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50 Greatest Spider-Man Creators: Writers #25-21

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Spider-Man, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Spider-Man, culminating with the release of the Amazing Spider-Man film in July. The last installment will deal with Spider-Man stories, but this month will be about Spider-Man’s writers and artists.

You all voted, now here are the results! Here is a master list of all the creators listed so far. We continue with Spider-Man writers #25-21…


25 Denny O’Neil

O’Neil was the regular writer on Amazing Spider-Man from #207-223 (he missed two issues, #220 and #222). He also wrote two notable Annuals, #14 and 15. The former was a return of O’Neil to one of his earliest Marvel works, Doctor Strange (as Strange and Spidey teamed up) and the latter was a really good Punisher team-up with artwork by Frank Miller.

O’Neil’s run was a dramatic departure from Marv Wolfman’s previous run. O’Neil seemed to be interested in evoking a Steve Ditko/Stan Lee feel to his Spider-Man stories. He introduced new characters like Madame Web and Hydro-Man and he really amped up the “down on his luck” style stories with Peter Parker. Here’s a bit from #216, one of O’Neil’s most notable issues from his run (his MOST notable issues are the two Annuals mentioned above) where Spider-Man tries to protect the runners of the New York City Marathon. As you might expect, Spidey, in effect, has to run the marathon himself from the air. In any event, earlier in the issue, Peter reflects on his “Parker luck”…

24 Fred Van Lente

Fred Van Lente has written a number of Spider-Man comics over the last few years. As a member of the rotating team of Amazing Spider-Man writers, he wrote a bunch of issues, including #589, 602-604, 605, 626, 647 and co-writing credit on #654, 659-660. He also had a stint on Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man and a bunch of other Spider-Man mini-series and one-shots. His most notable stint as a Spider-Man writer, though, most likely came in the short-lived Web of Spider-Man anthology. During the Gauntlet storyline (where a number of famous longtime Spider-Man villains made re-appearances in Amazing), Van Lente gave a new twist to all of their origins as they appeared. Then he had a memorable three-parter where he introduced the Extremist, a compelling new villain who can see whether people are “good,” “bad” or “in the grey.”

Van Lente’s work is strong in characterization and interesting situations for Spider-Man to be thrown into. I am sure we’ll see him on more Spider-Man projects in the future.

23 Todd Dezago

Todd Dezago is probably best known for how FUN his Spider-Man stories were. Dezago broke into the Spider-Man titles scripting a few issues of Tom DeFalco’s Spectacular Spider-Man run during the Clone Saga. When DeFalco left Spectacular for Amazing Spider-Man when Ben Reilly took over as Spider-Man, Dezago took over Spectacular and wrote it from #230-240 when J.M. DeMatteis returned to Spectacular (along with Peter Parker. Yep, Ben Reilly’s run as Spider-Man was less than 12 issues). Dan Jurgens had launched a new Spider-Man title, Sensational Spider-Man, with Ben Reilly but Jurgens left after just six issues (Jurgens was never much into the idea of Ben Reilly). Dezago took over that title with #7 and wrote it until the series ended with issue #33 (he did double duty on Sensational and Spectacular for awhile). Mike Wieringo took over as artist on Sensational and he and Dezago made a wonderful team. Wieringo’s charming colorful artwork perfectly matched Dezago’s upbeat, adventurous stories.

The two of them later created a great creator-owned book together called Tellos.

What I liked also about Dezago is that just because he was a FUN writer did not mean that he was not interested in doing strong character work, as well. With that in mind, here is a page from Sensational #23 by Dezago and Wieringo…

Dezago has written a bunch of issues of the various All-Ages Spider-Man comics (Marvel Age: Spider-Man, Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man) in the last decade.

22 Howard Mackie

There was a tremendous amount of turnover on the Spider-Man titles in the 1990s. Howard Mackie, though, was the exception to that chaos. When Mackie took over Spider-Man in 1994 (after a 12-issue stint on Web of Spider-Man in 1992-1993) with issue #44 (the book had used different creative teams on short story arcs since Erik Larsen left the book with #22) he did not miss a MONTH of Spider-Man comics until he left the Spider-books in 2001!!!

