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50 Greatest Spider-Man Creators: Writers #15-11

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 #15-11…

Enjoy!

15. Marv Wolfman

Marv Wolfman wrote Amazing Spider-Man from #182-204. Wolfman had a lot of fun with his run on the book. He introduced Black Cat, who was one of the best additions to the Spider-Man mythos in some time (I guess the Punisher was the last great addition back in #129). Wolfman made good use of the weird Spider-Man villains, like the Big Wheel and Rocket Racers.

That was the superhero aspect of the comic. On the personal side, Wolfman had Peter Parker go through some rough times. Wolfman broke off the Peter/Mary Jane relationship (even having Mary Jane turn down Peter’s marriage proposal) and had Peter reconnect with a now-married Betty Brant. Ultimately, Peter’s better nature had him realize he couldn’t continue seeing a married woman so he selflessly gets Betty to dump him. Good stuff.

Most famous, though, was the 200th issue of Amazing Spider-Man, where Wolfman had the burglar who shot Uncle Ben come back into the story. Wolfman explains why the burglar chose to rob the Parker home in particular. When Spidey confronts him…well, it is all he can do not to kill him. Here’s a great scene from the issue in question…

Wolfman wrote a few other Spider-Man stories here and there, but his run on Amazing is likely what he is best known for (although oddly enough, I think Wolfman is the only writer to write a story in three different Spider-Man team-up books. He wrote an issue in Marvel Team-Up Volumes 1 and 2 AND Spider-Man Team-Up).

14. Mark Waid

Mark Waid is one of those writers who you just can’t believe that he never really had an extended run on Spider-Man, as he is so perfect for the title. However, the timing just never worked out for it to happen. Still, what Spider-Man stories we HAVE gotten from him have been excellent.

One of the best parts of Waid’s stories tend to be his imaginative situations that he cooks up to throw Spider-Man into. For instance, like his great Christmas story he did for the Marvel 1996 Holiday Special…

Brilliant!!

Similarly, when he became one of the rotating writers on Amazing Spider-Man, his first solo story arc “Unscheduled Stop,” was just one of those brilliant “throw Spider-Man into an interesting situation and see what happens.” In it, Spider-Man is on the subway when the train is attacked. It appears that the jury of a mafia boss is the train and a super-villain has been hired to silence them. Spider-Man must keep them alive as the tunnel they are in begins to collapse (and the East River is above them, so that’s not a good thing). Oh, and did I mention that one of the jurors is J. Jonah Jameson’s estranged father? CLASSIC!

Waid’s solo issues of Amazing Spider-Man were #678-697 (Unscheduled Stop), 583, 592, 601, 612, 623-624 (where Peter gets fired and has his photography career ruined because he faked a photograph to help exonerate the falsely accused J. Jonah Jameson) and 642-646 (Origin of the Species, the conclusion to Brand New Day).

Waid recently wrote an issue of Amazing that tied in with his excellent run Daredevil as well as an issue of Avenging Spider-Man with Greg Rucka that also did the same. Go read Mark Waid’s Daredevil! It is amazing! It is spectacular! It is sensational! It is…uhm….web!

13. Bill Mantlo

Bill Mantlo first began writing Spider-Man on a regular basis with a stint on Marvel Team-Up from #38-56. It was here that Mantlo introduced an intriguing new supporting cast member, Jean DeWolff, a police captain who dressed like she was in the 1930s (even driving a 1930s-era car) and, unlike most other folks in the police department, trusted Spider-Man.

Mantlo had two long runs on Spectacular Spider-Man. First #9-42 and then #61-89. It was during his second run that he did a really nice job exploring the burgeoning relationship between Spider-Man and Black Cat. Also, most notably, he wrote the Doctor Octopus/Owl gang war that led to a destructive showdown between Spidey and Doctor Octopus after Doc Ock put Black Cat into the hospital.

