A new comics-related interview magazine is on the stands and its first issue focuses on the Amazing Spider-Man. Inside are interviews with John Romita Sr., John Romita Jr., Virginia Romita, Brian Michael Bendis, and Roger Stern along with some other features.
The magazine gets off to an unpromising start with the feature article "Four Amazing Decades of Spider-Man" written by publisher Charlie Novinskie. It purports to give an overview of the history of Spider-Man in "Amazing Spider-Man" only, since "it would be impossible in the pages allotted to recap every Spider-Man comic that has ever been produced". But even within these parameters, the article is disappointing. It skims through 400 plus issues of Spidey's flagship title in a casual style that seems to assume the reader is already familiar with the web-slinger's whole history. (For example, Novinskie tells us "It was during this run that we were thoroughly entertained by the Kingpin/Vanessa Fisk/Schemer storyline..." without ever telling us who any of those people are.) Anyone trying to get up to speed on the history of the character will only be confused by this overview. Anyone already familiar with the history has no need to read an article like this.
The feature is further marred by a general sloppiness that gives an amateurish feel to the whole affair. There is sloppiness in continuity ("Peter dons a mask and takes on a local wrestler passing up the opportunity to trip up a fleeing robber along the way."), sloppiness in verb tense ("The murderer was holed up in a warehouse where Peter apprehends the thug..."), sloppiness in word use ("Learning that he had a hand in the death of his uncle, Peter learned a hard-taught lesson..." and "Amazing Spider #50... featured the unforgettable cover with the caption Spider-Man No More emblazoned on the cover." Italics mine.), sloppiness in prepositions ("It is to that mantra that Peter Parker has indeed tried to live up to all these years."), and a general blandness of style ("The sixties were an interesting time, and so where (sic) the comics being produced by the House of Ideas."). After a beginning like this, there is nowhere to go but up.
Unfortunately, the interview with John Romita Sr. that follows leads us through some pretty familiar territory. At 19 pages, it is the longest feature in the issue and it is an entertaining read but doesn't reveal anything that hasn't appeared in any of the other recent Romita interviews.
After that, things start to get rather interesting as other interviews provide surprises. In the talk with Brian Michael Bendis, we learn that the writer cares enough about his work that he worries about the placement of ads disrupting the flow of his story. (Bendis: "I've found the placements of the ads at times to be annoying and hindering the pacing of the story... We'll be right in the middle of the scene and all of a sudden SKITTLES! There was one ad in particular-the tobacco smoking one-the girl's head exploding with smoke, it kind of looked like Mary Jane. And people were getting confused because it looks like a comic, so I begged Marvel to put in on the back or inside covers so it didn't disrupt the story.")
In the John Romita Jr. interview, we learn that the artist has some genuine bitterness over the way he has been treated in his career by fans and pros alike. He also puts up a defense of the ASM work of Howard Mackie... (JRJR: "I don't blame Howard Mackie. I blame the people higher up, because Mackie just wasn't able to do the things he wanted to do. He was told what he was supposed to do... I'll give you an example of the leadership at that time-I did a character called the Squid, which is about the same caliber as those twin midget nuclear characters (Fusion I)-and I get a letter from the then editor in chief that tells me that the Squid is the best character Marvel has ever put out.")
And, while I would have liked more details in the Roger Stern interview, it also has its share of illuminating comments. We learn that the Vulture is Roger's "all-time favorite" Spider-Man villain. In a discussion of what might-have-been if Stern had been able to play out the Hobgoblin story as intended, Roger speculates, "Maybe Ned Leeds wouldn't have had to die so pointlessly."
The magazine is rounded out with a short interview with John K. Snyder III, the artist on the 1980s Spider-man pogs, J. Renee Calvert's "Confessions of a comic book geek's girlfriend" (a cute two page expose of a former cheerleader who falls in love with a comic fan), and a three page talk with Virginia Romita about her husband and son and her own work at Marvel.
And, just to inspire a little bit of fanboy discussion, Spotlight features a couple of "Top Ten" lists. "The Ten Greatest Spider-Man Stories Ever Told" and "The Ten Best Spider-Man Covers of All Time" have their share of surprises. "Ten Stories" only picks two Lee scripted issues...ASM #32, Man on a Rampage (not the more famous #33) at #6 and Amazing Fantasy #15 at #2... while the recent ASM (vol. 2) #38 ranks in at #3 and "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" finishes at #1. "Ten Covers" features work from Amazing Spider-Man alone. Surprises include the black costume (ASM #252) at #8 and "The Goblin's Power" (ASM #98) at #6. #2 is the classic ASM #50 (Spider-Man No More!). #1 is the equally classic ASM #33 ("The Final Chapter!") What do you say, fellow Spidey-geeks? Let's argue these choices right now!
Often sloppy with an amateurish feeling that it was slapped together in the wake of the movie, Comics Spotlight #1 has enough goodies in the interviews and enough fun with the Top Ten and Comic Geek Girlfriend features to salvage it from the remainder bin.