Story continues below

Mackie was not just a steady hand, he was also a strong writer, especially in his standout run on Peter Parker: Spider-Man (Spider-Man changed its name to Peter Parker: Spider-Man with issue #75) with John Romita Jr. Romita joined Mackie on Spider-Man with #64 and stayed on the book through its end with #98 and through #1-19 of the relaunched Peter Parker: Spider-Man.

When the Spider titles decided to consolidate the Spider-Man line into just two monthly titles both written by the same man (which is quite similar to the set-up today with Dan Slott), Mackie was the man chosen to be that one writer.

He was riding high off some particularly strong issues, like Peter Parker: Spider-Man #95, where Peter and Norman Osborn are riding in an elevator with Norman’s grandson, Normie Osborn and Peter’s friend, Jill Stacy (cousin to Gwen Stacy). A bad guy attacked the elevator (trying to kill Norman). So Peter is in a perilous position. Jill is hurt. They’re all covered in rubble. Peter will have to use his super-strength to get them out of this, but with security cameras likely running, it will expose Peter’s identity. Osborn taunts Peter through the situation (as Normie is unconscious, also, although unhurt).

It’s a powerful issue…

21 Mark Millar

Mark Millar launched the title Marvel Knights: Spider-Man with a year-long Hush-esque storyline where Norman Osborn conspires with Mac Gargan to kidnap Aunt May and tear Spider-Man’s life apart. Spider-Man is in turmoil as he searches for Aunt May and also has to fret about whether his identity has been exposed.

This storyline introduced Mac Gargan as the new Venom. Osborn really rattles Spider-Man to the core in the final confrontation, taunting Peter as being a wasted talent. All those brains and what has he done? A rescued Aunt May (spoiler, I suppose, but I think you all figured she survived as she is still in the comics) sets him straight in a nice scene…

Millar later rocked Spider-Man’s world some more in Civil War where Spider-Man reveals his identity to the world to disastrous consequences.

Millar did a great job capturing Peter’s voice in his run on Marvel Knights: Spider-Man – he acknowledges that this a guy (Peter Parker) who can really let life get to him, but he does not allow himself to decend into a cloud of angst (but he also does not detach from those close to him). Millar also did a really nice job with Black Cat (who DOES detach from others and Millar shows the problems with that).


Glad to see Denny O’Neil. Those two annuals are near the top of my favorite Spidey stories ever. And I agree that Millar captured Peter’s voice well. His plots, however…

Franck Martini

May 24, 2012 at 5:35 am

All interesting picks… Mackie pre-relaunch Peter Parker issues were fantastic… then the whole relaunch with Byrne was really bad…

Amazingly all of O’Neil’s run was fine but being right before Stern is not the best position to be remembered…And he followed a very fine period by Worlfman so…

I really liked that political plotline in those O’Neil issues. They mix up two great things – a fairly traditional comic-silly plotline, with some political writing, which I don’t think had been tackled in Spider-Man stuff. And it was very carefully handled with two different perspectives back to back.

Howard Mackie? Really? I guess I’ll have to check out his pre-relaunch stuff like Franck said because holy hell his post-relaunch stuff was awful.

I’m not sure I’ve read anything by Todd Dezago. The name doesn’t even ring a bell.

Millar’s run was “meh” overall, but I liked his take on the existence of super-villains. I don’t want to talk about Civil War.

O’Neil was near the top of my list. Van Lente was on there too… but in spite of, not because of the Extremist.

Wow, I can’t believe I completely forgot Denny O’Neil. I really enjoyed his run on the book. Franck may have hit the nail on the head: coming right before Stern and right after Wolfman may have resulted in O’Neil getting overshadowed in my memory.

I didn’t read much Spider-Man in the 90s so I’m not that familiar with Mackie, but I did read that issue with the elevator collapse and it was pretty good.

The Mackie run starting from the introduction of Fortunato and the whole crime cartel story with Hydra was great! And he did some interesting stuff with uber-losers Shocker and Trapster and the Stacy cousin family. It just had the misfortune of being stuck between the clone saga and the Byrne relaunch.

The O’Neil run is also a favorite part of that near-endless epic run I loved reading as a kid between Gwen’s death and Secret Wars 2.

Ed (A Different One)

May 24, 2012 at 7:52 am

Wow, O’Neil wrote the marathon issue? For some reason, I remember that as being a Stern storyline but I guess I got it mixed up in my memory – Stern took over shortly after that stroyline after all.

