Spidey-editor Stephen Wacker back again with two more classic letters (and editorial responses) from the ASM archive. One about a character who has become a fan (and Dan Slott) favorite and another with the age-old frustration about why our villains just won't stay dead!!
Nothing new under the sun. Enjoy!
The Rocket-Racer was the most ridiculous character you guys have ever created. Really, Len, why didn’t you just use the Molten Man, instead of throwing in a guy who rides a super powered skate board? What if hoola hoops were in fad? I can just imagine – the Hoola Twister or Ring Head! Sheeeesh!!! Aside from this, it was the usual great Len Wein/Ross Andru issue. I’m dying to see Spidey battle Doc Doom again. PLEASE?
Sorry the Rocket-Racer didn’t send you, Danny boy—but in regard to your hypothetical super-heroes, if you’ve been reading THE DEFENDERS lately then you know that the idea’s already been embodied by the small-time sensation known as the rinky-dink Ringer!
So who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of sports-influenced, athletic antagonists? Certainly not us!
Dear Bullpen gang,
In regard to the latest issue of SPIDER-MAN, I have come to the conclusion that a large portion of the cast is part feline—at least in the nine lives department.
You people just can’t seem to keep a dead guy down!
The Vulture, for one, has been left for dead many times, but is still buzzing around; and what about the infamous Doc Ock, or even Hammerhead? In addition, there are the Green Goblin and Mysterio, who when the originals were incapacitated, were quickly replaced with second rate stand-ins? And, with all the stress and problems that Harry has been enduring lately, it looks as if it is about time for another surprise visit from the Goblin. On the opposite side of the coin, there is poor Gwen, who after falling off a bridge, bounced right back into Peter’s life as one of the Jackal’s clones. Most recently, we have the Molten Man, who was last seen as a puff of steam, and who managed to escape his gaseous fate only by a “fluke.” At any rate, the Molten Man story was very well written, and the art was at its usual level of excellence; but please, Len, let this be the end of Molty.
Oh well. Until Spider-Man is no longer amazing, make mine Marvel!
While we must certainly admit to the evidence of extraordinary longevity embodied by your letter, Steve, we must also add a few words in our own defense. Lively Len Wain not only alludes to this healthy Artistic License, but also maintains that it’s a long-standing super-hero comics tradition—and a creative challenge to boot—to bring back assorted super-villains from the seeming dead. He gets a kick out of coming up with the outasite explanations, and hopes that the sporadic reappearance of certain super-villains doesn’t interfere with your sincere enjoyment of his scintillatin’ Spidey sagas (and, judging from your comments on the Molten Man story, it sure hasn’t).
Besides, many of our most enthusiastic readers actively look forward to the eventual return of famous old foes, as witness the following letter…
Before we get tot today's letter, Spidey (and "Back to the Future") scribe Bob Gale pointed out another website that was running one of his old letters to the editor. Bob was quite the letter writer back in the day, so I wanted to share this. Check it out:
Now, onto today's topic...an extremely erudite young woman by the name of Betty Ann Lopate wrote this manificently, mind-expanding missive in ASM #32...way back in 1965-ish. (Note the Playboy reference...which I'm relatively sure I could never get away with today).
This time out, for some fun I'm incuding the response typed up by someone on the Marvel staff. Flo Steinberg maybe? Stan himself? Anyway, enjoy!
Have you ever considered the close ideological connection between your “Spider-Man” and the Dadaist-Pop Art movement? The socially and psychologically conscious Spiderman, albeit still somewhat adolescently naïve, who worries about alienation and questions his role as a superhero, who has financial and emotional problems, who knows and feels his own limitations, and who allows himself subjective thoughts and reactions to the world around him, unlike the unrealistically objective and impervious Brand X-type hero.
What better way to advance the message of Dadaism and Pop Art, than through this mock-serious commentary on modern American values and current new breed of Freud-oriented adventure fantasy indulged in by every young person in the country. Your perception and sense of humor are, I can assure you, greatly appreciated, and are the reason for your success among intellectuals as well.
