My Favorite Spider-Man Writers (Updated!)

romita_jr_spidermanA couple of years ago I compiled a list of my favorite Spidey authors but as time has progressed I’ve had to shake up the list.

Let’s see how it currently stacks up:

10. Joseph Michael Straczynski – JMS wrote Spider-Man from 2001-2007 and he did a lot of very good things. He also did some truly awful things. But the early issues were pretty good. I quite enjoyed the Morlun storyline and there was a really good Doctor Octopus story in there. Yes, the later stuff (Sins Past and One More Day) were things that are almost unforgivable but I still include him here for the strength of the stories he wrote in the beginning.

9. Tom DeFalco – The 1980s was really “my” Spider-Man and DeFalco did some amazing stuff when paired up with Ron Frenz. I really enjoyed most of his stuff and continued to enjoy his contributions via Spider-Girl later on. An underrated Spidey writer in my opinion.

8. Kurt Busiek – This is mainly on the strength of the wonderful Untold Tales of Spider-Man series. Busiek did a pitch-perfect series that danced in and out of established continuity. Some of the new characters he introduced in there are some of my favorites in Spidey history. Loved it.

7. David Michelinie – Most of his run is remembered for two things: the artists he was paired with (McFarlane, Larsen, Bagley) and the Venom/Carnage stuff. But it was a lot of fun overall and you never knew where things were going — towards the end, this was because neither the writer nor editor knew either.

6. Dan Slott – Slott wrote the book for over ten years and there were some amazing highs (the Superior Spider-Man period in particular) but I did have some issues with a few of his storylines and the way he portrayed Peter, which wasn’t always consistent with my own personal view of the character. One day I’ll do a re-read of the entire run but for now it sticks out in my memory as some great stuff and a whole lot of “What are you thinking, Dan?”

5. Gerry Conway – I felt that the Stan Lee era had really become boring by the end and Conway injected a lot of life back into the character. His version of Spidey was actually the first I read as a kid and I still enjoy reading them today. Some of the stories are bad, sure, but some are wonderful and hold up very well. His return on Web of Spider-Man was pretty good but I wish it had featured better artwork.

4. J.M Dematteis – Yes, sometimes you run into the trademarked psychological mumbo-jumbo that Dematteis always does but he also wrote the amazing Amazing Spider-Man # 400, Kraven’s Last Hunt and the death of Harry Osborn. When he’s on, he’s very good.

3. Nick Spencer – Spencer is the book’s current writer and I’ve loved what he’s done – he’s really gotten Peter back on-track after some of the later Slott decisions that kind of took the character out of the sweet spot he usually occupies. Spencer has done wonders with Mary Jane, Fred (Boomerang), and Jameson. Plus, the Kindred mystery has been the most fun storyline of its kind since the Hobgoblin days.

2. Stan Lee – The early issues with Ditko are brilliant! I’ve always found the Romita issues to be bland and boring (though pretty to look at) so I’m ranking him so highly based upon his role as the character’s defining voice and the fact that the first 30+ issues are some of the greatest superhero comics of all time.

1. Roger Stern – My Spidey writer! Stern did some amazing stories and his Hobgoblin storyline remains one of my all-time favorites. I enjoyed it when he came back and revealed the true identity of the iconic villain, too. So many great stories and Stern was the best at handling the supporting cast. Hell, he even made Lance Bannon interesting!

What say you, Spidey fans?

Characters I Love: Dart of Atari Force

Every so often, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Dart, from DC’s old Atari Force comic book series.

Yes, I know I’m going a bit obscure this week but you know what, that’s okay. Some of you may scoff at the notion of anyone being a good character when they’re coming from something as lame sounding as “Atari Force” but trust me when I say that this series was far better than its origins as a tie-in product to a video gaming system should have ever been. The scripts were by the amazing Gerry Conway and the art for the vast majority of the series was provided by no less than Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez. The entire thing looked great and read just as well. Forget the word “Atari” because that could have been replaced by any word and the series would have worked just fine. Originally, there were a series of digest sized comics included with Atari games that featured the original jumpsuit-wearing Atari Force. The series that featured Dart was set some time after those stories and was a full-size comic series that ran for 20 issues – with Mike Baron writing issues 14-20 and Eduardo Barreto becoming artist with # 13.

