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50 Greatest Spider-Man Creators: Writers #10-7

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…

Enjoy!

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!

39 Comments

I’m really critical of Peter David in general, but he’s at his best when writing Spider-Man. The Jean De Wolfe story and its sequel are two of my favorite Spider stories.

I have really fond memories of the Michelline era of Amazing. I’m sure a lot of that’s nostalgia, but it was the last time I really cared about what happened to the characters in the book.

JMS did some great character work, like that scene with Aunt May you showed, but gosh, did he write some truly awful stories.

JMS would have really benefitted from the ‘Lee/Ditko’ rule. If I could only count his work with John Romita Jr, He’d have placed in my top 10 easily, but the stories after JrJr left made it so I just couldn’t find a place for him. I’m not surprised he made the list, dissapointed that it’s so high. David and Bendis are both lower than I thought they’d be.

the JMS first Morlun story and the issue with Cap and Doom in the airport are the best from his run. The stuff with him as a teacher was interesting too but it started losing me when he fought the other dimensional spider eater lady.

Ed (A Different One)

May 30, 2012 at 8:44 am

I still have to rectify my Spidey education and get my hands on The Death of Jean DeWolff, whether it be via back issues or a trade (anyone – is it collected anywhere???).

Other than perhaps David, there are som polarizing names on this list. Even though Michilinie wrote the title for so long, and did so through the “boom” years featuring McFarlane and Larsen and then Bagley on art, he signals a real drop in quality on the title to some of the older, longer term readers. Meanwhile, he wrote the Spidey that so many readers grew up with given his long tenure on the title. I didn’t vote for him for a Top 10 spot, but I would have probaby otherwise placed him 15 – 20. He deserves a spot in the ASM pantheon, unfortunately I number among the former group of readers who see his tenure as signaling a decline on the book. Not all his fault though. I competent journeyman writer who had a whole hell of a lot transpire during his tenure on the book, which serves to either inflate or ruin his reputation with readers, depending upon which camp you come from.

JMS rescued ASM from the dead before sending it into his own unique brand of death spiral with the later part of his run. As much as I loved the early issues, I reviled the later ones. Much more has been said (and better) by either commentors so I’ll just leave it at that.

Bendis also seems to be a lightening rod but mostly for his work on the Avengers, I think. Whether you’re into the Ultimate version of Spidey or not, there’s no doubt that’s a historic title for the character and Bendis has been the sole man at the helm all along. That doesn’t happen by accident. Ultimate Spidey may not be my Spidey, but I can’t deny he had something special going on with that title and it’s still trucking along today. I didn’t vote for him (and, thus, he’s not in my personal Top 10) but I probably would have put him somwhere between 11 and 15. He’s definitely left his mark.

Unfortunately I missed most of David’s heyday with the character. Until I read Death of Jean DeWolfe, I’ll withhold judgement on him as a Spider writer. However, I loved him on Hulk, Spider-Man 2099 and a lot of his other work, so I’m not surprised to see he’s made the top 10 here.

bluedevil2002

May 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

The Death of Jean DeWolff is one of those stories that was put in a trade almost as soon as it came out. Which is saying a lot for a story from the 80s.

It was out of print for a long time, though. I do believe Marvel has a hardcover collection of the story in print right now, though.

“I’m really critical of Peter David in general, but he’s at his best when writing Spider-Man. ”

I absolutely love David’s Spider-Man work, but I’ve got to say that his X-Factor work has been his best overall. He just has this insane knack for taking second and third string characters and just knocking them out of the park (Layla Miller anyone?).

“Bendis also seems to be a lightening rod but mostly for his work on the Avengers, I think.”

The lightning rod aspect seems to be primarily geared towards his handling of non-street level characters. He’s had iconic runs on Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil and Alias was quite universally well reviewed. His Avengers work is where the dissenting views crop up.

I remembered Death of Jean DeWollf as a classic Spidey storyline and one of my all-time favorites, but looking at that page reminded me of something I’d long since forgotten: the story also featured some of the best artwork of Rich Buckler’s long career.

No offense to Buckler, but I think the finishers on that issue (one of whom MUST have been the great Kyle Baker) had a lot to do with the art looking so good.