The showdown came right when Peter was going through some problems in graduate school. Mantlo summed Peter’s thought process up well…

12. Kurt Busiek

There was a period in 1991 where Kurt Busiek actually wrote five Spider-Man issues (three Web of Spider-Man issues and two Spectacular Spider-Man issues). He also wrote a Spider-Man/X-Factor mini-series (how random of a pairing is THAT?) in 1994 and, of course, he famously featured Spider-Man in Marvels. However, I think it is fair enough to say that his association with Spider-Man truly began with his exemplary run on Untold Tales of Spider-Man, which he wrote from #1-25 (Tom DeFalco scripted from Busiek’s plots on #22-24, Roger Stern plotted #25 and Stern wrote #-1, from Marvel’s #-1 month, detailing stories that took place before each series).

In the series, Busiek masterfully played between the margins of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s classic Spider-Man run, filling in blanks here and there while always maintaining fun superhero action every issue. If you knew the classic stories, you appreciated how carefully Busiek fit into the continuity. If you didn’t, then it did not matter as you were getting awesome adventure and great characterizations every month.

One notable thing Busiek did was to give a bigger role to the minor background characters from the early stories, characters who he could do more things with (most notably Sally Avril, a character we barely meet in one of the early Ditko/Lee tales). Another neat thing he did was to better explore the thought processes behind characters and their decisions in those early issues. Most memorably, I think, is his take on J. Jonah Jameson, from Untold Tales of Spider-Man #4, where a group of “heroes” calling themselves the Space Men vow to hunt Spider-Man down. Jameson backs the Space Men with all of the Daily Bugle’s might and when it turns out that they are criminals, well…

Very nicely done.

11. Tom DeFalco

Tom DeFalco has written a whole ton of Spider-Man comics but he is likely still best known for his initial run from Amazing Spider-Man #251-284 (well, unless you count his Spider-Girl work, that is). Working primarily with penciler Ron Frenz (who co-plotted a number of issues with DeFalco), DeFalco continued the strong work Roger Stern had done with the Hobgoblin while also exploring the mystery of Spider-Man’s new black costume and, perhaps most notably, revealing that Mary Jane Watson knew Peter was Spider-Man!

DeFalco also introduced a bunch of good new characters, including Silver Sable and Puma.

A notable DeFalco issue was Amazing Spider-Man #274, where the Beyonder and Mephisto (who was using the demon Zarathos as his agent) make a wager as to whether Spider-Man would allow Kingpin to die without stopping Kingpin’s assassin. Spider-Man appears past the breaking point when…

Classic stuff.

DeFalco had another run on Amazing Spider-Man from #407-439. He also had a run on Spectacular Spider-Man from #215-229. He also wrote the first six issues of Spider-Man Unlimited plus a few issues later in the run. He has an arc in Webspinners plus a few Annuals and one-offs here and there. DeFalco and Spider-Man go well together.

33 Comments

Brian, I think the art for the Waid & Mantlo sections are the wrong way round.

I think that Mantlo understood better tan anyone what makes Dr. Octopus work. The arc from where that page was taken was superb and made old Doc a true megalomaniac. It’s my favorite Doc Ock story. It’s a shame that the same has not been collected yet (to my best knowledge at least).

DeFalco is also known for giving Mary Jane a background that could work with the party animal she used to be and at the same time make her the right girl for Peter. I have good memories of both writers.

Interesting selections.Some comments:

1.Brian:”Mantlo had two long runs on Spectacular Spider-Man. First #9-56 “:That;s not quite correct.Roger Stern wrote SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN # 43, 45-52, and 54-61.

Wolfman: Have to confess, I’ve never cared for his work on the title;too many of his issues involved Spider-Man simply getting beaten up.It’s not that I need to see Spider-Man easily triumph every issue, but reading the Wolfman Spidey had an almost sadistic aspect to it, as we saw Spidey get clobbered again and again.Even worse, Wolfman kept underestimating Spidey’s power levels (cf Spidey, who can jump a city block, being astonshed by the Black Cat’s ability to jump over his head, getting beaten up by two ordinary thugs working for the Kingpin in 197, etc).

