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50 Greatest Spider-Man Creators: Writers #6-4

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 #6-4…

Enjoy!

6. Dan Slott

Despite “only” working on the character since 2008, Dan Slott has already written nearly fifty issues of Amazing Spider-Man. One of the original team of writers who launched Brand New Day in Amzing Spider-Man #546, Slott became the sole writer of Spider-Man with Amazing Spider-Man #648. All told, he has written:

Amazing Spider-Man #546-548 (the initial Brand New story arc, setting up Peter Parker’s new status quo), 559-561 (the re-introduction of Mary Jane Watson into the title), 568-573 (the New Ways to Die storyline, bringing Norman Osborn back into the book and introducing Anti-Venom), 581-582, 590-591, 600, 618-621 and then 648-current (#685 is the latest issue) while a few fill-in issues or co-written issues were mixed in there even in the fill-in issues, Slott did back-up stories. That run includes the Spider-Island crossover and the current Ends of the Earth epic.

And that’s just his Amazing Spider-Man work! He also wrote an excellent Spider-Man/Human Torch mini-series.

Slott’s best traits on Amazing Spider-Man have been the way that he follows in the strong suit of past Spider-Man writers of mixing action-packed adventures with character-driven stories in a blend that feels like a natural extenuation of whatever is going on in the book at that time. So a big event where everyone on Manhattan gets Spider-powers is personalized by the fact that Peter Parker’s girlfriend has the powers, too, and it leads her to figure out that Peter has been lying to her about his secret identity. Or, in one of the strongest one-shot issues of Slott’s run, Amazing Spider-Man #665, we see the trade-off for Spider-Man and Peter Parker both becoming so successful (Spider-Man being on two Avengers teams and the Future Foundation and Peter now becoming a successful designer at a think tank reverse-engineering the gadgets he creates as Spider-Man into useful technology for everyday life), which is that he is too busy for people like his closest friends. So when Betty Brant is assaulted after Peter stands her up for a standing movie date, Peter vows revenge (naturally) but what does that look like to his friends and family? Peter is out finding Betty’s assailant, but to everyone else, he is not there for Betty when she needs it the most. Aunt May calls him and reads him the riot act and brings up something shocking to Peter…

See? Now that’s some character-driven twist right there. And that’s the sort of approach Slott takes to his whole Amazing Spider-Man run, you never know exactly how he will zig or zag on any given plot point/character interaction. It makes reading Amazing Spider-Man a true roller coaster ride of never knowing where he will be headed. And when he slows down for the character-heavy stuff, he nails it, like Peter’s reaction to the death of J. Jonah Jameson’s wife, which was essentially “one death too many” for Peter. Peter vows that he will not let anyone die. It is an extremely powerful two-parter with excellent Marcos Martin art. It is probably the highlight of Slott’s run (so far, at least).

And, of course, Slott knows how to bring the funny. So he’s pretty much everything you want from an ongoing Spider-Man writer. Good thing he’s writing the book, huh?

5. Gerry Conway

Thrown into the mix of being the first ongoing scripter of Amazing Spider-Man after Stan Lee was a daunting task for young Gerry Conway (only in his early 20s at the time), but Conway responded to the call with flair and distinction with a memorable run that still resonates to this day.

In his 40 issues on Amazing Spider-Man (#111-149), Conway did more than you’d see in a HUNDRED issues of most other comics. He introduced one of Marvel’s biggest characters, the Punisher, he developed Mary Jane Watson into one of the best supporting characters in Marvel Comics history, he introduced the world to the idea of the “Clone Saga” and, most notably of all, he wrote one of the single most famous Spider-Man storylines, the Death of Gwen Stacy, as Peter Parker loses his girlfriend to his nemesis, the Green Goblin.

Here’s a page from the second part of the story, as Peter seeks revenge…

The original Goblin dies and Conway later establishes the second Goblin, Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn!