For, whether you realize it or not, your “Spider-Man” has become the “Hipper Man’s Playboy Magazine.” While Hefner has capitalized on the boyhood dreams of many men to consider themselves suave and sophisticated, “Spider-Man” calls up a different, much more realistic and subtle kind of sophistication; it caters to the young thinking man’s need to consider himself also a man of action. He can identify with Peter Parker, he is drawn into the story, and can actually perform, through the pages of your mag, the various acts of derring-do that have occupied his fantasy, world, but have up to now been reserved for those aloof, inert and all-too-perfect super-heroes who, for a long time now, have been failing to capture the active imagination of the “new consciousness.”
There’s a little of “Spider-Man” in all of us, and we are grateful for your recognition of the fact. Stay as wonderfully innocent as you are; we hope you never lapse into that easy slickness which would destroy the marvelous sense of conflict shown in your comics, and along with it, that surely intentional bumbling and adolescent awkwardness which is the greatest part of your charm.
Betty Ann Lopate
Brooklyn, New York.
How about that!!! Here’s a chick who spends her 12 cents and ends up getting fodder for a psychological desertation! Betty Ann, we think you’re great--- and let us know what you’ll charge to psychoanalyze the gang in the bullpen when you get a chance! Okay, ****cat?
Back in the 80s, the big, long-running Spidey mystery was "Who Is Hobgoblin?" spear-headed by Spidey-writer Roger Stern.
While the final reveal was somewhat muddled due to creative changes on the book (look it up), overall it's a run that people still love today.
It also led to some great guesses on who the mysterious menace was ..and this is one letter
I've always remembered from around 1987-88 (Sorry i forgot to jot down the issue number on this one).
Dear Mr. Stern,
The mysterious Hobgoblin is none other than Aunt May's long-lost son!
During my re-reading of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #238, I noticed a peculiar thought by Aunt May (page 10, panel 2). The unfinished sentence, "You never lost a child like I...", sent my mind racing. I've wondered if Aunt May and Uncle Ben had any children before they adopted Peter. I think it would be an interesting storyline if Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, were to find out that one of his deadliest enemies is his own cousin!
What I'm about to write next will probably sound ridiculous, but here goes anyway. On page 21, panel 4, of issue #238, the line "his forays into the world of crime.." may be a clue that Hobby is Aunt May's little boy, grown up.
I say this because the voice of Aunt May on the recent Spider-Man cartoons is spoken by June Foray.
I hope you're liking our trips down memory lane with all these old letters. Don't forget to leave a comment below with any comments or requests.
As for today's entry...
For many the 70s are the heyday of post-Lee/Ditko/Romita Spidey era. I hear from fans all the time who swear that this era was the best ever and can never be topped (and some suggest we should stop even trying)!
But as the Spidey team approached Amazing Spider-Man issue #200 in late 1979 (featuring one of the most fondly remembered Spider-man stories ever), it seems not everyone was pleased.
Here's a comment published in ASM #204 - cover date May 1980 (in regards to ASM #199).
Dear Marv, Sal, and Jim:
Well, next issue will be the Big One—the 200th issue of the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. But before that dramatic moment becomes history, I would like to impart some of my thoughts about how the story has progresses so far by focusing on SPIDER-MAN #199.
Although when I first realized that Spider-Man’s 200th anniversary was finally to become fact I was very excited, I have found that now, just one issue before the event, I am not that excited, but have already started to feel twinges of disappointment.
One reason why I feel this way is because I am not happy that it looks like Mysterio will be sharing at least a third of the stage with Spider-Man. Personally, I feel that Mysterio is one of Spidey’s dullest and most uninteresting villains. Mysterio, with his bubblehead, weird eye buttons for his cape, and odd gloves is one of the funniest-looking super-villains in the Marvel Universe: and funny villains don’t seem that threatening or imposing. The other possibility is that Uncle Ben’s killer will be taking up another third of the center stage. From the beginning this is the direction that this story seemed to be taking, but somewhere along the way it appears to have gotten sidetracked. Up to this point, Spider-Man doesn’t even know his uncle’s killer is on the loose, let alone partly responsible for his aunt’s supposed death. (Yes, I’m one of those who doesn’t think that Aunt May is dead—yet.) If Uncle Ben’s killer is going to take center stage next issue, I feel that the meeting with Spider-Man will lack enough depth because of the lack of sufficient build-up.