As for the Black Cat, well, I think that Roger Stern’s interpretation of the character as a fun-loving thief has had a bit more to do with her popularity than Wolfman’s version.

When all is said and done, I think that 200 is the only issue that I really liked.

Tom DeFalco should be ranked much higher. He really made Mary Jane a layered character and his stories are as classic as they get. Top 5 for me!

Meaningless Albert

May 28, 2012 at 6:50 am

Voted for DeFalco and Mantlo. Waid just missed the cut. Wolfman and Busiek are OK. I agree with Freyes, it’s a shame that the Doc Ock/The Owl storyline has not been collected. Great, great stuff.

Love Puma, love the secret origin of Mary Jane, love the Flash/Betty relationship, and especially love the Firelord slugfest – Nothing Can Stop the Firelord (when he wants pizza). Tom DeFalco brought a lot of great stuff to the mythos in his run on Amazing. I believe it was also DeFalco who provided the first fully fleshed out origin of Dr. Octopus in Spider-Man Unlimited. You can probably find that one in the back issue bins for a dollar, easily worth it.

I’ve enjoyed the few Wolfman and Mantlo issues I picked up here and there, but the 70s is mostly a big gap in my collection. Untold Tales is another one I’ve yet to get a hold of (for shame!).

Waid I will say doesn’t belong. He hasn’t written very much, and practically nothing without the Brain Trust or Webheads or whatever they were called. Also, while Unscheduled Stop was a truly excellent story, his longest arc, Origin of the Species, is forgettable and I think forgotten, unless they’ve returned to it in the last couple of months.

Speaking of Mr. Waid, there’s a mistake in his entry. It should read “678-679,” althought it would’ve been great if Unscheduled Stop was actually 20 issues long.

So, in which position on the top ten will Joe Q be?

I think that Mantlo understood better tan anyone what makes Dr. Octopus work. The arc from where that page was taken was superb and made old Doc a true megalomaniac. It’s my favorite Doc Ock story. It’s a shame that the same has not been collected yet (to my best knowledge at least).

it has been in Essential Sensational Spider-Man, which is currently up to the hundred and somethings

The Tom Defalco/Ron Frenz run on Amazing was a great introduction for me into comics. Charles Vess did a cover during this run of the Hobgoblin standing over a defeated Spider-Man that blew my young mind.

I agree with Argo11. The Defalco / Ron Frenz run is highly underrated. I put them both in my top 5

I would have (and did) placed Wolfman higher. I think he’s clear top ten material. Everybody else is in about the right spot. Busiek was one of four creators I considered for the coveted #9-10 spots on my list, but not one I ended up listing.

For me, Busiek’s most notable Spider-Man work next to Untold Tales is Amazing Fantasy #16-18. One of the better Spider-Man stories and I think worthy of mention here.

Oh come on, now I want to know how that Waid Spidey/Jonah story ends.

Good list, I voted for Busiek and Mantlo, I can’t remember if I voted for Waid, I know he was right there, and I considered him. Hopefully he takes over the title after Slott ends his run. He really needs his own main run of Amazing, but I am happy with Slott on Spidey and Waid’s Daredevil right now.

I completely whiffed on DeFalco. I loved his Spider-Girl stuff, but it’s been so long since I read any of his Spider-Man stuff, I think in the back of my mind I attributed some of the stories he wrote to Stern.

DeFalco is awful. Frustrating that he, along with (inevitably) hacks like David Michelinie and Gerry Conway are being propelled up the list at the expense of great talents like Wein, Waid, Busiek and Mantlo (who told the same sorts of stories that Conway did, only ten times better).

But then I suppose more people have read “Birth of Venom” and “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” than Spider-Man’s epic battle against Doctor Octopus, or “Unscheduled Stop”, right? Or rather more people have heard of those stories, I suppose. I question the greatness of either (killing Gwen was mainly for shock value while Venom was just riffing on an idea Roger Stern had set up much earlier).