Born Erin Bia O’Rourke-Singh, Dart was a mercenary was the daughter of Mohandas Singh and Li San O’Rourke, the engineer and the security officer of the original Atari Force. Admitted to the Atari Academy for training, she was often teased for her “mutant genes” that allowed her brief precognitive visions of the future. Erin and her best friend Dalia were involved in an accident involving one of the other cadets, which cost the cadet their life. Despite the fact that the incident occurred because of the bullying that Erin had been facing, she was removed from the Academy and sent to an off-world training school.

At the new school, Erin and Dalia became the best students that their headmaster had ever seen. Following every successful mission, the duo would mark each other with tattoos. Eventually, their run of good luck came to an end, when Dalia was killed during a mission. Erin experienced a vision of a man who would become both her lover and partner – but when he emerged through the smoke shortly after Dalia’s death, she reacted instinctively and shot him. He lived, though he lost his left eye. This was Moses Fisk, who was better known as the mercenary Blackjak. Having been trained at the same mercenary school that Dart had, they both realized that the school had hired soldiers to work both sides of the conflict.

Dart had a close relationship to the Atari Force hero known as Tempest, regarding him as her brother in many ways. Her tempestuous relationship with Blackjak was tested after his apparent death and subsequent return as an agent of the group’s greatest enemy. I loved Dart’s attitude and appearance. She tough but caring, reluctantly forming very close attachments to those around her. Her skills as a warrior and her unreliable powers were also fascinating to watch – and she was a heavily tattooed character before they became so commonplace in fantasy.

If you’ve never read Atari Force, seek them out in quarter bins — they’ve never been reprinted and probably never will be, given the nebulous rights issues. But the creative team is solid, the characters are fun and the stories are some of the best space opera that the Eighties ever produced.

I do miss Dart and her friends – somewhere, I like to think that they’re still having plenty of cosmos-spanning adventures.

whos_who_001_25_26_rougher

My Ten Favorite Spider-Man Writers

romita_jr_spidermanI’ve been reading tons of old Spider-Man books lately and after really immersing myself in this stuff, I’ve been solidifying some long-held opinions about creators on the series. Today we’re looking at my 10 favorite Spidey writers!

Yes, I know — it’s not pulp related but you can deal with it for one day, right?

Let the list begin:

10. Joseph Michael Straczynski – JMS wrote Spider-Man from 2001-2007 and he did a lot of very good things. He also did some truly awful things. But the early issues were pretty good. I quite enjoyed the Morlun storyline and there was a really good Doctor Octopus story in there. Yes, the later stuff (Sins Past and One More Day) were things that are almost unforgivable but I still include him here for the strength of the stories he wrote in the beginning.

9. Tom DeFalco – The 1980s was really “my” Spider-Man and DeFalco did some amazing stuff when paired up with Ron Frenz. I really enjoyed most of his stuff and continued to enjoy his contributions via Spider-Girl later on. An underrated Spidey writer in my opinion.

8. Kurt Busiek – This is mainly on the strength of the wonderful Untold Tales of Spider-Man series. Busiek did a pitch-perfect series that danced in and out of established continuity. Some of the new characters he introduced in there are some of my favorites in Spidey history. Loved it.

7. David Michelinie – Most of his run is remembered for two things: the artists he was paired with (McFarlane, Larsen, Bagley) and the Venom/Carnage stuff. But it was a lot of fun overall and you never knew where things were going — towards the end, this was because neither the writer nor editor knew either.

6. Brian Michael Bendis – Look, I hate how decompressed his stuff is. Everything is stretched sooooooooo thin. But in the Ultimate Universe, Bendis has really defined the Spidey character(s). I actually really like Miles Morales! And the issue where Peter reveals his identity to Mary Jane is an absolute classic.

