The core books continue to strive for individuality as one more, major interconnected story looms on the horizon.
SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #8 introduces the new creative team with writer Todd Dezago, penciler Mike Wieringo and inker Richard Case.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : At the risk of sounding immodest, I have to say that I was instrumental in getting Mike Wieringo onto SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN as the regular penciler. I had just recently served as the assistant editor on a one-shot penciled by Wieringo, entitled SPIDER-BOY. It was part of the AMALGAM crossover event orchestrated by Marvel and DC Comics, and Spider-Boy was an amalgam of Spider-Man and Superboy. I was aware of Wieringo and his work, but I was never particularly impressed with what I saw. That ended when his pencils came in for SPIDER-BOY. It became clear to me that on his previous work, he had not been paired with appropriate inkers. I was simply blown away by Wieringo's pencils on SPIDER-BOY, and, thankfully, we paired him with inker extraordinaire Karl Kesel. They meshed perfectly. Based on that experience, I became convinced that Wieringo would be a great Spider-Man artist. Editor Ralph Macchio had already picked Todd Dezago to become the new regular writer of SENSATIONAL, replacing Dan Jurgens, but he was still looking for a new regular penciler. I immediately began lobbying for Wieringo. I showed Ralph the SPIDER-BOY pencils, and I basically just kept nudging him until he finally called Wieringo to see if he would be interested in becoming the new penciler. Wieringo accepted the assignment, and SENSATIONAL finally had a new creative team in place. Ralph has always given me the credit for bringing Wieringo to his attention and influencing his decision to hire Wieringo for SENSATIONAL. ]
Spider-Man is searching for the mysterious new Lizard while it's revealed that the Looter is responsible for the recent criminal activity being blamed on various other super-villains. During the battle at the Iron Rock facility (where Spider-Man and Will o' the Wisp fought Dr. Jonas Harrow), the Looter was able to steal various weaponry from the likes of the Shocker, Stilt Man, Trapster and the Ringer. He's been able to commit crimes while remaining in anonymity. His true plan remains a mystery, though - one he believes will make him the man who unlocked the mysteries of the universe.
Ben pays a visit to Peter and Mary Jane in the hospital to go over the robberies and see if Peter has any advice. They deduce that the crimes are being committed shortly after certain stores place big ads in the paper. Peter offers to help and then MJ starts to give him hell, telling him that he isn't going to even think about leaving the hospital until the doctors give their okay. As Ben begins to laugh, MJ turns her ire to Reilly. It's a cute scene that further strengthens the bond between these three after the earlier tension months ago over the initial clone findings. Pete and MJ also ask for Ben's advice on whether they should have a sonogram to find out the sex of the baby, to which Ben's response is, "Boy or girl, I'm gonna love the little bugger either way."
Spider-Man checks out a lead based on the latest ad he saw in the Daily Bugle and waits patiently until the Looter strikes again. The Looter actually gets the upper hand against Spider-Man in a surprise move and uses the Web-head's own web shooters against him. Spider-Man asks how long he's been webbed up and the Looter responds, "About an hour." He also reveals that he's been stealing to get enough money to buy the twin meteor of the rock that gave him his powers. Spider-Man wonders why the greatest looter didn't just steal the meteor, which makes the Looter pause long enough for Spider-Man to break free and take him down. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents soon arrive on the scene, taking the Looter and the meteor with him.
As Spider-Man sits atop a roof later, contemplating what the hell happened, he looks up to see a group of Sentinels flying overhead.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : This, obviously, kicked off Spider-Man's involvement in the infamous ONSLAUGHT event that led to the equally infamous HEROES REBORN. ]
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #415, written by Tom DeFalco and illustrated by Mark Bagley and Larry Mahlstedt, finds Spider-Man in the middle of the Onslaught storyline.
SPIDER-MAN # 72, written by Howard Mackie and illustrated by John Romita Jr and Al Williamson, was another Onslaught tie-in.
