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50 Greatest Spider-Man Creators: Writers #20-16

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…

Enjoy!

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!

19 Comments

Some interesting picks here.Comments:

Len Wein: It’s funny, but there was a period when I really didn’t care for Wein’s run (this was during the phase when I had consigned everything between Stan Lee and Roger Stern to the outer darkness).However, reading through the MARVEL ESSENTIALS made me change my mind.He might just be the best Spidey writer in the period between Lee and Stern.

Claremont: Definitely not a writer who was strongly associated with Spidey, but he did some solid work with the character.What I always appreciated about his Spidey stories was his emphasis on the heroic nature of Spider-Man, that he would never give up (cf the battle against D’Spayre in MARVEL TEAM-UP #68

I just remembered that I did a little personal survey on Wein’s Spidey run in A YEAR OF COOL COMIC BOOK MOMENTS.So, in response to no absolutely no requests, here it is again:

For the curious, my grades on the Wein Spider-Man run. All grades are from one to ten, with the ranking based on internal criteria (i.e., a 10 is a 10 in relation to Wein’s other work in the run, not in relation to every issue of Spider-Man ever written). Grades will contain some spoilers (i.e., villains will be identified, etc.).

151-152: A solid 10. Wein restores a sense of fun to the title after the sturm und drang of the Conway years. WEin shows his flair for going back to the basics by reviving the Shocker.

153: 10. A nice change of pace issue. Perhaps the best tearjerker until Stern’s BOY WHO COLLECTS SPIDER-MAN. The Kingpin is the behind the scenes villain.

154:9. Sal Buscema fills in for Andru and does the job with solid professionalism. Again showing his interest in reviving old foes, Wein brings back the Sandman, a ” lost ” Spider-Man villain (rented out to the FF, just as Electro was rented out to Dardevil).The Kingpin lurks behind the scenes.

155: 8. Another SAl Buscema fill-in. As before, SAl’s art is solid. The plot is an offbeat one for Spidey, with a brand new foe.

156: 7. Andru comes back in all his glory. Features the wedding of Betty Brant and Ned Leeds The villain, however, is the very lame Mirage.

157-159:6. The Doc Ock-Ghost of Hammerhead epic. Probably the low point of the run. Even on comic book terms, the explanation for Hammerhead’s survival is absurd. Even worse, Wein revives the Ock-Aunt May relationship.

160: 10. A return to form. Wein goes all the way back to issue 2 and revives the Tinkerer. Bonus points, Wein brings back the Spider-mobile, the most gloriously absurd creation of all. Behind the scenes, lurks the Kingpin.

161-162:9. Nightcrawler, Punisher, Spider-Man mash-up. Great fun. WEin shows real flair for the Punisher. Wein also introduces long time Punisher foe Jigsaw.

163-164:10. A terrific old school confrontation with the Kingpin, depicted in all of his pre-Frank Miller glory (If anyone tries to tell you that the Kingpin does not have superhuman strength, show him these issues). Needless to say, the Kingpin has decided to step out of the shadows in this one.

165-166:7. A Stegron-Spidey-Lizard mash-up. Lots of fun, but a bit too silly for my tastes (note the bringing to life of dino skeletons).

167-168:10. How did the old time writers do it? In these two issues WEin gives us 6 months (at minimum) of Ultimate Spidey. A grand Spider-Slayer (designed by Marla Madison) -Will-o-the Wisp-Spidey-Jonas Harrow mash up. This was the kind of comic book crack that hooked 10 year kids for life.

169-170: 9. Great fun. WEin ends a long simmering J.J.J. subplot in these issues, and brings in surprise villain Dr. Faustus. Note to Mr. Bendis, kindly look at the penultimate page of 169, and note how Spidey easily shrugs off a normal man’s punches to the gut. Also note how the aforementioned goon’s hands are broken from the repeated contact with Spidey’s super hard muscles. Bear this scene in mind when you write future issues.

171: 6. The Nova-Spidey team-up. The story is very flat, and AIM makes a very poor villain for Spidey.

172-173: 8. Rocket Racer (campily cool or just campy?) and Molten Man. Classic stuff. Marred by Spider-Man being kicked by a doctor who has had mail-order Kung Fu lessons in 173 ( Although that might have been meant as a joke).

174-175: 8. Punisher-Hitman-Spidey. Wein again shows his knack for handling the Punisher in 174. However, things fall apart in 175, where Wein writes a strangly out of charcter Punisher (e.g., Punisher cracking jokes, the horror, the horror).

176-180:7. The long awaited boiling over of the Harry Osborn sub-plot. Spidey-Bart Hamilton-Harry Osborn-Silvermane mash up. Lots of fun, but Hamilton as the Goblin just lacks the weight of Norman and Harry. Furthermore, the whole thing feels a bit padded out. While a five issue sequence like this seems almost “compressed” by today’s standards, this was a long slog for the 70s.

The Len Wein and Paul Jenkins pages did not make me cry. Nope. Not one bit. It’s just my allergies.

Len Wein is way too low on this list. What a brilliant run on ASM. Completely underrated in helping develop the Punisher into a Marvel A-lister. #161-162 and especially #174-175 with the Hitman and JJJ at the Statue of Liberty are great, underrated comics.

