We wind down the first half of "Life of Reilly" appropriately enough with a mini-series and a one-shot that serve to close the book on Peter and Mary Jane Watson-Parker.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : These two projects were essentially "sister" projects, with one leading into the other. They were designed to close out the "Peter Parker" era of Spider-Man and clear the decks once and for all for Ben Reilly. ]
SPIDER-MAN: THE PARKER YEARS is a one-shot written by Evan Skolnick and illustrated by Joe St. Pierre and Al Milgrom, and features a wraparound cover by John Romita Jr. The story begins with Peter and Mary Jane on the roof of their apartment, burning old photos and getting ready to burn the Spider-Man costume. MJ is upset that Peter is destroying these personal possessions, and when Peter explains that they only compound the lie he was living for the past five years, she chastises him and tries to bring him back down to earth. So begins a flashback issue, focusing on the events of Peter's life after he thought he had buried the clone so many years ago.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : The PARKER YEARS one-shot represented my first experience as hands-on editor of a comic book project, and it came to pass purely by circumstance. My boss, editor Tom Brevoort, was very sick at the time (as I recall, it was either bronchitis or the flu), and was out of the office for several days. In the meantime, PARKER YEARS had been scheduled and our time was running out. We had no real concept for it and no creative team in place before Tom got sick, and we needed to get started on it ASAP. So I took the reigns on it.
Evan Skolnick, who was writing NEW WARRIORS for Tom and me, happened to stop by our office one day and I informed him of our scheduling dilemma - and the fact that we didn't even a real concept yet. Evan made some suggestions on how to approach the PARKER YEARS one-shot: what it should be about, what should happen in it. I liked what I heard, and I had an idea. With Evan sitting right there on our office couch, I called Tom Brevoort at home. Tom crawled out of his deathbed to clutch at the phone, and I proudly said to him, "I think I've got a writer for PARKER YEARS!" Tom, barely above a whisper, managed to groan out, "Who?" (He actually might've been asking who I was - he was pretty sick, remember - but I just assumed he was following what I was saying.) I replied, "Evan Skolinick - he's sitting right here in the office!" Tom said, "Yeah, okay," and that was pretty much it. Done deal. I gave Evan an enthusiastic thumbs-up signal as I hung up on the barely-alive Brevoort, and sent Evan on his way to write up a proposal. The proposal was eventually approved by Spider-Man Group Editor in Chief Bob Budiansky, and Evan then went on to write the plot.
The artist for the book, Joe St. Pierre, was an up-and-coming penciler who did some pages for Tom and me for the JACKAL FILES one-shot, and I liked his stuff. Bob Budiansky was pushing everyone to bring some new talent into the Spider-Man group, so that we'd have a nice big pool of artists to choose from. I thought Joe would make a nice addition to that pool, and Tom agreed. We eventually gave Joe some work on the VENOM series once we took over as editors. As I recall, I chose Joe for THE PARKER YEARS shortly after I handed the writing assignment to Evan. Tom was still out sick, and we had to keep moving forward, and I think Tom pretty much left it up to me to pick the artist.
Finally, I called John Romita Jr. to pencil the wraparound cover. For me, it was a no-brainer. I always jumped at any opportunity to work directly with JR, and I saw this as one of those opportunities. Luckilly, he was able and willing to do it, and he did his usual wonderful job. ]
Peter tells Mary Jane how he came to believe he was the real Peter without ever checking the scientific evidence, since he thought only the true Parker could have such strong feelings for her. He tells MJ that if only he had realized the truth early on, perhaps tragedies could have been avoided later on.. He wonders if the real Spider-Man would have done a better job than he did during such events as leading a two-bit crook into the Green Goblin's lair by accident, which set into motion the creation of the Hobgoblin. He thinks of all the lives lost, all the lives put in danger as a result of the Hobgoblin...as a result of his failure as Spider-Man. He also tells MJ of how he accidentally knocked Morris Bench into irradiated water, transforming him into Hydro Man, and how he was responsible for bringing the alien symbiote (which would become Venom) to Earth. Peter recalls his mistakes with the Sin-Eater and how he jumped away from a shotgun blast, leaving the spray to hit an innocent bystander and how he later beat the Sin-Eater so badly that he left him a cripple. He remembers hurting the Black Cat and how he let Kraven the Hunter beat him and assume his identity. He recalls being tricked into believing that his parents were really back from the dead and wonders if the real Peter would have been fooled so easily.
Mary Jane lets Peter finish, and once he's brought her up to speed and into the events of the Clone Saga, she starts to fight fire with fire, reminding him of all the times he's put his life on the line to save the world. She points out that it was he who's been stopping criminals and saving lives all these years. She reminds him that it was he who she fell in love with, married and is going to have a child with. Regardless of who is a clone and who isn't, he was the "real" Spider-Man. And although she doesn't ever want him to be in the costume again, she tells Peter that he has to accept his past before going into their future.