What’s interesting about Conway is that he actually had a rare second act on Spider-Man. He returned to the Spider-books thirteen years after his first run ended to do a well-received run on Spectacular Spider-Man from #137-174 and Web of Spider-Man from #47-70 (only plots on some of the stories). In that run, he introduced the villain Tombstone and did some very strong work with Joe “Robbie” Robertson and Puma. While his original run on Amazing Spider-Man was bold and very much flying by the seat of your pants, his Spectacular/Web run was calculated and well-crafted, very much the distinction between a young writer and an experienced veteran.

If we just judged Conway by his late 1980s/early 1990s run, he would be well received but combined with his early work he is one of the most iconic Spider-Man writers there is.

4. J.M. DeMatteis

Like Conway, J.M. DeMatteis had a few different stints writing Spider-Man, and in DeMatteis’ case, you’d be hard pressed to pin down which stint was his most iconic.

Don’t get me wrong, Kraven’s Last Hunt will be DeMatteis’ longest-lasting legacy on the Spider-Man titles, and with good reason, as the six-issue story explored the mindset of one of Spider-Man’s villains to an extent never seen in a Spider-Man comic at that point (1988), as Kraven, sick of being defeated by Spider-Man decides to “kill” Spider-Man and take over his role to show how he is better than Spider-Man. This involves keeping Spider-Man buried alive for two weeks while Kraven kills bad guys dressed as Spidey, so when Spidey finally breaks free of his confinement, he is none too pleased…

However powerful Kraven’s Last Hunt was (and it was really powerful), DeMatteis’ run on Spectacular Spider-Man might be just as powerful. In his stint on Spectacular from #178-203, DeMatteis concerned himself with Harry Osborn, as DeMatties explored the twisted father-son relationship with Norman Osborn and Harry, as well as Harry’s connection with his own family (especially his son, Normie), his connection to Peter Parker and, of course, to the legacy of the Green Goblin. It is a striking piece of work. Few writers are as well-connected to the workings of humanity as J.M. DeMatteis, and he sure delivered a wonderful study of the human spirit in his Spectacular run (that was, in and of itself, spectacular).

But that’s not all!

No sir, he also had a run on Amazing Spider-Man from #389-406 that included one of the most heartfelt issues of Spider-Man ever, the death of Aunt May in #400, an issue that touches fans deeply to this day, even after retcons have changed it so that May did not actually die.

But that’s not all!

DeMatteis broke in on Spider-Man with an extended off-beat run on Marvel Team-Up from #111-133. These were an early sign of the unique flavors of a J.M. DeMatteis script.

But that’s not all!

DeMatteis returned to Spectacular Spider-Man for another run, from #241-258. He also has written a number of mini-series and one-off stories and Spider-Man tales in anthologies. When you write the history of Spider-Man, you are bound to find yourself reflecting in the greatness of J.M. DeMatteis at one point or another.

39 Comments

If I’m reading this right DeMattis’ runs were in this order:

Marvel Team-Up from #111-133.
Kraven’s last hunt
Spectacular from #178-203
Spectacular Spider-Man for another run, from #241-258.
Amazing Spider-Man from #389-406

?

The DeMatteis run on Amazing was during the Clone Saga and preceded the second run he had on Spectacular, which was post-Clone.

Marvel Team-Up from #111-133.
Kraven’s last hunt
Spectacular from #178-203
Spectacular Spider-Man for another run, from #241-258.
Amazing Spider-Man from #389-406

Close. Just swap the last two.

Now I´m intrigued as to the identity of those next two writers (one is just too obvious). All of my favorites have been listed already. Perhaps we fans have acknowledged at least the great contribution of McFarlane and Quesada as writers?

One’s Stan Lee, one must be Roger Stern….. but the third?

I’m a little surprised to see Slott rank so high, but I haven’t read very many of his comics, and maybe none of his Spider-Man stuff. Did Slott write that Spidey/Human Torch miniseries, or was the Van Lente? I always get them confused. Those were fun comics.

DeMatteis is a guy whose work ranges from awesome (JLI) to cringeworthy (Moonshadow) for me. His Spider-Man stuff tends to be in the awesome range. Kraven’s Last Hunt and his Spectacular Spidey run are his best work that doesn’t involve Keith Giffen.