Loved the scene with Busiek’s Jameson, even though it’s tremendously unsubtle. The framing and the art by Olliffe really sell it, though.

Busiek got the point across better in Marvels, when he had JJJ temporarily muse to Phil Sheldon about how nobody could measure up to Spider-Man if he truly was a hero, then went back to his usual crackpot ramblings. Still, the idea that Jameson hates Spidey out of envy is something that deserves more exploration.

ERRRGGGGG I have to find that Holiday special to see the rest of that story by Waid!

Tom Daylight- well, there are opinions and then there are opinions. I like DeFalco and Conway because to me their Peter Parker acts like Peter Parker while to me Mark Waid’s Spider-Man acts like a Mark Waid character. But I respect all of them because they made contributions to the whole.

But I agree about Michelinie. That guy is useless. : )

sandwich eater

May 28, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Untold Tales of Spider-Man was the first comic that I ever read; it remains one of my favorites to this day.

Jerry Nighttime

May 28, 2012 at 8:55 pm

So, Michelinie and Conway are hacks? DeFalco is awful? Wein’s Spider-Man is just dull and Mantlo’s too (with the exception of the mentioned Doc Ock storyline. But to each their own. Step down from that pedestal. Let’s just celebrate the comics.

Neil Kapit:”Busiek got the point across better in Marvels, when he had JJJ temporarily muse to Phil Sheldon about how nobody could measure up to Spider-Man if he truly was a hero, then went back to his usual crackpot ramblings. Still, the idea that Jameson hates Spidey out of envy is something that deserves more exploration.”

Busiek was riffing on concepts that Lee and Ditko* introduced in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10, where Jameson reveals that his reasons for attacking Spider-Man are rooted in jealousy, that he can’t accept that Spidey is the kind of selfless crusader that he can only pretend to be.

*I’ve always had a suspicion that this aspect of Jameson’s personality was Ditko’s idea, as it mirrors certain elements in Ayn Rand’s THE FOUNTAINHEAD (Toohey’s envy of Roark, the use of mass media to cultivate hysteria, etc).

So, Michelinie and Conway are hacks? DeFalco is awful? Wein’s Spider-Man is just dull and Mantlo’s too (with the exception of the mentioned Doc Ock storyline. But to each their own. Step down from that pedestal. Let’s just celebrate the comics.

This is not meant to specifically target you but rather the people who repeatedly make these admonishments across the internet daily:

This is a thread ranking the best Spider-Man creators. How can we discuss and debate quality of creators if somehow we’re supposed to never express negative feelings or impressions. It’s ridiculous how people feel this need to declare to other people that only cheerleading counts as a valid contribution to these countdown threads. It happens all the time in these threads and it’s really annoying.

Let’s keep it real, if you are ranking the best, you are by default ranking the worst, whether you actively intend to or not. If I rank the top 50 Spider-Man writers, I can say that it’s okay because I’m only “celebrating the comics” and promoting positivity, but if I’m the writer that came in #25 and I read the poll, you’ve just told me that you think there are 24 writers out there you believe are superior to me. How good does that make me feel? And what if I’m a writer who wrote a big chunk of Spidey and didn’t make the list at all? Do you think I don’t get the message that I’m considered a hack just because no one came into the comments thread and explicitly called me one?

I feel like readers create these “cheerlead only” admonishments as way to make themselves feel better about themselves, by saying “I’m not a negative person, I only celebrate positivity, see?” But if you vote in a countdown that reduces a writer’s worth to a number, you are still making a quality judgment, you are still objectifying the writer by essentially reducing them a number on a list, and you are still declaring which writers are the worst and are hacks, even if just by omission.

So let’s drop the charade and allow people to explicitly say who they believe are hacks and aren’t, since we’re already implicitly doing that anyway. Enough with the negativity shaming. These are grown men who decided to write for a living on one of the most mainstream beloved comic properties known to man. They knew the risk going in and that they would be judged, either positively or negatively. And they accepted that risk. So long as the judgments stick to the content of the work and not ad hominem attacks on character or looks or anything unrelated to the writing on the page, it’s all fair game.