And sufficient build-up is the one most glaring problem with this Spider-Man saga—there hasn’t been much.. Unlike Marv’s FF opus where the story did build (even though it took too long to build) this Spider-Man epic has lacked the momentum to keep the reader coming back issue after issue until the big ending when the reader is supposed to be perched on the edge of his seat waiting for the dramatic finish. But I haven’t been waiting on the edge of my seat; in fact, all these issues leading up to the 200th issue have been like any other issues long before them. This saga hasn’t had any big crescendo like most lead-ins to anniversary issues try to attain. And it’s a shame, because I know that Marv has the ability to make something like this special.
To add to the problem, the art hasn’t been too great. This issue’s cover was much better than any of the Interior since the stuff Starlin and Byrne did for this book. One reason why this cover looked so good was that there was a good Inker embellishing Keith’s pencils, namely Pablo Marcos. Keith’s (and Sal’s) interior work has been shoddy to say the least, and Jim’s inks don’t really work all that well with either of these artists. All I can ask is that either you give the book a good Inker like Pablo—or maybe Bob McLeod (he really looked good over Keith on the cover of the newest annual)—or finally make John Byrne drop the X-Men so that he can take over this book (he also looked great in the annual).
Unless something phenomenal happens—like a miracle—next Issue to make this epic memorable, I can safely day that this epic has been very disappointing. And considering that this book is Marvel’s mainstay, I can only reiterate: It’s a shame.
Spidey editor Stephen Wacker back once again with another classic letter to the Spidey column from a by-gone era.
This one --from ASM #75-- deals with a couple long-running controversies among Spider-Fans...as always, it's stuff still being debated today.
Dear Mr. Lee,
It seems that ever since issue #39, Spider-Man has been getting weaker and weaker, not to mention much less agile. There was a time when he could knock out the Ox, who was at least as strong as the Kingpin, with one punch; and a fight against a few punk crooks would be a complete farce. If someone knocked him across the room, he would do a cartwheel or some such and gracefully manage to turn the punch into more speed and force to send him sailing through a bunch of thugs. Now, I’m not any kind of worshipper of your competitors—you know, the guys that make their heroes veritable human gods—but Spidey now seems to be no stronger than Daredevil or Captain America and much more clumsy. In the old days, he was strong enough to make himself a super-human being, but not too strong as to be an all-powerful diety. Now, he’s just a normal costumed shlump.
To make matters worse, his web was once strong enough to keep the Thing a prisoner for life. Now it seems that the web’s only virtue is it’s stickiness, and everyone outside of Irving Forbush can sever it—not snap it—sever it. It used to be like a thin, highly compressed steel wire, and if broken it would naturally go “snap.” Now it seem to be like a soggy strand of spaghetti, and if it’s broken, it goes “thwip” or some other idiotic sound. I thought it was your competitors that used the worthless sound effects! For shame. Also gone is the Spider-signal, which although corny, always seemed to blend in nicely.
Today also, Pete doesn’t have a care in the world compared to his problems of yesteryear. It’s a circle. You have a hero and give him a lot of problems. Everybody (including yourself) feels sorry for him because they tend to identify with him, so you take away his problems. You’re left with a crummy competitor-type hero, and you can no longer identify with him, so you give him problems again.
Give Spider-Man problems permanently! He no longer even represents a tragic figure, which he always has been supposed to represent. Who was once comicdom’s Hamlet is now, in comparison, comicdom’s Old King Cole. I’d better stop here; I’m breaking my own heart with nostalgia.
Welcome back to peek inside the (very) old mail-bag courtesy of the barely tolerable Amazing Spider-Man Senior Editor Stephen G. Wacker. (The 'G' is for Gwen!)
As the current Spidey storyline ONE MOMENT IN TIME reminds us, the ups-and-downs of Peter patrker's love-life has always been fodder for fan anger. Back in 1973, the historic and still-controverisal Death of Gwen Stacy was published and an avalanche of e-mail began. Here's one representative letter from Amazing Spider #125 that reads like it could have been written today!
