Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Part 25

All the Spider-books were self-contained in July of 1995. We kick off with the final Dan Jurgens Spider-Man work in SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #6, written and illustrated by Jurgens with finishes by Klaus Janson, as well as an interview with Dan Jurgens himself.

Jessica is re-evaluating her life in the wake of the startling discovery that Ben Reilly is Spider-Man and that there’s been a different point of view suggested regarding the life and death of her father. She’s in love with Ben Reilly, a man she’s supposed to hate, but she can’t bring herself to make a decision on what to do. Should she destroy the photo implicating Ben as Spider-Man or pass it on and expose him? Destroy him?

Just when it seems that Jessica is about to let her heart overcome her anger and do what’s right, she spots Ben having lunch with Desiree across the street. Ben was just doing it to be sociable and to stay out of the rain, but Jessica sees it as something much more underhanded. With that, she takes out a pen and addresses the photo of Ben to Jameson. On her way to a mailbox, she sees Spider-Man swing by overhead. Ben had noticed that there was an out-of-control fire nearby and made up an excuse to run out on Desiree to take care of business. A curious Jessica decides to follow him.

What Jessica witnesses is one of the most heroic displays she’s ever seen or heard about. Spider-Man goes in and out of the fire-engulfed building repeatedly until he’s sure that he’s saved everyone inside. Running out of web fluid, oxygen and time, Spider-Man doesn’t take a moment to even think of resting or giving up. He continues to pull people to safety until everyone has made it out alive. Jessica realizes that she’s been a fool and goes to give Spider-Man the envelope. When he shows some confusion, she tells Spider-Man that his secret is safe with her and that she wants him to have the photos. As reporters swarm the scene, Jessica runs off again before Spider-Man can have time to talk to her properly.

Jessica later goes to the grave site of the Parkers and pays her respects to Ben Parker, for all the lies and ignorance that she bought in to all these past years. She makes her peace with Uncle Ben and realizes that she’s finally made peace with Spider-Man, too. With that, she walks off to parts unknown.


The Dan Jurgens Clone Saga Recap Interview

Andrew : The story I heard was that you wanted to do the new book because you'd be writing the “real” Peter Parker (Ben Reilly). When it was decided that Ben was the clone and it'd go back to status quo, you decided to leave. What’s the real story?

Dan : When I was hired, I knew Marvel was in the midst of the Clone Saga. Even then, there were those who wanted to do all Ben Reilly stories or all Peter Parker stories. I did think that having two Spider-Man characters was a cop-out, as was the notion of Ben Reilly. I wanted to move to Peter Parker as the one, true Spider-Man as fast as possible. More than anything, I wanted to do stories that touched on classic Spider-Man themes. That was impossible under that time's editorial and character situation. To this day, I feel as though I've never really done Spider-Man.

Eventually, I left because the editor and I seemed to disagree on what made a good story.

Andrew : How do you look back on the experience of the Clone Saga?

Dan : I wish I'd been able to do real Spider-Man themes and stories.

Andrew : What was your take on the Clone Saga from a creator's point of view?

Dan : It reflected Marvel's schizoid take on Spidey. On the one hand, they wanted their characters to age. They wanted to have Mary Jane sitting on a bed, in a teddy, waiting to jump Peter's bones every time he walked in the door.

But that was never the essence of Spider-Man. Peter Parker, as originally conceived, would never have married a supermodel. His life was destined to be one of loss, even as Spider-Man's was one of victory. Once Peter married Mary Jane, the classic essence of Peter was lost.

Andrew : What do you think of Ben Reilly as a character?

Dan : A needless reaction to the stifling situation they'd already put Peter in. If they wanted classic Spider-Man, they should have done it with Peter.

Andrew : Do you think Ben Reilly is a viable character even if he's presented as a clone, in a shared existence in the Spider-Man universe?

Dan : No. Not at all.

Andrew : Do you remember the feedback you got at the time? Was it mainly positive regarding your work and the story direction, or by that time was there an overwhelming resentment of the clone?

Dan : My memory is that most of the fans disliked the Clone Saga and Ben Reilly.

Andrew : Would you ever be interested in working with Spider-Man or revisiting Ben Reilly if the opportunity presented itself?

Dan : I'd love to do some Spidey work one day, but I think it's best to leave Ben Reilly in the past.


[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : I had known all along that Dan Jurgens and Bob Budiansky had experienced what’s known as “creative differences” during the time in which they worked together on SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN. I had hoped that they would be able to work through those differences and settle into a more comfortable relationship, because I wanted Dan to stay. I valued his presence on the Spider-Man writing team, both from an editor’s point of view and as a fan. But things didn’t really improve between them, and Dan became increasingly frustrated.

When Bob Harras became Editor in Chief of Marvel and postponed the resolution of the Clone Saga for another six months, that was the final straw for Dan, and he quit the book. In fact, when Harras first told Budiansky to postpone the end of the Clone Saga, Budiansky warned Harras that Jurgens would most likely quit as a result of that new decision. Harras simply shrugged off the warning, figuring that Jurgens could simply be replaced on SENSATIONAL by another writer.

Shortly thereafter, Bob Budiansky was laid off from the company and Ralph Macchio took over as the Spider-Man editor. Ralph had lined up Todd Dezago to write SENSATIONAL #7, and hired Luke Ross to become the new regular penciler, but he had not found a permanent writer for the book, and was asking for advice. My thought was that with Budiansky gone, maybe Dan would be willing to come back. Sure, he’d still have to deal with a few more months of Ben Reilly, but there would be a new editor in charge, and it would be a different, more easy-going creative environment. And the way the schedule worked, if Dan agreed to come back, he would only have to miss one issue – the one that Todd was writing!