Ed and Brian

The “Death of Jean De Wolff” was first colleted in a TPB. Then Wizard magazine collected it in a compendium with 10 other stories:
http://www.amazon.com/Spider-Man-The-Greatest-Stories-Ever/dp/0974325368

Now, there is a HC that also collects it, altogether with its sequel (art by Sal Buscema, a must-have).

The original issues of the Jean DeWolff story and its sequel are usually pretty inexpensive, so you don’t necessarily need to shell out for the hardcover.

Ed (A Different One)

May 30, 2012 at 10:06 am

@ Freyes2011 and Omar Karindu:

Thanks both of you for the tips!

I read a ton of Bendis’s USM and liked a lot of it. But if I never read another line of his dialogue for the rest of my life, it’ll still be too soon.

No offense to Buckler, but I think the finishers on that issue (one of whom MUST have been the great Kyle Baker) had a lot to do with the art looking so good.

The inkers always play a part in the quality of the finished work (esp. back then; and who doesn’t look good when inked by Joe Rubenstein). But as someone who’d consumed a lot of Buckler’s work up to that point, there’s no question (at least in my mind) that there was an energy and a fluidity to his work on that storyline that wasn’t always present in his previous work (particularly his DC stuff which tended to depend a whole lot on obvious swipes). His Spider-Man work was much more identifiable as “his” style than anything he’d done in a long time.

But particularly here, where Buckler did layouts instead of full pencils, the finishers had a greater hand in how the finished product looked.

I would have expected Peter David to be top 5. He’s responsible for one of my favorite comic book moments: In one of The Spectacular Spidermans, (110-120 or thereabouts) Spidey chases somebody to the suburbs and runs out of buildings to web to. He ends up in one of those little boulevard trees and has to take the bus back, still gives me the giggles.

Just so you know, it was actually Joe Quesada’s idea to make Gwen have kids with Osborn. He changed one of Straczynski’s stories and made it even more horrible than it already was. And by the way, I think that what Osborn said happened in Sin’s Past was a lie, and that Gabriel and Sarrah were actually clones of Harry and Gwen. Think about it: Osborn helped the Jackal to make the first clone saga, so that means he had the right resourses, and he’s had dealings with Mysterio, who could have brainwashed the clones into having different memories than the originals. That could also explain why Mary Jane said that Gwen had told her what “happened”- Mary Jane could’ve been brainwashed too. As for the DNA test, it could have been easily rigged by someone Osborn had hired. Why would Osborn do it? So he could ruin the memory of Gwen Stacy and destroy Spidey psycologically.

Definitely a polarizing sub set of writers. I suppose I am happy that they let Bendis create Ultimate Spidey- who is a great character and definitely worth reading, but he isn’t you know, Spider-Man. Until they can find an editor who can make Bendis stick with continuity in the slightest, I hope he never goes nearer to the web-spinner than occasionally having him show up and be useless in ‘the Avengers’ et al.

If anyone from Marvel is reading this, put me down as another guy who would buy an affordable quality Death of Jean DeWolf collection.

“But particularly here, where Buckler did layouts instead of full pencils, the finishers had a greater hand in how the finished product looked.”

And this was back when Kyle Baker was doing more of a Sienkiewicz style with his artwork.. Coming off of the previous Jim Mooney issues, the art made a quantum stylistic leap that helped accentuate the depth of the story.

Peter David also wrote the fantastic Web of Spider-Man #7. A dream story where Nightmare seeks the aid of Parker to help sudue the rampaging Banner aspect of the Hulk that was tearing apart his kingdom since Incredible Hulk 299.

I have to dig it out, but I belive my tpb of The Death of Jean DeWolfe is a first print. What’s screwy, is that the last page is backwards. Does anyone else have a copy of this trade? If so, is this defect present?

@ Mike

That was actually one of PAD’s early, if not his first, issues of Amazing Spider-man.

PAD should certainly be top 5.

Meaningless Albert

May 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Voted for Michelinie and PAD here.

I grew up with the Michelinie run. I love it then, and I love it now.

The Death of Jean DeWolff and its sequel are among my favorites. Also love his more comedic stories like “The Commuter Cometh!”, and the Frog-Man/Toad/Spider-Kid one. David is a great and versatile writer, indeed.

I think USM is OK, but Bendis on the top 10 is a little too much.

