Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
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 #10-7…
10. David Michelinie
Talk about being thrown into the deep end! After a year or so on Web of Spider-Man, David Michelinie’s first story arc as the writer of Amazing Spider-Man was the one where he had to get Mary Jane Watson from not even being Peter Parker’s girlfriend to being Peter Parker’s fiance in just three short issues. After a break for Kraven’s Last Hunt, Michelinie took over Amazing Spider-Man full-time from #295 until #388! Not only did he write every issue of Amazing (except for a short break from #352-358 when the book went bi-weekly and a fill-in arc took place), he wrote most of the Amazing Spider-Man Annuals and even a couple of Spectacular Spider-Man and Web of Spider-Man Annuals!
Michelinie’s writing style on Amazing Spider-Man was a mixture between melodrama (from small things like “Mary Jane is addicted to cigarettes” and “where are Mary Jane and Peter going to live?” to big things like “Peter’s parents are back from the dead and they’re actually killer robots sent by the Chameleon”) and flat-out action. It was a very popular mix and Michelinie stewarded Amazing throughout the boom period of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Perhaps what Michelinie will be best known for in Spider-Man history, though, is for introducing Venom into Spider-Man’s Rogues Gallery, as well as Venom’s offspring, Carnage.
Here’s a bit from Venom’s first full appearance to show well Michelinie used the horror aspect of Venom…
9. J. Michael Straczynski
J. Michael Stracznyski’s run on Amazing Spider-Man was like a shot of adrenaline to a title that was lagging a bit, sales-wise. He took over with #30 of the second volume of Amazing Spider-Man and wrote it until #58, at which point the series picked up the numbering of the original volume with Amazing Spider-Man #500. Straczynski then wrote it from #500-544.
Straczynski opened his run with a bang. He introduced the concept of the Spider Totem, the idea that perhaps it was not that a regular spider was irradiated and then bit Spider-Man, perhaps it was a magic spider who was irradiated and then bit Spider-Man to pass its powers along before it died of radiation poisoning. In his first story, Straczynski had Spider-Man face off against a powerful being known as Morlun, who feeds on Totems. Their battle was one of the more notable ones in Spider-Man history.
Straczynski also had Peter get a job as a science teacher at his old high school. It was a very clever change in Peter’s status quo. The status quo changes continued when Aunt May discovered that Peter was Spider-Man in the aftermath of Peter’s battle with Morlun (he was so beaten and bruised that he just collapsed inside of his apartment still wearing his costume. Aunt May, worried that he wasn’t returning her calls, used her key to get into his apartment and discovered him). When they talk about it, Peter tells the story about how he let the burglar get away and May counters that Ben ran into the burglar because he had left the house for a walk after an argument the two had had. So as it turns out, they were both feeling guilt over Ben’s death…
Straczynski brought Mary Jane back to the book (she had been more or less missing since roughly the beginning of the second year of the second volume). He also introduced the concept that Gwen Stacy had had sex with Norman Osborn and got pregnant and had the kids in Europe. Thus, it was that connection that led to Osborn choosing to kill her, not her relationship with Peter.
Straczynski also chose to re-visit the Spider Totem idea again, this time having Peter more or less die and return to life with new powers and abilities.
His final issues on the series dealt with the ramifications of Spider-Man revealing his identity to the world during Civil War and going on the run as a fugitive.
8. Peter David
It’s rare for a comic book writer to hit a home run with his or her first extended arc on an ongoing series, but that is just what Peter David did with The Death of Jean DeWolff, his first extended arc as the writer of Spectacular Spider-Man David had written a couple of fill-in issues of Amazing Spider-Man and had written three issues of Spectacular Spider-Man already, including a very nice two-parter co-starring the Wasp in Spectacular Spider-Man #104-105 before beginning the tale of the Sin-Eater, the serial killer who kills Spider-Man’s police friend, Captain Jean DeWolff. Spidey does not take it well, particularly when he discovers that DeWolff had been secretly carrying a torch for him. David does an excellent job ratcheting up the drama in the series while also pitting Spider-Man against Daredevil in a fascinating battle over “what is the meaning of ‘justice’?”
After the Death of Jean DeWolff ended with #110, David wrote Spectacular from #111-123 (with a couple of fill-in issues) and then #128-129 and a sequel of sorts to the Death of Jean DeWolff in #134-136. He also had a short run on Web of Spider-Man, as well as a sprinkling of fill-in issues here and there.
Over in Amazing Spider-Man, David had the very difficult task of revealing who the Hobgoblin was. A task made even more difficult when the man they figured who the Hobgoblin was, Ned Leeds, was already dead!
During the early 1990s, David had a great run on the futuristic Spider-Man title, Spider-Man 2099, writing nearly all of the book’s 46 issues.
David returned to ongoing Spider-Man stories in 2005 when he wrote all but the final issue of the new ongoing Spider-Man title, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Towards the end of that run, he also had a stint on Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, writing a bunch of really strong all-ages Spider-Man stories.
7. Brian Michael Bendis
There had been titles that attempted to do an alternate universe take on Spider-Man in the past (heck, Marvel still does them from time to time) but not until Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley did Ultimate Spider-Man did the alternate take actually, well, take.
Bendis’ character-driven stories of Peter Parker’s teen years captivated audiences as well as critics with his sharp dialogue and insightful looks into the relationships between Peter and his aunt and his girlfriend, Mary Jane (revamped in Ultimate Spider-Man to be less of a party girl and also be Peter’s longtime friend instead of someone he met in college).
The relationship between Peter and Mary Jane was a highlight of the early issues, especially Ultimate Spider-Man #13 when he revealed his identity to her…
After a number of years of essentially doing high-quality re-interpretations of classic Spider-Man stories (the Ultimate take on J. Jonah Jameson, the Ultimate take on Kingpin, the Ultimate take on Black Cat, etc.), Bendis changed things up by taking the book in a much different direction than the original Spider-Man. The first notable change was with the introduction of Kitty Pryde as Peter Parker’s girlfriend (as Peter figured it was more safe to date a fellow superhero).
This eventually led to the second volume of Ultimate Spider-Man (Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man) where the book was practically a team book starring Aunt May and her cast of disparate characters (like Johnny Storm, Kitty Pryde, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson).
Recently, Bendis turned the whole concept of the book on its ear by having Peter Parker make the ultimate sacrifice and die in battle. Bendis then introduced a NEW Spider-Man, another teen who was also bitten by a radioactive spider (in the Ultimate universe, a number of spiders were irradiated, so it made perfect sense that another person could get bitten). This teen, Miles Morales, is trying to make his way in the world as a replacement Spider-Man with a whole other set of issues, as his father and his uncle are on opposite sides of the law, both pulling on Miles. Meanwhile, the original Ultimate Spider-Man supporting cast is still out there, with the two sides bound to eventually meet.
Bendis has now written roughly 170 issues of Spider-Man comics and is still going strong after a DOZEN years!
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