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?

My Favorite Fantastic Four Runs

ffThe Fantastic Four is one of my favorite Marvel titles and with the company planning to relaunch them in their own book again soon, I figured it’s time to take a deep dive into the FF’s history.

Like DC’s Challengers of the Unknown, the FF is a very pulp-style concept and it lends itself to those kinds of storytelling. The family aspect of the team is also very appealing and sets them apart from other superhero groups.

So what runs are my favorites? Let’s take a gander:

9. Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo – I don’t love this run as much as others do. While I am a huge Wieringo fan, something never clicked with me during his FF run and the plots varied wildly in quality. Having said that, I actually enjoyed the mystic-centered Doom storyline and appreciated the fact that the FF’s family relationships were highlighted so strongly.

8. Chris Claremont/Salvador Larocca – Yes, it was basically the FF hanging out with all kinds of X-Men concepts but it had some great moments and it gave us Valeria, for which I will always be grateful. Besides, I liked the stuff with the Captain Britain Corps, Ronan and even Crucible. It was a fun period for the FF but it did rely too heavily upon Claremont’s mutant storylines.

7. James Robinson/Leonard Kirk – This run closed off the FF title for several years and I think that it’s mostly ignored as a result. Because so much of it dealt with the “fall” of the team, I think it’s a real shame that it ended when it did because Robinson did a great job with the various team personalities and Kirk killed it on the art. I would have liked to have seen them continue the book after the team had been reassembled. I particularly liked how Robinson handled Valeria.

6. Steve Englehart/Keith Pollard – This much-maligned run is a real guilty pleasure of mine. I always adore Englehart’s characterization and thought this run did a lot to recapture the epic scope of the FF. The team traveled all around the globe and into other dimensions, while uncovering all kinds of hidden Marvel lore. It also guest-starred Mantis, Kang, the Beyonder (they did a storyline called Secret Wars III that was, to me, absolutely wonderful) and tons more. The artwork was solid and the team dynamics — for most of the period, the squad was Ben (as leader), Johnny, Crystal and She-Thing — were a lot of fun to watch.

5. Marv Wolfman/Keith Pollard/John Byrne – The Wolfman period featured not only the greatest Reed/Doom battle of all time (issue 200) but also featured a wonderful multi-issue storyline where the FF teamed up with Nova and the Champions of Xandar to take on Galactus and The Sphinx. The throwdown between Galactus and The Sphinx remains one of my all-time favorite FF moments. As always with Wolfman, the characterization and plotting are pitch-perfect.

4. Carlos Pacheco/Jeff Loeb/Rafael Marin – First off, the art was incredible. Second, these guys actually made me enjoy two villains that had always bored the crap out of me: Diablo and Annihilus. The characterizations were great, the plots were exciting and I only wish that Pacheco could have stayed on even longer. I never hear people talking about this era but they should: it was tremendously fun!

3. Tom DeFalco/Paul Ryan – Yes, there were missteps along the way (Sue’s peekaboo costume, for instance) but there was so much great stuff, too. Even Sue’s costuming had a story explanation — Malice was influencing her, after all. I dearly wish this entire run was collected in trade. The art was solid and some of the storylines are just sheer, unadulterated fun. It really was like a Silver Age comic written with a dash of 90s sensibilities thrown in. Plus, it was one of the last times where it felt like the Fantastic Four title was a place where Important Things Happen. The “death” of Reed led to a heavy emphasis on both Kristoff and Ant-Man, which was fine by me, and I actually even enjoyed Hyperstorm.

2. John Byrne – An absolutely masterful run. Some of these stories are such absolute classics that it’s hard to limit yourself to naming just a few — the terror in a tiny town issue, the battle with Gladiator, the “everybody vs. Galactus” story, the arrival of She-Hulk to the team, etc. This period is rightfully considered one of the title’s Golden Ages and if you haven’t read it in its entirety, you haven’t read the FF.

1. Stan Lee/Jack Kirby – How can you not put this at the top? A 102 issue run (plus annuals) that set the foundation for the entire Marvel Universe. The Inhumans, Doctor Doom, Galactus, The Silver Surfer, the Kree, the Skrulls… you could go on and on. Kirby’s art was at its peak, Lee’s grandiose storytelling was never better… this is the pinnacle of the Marvel Silver Age.

What about you guys? What are your favorite FF runs?