Straczynski wrote some really nice stories (in fact, I think that all of his run with JRJR was quite enjoyable). But how that story ended, we all know…

JMS is definitely a writer where judging his work means balancing the great and the terrible.

Other writers had more continuous quality, gradually ranging from mediocre to good (or bad). JMS avoided that middle and wrote either excellent or terrible stories. If you only look at his best work, he belongs extremely high. In the balance, he shows up here a bit higher than I’d place him, but about right.

I’d definitely have knocked him and Michelinie down a few slots to make room for Claremont, Jenkins, and Wolfman.

I’m pretty happy with the 5 still to come as well, except that I’d probably also have knocked Slott down a couple slots (I think that’s a pun.) In hindsight, Slott may prove himself top 5. But as of today, I feel like David or Bendis have better earned the spot.

As soon as you mentioned the Mary Jane cigarettes plot line I remembered how bad Michelinie’s writing could be. He definitely had his moments (how can you not with a run that long) but overall I think he was largely just lucky to be paired with some great artists rather than necessarily driving sales with his own plots and character work. And the robot parents plot line is arguably the point where spider-man really jumped the shark.

The rest are fine choices. I never wanted to read a series that wasn’t about the ‘real’ Spider-Man but Bendis completely sucked me in with his writing. The slow development of the main characters throughout the early issues payed off handsomely (13 being a great example) and Ultimate Venom may be one of the best character reimaginings ever. JMS was always a compelling writer even when his plots fell off the rails. He shouldn’t be blamed for The Other or OMD either. While his run with JRJr is obviously classic I don’t see why people hate his take on Civil War. I thought he captured a nice human side to the massive event. As for Peter David, he’s an obvious choice, but I guess he’d be higher if he’d written more. I’m surprised no one has mentioned his Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man run. It filled in a lot of the blanks of JMSs run as well as being utterly insane and hilarious most of the time.

Michelinie was writing ASM when I started reading it regularly as a kid around 1991. I enjoyed his run a good bit until around the time of the whole “Lifetheft” debacle; I didn’t read Spider-Man comics in general for long after that until the late 90s. Still, the majority of his run is pretty solid. He wouldn’t made my top ten, but I’m not surprised to see he ranked this high.

Straczynski is a tough one… he di well with characterization, and I quite liked some of the new concepts he introduced, but Grodd above, he dropped some steaming piles during his run, too. He might rank in my personal top 20, but definitely not in my top 10.

I haven’t read all of Peter David’s run, but what I ahve read of it is very nice work. He’s prety hit-or-miss with me in general, but I’ve found no fault in any of his Spidey stories that I’ve read.

Bendis is another one who is about 50/50 with me. I tend to dislike a lot of what he does, but he really does nail it almost every time with his USM work. It’s an amazingly solid run, with only a few clunkers in the whole bunch. I’m actually kinda surprised he’s only at #7.

He shouldn’t be blamed for The Other

Why wouldn’t you blame (or credit, as the case may be) JMS for The Other?

JMS and “Gwen giving up her virginity to Norma” storyline was what chased me from monthly comics. I still buy some trades-mostly Essentials and Showcases and the like…..sample an independent or two….but could not care less about the month to month goings on. It was maybe the worst storyline the “Big Two” ever tossed out…which is saying a lot (*cough* Clone Sago *cough) and must admit, the Spider as an elemental force left me just about as cold. And truth be told….I don’t miss any of it. In MY world….Gwen, Peter, MJ, and Harry are still hanging around the Coffee Bean….and there they’ll stay.

Re: The Other

I guess I wasn’t clear by what I meant. While the nature of the storyline is definitely a product of JMS’s run (I don’t know how much of the just and bolts he actually plotted out) the main problem of the story was the ridiculous editorial decision of splitting one storyline across multiple books with multiple creative teams. It was maximum carnage all over again. This was what ruined the story for me and I assumed it was the main source of complaint for fans and critics. So that was a failure on behalf of the editorial team in my books.