Peter smiles, packs up his Spider-Man costume and supplies, and goes back down from the roof with his wife.
The next story we cover is the 4-issue mini-series, SPIDER-MAN: THE FINAL ADVENTURE, written by Fabian Nicieza and illustrated by Darick Robertson and Jeff Albrecht. Ben Reilly was going to be given a clean slate in the Spider-Man books, but we couldn't have Peter and Mary Jane disappear completely, could we? This series enabled readers to see Peter and Mary Jane in their new life in Portland, baby on the way, with no regrets. Would it be possible for them to have a happy ending for once?
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : The story behind SPIDER-MAN: THE FINAL ADVENTURE starts out very simply and becomes very complicated. I'll try to be as brief as possible in the telling - otherwise, this'll be one of the longest columns in history.
In a nutshell, Bob Budiansky wanted a limited series that would set up Peter Parker and his pregnant wife, Mary Jane, in a new living situation far away from New York. Bob assigned the limited series to Tom Brevoort and me to produce. Bob's mandate was this: Peter and Mary Jane begin a new life in a new locale. Something happens that forces Peter to put on the Spider-Man costume one last time. As Spider-Man, Peter must solve the crisis as Mary Jane goes into labor. The series would end with Peter emerging triumphant and arriving at Mary Jane's side in time for her to give birth to their baby. Those were our marching orders, and Tom and I set out to put together a creative team.
We decidely fairly quickly to hire Darick Robertson as penciler - he was a talented artist who had previously enjoyed a long run on NEW WARRIORS, and was always happy to do Spider-Man work. He did the bulk of that Spider-Man work for Tom and me, on various 8-page stories and Annuals, and we knew this would be a good opportunity for him to strut his stuff on an important project. I was particularly enthusiastic about working with Darick, since he and I had become pretty friendly by that point.
In terms of our writer, Fabian Nicieza was one of the hottest writers in comics, having just finished a long and successful run as one of the core X-Men writers. The X-Men connection alone was reason enough to ask him to write the series, since the X-books were all the rage, but Tom and I also thought he'd simply do a great job. And of course, Fabian and Darick had worked so well together on NEW WARRIORS that we thought it would be cool to reunite this team. Tom and I never really got a chance to work with Fabian when we took over as the editors of NEW WARRIORS - he was already on his way off the book when we got it - so FINAL ADVENTURE was our first real opportunity to collaborate with him. ]
As the series opens, the Parkers have been in Portland for 3 weeks, with Peter now working as a research assistant for GARID, an alternative research company which happens to be the same company that sponsored the original experiment which gave Peter his spider-powers years ago. Peter thought it would enable him to learn about the effects of his powers, the radiation and any possible side effects on their unborn child. There is a nice scene in the middle of the book with Peter trying to sleep, uncomfortable because he never used to be in bed before midnight, having been Spider-Man for so long.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : The series was filled with nice little scenes and character observations. Fabian understood Peter Parker pretty well, and he made Peter and Mary Jane seem "alive," through the use of natural, realistic dialogue. One scene in particular that I liked involved Peter feeling very uncomfortable while driving a car in Portland. It was a long-established part of the mythos that Peter didn't know how to drive, and I was glad to see Fabian pick up on that. ]
Back in NYC, Bugle reporter Ken Ellis is trying to get files on Spider-Man, Peter Parker and the Scarlet Spider to find if there's a connection between the 2 spider-men. This is occurring while something odd is going on at GARID.. Peter notices tests being done on people with patterns matching his own. He offers some of his own blood, hoping to fix the problem, which just creates an even worse situation. One night Peter gets a frantic phone call from a co-worker who's being attacked. Mary Jane tells him to call the police, but Peter puts on his costume and swings out to try and rescue her.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : If memory serves, Ken Ellis was created by Howard Mackie, who promptly forgot about the character and never did anything significant with him. Fabian, on the other hand, seemed to really like Ken, and used him whenever he got the chance to write Spider-Man. ]
Peter's irradiated blood contaminated the patient, River Verys, mutating him into a monstrous spider-creature, which is on the loose now. Peter is wrestling with guilt for enjoying being in the costume again. He doesn't want to admit it, but he never feels as alive as he does when he's Spider-Man. Mary Jane is getting frustrated, too, but he feels compelled to do what he thinks is right and bring Verys in.
