Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Comic Creators on Spider-Man
I'm a big web-spinning Spider-Man fanboy, no doubt about it. And to that geek, this book rocks hard. Published by England's Titan Books, it's a 200-page series of interviews with some of the biggest creators of Spider-Man comic books over the past 40 years, from Stan Lee to Todd McFarlane to Brian Bendis. And it's just packed full of trivia, insight and critiques. I really get into these "behind the scenes" comic tomes, and this one's a winner, decently edited and well designed. There's great comments by Lee on the creation of Spidey, as well as really thorough interviews with the writers I grew up on -- Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, and the underrated Roger Stern, who for my money wrote the best Spider-Man stories of all in the mid-1980s. We learn what went on behind the scenes with some classic stories and get each writer and artist's thoughts on what makes Spidey tick. I was humbled to learn that Gerry Conway was barely 20 years old when he wrote the famous "Death of Gwen Stacy" storyline back in 1972.

I particularly enjoyed how "Comic Creators" isn't some glossy tribute that overlooked the bad. It's compiled and the interviews are conducted by longtime "Spidey" writer Tom DeFalco, who comes at the subject with an insider's eye. Creators are pretty free with thoughts here on stories that didn't work, and the late 1990s nadir for Spider-Man comics, the bloated, bleak "Clone saga" and "Maximum Carnage" eras, come in for a well-deserved beating. Everyone involved seems to blame the disaster on Marvel editorial dictates. For instance, David Micheline, writer of "Amazing Spider-Man" at the time when there was a rather lousy storyline involving the possible return of Peter Parker's long-dead parents, reveals that he was forced to bring them back by an editor who apparently didn't even know how to end the storyline himself. The book does a good job showing how Spidey's appeal has kept up through the years, and gives you an insight into the creative process.

Go get it, right now, if you're any kind of Spider-Man fan at all you'll have a full-on geekgasm. I'm hoping it does well enough to merit a sequel with the creators that aren't included here (I find it rather irksome that current Amazing Spider-Man creator J. Michael Straczynski apparently was too busy to be involved, according to an editor's note, despite the fact that Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane and Bendis, who's writing 42 Marvel titles a month, could find that time). You can find it at Amazon and over at At $12 or so, it's a big bargain.

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