It’s funny, but I also remember O’Neil’s run as being a bit of a disappointment as I thought his return to Marvel and his assignment to ASM was a real coup and something to be excited about. And then, just, meh. But yeah, that marathon issue was very cool. It had a lot of the elements that made me enjoy the Stern run so much which is why I guess I attributed it to Uncle Rog mistakenly (and, wait a minute, I thought Stern succeeded Wolfman on ASM? ? ? I’m probably thinking of an earlier fill in issue that he did. I definitely need to go back and brush up on my ASM history).

I hadn’t read any of his pre-relaunch stories, but Mackie did slowly grow on me through that wretched stretch after the relaunch. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a great time in ASM history, and one I’d like to as soon forget, but I remember toward the end of his run I walked away with a grudging respect for him plodding away and doing the best he could with a bad situation. There were a few glimmers of quality that came through during that period that I chalk up to Mackie, and I think he was actually gaining some momentum there toward the end.

Dezago I had never heard of. I guess that gives me an area of Spidey history to look into (hey, it’ll be new to me!).

Not much to say about Miller and Van Lente. Van Lente I like, but I guess I don’t really identify him as a Spidey-writer. Millar intrigued me early on before leaving me totally cold.

Good stuff so far. None of the writers I voted for have come up yet, but I’m sure they’re coming.


and, wait a minute, I thought Stern succeeded Wolfman on ASM? ? ? I’m probably thinking of an earlier fill in issue that he did. I definitely need to go back and brush up on my ASM history

Stern wrote a fill-in issue bridging Wolfman’s run and O’Neil’s run, including finishing up a loose plot thread from Wolfman’s run.

Stefan Wenger

May 24, 2012 at 9:31 am

I’m glad to see Van Lente on this list as painfully short as his tenure was. He’s the one of these first five that made my top ten. I’d have been so happy if Van Lente or Kelly or Waid had stayed on to become the full-time ASM writer, but instead they chose the only two writers I didn’t like (Slott and Wells) to continue telling Spider-Man stories on a regular basis.

I don’t think I ever read Spider-Man stories by O’Neil (whom I generally like) or Millar (whom I generally don’t, although he used to be better than he is now).

Mackie is almost archetypically moderately talented writer who could tell a decent story without ever particularly exciting me or particularly angering me either.

I really didn’t like DeZago’s run. He wasn’t funny in the slightest, and it bugged me that he was always trying to write the comedic, light-hearted stuff when in my opinion the only time I ever saw his writing shine was when he dug into more high-stakes emotional drama and stopped trying to be funny. (I was completely amazed when he suddenly wrote a couple of Wolverine issues I’ll never forget).

Howard Mackie??? Howard Mackie??? Who’s next, Terry Kavanagh??? And F.A.C.A.D.E. as the greatest Spider-villain ever???

Meaningless Albert

May 24, 2012 at 10:51 am

I voted for O’Neil. He kicked Mackie (whose pre-relaunch issues with JRJR I like a lot) out of my list.


“I’d have been so happy if Van Lente or Kelly or Waid had stayed on to become the full-time ASM writer, but instead they chose the only two writers I didn’t like (Slott and Wells) to continue telling Spider-Man stories on a regular basis.”

No love for Marc Guggenheim? He wrote Flash losing his legs, Ana Kraven’s first appearance, the Spartacus Gambit, and Character Assassination (the interlude of which is one of the best issues of any comic I’ve ever read).

“Multiple punctuation marks. The sure sign of a diseased mind.” – Terry Pratchett

And I hated the elevator story. All build-up, no climax. Which goes for a lot of Mackie’s stories, I think; he seemed to have a habit of starting a plot without having an ending for it.

The main things that plagued Mackie’s run, aside from constant interference from outside creative, were laziness and poor planning. Unlike the other reviled Spider-Man writers of his time, Mackie did have some talent in his pen. His sendoff issue, an annual with Joe Bennett in which Peter desperately tries to bed his despondent wife, was almost a saving grace for years of half-baked work on the character.

Millar, I haven’t reread his run since it came out, but at the time, I found myself in a perfect position to love it. I was 17 years old, just coming back to comics after reading the Long Halloween, and here was Millar doing the same kind of rogues-gallery-tour in a new series starring my favorite character. I’ll guess that it doesn’t hold up, much as Civil War failed to withstand a recent reread, but like I said, at the time it was just what the doctor ordered.