At the same time, Ken Ellis is starting to push further on the connection between the Spider-Men and Peter Parker. After he calls Mary Jane for information and she hangs up on him, Ellis seems to only become more intrigued. When Ellis is given a copy of a newspaper with a Spider-Man photo in Portland, he smiles and prepares for a trip to the West Coast. Spider-Man suddenly appearing in a city where Peter Parker just moved to? There has to be a story in there.
At work, Peter discovers that the same experiment that made him Spider-Man has turned Verys into the spider-monster. When he calls MJ to tell her that it's almost over, she chooses to not answer the phone. When he gets home, he starts to read a note she wrote. Believing her to have left him, Peter tosses the note aside in anger. MJ, meanwhile, has gone back to NY to take care of some business.
In NY, Ellis is interviewing old acquaintances of Peter, trying to put a story together. He runs into MJ, who again ignores him. She opts to confide in Ben Reilly, instead. At the Parker house in Queens, Mary Jane and Ben have a conversation about power and responsibility and then there's a knock on the door. MJ opens it to find Ellis holding a newspaper with the headline, "Spider-Man Identity Revealed," with a split picture of Peter and Spider-Man.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : I remember there being a big discussion between Tom Brevoort, me, and Bob Budiansky about whether or not we could use Ben Reilly in FINAL ADVENTURE. Bob's point was that the story was supposed to be taking place in Portland, Oregon, away from New York and the classic supporting cast and Ben Reilly. Peter and Mary Jane are supposed to be surrounded by new people and new situations - why, then, would we bring in all the New York stuff in this series? Also, the very first issues of Ben as Spider-Man were coming out at the same time as FINAL ADVENTURE, and I believe there was some concern about spreading the character too thin (he was also guest-starring in the last issue of WEB OF SCARLET SPIDER). Tom and I argued that Ben's role in FINAL ADVENTURE was minimal at best, essentially an extended cameo appearance, and that the story that Fabian had ultimately developed really did dictate that Ben play a role. Bob finally relented. I think Fabian did a really nice job on the scenes with Mary Jane and Ben, and brought a new dimension to their relationship. ]
MJ doesn't back down. She realizes it's a mock up made on a computer and tells Ellis that as a reporter, he has to prove the story, not have the subject disprove it. While Ben thinks of a way to get back at Ellis, MJ goes to Joe Robertson and asks for a favor. Robbie says with a smile that killing a story is the "second" worst thing he could think of doing. Ben, as Spider-Man, ups the ante by tormenting J. Jonah Jameson in classic smart-ass style, even webbing him to his chair. When Robbie asks Jonah about Ellis's "is this the real Spider-Man" story, Jameson tells him to kill it. Ellis tells Robbie that he can stop the Bugle from printing the story, but not Ellis from selling it. Ellis soon discovers that it pays to have friends, as other papers claim that if Robbie passed, so will they. Robbie then tells Mary Jane that turning his back on his loved ones when they need him the most is the "first" worst thing he could think of doing.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : The scene between the Ben Reilly Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson was a hoot, a throwback to the good ol' days of Spider-Man. I was glad that Fabian had the opportunity to work that in. ]
The dramatic moment occurs toward the end of issue 4. GARID has taken Verys and another subject that was exposed to Verys and mutated, and is using the radiation technology to try and reverse the process that has affected them. A problem occurs and the lead geneticist tells Peter to go in to help out. The process is safe and won't effect normal humans. Peter realizes that he is far from normal and although he wonders about the consequences, he knows he must help any way he can. The process hits Peter, rendering his abilities inert, as if someone put a heavy blanket over his powers.
Mary Jane returns from NY and Peter tells her that his powers are gone. They spend the next days and weeks enjoying each other and enjoying life. Peter realizes that although with great power comes great responsibility, responsibility also comes from the very act of being and that people should empower themselves just to help each other out. Without the powers and the costume, "Peter Parker has been able to finally find himself all over again for the very first time."
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : Okay, settle yourselves in now, because this is going to be a long stretch from me. To say that THE FINAL ADVENTURE was not without its share of problems would be one hell of an understatement. First of all, Darick met with some unexpected deadline pressures and had some other freelance commitments that needed to be dealt with. This meant that he had to rush through the latter portion of the project, and was not able to do the beautifully detailed and intricate artwork he produces when he's doing regular, full pencils. We also had to bring in additional inkers to help out, and that cost us any hope of an internally consistent art style. I look at Darick's work on TRANSMETROPOLITAN and the upcoming NICK FURY limited series, and I'm filled with regret that we couldn't give him the time he needed to really go to town on the pages for FINAL ADVENTURE. But the problems on the story end of this project are a tad more involved, to put it mildly.