Okay, Conway, I've said it before and I'll say it again. You're a good writer, but you're just not good enough for SPIDER-MAN. The atrocity you commited in issue #121 was only the latest of your crimes. You must be taken off this magazine!
And would you mind explaining one thing? What do you mean by claiming that a fall from that height would kill anyone before they struck the ground? Everyday skydivers fall that distance and further before their chutes open. It doesn't kill them. I myself have fallen that distance skydiving and I'm still around.
So not only do you kill Gwen Stacy, you kill her in a way that doesn't make sense. And, even if there is some scientific explanation which I do not grasp, than half of the characters in Marvel Comics should be dead, because they are always falling from such heights and being saved at the last minute. Marvel Comics seem to be getting less consistent every month, and your consistency used to be one of the greatest things about Marvel.
I am disgusted with all of you for letting issue #121 happen.
Today's entry comes to us straight from ASM #52, the heart of the legendary Stan Lee and John Romita run on Spidey. It's surprsing to find out now just how wrong even guys like Stan and John got Spidey!
Dear Stan and John,
What has happened to the real Spider-Man? Who is this imposter who claims to be Peter Parker, the alter ego of the well known web-slinger? The Spider-Man that I remember seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth, and has been replaced by a completely different character who acts more like an agent of Brand Echh than an honest-to-goodness Marvel hero!
In the space of almost one year, the team of Stan Lee and John Romita has changed both the appearance and the personality of Peter Parker to the point where he is practically beyond recognition! Petey has evolved from a quiet, sensitive, studious, square-type loner into a groovy, hip, and frugging party-goer who zips about on a motorcycle and has no trouble at all trying to get a date with some slick chick. Why, I can remember the time when Pete didn't have a friend in the world!
What I'm trying to say is, please, bring back the old Spider-Man--the Spider-Man who, scorned by the public, and continuously worrying about the health and welfare of his sick Aunt May, had often thought of giving up his identity as a crime-fighter forever--the Spider-Man who was constantly being weighted down by a feeling of guilt over the death of his uncle and by an ever-present sense of loneliness! These are the qualities which set Spider-Man apart from the ordinary, run-of-the-mill superhero, and made him unique, the most dramatic, tragic, realistic hero ever to appear in a comic mag. Let's see him restored to his former heights of greatness!
Welcome back to the Spidey blog where we look deep into the recesses of the old mailbag.
Today we have a letter from about 1976-1977 with some familiar sounding concerns. This was published soon after the Spidey spin-off series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN was announced. The Spider-Man starring "Marvel Team-Up" was also up-and-running by then, taking the Spidey line to 3 books every month.
I'm also including the editorial response...which was particualrly prescient considering we now publish Amazing Spider-Man 3-times per month. Enjoy...
I’m against it. The idea of publishing a third monthly comic book devoted to the adventures of Spider-Man is a bad one. It’s bad for the characters, bad for Marvel, and bad for comics.
There is such a thing as overworking a character, and in starting PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, I’m afraid you have crossed the line and done just that. Milking Spider-Man’s well-deserved popularity is a mistake that will ultimately result in decreasing his popularity-- and, more importantly, his quality—through over-exposure and over-extension. The fact that there are three mags chronicling Spidey’s career at once cannot help but result in countless paradoxes and time-strains that will do a great deal of damage to his continuity and his believability.
I don’t know how long PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN will last, but I suspect it won’t be long. I hope you won’t find it offensive when I admit that I hope that will be the case.
Michael P. Capurse, Rochester, NY
Everyone to their own opinion, Mike. That’s what makes life—and the funny book biz—interesting.
We have to disagree with you, though. And it looks like most of the rest of Marveldon Assembled does, also.
But don’t get too worried about continuity. Just last week, Lively Len Wein go together with Archie Goodwin—who takes over the writing reins of PETER PARKER next issue—and Chris Claremont—MARVEL TEAM-UP’s new scribe—to hash out Spidey’s life for the next several months. So, if it makes you feel better, don’t think of Spidey as having three monthly books. Think of him as having one book that comes out three times a month!