Loved the scene with Busiek’s Jameson, even though it’s tremendously unsubtle. The framing and the art by Olliffe really sell it, though.

Overall I was not a huge fan of Busiek’s Untold Tales (although I did really like the Spacemen issue, the only issue of the series I did like), but I do want to say something in Busiek’s defense regarding that scene. In interviews Busiek said that he wanted to create a book that would read like a sister book to Lee/Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man if ASM had such a thing in the 60s.

So it was meant to feel like the 1960s Spectacular Spider-Man or Web of Spider-Man that ran alongside the 1960s Amazing Spider-Man. Thus it wasn’t meant to feel like a modern book that just happened to be set in the past. He wanted it to read like it actually was created contemperaneously with the era it was depicting. That’s why unlike Byrne’s Chapter One, none of the clothes or cars were updated. I don’t think the book always succeeded as many times it did feel very modern, especially Oliffe’s panel arrangements and storytelling as seen above, but by my (possibly faulty) memory that 60s comic feel was Busiek’s stated intent in that interview.

When seen in that light, I think the lack of subtlety is somewhat more forgivable.

I voted for Kurt Busiek and Tom DeFalco. Busiek on Untold Tales was some of the best Spidey of the 90’s. Defalco and Frenz run was some of the best Spidey of the 80’s. I was hoping both of these guys would have cracked the top 10…nice to see them represented though.

“So, Michelinie and Conway are hacks? DeFalco is awful? Wein’s Spider-Man is just dull and Mantlo’s too (with the exception of the mentioned Doc Ock storyline. But to each their own. Step down from that pedestal. Let’s just celebrate the comics.”

I agree with you about Wein. He is a great writer but I can’t remember a good Spidey story by him (well, I like his Shocker’s. He made a Goblin out of Harry Osborn’s psychologist (I mean, come on, that’s a stupid plot) and got Jonah, an experienced journalist, cheated by photoshop .

But, I don´t agree that Mantlo is dull. He created Cloak and Dagger, he gave us gang wars, some of the best stories with Morbius, the Lizard (including the Spider-Lizard!) and Swarm. He wasn´t dull at all. You never knew what was going to happen next.

Michelinie IS a hack and Mantlo is boring as shit. Wein is a poor man’s Gerry Conway, who in turn is a poor man’s Stan Lee.

Ed (A Different One)

May 29, 2012 at 10:49 am

Waid and Mantlo were the only ones I voted for on this segment. Didn’t think either would make the Top 10 but I’m kind of stoked to see Mantlo get close.

Again, my very unprofessional, completely subjective comments as follows:

Wolfman: He, along with Wein, were the two giant but very flawed tentpoles that bridged ASM from Lee/Ditko to Stern IMO. Wolfman is a creative genius, but his fatal flaw was to de-power Spidey so much that he no longer came across as formidable in the panels of his own title. Too many muggers and non-powered cosutmed baddies smacked Spidey around during his tenure and, like I’ve said before, the fact that Spidey may lose a few fights makes him interesting but it was taken too far by Wolfman. That being said, he did establish some interesting plot points, especially having Peter jump ship from Jonah and work for his competitors at the Daily Globe for a while. Why that plot point wasn’t exploited more by O’Neal when he succeeded Wolfman I’ll never know. But, yeah, the man who wrote Spidey getting smacked around by muggers just couldn’t garner a vote from me, despite his obvious talent and stature in the field of comics.

Waid – I echo a few others’ sentiments in that I think Waid would have done much better with the character if he was given his own prolonged run on the title as opposed to being part of the brain trust. That being said, he was the member of the braintrust I looked most forward to reading and I still hope that he may circle back around some day and have his own run on the title where he’s calling the shots and guiding the overall direction of the book. Why, indeed, was this guy not writing Spidey long ago . ? . ? . ?