Remember, I said earlier that the series was supposed to end with the birth of Peter and Mary Jane's baby. Well, if you've read Andrew's synopsis, you know that the series didn't end that way. Instead, Peter lost his powers and Mary Jane was still pregnant. So, what happened? Well, the bottom line is that an important decision was made by Bob Budiansky after work had begun on FINAL ADVENTURE, and that decision was that Peter Parker was definitely going to be restored as the one, true, original Spider-Man. Up until then, the plan was to stay the course and keep Ben as the original - and as Spider-Man. (I'll discuss the circumstances that led to Bob's decision later, probably in our next column.) But now, with Peter eventually coming back as Spider-Man, there could be no baby. The feeling was that Peter, a highly responsible and conscientious individual, would not and could not continue as Spider-Man and constantly put his life in grave danger if he had a baby at home.. How could he take a chance on letting that child grow up without its daddy? The other rationale was that the main reason why Ben Reilly was brought in to replace Peter in the first place was so that we could have a youthful, single, carefree Spider-Man again. That was a major goal of the Spider-Man Group. How, then, could we turn around and make Spider-Man a father? That development would distance Spider-Man even further from the target audience.. Mary Jane's pregnancy had to be stopped, somehow.
Bob Budiansky suggested that FINAL ADVENTURE end with Mary Jane suffering a miscarriage. I remember that I was very uncomfortable with that idea, but was willing to at least consider it as a possibility. Tom Brevoort, however, flatly refused. I believe his exact words were, "There's no way in hell that I'm going down in history as the man who killed Spider-Man's baby." I don't think this suggestion even made it to Fabian, so vehement was Brevoort about not going in that direction. Tom even suggested that we cancel the whole project, even though we were well underway. "No baby, no FINAL ADVENTURE," I believe he said, pointing out that the whole reason we were doing this limited series in the first place was to finally have Mary Jane give birth. I eventually came around to Tom's way of thinking, and in a July 8, 1995 memo to all the Spider-Man editors and writers, I suggested that if Mary Jane suffered a miscarriage, it should happen in the core books, and that "we pull the plug on the SPIDER-MAN: THE FINAL ADVENTURE limited series."
Budiansky quickly pulled back from the idea of having FINAL ADVENTURE end with a miscarriage. He then suggested that the story end with Mary Jane still pregnant (her condition would indeed be dealt with in the main books), and Peter simply packing up his Spider-Man costume and sending it to Ben Reilly back in New York. Tom and I rejected this, because that was not at all a satisfying ending - especially not for a four-issue limited series. There had to be something significant that happened at the end, something meaningful and important enough to warrant the project's existence. Nevertheless, Bob kept pushing this idea as the best solution.
Tom discussed the situation with Fabian, who went off to think things through and try to come up with an alternate conclusion. Soon after, he returned with the idea of Peter losing his powers as a result of his heroic actions during the story's climax. Fabian even stuck in a "backdoor" story element that could easily restore Peter's powers when it became necessary. Budiansky rejected Fabian's new ending, since Peter was eventually going to be needed - with his powers intact - in the core books. (By the way, the fact that we were doing a limited series about Peter's "final adventure," only to have him back in action shortly thereafter, was not lost on Tom and me. We didn't like it, but there was little we could do about it. In retrospect, we probably just should have canceled the whole project before it was solicited. For all the impact that FINAL ADVENTURE ultimately had on the Spider-Man universe, it really wasn't worth all the aggravation.)
At this point, Fabian had to make a stand. He had already had his original ending - the birth of Peter and Mary Jane's child - ripped away from him. He was having a crappy new ending forced upon him. The solution he came up with, which gave the limited series at least some semblance of significance but still took into account the needs of the core books, was being flatly rejected. Fabian understood Bob's position, but he finally told Bob, with no rancor and no acrimony, that unless he was able to end the series the way he saw fit, he could not stay on as the writer. A different writer would have to brought in for the last issue. Brevoort and I were present for this conversation, and I seem to remember us glancing at each other, grimacing, both of us seeing this entire project become an unmitigated disaster. There's no doubt in my mind that Fabian absolutely meant what he said. He didn't need the work that badly that he would be forced into writing something he did not believe in. Fabian absolutely wanted to finish the series, but the ending had to work for him. I completely agreed with him on this, and I believe Tom did, too - not that it would make our lives any easier if we had to bring in a new writer for the last issue.
In the end, Bob relented and let Fabian have his ending. It was the right thing to do. This was a very good way to end the series. Fabian was well aware that this ending would probably be undone within a few short months, but he was fine with that. He just wanted FINAL ADVENTURE to be a complete and satisfying reading experience. Whatever came after that was not his concern.