I thought Conway would be top three, for the historial significance of his stories, if nothing else. But it’s hard to be upset with who the top three seem pretty likely to be. I wonder how #s 1 and 2 will break down?

Hilarious text on the JM DeMatteis entry. DeMatteis is one of my favorite and least favorite Spider-Man writers. He had a tendency to shovel angst and misery onto his characters, which generally had the effect of stimulating the supporting cast, Harry Osborn and Ben Reilly and the like, but he could only keep it going for so long on the main character before, like what happened with Daredevil, it became the audience that was miserable. His legacy on Spider-Man has done more harm than good, I feel.

As for Slott, I might have had him on the bottom of my list, I can’t remember, but he’s another one I run hot and cold on. I enjoy his plots and ideas, which show the vast amount of thought he’s put into the character, but his execution does nothing for me; his dialogue doesn’t sing. It’s hard to explain, but when I read Dan Slott’s Spider-Man, I’m hounded by the image of a writer who is utterly satisfied with himself. It doesn’t bother me so much in stories like “Nobody Dies,” where the smugness is earned to some extent, but in the end I dropped off after Spider-Island, not only because it was terrible, but because the writer seemed so damned proud of it.

Did Slott write that Spidey/Human Torch miniseries, or was the Van Lente?

That was Slott. I had actually meant to make a specific point of mentioning that mini-series, because it was so good. I guess I forgot to mention it. Oops!

@DanLarkin

Trust me, Slott’s Spidey is the stuff of legends. I believe that if this voting is made again 20-25 years from now, he will be ranked even higher. Everything that Brian mentioned is true, Slott has that way of mixing elemnts of the Spidey’s mythos in a very refreshing way.

This is interesting. Who could the missing one be? Could enough people have (gasp) voted in Ditko??

Lee/Ditko and Lee/Everyone else count as two separate entries.

I’m guessing the top 3 are Stern, Lee and Ditko. I assume people have ranked Lee the top. Sigh

Kraven’s Last Hunt is a great Batman story.

Conway’s Carrion story is one of my favs (of course Bill Mantlo’s was great too)

I’ve been saying since it came out that deMatteis’s run on Spec Spidey leading up to #200 was the best sustained run of the character since the Lee/Ditko original. He understood perfectly that the heart of Spider-Man as a character is that tension between his lives in and out of costume is balanced by the freedom and relief that moving between the two separate worlds gives to Peter *and* to Spider-Man. In that story, Harry Osborne became the ultimate villain not just by attacking in both those worlds, but by threatening to destroy the difference between them, a threat played out in tiny vicious steps for two years.

That “where did you go” issue that Slott wrote was the only thing that kept me ASM through “Spider Island.”

Stern is #3
Lee is #2
Ditko with Lee #1?

Of course JM DeMatteis’ most notable aspect of his Marvel Team-Up run is his introduction of the Fabulous Frog-Man. My favourite run of his though is definitely his Goblin story which is the also best I’ve ever seen of Buscema’s art. JM DeMatteis was wise to go silent in some sequences and just let Buscema convey the mood DeMatteis wanted.

Unfortunately Slott’s spider-Man run is too tied up with OMD/BND continuity, which I generally won’t touch, though I have read the Free Comic Book Day stuff (I’m not one of those who always rants on that story this many years later; I just prefer to read stuff that doesn’t remind me of it). I’m sure I’d enjoy some of Slott’s run if I read it (though not all of it; I didn’t buy his portrayal of Julia Carpenter in that one FCBD story). But there’s enough other comics out there that I’d enjoy that aren’t tied to BND/OND continuity, that I’m content to read those instead and let people who are into the new Spider-Man continuity enjoy Slott et al’s have their fun as well.

Like many of you, I pegged, by process of elimination, Stern and Lee as two of the top three. I’m scratching my head on the third name. No idea who that will be.

I feel like Dan Slott has earned a higher placement on the list, but looking at the guys who placed higher than he did, you can’t really argue with it. Spider-Man has been blessed with some phenomenal writers.