Van Lente, now that I think about it, I regret excluding him from my list. I guess I associate his Spider-Man with the lackluster “Gauntlet” era, but that’s not really fair, since his issues in particular were strong, and for a few months there, as my interest in Amazing flagged, he had me stoked on his Extremist story in “Web of.” Van Lente is one of those guys like Jeff Parker who does consistently good Marvel comics, but never seems to get his due props.

I realize my top 25 didn’t include O’Neil. I found his run on Amazing immemorable, so purposely left him out.

However, both those annuals are excellent, and he deserves a spot for those alone. I just had forgotten he wrote them.
I’m not a Mackie/Millar fan, but I expected them to make the list around here.


May 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I’m a little surprised about Mackie’s inclusion and write up. Maybe it’s because of how Mackie is described/portrayed in the Life of Reilly column about the Clone Saga. I always felt Mackie was just sort of there.

I’m also reminded of an old discussion that Mackie is one of those writers who stays on a book until he’s fired or the book is cancelled. We saw the Spidey example above…he started on X-Factor right after AOA, I think, and stayed on until it was replaced by Mutant X, which was cancelled….he wrote most, if not all, of the 90’s Ghost Rider series, which was cancelled after 90-some issues).

And a little nitpick…technically, Erik Larsen’s run on adjectiveless Spider-Man was the first of the rotating arcs which was implemented after McFarlane left after #16.

Yeah, I read a lot of those Mackie early issues, mostly for the JR JR art. He didn’t seem to know what to do with his own ideas sometimes I thought, and the post John Byrne reboot that shall never be talked about again was not good. Also – Jill Stacy. On crack. Nuff said?

I did like that annual, Cass.

I never read Van Lente’s stuff on Web, and I didn’t think I had a big enough body of work to judge him. I seem to recall one or two good issues he wrote in Amazing, he does have a handle on the character

Travis Pelkie

May 24, 2012 at 9:47 pm

@bluedevil2002: I know Mackie didn’t write most of the ’90s GR. Ivan Velez had a decent length of time of a run, iirc, and I’m reasonably sure that he was the guy who was on the book when it was cancelled.

I think Brian’s done Legends on 2 different things about that — that GR book had the last issue unpublished for quite a bit of time, and Mackie apparently retconned a bunch of the GR stuff that happened after his run in a later Spidey issue.

As to the rest of it, I don’t know how good DeZago’s run was (I only have a few issues of Sensational that he did), but he’s a pretty nice guy, when I met him at a con. Plus his Tangent Flash issue is damn good — a superpowered Clueless type girl.

So far Todd DeZago is the only one from my list to make it. I wasn’t sure if he was going to get on the top 25 at all…so it was nice to see him on here.

His run on Sensational Spider-Man I remembered fondly. Him and Wieringo made some fun comics in the 90’s, which in my mind was few and far between in that era. I voted for Wieringo too. If Dezago made it, I’m confident that Ringo will also.

Stefan Wenger

May 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm

I can definitely believe that Dezago is a really nice guy. I didn’t care for his Sensational Spider-Man, again, but ultimately I felt it didn’t play to his strengths. I feel like he does much better with heartfelt drama than with hijinks.

Dennis: I always felt pretty ambivalent about Guggenheim, both with Spidey and his other comics work, but now that you mention it the legless Flash (especially considering I’m loving the present Venom series way more than the Spidey books) and Ana Kraven were both strong innovations.


May 25, 2012 at 8:58 am

Okay, I was wrong about the GR bit. Never really read much GR, and I think I got a little confused thinking about Mackie writing the Spidey issue with GR. But that appears to be one of the very few jobs he left without a cancellation.

But it’s still hard to judge him as a strong writer when most of his run was either during the Clone Saga or the reboot. The reboot was awful, and the Clone Saga was so tightly tied together that Mackie wasn’t really writing his own thing. Even though most of the time, each writer was only writing a fourth of a story – usually someone else’s – it never felt like Mackie was the driving force behind any particular Clone arc.

I didn’t vote for anybody in this list. Interesting choices. I can’t really comment until I see who was left out. I can already say that if Straczynski is on this list he’s too high.

Millar wrote the most unlikable Peter ever in 1985.

I think Millar’s Spider-Man run was kind of indifferent – actually, I think Millar is basically a pop-corn writer. But he did get Peter and Felicia pretty well.

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