:

I’m not claiming I invented the idea of Venom. My script outline was just about Spidey receiving a new costume as a gift from the FF.

The costume could “flow” onto Pete’s body because it was made with unstable molecules and it featured mentally controlled webshooters. The design was black with a red spider. But I’m not an artist so I never drew it, I only described how it should look.

The rest of the story dealt wasn’t really that great, to be honest. It involved Spidey getting into trouble because couldn’t control the new costume very well. (the web shooters misfire, etc) Anyway, someone ends up getting hurt because of Spidey’s actions (yeah, I know we’ve seen that before…) and ultimately ends up with Pete deciding he can’t keep the new costume and he returns it to the FF. Somewhere along the line he ends up fighting Doc Ock as well. (So what else is new.)

Gee, if everyone is so interested in the original story, maybe Marvel should publish a “What If…” issue based on the secret origin of the black costume. And John Byrne can draw it. With a cover by Alex Ross.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

As long as you get Ross and not Turner!

My tpb of Secret Wars has an introduction by Jim Shooter, and he makes reference to Randy’s story in that.

Just to add one more link in this story. Back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s I was working as a freelance journalist in the comics industry. The part of the story that I had heard about the black suit at the time was that Jim Shooter was pitching to whatever toy company had been making Marvel toys at the time, and was hoping to set up a new line of Secret Wars II toys. Only at the pitch meeting, the execs were not so much interested.

Apparently, they felt that the toy line would simply be the same figures they had produced last time, and were about to pass. Shooter then told them that if they wanted to produce the new toys, they would have exclusive access to Spidey’s new costume. Well, the thought of a new Spider-Man costume truly excited these guys, and they agreed to the license. Whereupon, Shooter returned to Marvel and was reputed to have said, “Somebody needs to design a new costume for Spider-Man, because I’ve just sold it.”

All of which is not to say that Randy Schueller’s story isn’t true, but perhaps the reason that they went with his idea for a new costume (or his design), was because of this meeting that Shooter just had.

I enjoyed the original Black Costume storyline in ASM and wasn’t aware of “a fan’s” involvement until the Comic Book Urban Legends article.

Randy, Thanks for coming forward! I’d be neat to see your story as an extra on the Spider-man 3 DVD, or as a “What If”.

I hadn’t heard the “designed by a fan” part, but I did see some original sketches for the black costume, and it was, as Randy mentioned, originally black and red instead of black and white. And I gotta say, it’s a shame that printing technology didn’t allow them to go with that, because it’s actually a much better look than the black and white costume.

I did a little work for Marvel and their checks also has Spidey on them. Always raised an eyebrow at the bank. Hasbro’s had Mr. Potatohead! For some reason the bank always put a hold on them.

“Hasbro’s had Mr. Potatohead! For some reason the bank always put a hold on them.”

Be thankful they didn’t print Monopoly money on them!

I do remember artwork of the black costume in Marvel Age that I believe used the black and red color scheme, although I don’t have it on hand to double-check. I’m pretty sure this was before Secret Wars started.

I totally think you’re worthy enough to be recognized in the pages of comics history, Randy.

That might be the coolest stationary ever.

Als, kudos to Randy, th ecostume still looks cool, even in b&w.

maluco vai paputaquiparil cuzao viado puta

I don’t think they’re still using this design, but the back of DC’s stationary used to have a stack of DC heroes standing atop of one another’s shoulders. When you held the stationary up to the light, it looked like the hero at the top (Wonder Woman, I think) was holding up the DC Bullet printed on the front side. Very neat.

Ron Frenz is a friend of mine and I was telling him about this. He says in the interviews he and Tom DeFalco did about the black costume leading up to the release of Spiderman 3, DeFalco credits a fan who’s name has been forgotten with the creation of the black costume. (I think you can see those interviews on Comcast.com) Also apparently Jim Shooter has been saying said fan should be after Marvel for money.

Hey Rich,
I did see that Comcast interview. I thought Frenz seemed like a great guy and I’ve always loved his art! If he’s at all interested in discussing this, feel free to pass my email address on to him. It’s ranlers@mac.com

Thanks!

Randy – you might be interested in this link. Someone who no longer works for Marvel but was involved at the time says you were paid $500 (I guess memory fades) and that you should be compenstated even more.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07124/783249-254.stm

Bill, thanks for the tip on the Gazette article. By the way, in case you guys haven’t seen it, the New York Post picked up this story today. NY York Post

Also, tomorrow (5/22) I’ll be on Inside Edition telling the story!

