PREVIEW: Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Universe Presents: The Atom"
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 #20-16…
20. Zeb Wells
Zeb Wells got his start on Spider-Man writing a few humorous off-kilter stories. One for Tangled Web (where we examine what is going on with the Frog-Man and his son) and a two-parter for Peter Parker: Spider-Man where the Sandman helps ruin Spring Break. He then closed out Peter Parker: Spider-Man with a short run from #51-57. When Brand New Day came about, Wells was one of the original members of the Brain Trust. His solo issues were: #555-557, 577 and 629-633. He also wrote the story in #583 where Spider-Man meets President Obama. Wells wrote a Dark Reign mini-series starring Anti-Venom. He also wrote two Carnage mini-series. Recently, he was named the second ongoing Spider-Man writer, launching Avenging Spider-Man, a Spider-Man team-up book.
Wells has, is and likely always will be best known for his sense of humor, but like many other comic book writers known for writing humorous stories (Joe Kelly, Peter David, Mark Waid) the same ability to find humor in situations also tends to help a writer cut to the human core of a situation. This allows Wells to do very strong character-driven work. A good example is in a recent issue of Avenging Spider-Man where Spider-Man learns that Captain America was a comic book artist when he was a teenager. Spider-Man feels that this is a bonding experience between the two. The other Avengers differ…
The scene is played for laughs initially but Wells gets great use out of the dual motivations of Spider-Man and Captain America when it comes to this shared identity. Spider-Man is thrilled to find that he has something in common with Captain America while Captain America would rather gloss over his youthful nerdiness. Like I said, he cuts to the human core of a situation. It’s a great piece of writing. Avenging Spider-Man is neat in how it allows Wells to examine a variety of Marvel characters and give his take on them. Good stuff.
19. Chris Claremont
Chris Claremont has written Spider-Man in a few different places. An Annual here, a guest appearance there, a mini-series in another place, but he is best known for his stint on Marvel Team-Up, particularly the issues he wrote with artist John Byrne (before the two were paired on X-Men). He wrote Team-Up from #57-89 (with a couple of fill-ins here and there).
Claremont did an especially nice job developing the guest stars. The Wasp, for instance, had more meat in her two-issue story in Marvel Team-Up (where she seeks revenge after believing that her husband had been murdered) than she had in the pages of the Avengers in some time (this was pre-Roger Stern, of course). Claremont also famously had Spider-Man team-up with the original cast of Saturday Night Live.
In addition, Claremont used Team-Up to bring in his creation from Marvel UK, Captain Britain…
18. Joe Kelly
Like Wells, Kelly is adept at mixing humorous stories with deeply personal tales based around strong character development. Kelly was one of the first new members of the Web-Heads after Brand New Day began. His solo issues were #575-576, 595-599 (introducing American Son), 606-607, 611, 617, 625, 634-637 (the Grim Hunt).
Perhaps his best-received issues were his two stories spotlighting the Rhino. The original Rhino has retired and is now married. He is challenged by a new man calling himself the Rhino. The Rhino’s wife begs him not to return to his suit. Spider-Man, too, pleads with him that if he returns to being the Rhino, all the growth he showed after getting married would be thrown away. He agrees with Spider-Man, stating that he loves his wife so much that he is willing to be a coward for her. The happy ending is short lived when eight issues later, the new Rhino attacks the Rhino and his wife, killing her.
Pretty rough stuff (the initial captions are by Daily Bugle reporter Norah Winters)…
Kelly, by the way, is responsible for one of the funniest uses of Spider-Man back issues ever, as he had an issue of Deadpool where Deadpool is transported back in time to a Lee/Romita issue of Amazing Spider-Man!
17. Len Wein
Len Wein was only the third regular scripter in Amazing Spider-Man history when he took over the title from Gerry Conway with issue #151. He wrote the book from #151-181.
His initial story has what has since been a standard plot approach for writers starting on a book like Spider-Man, do a cool revamp on a minor character. In Wein’s case, he brought back the Shocker and made him badass. Wein did good work during his run continuing the strong foundation that Gerry Conway had laid for the Peter/Mary Jane relationship. Wein was big on moving things forward. During Wein’s run, he had Betty Brant and Ned Leeds marry, he had Liz Allen and Harry Obsorn get engaged, and he also introduced Dr. Marla Madison, who later became J. Jonah Jameson’s wife. Conway had avoided many of the classic Spider-Man villains during his run, but Wein brought lots of them back into play, including a new Green Goblin (while still introducing new ones, as well).
I have always been especially impressed with how well Wein was able to mix character-driven stories with action-packed stories (Amazing Spider-Man penciler Ross Andru was a big help there, of course).
One of my favorite Wein issues was early on in his run where he had a former football player turned scientist be blackmailed by some bad guys through the kidnapping of his daughter. Early in the story, the man told the tale of how he nearly won “the big game” with a punt return that he took from his own goal line all the way to the 1 yard line of the other team. He fell short. Later in the issue, he reproduces that run, but this time it is to protect his daughter…
This time he “wins,” even though he dies in the process (Spider-Man shows up to avenge his death, though). Classic stuff.
Also, Wein gave us a Lizard versus Stegron fight! Stegron, people!
16. Paul Jenkins
Paul Jenkins was hired to take over Peter Parker: Spider-Man in 2000 (after a powerful arc on Webspinners starring the Chameleon with Sean Phillips). Ten issues into his run, J. Michael Straczynski took over the other Spider-Man title, giving Marvel quite a pair of writers on their main Spidey books.
Jenkins did a really great job on Peter Parker: Spider-Man. He wrote it from #20-41, then #44-50. A story arc he did with Humberto Ramos from #44-47 was so well-received that Marvel decided to give them their own title, Spectacular Spider-Man. Jenkins wrote that book from #1-22 and then the last issue of the series, #27, his farewell to the Spider-books. Jenkins also did a Daredevil/Spider-Man mini-series in 2001.
Jenkins was the master of the one-off stories. He would turn the spotlight on various interesting characters (typically new characters) and show how Spider-Man affected their life in one way or the other. Like the investigator who is convinced he discovered Spider-Man’s identity, or the handicapped man who watches a Spider-Man/Morbius fight, unable to let anyone know what is going on. Stuff like that.
One of his most acclaimed issues involved a young boy in a bad neighborhood with a drug addict mother who retreats to his fantasies to get through his life, as he imagines himself to be Spider-Man’s best friend (his aunt is with a guy who is an actual good role model, and clearly Spider-Man is representing that man’s influence on the boy)…
I don’t know why my wife is cutting onions at this hour. Excuse me for a moment.
Okay, moving on…Jenkins also had a strong one-off with Peter and Uncle Ben and their relationship with the New York Mets (with the Mets’ constant futility seen as a symbol of Peter’s life, plus the fact that things could always turn around any game). There was an awesome silent issue (for ‘Nuff Said month). Jenkins did a good Green Goblin storyline, as well (it was the Ramos one I mentioned that got them their own new title). Hopefully we’ll see some more Spider-Man stories from him in the future! I’ll even accept one featuring Type Face!
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