We talk to Keith R.A. DeCandido, author and editor of many Spidey works, including his new novel, Spider-Man: Down These Mean Streets.
Q. Rumour has it that you're writing a Spider-Man novel. Why would anybody ask you to do that?
Can't imagine. *wry grin*
Okay, seriously, my first fiction sale ever was a collaborative Spider-Man short story ("An Evening in the Bronx with Venom," written with John Gregory Betacourt and appearing in the 1994 anthology THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, a book that predates the Bendis/Bagley comic book by six years), and my first novel was a collaborative Spider-Man novel (VENOM'S WRATH, written with Jose R. Nieto), and I also did a short story for the 1997 anthology UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN (done as a tie-in to the comic right about when the comic was cancelled *sigh*).
Spider-Man is also my favorite super hero ever. I've been a fan of the character since I saw him on THE ELECTRIC COMPANY as a young, impressionable child in the 1970s, so my enthusiasm for the character is tremendous.
When Pocket Books got the license last year, they came to me first, partly because of my tremendous past experience with super hero fiction, partly because they know and like my work -- the editors handling the Marvel books are the same ones who edit the STAR TREK novels (as well as several other books I've done for Pocket).
Q. Can you really make a living writing TV and Comic book tie-in novels?
Yes, but it's a great deal of work, and it took me eight years of busting my hump -- and several other body parts -- to get to the point where I could.
Q. Does that mean you get to meet Stan Lee.
Yes, though I met Stan in the context of being an editor at Byron Preiss, where I got to work with him on several projects.
Q. Have you ever written a comic book?
Yes. The four-issue STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION comic book miniseries PERCHANCE TO DREAM, published by WildStorm in 1999-2000.
Q. Isn't this kind of stuff pretty lame. You'll never win the Man Booker Prize writing Spidey.
The Man Booker Prize don't feed the bulldog. And honestly, awards are nice little prizes, but are hardly the be-all and end-all. Anyone who thinks awards actually mean something has never paid attention to how they're picked. They're arbitrary, often nonrepresentative of much of anything, really, and don't really do you much good beyond feeling good. And you know what? I feel good writing a Spider-Man novel, and on top of that, they pay me.
I'm doing work I love the way I want to do it. So no, not lame at all...
Q. Do Marvel apply any constraints in terms of subject matter or style of writing when they licence Spidey for a novel like this?
No more or less than any other licensor does. With any tie-in fiction -- whether it's Marvel, STAR TREK, STAR WARS, FARSCAPE, Dungeons & Dragons, whatever -- the company that owns the property has to approve it -- Marvel, Paramount, LucasFilm, Henson, TSR/WotC, whomever -- at every stage. That's standard operating procedure.
The person at Marvel doing the approvals is an editor, Ruwan Jayatilleke, who used to work at Scholastic before coming to Marvel, and who has made some very cogent and useful comments on the manuscript.
Q. Are you expected to follow "comic" continuity? Like, I presume you can't kill Doc Ock, for example.
Yup. The novels are supposed to be in line with the monthly comic books.
Q. It must reduce the potential for tension, since everybody knows that Spidey will win, will survive, and no recognised characters will die or be changed in any major way. How do you fight that?
Uh -- that's true of almost every Spider-Man story that's ever written. While it's true that every once in a while you'll see a Gwen Stacy death or a Harry Osborn death or a Peter Parker-Mary Jane Watson marriage, 99% of the time, there's none of that. Good storytelling doesn't depend on being able to effect major changes to the character -- though that is a method of telling good stories, it's not the only one. Anyone who says that such constraints stifle creativity doesn't understand a thing about creativity.