Then came SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #238, written by Todd Dezago and illustrated by Sal Buscema and John Stanisci. It's been almost a week since the newer, deadlier Lizard struck and Dr. Curt Connors is heading home to Florida after his trip to advise Peter and Mary Jane Parker.
His trip to New York was not a good one. He became even more aware of the pollution, the attitudes, and the crime that surrounded the more populated area. He realizes that Palm Beach isn't too different, just more fakery, but it is a bit better. Dr. Connors is fed up. He tries to calm himself, knowing that anxiety and obsession is what caused him to become the Lizard in the first place. He thinks back to how he lost his arm in the war. He was helping another GI when shrapnel hit him, gangrene set in and he had to lose his arm. Connors experimented on himself, injecting a reptilian formula into himself in the hopes of regenerating his arm. He ended up with a lot more than he ever bargained for. He later recalls how in an effort to rid himself of his Lizard metamorphosis, he and another scientist experimented further. The result was a Lizard that changed into a human sized beast, devoid of anything but its own primal instincts.
Back in New York, Ben Reilly watches the news and sees reports of a monster on the East Coast that seems to be heading South. Reilly figures out that the Lizard is stalking Connors and rushes off to try and get down to Florida in time.
Later, in Florida, the Lizard does indeed catch up to Connors. Dr. Connors knows he doesn't have much time and that this Lizard is too powerful for any normal person to take on. In an effort to save his family, Connors once again transforms himself into his version of the creature. Spider-Man arrives at the Connors home and tangles with the beast Lizard before seeing the creature finished off elsewhere. To Spider-Man's shock, the Connor's Lizard emerges, holding the seemingly lifeless beast Lizard by the neck.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : Last time, I talked about Editor in Chief Bob Harras's decision to make Norman Osborn the mastermind behind the whole clone saga. The reaction to this decision among the Spider-Man creative staff (writers and editors) was not very enthusiastic. We all felt that Norman's death was definitive and the story in which he died (chronicled in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Volume One #'s 121-122) was a bona fide classic, considered to be one of the absolutely canonical, key defining moments in Marvel history. But Harras was the boss, and his decision was final. As much as some of us (including me) tried to change his mind, he was firm in his belief that Norman was the only solution. There were a lot of resigned sighs, and then we settled down to figure out how to make it all work.
The Spider-Man writers, along with Ralph, editor Tom Brevoort, assistant editor Mark Bernardo, and myself soon got together for an all-day meeting to discuss the subject. Harras popped in several times to check on our progress and make suggestions. The biggest question, of course, was: How the hell could Norman have survived being impaled on his own bat-glider? I provided the solution to that problem. I suggested that the same formula that gave Norman his super-strength also gave him a special healing factor that would allow him to conceivably survive pretty much anything short of getting his head blown off. He certainly wouldn't be immortal, and he wouldn't be nearly as hard to kill as, say, Wolverine - but we could establish that although he seemed very much dead, his chest wound actually starting healing almost immediately. Everyone accepted my idea - some more reluctantly than others - but at least we were now rolling. Someone even suggested that Norman would still bear an ugly scar on his chest where the bat-glider had crashed into him, just to confirm that this was, indeed, the genuine article we were dealing with. No clones or impostors or androids or any other cheats. I thought that was a good idea, and would be very effective.
The next obvious question was: If Norman's been alive all this time, then why haven't we seen him until now? Why didn't he return long ago and try to kill Spider-Man directly? I suggested that Norman didn't return any sooner because he simply couldn't. He'd been incapacitated for all that time, slowly healing and regaining his strength. The idea was that even though he hadn't really been killed by the bat-glider, he was seriously wounded - worse than he ever had been before, and he would not recover for a long time. We would establish that he had only recently made a full recovery and was finally ready to emerge again. I felt this was the best solution, because I was of the mind that Norman absolutely would have struck back against Spider-Man shortly after ASM #122, had he been able. The only thing that could have kept him from seeking final vengeance would have been the fact that he was physically incapable of doing so. As I recall, Tom DeFalco agreed with me on this point. But Bob Harras nixed the idea, because he didn't like the notion of Norman not being active and vital for all that time. It was Harras's vision that Norman had been secretly orchestrating the events of the clone saga, manipulating everything from the shadows, and for him to do that to the extent that Harras wanted, Norman could not have been in a hospital bed for the past five years.