Mantlo – Most underrated Spidey writer of all time, IMO. Loved Jean Wolfe as a supporting character. Also, his run on PPSSM is, at least through the Doc Ock/Owl storyline, collected in the most recent edition of Essentials for that title. Speaking of which, when are they coming out with the next one as I still have to read Peter David’s run on that title??? Back to Mantlo – I also enjoyed the days when I could pick up a copy of PPSSM and read a thoroughly enjoyable, competently done one-off story that wouldn’t go down in Spidey history or change Spidey’s world but nonetheless give me an afternoon’s worth of solid entertainment that I would go back and read time and time again and still enjoy. Those were the days of PPSSM and Mantlo was the writer. Damn I miss those days . . .

Busiek – I’ve totally missed the bus on Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man and have to correct that. Were these issues ever collected?

DeFalco – Didn’t get my vote and I admittedly probably undervalue his run, per my comments on Ron Frenz on the Artist’s post. Should get more love than I’m willing to give him, but I will say that this earlier run was far superior to his later run on the title. Folks could do far worse than a DeFalco penned issue of ASM in the 80’s. . . .

@Ed (A Different One)

You are lucky. Marvel just recently launched an Omnibus containnig the full Untold Tales’ series.

Ed (A Different One) Could do that, but Omnibuses are so expensive. Marvel did release a Spiderman Visionaries: Kurt Busiek trade a few years ago that collected the first 8 or so issues, you can buy it brand new on Amazon, with shipping for under $5. I’d start there. http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0785122044/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new

Wolfman: He, along with Wein, were the two giant but very flawed tentpoles that bridged ASM from Lee/Ditko to Stern IMO. Wolfman is a creative genius, but his fatal flaw was to de-power Spidey so much that he no longer came across as formidable in the panels of his own title. Too many muggers and non-powered cosutmed baddies smacked Spidey around during his tenure and, like I’ve said before, the fact that Spidey may lose a few fights makes him interesting but it was taken too far by Wolfman. That being said, he did establish some interesting plot points, especially having Peter jump ship from Jonah and work for his competitors at the Daily Globe for a while. Why that plot point wasn’t exploited more by O’Neal when he succeeded Wolfman I’ll never know. But, yeah, the man who wrote Spidey getting smacked around by muggers just couldn’t garner a vote from me, despite his obvious talent and stature in the field of comics.

This just seems to be a weird fixation of Wolfman’s in general, which is also my theory as to the real reason why New Teen Titans sales declined while X-Men thrived: he seems to really enjoy having his main characters be weak and impotent. Think about it, kids who like comics usually feel weak and impotent and even bullied and want escapism into power fantasies, not escapism into a world where the heroes are as lame and beaten up as you are. Most writers have the problem of making their characters into Mary Sues, but he has the opposite problem of wanting them to be as wimpy and beatable as humanly possible (unless it’s one of his pet characters, like Deathstroke or Starfire). I remember even when writing Batman, freaking BATMAN, he totally gave him the Nightwing treatment, having him get utterly owned and manhandled by Deathstroke, it was just brutal. It created such a huge uproar among fans that DC had to have someone do a rematch just to set things right and re-establish Batman’s fight credibility. On the bright side, after seeing how Wolfman wrote Batman’s fight prowess, it didn’t make Dick Grayson look so bad in comparison and you could now see why Dick Grayson lost every major fight he had in New Teen Titans. The skills gap between Nightwing and his mentor suddenly didn’t seem as drastic.

@Ed (A Different One) – my impression is the reason we didn’t get Waid writing Spidey a long time ago (ie the Spider-Man title he was announced to be writing in 2005, ultimately taken up by Peter David) was down to his unwillingness to work with J Michael Straczsynski. (Just an impression I have – I’d love to hear what Waid has to say on the matter.)

Stefan Wenger

May 31, 2012 at 8:58 am

Ok. I can’t believe Tom DeFalco created the Puma, and I can’t believe I didn’t know that. I now instantly forgive him for all of the bad Spider-Man stories he’s written over the years, because apparently he created my favorite supporting character. I’m off to eat some humble pie.

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