The Death of Jean Dewolff was one of the first times I hunted down a story in back issues. I first read about in Wizard’s old “Good & Cheap” column, and picked up the issues between my 3 LCS’s at the time. To this day, it’s one of the only Spider-Man stories that doesn’t underwhelm me. While I think Spidey is at the same level of character greatness as Batman, Batman’s potential has been reached pretty regularly over the years, and there are well over a dozen truly classic Batman stories out there that capture the brilliance of the character. I’ve never felt the same was true of Spidey, and while I enjoy and salute stories like Kraven’s Last Hunt or Nothing Stops the Juggernaut, I don’t think they’re masterpieces. But the Death of Jean Dewolff is a masterpiece, and (in my personal reading experience), I think it’s the only post-Silver Age Spider-Man story to claim that title.

One of the reasons I’m so looking forward to next month’s Spidey stories countdown is so I can hopefully find some stories that I’ve been missing. I just picked up “Unscheduled Stop” in the back issue bins today based on the shout-outs from this countdown, and I’m looking forward to reading it this weekend.

Though I do really love Ultimate Spider-Man and I’ve read everything there through Peter’s death (I’ll be catching up on the Miles stuff shortly), I can’t say I’m a big fan of JMS or Michelinie. While JMS I actually dislike, Michelinie I just find kind of bland. His stuff is very readable, but I also find it very rudimentary. He was sort of the perfect writer to navigate Spidey through the comic boom, because his issues were just all action. I guess it’s possible he was merely writing to the strengths of McFarlane and Larsen, but the impression I have of Michelinie is that’s just sort of his style. But, to be fair, I’ve probably only read about 20 issues here and there between 300-375.

My hope for the Top 6 is that Dematteis ranks 3rd (I don’t see him beating Lee or Lee/Ditko). I suppose I’d be okay with Stern beating Dematteis, but not Conway or Slott (though I mean nothing against either of them, I just think Dematteis is better).

Anyone remembers this one from Peter David? A common burglar escapes Spidey and the web slinger goes to the suburbs to catch him. No tall buildings, so Spidey needs to take the bus and… well, no spare change, so walk it is for the wall crawler! Hilarious!

That was one of the Amazing Spider-Man fill-ins I mentioned. It might actually have been David’s first published Spider-Man story.

Has anyone mentinoed “the Cult of Love”? that is also very solid story by PAD, focused on Peter and Betty’s friendship. Plus, it has Mary Jane posing in lingerie. Alex Saviuk’s Mary Jane.

I don’t think anyone has mentioned Peter David’s Spectacular 121, the ‘Rashomon issue’ that has 3 perspectives on a single day from Spidey, MJ and JJJ. Pretty classic.

The issue where Spidey goes to the suburbs is Amazing 267, by David and McLeod.
I remember reading JMS left Marvel because he had to follow editorial orders he didn´t share, like Spidey unmasking, the whole Osborne stuff and The Other. The final straw was One More Day. Same with Michelinie, he didn´t like where editorial was going with, so he left. That´s why DeMatteis took over right after the demise of Peter´s “parents” and before the Clone Saga.

Best Peter David story, for my money, has to be “Return of the Sin Eater”. Really intense, shocking, and clever use of Electro as a Spidey foe. And he finally landed a great artist for once. One of my favourite Spider-Man stories ever, actually.

I just re-read Death of Jean DeWolf and the main finisher was Brett Breeding. Kyle was one of four finishers on the second chapter (Josef Rubinstein, Pat Redding, and Breeding being the other three), and the fourth chapter had finishes by M. Hands, so he may have contributed there as well. I remember Kyle providing a lot of ink/finishing work to the three Spider-Man titles around 1985.

I just re-read Death of Jean DeWolf and the main finisher was Brett Breeding. Kyle was one of four finishers on the second chapter (Josef Rubinstein, Pat Redding, and Breeding being the other three), and the fourth chapter had finishes by M. Hands, so he may have contributed there as well. I remember Kyle providing a lot of ink/finishing work to the three Spider-Man titles around 1985.

Yeah, I think he was definitely one of the “Many Hands” in the final issue.

@ Terrible-d I had the same problem with my TPB of the Death of Jean DeWolff – it is not the last page, but the second or third last page has been swapped with the next page. It took me out of the story when I first read it and irked me so much on subsequent readings, I gave it away … and now I haven’t gotten another copy yet.

Looking at the panels from the story, it makes you realise that DD’s views of justice changed quite dramatically afterwards …

Thanks for the heads up that PAD did some work for the Marvel Adventures imprint! I want to read them.
I really love his work on both the MU Spider-Man and, of course, the wonderful Spider-Man 2099.

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