The core Spider-Man writers were not pleased when they found out that Peter had lost his powers. Some were more vocal about their displeasure than others. They seemed to feel that a sideline project like this, something outside of the core books and written by an "outside" writer, should not have been able to dictate the status of a main character, nor should it have been allowed to interfere with their long-range story plans. In the grand scheme of things, though, all they would really have to do is just use the backdoor that Fabian worked in and restore Peter's powers - no big deal. But there were egos involved, and the core writers presumably felt that their toes had been stepped on.
If I were in their shoes, I might have felt the same way. At any rate, Bob Budiansky probably got an earful from the core Spider-Man writers (or at least some of them) over his approval of Fabian's ending. I say this because Bob later went on to make it very clear to us that the core books must always dictate the direction and the contents of all sideline projects. As Bob would repeatedly tell Tom and me, to do otherwise would be to allow "the tail to wag the dog." Tom and I understood and accepted this philosophy. Unfortunately, as I'll discuss in the coming weeks, the core books would descend further and further into creative chaos, and as a result, would drag most of the other Brevoort/Greenberg projects down with them. ]
We're halfway there! This is technically our 19th installment, but who's counting? Almost five months ago, people thought we were absolutely insane for doing a 35-part feature on a long-dead character and one of the most controversial stories in comics. Now people still think we're insane, but for other reasons. If you go on the Internet, you'll find dozens of Ben Reilly fans sites and it's hard to get through a Spider-Man message board on the web without seeing a ton of pro-Ben Reilly and pro-Clone Saga posts. This experiment has hit a nerve with most of you, and lucky for us, you seem to love what we've been doing. We're doing a bit of a departure this week for mid-point. We're going to run just a few of the letter's we've received, which will be scattered throughout an interview with my cohort and buddy Glenn Greenberg. See you all in one week for "The Second Half."
These articles have been a pleasure to read on the infamous "Clone Saga." Yes, there are some people that didn't like the series, but to me it's what got me back into comics and Spider-Man again. The first issue I picked up after a 10-year hiatus was the "Trial of Peter Parker." Been a hardcore collector ever since. I even have a Jurgens poster of the Ben Reilly Spidey, one of my prized possessions! Bring back Ben!
Andrew: What comics did you read as a kid?
Glenn : It all started with Batman and at first, it was absolutely all about Batman. I was exposed at an early age to the old television show with Adam West. I didn't know it was campy; I just loved it. Then one day, I must've been around four years old, and my older brother was at college, I was rummaging through his closet and there were all these comics, including Batman comics. I thought, "Wow, he's in comics, too!" And I've been into comics ever since. Shortly after that, I started getting into the Incredible Hulk.
Andrew: So the Hulk/Batman story that Marvel and DC published must have been a thrill.
Glenn : It was a dream come true. I thought it was terrific. It was like they read my mind and made that comic just for me. I thought it was the coolest thing.
Andrew: What was the creative team on that?
Glenn : The writer was Len Wein, one of the few people who wrote both characters up to that point, and it was illustrated by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Dick Giordano.
Andrew: How'd you break into the business?
Glenn : It was a "friend of a friend" situation. Basically some close friends of my parents knew Bob Budiansky. These friends of my folks knew that I loved comics, and they asked Bob to give me a tour of the Marvel offices. This was in 1982 or very early 1983, so I was about 13 years old. I continued to keep in contact with Bob throughout the years. He was very generous with his time. I sent him a note congratulating him on becoming editor of SECRET WARS II, which was a big deal at that time. I also sent him some pictures that I drew. When I was a senior in college, I knew I wanted to do comics for a living and I called him. He actually had an opening right then and there that I could have interviewed for, but I would have had to quit college like a month before graduating. My parents would have killed me if I'd done that, so I had to tell him that I couldn't even be considered. After graduating, I kept in touch with Bob and one year later I interviewed with him and was hired.
Andrew: What was your first job there at Marvel?
Glenn : I started on July 6, 1992. I was the Assistant Editor in the Special Projects Department, where we worked on stuff like the Marvel trading cards. Back in the early 90s, trading cards were incredibly hot. That was the boom period. You could put pretty much anything on a trading card and "wham," people would buy it. I was Bob's direct assistant and wasn't involved with the comics side of things. But doing the cards allowed me to contact creators and introduce myself to them and get them to do work for us, which was incredible.
John Romita Sr was still on staff at the time and I got to see him every day, which was a blast. I worked with these legends like John and Joe Jusko. Slowly but surely I drifted to the comics. I got to work on the Megazine reprint books, which were really highly regarded. I got a lot of popular creators to do new covers for those Megazines. John Byrne did a cover. Michael Golden, too. And Frank Miller. In fact, I'm the last Marvel editor to ever get work out of Frank Miller.