I mapped out a whole publicity campaign. I suggested that we could do a full-page ad in all the books, with the tag line: “The only man who could replace Dan Jurgens as the writer of SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN is… DAN JURGENS!” Ralph liked the idea, and called Dan to invite him back as writer, explaining that he’d already made a commitment to Luke Ross as penciler. But the door was definitely open for Dan to come back, and things would be a lot more fun than they had been. Dan told Ralph that he needed time to think about it. During that time, Ralph sent Dan some copies of the pages that Luke had penciled for SENSATIONAL #7, to hopefully entice Jurgens into accepting the offer. Apparently, Luke’s wonderful artwork was not enough for Dan to jump back into the world of Spider-Man, because, as most of you know, he ultimately decided to pass on the opportunity to return to the book that he launched.

After that time, once the clone saga was over and Peter Parker was back in the suit, I tried to find ways to get Dan to return to Spider-Man. I figured that if Dan’s problem was with Ben Reilly, and he felt like he never really got to work on Spider-Man, then it wouldn’t be too hard to get him to come back now that Peter was restored as the one, true web-slinger. For whatever reason, Dan politely turned down every offer Tom Brevoort and I made him. I’m not sure why. Maybe he felt so burned by his one experience with the character that he was in no real rush to work on him again. All I can say is that there WERE several opportunities for Dan to come back, and he chose to pass on them.

Since then, I’ve kept in touch with Dan off and on over the years. When I was promoted to Associate Editor, he and I talked about possible projects that we could work on together, but unfortunately, none of them came to fruition. To this day, I think it’s a damn shame that his time on Spider-Man was so brief, and that his presence was one of the few bright spots of the Clone Saga era. ]


Unknown said...

Frankly this whole thing, as much as you guys try to be really good about it, makes Dan Jurgens sound like a bit of a tool. He joined during the Clone Saga, complained about it every step of the way because he didn't want to write Clone Saga stories and then quit.

I realize it was a high stress situation but it'd be like joining a company that used to make blue shirts but is currently only making red shirts then complaining because you really, really have some good ideas, and fond memories, of blue shirts.

That said I think he's pretty talented, especially his Superman / Aliens work. He took something inherently not an interesting idea and really ran with it.

Redde said...


I agree about Dan coming out as such a tool in this blog, especially this entry. I'm so glad the Clone Saga scared him away from Spider-Man. From reading this interview, he's one of those elitists Silver Age Spidey fan who love using BS arguments such as "The comics I read when I was young are the only right way of doing the character" and "Spider-Man shouldn't age just because I say so!". Just another Joe Quesada, except without so much power. Seriously, the last thing this industry needs is more "Bawww, I want comics to be and stay like they were when I was a kid" people. I'm afraid that if Dan had written more Spider titles, we could have gotten a OMD a decade earlier.

RickClassic said...

I have to agree with Redde, I like Dan's work but in order for there to be losses in Parker's life there has to be gains. Peter can't be an everyday character if he's subjected to a constant string of losses with no positive gains what so ever. And I find it funny that he focuses on the fact that MJ is a supermodel when Pete met her before becoming a supermodel. It is possible to get with someone you've known for a long time who has this incredible career and be able to go the distance.

Unknown said...

I have to add my voice to the throng against Jurgen's Spider-man views. His ideas are exactly what has led to the worst partts of SPiderman, including One More Day. Honestly, based on this blog, He and Marvel would have both been better off if he hadn't been involved, or if He had just been allowed to write stories set in the 70s.

Unknown said...

To play devil's advocate, I think Jurgens was given a bad situation to work with. Part of it may be he created problems for himself, being so tied to the classic Silver Age idea of Spider-Man, but at the same time he was being offered a chance to write one of the most popular superheroes of all time, only with the catch that he's coming in on a story that's already in progress and which the executives see as doing great business, so it won't be ending anytime soon regardless of what he thinks about it.

It's a difficult choice: once in a lifetime opportunity, but with the caveat you have to bear this giant load with it. Even if he's not a fan of Spider-Man being married to Mary Jane, it's possible/probable that had he been given the chance to write straight-up Spider-Man stories (no Clone Saga tie-ins) he would have delivered something that a) he wanted to write and b) found an appreciable audience.

At the very least I sympathize with him that his first opportunity with this character was hampered like this.

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

To be slightly pedantic, Jurgens joined at a point that at the time was meant to be after the Clone Saga - the intention being that was all wrapped up by the end of the Greatest Responsibility and he came on board as part of taking the character forward. He was expecting to be writing the adventures of a back to basics Spider-Man. Just about every long running character has had a back to basics revamp at some stage and that often attracts interest from creators.

So he signs up for this but instead what he gets is the franchise & character stuck in a rut because they haven't been able to fully implement the changes. And thus he finds himself first writing for something different from what he signed up for and then sees an interminable wait to get there. I can understand his frustration.

But fair play to him for being the one to finally convince Budiansky of the need to reverse course and reinstate the Peter Parker everyone had been reading about for two decades.

Unknown said...

Yet that's what they're doing anyway, unmaking Peter's marriage, keeping the status quo for the same reasons, never having characters change or grow or age, and not allowing new characters to truly flourish.