Like a lot of blogs over the past couple years, this one has been ignored while readers and writers moved on to other services like Twitter and Formspring.
Well, no more, effendi! It's time for a Spidey blog rebirth!
But instead of news and teases which you can find all over the internet, we'll be using this space to open up the classic Spidey mail-bag. Finding old letters to the editors of the time filled with insight, foresight, and nerds from the 70s who went on to write the Avengers!
And speaking of, our first entry is from that Brevoortingly bearded one himself, the former Avengers and Thunderbolts scribe and creator of Kurt Busiek's Astro City...Kurt Busiek.
I’m sure that Marv thinks he has gobs of “new, exciting ideas that’ll really throw ya for a look, effendis!” But I doubt it. You can’t kill off another supporting character, and I’m sure readers wouldn’t want you to. You’ve done it twice (Capt. Stacy and daughter), it won’t be any good again.
But maybe you could clear up some of the long-running plot threads and replace them with new ones we’re not expecting. Spider-Man’s biggest gimmick is his cavalcade of personal problems. What’s wrong with his life that hasn’t been done before. A three-year old could clear up Parker’s life. Take his “wanted by the police” shtick. That has not only been over-used in Spider-Man, but in most of Marvel’s other books as well, not to mention a few of DC’s. Why not clear him?
Is Spidey in the forefront of the field today? When people ask that question, Marvel usually points to the sales figures and says, see, see, ain’t he great? Well, that red-yellow-and-blue goon at DC has pretty impressive sales figures, too, but in no way is he in the artistic forefront of the industry. Which is where Spidey was back in the Stan Lee days. Spider-man was once famous for his radical changes. Not traditional comic book “changes” that appear for about eight issues and fade away to be replaced by the standard. I mean lasting changes like Peter’s high school graduation, his love life, and the Gwen Stacy affair. Something like that will still be important fifty issues later.
This may seem a bit emphatic and overemotional, but believe me, this letter has been building for some time. The Mary Jane affair was just the proverbial straw. Thanks for the chance to berate you like this. It may not help, but it makes me feel better.
SW-Sharing a couple good ideas from out there in reader-land.
I am a big fan of Marvel comics. Spider-Man is by far my favorite character. I was recently reading an old issue of Star Comic's Masters of the Universe # 5. I found that in "Star Signals," Tom DeFalco said that Peter Porker's anniversary was going to be in twenty-three and a half years. That was back in 1987. If my math is correct, that is next summer in 2010. Even though he isn't one of your more popular characters, I realized that when you said that the last Spider-Ham story was only demanded by tens of people, I am a fan of Spider-Ham and would like to see a 25th anniversary issue next year. I would hate to hear that you forgot his anniversary. Everyone should wish him a happy anniversary. Thank you for listening.
As a busy college student, I am behind by a few issues, but I would greatly like to discuss a detail that caught my attention in ASM #607.
In the opening of the comics Peter is thinking about Black Cat and says that she is 110 pounds. That is simply not possible. She is obviously quite voluptuous and presumably quite muscular, and according to the Marvel website, she is 5’10’’. If she weighed 110 lbs. at that height, she would be a stick with no curves, no muscle, and visible ribs.
Perhaps this can be laughed off as Peter’s ignorance when it comes to women, but that does not cut it for me. He has a very scientific mind and can surely estimate better than that. I think I reacted so strongly to such a small detail because of the message it sends out to your readers. Women struggle everyday with unrealistic body images being thrust at them as the “ideal.” Cat is drawn to be one hot girl but it should not get into anyone’s head that you need to weigh 110 lbs to look like that. That is how eating disorders begin.
I know the number of female readers is small, but this can have negative effects for male readers as well, causing them to have unrealistic expectations of the women in their lives, for example. All I ask is that you be more aware of this in your future work and maybe add a few pounds next time (the website says she is 120 lbs. which is better but still nowhere near high enough).
SW-Excellent point, Kathleen. I'll see what we can do about the website entry.