Glenn : Yep. It was a Megazine cover focusing on Daredevil, with surrounding head-shots of the Thing, the Hulk and Iron Man. It was such a crazy time. I remember that Frank turned the cover in and I called him to rave about it and tell him how great it was to work with him. Then he told me that I may not think that way after the weekend, and I wondered what he was talking about. He told me was about to head out to give the keynote address at the Diamond Distributor conference that weekend, and that he was not going to be particularly kind to Marvel. Frank ended up giving this scathing, blistering diatribe against Marvel. He talked about how we were just picking off Jack Kirby's bones, recycling all of his ideas, and not giving Jack the respect and the credit he deserved. He also attacked Jim Shooter, who happened to be in the audience. I read the transcript of the speech when it ran in Comics Buyers Guide, and I was just relieved that my name wasn't mentioned! (Laughter) Of course, the ironic thing was that Frank had just completed an assignment for us. But the cool thing about Frank was that he did the cover, and he even did a revision because he didn't do it exactly the way we had originally discussed. Now there's a phone call I wasterrified to make, the one where I asked for the revisions. I was petrified. ButFrank was really good about it and made the revisions with no fuss.
They were going to give Ben Reilly his own title??!! Well what the heck happened?? Why'd they have to kill him? Man that ticks me off. It was such a pointless death for such a great character. If you get in touch with Tom DeFalco again make sure to ask him if there's any hope for a resurrection. We've seen one clone control his molecules. Maybe Ben could figure it out and pull himself together.
Andrew: How did you go from Bob's department to working with Tom Brevoort?
Glenn : Bob was reshuffling his department. He thought I'd be a good fit with Brevoort, because we both had extensive knowledge of the Marvel Universe, its history, the characters, and that came in very handy for the trading cards. I mean, Tom Brevoort has this encyclopedic knowledge of comics and the Marvel Universe in particular, far more extensive than mine. But between the two of us,you had a real source of information on the Marvel Universe. I would say that the two of us equaled about one half of Mark Gruenwald. I guess Bob Budiansky just thought it'd be a good fit. Considering that Tom and I ended up working together for about four and a half years, and got along very well, it was a good decision.
Thanks! I've found the series interesting. As a reader who wasn't around during the Clone Saga, it helped to fill me in on a lot of things, as well as the interesting behind the scenes stuff. So when is Ben Reilly coming back to the Marvel Universe? Can we at least get a Trade Paperback?
Andrew: Do you remember your first comics project?
Glenn : We did a movie adaptation of No Escape.
Andrew: The Ray Liotta movie?
Glenn : Yeah. I still have no idea why we did this book. Bob Budiansky gave me the screenplay and asked me to read it. I read it, and told him that I thoughtit wasn't a bad story but I couldn't see us doing a comic version of it. He said, "Too bad, we're already doing it." (Laughter) My attitude was,"Hey, my first shot at doing a comic, just enjoy the ride." Brevoort and I got to go to a private screening of the movie, though, and Sigourney Weaver sat right behind me in the theater.
I think the Megazines came next. They were very popular in terms of the way they were regarded, but they didn't sell all that well. Even the Editor In Chief,which was Tom DeFalco at the time, came by to tell me how much he loved them. He knew I was petrified of him back then, so he tried to make me sweat it out first before he gave me the compliment - he first wanted me to think that he was mad at me.
Everything changed with Marvelution. This is when the Marvel books were split into 5 different groups. Brevoort and I were folded into the Spider-Man group,which included the Spider-Man titles, as well as NEW WARRIORS, GREEN GOBLIN,NIGHT THRASHER, NOVA, and the 99-cent UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN.
Excellent job. Any thoughts to starting a movement along the lines of those"Friends of Hal Jordan" from years back? They made DC bring him back, even after they promised and swore Hal was gone for good.
Andrew: Did you want to stay on the Editorial side or was writing your goal?
Glenn : Well, I waited six months before even pitching my first story. I wanted to establish myself as a staffer, first and foremost. I didn't want to seem like just another guy who came in, would try to line up as many freelance assignments as possible and then leave staff. I wanted to follow in thefootsteps of people like Mark Gruenwald and Archie Goodwin and Denny O'Neil.These guys were top editors who were writing regularly, as well. It's the best of both worlds.
from Alex(EMAIL withheld)
A bunch of us emailed you earlier, complimenting you for not only the dedication and determination of doing this every week, but for showing us a different side of this much maligned character. As web heads (as in internet),we get to surf around and poke into chat rooms often and by god if you haven't started something unbelievable here. There are pro-Ben Reilly sites popping up, Ben Reilly threads started on usenet, Wizard, the Warren Ellis forum (he doesn'tlike you very much though) and anywhere else comic related.