5. Gerry Conway – I felt that the Stan Lee era had really become boring by the end and Conway injected a lot of life back into the character. His version of Spidey was actually the first I read as a kid and I still enjoy reading them today. Some of the stories are bad, sure, but some are wonderful and hold up very well. His return on Web of Spider-Man was pretty good but I wish it had featured better artwork.

4. J.M Dematteis – Yes, sometimes you run into the trademarked psychological mumbo-jumbo that Dematteis always does but he also wrote the amazing Amazing Spider-Man # 400, Kraven’s Last Hunt and the death of Harry Osborn. When he’s on, he’s very good.

3. Dan Slott – The character’s current writer, Slott had consistently told entertaining stories and Superior Spider-Man has been some of the best Spider-Man we’ve seen in a long, long time. I’m really enjoying it and hope he stays on the book for a long time to come.

2. Stan Lee – The early issues with Ditko are brilliant! I’ve always found the Romita issues to be bland and boring (though pretty to look at) so I’m ranking him so highly based upon his role as the character’s defining voice and the fact that the first 30+ issues are some of the greatest superhero comics of all time.

1. Roger Stern – My Spidey writer! Stern did some amazing stories and his Hobgoblin storyline remains one of my all-time favorites. I enjoyed it when he came back and revealed the true identity of the iconic villain, too. So many great stories and Stern was the best at handling the supporting cast. Hell, he even made Lance Bannon interesting!

What say you, Spidey fans?

Characters I Love # 2: Dart

dartEvery Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Dart, from DC’s old Atari Force comic book series.

Yes, I know I’m going a bit obscure this week but you know what, that’s okay. Some of you may scoff at the notion of anyone being a good character when they’re coming from something as lame sounding as “Atari Force” but trust me when I say that this series was far better than its origins as a tie-in product to a video gaming system should have ever been. The scripts were by the amazing Gerry Conway and the art for the vast majority of the series was provided by no less than Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez. The entire thing looked great and read just as well. Forget the word “Atari” because that could have been replaced by any word and the series would have worked just fine. Originally, there were a series of digest sized comics included with Atari games that featured the original jumpsuit-wearing Atari Force. The series that featured Dart was set some time after those stories and was a full-size comic series that ran for 20 issues – with Mike Baron writing issues 14-20 and Eduardo Barreto becoming artist with # 13.

Born Erin Bia O’Rourke-Singh, Dart was a mercenary was the daughter of Mohandas Singh and Li San O’Rourke, the engineer and the security officer of the original Atari Force. Admitted to the Atari Academy for training, she was often teased for her “mutant genes” that allowed her brief precognitive visions of the future. Erin and her best friend Dalia were involved in an accident involving one of the other cadets, which cost the cadet their life. Despite the fact that the incident occurred because of the bullying that Erin had been facing, she was removed from the Academy and sent to an off-world training school.

At the new school, Erin and Dalia became the best students that their headmaster had ever seen. Following every successful mission, the duo would mark each other with tattoos. Eventually, their run of good luck came to an end, when Dalia was killed during a mission. Erin experienced a vision of a man who would become both her lover and partner – but when he emerged through the smoke shortly after Dalia’s death, she reacted instinctively and shot him. He lived, though he lost his left eye. This was Moses Fisk, who was better known as the mercenary Blackjak. Having been trained at the same mercenary school that Dart had, they both realized that the school had hired soldiers to work both sides of the conflict.

Dart had a close relationship to the Atari Force hero known as Tempest, regarding him as her brother in many ways. Her tempestuous relationship with Blackjak was tested after his apparent death and subsequent return as an agent of the group’s greatest enemy. I loved Dart’s attitude and appearance. She tough but caring, reluctantly forming very close attachments to those around her. Her skills as a warrior and her unreliable powers were also fascinating to watch – and she was a heavily tattooed character before they became so commonplace in fantasy.

If you’ve never read Atari Force, seek them out in quarter bins — they’ve never been reprinted and probably never will be, given the nebulous rights issues. But the creative team is solid, the characters are fun and the stories are some of the best space opera that the Eighties ever produced.

I do miss Dart and her friends – somewhere, I like to think that they’re still having plenty of cosmos-spanning adventures.

whos_who_001_25_26_rougher