Any Spider-Man fan who isn’t picking up Dan’s run is seriously missing out on some classic Spidey.

Surprised to see Conway not in the top 3.
I haven’t read Spidey for years but voted for Slott based on the Spidey/Torch miniseries.

I am stumped as to the identity of the third remaining writer and I love that it seems everyone else is, too! What a great list!

Andy, you’re very silly. Slott’s stuff is hardly “tied up” with One More Day at ALL. Maybe you could try reading it whilst pretending that years’ worth of stories have gone by since OMD… which of course they have at this point…

And I’m sure you wouldn’t “buy his portrayal of Julia Carpenter” if you missed the game-changing developments in her character during the “Grim Hunt” storyline… which I’m sure you deliberately did…

@dhole @Adam see Diggity’s comment above in case you’re wondering.

@dhole @Cerebro see Diggity’s comment above in case you’re wondering.

Stefan Wenger

May 31, 2012 at 9:25 am

I won’t spoil anything but it’s not too hard to figure out who the number 3 writer is if you look back to Brian’s post about the rules of the contest.

I’m actually really happy DeMatteis made it to #4. He’s my #1, far and away, but I can understand people placing the earliest classics above him. I was getting into comics during the time of his Spectacular Spider-Man run and it was a great introduction to the emotional drama Spider-Man stories were capable of. All of his Spider-Man runs are fantastic and personally speaking I think he’s one of the greatest comic writers of all-time.

Incidentally, fans of DeMatteis’ Spider-Man should really check out the current Venom run. I have a bunch of friends who have been totally skeptical about buying a Venom book, but in tone I think it’s the closest we’ve seen since to the emotional urgency that JMD found in his Spidey stories.

Stefan Wenger

May 31, 2012 at 9:30 am

I don’t see Slott’s stories as tied up with OMD, I just think he’s kind of a hack. Am I a dialogue snob? I think Slott’s dialogue is pretty poor, and because of that the characters don’t feel real to me, and I can’t really get into the story. I’m not even 100% sure what it is, it just seems a bit off.

I was skeptical about OMD – I still don’t like it in principle – but I loved everything Waid, Kelly and Van Lente did in its wake. Slott and Wells totally leave me cold though.

@Tom Daylight “Andy, you’re very silly. Slott’s stuff is hardly “tied up” with One More Day at ALL. Maybe you could try reading it whilst pretending that years’ worth of stories have gone by since OMD… which of course they have at this point…”

Let me put it this way. I’m not interested in reading about a Spider-Man whose marriage was erased by a deal with the devil. I’m sure it’s not it’s not constantly referred to, but for me any dating sequences would remind me of that in a way that had he gotten divorced or widowed wouldn’t have bothered me *as* much, though I understand the reasoning for not going those routes.

Please note I did indicate that I am aware that they may indeed be of good quality. But what little I’ve read plus other developments I’m aware of (such as my favourite Spider-Man villain being decapitated) leads me to think I would enjoy other stuff more. I’m not calling his Spider-Man work crap because haven’t read enough of it to determine that. I’m not calling him a hack because I liked most (though not all) of his She-Hulk. But I do feel that stuff can be high quality and just not something I want to read. There’s lots of stuff out there like that. Wuthering Heights is probably an excellent read for many.; it’s just not something I’m interested in. I’m sorry that you think I’m very silly; it’s nothing against Slott, it’s that I feel that life’s too short to read everything out there that doesn’t interest me. To me reading stuff that doesn’t interest a person, *that’s* very silly.

@Andy, if I had that mentality, I wouldn’t even be watching Breaking Bad right now. Sometimes, things can surprise you, even if you aren’t immediately interested in them.

But it’s your life and you have your reasons. Read what you like.