If your plan was to have Ben return to comics, it just may happen based on what I've seen. If your plan was to get people talking about him and realizing what agreat character he is, then you've already succeeded.
Andrew: What was the first story you sold?
Glenn : The first story I sold was to MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS. It was an 8-page Iron Man story. The idea was basically, "Iron Man meets Tom Clancy."IM finds out that a writer of "techno-thriller" novels has written a book that comes dangerously close to describing, in detail, the designs of the Iron Man armor.
Later, I wrote some backups stories for THOR. The first time I wrote an entire issue of a comic was THE SILVER SURFER #103.
The first thing I did with Spider-Man was the lead story in the 1995 SPIDER-MANHOLIDAY SPECIAL. I'll eventually get to this in the regular "Life ofReilly" column, but it was the perfect example of editorial interference. Sarra Mossoff was the editor of the book, and she bought my story as is and really liked it. But Bob Budiansky, as Editor in Chief of the Spider-Man Group,had some problems with it and wanted changes made. I was totally against making these changes, I felt the story would be ruined, and I complained to Sarra. She finally said, "Look, do you wanna write this or not?" Well, I couldn't pass up the chance to write Spider-Man, so I swallowed my pride and just made the changes. To this day, it sticks in my craw. (Laughter)
Where are all the cynics now? Probably hoping that your feature sparks a Ben Reilly return to comics.
Andrew: So let's get to the Clone Saga.
Glenn : Okay.
Andrew: Your first reaction?
Glenn : I was horrified at the idea. When my friend Mark Bernardo first told me about it, I was shocked. The Clone Saga? I was like, "Come on!" The biggest problem I had was that it was old continuity and we should have been concentrating on telling good new stories instead of revisiting old ones. Plus, Marvel bent over backwards to wipe out the idea of clones with the Evolutionary War storyline a few years earlier. Why bring it up again? Didn't like that story much, either, but at least it was done.
from ShazzatCool (EMAIL withheld)
I knew I wasn't the only one who liked the character of Ben Reilly or theClone Saga. I haven't picked up a Marvel Comic, with the exception of Mackie's final issue, since PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN #75. The only reason I bought Mackie's last was to celebrate the farewell of the man who killed the last great character in the Marvel Universe and due to the tease that the mystery man may have been Ben Reilly. Marvel, if you're listening: Bring back Ben Reilly. Bring back the Scarlet Spider!
Andrew: When did you change your opinion of it?
Glenn : Well, by the end, I was one of Ben Reilly's biggest supporters, along with Mark Bernardo. What made me change my mind was when I saw how well he was being written. When J.M. DeMatties or Tom DeFalco was writing him, it was like,"Wow, Ben's a good, likeable guy. I wouldn't mind if he was in the Spider-Man costume." That's when things started to change for me, and I think for the fans, too.
Andrew: What was the fan reaction like at first?
Glenn : Fan reaction was "What the hell is gonna happen next?" That was the big reaction. Where is it going next? The Scarlet Spider was very popular. Extremely popular. Ben Reilly was popular. It was when the fans thought that we were compromising Peter in favor of Ben that the backlash really started.
Andrew: How was Peter compromised?
Glenn : Well, Peter was acting kind of weird and was pretty unlikable in the issues leading up to and including the big "reveal" issue where Ben is proven to be the original. In that same issue, Peter was perceived by some people as a wife beater. The fans felt Peter was their guy and we were crapping all over him in favor of getting Ben into the suit.
from Todd X (EMAIL withheld)
This column is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It's funny, but I never gave the character that much thought until now. I read the Clone Saga and didn't care one way or another about how it would end. It was just a story to me. But the more I read about it, the more I miss the character. Here's hoping you two are able to convince the powers that be, that Ben Reilly is in need of a comeback.
Andrew: Did they think you were really going to go through with it?
Glenn : There was a lot of disbelief when Ben was revealed to be the original. Fans thought we were doing a fake-out and the tests were a mistake or a trick or something.
Andrew: But it wasn't.
Glenn : The intent was to go the whole nine yards and have Ben be revealed as the original and Peter be the clone and that would be it. There was never to be a turning back. I think that, for a while, Bob Budiansky was absolutely committed to this plan. I mean, Bob strongly believed that Spider-Man could not become a father, so why would Bob initiate a limited series where Peter Parker becomes a father if he knew that Peter would eventually come back as Spider-Man?
Congrats on another job well done to the both of you for this incredibly interesting feature. I was very sad to see Ben go those many years ago, and I'mglad that, at least through the column you two are doing, that his legacy goes on in some form. Where does the line form to petition Marvel to bring him back?
Andrew: How did Kurt Busiek take it? At this time, he was writing UNTOLD TALES, which was filling in the gaps of Peter's early adventures.
