Games Radar/Newsarama interviewed Kurt Busiek, who’s returning to mainstream after about a decade of being more on the sidelines, to script a story for Amazing Spider-Man #850 (number 49 until now, because of the horrible obsession with relaunches and renumbering that’s plagued the Big Two for over 20 years so far). And I’m wondering if the flashback tale he’s written up will actually be faithful to Stan Lee’s original continuity that Quesada and Alonso forcibly abandoned:
Themed as some sort of spiritual continuation of Busiek’s ’90s series Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man #49’s ‘All You Need is…?’ short takes Peter Parker back to junior college for some classic action – and even a classic villain, the Red Rajah.
But what about a classic lady co-star, that being Mary Jane Watson, who made her official debut in 1966, shortly after Peter began college? Why do I get the feeling MJ won’t be given prominence in Busiek’s vision? The site continues:
Newsarama: Kurt, you’ve been writing Spider-Man in one context or another since at least the early ’90s, including your title Untold Tales of Spider-Man. How has your perspective on Peter Parker evolved in that time?
Kurt Busiek: I don’t know that my perspective’s evolved all that much, really — the Peter of today is older than the guy I wrote in Untold Tales, but at heart, I think he’s the same guy. He does his best, makes mistakes, works to fix those mistakes, values the lives and well-being of others over his own… he’s in different situations today than he was in high school, but he’s still guided by that eternal credo: With great power there must also come great responsibility.
That’s one of the things I like about him so much. He may be a scientific genius, but he’s a very relatable guy. He’s not an expert in dealing with the world, in juggling his responsibilities, in managing the pressures of life — and that’s something we can all see ourselves in. When I first read Steve Ditko/Stan Lee run, long before I became a writer, that’s what I saw in Peter Parker, and I’m glad it’s still around, whatever circumstances he finds himself in.
Nrama: Amazing Spider-Man #850 marks a milestone issue with the return of the Green Goblin, and a brief return to classic numbering. What does your portion of the issue entail?
Busiek: My story’s an action-oriented piece about Spidey back in his college days, working for J. Jonah Jameson between classes and getting caught up in a battle with an old Defenders villain called the Red Rajah.
It also involves the Beatles, but I’ll let people read it to find out precisely how.
And man, there are strawberries! Dangerous strawberries!
Oh, big deal if there’s strawberries. What I’d like to know is if he has any issue with focusing upon Mary Jane Watson, who seems to be quite the scapegoat in the eyes of alleged Spider-fans like Busiek. Well, I looked around the article, and I couldn’t seem to find any mention of MJ in it at all. Though he does bring up at least 3 other past cast members:
Nrama: You wrote your take on the most fateful of Spider-Man/Green Goblin confrontations in Marvels, depicting the death of Gwen Stacy. What’s on your mind as you return to that classic rivalry?
Busiek: When it comes to the rivalry, I get to be a spectator this time, since it’s the main story that deals with all that. Mine’s a self-contained backup story. But I’ll be eager to see how it all plays out in the feature story since the Goblin is one of Spidey’s all-time best villains.
I mean, sometimes the Spider-books get criticized because it can seem like everyone Peter ever met is either a superhero, a super-villain, or related to a superhero or villain. But the reason Spidey creators kept returning to that well is because it works. It makes everything more immediate and personal, whether it’s Flash Thompson as Venom, Doc Ock all set to marry Aunt May, Liz Allan tormented because her half-brother is the Molten Man, or whatever. And that all started with the Goblin.
On the subject of renumberings, which, as per the interviewer, is pretty much bound to be the case yet again somewhere down the road even for Spidey after this landmark issue goes to press, Busiek did address it as follows:
Nrama: On the note of legacy numbering, what do you see as the upsides and downsides of the way some titles acknowledge that large issue count in the midst of new, relaunched volumes?
Busiek: I think it’s worth celebrating when you’ve got something to celebrate.
I’m an old-fashioned guy in a lot of ways, and I started out back when books didn’t get renumbered and relaunched all that often. It still happened, though, and the numbers didn’t always relate to what was being celebrated — Captain America #200 was the 200th issue of a series that started out life being called Tales of Suspense, years before it ever featured Cap, but hey, it’s the 200th issue of something, so let’s have a party!
On the flip side, though, even though the Hulk started out in a short-lived solo series, then got revived in Tales to Astonish, which then became another solo Hulk book, and that series has been relaunched and renumbered multiple times, if you were to hit the 1000th solo Hulk story, whatever the issue number, that’s worth celebrating too, right?
So on the one hand, I might wish things were more orderly, even as I kinda shrug and figure that Marvel’s going to do what’s best for selling comics and reaching readers, but on the other, hey, if this is the 850th issue of Amazing Spider-Man, across multiple relaunches, then that’s cool, that’s a landmark achievement. Let’s have fun with it!
Well I’m sorry to say, but under C.B. Cebulski, little has changed from the time when Axel Alonso was EIC, partly because Sana Amanat’s part of the problem too. Why, now that I think of it, Cebulski hasn’t been talking much to the press in the past year or so, suggesting his political correctness sank in to the point where he figured it best to refrain from talking much about what Marvel has planned for storytelling, right down to the superfluous crossovers, something which should’ve been abandoned long ago. Point: if the stories aren’t connecting with readers, then it makes little difference whether you’ve relaunched the books at a new Number One Premiere Issue, or restored a legacy numbering later on, it won’t change the fact that the stories aren’t catching on (so what’s there to celebrate?), due to the aforementioned political correctness. Something Busiek’s regrettably subscribing to for goodness knows how long now, particularly in the past decade. Maybe that’s why his following statements on responsibility ring hollow:
Nrama: The core moral of Spider-Man’s story has always been “With great power must also come great responsibility.” What has Spider-Man instilled in you, both as a reader and as a creator?
Busiek: I think the key takeaway isn’t even about super-powers. After all, way back in Amazing Fantasy #15, even without powers, Spider-Man could have tripped the burglar, and everything would have worked out better. Leaving aside, of course, that if he didn’t have powers he wouldn’t have been there at that moment, but never mind.
The key is that we all have power — great power, small power, whatever, each of us make choices about what to do in our lives, and those choices affect other people. So we need to use the power we have responsibly.