Thx for respecting that. To be sure there have been things that have grown on me (almost always it’s been stuff where my gut feeling told me to stick around a while longer), and I’m certainly not trashing anything sight unseen. But, I’ve sampled stuff in the past where I couldn’t find any fault on a technical level; I just wasn’t enjoying it. On the flip side there’s been stuff that I’ve realized was trash, but somehow it did something for me. What I’ve come to realize is that there’s so much quality stuff out there now that if I miss out on one quality thing because I was pursuing another quality thing instead, oh well, I’m still enjoying myself. You can run out of money and time pursuing every quality thing out there, so I let my gut draw a line in the sand and let it take me where it wants to go.

Three of my favorites, right here. I love Slott’s Spider-Man work. Love it, LOVE IT. He’s only hit a couple of sour notes in his entire run, and those are far, far outweighed by all the positives he brings to the table. I hope he stays on ASM for a long, long time to come.

I’ve never read Conway’s second run on the character, but his first run is very strong, solid stuff.

DeMatteis is just great. Period. I’ve never read a DeMatteis story that was bad. Ever. He can pay ol’ Webhead a visit any time he likes, as far as I’m concerned.

DeMatteis’s dialogue can get a bit overbearing at times but his storytelling is first rate. Reading his Goblin arc, what struck me most was the way he spaced out the dialogue and fused it so well with the images. It’s hard to tell where he ends and Buscema begins, there’s just such a good sense of synergy. And I find that with every artist he works with. He’s not much of a wordsmith but he understands the visual elements of comics better than a lot of writers.

I don’t get Dan Slott… I’ve been reading his run since the beginning and it has been the hardest it has ever been for me to stay interested in the character. For the first time in my life I’ve considered dropping ASM because the issues will sometimes sit on my desk for 6 or 7 months. He writes everything like a saturday morning cartoon so removed from reality it seems more like a loving fan-fic than a real story. And all his “character moments” are cliched and predictable. And I believe the deficiencies in his dialogue have already been mentioned by others. I don’t think I’ve read a single story by Slott that has managed to surprise me… even a little bit.

Look, I know it’s all a matter of opinion but can someone please explain to me why, other than the sheer number of issues and the obvious heart on his sleeve for Spider-man, he is so popular.

Dan Slott was my top pick. I have read literally thousands of Spider-Man comics (yes, literally), and there is no doubt in my mind that Dan Slott’s version of Spider-Man is the best. But then, I think that precisely because I have read thousands of Spider-Man comics. Dan Slott knows the entire continuity of the characters, and manages to stay true to every previous writer’s take on them while simultaneously keeping the story fresh and fun.

In the first issue of Big Time (which felt like an amazing pilot episode for a TV show), when J. Jonah Jameson started talking, I immediately thought: “Now there’s the original J. Jonah Jameson! How I’ve missed you.”. He writes him like Stan Lee did (so I can understand why some people would find the stylization awkward), while having him do things that -without breaking character the tiniest bit- no previous writer has written him doing. He does that consistently, issue by issue. Only Dan Slott could have made a sequel to the two worst Spider-Man stories ever -the Clone Saga, and Spider-Man Disassembled- and make it as thoroughly engaging as Spider-Island.

Dan Slott is the greatest Spider-Man writer ever because all the other writers’ work is elevated by the fact that it leads naturally to his run. Ends of the Earth has weight, not because it’s been marketed as an “event” (which it isn’t, in the usual comics terms) but because it feels like pay-off for hundreds of issues of Doctor Octopus stories. Horizon Labs works because it’s paying off years of being told (but not shown) what a genius Peter Parker is. Spider-Island is exciting because it’s pointing out the importance of Peter Parker as a human being, which has been developed for all these years but always took a backseat (in the big showdowns, at least) to Spider-Man’s superheroics. When he leaves the book, whoever writes it next is going to have to deal with the fact that after Dan Slott, not much will seem as essential to the character as what he did.

Conway and JMD were the two first Spidey writers I got started reading in the late 80s and early 90s, so even if they aren’t the ‘best’ they are my favorites. Glad to see so many people put them this high.