Glenn : Kurt took it fine. Peter or Ben, it was still the untold adventures of Spider-Man, set waaay before all the clone madness. But I think it was in the first UNTOLD TALES letters page, or the text page in the first issue, where I wrote about the situation. I was like, This is the ideal time for this series to begin since Ben Reilly, the original Peter Parker, is coming back to reclaim his role as Spider-Man and it 's a perfect time to revisit his early days. Then, when Peter went back to being Spider-Man in the modern-day books, I had to write a follow-up text piece in UNTOLD TALES #16 or thereabouts, and I wrote something like, "Remember what I wrote back in #1? Well I didn't lie, but I was wrong." (Laughter)
Andrew: Do you think fans would have accepted Ben as the permanent Spider-Man?
Glenn : Well, I think we missed the boat. Ideally, SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #0 should have shown Ben becoming Peter Parker as well as Spider-Man. But one reason why it didn't happen was because no one could come up with a good rationale for how Ben could be living as Peter Parker in New York, but Peter and MJ are still out there somewhere. As far as the supporting cast knew, Peter and MJ had moved out to Portland. So how could Ben go back to the Daily Bugle as Peter and interact with the old gang? Wouldn't they ask him about his pregnant wife? How could he explain that he's back living in New York but MJ isn't? How could he have left his pregnant wife? He wouldn't look very good, would he? So we went with the approach you saw in SENSATIONAL #0 and beyond, and tried to create an all-new supporting cast around Ben.
If we could have had Ben adopt the Peter identity right away and just gone forward, onward and upward, it might have worked. But I think part of the problem is that a lot of people saw this blond guy named Ben Reilly running around as Spider-Man and their reaction was, "This isn't Spider-Man! Where the hell is Peter Parker?" If there was ever a chance for it to work, Ben had to take back the Peter Parker identity. And he was supposed to.
Andrew: And we'll get to this in upcoming Life of Reillys.
Glenn : Yes indeed. There were a lot of mistakes made: Ben needed to become Peter; everything should have been brought to a close sooner; and letting the marketing department foist the Scarlet Spider event on us was a huge mistake. Those issues were nothing more than us running in place.
Andrew: Fans did like Ben, though.
Glenn : I think the Ben Reilly fans would have wanted Ben to stay as the Scarlet Spider and Peter as Spider-Man, the original. I know that was Tom DeFalco's idea. I think the hardcore fans were broken into two camps. Some liked Ben as the Scarlet Spider, and others were asking, "Why is this clone still running around?" They felt there should only be one person running around with those powers, and that person had to be Peter Parker.
Andrew: Why do you think the fans care about the Clone Saga or about Ben Reilly after all these years?
Glenn : It was the most controversial Spider-Man story ever done. It's one ofthe most controversial stories in comics, period. Before the Clone Saga, Gwen Stacy's death was the most controversial Spider-Man story, and she's still referred to every couple of months in the books. It's either a flashback to her or it's another return to that fucking bridge! (Laughter) That was a controversial story, but not like this. The clone story still hangs over a lot of people. There are many people, as we know from the feedback we get on this column, who were dissatisfied with the ending of the Clone Saga and the death of Ben Reilly. Nothing keeps a story alive more than an ending no one likes. When a big story ends with a thud, people will always wonder how it could have been done better. What happened with this Clone Saga is a prime example of how not to do a story, or a Spider-Man story.
I really, really want Ben back in the Marvel Universe!!! :-) I always read your reviews on the life of Ben and the recent one was the best yet. It always makes my day great to see another review up and thank you very much for the work on it and letting us all be lucky enough to get the inside story of the clone saga. I love Ben Reilly and miss him very much. I've been mailing Marvel about telling us what happened to Kaine as well. He was last heard of in the Gathering of Five but then he was forgotten. I don't believe that is right and really want to find out what happened because he was a great character. In my opinion, there-launch ruined Spider-Man for me, especially the return of Aunt May. ASM #400 was the greatest issue I've ever read and because of John Byrne, it was ruined! Ever since John Byrne came to Spider-Man, the comics, In my Humble opinion,sucked! I want Ben to come back, of course I want it to be done in a good storyline way and not just to bring him back out of nowhere but he was a great character and even had a supporting cast at his job. I also love his Spider-Man costume and I don't understand why they won't show Peter wearing it at least once! I think the reason people hated the clone saga is because it dragged on a bit too long with too many comics like Maximum Clonage alpha and omega which took me a long time to find. I was very sad to see Ben leave but I loved the issue and miss that kind of writing in comics. If Ben were to have his own comic, I would buy it and be faithful to it for as long as I could :-)