Beard: Spider-Man writer honored in new bookWritten by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Veteran Spider-Man scribe Roger Stern never set out to top Stan Lee’s seminal run on the super hero, but you might think otherwise when you witness his own incredible output – and that’s just what you’ll be able to do in March of 2014 in the Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus, a new, back-breaking 1296-page tome collecting over fifty issues and several years worth of Stern’s wall-crawling work.
“It’s flattering when others compare my work on Spider-Man to Stan’s,” the writer told Toledo Free Press Star, “but I would never make that comparison myself. And where Spider-Man is concerned, we all follow in Stan’s footsteps. He literally wrote the book non-stop for close to a decade, and he’s been masterminding the Spider-Man newspaper strip since…what, 1977?
“I read the stories that Stan produced with Steve Ditko and John Romita throughout my high school and college years, so they were a major influence on how I saw the character. When I was given the Spider-Man assignment, I just did my best to write the sort of stories that had attracted me to the character in the first place.”
The sort of stories Stern wrote in Amazing Spider-Man and other titles featuring the hero are today considered some of the cream of the crop by both comic fans and historians; nom surprise that they’re now being collected in one volume for the first time. The writer downplays his contribution to the character’s legend featured in the Omnibus, though they amount to a lengthy list.
“I have a hard time being objective about my work, so I’ll leave it to others to decide what was most important,” he said. “All I can tell you is that I was very lucky to collaborate with a number of wonderful artists, especially Marie Severin and John Romita Jr. There are too many stories to name any one favorite, but I especially enjoyed writing the Juggernaut story, the Daydreamers story, the Annual that introduced Captain Marvel, the Cobra & Hyde story, ‘The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man,’ and any issues with the Vulture or Hobgoblin.
“Now that I think about it, I am sort of proud that I came up with an origin for the Vulture, who’s still my favorite Spider-Man villain. And that I devised a backstory for Mary Jane Watson. I had just started setting that up towards the end of my run, before handing the series off to Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz; they followed through with that beautifully.”
The Hobgoblin stands as one of the most prominent of the post-Lee villains, a fiend who ostensibly played off classic Spider-Man baddie the Green Goblin, but nurtured by Stern into a fan-favorite.
“At the time, I wanted to give Spider-Man some new villains, some new challenges,” the writer noted, “but a lot of the readers wanted to see his old villains return, and the Green Goblin was at the top of their lists, even though he was then technically dead. Coming up with the Hobgoblin was my attempt to meet the readers halfway. My plan was to create an air of mystery about the Hobgoblin, as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko originally had done with the Green Goblin. Neither Spider-Man nor the readers would know who the Hobgoblin really was. But unlike the Green Goblin, the Hobgoblin was not clinically insane. Instead, I made him as coldly calculating as I could.
“To tell you the truth, when I created the Hobgoblin, I wasn’t thinking much further than the next few months’ worth of stories. The fact that people are still talking about the Hobgoblin after all these years, that he’s outlived the mystery of his identity and my tenure as writer, is extremely satisfying to me.”
Stern also feels that the Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus represents his growth as a writer, though he still insists it’s difficult for him to judge his own work.
“I feel that I learn a little bit more about writing with each new series I tackle,” he offered. “I always hope my best story will be the next one.”
And does the man who many cite as the best Spider-Man scribe next to Stan Lee feel he has any more web-slinging tales left in him?
“Oh, yes,” he answered readily. “I have plenty of Spider-Man ideas I haven’t yet used, and I’m sure I could come up with three or four more by this evening. All I’ll tell you is that the stories would deal with Spider-Man and whatever’s going on in his life, his latest joys and newest sorrows. And it seems as though, every decade, there’s some Marvel editor who asks me to write another Spider-story or two.
“It could happen again. We’ll just have to wait and see.”