I clearly remember Tom DeFalco's response to Harras. Tom bluntly stated that he didn't buy for one second that Norman Osborn would ever be satisfied with operating in the shadows, hiding, secretly manipulating everyone and everything over such a long period of time. Tom felt that this would be way out of character for Norman. "Norman deals with his problems directly," Tom argued. "He doesn't mind getting his hands dirty. He's a guy who addresses his problems by putting on a Green Goblin costume, flying across the city on a bat-glider, and destroying any obstacles with his own hands. He knows he has power, and he likes to use it. He's not a master manipulator who likes to stay hidden."
I felt Tom was right, but Harras insisted on doing it his way, so the idea of Norman being incapacitated fell by the wayside. DeFalco rebounded by suggesting that Norman went to Europe after ASM #122, and spent the next five years building a criminal empire. Harras apparently found this to be a more palatable solution, because he didn't reject it upon hearing it. I still raised the point, "But why didn't Norman go after Spider-Man if he was able to? Why would he just pick up and go off to Europe after suffering his worst defeat? Wouldn't he be totally out for Spider-Man's blood after that?" The response I got was, "We'll figure that out later."
The next thing to do was retroactively establish a connection between Norman and Professor Miles Warren, aka the Jackal, who of course was the creator of all the clones. There had been absolutely no connection between the two characters before - in fact, Norman was long gone from the series by the time Warren became a prominent supporting character. But now there had to be a clear link between the two men. DeFalco took care of that in the 1996 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL, which he wrote. This annual was edited by Tom Brevoort and me, and I have very fond memories of working on it. It's a wonderful little story, a real blast from the past, and I still remember how I called DeFalco to ask him if he had gotten Stan Lee to ghost write the script for him - that's how much fun it was! The art team was Ron Frenz on pencils and John Romita Sr. on inks, and they did a fantastic job. The story took place during Peter's college years, when Gwen Stacy and her father were still alive, and it revolved around Peter's attempts to inform Captain Stacy that he and Gwen had decided to go steady. Norman and Harry Osborn figured prominently in the story, as did Kraven the Hunter. In one particular scene, we see Norman in his office, and his secretary tells him that Professor Warren is calling to discuss additional funding for his experiments. Connection established, simple as that.
While all of this was going on, Tom Brevoort and I were also working on the SPIDER-MAN: LEGACY OF EVIL one-shot, written by Kurt Busiek and painted by Mark Texiera. Conceived and begun while Bob Budiansky was still Editor in Chief of the Spider-Man Group, LEGACY OF EVIL explored the entire history of the Green Goblin, from Norman's earliest appearances to the death of Harry in SPECTACULAR #200. Although it featured many flashbacks, the main story took place in modern times, shortly before Ben Reilly became Spider-Man - it's clearly Peter Parker who's wearing the costume, even though we never see Spider-Man without his mask throughout the entire book. As written in LEGACY OF EVIL, both Norman and Harry are long dead and buried, and the modern-day threat that Spider-Man has to face is a deranged computer program left behind by Harry. At the time we began work on the book, there were no plans to bring Norman or Harry back. By the time we finished it, Harry's return had been planned and cancelled, and Norman's return was quickly becoming a reality. It got to the point where the key thing for Tom and me was to just get LEGACY OF EVIL finished and out on the stands well before Norman was revealed. Otherwise, the one-shot would have absolutely no dramatic impact whatsoever. In the end, we were successful, as LEGACY OF EVIL came out in March of 1996 and Norman wasn't revealed until October of that year.
More fun with Norman next time! ]