Thing about Slott, I think, is that he is willing to break the rules. Sure, he is very meta, winking and nodding and having his characters talk in inside jokes and asides that nobody in the Marvel Universe would actually get unless they read the comics they were appearing in (which come to think of, in She-Hulk, they do) (doesn’t work at all if you think about it) , but also he is willing to give fans what they want- we actually get to see Peter Parker succeed at something. We get to see PP and Johnny Storm just have fun for five issues.

And finally, he makes me love stuff that if you just described it to me, I would tell you I would hate. The whole concept behind Spider-Island, the new Hobgoblin stuff, the Spider armors and Spider Clones and possibly my least favorite villain Spencer Smythe and his bio organic carapace (what?)…no way. But it’s great, and it really does result in some great characterisation. So I like Dan Slott.

“And finally, he makes me love stuff that if you just described it to me, I would tell you I would hate. The whole concept behind Spider-Island, the new Hobgoblin stuff, the Spider armors and Spider Clones and possibly my least favorite villain Spencer Smythe and his bio organic carapace (what?)…no way. But it’s great, and it really does result in some great characterisation.”

This actually lists the things I’ve hated the most about his run. Those stories represented some of the weakest character work so far in my opinion. For some reason he completely fails to speak to me as a writer. I’ve read thousands of Spiderman comics myself, and I’ve read some pretty dreadful runs… just none that have been so well regarded by the general comic reading population.

“For some reason he completely fails to speak to me as a writer. I’ve read thousands of Spiderman comics myself, and I’ve read some pretty dreadful runs… just none that have been so well regarded by the general comic reading population.”

That’s how I feel about David Michelinie. How on Earth did he get to number 10, with such terrible writing? Ah well, subjective tastes and all that.

Ed (A Different One)

June 2, 2012 at 9:50 am

Slott is about where I put him in my own voting I think. Very good Spider-Man writer. Not in the “legendary” level (at least not yet). He’s done some very good work IMO. I saw a few shots above about Spider-Island whereas I thought that was probably the best “event” comic I’ve read in a few decades. His resolutions are usually earned, aren’t some out-of-the-blue deus ex machina, and I rarely feel like I’ve been served up a slew of “crass stupidities” when I get to the end of his storylines. That being said, he’s not perfect (who is) and there are some things I’ve distinctly NOT liked. The current Ends of the Earth epic (where Spidey is jetting around the globe with two hit super spies) is leaving me cold, but the end may redeem it. I also still harbor resentment over the apparent Kingsley killing, but he has a heart and affection for the characters that clearly shine through and there’s an undeniable element of fun to his run too. I have to say I’m on the side of “liking” Slott, sometimes quite a bit. I wouldn’t have him any higher than he is here though, at least at this point in his career.

It’s funn about JM Dematteis. I like a lot of his writing on a lot of other stuff but have missed most of his Spidey work. Much like the “Death of Jean DeWolff”, I haven’t read all of “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and need to rectify that. I did read Spidey #400 though – the death of Aunt May was some powerful stuff. No doubt a talented and accomplished writer.

And Conway suffers too much from the Wolfman syndrome in my opinion. Too many non-powered dudes handing Spidey his ass. No doubt he was in an unenviable position of taking over after Lee and made some major contributions to Spidey lore. Just didn’t make my personal Top 10 though.

Timothy Markin

June 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm

When Dan Slott was writing She Hulk, I figured he’d do a GREAT Spidey, since he can infuse an element of humor that the Spidey books needed. However, so far I have been pretty disappointed in his run. The Spider-Island debacle was a complete waste of eight bucks a month for me, (when will Marvel stop double shipping their freaking books?!) and Ends of the Earth is also a bit of a dud (that actually kind of started with an interesting premise). However, I do agree with the angle about the perception his friends/family have about his disappearing during the times they need him the most, when in reality, he’s out trying to avenge misdeeds done against them. (It’s like Pete now has the power to “get even”, which he never could have done as a nerd in high school.) I have been hoping recently for a “change of the guard” lately. Wasn’t there talk of Mark Waid coming on? But then, he’d probably have to drop Daredevil which has been pretty strong lately.

the one in spiderman 4 is cutter than the other on

Dan Slott is the worst Spider-Man writer I’ve ever read.

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