Thanks to folks at CBR for getting the word out on my brush with comic greatness! I owe you guys one!

Yeah, the NY Post article was neat (with a photo, even!).

Our mention got nipped, though. Blast you, Post editors!! :)

Brian, I mentioned CBR in the Inside Edition story but it’ll probably get cut too.

Yes, the black-and-red Spidey outfit ran in a 1983 MARVEL AGE issue. Always dug that color scheme better than the white-and-black version.

I also have tons of rejection letters from Marvel using that stationery from the 80s! Their envelopes and biz cards also had that Spidey art on them!

Al Bigley

I am so proud of Randy. What a cool thing to do. I have 5 brothers who are into comics, so I am into comics also. I love Spidy. My nephews are great fans of Spider man.
Way to go Randy!
Dupe

David B. Jacobs

November 3, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Dude, how did you keep it in so long? If I were you, I’d have been boasting since the day I got the letter!!!

Mar-Vell Zahmbey

November 15, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Randy, you are the man!!!

Did not know this. Marvel should thank its lucky stars for this godsend. Without him starting the gravy train they wouldn’t even have had Venom be a hit in the 90’s continuing Spiderman’s popularity and his character never would have been as huge a hit as it was today! Not to mention what might have taken place in Secret Wars.

The effects of Todd McFarlane’s rise to fame and popularity probably would have been nominal with McFarlane still being a superstar artist and leaving for Image. I’m sure he would have been a hit with his art but Venom obviously could be credited for a huge boost!

At least 40% of Marvel Storylines probably would have been gone in a different direction or never been published creating a huge cascading effect. Minor detail I know but it has rather huge ramifications.

This guy should sue Marvel, they’ve once again made billions off of some naive kid. The comics industry is almost as bad as the music industry when it comes to ripping off the creators.

Pedro Penaforte

July 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

Hmm… red spider emblem? Well… Alex Ross actually did that!
http://img594.imageshack.us/img594/1431/spideyvenomlitho.jpg

The Earth X Venom.

hey randy yeah man you were awsome on the story i will never forget that name randy schuller i rmeber this story from the amazing marvel facts they didnt say or mention your name though they even said they paid you 250$ and its 220$ whats up with that?

Thats a cool story you could tell people. also you should tell Marvel you at least want your name in the credits or something in every game the symbiote.

Ment to put Unknown.

sorry again but here the full sentence I been trying to put
Thats a cool story you could tell people. also you should tell Marvel you at least want your name in the credits or something in every game, movie, show, comic, etc, the symbiote appears in.

God bless Shooter for taking fan’s idea’s especially since he used to be one of those himself.

Wish we could still do these type of things.

You can’t expect Marvel to pay royalties to someone that had no creation in a character outside of the idea of making the costume Black and Red. I’d even wager the white emblem is designed differently than Randy envisioned. Besides that, a lot of other people put a lot of hardwork into making the character a reality and haven’t seen a penny. Same with Venom. They can’t credit Randy for the creation of the costume because his idea was different and it would be a slight to the people who put hours in developing what was actually used. He was compensated fairly for his input and given credit by those involved.

IF we had more fans like Randy in comics, the industry would be less paranoid.

Erickson Antonio Garcia-Corado

August 5, 2012 at 11:36 pm

You do deserve credit, but at least they did mentioned you in the Saga of the Black Costume documentary, as they mentioned that a fan gave Marvel the idea for Spider-Man getting a new suit

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lXGRFC_De8

I’ve been reading all the issues from the 1987-93 of Amazing, and in the letters section from 1992 the editors(danny fingeroth and eric fein) talk about changing Spider-Man’s costume from the traditional Red and blue to Red and Black and they ask fans how they would feel about the change. Some fans were warm to the idea. I wonder if this had anything to do with Randy’s original design.

Hmmmmmm… http://beyondthebunker.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/spider-man-letterhead.png
Well, those creases and the stain seem oddly exac-er-“similar”.

Doesn’t seem odd to me at all. It seems like that site (who uploaded that image in 2012) used the Schueller letter as the basis for their letterhead sample.

…and why doesn’t the font bend with the creases? That’s really odd. Oh, well. I’m sure it’s nothing.

Brian: Then, they went through an awful lot of effort to insert the creases where they would have been under the letters, and making sure that the colouring flowed just right, too.

Okay…I stand corrected. That is, indeed, what somebody did. It took me a while, but I was able to track it down. My sincerest apologies. http://www.letterheady.com/post/304283551/marvelcomics

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