Jenkins was on my list, so I’m excited to see his name here. Another story that needs to be mentioned is his last issue on Spidey after several years, the wrap-up to Spectacular Spider-Man (issue #27), which was also a reunion with artist Mark Buckingham (who worked with Jenkins for a long run on his previous series, Peter Parker: Spider-Man). It was too a very emotional issue and a lovely farewell from a great creative team.

Another one is Spectacular Spider-Man #14, mentioned yesterday in the entry for artist Paolo Rivera, one of my all-time favorites comic books.

I remember a few previous works from Wells on Spider-Man and that none of them ever clicked with me. That page above is actually a good example of a good Spidey, so perhaps Wells improved? Or I missed something…

The only Claremont Spidey story I ever read was that introduction of Captain Britain in Marvel Team-Up. Not enough to judge his skills with the wall-crawler, though.

I never read any of Jenkins’ run, doubt I ever will.

Wells is great. I’m surprised you didn’t put more of a spotlight on Shed, which, Jesus, that arc was phenomenal.

Kelly’s a lot less consistent than Wells, but those Rhino stories were really, really excellent.

Wein’s run was good! Not as good as Conway’s, but really good.

I never read all that much of MTU, but, you know, I know Claremont.

And two of my picks (Wein and Claremont) appear! I was hoping Wein would have ranked higher, but Claremont’s about where I expected him to be. I think he tends to be overlooked as a Spider-man writer, and even his work on Marvel Team-up is usually associated with Byrne’s artwork. However, my absolutely favorite Marvel Team-up story penned by Claremont is that four-issue amnesiac Black Widow arc in issues #82-85 (drawn by Sal Buscema and Steve Leialoha).

Len Wein’s swan song on ASM featured the best Goblin story arc since Gerry Conway killed off Norman Osborn. I highly recommend the trade paperback from a couple of years ago. Ditto with Chris Claremont’s Marvel Team-Up run alongside John Byrne.

Paul Jenkins never ceases to impress. His love for his own son really shines through in any Spidey work where family and children are involved.

Ed (A Different One)

May 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Wein was one of the “tentpoles” who bridged the years between Lee/Ditko and Stern, but just had too much silliness in his run to merit a vote from me. The Hammerhead ghost haunting Doc Ock is just too much to look past. And while I’ll probably anger a few with this sentiment, I never thought much of the ex-football player trying to rescue hid daughter one-off (didn’t care much for Stern’s “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man” either, and I practically worship Stern). Must be evidence of my black, black heart, though I did find the Jenkins stuff moving. Just seemed more grounded, more realistic, better earned.

Jenkins was the only vote-getter for me, but much respect for everyone listed in this segment (Wein and Claremont are bona fide giants in comics – I just don’t think their best stuff was writing Spidey). I also have to go back and check out Joe Kelly’s older, non-Sidey work as I’ve heard nothing but excellent stuff about it.

Sems like I’m agaisnt the majority here, The Ghost of Hammerhead and Stegron Vs Lizard stories are two of my favorites from Wein!

Mike Loughlin

May 27, 2012 at 6:09 am

Paul Jenkins did a commendable job balancing humor and melodrama, the best way to approach Spider-Man.

Tomar,

Wells definitely improved between his early work and his later Spider-Man stories. I remember being lukewarm toward his first few efforts and being surprised how much I liked his Brand New Day era comics.

Jenkins is tied with J.M. Dematties for my favorite Spidey writer. He really cut to the heart of who Spidey was, and told compelling stories. Any time he tackled a major villain, he knocked it out of the park!

In the Zeb Wells section, unless Frog-Man’s been busier than I’ve realized the past few years, I think you meant either “Frog-Man and his father” or “Leapfrog (or Leap-Fro) and his son”. In the Patilio family, Vincent/Leapfrog/Leap-Frog is the father, Eugene/Frog-Man is the son.

Jenkins did strong work that was completely untethered by his disdain of doing research. He did powerful character work where he got characters completely wrong. He was TRYING to come up with comics that lacked resonance.

I actually haven’t read any of Len Wein’s ASM run; I need to rectify that. (There’s a giant gap of Spider-Man issues I haven’t read bridging from the middle of Conway’s run to the late ’80s, when I started reading as a child. I’ve gone back and tried to read most of what came before, but obviously haven’t gotten totally there yet.)

Wells has definitely improved; I remember thinking his earlier Spidey stuff was on the lousy side, but I’ve enjoyed everything he’s done in the post BND era.

Jenkins did some good work. There were two of his arcs that I thought were god-awful– especially the story he did with the Lizard– but his was a good, strong run apart from that.

The Jenkins story highlighted here is by far my most favorite Spider-Man single issue of all time because, as an African-American reader, it so signifies exactly what Spider-Man meant to me as a kid. Maybe it’s because of the full body costume, or the ‘everyman’ personal he was originally given, but as a kid running around playing superheroes with my friends, the idea that I could be Spider-Man never seemed strange to be because anybody could be under that mask. And when at the end of that issue, “Spidey” takes his mask off and reveals himself to that poor little boy, OMG did that ever hit home.

I would recommend to Marvel that any new Spider-Man writer (and maybe some of the current ones) make this issue a required readng so that they can understand why Spider-Man appeals to mass population of different people.

I love Spider-Man! I want to vote for all because they write about my hero: Spidey!

Can somebody please tell me what issue the highlighted Jenkins story is from pleeeeaasse

Peter Parker: Spider-Man #35

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