Comics Creators on Spider-Man

Author: Tom DeFalco
Titan Books
RRP 14.99, US $16.95
ISBN 1 84023 422 9
Available 08 July 2004

I must confess to having been a mite apprehensive upon hearing the news that a Spider-Man book was on its way for review. As an avid reader of the comics as a kid and an admirer of the character concept in general, I was cringing at the thought of yet another movie tie-in with big glossy pictures of nothing in particular as a cheap and exploitative gimmick. Boy, was I wrong!

This is an attractive-looking trade paperback-size book crammed with interesting and informative interviews in small but comfortably readable print. The idea is that Tom DeFalco, himself an integral cog in this constantly turning industry wheel, has interviewed many of the big names who have been involved in the writing and artwork of this much-loved Marvel hero. Among these names are Stan Lee, the creator, John Romita, Mark Bagley, Gerry Conway, J.M. De Matteis and many more.

Aside from Stan the Man, for me the person who had the most dramatic influence on the story development and particularly the artwork was Todd McFarlane, who went on to create Spawn and now runs a handful of media and toy companies of which the Movie Maniacs line is most impressive. He changed the look of the character by enhancing the spider side of his nature and redesigning the webbing so that it could be fired dramatically toward the reader. You could say that this was the point when superhero comics grew up and began to aim for a more mature young market and older collectors.

If you're looking for a "How To..." book, forget it; this is more about how each individual stamped his mark on Spider-Man and made the comic series his own. They do talk about some of their techniques, and also their friendships or conflicts with each other, but this more closely explores how they got into their profession and what point of the character continuity they influenced.

Sprinkled amongst the text at random intervals are the histories and origins of the family, friends and villains of Peter Parker, landmark Spider-Man publications and popular storylines. There are some nice design sketches and unused covers, but with no colour photos taking up room this book can concentrate more on the people behind Spider-Man, rather than the Webslinger himself.

The appeal for me here is the discussion of plotlines and layout. You get the feeling this is the type of book Tom DeFalco himself wanted to read, but the truth is Comics Creators on Spider-Man from Titan Books will appeal to those interested in graphic design, the multi-layered character of Spider-Man or fans of comics in general. Highly recommended.

In the Introduction DeFalco apologises for the exclusion of Babylon 5 writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski who was too busy to meet the deadline, and artist John Romita who is interviewed extensively in Artists on Comic Art, also published by Titan. Perhaps these minor oversights can be rectified in a future follow-up to this book. I recently bought two Spider-Man graphic novels simply because Straczynski had scripted them. It was simply the greatest pairing of storyteller and artist I have seen in a long time.

Ty Power

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